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Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

Well, it is a new year … and already we’re seeing stories about old business models falling victim to new realities. I think they have something in common. They were in the business of offering alternatives, not advantages.

The New York Times had a piece the other day about the 45-store Book World chain, based in the Upper Midwest, is closing its doors, “surrendering to the forces of e-commerce” even after being able to survive recessions, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and the like. It is, the story suggested, part of a “final shakeout” resulting from “the shifting nature of shopping.”

While there still are plenty of folks who like browsing in bookstores, and there are a lot of independent bookstores that are doing just fine, it appears that Book World didn’t offer enough of a differential experience to survive. You can’t just offer an alternative. You have to offer an advantage.

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports that in the wake of Hugh Hefner’s death, a new ownership structure at Playboy is seen as focusing more on the “Playboy lifestyle” and less on the magazine, to the point where it seems likely that in the not too distant future, it’ll no longer be published.

To be honest, I’m amazed it took this long. The whole “Playboy” thing seems impossibly anachronistic, and as far as I’m concerned, you can’t kill the thing fast enough. What surprises me isn’t that the magazine may be going away, but that there is enough equity left in the brand to make it viable.

You can’t just offer an alternative. You have to offer a differential advantage.

Then again, I’m not their target audience. What do I know?

I was intrigued to read another Times story about how Movie Pass - a subscription-based plan that allows people go to the movies as much as 365 times a year for $9.95 a month - has managed to sign up more than one million subscribers in just four months. While traditional theater companies such as AMC have resisted the business model, there clearly seems to be a hunger out there for this sort of initiative. (I have a son in Chicago who uses Move Pass, and he raves about it … it helps him decide where he is going to the movies.)

I remember being a littler skeptical about Movie Pass when it was first announced, mostly because I wondered whether there is enough good product out there to make it useful. But they’ve tapped into something, and I think that movie studios and theater companies need to take notice, lest they give up even more competitive ground to all the entertainment competition that is out there.

You can’t just offer an alternative. You have to offer a differential advantage.

The Times reminded me of a great line from Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” in which a character is asked how he went bust. “Two ways,” he says. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

And so it goes.

That’s what is on my mind this morning, and, as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

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