It’s easy to sit in my home office and lob criticisms over the wall at various and sundry companies out there, but I really do need to ask this: why are so many of them determined to capitalize in the short term, at the expense of long-term viability?
What set me off today was my Verizon phone. I, like about 95% of the people that live in this area, have a Motorola Razr. Honestly, the thing is absolutely ubiquitous.
Anyway, I snapped a couple of pictures with it the other day, and decided this morning that I’d like to move them over to my PC. I figured that would be simple enough. Hook up the mini-USB cable I have, copy the pics across, and away we go. Yes?
Verizon, it seems, does not want me to have access to my own photos on the phone. Instead, they insist that I either pay them for a special program that supports this, or else email the pictures to myself, where standard messaging rates apply.
I hunted around on Google this morning for other options, but without downloading drivers from shady websites or hacking into my phone, I haven’t found any way to just get the pictures I took onto my PC.
Fair enough. I’ll just email them to myself. The whole reason I wanted to avoid this is because the clunky interface on the phone makes it truly annoying to try and email, but if that’s what I have to do, then that’s what I have to do. Only it doesn’t work. I keep getting “service unavailable” messages when I try to send the images to myself.
So now I have these pics that I took that are trapped on my phone, because Verizon feels it should control what I do with my own content once it’s on a device connected to their network. The kicker in all this is that I’ve already signed up for unlimited text; forcing me to send this message over Verizon’s network won’t make the company an extra penny. What it has done, though, is take a customer who was previously perfectly happy with Verizon’s service and made them truly, deeply annoyed.
It reminds me of Mike’s post on Techdirt, about how they choose to send the full content of their blog posts out via RSS, rather than sending snippets out and forcing people to come to the site. In the short term, forcing people to the site puts them in front of the ads that generate revenue. But in the long term, it makes it more difficult for people to get to your content, and that makes them less likely to bother with you in the future.
We should also call attention to the Streisand effect, where people try to have content they don’t like removed from the web but only serve in making people more aware of it. Short-term gain, long term catastrophe.
And, of course, no conversation about short-sightedness is complete without a reference to the Doug Morris interview in Wired. Morris is the Universal Music CEO who stated that giving up $1 today to make $100 in the future meant that someone, somewhere was taking advantage of you. Mike has already done a pretty solid job pointing out huge, gaping holes in Morris’ reasoning, so I won’t repeat his arguments.
Why do companies do this? Why are they willing to infuriate and drive away long-term customers to make an extra 3 cents on the dollar now? I don’t know — and I’m not sure a good explanation really exists.