Today an old media was new.
Though AOL’s Steve Case was almost a decade away from launching his service, the rest of the media business was exploding in the early 1980s. People magazine, a mid-70s creation, had found a large audience, and Personal Computer Age had been founded in 1981 to cater to a growing list of folks who owned such gizmos. Cable television was coming of age: HBO started broadcasting 24 hours/day in 1981, and Showtime produced its first movie in 1982. But perhaps the hottest media commodities were video cassettes. The time-shifting tech had come to market in the 70s (Betamax was first by year ahead of VHS) and people found the ability to break free from the appointment-viewing requirements of broadcasters and theater owners nothing short of a miracle.
Hundreds of small, homegrown video stores popped up across the country, offering the novel service of renting movies recorded on this new media. Their offerings were as diverse as their owners, which usually meant a solid dose of porn, which drove the early video business just like it would for the Internet later on. But when David Cook opened the first Blockbuster store in Dallas on this day in 1985, he had bigger plans for his 8,000 titles: He was a database expert, not a movie guy like his independent competitors, and he planned to study consumer behavior and allocate titles to stores based on their tastes (sans the porn), while offering a standard for lighting and retail experience modeled after Holiday Inn, among other national brands. He sold out six stores later, and the firm was grown by a few different parent companies into a huge media distribution platform in the 1990s. But that, along with the company, is now history.
There’s always new media. The challenge is to keep it from getting old.