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“As Bharat Anand shows in this eminently readable book, connections are now more important than content.”—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human Harvard Business School Professor of Strategy Bharat Anand presents an incisive new approach to digital transformation that favors fostering connectivity over focusing exclusively on content. Companies everywhere fac “As Bharat Anand shows in this eminently readable book, connections are now more important than content.”—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human Harvard Business School Professor of Strategy Bharat Anand presents an incisive new approach to digital transformation that favors fostering connectivity over focusing exclusively on content. Companies everywhere face two major challenges today: getting noticed and getting paid. To confront these obstacles, Bharat Anand examines a range of businesses around the world, from The New York Times to The Economist, from Chinese Internet giant Tencent to Scandinavian digital trailblazer Schibsted, and from talent management to the future of education. Drawing on these stories and on the latest research in economics, strategy, and marketing, this refreshingly engaging book reveals important lessons, smashes celebrated myths, and reorients strategy. Success for flourishing companies comes not from making the best content but from recognizing how content enables customers’ connectivity; it comes not from protecting the value of content at all costs but from unearthing related opportunities close by; and it comes not from mimicking competitors’ best practices but from seeing choices as part of a connected whole. Digital change means that everyone today can reach and interact with others directly: We are all in the content business. But that comes with risks that Bharat Anand teaches us how to recognize and navigate. Filled with conversations with key players and in-depth dispatches from the front lines of digital change, The Content Trap is an essential new playbook for navigating the turbulent waters in which we find ourselves. Praise for The Content Trap “As Bharat Anand shows in this eminently readable book, connections are now more important than content. His insights will bring you several steps closer to understanding the digital revolution and how you can avoid its many perils.”—Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of Drive and To Sell Is Human “This book is a clarion call for creativity and imagination in strategy development. I measure the success of a business book by my desire to share it with colleagues. After reading The Content Trap, I want all of my former colleagues at The New York Times to read it.”—Martin Nisenholtz, former CEO, New York Times Digital; Professor of the Practice of Digital Communication, Boston University “Bharat Anand thinks both globally and functionally: our group and I have learnt a lot from him over the years.  He has provoked us to shape ideas in new ways. That is what you will experience when you read The Content Trap.”—Koos Bekker, chair of Naspers, global internet group “In my professional life I have seen audiences’ relationship with movies, television programming and music be radically transformed by the digital revolution. Bharat Anand’s book is invaluable in its analysis of how this change has affected the media space and in particular how consumers relate to the content that we are creating. It helps to explain what has happened and also provides insights as to what we might expect. I thoroughly recommend it.


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“As Bharat Anand shows in this eminently readable book, connections are now more important than content.”—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human Harvard Business School Professor of Strategy Bharat Anand presents an incisive new approach to digital transformation that favors fostering connectivity over focusing exclusively on content. Companies everywhere fac “As Bharat Anand shows in this eminently readable book, connections are now more important than content.”—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human Harvard Business School Professor of Strategy Bharat Anand presents an incisive new approach to digital transformation that favors fostering connectivity over focusing exclusively on content. Companies everywhere face two major challenges today: getting noticed and getting paid. To confront these obstacles, Bharat Anand examines a range of businesses around the world, from The New York Times to The Economist, from Chinese Internet giant Tencent to Scandinavian digital trailblazer Schibsted, and from talent management to the future of education. Drawing on these stories and on the latest research in economics, strategy, and marketing, this refreshingly engaging book reveals important lessons, smashes celebrated myths, and reorients strategy. Success for flourishing companies comes not from making the best content but from recognizing how content enables customers’ connectivity; it comes not from protecting the value of content at all costs but from unearthing related opportunities close by; and it comes not from mimicking competitors’ best practices but from seeing choices as part of a connected whole. Digital change means that everyone today can reach and interact with others directly: We are all in the content business. But that comes with risks that Bharat Anand teaches us how to recognize and navigate. Filled with conversations with key players and in-depth dispatches from the front lines of digital change, The Content Trap is an essential new playbook for navigating the turbulent waters in which we find ourselves. Praise for The Content Trap “As Bharat Anand shows in this eminently readable book, connections are now more important than content. His insights will bring you several steps closer to understanding the digital revolution and how you can avoid its many perils.”—Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of Drive and To Sell Is Human “This book is a clarion call for creativity and imagination in strategy development. I measure the success of a business book by my desire to share it with colleagues. After reading The Content Trap, I want all of my former colleagues at The New York Times to read it.”—Martin Nisenholtz, former CEO, New York Times Digital; Professor of the Practice of Digital Communication, Boston University “Bharat Anand thinks both globally and functionally: our group and I have learnt a lot from him over the years.  He has provoked us to shape ideas in new ways. That is what you will experience when you read The Content Trap.”—Koos Bekker, chair of Naspers, global internet group “In my professional life I have seen audiences’ relationship with movies, television programming and music be radically transformed by the digital revolution. Bharat Anand’s book is invaluable in its analysis of how this change has affected the media space and in particular how consumers relate to the content that we are creating. It helps to explain what has happened and also provides insights as to what we might expect. I thoroughly recommend it.

