Convenience Beats Quality

I’ve been writing about this theme for about as long as I’ve been blogging.

I regularly opt for a 128kps stream on the Internet over a vinyl record played on our high end audio system (because I can search for the music I want to hear and play it instantly).

I lost my Canon SD850 recently and chose not to replace it. I use the camera in my blackberry 90% of the time anyway (because it has the ability to instantly post to the web).

And so it was interesting to me to read the comments on Techcrunch regarding Scoble’s interview with the Twitter team on Friday, like this one:

What’s the obsession with qik? Even a cheap/small video camera would be better quality that this.

To which Scoble replies:

when I woke up this morning I didn’t plan to do this interview. If I
did it with other equipment I wouldn’t have been able to get it up so

Exactly. I thought the video was fine. Sure it wasn’t TV quality, but I could care less. It got the point across. To those who care, it was great journalism. Scoble had been critical of Twitter, he thought they were blaming him for the outages, he went over, turned on his camera and recorded the conversation.

Bravo. As someone else said in the comments:

I love what Qik and Kyte and Nokia and others are doing … just needs
time to mesh. Scoble is out on point, taking the first bullets as he’s
discovering new stuff. I give him credit for trying new things and
trying to get interesting content.

The ability to do something is so much more important than the ability to do it in high quality. That will come in time of course.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Karen E

    To me this is one of your most ‘sticky’ ideas. Yes, you’ve blogged it all along, but keep developing it.

  2. BrianSullivan

    A mantra for America perhaps? If this is the prevailing attitude then it’s easy to see why U.S.A. is an empire spiralling down.

    1. fredwilson

      Or why america still generates many of the best new ideas

  3. sass

    Good thoughts, and something that has really always been true in Consumer Media Consumption – convenience and immediacy trumps technical quality. It’s why AM and FM radio took off (the convenience and immediacy of getting content whenever and wherever you could place/bring a radio). 8-track, then audio cassettes were another “lesser” quality but more immediate/convenient format. Television itself was originally substantially worse quality than what a projector could deliver, but infinitely more immediate and convenient. The MP3 format clearly wins due to convenience and immediacy, not quality. Even our old friend Twitter has thrived on the power of immediate and direct communication, where the consumer happily accepts 140 character, imperfectly written messages because their importance and impact is enhanced by the immediacy and easy access. In the end, it’s the ease of connecting with the audience that makes the content resonate, not the quality of the recording or writing, and that’s where Twitter, Qik and similar platforms excel, both for the content creator and the audience. Thanks!

  4. Kevin Prentiss

    @ Brian: apples and oranges. This is a tech and innovation dynamic, where America is still doing just fine.Convenience creates adoption. Then the quality gets better. Editing videos used to be hard. Macs made it easy, more people did it, and quality of amateur shooting / editing has come up with time.In a few years, video from a cell phone will be both easy and quick. In the meantime, easy wins and is well worth doing. It’s “iterate” focusing on “easy” first – this is simply the best way to get to quality.

    1. GeorgeT6

      “Convenience creates adoption. Then the quality gets better”This

  5. tim

    If youtube has proven anything – its that quality doesn’t matter.

  6. Deepak Das

    It seems that you are arguing for ‘convenience’ over ‘quality’, when its in your favor or the argument is over something that you care about. Well in this case, it may seem appropriate given the situation that it may have been an impromptu interview.Generally, i would argue for quality. Imagine how critical you would be if the blackberry or the lost canon 850 took photos that you did not really like in quality and the manufacturer’s response was, “well we had to get it to market first, so you are going to have to put up with crap while we perfect the technology”. Would you argue with convenience over quality then?Convenience over quality works when you don’t have to pay for it.

  7. JamesPage

    Zipf came up with this in about 1930. The model (which Zipf law come out of), “The principle of least effort” states that people will use the tools that are closest to them.The easiest way to visualise the model is water flowing around an rock.Transport models have adapted the model into traffic models. Why do use your car when a bus is cheaper? How much do you have to increase the frequencies of buses until people stop driving.

  8. rimmkaufman

    I’d date the beginning of the convenience-trumps-quality wave in CE to cell phone adoption.Cell phones still have lousy voice quality vs land lines, but that’s totally irrelevant as they’re so insanely convenient.Same the trend in audio, where convenience trumps sound quality (vinyl vs. CD vs MP3), in video (qik, flip), and on and on.Home baked bread (delicious, too much effort) loses out to bakery bread (good, but an extra stop while shopping) to grocery store bread.

  9. Rex Hammock

    You are so correct. When people ask me, “what camera should I buy?” — I always say, “The best camera is the one you have with you when a photo presents itself.” The same is true for video or text. The notion that one must lug around professional video equipment or a camera bag with multiple lenses, or, for that matter, be a reporter with a graduate degree in journalism, to capture and report an event sorta misses the whole point of what’s taking place. (P.S. I typically have two cameras with me most of the time — my iPhone and my Canon TXI (a digital “still” camera and HD video camera that fits in my pocket. I have nicer equipment when my primary objective is “taking photos.”) If the new iPhone has the capability to do what Scoble’s Nokia does (access Qik), the feature will be enough to make me upgrade.)

