Monday, February 19, 2007

Point And Click World

Okay, I have a joke. It's not a good joke, but: A teenager is reading a newspaper. That's it -- setup and punch line all in one. There is just too much competition from the internet. Most times a computer is nearby -- so why run to the corner store for a paper? Hardcopy newspaper circulation is down across the country while web traffic grows everyday. Teenagers (and most adults) do not read newspapers anymore -- they prefer online sources of news.

It's been my opinion for some time now that movie theaters are going the way of the newspaper. I've thought this for longer than it has been cool to do so. When I first suggested it the common line was that no such thing could happen. That theaters would remain the primary venue for seeing a movie forever. I engaged in more than a few arguments (online) with bloggers uncomfortable with the notion that anything so well established as the movie theater industry could be facing a threat from DVDs or any other source.

I don't know why it's so hard to accept this. With DVDs you can purchase a movie for the same price it would cost to see it in a theater, and (legal) online downloads will make it possible to watch a movie in the comfort of your own home the same day it's released in theaters. There isn't much to support the continued need for movie theaters, and there are few who argue this contention anymore.

The fact is young people today would rather connect with the world via an electronic medium than have go to a physical location at a certain time, stand in line, buy a ticket, interact with the public, behave, etc. Old people (those over the 18-24 bracket) do not want to go to the movies anymore, either. They're beat from working, have kids to take care of, and also don't want to stand in line, interact with the public, behave, etc.

The answer for years has been the DVD. Pop it in, watch your favorite, eat fresh homemade popcorn, pause the show anytime you want. But now, online movie downloads sites are gaining traction -- although, amazingly, there are those who feel this technology will never take off. Walmart has just started up its online movie download service (use Internet Explorer only, please). (Did you know Walmart currently sells 40% of all DVDs sold in the United States -- see Steven Levy's upcoming story at Newsweek)? This can't make the movie theater industry too happy.

I'll make a prediction: DVDs will be a thing of the past within 10 years. Well. Now, that I look at this 'prediction', it doesn't seem very impressive. Everything will be a thing of the past given enough time. I'll try for clarification: DVD sales will be down 50% within six years. There. How's that?

Impossible? Check out what I found over at the Rocketboom weblog. They recently did a survey, asking, among other things, where their viewers -- Rocketboom video blog here -- got their news and found that 14% get their news from newspapers (click graph to see source). That can't be good (if you run a newspaper).

Rocketboom surveyNewspapers. What dinosaurs. They're printed up every day around 3 in the morning (featuring yesterday's news) so that they can be loaded (by the ton) into vans and cars and delivered to various distribution points around the city (or to your home), where they then sit until, oh, let's say sometime between 7 and 10 a.m. when they are picked up and read whilst enjoying a cup of coffee. How can they possibly compete with the internet?

Now, all things analog are being supplanted by the point and click, the right here right now, the digital, instant, the at your fingertips; no waiting, preparation, talking, cash/cashier -- no personality or style needed. Why buy a newspaper when the up-to-the-minute news is only available online? By this logic the DVD will certainly go the way of the newspaper -- why buy a DVD when movies will be available via online download as soon as they're released in movie theaters? As the newspaper went, so will go the DVD -- it's just a matter of time.

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