30 review for The Content Trap: A Strategist's Guide to Digital Change

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Rubenstein

    This is a book about how businesses can best use digital technologies to compete. The basic premise is very interesting; web site content is not the most important aspect of the digital world--connections are much more important. There are three types of connections; user, products, and functional. It is true that newspaper circulation per household has been declining steadily since 1945. But digital technology is not killing newspapers; it is only continuing the trend started by radio and TV. Wh This is a book about how businesses can best use digital technologies to compete. The basic premise is very interesting; web site content is not the most important aspect of the digital world--connections are much more important. There are three types of connections; user, products, and functional. It is true that newspaper circulation per household has been declining steadily since 1945. But digital technology is not killing newspapers; it is only continuing the trend started by radio and TV. What really is killing newspapers is the loss of classified ads to the Internet. The book discusses the New York Times' paywall-pricing strategies that seem to be inconsistent, but are actually adjusted in a near-optimal arrangement for maximizing profit. Everyone complains about cable TV bundles; we don't like to pay for channels that we never watch. However, this book argues that the bundling is actually good not only for cable companies, but for consumers as well. Anand makes a good argument, that the best strategy for cable companies would be to drop all content, and simply provide infrastructure for broadband Internet connections. Anand calls this "the Dumb Pipe Paradox." The transition to digital technology is only profitable if fixed costs can be kept down. For publishing companies, it is a difficult transition to e-book publishing. It will continue to be difficult, as long as publishers distribute their content both in print and in digital form. Amazon, on the other hand, has reduced its fixed costs. Amazon built IT servers, and sold access to the cloud. In other words, Amazon built infrastructure that it needs, and sells the excess capacity to other companies. Anand also discusses the concept of complements in a lot of detail. As an example, music CD's and concerts are complements. The demand for one product goes up as the price of the other goes down. The price of recorded music fell--frequently to zero--as the prices of live concert tickets rose. In earlier years, Apple was never very successful because it ignored complements. Apple prevented software companies from creating applications for its products. But the iPod succeeded because of the complementarity of iTunes. The system was open: iTunes could run on a PC. But, iTunes was practically a loss-leader. It was a complement for selling iPods. There are many other examples of complements: razors and razor blades, printers and cartridges, CD's and concerts, NFL and fantasy football. From 1990 to 2015, NFL broadcast contracts increased from $1B to $6B, while viewership remained flat. The reason? A loss-leader deal by Fox network. But the deal by Fox network put it on the map in rural areas where it had previously been absent. Fox understood connections better than the other networks. Anand makes a very interesting observation about vertically-integrated companies. He claims that vertical integration is a zero-sum transfer. Nobody really comes out ahead. There is no net gain to either party of a vertical buy-out. While there are a few exceptions, they are very subtle. The book covers many other industries, including higher education. My interest stayed with the book for a awhile, but since I am not a business-person, it waned after the half-way mark. It is difficult for me to judge how much of this book is already well known and understood, and how much is truly new and insightful. But, if you are involved in an industry making a digital transition, this book could be valuable.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erik Hanberg

    Unless you’re starting a media business, this probably isn’t interesting to you. And it did take me nearly a year to read. But man there was a lot to chew on.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Weinraub

    A wonderful, highly readable, and important book. Many of the topics here are not new per se - like product connections, complementarity, or backward spillovers, to name a few - but Anand's presentation is sensible and scaffolded. One chapter builds on the next. As someone who is active in the higher ed online learning space, I appreciated getting a peak behind the curtain of the Harvard Business School's HBX Core program. Not only knowing that there was a thoughtful strategy behind their learnin A wonderful, highly readable, and important book. Many of the topics here are not new per se - like product connections, complementarity, or backward spillovers, to name a few - but Anand's presentation is sensible and scaffolded. One chapter builds on the next. As someone who is active in the higher ed online learning space, I appreciated getting a peak behind the curtain of the Harvard Business School's HBX Core program. Not only knowing that there was a thoughtful strategy behind their learning design decisions but hearing what they were was super helpful. I must say, however, that I am unsure how I feel about the pedagogical and institutional implications of their approach. In brief, in order to maximize peer interactions at scale, the HBX Core planning team intended to minimize faculty touches once the course began. In fact, "By hard-coding these elements into the course flow we were determined to make ourselves as faculty redundant once the learning process began" (p.326). I quite literally lost my breath when I read that line, imagining, unfairly perhaps, that this is where our learning institutions are going - toward personalized, just-in-time, computer-based learning that lacks the leadership of a talented, humanizing instructor. I would have liked to see Anand linger more on this intended aspect of the design, commenting on the other intended and potentially unintended consequences of the decision. It would have been a good time to share additional data on student outcomes too. But, while educators may differ on andragogy and the instructional design decisions of this particular team for a particular cohort of learners, the teachings in The Content Trap are extremely useful and accessible not only for those actively working in higher ed and workforce development, but for digital media professionals of all types. I highly recommend it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Darren

