The Hipster Effect » netflix Identity, society and work in the age of perpetual connectivity Tue, 26 Mar 2013 00:35:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Owning vs. renting in the digital age /2011/12/15/owning-vs-renting-in-the-digital-age/ /2011/12/15/owning-vs-renting-in-the-digital-age/#comments Thu, 15 Dec 2011 21:12:39 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=476 more]]> Ah, the holidays. ‘Tis the season of giving, the season of receiving, the season of packing our homes just a little more tightly to accommodate all of our new toys and keepsakes. ‘Tis the season of pushing last year’s stuff further into the backs of closets and storage bins, of reveling in the new and forgetting about the old – unless, of course, your gifts happen to be digital.

When it comes to our sense of possession, digital belongings are a far cry from their physical counterparts. I once had an 800 CD music collection that followed me from house to house, from apartment to apartment, from car to car, always with the knowledge that my love of music was inextricably tied to these physical objects. For years, these CDs were both my joy (for their content) and my burden (for their weight and bulk), until one day I was finally able to digitize them and sell off the physical remnants. Though my music collection has since expanded to over 4,000 albums, carrying them around has gotten a whole lot easier – my entire collection now fits on one pocket-sized hard drive.

As a kid and a music freak, it would frustrate me terribly when my brother “borrowed” my CDs, inevitably losing them to that mysterious place where siblings lose all of your best toys. Without the internet to fall back on, lost CDs meant lost music. Nowadays, if somebody accidentally deletes an album out of my collection, there are dozens of online services waiting to put it right back into my hands. With my CD collection, I had a definite sense of owning the music. With my digital collection, the ownership doesn’t really matter; I focus more on using the music.

At a time when most of us are online most of the time, we have little need to own our digital files outright. As long as we can access a given song or movie any time we want, it doesn’t matter where the actual file is stored. Netflix has taken this concept one step further, combining the ability to access some movies digitally (via streaming) with the ability to access all movies physically (via DVD mail rental). It’s an economic model based on rental, and one that asks a single question: why pay to own something when you can just borrow it whenever you want? Nor is this concept limited to just music, movies, games and books. These days, there are online rental services for such diverse goods as luxury handbags and watches, baby toys, and cell phones for overseas travel – in other words, items that would’ve had a limited lifespan anyways.

While our relationship to our physical belongings will always be stronger than the one to our digital files, we would be wise to understand the sometimes fleeting nature of both. Although you may love a particular item now, will you still feel that way in a month? Or in a year? That’s not to say that all items should be rented – far from it. It is, however, to say that perhaps we don’t need to own every single thing we use. In this season of giving and receiving, we should remember that the worth of an object lies in how it’s used, not on whether it’s owned.

(That being said, let’s all go ahead and agree that online dog rental is taking matters a bit too far. I’m talking to you here, FlexPetz.)


Image credit: suavehouse113


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Occupy Netflix /2011/10/12/occupy-netflix/ /2011/10/12/occupy-netflix/#comments Wed, 12 Oct 2011 00:31:37 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=240 more]]> At first glance, two of today’s biggest ongoing news stories seem to have nothing in common. On the one hand there’s the Occupy Wall Street movement, a growing series of protests aimed at calling attention to social and economic inequality, among other issues. On the other hand, there’s Netflix, a video-streaming and rental company whose recent series of announcements has attracted widespread criticism and plummeting stock prices. But take a closer look and you’ll notice a common theme running through both stories: a demand for user participation.

When Netflix announced a 60% price hike this summer, the internet immediately fired back, with customers loudly proclaiming their anger and many cancelling their subscriptions altogether. By means of offering an olive branch, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings then apologized on the company blog, only to announce that the company would be splitting in half, a move that would eliminate many of the key benefits of the service. The internet cries grew louder and the company continued to suffer in the market until finally, yesterday morning, Hastings announced that Netflix would not be splitting in two after all. The internet had spoken. And while the price change remained in effect, Netflix learned that its customers were not willing to stand idly by while the company not only charged them more, but simultaneously decreased their quality of service.

The growing series of Occupy protests shares a similar demand: we, the people, will no longer sit quietly as the wealthiest 1% of the nation decides what’s best for the rest of us. We have a voice and we demand to be heard. It is through the internet that we have lately discovered our own voices and, even more so, the power of our combined voices. The old adage says that one person can change the world. In the internet era, we’ve taken that concept to the next level. If one person can change the world, what happens if hundreds, or thousands, or even millions of us get together and voice our demands? When Netflix announced yesterday that it would not be splitting its company in half as previously stated, we saw exactly what can happen: change. And although the stakes are significantly higher when voicing our demands towards the United States government, we are asking for the same thing: change. We want the kind of change that we believe to be just, not the kind of change that works best for somebody’s bottom line. The economics of customer satisfaction have changed, whether that be in the private or public sector. The Occupy Wall Street movement may ultimately fade, but the driving factor behind it will not: we are the people, we have found our voices, and we will continue to use them. The voices may not come with a clear list of demands, but they know when they have been wronged and will loudly proclaim it, as Netflix recently learned. Now we’ll see what happens on Wall Street.


Photo credit: david_shankbone


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Netflix doesn’t get the feedback loop /2011/09/19/netflix-doesnt-get-the-feedback-loop/ /2011/09/19/netflix-doesnt-get-the-feedback-loop/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2011 16:39:44 +0000 Sophy Bot /?p=21 more]]>

“I messed up. I owe you an explanation.”

So begins last night’s blog post from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, attempting to explain why the recently announced 60% price hike is necessary after all – and by recently, I mean it was announced two months ago. It has taken two full months of vitriolic user feedback for the CEO to acknowledge their own PR error (coincidentally enough, the acknowledgment comes in the week following a 19% drop in its stock price). And what do we get for standing by as loyal customers, despite the negativity surrounding the original announcement?

“A negative of the renaming and separation [of Netflix into a streaming-only and rebranded DVD-only service] is that the and websites will not be integrated.”

Wait, so after letting two months of harsh feedback pass by unacknowledged, losing a total of 44% of stock value, and posting a larger-than-expected drop in subscribers, Hastings is writing to his customers with a negative? Well, at least the customers know how to give immediate feedback, as Twitter clearly shows:

“”You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” *cough*Netflix*cough*”@BtotheD

“”If a film I search for on Netflix isn’t avail will it tell me a dvd is avail [at Quickster]?” Hastings: “Ouch. You’d have to search both.”” -@tdominey

“Netflix: “We’re sorry for raising prices. To make it up to you, we’re going to make doing business with us even more confusing.””@flargh

Within about 12 hours of sending the email announcement and posting it to the Netflix blog, a full 11,578 comments (and counting) have been posted in response to the blog post, nearly all of which express varying degrees of shock, dismay and disappointment. By continuing to ignore the honest feedback of its customers, Netflix is ignoring internet PR 101: the feedback loop will continue, whether you are an active participant or not. In the era of the internet, feedback is immediate and constant. Companies like Netflix ignore this principle at their own risk, as Reed Hastings has once again witnessed firsthand.

(For the record, this announcement is making me cancel the DVD portion of my own subscription. I’d planned on staying on board despite the price increase, but managing two queues with no integration is too absurd a concept. For my Blu-ray fix, I will now use Redbox. Sorry, Netflix. I was with you until this last announcement.)

Photo  credit: _tar0_

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