Paul Saffo pumped people up even though he talked of a challenging future. Key takeaways: Look back to look forward. Embrace uncertainty. (Rough notes, not verbatim.)
Think this is an unsettling time for journalists? It’s actually just the beginning of a massive shift according to renowned Silicon Valley forecaster Paul Saffo, who will outline where we’ve been and, more importantly, where we’re going. Get ready to embrace the Personal Media Era, where Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and You Tube are just the warm-up act to vastly greater changes, as a long-anticipated media revolution arrives late and in utterly unexpected ways. But for all the maddening uncertainty and disruption, there will also be myriad new opportunities for journalists as new media empires – and new opportunities – emerge. Hear Saffo preview this unexpected new world, where gut instincts still have a big role and can take you places that data, metrics and analytics can’t.
Paul Saffo is a forecaster and essayist with over two decades of experience exploring long-term technological change and its practical impact on business and society. He teaches at Stanford University and is a Visiting Scholar in the Stanford Media X research network. He was the founding chairman of the Samsung Science Board and serves on a variety of other boards including the Long Now Foundation, the Singapore National Research Foundation Science Advisory Board, and the Pax Group. He has served as an advisor and Forum Fellow to the World Economic Forum since 1997. Saffo is a columnist for ABCNews.com, and his essays have appeared in numerous publications including The Harvard Business Review, Fortune, Wired, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, The New York Times, and the Washington Post. Saffo is a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, and holds degrees from Harvard College, Cambridge University and Stanford University. Introduction
"We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run." By Roy Amara, past president of The Institute for the Future.
I want to share with you some thoughts about the larger context of what is afoot. Right now pessimism is the new black. But it is a great time to be involved in the media. I will pull a couple of rules out of forecasting and apply them to media. I’ll also offer some
recommendations on the practical side where you can make a whole lot of money.
(Showed fake CNN slide “Hunt for Bin Laden... Experts agree: Al Qaeda leader is dead or alive”) This is the perfect forecast, but it is the type that puts us in Iraq or Afghanistan.
First Rule: When Change Clusters at the Extremes ... Pay Attention
This is the Doppler effect of opportunity. Whenever we go through a media change, the first thing that suffers is quality. But it comes back. Book stores close, but Amazon boom. Seattle P-I closes, Twitter booms.
The Information Revolution is over. When information becomes ubiquitous, we just call it media. The media shift is from mass to personal. The meaning has subtlety changed on “personal” and “media”.
If there is a god to worship in all this change, it would be Josephe A. Schumpeter (economist - http://transcriptions.english.ucsb.edu/archive/courses/liu/english25/materials/schumpeter.html) Came up with the phrase “creative destruction.” But no one has read him.
His three goals: To be best economist in the world, the best horseman in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; best lover in the world. On his deathbed he said he fail. “I was not the best horseman in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”
Technology is the solvent bleaching the glue out of the media business. News is not the organizing strategy for your future, media is.
Rule 2: Look back.
As Mark Twain said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. Look for the rhymes.
When TV started, they could not figure out how to make money. The answer given was “don’t worry, things will work out.”
At a convention at this hotel in 1988, the prediction was that CD ROM would be the future of books.
Rule 3: Change is never linear. It is an S curve
We don’t understand S curves, even though we live and die by the Mother of All S Curves – Moore’s Law. We are linear thinkers.
Reward for being a visionary is that you get to be wrong twice
Rule 4: Cherish Failure (especially if it someone else’s)
It was not important that Columbus was the first European to go to the New World, it is important that he was the first one who made it back.
Silicon Valley’s successes is paved with failures Were alternative reality programs in the 1980s that failed; then came Second Life. Second Life will fail to.
Rule 5: Look for successes in other areas
The indicators behind other things can apply. The iShoe could be publishing:
1980s Processing: Microcomputers
1990s Access: WWW
2000s Interaction: Sensors, publishing, etc
Reporters for breaking news will be replaced by robots. Right now preliminary earthquake reports are computer-generated saying “this has not been reviewed by a seismologist.”
Within 10 years the percentage of the Web that is looked at by real people will below 10 percent. Quip: Think how much nicer it would be when a robot is handing in the story.
Rule 6: Inversion
Television is going to the Web. Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog won an Emmy. Video is moving to the PC. Books are disappearing, but then came the Kindle. The Kindle is the 128K Mac of its generation. So far ebooks have been like Bacolite. We had this great new product and people tried to make it look like wood or tortoiseshell. Then they made it plastic.
What is the new Apple Tablet: Probably based on iPhone OS rather than Mac OS. I think it will lead to whole new media experiences.
Think of media today that don’t quite fit that have not taken off. Short stories are impossible to sell in paper – but may be great for mobile. There will be new media forms washing over us.
Mass Media vs. Personal media
TV - The Web
Living Room - Everywhere
Watch/consume - Participate/Create
Few & large - Many and small
We will see huge new companies, but they will be there by consolidating the small. There is a new economy emerging, and it is not the information economy.
Industrial Economy was typified by the timeclock.
Ford: You can have any color of Model T as long as it is black. He had tested the lacquers, black tried fastest and allowed for more efficient production.
Frederick Winslow Taylor, principles of scientific management. Find the most efficient way and make all workers do it. Got to the point after WWII where they realized that could make more consumer goods than the consumers could use. Went from an industrial economy to a consumer economy.
Consumer Economy: Symbol is credit card.
The ability to buy things even when you could not afford it. Power shifted from builder to power. It was an age of media. TV was central because they had to inflame desire. Vegomatic is a symbol of consumer society – you didn’t realize you desired it until Ron Popiel showed you.
Hawthorne Wire Works where the famous efficiency theory was tested became a shopping mall. Now even that mall is shabby and failing.
Economic model for media’s future.
Before YouTube he only way you got video on TV was via network. Before Wikipedia, only way could define your term was in a book.
The mother of all examples is Google. You guys thing Google is free but you pay through a search string. When search strings are aggregated, it is worth a fortune.
Google is bigger than Facebook, MySpace, Wikepedia, etc. They ask for less words. The companies that get big require less from the consumers.
One last piece of advice:
Rule 7: Embrace Uncertainty
Love it. No better time to be in media business, but look for lessons where ever you go. Seen on a tip jar: If you fear change, leave it in here.