    Getting noticed in our digital world has never been easier on one hand, since everybody can be a publisher. Yet as everybody is trying to do it, we are being flooded by content of variable quality too. So how to thrive instead of being lost in the crowd? This is the tricky question taken up by this fascinating book’s author, as he examines businesses from around the world to see how they function, adding this to latest research and industry best practice. The result is something that is said to r Getting noticed in our digital world has never been easier on one hand, since everybody can be a publisher. Yet as everybody is trying to do it, we are being flooded by content of variable quality too. So how to thrive instead of being lost in the crowd? This is the tricky question taken up by this fascinating book’s author, as he examines businesses from around the world to see how they function, adding this to latest research and industry best practice. The result is something that is said to reveal important lessons, smash and reorient strategy; it does feel that it achieves what it sets out to do. Of course, the harder part of originating and implementing your strategy still falls to you! You can have the best content in the world but no real audience. The key is generating a connected audience that will appreciate, react to and evangelise your content, products and company. At times you may benefit from identifying related opportunities that are close by, rather than just following the herd and your competitors. This is a book you can get lost in, due to it being such a great read. It certainly gets you thinking about things and that can be dangerous as your mind wanders from the text-at-hand to real world issues and problems. It offers an interesting, insightful transfer of knowledge too and could be a valuable read even if you do not have immediate responsibility for your company’s content and marketing. The scope and potential impact is a lot wider. Autamme.com

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alan Wang

    **Listened to Audiobook (37 hours!)** Elements of “digital wildfires” 1) Benign catalyst (humble beginnings of YouTube, Napster) 2) Passive management reaction 3) Internal management disagreement Counterarguments 1) Triggers don’t matter as much as circumstantial factors that allow the “wildfire” to spread 2) Mixed incentives – some groups see benefits of wildfire without envisioning long term consequences 3) Disagreements are natural. Context is everything Democratization of Media • Results in i **Listened to Audiobook (37 hours!)** Elements of “digital wildfires” 1) Benign catalyst (humble beginnings of YouTube, Napster) 2) Passive management reaction 3) Internal management disagreement Counterarguments 1) Triggers don’t matter as much as circumstantial factors that allow the “wildfire” to spread 2) Mixed incentives – some groups see benefits of wildfire without envisioning long term consequences 3) Disagreements are natural. Context is everything Democratization of Media • Results in information clutter • Long tail rising – all niches filled • 5 exobytes are large enough to store all words spoken by humans from beginning of civilization to 2003. In 2011, 5 exobytes of content are created digitally every 2 days! • Problem of getting noticed • Problem of getting paid Content Trap 1) Focusing on the trigger rather than factors that perpetuate the problem 2) Effort of preserving content at all cost rather than seizing opportunities around it (drawing product boundaries too narrow) 3) Thinking there is one universal right approach rather than focusing on the context These three factors cause us to miss the forest for the trees We must not miss Connections (between users, between products, and across an organization’s activities) We focus too much on “best content” rather than what makes viewers share Focus on connections, master them. Then even a benign trigger can lead to virality Do not think in terms of isolated decisions. Recognize that each functional decision is tied to others. Isolated perspective promote mimicking others which will end in defeat Bundling Principle Scenario: Analyst willing to pay $2 for Word Processing product and $10 for Spread Sheet product. Journalist willing to pay $10 for WP product and $2 for SS product. What to charge for each? If you charge $2 for each product separately, you'll get $8. If you charge $10 for each product separately, you'll get $20. BUT...if you bundle the two products together and sell that bundle for $12, you'll achieve the optimal sales of $24. Key here is both customers are willing to pay money for both products, they just value the products differently. For fixed cost businesses (Walmart, Amazon): • Spread fixed cost over larger product volumes • Spread FC over more product categories or stores • Find new revenue streams to lower burden of fixed cost (Amazon cloud service from their capital expenditure in servers) Planned journalism - spreading newspaper desk into slow and fast. Slow desk prepares stories weeks in advance because 70% of news stories are predictable. This reduced cost, time devoted to majority of stories, and increased quality of majority of content. Complementary products usually price change in opposite directions. For example, when CDs and recorded music became cheap (piracy), price of concerts and tours skyrocketed. This is because the free music basically acts as advertising for shows and concerts. Price complements according to where you have comparative advantage. For example, Apple priced iTunes music low and iPods high because they had to share most of profits on iTunes songs with powerful music studios, whereas Apple had more negotiating power against commodity device makers on the iPod hardware. Proprietary complements vs general complements. iTunes is proprietary complement to Apple (serves only iPod), whereas Michelin stars helps not only Michelin tires but also other tire companies) Is your business someone else's complement? Who are your complements? Substitutes - you want these to be as expensive and limited as possible. They don't have to be direct competitors (I.e. IKEA is substitute for power tools) Complements for WanderKin - air travel, foodie culture, Ultra festival, popular attractions or stores, Miami Heat games, popularity of jobs in American, Chinese being cool in media Substitutes for WanderKin - video games, hotels, travel agencies, skiing resorts, online chat rooms and livestream watching, self help books and seminars, coding bootcamps Spillovers- significance of the "hit." Example: one hit show on a tv network helps viewership of all other shows on this network (audience retention, network can promote their other shows on the hit show) Focus on the hit...opportunities to gain new users. Piggyback off the popular hit. Use known products to market unknown products Story of IMG - business expansion based on connection between products (talent management increased returns on event planning, which in turn increased returns to the talent). Diversification first focused on product synergy (table and chairs), then process synergy (Honda move into lawn mowners because the biz requires same core competence), and finally spillovers that add value to consumer (theatres and childcare) Lessons from The Economist - Consistency. All articles read as if written by same person. Consumer experience matters more than content quality Trade offs - the more trade offs a business makes, the difficult it is for competitor to copy them. For example, Walmart builds their stores in suburban areas, Edward Jones focuses only on individual investors who work 1-on-1 with local financial advisor Business strategy - figure out which customers you will target and what they really want, then deliver on it in a unique way Start with context first - develop a word view. Don't think about how you will win before you even decide where you will play Product focus vs Consumer focus advertising Digital advertising not as effective as originally thought? Facebook conversion rate averages less than .5% Create to Connect. Expand to Preserve. Dare to be original

