Apple’s online media store turns 5 years old this week.
At launch in 2003 the store had around 200,000 music tracks and a handful of early-adopting customers. Today there are something like 10,000,000 songs, but there are also audio books, iPod games, video and audio podcasts, TV shows and feature-length movies.
I remember the early years, when Steve Jobs would talk up sales figures and the size of the library and would point out where Store sales were in relation to other music resellers, physical or digital. Wal-Mart was always at the top of the heap, followed closely by Target and Best Buy. In each annual update, iTunes would step up the chart, knocking off one competitor after another.
But in all those years, I never thought iTunes would become the #1 music reseller in the U.S. That came to pass earlier this month, based on studies published by industry monitors.
How many other companies have entered a long-established (perhaps stagnant) market and rocketed to #1 in just 5 years, shoving aside formidable competitors along the way? Moreover, who’s done that while simultaneously shifting the shopping, distribution and delivery system from physical to virtual?
New competition may be afoot, of course. Amazon recently (late 2006) added their MP3 store, which is pretty good (I’ve bought media through both outlets), and they’re growing quickly. But they aren’t yet threatening iTunes. Maybe someday, but not yet.
For public media, the message is this: people will go online for things they used to get other ways, if the overall value proposition is good enough. And they’ll pay gladly for the service.
Oh, and by the way… make sure all your podcasts are listed in the iTunes Store (it’s free). With some 50,000,000 customers, listing there is simply required.