Thursday 20 April 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 20/4/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

Hitting eject

Before Netflix announced that it would discontinue its DVD-rental service earlier this week, many of its customers might not have known that it was how the company began in 1997. The demise of that side of the business might not elicit the same reaction as the closure of the last Blockbuster video-rental shop but it’s still a significant moment for some.

Admittedly, the decision makes business sense. The DVD-by-post operation reportedly made up about 0.4 per cent of Netflix’s revenues last year. Even at its 2010 peak, the DVD-subscription service reached “only” 20 million customers, a fraction of the company’s 232 million users today. At a time when the streaming behemoth is having to devise novel strategies to end a lull in new customer sign-ups – including cracking down on password sharing, introducing a cheaper, ad-supported plan, trying out live broadcasting and expanding into new markets – it’s only natural to shed what is not essential.

So is the death of the DVD imminent? I’m not so sure. While waiting days for a disc to be delivered to your letter box might seem anachronistic, there are still advantages to having films in a physical format. Among them is a sense of commitment: you’re less likely to bail on a title that you have specifically bought (and sits on your coffee table, reminding you of its existence).

Then there’s choice. Multiplying streaming services, all vying for rights to different titles, means ballooning subscription bills. Two years ago I reported on a DVD-rental service called Cinema Paradiso. Though it’s a niche player, it has a 100,000-strong film catalogue – bigger than those of Netflix or Amazon Prime. Perhaps, like Giuseppe Tornatore’s film of the same name, this company will end up being an elegy to the magic of old-school movie-watching. For Netflix, though, the future isn’t about nostalgia.

Chiara Rimella is Monocle’s executive editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Reuters

Politics / Brazil

Oceans apart

Brazil’s president, Luis Inácio “Lula” da Silva (pictured), will visit Portugal tomorrow for his first official visit to the country since his election last year. Lula’s trip comes days after he received widespread criticism for his comments on the US’s role in the war in Ukraine. In Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the president said that Washington needed to “stop encouraging the war” by supplying arms to Kyiv. The following day, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, was in Brasília for a meeting with his Brazilian counterpart. Lula has fostered good relations with both Russia and China in the past and claims to want his country to remain neutral in the conflict. While his Portugal trip, which will include celebrations of the country’s Freedom Day on 25 April, represents a reset of relations between Lisbon and Brasília after the fraught years of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, this week’s comments demonstrate that the two countries still have divergent views on one of the world’s most pressing issues.

Business / Finland

Soldiering on

This week, Kauhava (pictured), 400km northwest of Helsinki, became the first Finnish town to declare a bid to host a Nato base. It won’t be the last. The arrival of troops could be a game-changer for many Finns, particularly in poorer parts of the country close to the Russian border.

While security dominated the public debate when Finland applied for membership of the military alliance, parts of the Nordic nation are now eyeing up its economic benefits. Its membership could make the country seem more attractive and less risky for international investors, for example, and there will also be new opportunities for the country’s defence-technology companies to sell their products to other member states. Property prices are also expected to surge in border regions as a result of an uptick in infrastructure, though this might not extend to house prices. Just 18 months ago, Helsinki was determined to stay out of the military alliance. Today many are warming to the idea that it’s a good deal on several fronts.

Image: Reuters

Food / Japan

Shell shock

The global outbreak of avian flu has hit Japan’s food industry particularly hard: 17 million hens have been culled and eggs are now in short supply. Wholesale prices have increased by about 70 per cent compared to last year and restaurants are dropping egg dishes: McDonald’s has had to ditch its popular egg-and-teriyaki Teritama burger, while burger-steak chain Bikkuri-Donkey has said sayonara to its fried egg on toast.

Meanwhile, French-style café chain Aux Bacchanales recently announced that the cost of its fluffy omelettes would be rising. But there is an upside for some manufacturers. While the price of Kewpie mayonnaise, a staple of Japanese homes, has rocketed, the maker is experiencing a surge in sales for its plant-based egg substitute, Hobotama, which is made from soya milk and almond powder. Hobotama’s faux-scrambled eggs might look like the real thing but we’re happy to wait for egg prices to normalise.

Design / Italy

Made to last

This week, Monocle is hosting a series of talks with leading Swiss appliances firm V-Zug at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli for Milan Design Week. We have been discussing how to build a better, more beautiful and more environmentally friendly world. At yesterday’s event, Swedish architect and CEO of White Arkitektur, Alexandra Hagen (third, second from left), shared some of her ideas for making sustainability more than a buzzword. Here are some highlights.

Is it difficult to push for sustainability when clients dig their heels in?
Yes. But there is money to be made from being sustainable. When we repurpose a building rather than knocking it down, for instance, we’re able to cut the cost in half and clients love that.

Will buildings become less beautiful because of environmental compromises?
Beauty is a crucial part of sustainability because only buildings that people love and cherish will keep being used. When 150 years have passed, everything that is ugly and that people don’t love will be torn down.

How do we keep sustainability from merely becoming a buzzword?
You need to specify what you are doing. For example, “We’re adding these plants in this park because it adds to its biodiversity and prevents flooding.” On its own, the word “sustainability” tells us nothing.

For the latest updates and insights from Salone del Mobile, tune in to Monocle Radio or pick up a copy of our ‘Salone del Mobile Special’ newspaper, which is available at The Monocle Shop and select newsstands now.

Monocle Radio / The Chiefs

Michael Peter

The CEO of Siemens Mobility joins Monocle’s editorial director, Tyler Brûlé, to discuss our changing relationship with rail travel and the future of the urban commuter.

Monocle Films / Global

Meet the photographers: Rena Effendi

In our latest film series, we meet and celebrate some of the people behind our iconic photography reportage. In our first episode Istanbul-based photographer Rena Effendi (pictured) talks about her process, why she shoots on film and her assignment to Libya in 2021. She had never been to Tripoli before but was soon won over and captured a mesmerising mix of full-blown glamour, oddness and a perhaps unexpected order and calmness. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.


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