Twitter’s IPO is No Blockbuster

By Scott Signore

Yesterday’s double-whammy reminder of how the world remains an ever-changing orb of technological advancement came in the form of an exciting IPO reminiscent of the pre-bursting bubble from 15 years ago, alongside the death knell of a legacy business that capitalized on a technology that has come and gone in my lifetime.

So long, Blockbuster. Hello, Twitter.

It seems ridiculous at this point but it wasn’t long ago that the idea of renting movies to watch at home was sort of thrilling. Fueled by consumer electronics giants that manipulated tired media formats, home entertainment was new, unique and fun. And, so was a trip to a video store on family movie night.

Like all consumer-facing economies, the home entertainment industry needed a distribution channel. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, video stores popped up all over the landscape, some big, some small. (I recall more of the latter than the former, or at least that’s what existed in my town when I was growing up.) Over time, the well-heeled national chains such as Blockbuster crushed most of the “mom-and-pop shops,” as is the nature of capitalism. Then, however, the category changed again significantly. Renting movies (and games!) was possible through the mail or at a kiosk at a shopping mall or grocery store. Before long the content could be delivered into your home directly through the always-evolving cable and communications connectivity.

Earlier this week, DISH Network, which purchased Blockbuster in 2011, announced it was closing the chain’s 300 remaining U.S.-based retail stores, as well as its distribution centers. Blockbuster has gone the way of a seemingly countless number of national retailers, and the video rental business is now reminiscent of the milk man delivering milk to your home. Technology drove both the rise and collapse of the category.

In the same week DISH Network broke news about Blockbuster, Twitter went public.

Social networks have established themselves as powerful channels for pretty much everyone and everything. Connections with engaged audiences are meaningful, measurable and sometimes game-changing for brands and even political movements. So, companies like FaceBook and Twitter are able to take their respective cases to the street and see exactly how valuable they have become globally.

“New” doesn’t accurately describe social networking. It’s established – and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. The existing networks will be complemented by new networks, applications and platforms – and it will be driven by technology. Advances will improve existing networks, and launch new ones. As the networks grow, so will the businesses that drive them.

I wonder, however, how long we’ll look at these networks as so important to our lives. I wonder if our habits of posting online or direct messaging with one another will be displaced. Or, at what point in the future will the value of these habits be diminished? Maybe never, but I’m certain those involved with Blockbuster felt similarly.

What’s certain is change based on technological innovation. Habits years from now will be different than today – and technologies common in our lives today will be long gone tomorrow. All categories of our lives will be impacted by new developments – that’s historically accurate and a solid prediction for upcoming events.

Let me know what you think. What technologies are sure to fall bay the side of the road?