Community is the Key
It seems that every day businesses and even whole industries are disappearing, falling victim to the computer age. The computer and the Internet are not only meeting our needs more quickly and less expensively, but are also providing a sense of community. Businesses and services that tap into this sense of community are succeeding, while those that aren't, aren't!
In the media world, the internet has all but made the daily newspaper obsolete. (Personally I still get the daily paper, but mainly because I like to do the crossword puzzle and Sudoku and I've yet to find a satisfying on-line version.) Reading the newspaper on the internet not only provides the most up to date news, but also allows us to interact with others by reading their comments and adding our own to the dialogue.
Back in the day, we used to have our favorite radio station. We had a relationship with the DJ who talked to us in real time and educated us about the music he or she was playing. As radio became more corporate, stations began playing automated formats, disc jockeys became announcers and often their program was (and is) prerecorded. As we lost our sense of community with the station, the DJ and the other listeners, our local radio station became irrelevant, opening the door for satellite radio and internet radio.
Now we wonder if Sirius XM, Pandora and Spotify kill conventional radio. Personally, I love my satellite radio, as a matter of fact many of the DJs from my youth are on satellite radio! I haven't gotten involved with the other options... yet. There is a great article that outlined all the many radio and music service options, it is worth a read.
And what about the king of all media--television? Back when there were only 3 network stations and we relied on them for our news, we had a relationship with the news anchors. We sat down to watch either Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather. Well those days are gone. Cable television has already taken a large chunk of the broadcast television audience. and with DVR’s, On-Demand, Apple TV, Hulu, etc. how long will commercial TV as we know it exist? I know that I DVR my favorite shows so that I can watch them at a time that is more convenient for me and yes, I must admit, I usually fast forward through the commercials. (Although I do believe the viewer gets a valuable impression as they are watching the commercial in fast forward).
And film -- gone. Digital cameras have almost completely replaced film cameras. As a matter of fact, Kodak has stopped making Kodachrome film and has filed Chapter 11. Polaroid, on the other hand, has managed to stay abreast of the industry and stay true to their market through instant printers and by introducing Polaroid for Android. Again, allowing their customers to create community.
Let's not forget book stores. The advent of the Kindle and other electronic readers is destroying the printed book business. Borders closed their remaining stores and went out of business in 2011. Barnes and Noble manages to hang on due to the success of their Nook, but they are having a tough time competing with Amazon's lower priced Kindle. (I imagine that their cafe is a large draw for consumers.)
Speaking of Amazon, will they eventually replace the retail store as we know it? As the retail shopping experience has become more and more impersonal, there is no affinity toward the retailer so what does it matter if we buy from a big box store or on the internet? Some communities are combating this trend by encouraging consumers to shop local allowing them to develop a relationship with the shopkeeper and the community at large.
The movie theater is still relevant, even with Netflix, on-demand movies and streaming onto our mobile devises. I believe that has to do with the social aspect of going to the movies and the community aspectof the theater.
Look at what is happening to college education. On-line classes and on-line university enrollment has surpassed traditional learning. These on-line options have found a way to bring together a group of students in a virtual classroom, and rather than have them feel isolated as they are studying alone in their pajamas, the schools have found a way to unite their students in a community in cyber space.
Another phenomenon is the coffee shop. You would think that with all the specialty coffees available for home consumption and the ease of making good coffee at home thanks to Keurig and others that the coffee houses would begin to disappear. But instead they are flourishing. In the small city where I live, there are six coffee shops within 2 blocks, and they are all thriving! Why? because again, coffee shops have embraced the electronic age; they offer free wi-fi to encourage people to sit and linger and meet in their establishment -- and they do.
Coffee houses, on-line universities, movie theaters, and even digital newspapers offer a sense of community. It seems that for a business or industry to survive, they need to tap in and nurture community.