Innocent victims, murdered by the Internet?

Sure, the same way video killed the radio star.

“What will become of those empty old buildings?”, John Herman asks at The Awl: 

What, you wonder as you drive by, will happen to the big old Circuit City at Crossroads Plaza or Windermere Village or whatever? The building that used to be a Borders that became a Gap that became a vacant hole? The Walmart on the edge of town that was closed for “plumbing problems?” All those doomed malls, and the big multi-story anchor stores at the end of their long pedestrian halls?

At one time, we would assume that an economic downturn produced these “ghostboxes.” But the culprit is more likely online retailing.

That may have been one of the factors that doomed the U.S. Target retail chain’s expansion into Canada. The chain, which lasted a little over a year and folded in 2014 did not offer online shopping. Meanwhile, WalMart Canada, which entered the Canadian market in 1994 and hung on, has just unrolled a big online shopping program.

But Facebook is now worth more than WalMart.

Next down the pike? Virtual reality is gaining ground in online shopping. From Reuters 

A shopper in France gazes into a virtual reality headset and is transported to the bustle of a Manhattan street, then steps into a high-end boutique to browse crystal chandeliers, a chaise lounge draped with a sheepskin throw, and designer trousers.

Virtual reality, the panoramic technology with roots in gaming, is being adapted for retail consumers within the next year, aiming to pair the ease of e-commerce with the thrill of real-life shopping.

While no retailers have yet announced a virtual storefront, developers are experimenting with experiences that shoppers could enter with devices such as Google Inc’s Cardboard or Facebook Inc’s Oculus Rift. More. ]

I don’t say that the trend to online shopping is going to solve any current problems around consumerism or materialism as such. But it will break up older empires and hegemonies; indeed, it is already doing so.

Just for example, Martha Stewart Living sold recently for a fraction of its former value.

Dredging up Stewart’s 2004 conviction and jail time for insider trading, the New York Times primly anounced,

But Martha Stewart Living has been battered by the troubles that have afflicted many media companies, as readers shifted to other titles and television shows. Last fall, the company struck a deal to license two of its main magazine titles to the Meredith Corporation, providing content for those publications.

This sounds like whistling in the dark on the Times’ part.

First, the moral issue re Stewart’s sins doesn’t play so well as a supposed reason for her company’s decline. Recall that well-known news anchor Brian Williams was not fired but merely moved from NBC to MSNBC News, after his serial lies were exposed. Clearly, major progressive media don’t think dishonesty is a problem if one of their own is implicated.

Second, readers aren’t shifting to other titles and TV shows. They are moving faster than ever away from traditional print media and traditional TV to online, all the time. For better or worse, that puts them in the driver’s seat, not the producers of this show or that. Good judgment was never more needed than today, and one wonders about the supply chain for that.

This 2 min vid from ABC News (2011) encapsulates the difference that CyberMonday (shop online) is making to Black Friday:


Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...