Sunday, June 02, 2013


I used to work in a video store. Have I ever told you that?

I'm not trying to claim any kind of post-modern Tarantino cool. I was a teenager living in Western Sydney.

I needed the money.

We've all had our odd jobs. It's one of the commonalities amongst disparate people. We all do what we can for a little extra money.

Sometimes these can be formative experiences. Sometimes not.

Often they are the basis for our first engagement with the wider world.

Scary when you think I was occasionally renting porn to middle aged men in those days.

And I was talking to someone from those days recently. It's funny to talk about video stores now. It's like a lost art.

Back then, we rented out VHS tapes. Yes, tapes. This was the world before DVD.

When DVD arrived it was like a godsend. Have you ever had to rewind a pile of VHS tapes?

You don't have to rewind a disk. An old lady asked how to, once. True story.

And the tapes were expensive. Not like the $30 home videos you bought at KMart. Video store tapes had to be played over a hundred times. They were the special forces of VHS tapes.

And if the tape broke, or someone's broken down video player chewed it up, we had to know how to fix it. Cutting out the damaged section. Splicing it back together.

Sure, you would lose a few hundredths of a second between when the TRex eats the goat and breaks out of its enclosure, but only a hummingbird would notice.

These were good times. It felt tactile. It was real. A skill.

And as we reminisced about those days, we realised something. Those jobs don't even exist anymore.

Sure, there are a few video stores still dotted around, but they are getting fewer and fewer.

Once upon a time, every local shopping village had a video store.

My old store is a discount shop now.

But it's the pace of this change that is so astounding.

My stories are not from the 50's. I was working in the video store in 1997.

In sixteen years, whole industries have disappeared. There were companies that exclusively sold VHS tape cleaners and rewinders.

No more.

And with a head full of these freshly revived memories, I was bemused to see a fully refurbished video store in Sydney.

Yes, they are renting out DVD's, but the medium was never the problem.

It was always the cost and the convenience.

Sure, some people like going to a store to read the slicks on the DVDs and picking from a wall of new releases.

But some people still like vinyl records too.

Is that proof that vinyl is going to take over digital sales of music?

No, some people just like vinyl. They're a niche.

Are refurbished video stores proof that the DVD is making a comeback over the growth of online movie sales/streaming?


They're proof that some people prefer the simplicity of the past they understand than the convenience of the future.

And this is the lesson for all of us.

You can be too focussed on the future to reap success in the present.

And you can be too tied to the past to see the opportunities ahead.

In this era of transformation, your success will lie in somehow navigating both of these competing forces.

Be prepared to utilise the technology of the future to help you reach your growing audience.

Embrace the idea of throwing out the old rules and building something better.

But also realise there are plenty of people still buying DVDs and Blu Rays. Ignore them at your own peril.

Because until that generation passes, video stores will exist. For now.

Just don't build your business model on them.

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