Friday, January 14, 2011...4:08 pm

Making predictions is hard – especially about the future of media

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For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a curious item – an alarmist video about the future of media (in 2014) made (or at least uploaded to YouTube) in the far-off days of 2007.

The general thrust is familiar – software-driven news aggregation and user-generated content have combined to drive “the press as you know it” to extinction. But let’s have a look at what’s wrong.

  1. Facebook
    Yes, the video does mention social networking (in the form of relatively small and largely Asian network Friendster), but the world’s current most popular web site doesn’t get a mention at all. That’s not to say it will dominate the media in 2014. But it shows you can’t really predict who will dominate, or why.
  2. GoogleZon
    Yes, the defining event is the 2008 merger of Google and Amazon. A few years ago, search and recommendation-based e-commerce looked like a good bet for web domination. Now? Well – the pundits are talking about Facebook becoming the “de facto identity platform for the internet”. Google? Google “doesn’t get social”, it seems, just like Microsoft didn’t “get” the internet until the mid-90s. What, in three short years’ time, won’t Facebook “get”?
  3. Supreme Court protection
    2010 sees Google create an algorithm that writes news stories automatically from facts available on the web – “the computer writes a news story for every user” . The New York Times sues GoogleZon for copyright infringement and in 2010 the Supreme Court finds in favour of GoogleZon. Really? Western governments and their agencies are falling over themselves to protect vested print publishing interests. They will probably fail, but not by ruling in favour of vast media disruption.

Will this vision match up to reality? Like all such short-horizon predictions, there is truth here, but the real value of such crystal ball-gazing is underlining just how much we can’t know about the future.

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