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ilona

    Probably my favorite book of the year. A must for anyone working in marketing. Discusses everything relevant, from telcos to print to native ads to tv to digital. Tons of interesting use cases. Written in the exciting but light HBR style. Quite intense and long, but definitely worth the time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Beeman

    Anand’s analysis of The Content Trap is very thorough and he applies it to many different industries and walks of life which I found interesting. Unfortunately there were two things that really irked me about this book. First, the words “eschew” and “ubiquitous” are used endlessly, to the extent that I was aware of it while I was reading, not just when I was reflecting and rereading. Second, he uses the sentence structure of “not this, this, or this, but rather this” a lot as well. Overall, a go Anand’s analysis of The Content Trap is very thorough and he applies it to many different industries and walks of life which I found interesting. Unfortunately there were two things that really irked me about this book. First, the words “eschew” and “ubiquitous” are used endlessly, to the extent that I was aware of it while I was reading, not just when I was reflecting and rereading. Second, he uses the sentence structure of “not this, this, or this, but rather this” a lot as well. Overall, a good book but not the most enjoyable or relaxing read for me personally.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ashoke

    Ranks among the most useful book on strategy that I have read in recent times. Cogent and replete with brilliant case examples. Bharat's basic tenet of context dictating strategy might at first blush feel like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, a much of a muchness but as he explores the implications in case after case (each one that he apparently has first hand experience of) - Schibstaad, The Economist, Hotstar, Zee, Wall Mart, HBX etc. -subtle facets of high strategic import come through. The Ranks among the most useful book on strategy that I have read in recent times. Cogent and replete with brilliant case examples. Bharat's basic tenet of context dictating strategy might at first blush feel like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, a much of a muchness but as he explores the implications in case after case (each one that he apparently has first hand experience of) - Schibstaad, The Economist, Hotstar, Zee, Wall Mart, HBX etc. -subtle facets of high strategic import come through. The great thing about Bharat's book is that does not leave you with a list of how-to's or why-to's or even a framework to think within and instead leaves you with the feeling that you must think harder and clearer next time you sit down to chalk out strategy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marianne Sweeny

    One of the most illuminating books on content strategy from the POV of stakeholders and clients that I have read. There are instructional texts out there. This one helps you to frame the actual strategy for the tactics that you'll find in them. One of the most illuminating books on content strategy from the POV of stakeholders and clients that I have read. There are instructional texts out there. This one helps you to frame the actual strategy for the tactics that you'll find in them.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Feng Ouyang

    Many years ago, I read Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and “The Innovator’s Solution.” These two books shaped my view of several business issues. “The Content Trap,” also written by a Harvard Business School professor, has the same impact on me. The book is about corporation strategies in the digital world. More specifically, it talks about how content providers (media, entertainment, education, etc.) should survive in the digital age, where it is increasingly difficult to get not Many years ago, I read Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and “The Innovator’s Solution.” These two books shaped my view of several business issues. “The Content Trap,” also written by a Harvard Business School professor, has the same impact on me. The book is about corporation strategies in the digital world. More specifically, it talks about how content providers (media, entertainment, education, etc.) should survive in the digital age, where it is increasingly difficult to get noticed and get paid. The premise of the book is that one should not focus on producing better contents than competitors. Instead, one should discover and foster connections in several dimensions to increase one’s value on the market. Such connection exists in three dimensions. The first is user connections. Instead of the relationship between a content provider and a user, it is more important and valuable to have the “network effect,” i.e., the value of service increases as the number of users increases. The network effect happens, for example, when many people use the social network or exchange software written for the same computer system. Therefore, a content provider should self-identify as a community builder, to cultivate an ecosystem of connected users. Such view results in some counter-intuitive success stories. For example, a newspaper survives digitization by focusing on integrating the nation’s classified ad market, because the classified ad has network effect: the more people visiting the site, the more valuable the site is for everyone. Another example is New York Time’s paywall strategy. By bundling several contents (news, opinions, fashion, sports, etc.) together in pricing, it makes the product appealing to a large group of users with varying preferences. The Chinese game company Tencent gained initial success by selling digital avatar images for its instant messaging and gaming products. Such images, although bearing virtually no cost to produce, have great value to the customers because of the user connections. The second dimension is product connections. Products can be complementary, such as software and hardware. They can help each other to get noticed (piggyback effects). They can also attract users to use other products (such as TV programs in consecutive time slots). Instead of focusing on the quality and profitability of individual products, one should focus on recognizing and designing product portfolios containing mutual-enhancing products. Typically, one cannot create or even predict a viral outcome. Something goes viral for various reasons. So we need to have the capability of responding to a viral product, and use it to help other products. It is also essential to capture the most value in a chain of complementary products. Decision connections are the third dimension. One should not view business decisions and choices as separated ones and try to optimize each one. Instead, all decisions and choices are connected, and they are driven by the overall strategy. The strategy defines what customer needs one wants to address, and from what angle. Such strategy choice then determines a web of interconnected decisions. So don’t try to copy successful practices from others, They probably won’t fit into your strategy. In addition to the beneficial points, the book was very well written, just as Christensen’s books mentioned above. It uses the case study approach, which is the hallmark of Harvard Business School. The “story-theory” approach is used by many nonfiction books. However, this book is unique in that it does not include extraneous details of the stories. So the whole book is fascinating and fast-paced. It eloquently explains basic economic principles such as the network effect and complementary. Such explanations allow people with little economics background to follow the narrative. However, people already with such knowledge are not bored by such discourse. The book also has a clear logical line, and thus easy to follow. Overall, this is a book worth multiple reads.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lanre Dahunsi

