Bed, bog, bath and calculators

Stevie Spring insisted that magazines would  always have a place because they had a ‘bed, bog, bath’ element in a Times interview just after she had taken over as Future boss.

It was a good line then and it’s a good one now. Peter Preston has looked at such things from a newspaper point of view in Today’s Observer. He considers the pros and cons of ‘paperless’ newspapers (isn’t there one too many papers in that phrase?)  but points out that there is no concensus in the industry on the way to go. The weakest papers – Independent, Expresses – who you might think would want to make the jump, have made the weakest investment in the digital media. It will take a newcomer without print baggage to shift things.

Media Week did its feature ‘10 reasons why magazines have a great future’ a couple of weeks ago.

But remember the 2000 campaign Microsoft ran in US magazines such as Brill’s Content for its e-book reader? (What’s an e-book reader? I hear you cry.) It ran:

‘2005: The sales of e-book titles, e-magazines and e-newspapers top $1 billion’; and

‘2020 Ninety per cent of all titles are now sold in electronic as well as paper form. Websters [US dictionary] alters its first definition of the word ‘book’ to refer to e-book titles read on screen.’

(Can’t give you a web link for this because it has, strangely, disappeared from Microsoft’s website.)

The thing about forecasting change is that some unseen technology comes along (or in the case of the e-book reader fails to come along very well) to mess it all up and make the forecasts look ridiculous.

Another good example was Gerry Anderson’s UFO from 1970. This had aliens invading earth met by a secret defence force with bases on the moon, submarines shooting interceptor aircraft into the air and artificially-intelligent satellites. There were wireless phones and everyone had a strange object attached to their belts.  What were these things? Slide-rules – the inventor of Thunderbirds had never thought of calculators!

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