Internet killed the business star

Just like video killed the radio star, online shopping has sent many traditional businesses the way of the dodo. We have seen the ramifications of the digital world in Canada, with two of the four McNally Robinson book stores in Canada closing at the end of last year. The company’s release recognized the role that online book stores played in their need to shut down these two locations, and file for bankruptcy protection, stating that “Booksellers in Canada are currently working against serious headwinds: recession, stagnant book prices, steep discounting and increasing competition from internet sales and electronic-text formats.”
Digital stores are putting the pressure on for new marketing strategies from many “traditional” businesses. Book stores have suffered at the hands of giants like, just as we saw with McNally Robinson — so too is this the reality of many small used bookstores. A personal favourite, the used bookstore near my house, just closed down and it was rather sad to think I could no longer walk there with my old books in tow and be able to sell and buy books so close to home. Instead, I’ll be trading much further from home with a large network of buyers and sellers on eBay. We also see sites specifically designed for those in need of a good read like and replacing the character of used bookstores. Even when searching for a used textbook for a course, Amazon is most likely the first place many of us go now.
However, bookstores are not the only businesses suffering because of the strain from internet competition. It should come as no surprise that the newspaper industry has been demonstrating signs of endangerment. The Internet has made news easily accessible without nasty paper cuts and oversized awkward paper to fold under your arm. Some feel that newspapers’ only hope for survival is to make a switch to online readership. However, although it’s difficult to say if this model would survive the test of time, the fact remains that many papers are struggling to stay afloat, and many readers are catching up on their headlines on the ‘net.
Photo shops have also suffered because of competition from internet alternatives. No longer do individuals bother printing photos, unless you’re creating a scrap book. Getting film developed is almost a novelty, photography a hobby reminiscing the past. Posting pictures on Flickr, Picnic and Facebook makes sharing photos as easy as the click of a button — not to mention how cost effective and simple online printing and ordering can be.
These businesses have to compete with a competitor that is available worldwide and easily accessible. When the rule of thumb in businesses is “location, location, location,” how do you compete with a store in nearly every home? Or a newspaper at everyone’s finger tips with up-to-the-minute facts? Or photos that are easy to share and more cost effective than developing at a photo shop? Book stores that can include personal touches, friendly welcoming staff and the feeling of a neighbourhood can be solutions to the marketing strategy of stores, but it’s difficult to know how successful such a strategy would be and if people would be willing to leave the comfort of their own homes and pajamas to drive to a store that may not even have the book they are looking for. Newspapers are trying to infiltrate the Internet, but long term success is currently indeterminate. Photo shops seem in danger, in the shadow of Facebook and Flickr.
If Internet is the future, will we all find ourselves staring at a screen for all our shopping needs? Our social networking, dating, banking, music and even our TV-watching have all found places on the Internet. Whether you’ve caught up with the trend yet or not, we’re fusing with our keyboards and appear only to be waiting for the day when we will never need to leave the chair at our desks. Drive-throughs are convenient, but imagine never even needing to leave your house. Furthermore, we should all be quite aware that gas is eventually going to run out, and that our future source of energy is uncertain at best. With the uncertainty of future gas prices, or even whether there will be fuel to pump into your Tercel, it’s reasonable to imagine that the future of business will play out inside our computer monitors, allowing people to never have to go anywhere to do their shopping.