    Book #14: The Content Trap: A Strategist's Guide to Digital Change by Bharat Anand | Finished March 6th 2017 #100BooksChallenge Favourite Take Aways The central message of this book. Getting things right requires understanding how small things are tied to big ones. More concretely, it requires three things: Seeing how what we do is increasingly linked to what others do; Looking beyond where we play to bring related but invisible opportunities into focus; and Recognizing how what we do is impacted by Book #14: The Content Trap: A Strategist's Guide to Digital Change by Bharat Anand | Finished March 6th 2017 #100BooksChallenge Favourite Take Aways The central message of this book. Getting things right requires understanding how small things are tied to big ones. More concretely, it requires three things: Seeing how what we do is increasingly linked to what others do; Looking beyond where we play to bring related but invisible opportunities into focus; and Recognizing how what we do is impacted by where we are It requires recognizing these connections—then respecting, creating, and leveraging them as well. Do so, and you’ll avoid a danger that plagues many who fail, and is deceptively hard to avoid: what the author call the Content Trap. Today more than 300,000 books are released every year by traditional U.S. publishers—and more than one million are released by nontraditional ones, many as self-published books. Television networks now include more than 900 channels, up from barely a dozen forty years ago. Nearly one million musicians release songs every year, a dramatic increase from just twenty years ago. When it comes to digital content the numbers are even more extraordinary. Nearly 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube, three million pieces of content shared by Facebook users, and 230,000 new photos posted on Instagram—every minute . More than 90 million websites are built every year. And perhaps the most sobering statistic: five exabytes (or 5 billion billion bytes) of data could store all the words ever spoken by humans between the birth of the world and 2003. In 2011, five exabytes of content were created every two days. Compete in a world of four broadcast channels and you know what you’re up against. Compete against 900 channels, millions of short-form videos, and the rerelease of an entire library of video archives—including your own—and it’s a strategic and marketing nightmare even to make consumers aware of what you’re producing. The Content Trap and the Business of Connections The Content Trap is a mindset that afflicts nearly every organization struggling to confront the problems of getting noticed and getting paid, from media to finance to education, and whether they’re producing stories or designing phones. It has three main expressions, 1. First is the obsession with isolated triggers rather than recognizing the conditions that make them spread. This is akin to believing that product features in isolation drive success or failure rather than what causes users to share and connect. This is an error of misplaced focus, a result of confusing cause and effect. 2. Second is the effort to preserve content at all costs—rather than seizing the opportunities around it. This is an error of drawing product boundaries too narrowly. 3. Third is the relentless search for best practices, the belief that there’s one “right approach” to confront digital fires—rather than understanding that the right way to fight fires depends on the context in which they burn. This is an error that mistakes strategy for universal solutions. Just as there are three expressions of the Content Trap, there are three types of connections central to our story: connections between users, connections between products, and connections across an organization’s activities Business strategy is about two questions: where should you play, and how will you win. Finding the right answers requires making your product right, knowing your consumers, and understanding how these are changing in your market.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Grant

