Sorry to Burst Your Bubble, But Netflix Did Kill Blockbuster

There’s a strangely popular and wholly inaccurate post going around LinkedIn and other social media that generates tons of likes and shares – this, despite the post’s complete break from reality. I suppose it’s liked so much because it attempts to equate the demise of every industry to bad customer service and not technology; even when the reverse is painfully obvious.

Essentially, here’s what’s being shared:

Netflix did not kill Blockbuster. Ridiculous late fees did.
Uber did not kill the taxi business. Limited taxi access and fare control did.
Apple did not kill the music industry. Being forced to buy full-length albums did.
Airbnb did not kill the hotel industry. Limited availability and pricing options did.
Amazon did not kill other retailers. Bad customer service and experience did.
Technology by itself is not the real disruptor.
Being NON-customer centric is the biggest threat to any business.

Ugh. So, so naïve.

Let’s be clear:

Netflix killed Blockbuster. End of story; it had nothing to do with “ridiculous late fees” and everything to do with (at first) easily getting a DVD delivered/returned versus having to drive to a strip mall; and (now) unlimited streaming on demand on any device for a monthly fee equal to about 3-4 rentals at a Blockbuster.

Technology that delivered a fatal combination of convenience and price killed Blockbuster… it had nothing to do with anyone “being NON-customer centric.”

Uber is killing the taxi business (and the rental car industry). Uber and Lyft are succeeding because they’re always more convenient and (except during surge pricing periods) always cheaper than taxis or rental cars. They are more convenient because of technology and they’re cheaper (for the most part) because they pay their drivers less and they have lower overall costs than what a heavily-regulated taxi industry must pay.

Technology that delivers a fatal combination of convenience and price is killing the taxi business… it has nothing to do with anyone “being NON-customer centric.”

Apple did not kill the music industry; this is true, the “music industry” has adjusted to the new consumption model created by technology. Apple did, however, effectively kill the offline retail sales of music CDs (and I think that’s what the author meant). Apple (along with Napster, Sirius, Pandora, and others) killed the retail music CD business because their delivery of music is more convenient and much cheaper than the old retail model. This had nothing to do with anyone “being forced to buy full-length albums;” as most music retailers offered competitively-priced CD singles that proved to be unconscionably inconvenient for users (who the heck wants to change CDs after every song?).

Technology that delivered a fatal combination of convenience and price killed music retailers… it had nothing to do with anyone “being NON-customer centric.”

Airbnb did not kill the hotel industry, this is true. In fact, the hotel industry is doing just fine, thank you. Not sure why the author assumed that anything killed the hotel industry – perhaps it’s just wishful thinking. But, virtually all hospitality companies (from mom & pop B&Bs to large chains) are doing just fine and have enjoyed rising occupancy and room rates since the recession. So, the incorrect and strangely meaningless notions of “limited availability and pricing options” are just far too moronic to address.

Technology is helping the hotel industry make more money as they please more customers every year; despite the existence of Airbnb. Of course, if Airbnb ever does kill the hotel industry, it will be because those who list rooms on Airbnb enjoy virtually no regulation, liability or tax burden when compared to a traditional hotel operating in the same city… it will have nothing to do with anyone “being NON-customer centric.”

Amazon absolutely killed other retailers. Don’t believe me? Okay, let’s start where Amazon started, with bookstores. Amazon killed nearly every bookstore in America because of technology, price, and an unfair competitive advantage they enjoyed that no bookstore could match: Amazon got to sell you a book tax free. Anyone who believes that “bad customer service and experience” is what doomed America’s bookstores obviously never set foot in one. There was no better customer service or experience for a true lover of books than to visit their local bookstore where they could enjoy a cup of coffee as they sat in a comfortable chair and read (for free) the first chapter of a new release. Ultimately, paying full price for that experience versus ordering online at a 40% discount and no sales tax proved to be too much for even the most ardent book lover.

Technology that delivered a fatal combination of convenience and price killed other retailers… it had nothing to do with anyone “being NON-customer centric.”

Technology that delivers convenience and a price advantage absolutely is by itself the real disruptor. To believe anything else is simply naïve.

Moreover, while “being NON-customer centric” can be a huge threat to any business, it’s not even close to the top reasons any of the above mentioned companies disrupted or are disrupting other industries.

Given all of this, liking and sharing something that’s not true just because it feels like the right approach (the foolish wolf pack image and the famously incorrect sales meme come to mind here, as well) is akin to spreading fake news – especially on a professional networking site like LinkedIn. Instead of letting your emotions dictate what’s important for your network to consume, let your head decide and we’ll all become better at whatever it is we do as a result.