The “Future of Media” – Part 1, On Predicting

all — the air is changing, the leaves are browning and lighthearted summer follies retreat into sun-drenched memories. In many cultures and realms, this time of year is marked by repeat beginnings, such as a classroom and fresh notebooks, or thickening fabrics set in glossy magazine finish. It’s a time when it’s dark outside at happy hour, when reason and rules reconquer lost territory and plans emerge along a grid of self-awareness.

It’s time to get down to business.

So it is within this context that over the last two months during AdWeek and InternetWeek and all that jazz, events, conferences, articles and talks titled “The Future of Media” sprouted in my email inbox and frequented blogs. At first, the obsession with charting media’s course was amusing, an implicit commentary on a human desire to know the path ahead. Perhaps the topic is a broken record that resets itself each fall, since media has been changing as long as it existed.

However, after I became aware of the 10th or so large event being planned under the auspices of “the future of media,” it become increasingly clear that yes, while media has always changed, the pace of change has never been this speed-fire. One hypothesis as to why: Media is now fully “digital” in its nature, and as a technology, the pace of change quickens and the path of change is increasingly unpredictable. (Note: For those not in the industry, media becoming “digital” is not to be  taken lightly. Radio, TV, “print,” games and other forms of communication / art have been digitized, which by one definition means that it can be transferred seamlessly across platforms and devices (i.e, watch TV on my computer or listen to the radio via an iPod). By another definition, it means that all media is now customized, curated and social. The rules of engagement have fundamentally changed. It is now redundant to say “digital media,” when only a couple of years ago, “digital” was a bad word by some standards…I predict that the same redundancy will emerge for “social media,” but enough digressions…). Now that all media is digital, or at least digitized, our fascination with predicting the future of media comes from a much more insecure place. Now, business models are put at risk on a daily basis, and the cost of creative destruction extremely high. I often wonder whether a media company or a NY restaurant has a longer average shelf-life.

I would posit that the fuss over the future of media has nothing to do with media. It has to do with how we think marketing, media’s sugar daddy, will emerge from its mid-life crisis. How will advertising models shift? Will consumers be willing to pay for content anymore? How can we successfully say something meaningful despite all this noise? And in light of all these changes, how will we continue to survive as a business?

To an industry that has a high affinity for nomenclature and a penchant for labels, let’s get real and have a conversion about the future of marketing. Media is not going anywhere, we’d get too bored without it.

 

"Mom, can you bring my iPad over when you get a chance? Oh and maybe the HDMI cable while you're up?"

 

This is part of a two-part series on the “Future of Media.” Next, I will share some of my own predictions, because even as a naysayer, it’s fun and everyone loves to say they were the first one to predict the economic crisis, or the rise of Lady Gaga.

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