The Allure of Analog Featured Pattern: P1045 April 2017

Author: Guy Garrud (Send us feedback.)

Some market segments are beginning to view digital technologies with skepticism.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

Tristan Harris is the cofounder of Time Well Spent (San Francisco, California)—a group that advocates for "a market of media & apps designed with people's best interests in mind" (www.timewellspent.io)—and he believes that companies in Silicon Valley, California, are trying to addict people to using technology. He claims the app-based economy prizes users' attention more than anything else, which results in "a race to the bottom of the brain stem."

Similarly, Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating author Moira Weigel believes that the main focus of dating apps is to keep users engaged with the apps rather than to spawn successful relationships. Journalist Julie Beck theorizes that many people are beginning to experience dating-app fatigue and giving up on dating apps as a result. Beck reports numerous anecdotes from dating-app users who believe that although such apps were initially interesting, they have made finding a relationship no easier. Many users may be turning to more traditional methods of forming relationships. Addictive tactics in use by other types of software may also deliver the opposite of users' desired effect. Developers must remember that if users are not satisfied with a product, they might abandon it.

Some consumer segments may be turning away from digital solutions not because the technology is ineffective but because analog alternatives are more viscerally engaging. For example, despite the ubiquity of MP3 downloads and music-streaming services, many consumers have developed a preference for listening to music on vinyl records. Indeed, start-up Qrates (Tokyo Digital Music Syndicates; Tokyo, Japan) has begun offering a service in which it prints vinyl versions of online tracks when it receives a significant number of consumer requests. Old-fashioned versions of modern digital applications seem to appeal to young people and Millennials in particular. The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter author David Sax suggests that the more exposure to digital technology a generation has, the less enchanted by that technology people in that generation are. Sax highlights that many modern teenagers and people in their twenties are buying film cameras, paperback novels, and record players.

Thus far, mainly anecdotes and opinion pieces point to a potential change in consumer attitudes; however, such rejections of digital technologies could establish valuable market niches and even threaten the success of certain applications.