The Future of Media

Wait a minute! This doesn’t look like hockey!

I know, I know, I’m straying off topic again, but bear with me. Pretty please?

Well, fine, I’ll write anyway.

In the future, media will be virtually unrecognizable from what it is now, yet the progression, like footprints in the snow, will be clearly visible. As the man in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons said, we now measure progress in weeks. What used to take decades now takes a month or two, progress wise. Hey, media could be drastically different this time next year.

Since so much of media is driven, or financially backed, by advertising, media will go as ads do. Since ads are designed to cut through the clutter and address people as personally as possible (it’s the only way to get them to pay attention, with so much going on media-wise around them) they’re only going to get more omnipresent, and more targeted.

“Hey,” the commercial of the future might say to me, “are you a six-foot-tall, almost 200 pound, slightly muscular, hairy, bearded, white Canadian in his 20s with a scar on his right eye, a fondness for hockey, firearms and barbecued food, and a slightly unhealthy obsession with Jennifer Lawrence? Then do we have a product for you!”

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(Incidentally, if you do have a fondness for hockey, firearms and barbecued food, the product you’re looking for is the state of Minnesota. I’m afraid I can’t help you with the other thing.)

Advertising will also get more omnipresent. It must frustrate advertisers no end that they cannot physically come into our homes, but as Bill Watterson, venerable author of Calvin and Hobbes, once wrote, “I’m sure they’re working on this.”

Advertising can already practically follow us anywhere, but it’s getting better at disguising itself. Personally I think, in television at least, it’s headed down the Truman Show route: no commercials anymore, but very obvious product placements in the show itself, or sponsored content.

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Advertising is already making that shift in some mediums, namely print and online articles, but it seems to me it’s headed that way for TV and likely radio as well. (“Good morning, and welcome to the early show! I’m just sitting here in my La-Z Boy chair drinking my Tim Hortons coffee in my mug from Pottery Barn…”)

But What About Journalism? PR?

While journalism may not be quite as directly tied to advertising as media in general (it’s still pretty closely linked) it will mirror advertising in one thing: it is going to get more personal.

Of course that’s only at one end of the spectrum. Twitter already means I can get my hockey updates right at the moment they happen, just without much of a personal feel. I don’t know how long it takes TSN to prepare an entire segment on trade deadline day, but I do know it doesn’t take Bob McKenzie very long to fire out 140 characters or less on Dustin Byfuglien’s new contract. I know, I’m back to hockey again.

At the other end of the spectrum, what separates journalists from every goofball with a smartphone (i.e. everyone) is their ability to go further into a story. To come at a story from a more personal angle and tell it to a wide audience as it seemed to the people who lived it. Journalism’s future is not just in going shallower and shorter (i.e. soundbites, Tweets). Journalism of the future will require even more skill as both a writer and a photographer, and will need to go deeper.

PR will likely end up the same way. As the online worlds means it’s easier than ever to know all about your clients and their publics, PR will have to connect with them on an even more personal level.

That, I think, is the future of successful media. With all these short, impersonal images assaulting our eyes on any given day, eventually people are going to crave something a little less like a short, loud scream into their ear. To cut through the haze of information overload, the makers of media (I imagine them being like the Justice League, but with trendier outfits) are going to have to make people feel like the media was designed with them in mind.

So, in short, we’re going to see more media in more places, and it’s going to be subtler and more personally targeted. Journalism and PR will follow the model of new advertising, which will both financially back and set the stage for all media.

Of course it’s all a moot point because aliens are going to wipe out all of our technology in 2043 in a great intergalactic war, and then, after our ultimate victory, our media will go back to town criers and smoke signals. Book it.

 

 

 

 

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