What death of newspapers says of software development

Much has been said of the impending demise of newspapers. The chief force behind this change is the dramatic shift in the economies of distributing information brought on by the Internet. It enables nearly-zero distribution of information and thereby obviates the newspaper system which organized itself around the economic amortization of a large expensive printing press.

Though just as real and fundamental of a phenomenon, much less fuss has been made of the effect of near-zero publishing on the software industry. Previously, publishing software dragged along a complex logistics ball and chain which was necessary to support its distribution. This included a round shiny CD, manual, box, special offers and so on. These logistics and their associated economies ensured that once-per-year publishing intervals prevailed.

The high overhead cost of delivering through and supporting this software publishing pipeline limited the number of publishers who could operate profitably. Changes in how news is delivered presage the changes we see in software publishing. Just as news is no longer a daily thing, no longer is software released yearly, or monthly, but typically daily if not hourly and in extreme cases 50 times per day. Similarly, just as the Internet spawned the micro-publisher / blogger phenomenon, near-zero publishing costs has made it possible for a Long Tail of software publishers to reach users interested in an ever-broadening array of software functions and services.

The radically more frequent release of software by quite literally 1000s of times more publishers results in an exciting new landscape for those providing hosted service and infrastructure that makes the job of boutique software publishers easier and more cost effective. Traditional publishers of software development infrastructure, who grew large built upon the backs of sales forces who earn mid-six-figure compensation packages, will find it difficult to adapt to the near-zero cost of selling services to the growing legions of boutique software publishers.

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