EPIC 2014(5)

In late 2005 a colleague showed a flash video that had popped up online. Called “EPIC 2015,” the piece was a bit of predictive theater by Matt Thompson and Robin Sloan (working for Poynter Institute at the time) about how information technology would evolve. What caught our attention was the opening statement:

In the year 2014 people have access to a breadth and depth of information unimaginable in an earlier age.

Everyone contributes in some way.

Everyone participates to create a living, breathing mediascape. However, the Press, as you know it, has ceased to exist. The Fourth Estate’s fortunes have waned. 20th Century news organizations are an after-thought, a lonely remnant of a not too distant past.

The video (made in 2004) is amazing and, for those under age 55 in the newspaper business, rather frightening. The newspaper I was at then was in the process of focused self-examination. So my colleague and a few of us started passing around the link for the video. It wasn’t that we bought it chapter and verse, it was — at least for me — that its concepts resonated with my vague ideas of the online future. Most salient was the description of Google’s algorithms searching stories and then linking them to readers based on what people post and consume in cyberspace. To me it seemed a logical destination from how newspaper reading was transitioning to internet news consumption.

So we showed to some in the newsroom. Can you guess the reaction? A lot of people got angry — at us. The boss told us to stop showing the video, sending its link or even discussing it with co-workers. We were not being constructive, we were told. We were not part of the solution. We were the problem.

Here we are a little more than three years later. The concept of tailored news seems ever more prescient. The idea of newspapers ceasing to publish — at least in print — ever more likely. A few US papers have already pulled the plug on their presses. The vaunted NY Times has reported massive revenue declines, initiated layoffs and has a stagnating online audience — and they are better off than many others. “Epic’s” prediction of the gray lady becoming a “newsletter for the elite and elderly” seems a snarky backhand — in the NTDF (not too distant future) this bastion of mass media journalism can’t compete online.

At the paper where I helped circulate “Epic 2015,” change has only just begun. It took a epoch in internet years for it to move from thinking about change to actually attempting to change, but hey it took a long time to turn the Titanic, too.

They sort of hint at that in the little film, as well:

“In 2011, the slumbering Fourth Estate awakes to make its first and final stand,” the narrator says. Three years later “the press as we know it no longer exists.”

I wonder what would have happened to the Titanic if, when the lookout shouted “iceberg ahead,” the captain had responded with an angry: “Shut up, you’re scaring the passengers.”

Wait a minute, we do know what happened.

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2 Responses to “EPIC 2014(5)”

  1. July 3, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Robin Sloan, who made Epic later went on to be CIO at Current.tv, the ‘user generated’ site founded by Al Gore. He was remarkably prescient. The only thing he left out of the projection was video… but here we are now. Googlezon.. no, Google/youtube… apparently.

  2. 2 blackblueandredallover
    July 3, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I have to laugh at the comments left by some who have watched Epic as if its makers were trying to make investing predictions. What they got mostly right was the direction the internet was driving content, as well as its producers and consumers (very fuzzy line between the two).

    Thanks for stopping by.

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