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The paradox of quality

The last two years a really paradoxical split emerged in such a way that it now reaches almost everyone. On one side there is high quality, on the other side there is low quality. When media converge quality seems the escape route that buys time.

A short list:

  • HD vs. Mobile phone recordings, YouTube and webcams (This is weird, but on your HD tv you hate the inferior quality of a cable line. On your computer you don’t mind to watch YouTube all night long)
  • Newspapers vs. Blogs (Newspapers are institutions (facts) bloggers are people(thoughts))
  • Letter / Fax vs. E-mail, SMS (The legal state of a letter or fax is much more accepted, good for safety, but terribly inconvenient)
  • Publishing vs. Aggregating (You read what I want you to read vs. I read what I like)
  • Digital SLR camera’s vs. Mobile phone (More pixels and faster camera’s versus just being at the right spot at the right time (portability))
  • Embedded journalists vs. Citizen journalists (real time war coverage embedded in a group on a mission vs. running into something)
  • Professional photographers vs. Your parents (Most people have access to great digital camera’s and photo editing software. Reducing red eyes, adjusting colours, cropping out a building and online tips. Professional photographers need to focus more on ideas).
  • Playstation vs. Wii (If the Playstation 3 would have less quality in images it wouldn’t sell at all I think, if the Wii supported high resolution HD superior graphics it wouldn’t sell that much better.)
  • Studio vs. Home video (Standard camcorders record HDD and anyone can edit using simple software that supports editing it like iMovie. Soon you will watch a friends holiday recording in HD)
  • Satelite radio vs. podcasting (A better sound vs. some passionate lunatic talking hours into the $5,- mic attached to his computer)

Quality is highly connected to accessibility, it always was. You couldn’t make television because there was no infrastructure and affordable equipment available. You couldn’t find an audience because there was no simple distribution network.

Now we can we want the bar raised. Higher quality and more creative concepts. At the same time we want to be part of it. Everyone who makes something wants it to be in the best quality possible.

We love YouTube and we love HD. I don’t mind watching a videoclip in low quality on YouTube, because it gives me the freedom to watch it when I want. When I watch it on my television, sitting and waiting for it to show up the quality better be good.

I’m not sure it this is right, but you could say that when you make content accessible for someone at the time they want it – content on demand – you are allowed to make the quality less fancy.

Quality doesn’t matter
This is not about concepts before quality (I think this is alway true), but about distribution. I you have something you can give to people when they want it the quality doesn’t matter. All you have to do is make sure you have what someone wants whenever they want it.

Does this also apply to professionals? Do we allow them to produce less quality things that are better accessible?