In 1981, this report from local San Francisco tv station KRON was released about a ‘new’ technology the San Francisco Examiner was employing to digitize their print newspaper copy and transmit it across the country via dial-up internet so for example a man in Columbus, Ohio could view that day’s stories right on his home computer.

“We’re not in it to make money, we’re probably not going to lose a lot but we aren’t going to make much either,” David Cole of S.F. Examiner said in the spot and I think that might be the most relevant bit of insight to gleam from this package. It’s very interesting to me that he said they didn’t originally start transitioning online with the intention of making more money and even more interesting that he accurately summed up what so many traditional news organizations have only become wise to in recent years – moving online is not a profit-gaining endeavor (although he rather comically predicted that it wouldn’t cost them very much either). At any rate, while the technology shown in the video was clearly dated, the prediction given towards the end of the video was quite appropriate for today:

Engineers now predict the day will come when we get all our newspapers and magazines by home computer (but that’s a few years off).

It seemed that even in 1981, when dial-up was the reigning mode of internet and not even that largely in circulation, traditional news organizations were already envisioning a time when people would rely solely on computers for newspaper reading.

This transitions perfectly into the second video, “The Tablet,” which similarly predicts the very same outcome (though by different means – a portable device versus a home computer):

Fast forward 13 years later and instead of the traditional monitor computer, tablets are the vision of the future – and a very accurate vision at that. This video envisions there will be a day when newspapers will not only all become digital, but be available on portable devices readers can take with them to read their news just about anywhere. They also partially predicted the current interactive nature and virtually unlimited access of these digital papers, though they assumed it would be through ‘electronic cards’ and not internet capability.

We believe that newspapers in fact can evolve into a new form of media that blends the old familiar aspects of a newspaper with the new technologies that are emerging.”

This point struck me as particularly interesting, because this group was novel in their belief that instead of just folding up and calling it quits, print papers would just change their techniques and incorporate new media into its historically reliable product (well researched articles reporting on the city, nation and world news).

And then we come to “EPIC 2015,” perhaps the most dismal of all three videos in terms of its predictions for the future of print journalism.

Instead of seeing technology as a way to forward the traditional newspapers like the New York Times, this team believed the internet and in particular social media would cause the death of such time honored outlets as the Times. While this is clearly not the case and at least for the foreseeable future will not be the case (as long as most people still demand high quality journalism from trusted sources), the report was pretty spot on for many other things, such as personalized news content, paid online subscriptions for big newspapers, everyday people posting news through the power of social media and blogs (i.e. citizen journalism) and even wifi connected iPods.

It’s interesting to see the progression of these three views for the future of print media, from online newspapers, to portable digital papers, to the most extreme interconnected media system blending all aspects of life into one platform (Google). While none of these views ever fully came to fruition, it seems obvious that in each instance they understood that technology and the internet would effectively revolutionize how we got our daily news and how we would interact with that content.


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