    Well structured and well written; Anand is particularly adept at choosing good analogies. I liked his use of the Yellowstone '88 fires as an analogy for issues in the digital world and a battle cry to look beyond immediate explanations; to look deeper and at context, always. Much of this you will have likely read about before: the Apple vs. Microsoft network effects case study, for example. Occasionally, Anand's "insights" about user connectivity and network effects have the ring of obviousness. Well structured and well written; Anand is particularly adept at choosing good analogies. I liked his use of the Yellowstone '88 fires as an analogy for issues in the digital world and a battle cry to look beyond immediate explanations; to look deeper and at context, always. Much of this you will have likely read about before: the Apple vs. Microsoft network effects case study, for example. Occasionally, Anand's "insights" about user connectivity and network effects have the ring of obviousness... his ideas about user/product connectivity and thinking more expansively about one's core business are, more or less, the same ideas Levitt was describing in his famous "marketing myopia" paper. But Anand incorporates enough modern business examples to make these somewhat familiar points interesting and give them a fresh perspective. I particularly liked his example of the Michelin Guides--why would a tire company create restaurant guides? The connection to the core business isn't obvious, but when considered from the perspective of "encouraging people to visit more far-flung restaurants likely encourages more driving, and therefore tire purchases"--it makes some sense. The NYT paywall chapter was particularly interesting, making some nuanced points about bundling vs. price discrimination and how good bundling is more about recognizing user connections rather than similar products. The economic theory is kept at a high enough level to not be overwhelming, although some chapters tread a little close to that, such as "Cost-based connections", which maybe goes into a little TOO much detail on the economics of fixed costs. There is also perhaps a bit too much self-congratulatory backslapping in the chapters describing the success of HBX. I appreciate Anand's playing of "devil's advocate" when it comes to the value of digital marketing and certainly, value claims shouldn't be taken at face value. Skepticism should exist. But Anand is perhaps a little too negative here, e.g., "ad effectiveness remains as nebulous as ever and marketing executives still can't figure out if their digital campaigns are worth it" (p. 263) --> Not really. If conversion tracking and ROAS are setup properly, the value (or lack thereof) of digital campaigns can be pretty clear. Perfect? Maybe not. But good enough to make informed decisions, in most cases. The discussion of endogeneity in digital advertising is an interesting one. In my experience, bidding on brand keywords has been worthwhile, though, especially when competitors are bidding against your brand name. Anand doesn't seem to account for this unfortunate reality. The book serves as a useful reminder that "content is king" has become a bit of a tired mantra. It's more nuanced than that. Content is important, sure, but in the marketing field it is often an afterthought how said content will actually be distributed, socially connected and promoted effectively. It shouldn't be.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    A high quality book that I had to read slow - so much content! Obviously written by an exceptional college professor of which this material is surely included in his courses. Too many highlighted sections to list below but this is a must read for those competing in the business world today. While I normally try to maintain a quick pace through my books, this one I had to continually put down to think about all the information. I wouldn't pick this one up for a quick or fun read... but would reco A high quality book that I had to read slow - so much content! Obviously written by an exceptional college professor of which this material is surely included in his courses. Too many highlighted sections to list below but this is a must read for those competing in the business world today. While I normally try to maintain a quick pace through my books, this one I had to continually put down to think about all the information. I wouldn't pick this one up for a quick or fun read... but would recommend it for those competing in today's economy. Key excerpts below... - Companies everywhere face two major challenges today: getting noticed and getting paid. - The simple idea - that the right decision is often closely tied to its context - has profound implications for management. - The democratization of media... creates a colossal problem for any organization: the proliferation of alternatives and product clutter. - There are 3 types of connections central to our story: connections between users, connections between products, and connections across an organization's activities. - ... even a 6 month head start can be insurmountable when competing for network effects. - Create a fabulous warehousing network and ultimately so can others. Your competitive advantage will vanish. Create a retailing platform where anyone can sell to your customers and you've carved out an entirely different competitive position.... Amazon had shifted strategy from selling products to owning a platform. A similar "content versus platform" choice confronts many organizations today.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

    Although this is well-written, well-structured and well thought out, it did take some effort to read. But it was worth it, as this is a serious book on the modern world of business - not just digital/online businesses. There were the usual, familiar examples but also some less well-known examples. It always strikes me, in books with examples of "success" and "failure", that it is very easy to analyse success up to and at one point in time and explain it - but if Amazon goes bust in 2 years time, Although this is well-written, well-structured and well thought out, it did take some effort to read. But it was worth it, as this is a serious book on the modern world of business - not just digital/online businesses. There were the usual, familiar examples but also some less well-known examples. It always strikes me, in books with examples of "success" and "failure", that it is very easy to analyse success up to and at one point in time and explain it - but if Amazon goes bust in 2 years time, there will then be lots of books about why it's strategy was so bad etc and was doomed to fail all along. This book appealed to me because it had examples of apparently similar businesses taking different paths to deal with digital/online challenges, but still being successful. The final chapters about how the author helped develop a new form of education delivery at Harvard Business School was an inspired way to wrap up the book and show putting into practice some of the concepts discussed throughout. The book may have been better named with "connections" in the title, as that is more the focus than content. Also, a summary box at the end of each chapter would have helped. Don't dismiss content too readily. Of great benefit to anyone working in media, comms, entertainment, publishing, education and knowledge businesses - or any business dealing with people and content!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wozniak

    This is the best book on the business of content I've read, by far. If you're work involves newspapers, TV/movies, schools, magazines, consulting, books, or advertising (to name just some examples) then you are in a content business. And the age of the internet has changed those businesses dramatically. How do you stand out? How do you make money? What actually creates a loyal following? There have been a lot of theories and articles (and I've read many of them) but nothing else I've read comes c This is the best book on the business of content I've read, by far. If you're work involves newspapers, TV/movies, schools, magazines, consulting, books, or advertising (to name just some examples) then you are in a content business. And the age of the internet has changed those businesses dramatically. How do you stand out? How do you make money? What actually creates a loyal following? There have been a lot of theories and articles (and I've read many of them) but nothing else I've read comes close to the depth of insight and breadth of application that this book presents. Examples: for newspapers, it's the classified that have been the hidden driver of sales; bundling content can create a better price for the customer AND better price for the creator; it's not about the content itself--it's all about the connections between all the consumers of your content, how the content brings them together.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Felipe Martinez

