Jason Puckett With great power comes great bibliography.

2Jun/08Off

How not to provide digital content

Blockbuster is finally catching up to the demand for digital media... sort of.

They're piloting a program that allows customers to -- get this -- bring their portable media players into stores, plug them into a kiosk, and download videos.

What's wrong with this model?  First of all, why on earth would anyone bother to drive to a store to buy digital media?  One major advantage of using media in digital forms is its portability: you can grab it online without having to go anywhere.  Consumers accustomed to the convenience of iTunes are never going to go for this.

Second, the pilot program only works with Archos media players.  (Do you know anyone with an Archos player? I don't.  I'm not sure I've ever heard of them before this story.  When I decided not to go for an iPod this time around, I don't even remember considering them.)  Like Netlibrary's audiobooks, any program offering digital media content that doesn't work with the most popular portable player out there is doomed to failure.

The Hollywood Reporter news story refers to the transaction as a "rental," rather than a purchase, which if true suggests that there's some sort of DRM in place too.  That's probably the third strike against this idea.

Libraries, pay attention to everything Blockbuster is doing wrong here.  It's still far, far easier for users to download bootleg movies in the comfort of their own browser that will work on any device they want.  Media providers are still offering alternatives that are more difficult and less useful to the consumer than piracy, and they'll continue to fail.

[Photo credit: RocketRaccoon]

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  1. I always took a big issue with the fact that NetLibrary media isn’t compatible with iPods. (Of course, as I understand, it’s a two-way street where the DRMs for each don’t want to get along.) Either way, I know that I’ve seen a lot of disappointed faces when I tell customers that they can play our downloadable audiobooks on most portable media devices — but not iPods.

  2. Way to not really know your customers, Blockbuster. This is why i use Netflix.

    And my beef w/ Netlibrary was more that it was annoying, not that it restricted me; i just converted their files for play on my ipod. DRM, blah blah blah. This is why you failed.

    Know your customers. Give them what they want, or get into another business where you can give whats wanted/needed.

  3. I agree with both of you 100% (well, obviously). Julie, for you or me Netlibrary’s DRM is annoying because we know how to convert files to get around it — but I wonder whether a typical library user, or even librarian, even knows that’s an option.

    And of course librarians can’t really recommend to their patrons that they download an audiobook and then crack the DRM in order to use it.

  4. Borders is doing something similar in their concept store, but with music. It is a little weird to drive to a store to buy digital material, but I think they’re trying new things out, hoping to find something that sticks. The thing about bookstores though, I always enjoy visiting those… Blockbuster on the other hand was never an enjoyable experience for me for whatever reason. Netflix rocks my world.

  5. I’m also biased by the fact that my first job out of high school was working for Blockbuster. The experience did not leave me a fan.


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