Ripplewood

Time Life: The last digital holdout

September 27, 2010: 3:18 PM ET

Get your box set via P.O. Box! With dusty product offerings, outdated formats, and an aging demographic, the privately-owned company has nowhere to go but the selling block.

If you're up at night channel-surfing around the tube, you'll still see them: half-hour infomercials of softly-lit couples, hand-in-hand, running on the beach, or peppy teens in varsity jackets pulling into a drive-in, peddling 10-disc compilations like "Malt Shop Memories," "Flower Power," or "Ultimate Love Songs."

In an age where retail businesses live or die depending on how they adapt to digital media, Time Life remains a precious anomaly. The purveyor of nostalgic merchandise, sold by Fortune parent company Time Inc., to private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings and ZelnickMedia, an investor group, in 2003, continues to market and sell collections of vintage media in dying formats. While it does have a Facebook presence, Twitter stream, website, and blog, the company has yet to plant both feet in the 21st century.

Care for that Patsy Cline box collection in your iTunes? Too bad. There are no digital downloads -- only CD and DVD sets sent via snail mail. There are no alternative methods of payment like BillMeLater or even PayPal, either -- just credit cards. It's as if all the technological advancements of the past decade never happened. More

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