Media Perspective: Everyone should welcome Spotify ... other than pirates

As is no doubt evident by now, I write these columns in a fairly haphazard way. I flail around all week, looking for interesting nuggets that might be telling or revealing in some way and then try to knit them together with a common theme.

Inevitably, there's always a leftover nugget at the end of the week, a little crumb that doesn't quite fit in and gets left in the pot for the following week. For a while now, that crumb has been Spotify. I'm sure you've heard of it, it's a tremendous service. You can listen to almost every music track you can think of, via the web, on your computer, for free with ads, or for money without ads. It's very nicely made, has all sorts of social components built in and makes almost everyone happy.

Record companies and musicians are making some money, you and I get to listen to whatever we want without the hassle of illegal file-sharing sites, advertisers get to talk to their audiences; I guess the only people who might be unhappy are rival services and, you know, radio stations. But until now, I couldn't work out what the hook was, what the lesson we might learn from Spotify might be (and, I must admit, I'm getting slightly wary of writing about these exciting new online services for fear they might disappear a week later).

Then Amazon announced its big new Kindle DX e-book reader and a column suggested itself. Because the Kindle is probably one of those defining moments in the transformation of the book market, possibly akin to the arrival of the iPod.

There have, of course, been loads of e-readers before, just as there were MP3 players before the fabled iPod; it's just that Amazon and the Kindle have bolted together a whole e-book infrastructure, which means that electronic books suddenly become a convenient, affordable alternative to the printed kind. And once that market arrives, then it won't be long before efficient piracy arrives, too, and illegal, illicit book-sharing sites become tempting to large numbers of people.

Because however fierce and ingenious the digital rights management regime is on books, it will be cracked, and if there's a big market for digital books, there will be a big pirate market too.

And maybe those are the lessons we can draw from Spotify: it's being hailed as the future of music because it out- competes the pirates with convenience and breadth. It's the only viable way to beat them. And it's got ad support built in. It suggests that we're going to be advertising in a lot more places than we ever have before, so maybe you could start by getting a creative team thinking about a good way of putting ads on a Kindle.