Media X: The New Consumer Niche, Shiftless

I am digitally disabled. Unable to shift time. Forced, like an old-media sucker, to watch what they want me to watch when they want me to watch it.

And why? Because I hate my neighbors.

See, I got TiVo from the ex-wife as a birthday present. Freedom! I rip open the box, log onto and get ready to join the small-screen elite. All the wires are plugged in. The online subscription is done. The TiVo logo gleams on the screen -- but the system won't work. (And my laptop mysteriously isn't working all of a sudden, either.)

After waiting 15 minutes on the phone for TiVo tech support, I'm told I need new software that my brand new unit doesn't have. The damn thing is less than two weeks old, and already it's outdated.

Tech support says you can update over the phone. I try it. Nope. Another 15 minutes with the tech people. Apparently, the problem is my phone provider, Verizon, which has fiber optics. TiVo doesn't work with fiber optics. I'm told to "go to the neighbors, and use their phone. This happens all the time."



Except I hate my neighbors. All of them.

So I stay shiftless. The TiVo goes back. I cancel my online subscription. (And my laptop mysteriously starts working again.) I get an iHome instead. Which is sitting in its box, unopened, on my living-room floor. To hell with it, too.

Those of you who toil for tech companies, or spend your workdays in media-agency offices, or make a nice, upper-middle-class living conning others as a media pundit, you need to remember Marketing 101. You know, that old saw about how good advertising can't make up for a bad product?

This stuff is supposed to work, dudes.

You can buzz all you like about commercial ratings, whine with abandon about pre-rolls -- "Honey, I shrunk the commercial!" -- but if your digital whatever doesn't work, or is too difficult to figure out, you're toast, folks. (Go ahead and create a Second Life avatar and try to move around without flying into walls. Go ahead. Good luck.)

I wonder if my TiVo tale is a common one. And I wonder how many of the 70 million households in this country without cable or satellite television tried to get hooked up and also quit in disgust because that stuff didn't work, either.

Alienated isn't a good mood-state for engagement, is it?

As for me, I'm not committing another second to tech-enabled consumerism of any kind until all I have to do is place an order or press a button. Or until Google buys my house.

Whichever comes first.

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