July 16, 2006

Transition in Media Retail [8:42 pm]

The Graying of the Record Store

The bite that downloading has taken out of CD sales is well known — the compact disc market fell about 25 percent between 1999 and 2005, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade organization. What that precipitous drop indicated by the figures doesn’t reveal is that this trend is turning many record stores into haunts for the gray-ponytail set. This is especially true of big-city stores that stock a wider range of music than the blockbuster acts.

“We don’t see the kids anymore,” said Thom Spennato, who owns Sound Track, a cozy store on busy Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn. “That 12-to-15-year-old market, that’s what’s missing the last couple of years.”

[...] Industry statistics bear out the graying of the CD-buying public. Purchases by shoppers between ages 15 and 19 represented 12 percent of recorded music in 2005, a decline from about 17 percent in 1996, according to the Recording Industry Association. Purchases by those 20 to 24 represented less than 13 percent in 2005, down from about 15 percent. Over the same period, the share of recorded music bought by adults over 45 rose to 25.5 percent, from 15 percent.

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US Broadband Rollout [12:12 pm]

An example from the Boston Globe.  If there’s this kind of difficulty in a major market, what’s it like elsewhere in the US?  Are we really going to say that we’re doing a good job? An Internet challenge: Trying to gain DSL access proves taxing - pdf

I’m shopping for a provider because my friends upstairs, the ones with the wireless access I’ve been sharing, are moving. The gall. They leave the Observer with an appalling pair of options: Comcast, the muscle - bound monolith that charges nosebleed fees, or dial-up service, which allows me to complete my shopping run at Roche Brothers before the screen changes. (Forget satellites.)

I always thought the digital highway was supposed to be teeming with players desperate to give me superior service for a relative song. So why do I feel like a stag at the prom?

I don’t live in Roosterville, by the way, so we can dispense with the argument that I’m stuck because I exist like an anchorite in the tall grass. I live in Jamaica Plain, a densely populated urban neighborhood of Boston.

[...] Internet providers: A pox on all your houses.

It will probably get worse, says Representative Ed Markey, ranking Democrat on the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee. [...]

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The Network, Quality and Popularity [11:34 am]

The Critics Hated ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ So What? - pdf

In movies, books and television, critics who once dominated the national discussion are being marginalized, replaced by a confetti of micro-tastemakers on the Web and elsewhere.

Although this empowers consumers — who now can go out in the world and seek their own critics — it soon may affect the quality of what we see, hear and read — and not necessarily in a good way.

There will be no critical consensus of what constitutes quality. Rather, art and entertainment will be judged largely on the basis of popularity, an “American Idol” sensibility that could spread the summer-blockbuster phenomenon into every corner of pop culture.

[...] [I]t was the release of “Titanic” a year later — and the critical undertow that followed — that marked the beginning of the end of conventional media criticism. Reviewers found the movie, already famously over-budget and over-hyped, to be overwrought. Writing in The Times, critic Kenneth Turan said that audiences had become so desperate for entertainment that they were “sadly eager to embrace a film that, putting the best face on it, is a witless counterfeit of Hollywood’s Golden Age, a compendium of cliches, that add up to a reasonable facsimile of a film.”

“Titanic” director James Cameron was having none of it. In a 1,200-word response, he went after Turan, setting forth many of the frustrations that have since led audiences to search out their own entertainment and analysis. His complaint — that audiences are treated “like little children who do not have the sense or experience to know what is good for them” — is the foundation of the long-standing disconnect between consumers and the mainstream media.

What’s changed in the last 10 years is that technology now allows the audience to do something about it.

See also Avast, Me Critics! Ye Kill the Fun: Critics and the Masses Disagree About Film Choices

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More Blindness [11:17 am]

Another datapoint about a peculiar cultural phenomenon: Oops, Mom Googled Me - pdf

JUST IN TIME for “google” to become an official verb, my mother learned how to google. About a week ago. She figured it out herself even though, less than a year ago, she thought high-speed Internet access was strictly for impatient people, namely her adult children. When she finally agreed to give up dial-up, it opened up a whole new world: googling.

And so last week, my mother decided to google, and for fun, she googled me. Then she clicked on an essay I’d written called “9 Tips for Surviving the Holidays at Your Republican Parents’ Home.” It was published in the LA Weekly in 2004.

[...] So I figured I was safe writing a little 900-word satire for the LA Weekly. I mean, who of my parents’ generation and political bent reads the Weekly? The bulk of my mother’s e-mails are forwards on moms or kids or dogs or jokes or Erma Bombeck’s purple hat musings. I never dreamed she would venture to Google and happen upon the piece in which I liberally trash Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, box wine and the holidays. Now my mother is no longer speaking to me.

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