business news in context, analysis with attitude

We had a story the other day about the decision by a Japanese company that was the last one in the world manufacturing VCRs to stop production, citing lack of interest and the inability to get parts. Which led me to ask when DVD players will vanish because of the growth in streaming technology. But led MNB reader Robert Hemphill to say, not so fast:

Yes, clearly sales of DVD and Blu-ray movie disks are declining.  Netflix, Amazon, DirecTV, Hulu and cable are all hastening the disk’s demise.  For convenience, I’ve converted over 800 movies of HD quality from blu-ray disks and other sources to my own Plex movie server, which lets me watch great quality shows on my iPhone, iPad, or big screen HDTV, with NO rental fees.  The Plex server is free, open source, cloud-based software; all you need is a computer and fast Internet.  To access it, you need a free app, a new Apple TV, a Roku or etc..   What’s more, my family can access my Plex movies from anywhere, anytime, also at no cost.


4K quality movies are helping give Blu-Ray a boost.  There are over 5 million 4K HDTV sets in the US, and a growing selection of 4K blu-ray disks.  A big con of streaming 4K is that it requires 25 Mbps speeds to play smoothly and when the ‘net is out, there’s no movie.  Whether you’re a ‘net neutrality nabob or not, it’s a bummer when House of Cards flops out due to streaming slowdowns.

Blu-ray 4K disks work every time, with no stuttering.  High quality 4K movies require tons of data, and the streaming services do extra compression just to get them to stream, so when it actually works, it’s less quality than full, uncompressed 4K disks.  Netflix charges more for 4K.  And when more people stream 4K, who’s gonna pay for all the bandwidth?

What's more, a majority of 4K movie discs include the awesome new Dolby Atmos surround sound, which makes movies an immersive experience most theaters don’t match.  It’s even possible the resurgence of vinyl albums may spill over to blu-ray, who knows?

So don’t write discs off just yet!

I consider myself schooled.

On another subject, an MNB user wrote:

Regarding the article Dealing With Food Waste Issue Requires Building Awareness ... The study recommends getting rid of "sell by" and "use by" dates from food packaging, saying that "only in rare circumstances is that date about food safety."

This “recommendation” will only cause trouble for  merchants and consumers. It honestly seems like they are a throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

First, from a consumer perspective, I want to know if that gallon of milk will last at least a week. Without a date, I wouldn’t know. How about that pre-made sandwich at the gas station, was it made today or 3 days ago? How about those steaks, will they last until the weekend? Do they serious expect customers to “guess”  how much shelf life left in something before purchase?

From a merchant perspective, it sounds like a way for dishonest people to take advantage of the return policies, or worse, lawsuits. Not only could the amount of frivolous lawsuits increase, but real lawsuits because the merchant was selling food unfit for consumption. This could lead to each merchant developing their own method to “date” food, leading to multiple solutions, information fragmentation and customer confusion/frustration.

There are too many unanswered questions and it seems like 3 steps backwards. At least the dates give consumers and merchants something to go on.

From another reader:

Kevin, I agree that I too would be uncomfortable with the removal of "use by/sell by dating". While I can't prove it, I've always had a suspicion that some manufacturers used this as planned obsolescence/ guaranteed turn play, rather than just a product quality issue.

I have to believe there's a happy medium to be had, perhaps by converting to a "Best Quality if used by:xxxxx - Discard after:xxxx" type of open dating.

I don't know who wouldn't see discarding perfectly good foodstuffs as waste, merely if the Best by: date expired last week. Maybe my Baby Boomer mentality is showing - if it smell good, looks good, tastes good - eat it.

On the subject of drone tests by 7-Eleven, one MNB user wrote:

Drones have been used to delivery emergency medical supplies (incl. blood and transplant parts), for a while now, in congested or difficult-to-reach places in South Africa. Glad to read the USA is finally catching up on drones. (Not surprising since it took a long time for the US banking system to catch up with newer African banking / credit card processes.)

Got a number of emails about yesterday's coupon story, and my suggestion that the industry ought to hasten the move to digital coupons, which are a lot more targeted.

One MNB user wrote:

You forget who uses coupons and the ages. Also when they have  a coupon in hand they remember to use it. All people are not like you. First thing in marketing is to not market to yourself...

Fair point.

MNB reader Kate Foxbower wrote:

I thought I’d start Monday off with a  reply to your question about why people would still use paper coupons vs digital.  For me, it’s about seeing the extra discount at shelf and I find some retailer apps challenging when I’m in the store with my 2 year old and 4 year old.  My grocery trips usually entail pulling one child away from the bakery counter cookies (sugar + preschooler - it’s the equivalent of feeding Gizmo after mid-night) while attempting to keep the other strapped safely in the cart and not screaming.  I could probably make a list and cross reference the list with the digital coupons available as well as the paper coupons in my hand, but I’ll once again refer to the 2 year old and 4 year old – life gets crazy busy for us and the most convenient coupons are the targeted ones mailed directly to my house for the stuff I actually buy.  For perspective, I’m a millennial mom.  My husband goes to the grocery store even more than I do and it’s safe to say he never looks at the digital coupons.  I would call out Target does a great job with in store signage letting me know there’s a digital coupon available.  That gives me the feeling that they want to help me save money, whereas, if the only coupon is a digital one and there’s no sign letting me know, that feels like you don’t want to help me save money, but quite the opposite.

MNB reader Mark Heckman wrote:

Several reasons for the continued use of paper coupons.

Shoppers like the visceral nature of them, even though they complain about having to clip and carry them.

Brands like the ‘advertising effect’ of the FSI. (Free Standing Inserts) that they do not receive with digital.

Big printing companies such as News America and Valassis have created huge profit machines with the FSI and are not motivated to transition as digital coupons do not have the profit potential of paper.

Digital coupons are still not as shopper centric as they need to be to gain traction faster.

And, from MNB reader Larry Larry Ishii:

I found this news item to be very interesting and also very surprising.

I suppose there could be a psychological factor here as a paper coupon might (subconsciously) to be thought of like actual currency.

Also, having the paper coupon helps the shopper remember for which items they have these savings.

Some habits die hard…

And finally, one MNB user responded to yesterday's admission by me that I got two (!) movie references wrong on Friday by sending me the following Associated Press story...

WASHINGTON — Memory loss may not always be the first warning sign that dementia is brewing — changes in behavior or personality might be an early clue.

Researchers on Sunday outlined a syndrome called "mild behavioral impairment" that may be a harbinger of Alzheimer's or other dementias, and proposed a checklist of symptoms to alert doctors and families.

Losing interest in favorite activities? Forgetting who was in what movie? Getting unusually anxious, aggressive or suspicious? Suddenly making crude comments in public?

"Historically those symptoms have been written off as a psychiatric issue, or as just part of aging," said Dr. Zahinoor Ismail of the University of Calgary, who presented the checklist at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Toronto.

Now, "when it comes to early detection, memory symptoms don't have the corner on the market anymore," he said.

Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, affects more than 5 million people in the U.S., a number growing as the population ages. It gradually strips people of their memory and the ability to think and reason.

But it creeps up, quietly ravaging the brain a decade or two before the first symptoms become noticeable. Early memory problems called "mild cognitive impairment," or MCI, can raise the risk of later developing dementia, and worsening memory often is the trigger for potential patients or their loved ones to seek medical help.

BTW ... I went back and checked the original AP story, and the Forgetting who was in what movie? line wasn't in there. Very funny.

But point taken. To be honest, you'll all probably know if I get dementia before I do. (Early clue - I'll start saying nice things about McDonald's, Sears, and Kmart.)
KC's View: