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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Putting Napster Out of Business Won't Slow Down the Natural Evolution of Consumer Buying Habits

13 Feb, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

In a ruling that wasn't entirely unexpected, a federal court yesterday put a serious dent in Napster's Internet tune-swapping free-for-all.

But even if Napster and other services like it get put out of business, don't for a minute expect that it will result in anything more than a temporary slowdown in the natural evolution of consumer habits. As foreign as the concept may sound to anyone over 35, a whole generation is growing up for whom sitting in front of the computer and downloading music seems as sensible as buying a CD in a record store does to our generation.

The only thing that's going to change is that the youthful freeloaders are going to end up paying for their music, just as we do when we buy a CD.

Some say that when the freebie element is removed, the download movement will sputter and stall. I disagree wholeheartedly. It's a new way of doing things, and I'd venture to say that even if pricing is comparable -- say, the studios charge you $15 to download the latest Britney Spears album, the same price as you pay for the "hard copy" -- you're still going to have a contingent out there that prefers the electronic option.

Once downloading movies over the Internet becomes a practical option, expect the same to happen in our industry. True, electronic delivery will never completely replace packaged media, particularly on the sellthrough end.

You've got the gift market, and you've got people (like me) who like collecting and buying and owning things they can touch, feel, file away and pull out on a whim.

But by the same token, don't expect electronic delivery to go away. It's a generational thing, and the hard reality is that there are people out there who like the idea of downloading something onto their own computer for repeat viewing. Even the concept of watching a movie on a PC isn't as unappealing as many may think, at least not to the new generation. These are kids who grew up on computers, rather than having been introduced to them midlife.

And what's foreign to us is natural to them, which is why I think analysts who say Internet movie downloading's biggest obstacle is getting the movie from the PC to the TV need to get out of the office more and talk to the next generation of consumers.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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