Regulation as a business model

One of the most potent business models, you can have, is if the use of your product or service is directly mandated by law. Or, in the absence of the complete model, heavily subsidized by law.

When something becomes a law, it automatically drives decisions; people and organizations are required to do x, y and purchase z – your product – to stay within the law or at least get subsidized by the government (which has roughly the same effect on helping grow your revenues).

What could be better?

Let’s say you’re in HealthTech. You may not necessarily be required by law, but indirectly the laws governing subsidies for specific treatments can materialize into official recommendation for treatments that specifically includes your product or service.

You become a de facto public standard.

If you can make it to this point, you have really got it made.

Getting there, though, is super, super hard. Because if there are things, you don’t control and should have no ambition to even try to control let alone influence heavily, it’s lawmaking and the creation of rules and regulations.

Ok, you could have the ambition to influence it. But the obvious risk is that by choosing that as a focus, you end up spending your time and effort in the wrong way.

Because no matter your best efforts, you have absolutely no guarantee that you will end up being successful in your endeavors. Quite on the contrary; the overwhelming risk is that you will come up short. And then you will have nothing to show for it.

The best thing you can do is therefore to figure out where you can join to apply gentle pressure – trade organizations of any sort, special interest groups – and then show up, when there is an opportunity to do so, speak your case. And then let them do the heavy lifting for you.

That will effectively allow you to have a leg in both camps: On the one hand you’re trying to influence a development that furthers your ambition in the long run, while you’re busy executing on your business plan on the short term.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Regulating media tech right

If governments were so intent on getting tech platforms to support quality journalism, they should be approaching the matter in an entirely different way.

First of all they should put a revenue tax on advertising at the source of the income, ie a VAT kind of tax albeit small they place on advertisers, when they run ads on big tech platforms.

Second, they should use some of the proceeds from that tax to support – and here is the kicker – fact checking, NOT journalism.

Why not journalism?

Because media has a tendency to elevate every piece of content into groundbreaking journalism, when it’s clearly not. Let’s just here mention celebrity gossip, ‘he said, she said’ arguments between politicians – funnily enough – often taken directly from said politicians Facebook page (without media paying the THAT privilege of course) and loads of other forms of content.

Why fact checking?

Of course because it speaks to the core of the problem on both sides:

Facebook in particular has a big issue with misinformation and fake news, and there’s no apparent reason to think they are any good at monitoring and/or regulating it. And media has a huge cost associated with quality reporting and fact checking.

So by taxing advertising at the source and rerouting some of the proceeds towards supporting fact checking, politicians would effectively be able to solve two big issues in one fell blow without breaking the core fundamentals of the internet:

They would be able to get tech giants to pay more taxes locally (as they should), and they would find a way to support quality fact checking/journalism, which is needed more than ever (especially in the absence of media themselves being able to figure out a viable business model going forward).

Do I think politicians will get inspired by the above?

Absolutely not. They are probably too busy getting their ears screamed full by lobbyists for media companies with little interest in doing this right. As long as they just get paid.

NB: I have no idea about how the practicalities of this would work, but I am sure there are more than enough brainy people out there to figure out the details.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The media circus

A coalition of Danish media companies are out with an open letter trying to yet again put pressure on Danish parliament to regulate Big Tech.

The rationale seems to be that the timing couldn’t be better; the role of Big Tech – especially social media – in recent US events these last few weeks have highlighted that we do indeed have a problem, we need to pay attention to and figure out to do with.

But does it really relate to Danish media subsidy policy? Now that’s a different discussion. So let’s try to break that discussion down a bit.

The first argument, media companies make, is that tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter offers publicity to all kinds of fringe arguments. While that is undoubtedly true, let’s not forget that quite a lot of the content that gets shared actually come from media who have made it part of their core strategy to cater to the clickbait SoMe-mob, if we can call it that.

Media companies are not entirely without a responsibility of their own here, IMHO. It would be nice of them to at least own up to some of it.

Now, a lot of the questionable content comes from alternative news sources whose whole business model is built around creating a stir from fake news and draw attention to themselves. Trying to force Big Tech to compensate legacy media for content will (a) not deter these one bit and (b) probably also mean these alternative sources would have to be compensated.

Unless of course you think, legislation should be skewed towards catering for very special interests. But I digress.

You could in fact argue that some of the arguments being put forward by legacy media sounds an awful lot like how a oligopoly would find it useful to try and divide and conquer the market between them to suit their own purposes however noble or not those might seem to be.

As a follow-up from that let’s just for a second remember that what the media companies are essentially complaining about – near monopoly power with a couple of industry players – is what they essentially had themselves with their printing presses back in the good ol’ pre-internet days.

Those were the days.

So let’s just be clear what this is really about then:

It is about trying to ensure that more subsidies goes from someone with the ability to make money (or print their own, aka the government) to someone with a dwindling ability to make money themselves.

The song is an old one: Big Tech has disrupted the advertising market, and unless someone or something compensates us for the loss we have accrued due to the changing times, new technologies, more efficient opportunities for advertisers etcetera, we could be going away soon. So please: Send more money.

The problem is real. No doubt about it. Many annual reports no matter which company in which market will tell you the same.

But the question is whether it’s the right time to use an attempt at sedition in the US to once again beat the old, limp pony of a failed business model that should be fully compensated for by everyone else but the ones who have so far struggled to find a viable alternative?

Personally I would prefer if the energy was spent entirely (and yes, I know a lot of energy is going into this space) of finding a way to once again be the best option for advertisers, when they need to market their products and services.

Only real product and value innovation can help bring about that change.

Having said that I fully assume media companies to continue their efforts to turn back time to when they were in the very position they now complain Big Tech is in.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Prepare for the digital health struggle

If you had the need for a piece of advice from a doctor, would you launch a super-app like WeChat to find one who could help you?

No matter what you say you would do, it is already happening in China, where WeDoctor is part of the WeChat overall experience. And working to be available “24/7 across the globe”.

Now, if you thought China and data protection was a dubious match in itself, think about how WeDoctor thinks about privacy and then think about it again when they start collecting your health information. Because, of course you will use such a service if it’s available, right?

Well, maybe YOU won’t. But many people like you will. Because we have developed a digital culture, where it’s so persuasive to just use what’s conveniently available here and now instead of truly thinking the potential consequences through before we act.

And not only for privacy. But also for trustworthiness.

That’s also one of the reasons why we have tons of regulation in place to ensure that even if you’re tempted to act before you really think, the risk is somewhat limited. But the good question then becomes what the real value of a lot of that regulation is if bending the rules is as simple as clicking a link in a Chinese app (or from some other less regulated place)?

Despite the efforts to develop regulation to fit the times, we live in – which I am all for – it will be interesting to watch the battle unfold between those who insist that we still have the highest bars for privacy, trustworthiness and ethics when it comes to peoples health and those that just want to commercially exploit an industry that is so ripe for new solutions.

I hope that trustworthiness, ethics and standards will prevail, as I remain absolutely convinced that outsize rules apply when you’re dealing with peoples health. But I am also realistic enough to know that the stakes and potential returns are so huge in this space that we will likely see an epic struggle in this space between good and…hhmm…not so good.

So buckle up and prepare. And remember to think it through before you just click that convenient link.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)