Signs of Change: Sony Retires the Walkman

Please remove your headphones and join me in a moment of Volume Down to mark the passing of the cassette tape-playing Walkman. While the Walkman was officially ejected from Sony's line on October 25th, the stop button was pressed on production back in April of this year.

What was most striking to me about this announcement was that I didn't even realize the cassette-based Walkman was even still in production! Once I got my first CD player, the cassette collection I had spent so much time building quickly started gathering dust, and I can probably count the number of music CDs I have purchased in the past decade on both hands. The only cassette player I still own is in my car; I only ever use it to plug in my iPod adapter. 

Walkman once defined the category now ruled by iPod. Digital music aficionados highlight the benefit of "infinite adaptability" of digital music, meaning that if (when) MP3 is dethroned as the file of choice, converting your entire music library will be a relatively  simple software solution, as opposed to the cost and effort of replacing cassettes with CDs. There is a certain truth to that, but also a certain naivete; CDs were also heralded as the ultimate eternal medium, but now laptops are being sold without any optical drives at all!

What lesson does this teach building product marketers? 

Do not confuse the medium of your sales literature with its content or its structure. We are seeing the death throes of the architectural binder, and the packed-with-literature CD and even flash drive will eventually follow. The best philosophy now is flexibility. Everything in your binder or on your CD should also be available on your webpage, ideally as text and graphics as well as PDF, and as new formats become widely used consider the best way to convert your documents to reach these new users while not abandoning the existing ones.

This is not a perfect solution, nor is it intended to be. It is more of a mindset; change will occur, and to maximize return on the investment you should be making in your sales literature, your media choices need to change too.