I seem to be reading a lot about Trent Reznor as of late. I have been forwarded the "Nine Inch Nails iPhone App Extends Reznor's Innovative Run" article in Wired and a Twitter update from a librarian colleague/former student referenced Digg Dizlog: Trent Reznor.
The Reznor piece that caught my attention was a (15 min) YouTube video of a presentation given by Michael Masnick, the founder of Techdirt. Masnick has distilled Reznor's business model down into a simple equation: CwF + RtB = $$$$.
The "CwF" in the equation stands for Connect with Fans. Using various approaches, like dropping USB keys containing new music in the bathrooms at NIN concerts, Reznor has been able to engage, energize, and get fans excited. He continuously experiments and does new stuff to connect with his fans. Masnick commented that he had to change his presentation as he was building it since Reznor kept coming up with new stuff.
The "RtB" in the equation stands for Reason to Buy. This is where Reznor uses his connection with fans to give them reasons to purchase concert tickets, t-shirts, etc. For example, he also creates special 'box' packages of his products which are considered by NIN's fans to be special and unique. Reznor is giving his followers an opportunity to have something that they feel has a significant value added.
Amid all the discussions about the future of academic libraries, I began musing what academic librarians could possibly learn from Reznor. What I came up with was the following (and half-baked) modified Masnick equation:
The "CwC" in the equation refers to Connect with Community. Academic libraries should constantly thinking and prototyping new ways to connect with our communities. This is not to say that libraries are failing to connect. The challenge is that libraries tend to make a connection and hang onto it well beyond its useful life. We shouldn't be satisfied with how we are connecting today.
Academic libraries must implement ideas that are half-baked and equally willing to let them go when they are not working out. We need to continuously experiments and do new stuff to connect with our communities. We need to be so dynamic that others need to change presentations about libraries since we keep coming up with new stuff. We need to learn how to plan less, prototype more!
Unless libraries take action, participants cautioned, they risk being left with responsibility for low-margin services that no one else (including the commercial world) wants to provide. An analogy is the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Its innovative, high-margin services, such as international and overnight delivery, have been taken over by private firms, leaving the USPS largely with its lowest-margin-of-return function: domestic mail delivery
As with the postal service, at some point libraries could be left offering services that no other service provider finds of value. We could be 'stuck' offering our equivalent of second and third class mail services. Sure, these services are reasons to use the library, but should we be satisfied in offering lowest-margin-of-return services?