Does the Kid Stay in the Picture?, from the NY Times

This article gives a brief history of Netflix, which is cool. But more interesting is this little quote buried at the very end of the article, by the founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings:

“If we differentiate the Web site well enough, with rating histories and other features consumers want, that’s our strategic leverage.”

This reminded me of Fred’s post about Splices of Life and virtual communities. What does Netflix offer? As far as I’m concerned, convenience. What do they think their business edge is? Community.

(Jello Biafra is chastising me for wanting convenience or death.)

I wonder if Netflix has done any user studies to find out what their users are actually using their site for? Me, I use it to add movies to & tweak the order of my queue, maybe watch a trailer, though usually I go to the IMDb for that. I pretty much always know what movie I want to add to my queue or pop to the top before I go to Netflix. For me, the appeal of Netflix is the thinness of the interface, not the hugeness of the community.

I was introduced a few weeks ago to the idea of an “aftermarket of the iPod economy,” which I think is kind of weird, but ignoring that for a moment, you’ll notice that Apple isn’t trying to create these services, they’re letting others do that (so far, at least). I wonder if it’s good strategy for Netflix to try to create this sort of value-add, or whether they should stick to a thin business model.

Is this the next boom, the post-tech boom? The service boom? Everyone wants to be in the service industry? Of course there’s still a need for actual products. So where will product providers draw the line between products and the services on top of them?