The Future of News – Where will it go?

The reason this blog currently exists is because of a class. And to the ends of fulfilling the requirements of this class, I’ll sometimes be talking about some random topics. Bear with me.

The future of journalism is totally distinct from the future of newspapers in my view. And though it may seem like today’s newspapers were caught completely by surprise by technological changes that rendered their historical business models obsolete, people were sensing a major shift coming for decades really. In 1981, there was a newscast in San Francisco broadcast on TV that essentially predicted that in the future, digital newspaper sales would dominate how people consumed the news. It sort of scoffed at the technology available then, but the people interviewed were all newspeople, and they were excited at the prospects a digital future might bring.

Of course, people weren’t terribly adept at reading the future back in 1981, but some people could see some of the potential of digital distribution. By 1994, a second relevant video was created and distributed that highlighted how technology being developed at the Knight-Ridder information and design labs were going to carry modern newspapers into the digital age. Everyone would be making boatloads of money and the end product for the consumer would be a futuristic paper-reading device that honestly resembles today’s iPad very much.

The future that Knight-Ridder labs were predicting didn’t happen, but some of the technology available today looks similar to what they were imagining a couple decades ago.

Fast-forward to 2005, predictions on the future of news had become a bit more dire. People were observing the fall of modern newspapers, and in this video, predicts technological innovations that will further render newspapers a thing more relevant to the past than the present. According to the makers of this video, tech companies will be by far the most important distributors of information and news in the future. The New York Times in their view would become an obsolete version of itself only read by the old.

Now today’s reality doesn’t exactly match any of these predictions, but it’s interesting how people became less optimistic about how important newspaper companies will be as time passed. In my view, the 2005 video was maybe a little pessimistic about how any news organization could transition to a digitized age, but they essentially predicted the rise of a tech-based company (which today is something like Facebook) that plays among the largest part in distributing news content. That in itself is impressive.

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