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Sometimes, struggling not to become an anachronism can take work…

For example, I read a story this week in which a British market research firm predicts that the CD will be obsolete by the year 2020. In other words, they’ll be begging for space next to that stack of 33 RPM records that some folks still have lying around.

The thing is, not only will CDs be obsolete, but so will CD players.

This scared me a bit, until I realized that I probably buy 80 percent of my music through iTunes. The only time I buy CDs is when I want to have a disk I can play in the car. (Yes, I know I can burn them myself…but I haven’t figured out how to use the CD burner on my laptop, which is almost as embarrassing as not knowing how to set the timer on the VCR.)

Then again, I don’t even have a VCR in the house anymore. Just in the office, for my video business. Everything else is on DVD, and as downloading movies and television programs continues to become more prevalent, even those machines are pretty soon going to go the way of black-and-white televisions.

I can’t wait to buy the new Apple TV technology, which allows you to wirelessly play movies and television programs that have been downloaded to your computer…and which are going to look great on the flat screen TV that Santa brought for Christmas.

If you have iTunes, you should go and download a video copy of the keynote speech that Steve Jobs gave at last week’s MacWorld conference in San Francisco. Not only did he introduce the Apple TV, but he also unveiled the new iPhone that combines an iPod with a telephone and a sophisticated Internet interface. When I read the press reports, I was impressed but not blown away; I couldn’t imagine getting rid of Verizon so that I could get an iPhone, which only will work with people on a Cingular plan.

But having seen the Jobs presentation, I’m ready to convert. Tomorrow.

Another way the world is changing. Toward the end of Monday night’s two-hour episode of “24,” there was a commercial saying that the first four hours of the series’ sixth season – which aired last Sunday and Monday night – would be available in stores. On Tuesday. Less than 12 hours after the original airing.


The Los Angeles Times wrote: “Usually, studios release a television DVD months, if not years, after the network run and package them as a boxed set with an entire season's worth of discs.”

(Tell me about it. I’m still waiting for “Mannix” to come out on DVD, and that aired back in the sixties!)

According to the Times, “Fox's release of the ‘24’ premiere on DVD is as much a promotional device as it is an experiment in collapsing the windows that traditionally separate a show's network run from its appearance in other formats. The latest ‘24’ DVD will contain the first four hours of the new season plus 12 minutes of the episode that is scheduled to air (next) Monday.

“But Fox's gambit also illustrates the speed at which studios increasingly must operate to keep up with a world where consumers prefer to watch shows on their own time schedule — not the networks'. Several networks, including ABC and CBS, have offered Internet downloads of an episode a few hours after the show airs.”

In the retailing business, just like in the entertainment business, people have to disabuse themselves of the notion that clocks run at the same speed they used to. They don’t. Forget being time-starved; time is actually being compressed in a very real way that affects the conduct of business. In “Star Trek,” they used to refer to such things as a “rip in the space-time continuum.” But this isn’t science fiction. It is happening all around us.

Speaking of “24”…


It is remarkable how this roller coaster of a television show keeps doing it year after year, and how Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer manages to keep reinventing his character, adding little bits of wear and tear and both physical and spiritual decay, which sort of matches what the country is going through in the series. This year, it strikes me that the pace is different than in the last couple of seasons. It is just a touch slower…a little like a long ride up on the roller coaster, though the events of the last episode certainly will send the characters and we viewers on a plummeting and twisting, turning ride.


Someone posed the following question in the Boston Globe last week:

“Starting next week, ‘‘24’’ will be opposite NBC’s hit ‘‘Heroes.’’ Is this a problem?”

To which the writer responded:

“’24’ could be opposite the resurrection. When it’s on, I don’t answer the phone. It’s the only hour of the week when I am unreachable.”

I, however, have a better solution.

I’m simply going to download “Heroes” on iTunes and watch it whenever I feel like it.

It will be one of those times when the rip in the space-time continuum will seem like a good thing.

The desire not to become an anachronism isn’t just something that I’m worried about. According to the Washington Post, J.W. Marriott Jr., who will soon be 75 years old, has started writing a blog on his hotel company’s website.

"I'm venturing into uncharted territory as I launch this blog," Marriott says in his first post. "A year ago, I didn't even know what a blog was -- until my communications team began telling me about all the blog traffic on travel and tourism. Now I know this is where the action is if you want to talk to your customers directly -- and hear back from them."


Is everyone listening?

We wrote a few weeks ago about Kettle Chips, which was selling a sampler pack of five limited edition all-natural chips on their website. The idea is that they want to get people to taste five outrageous new flavors, and then offer comments on the company’s website…with just one of the new flavors becoming part of the regular line.

Not only do I like the idea of getting customers to pay to rate new flavors, I also loved all the choices – Aztec Chocolate, Island Jerk, Twisted Chili Lime, Royal Indian Curry, and Dragon 5 Spice. Pushed to make a choice, I’d probably have to pick either the Twisted Chili Lime or the Royal Indian Curry…but it’d be tough.

Well, apparently my taste is not reflective of Kettle’s general customer base, because its consumers have chosen choosing Island Jerk as the next Kettle brand Potato Chip flavor.

Then again, I’m pretty comfortable with the idea that I’m in a minority. It is sort of like the old Groucho Marx line: “I don’t want to be part of any club that would have someone like me for a member.”

I’ve never been a big port drinker, but I had one the other day that I just loved: Churchill’s Finest Reserve Porto. Now that the weather here in New England actually has gotten cold, it is the perfect warm-up.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday, when I’ll be reporting from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Midwinter Executive Conference.

KC's View: