|Monthly Editorial by Doug Schneider|
Some see nothing but doom and gloom. They look to the past, wish for days gone by, and forget that there is a future with glowing opportunity. For some, high-end audio's glory days are over. Its a thing of the past whose market is now shrinking and rapidly being replaced by computers, video games, and multi-channel sound in the form of home theater -- the tools of the devil himself, you would think. "Give me back the good ol' days of the high-end," they scream.
Well, I've got some news: High-end audio is alive and well and is simply going through some changes. These changes are not only good, they may help to make this industry grow to a size not previously imagined -- if we seize the opportunity. Where is this happening? Online, of course. The Internet is not only changing the audio industry, it is changing many other industries too. Right now we are in the middle of a transition that will end up with something bigger and better -- and different.
So why is it that some are saying that the high-end audio market is shrinking? Is it or isn't it? Well, I've personally never seen any statistics cited when I hear such comments -- most of what I hear and read seems to be simply gut feeling. And I guess if you attempt to measure the interest level by what we're seeing happen in the current print press, you would think that it is shrinking too. Unfortunately, that's not a very good indicator at all. You have to look beyond, and today the Internet is having a huge influence on the audio industry. Sure, some aren't happy about that -- as a matter of fact, they're getting hurt by it. Some don't even know it. The Internet is having an enormous impact just about everywhere, and it grows daily. In the end, the Internet will be a very good thing for those industries that are better suited to it -- and high-end audio is one of them.
While there may be stagnation or shrinkage in the traditional high-end mediums, online publishing is happening in a big way. Take a look at the quality of the online press, check out the retailers offering shockingly good value, and take a look at the amount of interaction on the newsgroups, bulletin boards and chat rooms. And this is not just a North American phenomenon -- it's worldwide AND IT'S GROWING! It keeps getting better too. In fact, July's cover of Time magazine talks about how online shopping is not only growing, but that it is cheaper and, most importantly, better! Take a look at the fantastic online magazines that cover countless topics and you will see the same thing. Does it have an effect? Does it influence? Just ask the movie industry what the one-man www.aint-it-cool-news.com site can do to their business.
That's why at SoundStage! we are committed to electronic frontier because we see it as a better way to produce a magazine. Why? It's more timely, it's more relevant, it's more accessible, and you can provide far more information in far more innovative ways than with traditional means. It's not just different, it's better. No, you can't read it in the bathroom, but that's about the only thing we can find, and that seems a small price to pay, doesn't it? And that's really the key here -- not everything will go online, but those businesses that are bettered suited to be online will be, and they will flourish.
I wish to close with a rather interesting comment that I recently overheard. At the HI-FI 98 show, I heard someone say (maybe because I was close by) that the online press was jealous of the print press. I was alarmed and taken aback. I smirked, and a single thought whizzed through my head -- why? I was dumbfounded how this comment could or would be made -- maybe this person should have talked to some of us who ARE actually online (I know for a fact he hasn't). Then again, I have to wonder who is really jealous. I mean, online is where the action is, it's where things happen fast, this is where things are growing and this is where we can do everything not only as well as the print medium, but better. In fact, this is where the future is and why you are seeing more and more activity -- Inter-Activity!
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