Being the first in a new distribution channel = Real first-mover advantage

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Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

There is a first-mover advantage. But it’s not what everyone thinks. It isn’t being the first product in a market. It’s being the first in a new distribution channel.

If you can find a new viable channel, you can exploit it with very high efficiency.

  • In 1993, the first topic pages and fan pages on the Web attracted disproportionate amounts of attention; Eric Lippert recounts how his Lord of the Rings fan page made him an “expert”.
  • In 2003, Amazon was able to drive traffic through Google AdWords even though in the beginning it was bidding only the minimum 5 cents a click on every keyword.
  • In 2008, when the iPhone App Store launched, indie developers were able to get top-10 positions with little to no marketing, like Shane Vitarana did with Drum Kit.

When it comes to distribution tactics, don’t fight the last war.