Thursday, December 22, 2011

Media Consumption: Clean, Simple Designs & New Technology

There are several different ways one can consume media today. Our television watching experience has become more diversified. However, one of my favorite experiences is watching movies at a drive-in. For an entire list of drive-in theaters in the United States you can check out a great site called Drive-ins and Drive-in Movies. 

Technology is expanding and shrinking at once. The more advanced the technology, the smaller in size it becomes. The best example is the smart phone.  

Now, this all relates to how we consume media because we seem to find it fascinating to watch and read everything on a screen that is the size of a tablet or smart phone. The fact that high technology has shrunk shows the need for lighter and less cumbersome designs. This is why I feel certain products have done better than others.

Simple, easy to use and user friendly designs seem to have an easier ability to sell itself than more complex designs where the product comes with a training manual that makes “War and Peace” look like a quick read, a short entertainment novel you take with you to the beach. All products seem to follow this common thread of what users want. Take the car industry where Toyota’s are one of the most popular vehicles not just because of their reliability, but because of the Toyota design. The Chicago Tribune wrote a recent article relating to Toyota's Camry 2012 design. In the article you can find words like: "edgier," "minimal," and that, "Toyota's designers got it right when they added covers to the Camry's multiple storage compartments, making it easy for the car's interior to look clean and clutter-free." The designs of most Toyota’s are simple, modern, and clean; I own a Prius and it is the one thing that I enjoy about it. To start the car, you push a button. To get to a place, you use the navigator and it takes you anywhere you need. If you are being robbed or attacked, you can push a panic button on the roof of the car and it calls the cops for you. The car let’s the cops know where you are located. I know because I accidentally pushed the button once and two cop cars showed up within minutes.

Most blue-ray players now come with Netflix, Hulu Plus and other video viewing applications which allows you to hook up your blue ray player, sign in to your Hulu plus account, Netflix, Blockbuster online, YouTube, and others. We can also go to our apple store on our iPhone’s or other smart phones, buy or download a free video application widget. In yesterday's CNN online "technology" article The 10 biggest stories of 2011 in mobile tech stated it best:  

This year's U.S. debut of Spotify -- along with new and updated mobile streaming music and video services from Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, Netflix, Hulu and video chat/calling services like Google Plus hangouts -- are helping to fuel the demand for streaming mobile media. And behind the scenes,  technology from companies like MobiTV are helping streaming video consumers seamlessly shift their viewing experience from one device to another.

The iPhone's still do not play flash movies. When I tried accessing a video from my Amazon video library, it wouldn’t play on my iPhone because it doesn’t run flash. I tried buying or putting flash capabilities on my iPhone but it still wouldn’t play. Other than this minor annoyance, our society today has evolved into numerous methods of television and film consumption. However, I think that like some of the new blue-ray players, easy access and simple designs is what most consumers are looking for today. 

Though, just as technology has evolved so has our theater watching experience. I love drive-in theaters during the summer months and for the grueling cold winters, treating yourself to an IMAX film will not be something you regret. 

My most recent IMAX experience was "Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol," worth the $36 for 2 adults. Yes, this is expensive, but do not prejudge the "weirdo scientologist" because Tom Cruise does not disappoint in this film. From beginning until the end, the flow of the action and the film left me on the edge of my seat. 

The way we watch film, television shows today varies. We have much more ways to consume media today than we did 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. Pick your devise, venue, technology tool, it makes no difference because the theater experience is up to the audience. As long as we're viewing a captivating film, television show, web series then the tool is only a small fraction. Though I must admit, the tools are clean and simple designs.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Netflix Streaming: Some Positives

Netflix has caused quite a stir, angering its customers when it separated the cost of its streaming and DVD rental cost on customers, raising their prices. Back in July a Forbes, magazine article complained “Only a company that is overvalued would think that it has the right to increase our monthly fee by 60%.” Recently, more unsatisfied customers complained about a new Netflix application for the X-Box 360 upgrade and the “removal of the Netflix party feature” one web news site After Dawn states.

