Clayton Christensen likes to look at the relationship between consumers and products from the perspective of the jobs-to-be-done theory.
The author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and “The Innovator’s Solution” doesn’t believe people go around looking for products to buy. Instead they take life as it comes and when they encounter a problem, they look for a solution — and at that point, they’ll hire a product or service.
The key insight from thinking about your business this way is that it is the job, and not the customer or the product, that should be the fundamental unit of analysis.
In a recent Nieman Reports piece on disruption in the news industry, Christensen uses the contemporary example of “I’m waiting in line for coffee and have ten minutes to kill.” The person with the problem hires their smartphone to entertain or educate them for those ten minutes.
Within the scope of contemporary digital publishing are many, many, many yet-to-be-satisfied jobs-to-be-done.