    The book has some really interesting insights about media companies and the dynamics of content-related services in general. I confess it is not the kind of book I usually read, as I tend to prefer fiction novels and such, but it caught my interest with its great argumentation and examples. Having said that, the book is not an easy reading. The amount of content and information condensed in each chapter is huge. After thirty-or-so minutes of a reading seassion, I kept finding myself very tired. An The book has some really interesting insights about media companies and the dynamics of content-related services in general. I confess it is not the kind of book I usually read, as I tend to prefer fiction novels and such, but it caught my interest with its great argumentation and examples. Having said that, the book is not an easy reading. The amount of content and information condensed in each chapter is huge. After thirty-or-so minutes of a reading seassion, I kept finding myself very tired. Another thing I should mention: after 2/3 of the book, when the author change focus from media companies to education, it lost some of my interest. The author start talking about some of his personal experiences on the area, and although one can see the reasoning behind this, it felt a little like advertisement and self-promotion. After all, I found a fair book. It gave me a new perspective of the media, a lot of great insights, but it was challenging to finish it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Aagave

    Poorly written, poorly edited, and impractical. The last section - about how HBS built HBX - is the only section where the prose is not clunky or messy. And that section is worth a read, if you can disregard Anand’s attempts to tie it back to his nonsensical “content trap”. I have sat in rooms with decision makers at major media companies, and had I tried to use this content trap diagram and explanation, I can promise you that the conversation would be immediately over. You will learn more about Poorly written, poorly edited, and impractical. The last section - about how HBS built HBX - is the only section where the prose is not clunky or messy. And that section is worth a read, if you can disregard Anand’s attempts to tie it back to his nonsensical “content trap”. I have sat in rooms with decision makers at major media companies, and had I tried to use this content trap diagram and explanation, I can promise you that the conversation would be immediately over. You will learn more about the media business from this PSFK post about its pivot (https://www.psfk.com/2019/03/media-as...) for its strategy than from the 350 pages in this obtuse and abstract book. There is a reason why the only advance praise for this book comes from people outside of the media business. Save your money, and if you are still inclined to spend money to learn more about media, spend money on a subscription to stratechery (Ben Thompson’s website).

  18. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Kim

    A good job of explaining why a lot of media organizations in light of recent technological advances, get it wrong by relying on tried and true strategies that resulted from closed systems without taking into consideration how connections which have increased parabolically since the dawn of the internet has changed the way the end user consumer experiences that content. While it does a good job explaining these pitfalls organizations and companies suffer from, it does little to really inform conte A good job of explaining why a lot of media organizations in light of recent technological advances, get it wrong by relying on tried and true strategies that resulted from closed systems without taking into consideration how connections which have increased parabolically since the dawn of the internet has changed the way the end user consumer experiences that content. While it does a good job explaining these pitfalls organizations and companies suffer from, it does little to really inform content creators as to how they should strategize themselves. It reads more so as a strategy book for companies already in control of content, but perhaps not employing the best methods in finding the connections that exist that can amplify its distribution.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Excellent treatise on the economics of media and information. One thesis: Content is not king. It is all about how it can be distributed. A secondary thesis: Focus on what complements the way people use your product. A lot of this will seem familiar -- and is -- but Anand is a clear writer, and while somethings get overly simplified in proving his thesis (i.e. music is bigger than ever because of its expanded ecosystem) , the reader will get it, and get rewarded with an expanded perspective on k Excellent treatise on the economics of media and information. One thesis: Content is not king. It is all about how it can be distributed. A secondary thesis: Focus on what complements the way people use your product. A lot of this will seem familiar -- and is -- but Anand is a clear writer, and while somethings get overly simplified in proving his thesis (i.e. music is bigger than ever because of its expanded ecosystem) , the reader will get it, and get rewarded with an expanded perspective on key topics that go well beyond "disruption." Excellent case study on TenCent is worth reading on its own.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    3.5/5. The author provides insightful commentary on how content businesses are adapting to technology changes, but he also doesn’t seem to follow his own advice. At one point, he states that studying the best practices of CEOs is a folly (since lots of factors contribute to a person’s success). But his own book does basically the same thing: examining case studies of businesses adapting to change, and recommending the general strategies of successful companies. Still, his central idea is compell 3.5/5. The author provides insightful commentary on how content businesses are adapting to technology changes, but he also doesn’t seem to follow his own advice. At one point, he states that studying the best practices of CEOs is a folly (since lots of factors contribute to a person’s success). But his own book does basically the same thing: examining case studies of businesses adapting to change, and recommending the general strategies of successful companies. Still, his central idea is compelling and well-supported by the examples he provides. (Also: He spends a good chunk of the book humble-bragging about his experience in shaping Harvard Business School’s online education program.)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Bradbury

    Hands down one of the best business books I've read in a long time. Everyone in media/entertainment/tech should read this book whether you're in product, marketing, sales, BD, etc. I've started thinking about everything in terms of connections, whether at my own company or within my industry. For folks in the content business who feel lost at how to approach the constant cycle of change in their industry, this gives a useful map of how to evaluate your unique position and set a course for succes Hands down one of the best business books I've read in a long time. Everyone in media/entertainment/tech should read this book whether you're in product, marketing, sales, BD, etc. I've started thinking about everything in terms of connections, whether at my own company or within my industry. For folks in the content business who feel lost at how to approach the constant cycle of change in their industry, this gives a useful map of how to evaluate your unique position and set a course for success. I highly recommend this book!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Guthrie C.

