What Can the Media Industry Learn From the Water Business?

July 1, 2007

A great Article in the Fast Company Juli/August 2007 issue from Charles Fishman about the water industry.
The bottled water business in the United States is booming. People increasingly are willing to pay for something they can just as easily have for free from taps in our homes.
And that is actually the connection to the media industry in the digital age. Will people willing to pay for digital content they can just as easily have for free from the p2p networks?

I grew up in a household where bottled water were always there, and I was surprised to hear that the water business is quite new. Thirty years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business in the United States. Americans are drinking more than twice the bottled water they did a decade ago–but they’re still not in the top five per capita worldwide. (Italians drink the most.) Last year, people in the US spent more on bottled water than they spent on iPods or movie tickets–$15 billion (24% of the market is tap water repackaged by Coke and Pepsi).

The water industry supplies something people don’t need. An industry “built on the packaging and the presentation. When we buy a bottle of water, what we’re often buying is the bottle itself, the convenience and the story the water companies tell us about the water and what it says about us. Water has come to signify how we think of ourselves. We want to brand ourselves.
Charles Fishman gives some interesting numbers:
People are paying an unbelievable premium price for water. You can pay a half liter Evian for $1.35 with your pocket change. That water seems cheap, but only because we aren´t paying attention.

“If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.”

So, what can the media industry learn from the water business?
Definitely a point I will think about in my thesis.


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