Yesterday I had a great lunch with Justin Kozuch of the Pixels to Product research study which aims “to create a classification system for Canada’s digital media industry and shed light on the industry’s size and scope.”
I think the idea of measuring the size and scope of Canada’s digital media industry is a fantastic idea. Plenty of people – including many governments – are probably very curious about this.
But one thought I had was: if we really want to impress on governments the importance of the digital economy, don’t measure it’s size. Measure its creative destructive/disruptive power.
In short, measure the amount of the “normal” economy it has destroyed.
Think of every newspaper subscription canceled, every print shop closed, every board game not played, every add not filmed, whatever… but think of all the money saved by businesses and consumers because the digital made their options dramatically cheaper.
I’m not sure what the methodology for such a measurement would look like, or even if it is possible. But it would be helpful.
I suspect the new digital businesses that replace them are smaller and more efficient. Indeed, they often have to be dramatically so to justify the switching cost. This is part of what makes them disruptive. Take, for example, Google. Did you know it only has 20,000 employees? I always find that an incredible figure. These 20,000 people are creating systems that are wiping out (and creating) whole industries.
I say all this because often the digital replacement of the economy won’t (initially) be as big as what it replaced – that’s the whole point. The risk is governments and economic planning groups will look at the current size of the digital economy and be… unimpressed. Measuring destruction might be one way to change the nature of the conversation, to show them how big this part of the economy really is and why they need to give it serious consideration.