Blockbuster’s Financial Woes Sound Too Familiar

The news of Blockbuster’s financial woes and its uncertain future reminds me a lot of what is happening to the newspaper industry. Blockbuster made their money by renting movies to people; newspapers made their money by selling news to people. For a longtime, both were very successful businesses. Both since have been affected by the rise of the Internet and the increasing use of electronic gadgets and smart phones.

Netflix made it cost effective and convenient to rent movies without leaving home. From your computer, you can either have movies mailed to your house or download them straight to your machine. Cable providers, such as Comcast, offer OnDemand services which make it possible to watch a movie instantly via a flew clicks of the remote. Even more fascinating is the story of Redbox. Talk about coming out of nowhere, those little red kiosks (or vending machines) located outside various retail stores allow people to rent movies for very cheap – much cheaper than a Blockbuster. While Redbox’s business model seems to be working for them, they are not doing anything that is groundbreaking. Think how much cheaper it is to run a Redbox kiosk vs. an actual movie rental store – no costs of running a store or the employees that run them. Redbox is a fine alternative for people who are not yet able to, or not yet comfortable purchasing (or in this case, renting movies) online.

While I don’t rent movies all too much, I am not rooting for Blockbuster’s demise, or that of other movie rental stores – especially the mom and pop shops. As a kid, there was something special about walking into a movie store and seeing an entire store filled with hundreds of possibilities. That sort of feeling can not be replaced by pressing a few buttons on a Redbox machine or by scrolling through a bunch of titles on the TV set or a computer monitor. I especially feel the same about bookstores, which also arestruggling as a result of competition from the Internet and E-Readers.

As a student who studied journalism in college, I didn’t lose much sleep at the thought of the newspaper’s decline (the overall quality of news that is on a downward spiral is a different story however). I never liked reading off the large and awkwardly sized broadsheets. I embraced the idea of instant news being available off the computer, and especially now with smart phones and devices like the iPad. How could anyone not embrace such convenience and ease of use? You’d have to be a fool…

I’ll be honest, as cool as E-Readers might be, I’m not ready to use one yet. I understand how convenient it is to carry one device as opposed to multiple books. I also understand how convenient it would be to not have to run to the book store (or in my case, sometimes multiple bookstores) looking for a particular title – you can get just about any book you want instantly off that device. The titles themselves actually cost less with the E-Reader. All very good reasons to drop the hard copy altogether, right?

I just might be that fool…

I can easily spend an hour or two inside a Borders and stroll around aimlessly. In addition, there is nothing quite like the feeling of making my purchase and walking out of the book store with the book(s) I want. The E-Reader can’t do that. Amazon can’t do that. The other thing with buying online is that you have to wait several days for the purchase to arrive. I hate knowing I have to wait. I actually hate it so much that I use Amazon only as a last resort.

Cue the “woe is me” violin music while I deliver a “back in my day…” type of speech.

Much like devout newspaper readers and the leftover folks who still religiously use Blockbuster, I know I am in a losing battle. Society rightfully dictates the norms. The loss of long-time establishments and services are simple unintended consequences of technology’s continued advancement. At the very least, I can now sympathize more with the newspaper folks.

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