Looking Back To See The Future


I started cleaning out one of my filing cabinets over the weekend – something that I’ve been putting-off for a while. One of the main reasons I dread the purge so much is because I rarely finish efficiently…I’m always distracted by something I find in an old file. This weekend was no different. Following the chuckle and the “oh wow” moment, I slumped into my office chair and began to read about the future through the eyes of a 10-year-old article.

Gavin magazine (remember Gavin?) – February 19, 1999. Author: Tony Sanders (Nice work Tony). The title of the piece was The Shape of Things to Come – A Future Eye’s View of music and radio in the new Millennium.

One of my favorite glimpses into the future was from Ray Kurzweil – author, futurist, and creator of the Kurzweil Synthesizer. Ray looked 10-years out (2009) and saw a world where “human musicians routinely jam with cybernetic musicians”.

Cybernetic? Really? (Pause and allow yourself a moment of laughter).

In all seriousness though, the article did touch upon some very interesting forecasts – including the surge of independent record labels, digital downloading as “the next big thing” for the music industry and how radio would still maintain its place in the music discovery chain.

One of the “oh wow” moments for me came when I was reading about how broadband internet access in U.S. households would surpass 13% by 2002! When I think of my 12-year old son and his buddy huddled around a laptop watching March Madness via the web this past Spring… it’s hard to imagine a time when broadband wasn’t readily available. Which got me to thinking: as a radio guy – if you could go back to February 19, 1999 – knowing what you know today, what (if anything) would you have done differently?

(I predict that Ray would have avoided the word “Cybernetic”).

Beyond “buying Google stock, reserving the domain name ‘Facebook.com’, and filing a patent for mighty-putty” what would you have done differently? How would you have explored the web differently as it relates to your business model? Would you have been more aggressive, more selective, more accepting, less dismissive?

In a different article from present day (2009) I was reading how the U.S. is 28th in the world when it comes to broadband connection speed (5Mbps). South Korea is number one at 20.4Mbps. How much faster is South Korea’s connection than the U.S.? Well, the example used in the article demonstrated that if you were to download a high-quality, full length digital movie over the average U.S. connection speed it would take you 2.5 hours from start to finish. In South Korea – it would take you 12-minutes!

Welcome back to 1999.

The report on World Internet Speeds suggests at the current rate of increase in broadband speed it will take the U.S. about 15-years just to catch up to South Korea.

You are now Tony Sanders writing an article about 2019. What will the future look like? How will the Mbps increase change the way consumers behave? What will the increased speed mean in terms of how consumers interact online?

The beauty of likes of iTunes, Google, YouTube and more – was that they didn’t pour their foundation to meet the opportunities of the present day… they built their infrastructure for what the future would hold. The pitched their tent on reasonable projections and predictions… and allowed the market (and advancements in technology) to grow into their model. In short – they acted on a hunch… a gut feeling… a best-guess.

How will radio look in 10-years? You’re armed with knowledge that broadband speed will increase, and it’s pretty safe to bet that 2019 is going to be a lot faster than 2009. What framework are you laying today to allow the market (and advancements in technology) to grow into your existing model? It might be a good time to start planning – because the future will be today sooner than you think.

Rest assured… if I’m fortunate enough to be kickin’ around in 2019 I’ll probably be in my office, taking a break from cleaning out my filing cabinet… sitting in a chair reading an article from 2009 saying to myself: “Wow! Broadband was really THAT SLOW!?”

Chuck Francis, VP New Media Strategies – Remerge Media

About Remerge Media:
Remerge Media is a multi-media consulting firm, specializing in new media integration and simultaneous media solutions. Remerge works with radio (as well as other legacy media) clients to help them understand, integrate and generate revenue from new media through custom sales solutions, and providing traditional media sales personnel with highly specialized training. Remerge solutions provide a high rate of return on investment (ROI) for our traditional media clients, as well as their advertising clients. The company is based in Columbus, Ohio. More information about Remerge can be found online at RemergeMedia.com.