Good Enough Triumphs Over Perfection

    The perfect is the enemy of the good. –Voltaire

You want it to be perfect, so you hesitate putting it online. You worry about even the slightest chance that it will be pirated, so you don’t put it online. You fret that putting it online might harm your non-Internet business models, so you dare not put it online. You’re waiting for online business model to be perfected, so you don’t put it online.

Don’t hold your breath. Don’t bet your job. You’ll have a hell of a long wait. Your company will fail and hell will freeze over before everything is perfect. Accept that things will never be perfect.

This might seem counterintuitive but in the online world good enough is better than perfect.

If things are good enough, put them online now. Perfection is a fricative that slows things down online. Perfection may have been a reasonable quest for old media, but questing for perfection in new media causes hesitation, delays, and too many lost opportunities.

In March, I heard the conflicting visions of the old and the new. At the MediaGuardian Changing Media Summit in London, the president of an online video applications service provider stated:

    We are big believers in long-form, professionally produced, high-quality content. That’s what people want…Though what I mean by “people” are the advertisers. Nobody wants their logo next to something that doesn’t look good and isn’t produced well. And nobody wants to have their logo associated with something that isn’t produced in a controlled, high-quality environment.

Meanwhile in New York, “Wired” magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson said on “The Charlie Rose Show”:

    We [traditionally] tend to think of quality as production quality — lighting, sound, script, and acting. But there’s another dimension of quality, and that is relevance. Nobody thought YouTube would succeed because it is such low quality from a production perspective. But because YouTube is full of content that is narrowly targeted to people’s specific interests and relevance, it doesn’t care about the production quality. It has relevant quality. You can’t win on production quality alone. How can you win if someone else’s content is more relevant?

The moral: once content is good enough to be relevant, it needn’t be perfect.

Though Anderson’s statement stands in opposition to traditional media’s thinking, the truth of what he said is clearly visible online. YouTube has triumphed over the traditional video networks online, despite all their investments. Wikipedia, despite inaccuracies, has triumphed over Encyclopaedia Britannica and other publishers who attempt perfection. Google News and Yahoo News each have more users than the Web sites of any newspaper or news broadcaster. All because their content, although not perfect, is good enough.

Traditional publishers, broadcasters, and advertisers may want perfection, but online good enough triumphs over perfection because of its immediate relevance and usability. Once content becomes good enough to use, it immediately becomes relevant to somebody on the Internet.

Moreover, relevance can be fleeting, making immediate usability all the more important. A subject is most relevant when it’s at hand.

For example, and entirely by coincidence, as I write this, police cruisers have been surrounding the building next door. A police helicopter hovers only a hundred feet above. The sirens and clamor have been heard in this city by thousands of people during the past quarter hour. Yet right now on the local newspapers’ and TV news stations’ Web sites, there’s nothing about what’s occurring. I’m sure their journalists know something about it, if only because they listen to police scanners; but traditional journalists are probably waiting for a complete — perfected — story. However, I don’t want to wait hours for a perfect story about why the police are surrounding my neighbors. I want to know something now! Good enough now is better than perfection tomorrow.

If your content isn’t immediately online because you’re waiting for perfection, get over yourself. Your content is probably needed now. Don’t let perfection lose you the opportunity to satisfy immediate needs. If your content is good enough now, it’s virtually perfect. And if conditions are good enough now, even if not perfect, then this is virtually the perfect moment.

Don’t wait for perfection before putting all your content online. Don’t worry about some unavoidable piracy. Don’t fret that the business model hasn’t yet been perfected. Don’t even wait until your content itself is perfect. Put it online now and make it immediately usable and relevant. Or else you’ll lose truly perfect opportunities.

Related reading

Vector graphic of a megaphone spewing out business themed items, such as a laptop, tablet, pen, @ symbol and smartphone