Why holdouts lose in the long run

By Louis Eksteen

A holdout is someone who refuses to accept change. They appear in all walks of life. Property holdouts are those people who refuse to sell their houses or buildings to make way for new developments. In the end they always lose, because new buildings are simply constructed all around them.

This recent story in Slate made me think about holdouts in all walks of life. BlackBerry fans refuse to budge to the almighty iPhone. (OK, I know, Passport is getting some relatively OK-ish press. But, really?)

The digital wave is replacing so many old-style activities, it’s not hard to find analogue (old) holdouts who refuse to adapt to the digital (new) way of living. Sure, a retro throwback now and again is great (I’m loving vinyl at the moment), but it’s not going to replace my developing streaming vibe.

McLuhan and Toffler

Some forward thinkers from an almost bygone era were warning against being a holdout a long time ago. Marshall McLuhan created the idea of a global village way back in the early sixties. Alvin Toffler started propagating the notion of a knowledge economy as far back as 1970 in his book Future Shock. He followed it up with The Third Wave and later Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century.

These McLuhan and Toffler ideas mean holdouts are simply wasting their time. New, faster developments in technology and societal shifts cause ever-rapid change. Holdouts lose because staying behind puts you out of reach and into touch.

From downloads to streaming

It’s amazing, I think, that even a relatively new phenomenon such as downloading digital entertainment such as movies, television shows and music is fading fast. Today entertainment is about streaming, not keeping.

Sometimes holdouts truly believe they can stop, slow down or otherwise prevent major shifts in industries. Take pay television for example. The idea of using a satellite to broadcast an encoded signal to a black box that decodes and displays video on your television set is rapidly being replaced.

In this example the equivalent of “downloading” is a pay television black box. However, streaming services using rapid-speed internet, where choice is virtually unlimited, is now the way television-like programmes are being consumed. Financially the old-world pay television companies have a lot to lose hence, they become holdouts.

Always on

In marketing, the shift from static (downloads) to always on (streaming) places an ever-greater demand on brands to be part of their consumers’ lives. This means real co-existence together, where brand and consumer unite.

I think South African-born new style entrepreneur Elon Musk is a great example of someone who understands this well. (Incidentally, he’s currently fighting one of the mightiest of holdout industries; the American automobile sales model. It seems as if he’s winning.)

Don’t hold out

The idea of new things ever-evolving is taking shape all around us. In software engineering it’s called “always in beta”. This essentially means nothing is ever really “finished”. Development and adaptation is omnipresent. I think this means we’re in an era of never being able to get comfortable with something new, because that something might be entireley different tomorrow. Digital products evolve constantly.

So don’t get too comfortable with today’s version of the Facebook app. Tomorrow it’s the iOS 8 version, build 1.0.2.

Just go with the flow and you won’t be a holdout.