A lesson from Blockbuster

As I was out and about shooting, I came across an abandoned out-of-business Blockbuster. It was the Blockbuster that we used to go to on occasion to rent movies. While they normally didn’t have much that we wanted (You have to go to Scarecrow for that), it was still a mainstay for movies for most of America. When you wanted a movie for home it was the Blockbuster or the Hollywood Video. Times have changed. In the popular press it has been played that they feel victim to Netflix, on-demand and streaming services. I think it was something different. It was a unwillingness to embrace the shifts that a business must make in order to survive. It needed community and connections more than videos on the wall. And not that rate a movie on-line and like us on Facebook to get 5% your next crappy movie, but real community.
It is no longer enough to just have a product that people want or even need. You can get products ANYWHERE. In a culture of consumers, you have to be able to work with people in a way that goes beyond just getting a dollar from them.You have to build a community and make lasting connections with them so they feel engaged with what you are doing. This sounds so simple, yet it is so hard to do for most businesses (and maybe people too). Blockbuster didn’t fail because I could stream from home, it failed because I didn’t give a crap if I ever walked into a Blockbuster to get a movie again. In the end, I was getting a crappy movie from a place that did nothing to make me feel connected to them.  So when they were gone, I walked by this big empty store and thought “Hmm can’t believe that Blockbuster is gone.” and then I thought, when was the last time I wanted to rent a movie there.
So as an artist what does the tale of Blockbuster have to do with my work. I think that it is more clear than ever, a photo that lives on your computer or in the shoebox isn’t really a photograph. Much like a tree falling in the forest, if a photo isn’t being seen by anyone does it even exist. You have build a community and share your work. Find a way to make people want to connect with you and start a dialog. Make awesome images, share how you made them, learn and teach with others, and above all be open to the change. At some point, your competitor will start streaming and you don’t want your store to be empty. If your connected to a great community, they will make sure to keep you along for the ride.

June 18, 2012

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