Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What will the future bring?

When I grew up, the newspaper, the hourly radio news and the 8pm TV news (in Germany) were my main source of information. Entertainment came from movies, some TV in the afternoon (there was no morning TV in Germany until 1987), a bit of radio, and mostly books.

Boy, have times changed:

I don't think most kids today even understand the idea of broadcast/network TV. Their broadcast TV is the DVR. My kid holds still for a photo no longer than a nanosceond until she rushes to the camera to say 'See'. She will never get the idea of waiting for a photo to be developed. And one day she will look at me and say: "What is a DVD?" Most have teenagers have never set a foot in a CD store.

The new generation expects to have everything available at a moments notice: News, Entertainment, Reference materials, even friends. Being off-the-grid is not an option. That also means that they are available 24/7 as well.

This will change our whole marketing environment. Campaigns will cease to exist at one point because brands have to be available all the time. The Google model won't work anymore because the underlying structure of its knowledge (the algorith that determines PageRank) is currently a commercial secret. The new generation won't accept this. The Wiki-approach will become more and more important than the top-down corporate approach that Google uses today, wrapped in a user-friendly exterior.
But beneath that wrap is the typical approach of GE, Ford or today's politics.
Users will ask for more democracy, for more openess.

Sites like FaceBook, YouTube or Digg claim to democratize content and media. But, in the end, they just destabilize the current system: Music industry, movie industry, TV, radio, politics.
Without sounding like an old fart, my main concern and real prediction for the future is that this new world reinforces a lack of opposing opinions. Why read varied opinions when you can get support for your views on blogs, niche sites and social networks? The world might be flat but our individual worlds becomes smaller and smaller because we don't allow other opinions and values to interfere in our subjective world.
Exploratory information seeking was the real value of newspapers. Reinforcing your own value system and limiting your information input to subjective interests is the real challenge coming generations will face.
Microsoft asks "Where do you want to go today?" We might not know in the future because we're so wrapped in our own little world.

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