Media Perspective: Instead of looking for predictions, see what's going on now

By Russell Davies, russell@russelldavies.com, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 11 June 2010 12:00AM

There is a renowned thinktank called The Institute For The Future. It's made up of very smart people.

Often right about the future and wise enough to know what's predictable and what isn't. Whenever I used to do pontificating at clients or agencies, theirs would be the model I'd try to follow. But it became pretty clear, pretty quickly that talking about the future changes nothing. If it hasn't happened yet, however important and inevitable it might seem, people feel very free to ignore it.

Which is why I registered www.instituteforthefuture.com as a domain name, even though I haven't worked out what to do with it. And it's why, when I talk to people these days, I try to discuss things that are actually happening right now and get people to think about the implications of those.

My favourite recent examples: there's a service called Festival Genius - it helps movie festivals schedule events. According to it, there were more than 50,000 separate films made and submitted to US festivals last year. Fifty thousand films! Think of that. Even if most of them are rubbish, that's at least 200,000 people who've been intimately involved in making their own film. That's a lot of media literacy. And it's a handy statistic for your next argument about how consumers will get all the subtle in-jokes in your commercial.

Tesco's latest venture is producing its own movies, based on books by bestselling authors such as Jackie Collins. Indeed, Ms Collins has produced a script exclusively for them - and you won't be able to buy the resulting DVD anywhere other than Tesco. You can use that in your next presentation about the overturning of traditional distribution channels and the power of retail.

Or - if you want something about the way people are using ubiquitous media tools such as Facebook to organise live events and bypass (or reach) traditional media powerbrokers - you should look on Facebook for something called "A Man Walks Into A Bar".

It's an evening in a pub where comedy writers put on readings of their latest sitcoms or plays - trying to get themselves some audience, some publicity and some reaction. Certainly, it would have been possible before social media and similar things were done, but it's a lot easier now. And while a few fans on Facebook won't get you a BBC commission, it does let you nudge the power structures a bit.

And, of course, we've got one of the biggest, most significant experiments in future media starting any minute, as The Times starts to erect its pay-wall and all the other papers toy with alternative options.

So thinking about it, I can understand why no-one is willing to do anything about the future - the present is unpredictable enough.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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