My favorite new TV drama this fall centers around a global incident in which every person on earth dropped into a state of unconsciousness for exactly 2 minutes and 17 seconds (think of it like a
world-wide sugar coma that would happen if everyone on earth ate a Cinnabon at exactly the same time). During that time, everyone mentally "flashed forward" to the exact same time, six months into the
future. The characters see a variety of different experiences ranging from joyful and serene to horrific and terrifying. Depending on what they saw in their flash-forward, they are all now on a
mission to either embrace the future or stop it from happening altogether.
That got me to thinking. What if we could all see six months into the future? Aside from a huge ratings spike that ABC
is hoping for with the season finale of "FlashForward," what else would I expect to see? More specifically, what would the online landscape look like in six months? Twitter will announce that profitability is just around the corner. As we read this week, Microsoft and Twitter have agreed to bring real-time tweets to Bing.
With the first revenue domino finally falling, Twitter will begin printing money 140 characters at a time. Ad networks will implode. After a continued decline in
advertising revenues and a constant barrage of negative commentary from fellow Online Publishing Insider columnist, Ari Rosenberg, the industry will finally collapse. (OK, I don't really see that
happening, but I am confident that Ari's been dreaming about this for years, so I thought I would indulge him.) The Wave will only have a ripple effect. As
amazing as the possibilities are with Google's revolutionary Wave, only a small percentage of social media addicts will dive in head-first -- ultimately, it will prove to be too complex for Joe the
Blogger. I will finally win my NCAA tournament bracket on ESPN.com. (A man can dream, can't he?) The line between
"online publishing" and "social media" will become nonexistent. The continued evolution of social media will eventually overtake traditional definitions of publishing as we know it, so when we talk of
"online media," the "social" part will automatically be implied. Yahoo establishes itself as the leader in... well, some things are just as unclear in the
future as they are in the present. While online video will continue to erode the broadcast television audience, the viewing public won't be willing to trade
in their satellite dishes for a Wi-Fi connection quite yet. (Check back in another six months to see if viewers under 21 recognize the Hulu brand more than any of the major networks -- that day is
coming) There will be a new player in the online space that we haven't heard of yet that will reinvent the way we think about
publishing/networking/communicating/shopping/advertising -- because that is happening on a regular basis already. I will be replaced as a regular
contributor for this column by Joe the Blogger. Ultimately, my editor will get grow weary of reading my pointless television and movie analogies and ask a college intern to provide some meaningful
insight for this MediaPost audience.
So, there's my flash-forward. If you could see six months into the future, what does this industry look like to you? (Don't forget to bookmark this
column and check back again in April, 2010 to see if my Carnac-like abilities proved true -- all except me winning my NCAA hoops bracket, because that's just crazy talk.)