Here are a dozen or so forms of communication, arranged on two axes.
On the horizontal, they rank from asynchronous (meaning the creator and the responder are separated in time–like a letter) and synchronous (meaning the creator and the responder are in real time proximity to each other–like a phone call).
Up and down, I've charted the quality of the medium. Quality in terms of density of information exchanged. The 140 characters in Twitter is about as low density as you can get other than a stop light. A movie, on the other hand, is loud and bright and two hours long and there's audience reaction and it is edited and designed to evoke a response.
To be clear, then: movies take a long time to make, but they're high impact. Twitter takes a second to do, but there's not a lot of info there. One on one coaching is high enough bandwidth that it can change your life and make you cry, in real time, and the Mona Lisa, while less bits per second than a TV show, has enough emotional bandwidth to matter, even if it's 400 years old.
So, what can you learn here?
- There's a huge correlation between how much interaction there is and how powerful a medium is (at least among successful media). Telephones changed the world because the interaction is so real. As you get more interactive, though, you exchange less dense media. You can't have a real time conversation online that carries the digital impact of a movie or some other high bandwidth entertainment.
- The bottom left corner is the scrap heap. It's hard to place a commercial value on this part of the grid and there's not a lot of commercially interesting work being done here. People just aren't interested in low bandwidth, non-interactive media. Graffiti, for example, rarely draws a paying crowd.
- The top right of the corner is where huge value and difficult sales lie. Not everyone can pay for the scarce resources needed to deliver an in-person seminar or one on one coaching, but those that need and can afford it, love it.
If you had seen this chart three years ago, you obviously would have invented Twitter. Now that you see it today, what will you create?