Still Selling Typewriters?

My wife Joanne was dismayed to see the signs stuck in the medians yesterday as we were driving leisurely through Franklin, Tennessee.  Our local Hollywood Video store is closing.  They recently filed for bankruptcy protection, citing increasing real estate and labor costs, and growing competition.  They want to close 520 unprofitable stores and concentrate on 4,000 stronger locations. 

Frankly, I think they should liquate their stock and sell the real estate as quickly as possible. 

Look at the changing history in a comparable industry – music.

I still remember the 331/3 rpm vinyl records.  I listened to Pretty Woman and I Want to Hold Your Hand by spinning the big discs.  Then we saw 8-track tapes.  Soon we had the marvelous introduction of the smaller and more efficient cassettes.  Then came CDs.  And now we have digital downloads that don’t require any physical product at all – and you can select just one song rather than being forced to purchase the other 10 you don’t care about.  Would you want to be a vinyl record manufacturer today?

Now at one time we have these options available for movies:

1.  Carmike Cinemas – you drive out to the local shopping mall, park the car, fight the crowd, spend $10 for each family member, $7 for a bag of popcorn and then sit down right in front of 8 giggling teenagers.

2.  Hollywood Video – you get in your car, go across town to the nearest location, browse through the possibilities, make your selection, discover all of that title are currently loaned out, choose another title, go home to watch the movie and then hope you remember to reverse your trip the next day to avoid the late fee.

3.  Netflix – you select your favorites, the physical DVDs arrive in the mail a few days later, you watch them, make some new selections, send back the watched movies and wait for your new batch to arrive.

4.  iTunes – you log on the iTunes site from the comfort of your own home, take 30 seconds to find your selection, instantly load it to your laptop, eat your own $.99 popcorn and include 6 family members at no additional cost. 

Where would you put your money if you were going to invest in one of these models? 

Let me ask you this?  Where is your current job or business on this development scale?  Are you hoping for revival in a model that is dead?  Are you using business principles that were effective 20 years ago – but are dreadfully out of date today?  Are you going to fight to continue selling typewriters – or can you see the writing on the wall and embrace the inevitable changes?

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14 Responses to “Still Selling Typewriters?”

  1. HotRod Says:

    Netflix offers online downloads now also. It is not included in the cheapest package, but is in the others. So Netflix was obviously smart enough to see that iTunes had an advantage and changed to match it.

    And I believe Movie Gallery, which owns Hollywood Video, is working on an online/mail delivery system, but they are really late to the race!

  2. Bettina Says:

    Hollywood Video was planning their own online video rental program, but they are too broke to do it now. They wasted a lot of time and money outsourcing the project to an Indian company, but it never came together. They have never really spent the time or money on their online programs — just look at their current Web site, it’s horrible.

  3. Christi Says:

    Great points, Dan! I was just thinking about this over the weekend. I have been selling CDs on Ebay since 2003 & last year for the first time saw a decline in sales after much growth. There is still a niche market for out of print music in all formats (CDs, LPs, cassettes, yes even 8 tracks.) But the growth is no longer there. My Ebay store has always been a fun hobby but I found myself growing dissatisfied in 2007 & instead of looking forward to my hobby, feel it a chore. I am now trying to figure out where my enthusiasm lies for future endeavors. I even bought an MP3 player & am enjoying digital delivery of music & audio books. Thank you for your timely words of wisdom!

  4. Lyn B Says:

    The only person who needs to keep using his non-electric typewriter is our country vet. He is an excellent vet, his rates are blissfully low, and we get the hand-typed labels on the medicine. We’re all happy.

  5. ethan Says:

    great post 🙂 I also hook up my computer to my TV and sound system and watch iTunes movies on the big screen.

    FYI You have an header image with your title as a picture. You can also put a title that is invisible in your admin area. The benefit of doing that is you will have title tags in html which will aid in google searches and it will provide a blog title for those of us who read the blog via RSS.

  6. micheal oak Says:

