By Michael J. Wolf and Geoffrey Sands
Issue Date: July/August 1999
Editor1s note: Predictions, like New Year1s resolutions, are often made but rarely come true. The future often unfolds differently than our best guesses. But prognostications do serve a useful purpose: They force us to take a hard look at what1s happening now and to try to figure out what it all means. Consumers of content may not be aware of the technological innovations and business trends reshaping the media, but these shifts will play a significant role in determining what kind of news and information we1ll get, how we1ll receive it, and whether its quality is any good.
Therefore, we asked Michael Wolf, author of The Entertainment Economy: How Mega-Media Forces Are Transforming Our Lives and the senior partner of the media and entertainment group at the Booz1Allen & Hamilton Inc. consulting firm, to gaze into his crystal ball at the future of news and information. Wolf, his partner Geoffrey Sands, and their colleagues, who have worked with the world1s top media companies, examined the media landscape of today using statistical research, as well as by quizzing professionals, college students, and high school students in three separate focus groups. After crunching the data, they1ve come up with what we think is a fascinating glimpse of the coming world of nonfiction.
Midway through the next decade, many of today1s most recognizable media companies will still be around, because we increasingly will rely on strong brands to help us choose our news and information providers. But don1t be surprised if they enter your home or office in unfamiliar ways, as you tune into Dateline NBC on your computer, or The New York Times on cable. When one of the high school students in our focus groups says that in the coming years "the main source of information for us1especially in college1would definitely be AOL [America Online]," it is both a prediction and a warning of how news as we know it will cease to exist. We1ll still spend most of our media-consuming time in front of the television, but the Internet is likely to become our main source of basic 1who, what, where, and when1 news and information. Radio will sound radically different than it does today. And electronic books will be a key part of the nation1s reading habits. To help make sense of how your media diet is going to change, we present eight predictions for the media world circa 2005.
PREDICTION ONE: A Few Major Conglomerates Will Dominate The Mass News Business, Each With TV, Print, And Web Outposts
PREDICTION TWO: Local News Stations Will Thrive, But Only If They Beef Up Coverage And Have Strong Online Off-Shoots
PREDICTION THREE: TV And The Web Will Finally Converge But In Unexpected Ways
PREDICTION FOUR: Newspapers Will Be An Endangered Species Unless They Embrace The Web And Ever-More Targeted Communities
PREDICTION FIVE: Half Of The Country's Book Purhases Will Be Made Online
PREDICTION SIX: The Number Of Magazines Will Grow Despite The Glut Of Media And The Rise Of The Web
PREDICTION SEVEN: The Current Music Radio Format Will Be Nearly Obsolete While News/Talk Channels Grow Stronger
PREDICTION EIGHT: The Lines Between Editorial And Advertising Will Blur More Than Ever