ANALYSIS: NEWS ANALYSIS - Media wakes up to new dawn of digital fridges and e-papers/Mark Tungate twiddles the knobs on his time machine and delves into the future

’Happy new century!’ cries a pal as our hero sets off in the film version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, which you may have caught on telly over the break. Wells had many interesting ideas about what the future might hold. One thing he didn’t predict, however, was the intelligent fridge.

’Happy new century!’ cries a pal as our hero sets off in the film

version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, which you may have caught on

telly over the break. Wells had many interesting ideas about what the

future might hold. One thing he didn’t predict, however, was the

intelligent fridge.



That particular idea is mooted by Roger Green, managing director of Emap

Online, although admittedly with tongue in cheek. However, he does

believe the media of the future will be accessible through all sorts of

unlikely channels.



’Why shouldn’t we see microwave ovens offering recipes, or fridges

giving cooking instructions? After all, we’re already seeing phone

companies trying to be media owners,’ he says.



On a more serious note, most observers agree that electronic media will

become even more mobile, with wireless application protocol (WAP)

equipped phones leading the way. Indeed, Green comments: ’Anybody who

has teenage kids will have noticed that they already regard mobiles as

text as well as audio tools.’



Peter Wilson, sales manager of online media sales agency TSMSi,

agrees.



’In ten years’ time, laptops will seem very cumbersome.’



Rob Lewis, chief executive of net TV operation Silicon.com, believes the

challenge for media owners is to adapt content to an increasing number

of platforms. ’We will have to make content accessible by phone, via

games consoles, over the web in the home and the web in the office.’



The growing sophistication of mobile technology will also affect the

future of interactive TV. Lewis explains: ’If you can access the web via

your mobile, or your PC at work, you may no longer feel inclined to do

it through your PC at home - especially when you can use your TV remote

instead. The scrapping of analogue services will have a huge

impact.’



So where does all this leave print? Green claims teenagers are already

’entirely uninterested’ in newspapers, although magazines can still hold

their attention. ’In ten years’ time, newspapers will have become even

more devoted to gossip and entertainment, rather than news or analysis,

which will be available through electronic sources.’



But this is not the old ’print is dead’ argument. Indeed, Green believes

that cheaper printing techniques will lead to more targeted

magazines.



’Technology will make shorter print runs more cost-effective, so we

could see the advent of personalised publications.’



Some believe wafer-thin ’electronic paper’ isn’t far off, providing an

interactive package as portable as a book or magazine. However, as

Wilson observes: ’You have to make sure these things can be read in

various light conditions. Then there are the health issues. I personally

would not want to read a 40-page e-mail.’



Instead, audio books could become more popular - with ad slots between

’chapters’, similar to old-fashioned radio serials. Once again, it’s

back to the future.



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