    Interesting approach to business/product strategy that focuses on creating connections across users, products (in an industry portfolio of core, complements and substitutes), and functions. The author provides a decent of overview of core economic and strategy theories, such as Porter’s 5 forces, Christensen’s disruption and economic value capture. He also provides a great example through his personal work on HBX. But, the author doesn’t fully connect the dots between theory and application in c Interesting approach to business/product strategy that focuses on creating connections across users, products (in an industry portfolio of core, complements and substitutes), and functions. The author provides a decent of overview of core economic and strategy theories, such as Porter’s 5 forces, Christensen’s disruption and economic value capture. He also provides a great example through his personal work on HBX. But, the author doesn’t fully connect the dots between theory and application in concrete terms that could leave some readers wanting more de/re-constructed examples.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand puts forward a theory and backs it up with examples across a range of industries. Content businesses that guard their content with restrictive technology and high prices damage their business. He argues for connections: 1) User connections. Making it easy for users to share content and connect with each other; 2) Connect content to complementary products 3)Develop a strategy that connects with the firm's current strategy, brand, image, customer base. Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand puts forward a theory and backs it up with examples across a range of industries. Content businesses that guard their content with restrictive technology and high prices damage their business. He argues for connections: 1) User connections. Making it easy for users to share content and connect with each other; 2) Connect content to complementary products 3)Develop a strategy that connects with the firm's current strategy, brand, image, customer base. Final part of the book describes a Harvard online learning initiative from the perspective of principles in the book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Nichols

    I took copious notes from this book. It is an insightful analysis of the strategic opportunities the digital world provides, considered from various perspectives including newspapers, Netflix, and Harvard itself. It's all too possible to misunderstand the dynamics of digital strategy, resulting in either disaster or fabulous opportunity. I was particularly intrigued by the closing chapters, where the difference between the MOOC and digital education models become all too clear. Highly recommende I took copious notes from this book. It is an insightful analysis of the strategic opportunities the digital world provides, considered from various perspectives including newspapers, Netflix, and Harvard itself. It's all too possible to misunderstand the dynamics of digital strategy, resulting in either disaster or fabulous opportunity. I was particularly intrigued by the closing chapters, where the difference between the MOOC and digital education models become all too clear. Highly recommended!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Luke Hooper

    Tons of great insight on the importance, or lack of importance, of content in an age when digital disruptions are everywhere. Mimicking past companies successes is a trap as every situation is different and there is much more to success than content. The importance of networks was very interesting to read about and the case studies in this book were huge and fascinating. This book covers everything from traditional advertising, to competition strategy and even a great comparison between the Yell Tons of great insight on the importance, or lack of importance, of content in an age when digital disruptions are everywhere. Mimicking past companies successes is a trap as every situation is different and there is much more to success than content. The importance of networks was very interesting to read about and the case studies in this book were huge and fascinating. This book covers everything from traditional advertising, to competition strategy and even a great comparison between the Yellowstone fires and a modern digital spark.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Phi Unit

    Some useful frameworks for not falling into the trap of quality content being the top priority of a digital transformation. What matters more are the product connections, user connections, network effects, etc. Seems more useful for those working in big companies/media as most of the examples (NYTimes, Netflix, the Economist) were more established media companies. Interesting end section on Harvard Business School’s own strategy to online education and how to build something that would help them Some useful frameworks for not falling into the trap of quality content being the top priority of a digital transformation. What matters more are the product connections, user connections, network effects, etc. Seems more useful for those working in big companies/media as most of the examples (NYTimes, Netflix, the Economist) were more established media companies. Interesting end section on Harvard Business School’s own strategy to online education and how to build something that would help them stand out online.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Orlopp

    Phenomenal book that provides keen insights into the digital transformation that we've witnessed in books, music, newspapers, film, education, etc. What is amazing is the level of dissection and research into what causes success and what causes serious missteps. The focus on connections--user connections, product connections, and functional connections---kept me taking notes throughout the book and applying it to my current, past and future experiences. Highly recommend! Phenomenal book that provides keen insights into the digital transformation that we've witnessed in books, music, newspapers, film, education, etc. What is amazing is the level of dissection and research into what causes success and what causes serious missteps. The focus on connections--user connections, product connections, and functional connections---kept me taking notes throughout the book and applying it to my current, past and future experiences. Highly recommend!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Shivaashish Gupta

    What a wonderful book by HBS professor Bharat Anand! Lucid and engaging, it moves quickly for a business book, despite a substantive theme. Made all the more accessible by the excellent case examples. Whilst set in the context of digital strategy, the framework has much broader implications and the book is recommended for anyone thinking about the connections that underpin good strategies in general.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Do Thuy

    the whole book is about how to marketing better - not by having great content but the ability of connecting customers, giving customer great experiences or thinking customers as partners. The chapter from 25 to 30 is especially interesting as he talked about how to build online course at HBX. Do not mimic or copy other company strategies. Understand the principles and think about what is right for your own company. The section about what is the right education for students is very well said.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    Saw Dr Anand give a presentation to the Book Industry Study Group at the Harvard Club in NYC. Does that not sound fancy? I was so blown away by it that I could not stop reading this book. If you make a living off intellectual property, or is a complementary product with intellectual property, then reading this book is probably an important part of your career growth.

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