    Hello,
    Yes there is truth in what you say and I’ll be the first to admit I feel like a dinosaur for holding on to the “typewriter”. As an earlier writer mentioned, there is definitely a niche market for music in all formats. It’s having enough of the niche product that keeps you afloat or not in terms of sales. As an admitted LP record lover and DJ, I can tell you that no other format replaces a record. True, they are bigger, heavier and you have to flip them every 15 to 20 minutes. BUT, there is something to be said about allowing something of value to take up space. Hold a cool vintage record jacket in your hand and you will hopefully see that there is nothing like it. A piece of art all on its own. (vinyl or not, no CD in a brittle plastic case can replace.) A piece of art all on its own. I am all for embracing the mp3 players. I enjoy importing LPs onto computer than putting the tracks on my mp3 player where I can play shuffle and enjoy uninterrupted tunes for hours. As a DJ, pressing play for a CD does not compare to physically being able to put the needle on the record in any spot I choose, moving by hand forward or back to cue exactly what I want into the mix. With vinyl the music is etched into the groove. It is right there, you can see it as if an old newspaper shrunk down on micro-fiche.
    Also, another big point. Growing up in the 1980’s and early 90’s, Record stores were a social destination point. Something you can not replace with a simple download. It is the value found in the periphereal(sp?) search at a record store. Again, the physical act of being in an record store flipping through 1000’s of records not knowing what interesting gems one might come across while the old man behind the counter taps out a beat to the Count Basie Band playing over the hi-fi. Just then, another cool old dude friend of his comes in and they go into a discussion to be overheard & appreciated by those with ears to hear. Including a young person who is fascinated by the endless tales of musical knowledge and its glory days gone by that these men seem to unknowingly rattle off generously give away free gifts just by being with in earshot.
    Where can I download that?

    I am glad for the internet for the ability to share this story/ opinion…
    I get the point of the typewriter selling, but I am well aware that there is something lost and something gained with each new technology and advancement.

    I am also a musician. There once was a time in Detroit in the 1960’s for example, when on a Friday night you had 20+ places to pick from to see a good live band. Or a Great Live Band. Now? A few places only and you are not making any money. What kind of value is put on music? An onslaught of reasons may combine to create this. Drunk Driving laws, lack of cabs or other transportation. Stay-at-home media, cable TV and other distractions. People can’t afford to go?

    What about this too? Use to be local radios played local bands and would even have them on the air to promote them and help get the word out. Today, yes, we have myspace, etc. But is seems far less intimate as far as nurturing a sense of community. (“I heard you on the local radio and thought I’d go up to the local coffee house or bar and check you out”) Today, Corporate-owned and dominated radio stations playing the same tired tunes by the same tired bands for the last 40 years only to push a commercial agenda of buy more cars and “get out of debt” consolidation services. “Call Now!” I can tell you from personal experience how uninspiring it is to feel one is making music that will never get heard. What is the point?

    Thankfully, I moved out to the country and got a gig as a volunteer DJ on the local community college radio station where I am able to play some local music by unsigned bands over the air simultaneously streaming live on the internet, too. On Friday nights a DJ does a show called Localmotion where groups come into the station and perform live over the air, are interviewed, promoted and often are playing a local gig the next night nearby. Their CD gets put in the Local Rotation and/ or if the band is making a vinyl record and it’s a good piece of music, then by gosh I am delighted to put the needle gently down and fade it up over the air. “Take it away, guys!”

    Thank you for the opportunity to write and express my views.

    Long Live the Dinosaurs! (I text)

  7. Chris Thompson Says:

    Do none you guys get it!? The essay was not about media!!

    Reread the last paragraph.

    Tremendous, concise food for thought, Dan. Thanks!

  8. Mikey Says:

    After reading what a few have written, I think that we are missing the point. Listening to talk radio yesterday, I understand what Dan is saying. The caller was upset that he once made good money repairing VCRs for a living. Now, VCR and DVD players are throw-a-way, meaning when they break, it is cheaper to go buy another, rather than have it repaired. The VCR repairman should have seen this coming. We should see a lot coming that we miss. Always be willing to continue your education!

  9. Linda Admin Says:

    I think we are missing the big picture here. The point is that many of us are performing jobs that are no longer applicable because technology has changed. Being an administrative assistant, this really hits home. On most days, I am really just a meeting scheduler for 90% of my day. I barely get to use the software anymore that I was trained to use. Years ago, I used to create presentations and documents and get recognition for my work. Today, setting up endless meetings doesn’t bring much recognition, if any at all. My managers barely speak to me and one of them rarely makes eye contact. It’s difficult to feel appreciated under these circumstances. To top it off, I work for one of the big three automakers. As a contract worker, there are no promotions, no increases and no benefits.

  10. Tom Anderson Says:

    This is a great article. Don’t forget that the shifts don’t have to be as large as some of the ones Dan mentions here. At my last gig before starting my own business, it was stressed to really try and re-invent yourself every two years. I was at an internet company and things changed so quickly if you weren’t constantly looking at trends and such, it was easy to fall behind.

  11. hinutech Says:

    This post inspired me to riff on changing marketing models at http://hinutech.wordpress.com/2008/03/13/video-delivery/, but the fact of the matter is that we need to change with the times in order to stay relevant, inspired and employed. Just as Hollywood Video no longer works as a viable means of delivering a product to consumers, a typical J O B won’t cut it for much longer either.
    As Seth Godin says in The Dip, you need to know when to quit doing something that is no longer working. Seek new ways to express yourself through your vocation, and you will be much better off for it.

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