Zero sum thinking

Warning – not sure where I’m going w/ this, but it’s a line of thought I’m playing w/.

So save your prayers
For when we’re really gonna need ’em
Throw out your cares and fly
Wanna go for a ride?

– Smashing Pumpkins, Zero

Can’t recall if I was in a conversation recently or maybe reading or listening to something and someone threw out the following in terms of the “new” media space, “We aren’t in a zero sum game here.” Outside of bringing the intial chords of the above song to mind, it also struck me as one of those phrases that makes people sound purdy darn smart so one will not question what’s being said. So, not being one to take purdy darn smart sounding things at face value, I brushed up a bit on my game theory.

So zero sum games result in all players breaking even. Surely that can’t be good in a market economy where someone has to win and someone has to lose. Surely one must use the tools one has at one’s disposal to compete – and win – vigorously against those in their line of business. Surely.

A thought here – perhaps we aren’t playing a pure zero sum game in the “new” media space, but depending on how you define the game and with whom you are playing, it seems we may be getting awfully close. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Work w/ me here…

Usually where games become non-zero sum is when parties have to make back their transaction costs. Thinking about “new” media, the cost, in time and money, of finding stuff one wants at the price – in time and/or money – they’re willing to pay complete w/ input from others who have also acquired the same stuff is falling precipitously fast.

So, I wonder, is “new” media best used as an advantage against one’s business competitor? Or as an investment in time – as much as money – that allows one’s customers to easily reduce their transaction costs in terms of finding what they want? Is it something that provides benefit, perhaps even enjoyment, making one’s customers want to throw out their cares and fly?

What was I saying again?

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2 Comments

Filed under future of media, riffs

2 responses to “Zero sum thinking

  1. Speaking of game theory, one of the best books I’ve ever read is Nonzero (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonzero) by Robert Wright. If you have not read it, I highly suggest you do, as it has many applications to our field.

  2. Thx for the reco – duly added to Amazon wishlist.

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