However, not taking sides, I want to point out that it is not just Netflix raising their prices. It seems that most things are simply more expensive. My husband and I took a short trip to the grocery store today and we got a few things. Well, the few things ended up being nearly $100.  On the drive, back home we reminisced when just a few years ago $100 worth of groceries took you much farther than it does today. Everything is much more expensive today and unfortunately there is not enough jobs or raises to compensate for the higher cost of living. We can turn to Occupy Wall Street to get that many of us are more than frustrated.

Therefore, when companies such as Netflix raised their prices on their customers, it caused a fury. Many of my friends dropped membership even and decided that they could no longer afford what Netflix had to offer. If one looks at the movie collection on Netflix streaming, especially under “New Arrivals,” what Netflix considers “new” is not what it used to mean years ago. Going back about 10 years ago when Blockbuster was not going out of business, whenever Blockbusters or Netflix said “New Arrivals” they meant it. These new movies were the films you missed in the theater because you were either: a) not interested, b) broke when the movie came out in theaters OR c) too busy and didn’t have any free time to catch the flick in theaters, as much as you wanted to, meant to…you missed it.

In a latest Washington Post article, “Netflix increases 3Q spending to woo lawmakers as subscribers rebel against price increase” expressed that although people enjoy the convenience of watching on-demand videos and streaming content, that Netflix has to offer. They do not enjoy the new wave of media consumption at the additional price spike. The article stated “Netflix Inc. spent more money currying favor with U.S. lawmakers and regulators in the third quarter while the video subscription service’s customers rebelled against a price increase.”

I happen to be a Netflix subscriber that has recently joined. Perhaps for long-term subscribers, the prices and membership plan changes feels like a betrayal. If Netflix would have decided to not raise or change plans for older members and only begin changing plans with new members, maybe Netflix would not have to spend so much time, energy, and money battling with law makers. For me, I do not have an issue paying the $7.99 that costs me for unlimited streaming per month. I do not want to wait for DVDs to arrive in the mail. I have developed a method of watching movies, tv shows, as convenient and low cost to me as possible. Netflix, I will admit does not have all the new movies. Their streaming film library is pretty limiting. If you are looking to watch the latest new release to have gone to DVD, you may not find it on Netflix streaming. If you are looking to watch films that are recently new, you missed it in the theater and it has been a while since it has gone to DVD- it may be on Netflix.

Netflix streaming is good for those that want to catch up on television shows and documentaries. Honestly, Netflix streaming actually has a real good television show selection and one of the largest online streaming selection of documentaries I have seen in a while. If you are in to foreign films, you could find some new and unique films on Netflix. There are some surprisingly interesting independent films available, as well as a large horror selection if you are a horror-junky.

Hey listen, I know money is tight. No one wants prices to go up, but who is not raising prices? Doesn’t it come with the territory of a bad economy? Everything is more expensive today. Netflix is one of many businesses raising prices. It is happening everywhere. Netflix is just happening to take more of a beating than other businesses doing the exact same thing.

Honestly, if I want to watch newer movies that Netflix doesn’t have- it is actually on Redbox. For a little over a buck, I can get a new movie that I won’t be able to see on Netflix streaming. Then, to catch up on television shows and my thirst for documentary films, I go to Netflix streaming, I like the fact that for $7.99 a month I can watch: 100 episodes of How I Met Your Mother, at least the first 2 seasons of Vampire Diaries, most if not, all the episodes of older series such as South Park, classics like The Wonder Years, and one of the most addicting shows on FX, my number one favorite show, Son’s of Anarchy.  For the newest thing to hit the theater, I go to the theater.

What’s the big deal? My personal opinion, I see no reason to complain about Netflix. Yes, I would like a larger film selection of new releases and I hope they keep their library of tv shows expanding. My only request to Netflix, if they are reading this blog- it would really be awesome if they could put all of Dexter’s series on Netflix streaming. I know this probably will never happen, but maybe Santa will bring me a full collection of Dexter for Christmas.