Being Digital

Nicholas Negroponte (Credit: Web Chappell)

Nicholas Negroponte, founder and director of MIT’s Media Lab, authored Being Digital in 1995. The book was actually a collection of articles he’d written for Wired Magazine in its first years. The key concept discussed in the book was the movement from “Atoms to Bits” and its impact on all of us.


Negoponte’s articles and the thinking around moving from Atoms to Bits struck a chord that was already resonating in me. I reflected, researched, and opined on the true impact the resultant changes would have on cultures and societies in all parts of the world. It is one thing to move from 78’s and other vinyl formats to 8 tracks and cassettes and then CD’s and DVD’s. It is another to go from any of these physical formats to a completely digital format.


A fully digital world has benefits that no physical model has ever offered:

         Let the market’s natural reaction to a phenomena ebb and flow as the market desires versus being confined by the way in which product planners foresaw the market and placed their advanced orders.

          “Time to market” issues are vaporized. Two examples are new opportunities for maximizing the opportunity of a hot or rising artist and live event “time shifting.”

         Offer a selection larger than any physical location could hold and make it available instantly.

         Specialize in any media niche even those prohibited by traditional physical economics, serving the market’s desires for “the long tail” (If you’d like to read more you can see the original Long Tail article in Wired Magazine and the blogging of a book on the long tail).

         Reach geographic and population areas that cannot be served by physical locations. As an example, you can offer a larger selection of music than has ever been available in the history of media distribution in Minot, North Dakota or Bingen, Germany.

         Share and communicate instantly and without cost.


The list above is simply the start. Many more benefits exist with a fully digital model. We’ll address specific benefits of digital and their impact on the audience and the content creators in coming writings.



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Negroponte, N. (1995). Being Digital. Knopf.  (Paperback edition, 1996, Vintage Books, ISBN 0679762906)

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