  10. Fraser

    this is only going to be further proven correct as mobile (everything) explodes.

    1. Fraser

      sorry, I should have added… “and this excites me very much”

  11. Don Jones

    I think convenience drives adoption, which then usually results in higher quality versions later on.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, that is the corrolary

  12. mndoci

    There has to be a balance. If all online audio was in some awful format (64kbps or something), I doubt we’d be streaming it. Convenience beats quality once a minimal threshold of being “good enough” is crossed. Of course, as we get exposed to quality the quality bar on “good enough” keeps going up, and the cycle continues.

  13. Mats Myrberg

    I totally agree with this. There are so many examples of successful devices and services being simple and the simplicity being what drives adoption. We continually overestimate what consumers are willing to put up with.I wrote about this in the context of music formats and DRM a while ago:

    1. fredwilson

      simplicity is another big part of the equationi think simplicity is everything in products and servicesif it’s not simple, then it’s not going to be mainstream

  14. Tony Bain

    Fred, I haven’t seen any posts from you directly discussing the now public Twitter so-called scalability issues. From their posts and this video, they do seem to be still struggling with this and while it largely appears all blown out of proportion, they did seem quite unprepared for the growth. Isn’t this something the investors should have been on their backs earlier to address as I am sure it is a common, reoccurring risk in internet start ups?

    1. fredwilson

      Tony, you are right. i have refrained from publicly commenting on Twitter’s woes. When you make an investment, there’s generally an understanding that our discussions will remain private. i know way more about the situation than i can or should share. so i have to be careful what I say about that. twitter has been opening up though, talking more about the situation, which i think is very important.

  15. qwang

    It’s a similar pattern that occurs as any piece of technology matures. At first everyone is obsessed with a few variables (mega pixels, Mhz/Ghz, Mb of ram, size). But once those main variable have improved so that they’re “good enough”, they deliver diminishing returns.

  16. jackson

    It’s apples and oranges. If you have the time, why not make it better than ok enough?

    1. fredwilson

      as some have said in this comment thread, convenience beats quality in the beginning, but then the work goes into making the convenient solution higher and higher quality. we are certainly seeing this in cell phone cameras. we haven’t really seen it in digital music yet, but i think it’s coming

  17. Jevon

    Nice! I wrote a bit about this a while ago too:…This actually has a lot to do with how you want to look at some markets, where the incumbent seems to be dominating based on quality of the good/service, but that is not the case at all.

  18. Chris Rechtsteiner

    This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has ever driven past 11 McDonald’s in a 5 mile stretch of city. It has never been about quality for mass-market adoption. It has been about frequency, convenience and ubiquity.

  19. reece

    I hate to be that guy, but I’ve got to point out the phrase “I could care less…” It should be, “I couldn’t care less.” Simple error, but it impacts the meaning.

  20. RacerRick

    I bought a $500 HD camera and a $120 Flip camera this year to record my 1 year old’s life.I will use the Flip more today than I have used the HD camera since we bought it. I still don’t know how to convert the HD files to something useful.Get the video on the web asap is better than HD.

    1. Zenred

      Everything is relative, camera phones are crap, my $900. Digital camera can barely do 1/3 of the quality my old FILM SLR could do, but it is convenient and it is what I use. All of you who fail to learn the technology you have available in your hands are doomed to mediocrity for life.

  21. tim

    yes, simple and easy to load to the web NOW, but in 10 years that HD footage of your 10 year old will still look good. Convenience and quality both have their place and purpose.

  22. jasoncalacanis

    Wikipedia would be the biggest example of this in fact. They are not the highest quality, but they do have a page on almost everything.

  23. Zenred

    This is so lame, you make poor quality a virtue, simply because it is simple enough for you to handle.Grow up learn something befor you spout off.

    1. fredwilson

      that might good advice for you too zenred

  24. Jason Preston

    You’re absolutely correct that convenience beats quality, especially with things like internet video (same principle worked for YouTube – and they will be eclipsed unless the come up with something convenient and easy for mobile).What’s interesting to me is that in some spaces convenience is a *feature* that people pay for (think and in other spaces it’s a customer acquisition model. The problem with using convenience to attract a userbase is that you’ve lost them the second something more convenient comes along.

  25. Al Sargent

    I agree that there are times when convenience beats quality.But when is it the other way round?For example, take In-N-Out burgers, a popular fast food chain out west with a reputation for very high quality food. People literally will sit in the drive-through for 20 or 30 minutes. Why do they do this, when other places could serve them faster?Or take Starbucks. How often do you see someone ordering a Frapuccino to be made on the spot, when they could simply pick out pre-made Frapuccino bottle? Same brand, same coffee — what makes people willing to wait a few minutes for a custom-made drink?I don’t have any answers as to why. I just thought I’d point out some counter-examples to see if others could shed some light.

    1. fredwilson

      Interesting that both of your examples relate to food and drink. I pick quality over convenience all the time when it comes to food and drink. Waiting in line at the shake shack for an hour is a classic example of that