Five Fails for Fall

Posted on September 7, 2013

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Fall is the time to shed the leaves of innovation that have completed serving their purpose, the time to put the best possible face on a hollow harvest of jack-o-wrong-turns and the time to huddle into a ball of regret for ever introducing an idea, product or stunt that proved so ill-advised. Oh, it’s also time for football, but that’s another post.

The approaching season is a mellow one as we prepare for a cruel winter of critique and rebuke from competitors and markets alike. We can only hope that we’ve planted the seeds of next season’s success while we have watched what we thought were great ideas simply wither and blow away.

With the inevitability of collapse waving us over just down the road, here are five daring ideas that I predict will fall victim to the elements of the marketplace and begin shriveling this fall:

  1. Miley Cyrus. Yeah, brands need to mature and evolve, but Miley has twerked her puzzling brand to the point where no one is quite sure where she belongs. Certainly she has shaken off her child-start image, but after rejecting pop and trying to combine rap and country, her MTV VMA performance made clear that hip-hop is not-not her forte. This is no way to treat your brand, folks. You can expand your scope, but you must stay true to your core. Despite her current popularity, my guess is Miley’ll fall off the charts and into TV guest appearances or, if she’s fortunate, a lead in a one-season wonder.
  2. Gasoline drivetrains—They’ve had their run, and it’s become clear that the gasoline engine is two generations behind current technology. With fall drawing near, even the hybrid seems creaky as it’s passed by newer approaches.. At the Frankfurt Auto Show, Toyota previewed a fuel-cell-powered vehicle concept that it plans to produce in 2015., and recently Nissan committed to offering a car that drives itself—autonomous drive technology—by 2020. Google is pursuing similar driverless-car technology.
  3. Paywalls. The New York Times had some measure of initial success with charging for access to its online edition, and the Washington Post has built its own turnstile over the past few months. But as fall approaches, the enrollment of new subscribers seems to be dwindling. This paywall model is doomed to crumble. It makes the mistake of assuming that readers are looking for good newspapers when, in fact, what they are seeking is good journalism. The Internet has a massive number of free news services, including blogs and websites where some of the nation’s best reporters offer the fruits of their labor for free. Broadcast networks, local TV and radios sites, and social-media-based publications help fill the gaps. It may be difficult to dislodge loyal newspaper readers, but eventually they will re-train themselves to consume news and opinion on currently unfamiliar free sites and broaden their perspectives in the process.
  4. DVD movies. Like gasoline-powered cars, DVDs find themselves two technologies removed from the latest and most efficient entertainment technology. First, cable TV’s on-demand service allowed people to rent (months-old) movies from their living room couch, and now streaming services make movies available wirelessly on any Internet-capable device. Services like Redbox still attract some shoppers willing to drop a dollar or two to rent an out-of-date movie at the corner pharmacy, but streaming opens the opportunity for the distribution of movies, TV shows and Web-produced programming earlier to a wider, on-the-go audience—even movies direct from Hollywood studios. DVDs may soon be indistinguishable from vinyl in terms of their curiosity factor.
  5. Small screens. We’ve had our fling with them. Smartphone screens are OK for the occasional video clip or reading email. But, man, give me my 65” LED screen for anything else. Small screens can be eye-straining and tiresome, which is one reason for the emergence of “phablets,” handheld devices larger than a smartphone and smaller than a tablet, as well as for the popularity of tablets themselves. Their larger-than-phone screens are their primary benefit. And those Internet-connected HDTV monsters displayed this fall in discount and electronics stores can turn a den into a theater district or videoconferencing center.

The good  news in all this is that some technologies are failing because better technologies are hot on their streaming heels, something we can look forward to when spring returns and prompts us to view the latest tech with newly opened eyes.

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