disContent: Dear AT&T Broadband…

Have you ordered your copy of disContent: The Complete Collection yet?

It’s a unique publication, signed on the title page, perhaps the only hardbound book I’ll ever self-publish, and limited to 100 copies (or four months, whichever comes first).

It’s also a serious attempt at “freemium”–the idea that some of you care enough about my writing to pay something for a unique publication, enough so that I’ll be encouraged to keep doing most of my writing/publishing for free.

As another tease, here are the first few paragraphs of the July 2001 column. For the whole column and an updated postscript (the postscripts for at least half of the columns will never appear except in this limited-edition hardbound), buy the book.

Dear AT&T Broadband,

I’m a little confused. I hope I have the name right this month. ‘Dear striped blue deathstar’ seems too informal (and may infringe on a high school classmate’s intellectual property—sorry, George). “AT&T” I understand; “Broadband” I’m not so sure about. But never mind. I’m one of your customers and, I suspect, a hot prospect to get where you and other convergence operators need to be—and I just don’t see it.

The Goal?

I’m no businessman, but I read the business section. Don’t we all? As I understand it, you and your primary competitors are investing tens of billions in infrastructure and content with the expectation that you’ll get it back (and more) in monthly fees. I’ve seen a target number floating around $150 to $170 per month for a middle-class household, for a full range of “broadband” services and content.

Maybe your goals are more modest. Would $120 per month be enough? I know you’re not the only ones in the game; the frequency with which they tear up El Camino Real to lay new fiber demonstrates that.

The Quandary

Here’s my question: How do we get there from here? To put it another way, what combination of services and content will convince a moderately skeptical, college-educated, literate householder to pay you $150 to $170 per month?

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