Marketing Department (CBA)


Date of this Version



Journal of Macromarketing 32:2 (2012), pp. 228-229; doi: 10.1177/0276146711428614


Copyright © 2012 Robert A. Mittelstaedt. Published by Sage Publications on behalf of Macromarketing Society. Used by permission.


This book is both a chronicle of the past and a look to the future. The author, a law school professor at Columbia University on leave at the Federal Trade Commission when the book was published, reviews the history of the telegraph, telephone, movies, radio (amplitude modulation [AM] and frequency modulation [FM]), and television (broadcast and cable) industries. In all of these, he finds a recurring pattern, a cycle in which the industry begins in a state of chaos with many entrepreneurs competing for the right to provide peoplewith the means of receiving and/or sending information. The chaos period is short-lived and eventually a monopoly, or very tight oligopoly, emerges to dominate the industry (i.e., control the master switch), retaining its power until technology produces the means of its decline.

The Master Switch should be of interest to the readers of this journal. Not only is the Internet the central feature of the evolving market but also is itself an evolving form (think cloud) that influences the creation and destruction of almost every marketing institution. We are living in an era of major change in the communications environment and Professor Wu has given us a perspective on that change—one that makes a book that is hard to put down, while at the same time it manages to be so thought provoking that one has to lay it aside occasionally to contemplate the message.

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