Tag Archives: WordStar

Pricing is Magic. Stranger Every Day

Pricing is magic. There are no good algorithms. No best practices. Grab a theory — competitive pricing, value-based pricing, scientific wild-assed guess pricing, you name it — and stick with it. If it works, stick longer. If it doesn’t change it. 

Some reflections on pricing: 

  1. Yesterday I bought a short story,  off of Amazon.com for $0.99. I bought it and read it while waiting for lunch at a sandwich shop. We used to have to buy an album for $10-$15. Now I buy tunes on a whim all the time. 
  2. I regularly buy tunes off of amazon.com for $0.99. Choose, click, and done. I just bought Bonnie Raitt’s new album for $5.99 because the album was cheaper than buying half of its songs. Nowadays I get sample chapters free, read them, and half the time buy the book. I’m not reading more now, but I’m sure buying more. 
  3. I paid $695 for Lotus 1-2-3 in 1983. Wordstar was $295, and dBaseII $495. They were all mainstays of early PC software (and those last two started on CP/M, before the IBM PC and DOS. 
  4. How much did the DrawSomething people make with a simple app? Zynga bought the company for $250 million (or so). The app had a free version, and cost $0.99. I saw somewhere that they’d had 350 million downloads. But that was a couple of months ago. 
  5. Back in the 1990s we almost acquired full rights to a software product (name omitted on purpose) from a company that had been selling a few hundred copies a year at $1,000 per copy. We didn’t because that software did less for its users than our own Business Plan Pro, which we were selling to tens of thousands of people at $100 a copy. 
  6. Is it not strange? Everybody thinks $2.99 is really expensive for an app now. Reviews often dock the good apps because they expect much more as such a high ($2.99) price. Wait, what? 


Whatever else is going on with pricing, it’s microeconomics turned on its head: low price doesn’t cause high volume. High volume causes low price. 

Corollary: the optimal price is inversely proportional to the size of the market. 

Second corollary: whoops! There I go trying to make order out of chaos. Pricing is magic. If it works, hooray, and if not, experiment.

(Image: bigstockphoto.com

Folk Wisdom Reversal: Necessity Isn’t the Mother of Invention

This will be hard for anybody under 50 to believe, but there was a time when word processing and spreadsheets were a real productivity advantage.

Are you old enough to remember Visicalc, or maybe SuperCalc? In the very early 1980s, most business people still did budgets with paper and calculator. The spreadsheet power user was way faster than anybody else. It was a great secret weapon for early adopters. It was a huge productivity boost.

Now, of course, we take it for granted. People throw multi-worksheet budgets around like nerf balls. If you’re not done in an hour, well, what’s wrong with you?

It was the same back then with word processing. Are you old enough to remember WordStar? That was power when the competition was working with typewriters. Now, you write fast … so what? So does everybody. Go write your big email and come back in 10 minutes.

Then came desktop publishing in 1985. Can you remember Aldus Pagemaker and the first Apple Laserwriter. It was amazing. Any one person could compete with the graphics department.

And slides? There was Aldus Persuasion, replaced later by Microsoft PowerPoint. When I was with McKinsey Management Consulting back in the early 1980s our office had more graphic artists than consultants, because they had to produce the slides that amazed the clients. How long has it been since anybody was amazed by a slide deck?

Do you see what I mean? At first it’s slick and powerful, doing something way faster than the old way of doing it. And that’s productivity at its best. But soon the advances are taken for granted. The bar of expectations goes up, and you spend the same amount of time.

Which is why the saying is reversed. In these cases, it’s not like it’s supposed to be, necessity as the mother of invention. Invention becomes the mother of necessity.

Does All Of This Improve Productivity?

That’s an interesting question. Ten years ago I would have been tempted to say no, that it hasn’t improved productivity.  More recently I’ve changed my mind.  Running a company makes me sure that we benefit from the power of more detailed budgeting, and running through the daily process of management makes me pretty sure that business documents are generally better communicators with desktop publishing than without.

And the new world of social media, infinite communications possibilities, authenticity and content quality threatening to become more powerful than huge advertising budgets?

What do you think?

(Image: JuditK/Flickr cc)