Friday, June 25, 2010

Add my name to the "Traditional Media Sucks" list.

Robyn wrote a post about how Cineplex is scamming movie-goers out of Scene points by making their website unnecessarily difficult to use and making their customer service robots exceptionally useless. Her experience reminded me of this graphic that had its day of fame on the internet a few months back, which highlights how difficult it is for an honest, paying customer to access content with no strings attached.

Tech and media bloggers have covered this idea to death, but I need to add my name to the "traditional media sucks" list.

I am not the ideal consumer of traditional media (I'm mostly thinking about everything but music):
  • I don't have a cable or satellite TV subscription, and the farmervision at my place is so fuzzy it's unwatchable. 
  • I don't have any newspaper or magazine subscriptions (I read the Star Phoenix's RSS feed). 
  • I watch/access/download all of my video media online, through various channels and to various devices.
  • I read/discover/find all of my written media online, mostly with blog subscriptions through Google Reader, but also through link discovery sites like Reddit and "I feel like looking up X" sites like Wikipedia. 
  • I am opposed to DRM that makes media that I pay for harder to enjoy in ways I choose to enjoy it, like watching it on multiple devices. 
  • I DO listen to CBC Radio! That's about it for traditional media. 
Each month, I'm as happy as a clam to give Shaw Cable tons of my hard-earned dollars for (practically) unrestricted and unlimited access to the internet, as fast as they can deliver it. It's the most brilliant business model out there. I give you a bunch of money, and you give me every type of entertainment I could possibly want, no strings attached. 

There are exceptions to the everything-but-the-internet-is-free rule. When something is really, really awesome - you pay extra. A good example is Xbox Live. After not playing video games for most of university, I'm hooked again - it's $60/year (plus associated costs for games and hardware) for some of the most fun group or solo entertainment out there. In my opinion - totally worth it, at least for me. 

The problem is when un-awesome things want you to pay extra. This could mean payment in money (obvious) or your time (perhaps not as obvious). For example, Rupert Murdoch's Times newspaper has just put a "registration wall" on their site. This means you have to register to read the news. No payments (yet). Guess what happened - their readership immediately dropped by 50%, because consumers don't want to waste their time - even if it's as trivial as entering your name and email address. 

With Cineplex, not only do you pay for the content ($11 per movie per person! Insane!), you pay full price with your time: inefficient pre-payment systems, an absurdly non-integrated Scene card system, lineups, commercials, previews, a few more commercials, and then the movie. If I can modestly suggest my time is worth, say, $20 per hour, it cost me nearly $30 in my own time just to anticipate seeing Toy Story 3 (tickets, lines, waiting in the theatre, commercials, previews, etc). It's a good thing I enjoyed the movie!! 

Here's the point: Content always trumps everything else, accessibility is a close second. If your content is high-quality and is in some way unique, I will be a happy consumer and gladly pay you for it. If your content is hard to access and is replaceable, it will be replaced (quickly). If you go out of your way to make it hard to pay for and enjoy your content, I will go out of my way to enjoy it for free. 

So, Rupert, good luck getting me to subscribe to the Times when there are 4,999,999,999,999 other websites out there. And Star Phoenix, THANK YOU for allowing me to access previews of your content through RSS - I frequently click through to read the articles (and therefore see your ads). 

And Ciniplex/Galaxy Cinemas - count yourself lucky that I tolerate your crap a few times per year. But make no mistake, I don't want you and I don't need you!


  1. Note: Here is the actual link to my blog post about Cineplex

  2. Terrific post Brahm!

    It is startling how closely our media consumption patterns & thoughts on content mirror one another. Like yourself, I don't own a TV, read the paper, or subscribe to a magazine - I have a phone and a great broadband connection (and I love Radio 3), what more would one need?

    Thankfully, I think (or perhaps rather, hope) that society by-and-large is moving in this direction. Just think about cell phones - ten years ago everyone would have had a land line, but now I am hard pressed to find another other then my parents that relies on one more then a cell phone.

    As the barriers to entry for all manner of 'media' continue to fall, consumers simply won't stand for a service that doesn't cater to their lifestyle and fit their budget.


  3. I follow the Star Phoenix on Twitter which I find a useful way to browse headlines, then follow the link for the full article.

  4. @Robyn - Oops, thanks!

    @Chris - Great point! We're quite lucky to be of a generation that doesn't have to "settle" for just a few types of media. We're quite lucky to be able to have such a wide range of choices of both content and delivery methods.

    @Wayne - Have you tried Google Reader? I can say without exaggeration that it's changed the way I take in news. It's the best content aggregator out there for sure: it supports sites without RSS, keyboard shortcuts, "starring" and sharing items, etc. Twitter is good for catching a glimpse of what's current but Google Reader is the defacto option to catch up on everything.