Media: A Moment with Marquis

I'm not falling for this "Predictions for 2006" thing. Will Channel 4 merge with The People's Friend? Will Walker Media take over WPP? Will Garry Lace? Now there's a question.

Things seldom turn out as you think. Correction: they never turn out as you think, so what are predictions other than playground showing-off?

To be fair, no-one ever bothers to check whether or not they come true, so the forecasters are on pretty safe ground. Life moves on, we don't much care.

Nonetheless, I can't help feeling cheerful, in a non-specific sort of way, about 2006. For a start, it would have to be totally appalling to be worse than 2005 with its bumper crop of horrors. The stock market is going through the roof, now barely 1,000 points off the all-time peak.

Personal debt is decreasing for the first time in years, while new mortgages are at a record high, meaning the property market still hasn't gone droopy.

The shops were packed with free-spenders the moment the Christmas turkey had cooled, so retail isn't dead either.

There's a World Cup in June. That tends to juice things up a bit in adland and, most encouraging, the media are talking down their prospects for the year, which generally guarantees something of a boom. And we have got a party leadership contest to amuse us - even if it is only the Lib Dems.

Apart from all that, how will the big media picture develop in 2006?

Being careful not to fall into the trap of precision forecasting, I think this will be the year of convergence. We will see the much-vaunted coming-together of media technologies in real and meaningful ways. There are plenty of clues: ITV has bought Friends Reunited; Google is to plunge into Hollywood; Associated to bail out of regional newspapers. The tectonic plates of media are shifting. I don't think any of us knows exactly how this will pan out but it is principally about leverage, isn't it? It's about multiplatform ownership of content and connections with people.

So here's one challenge for the New Year. Spring sees the launch of the Sony Reader, a paperback-sized electronic device that can store hundreds of books. Its display screen looks like paper and the pages are "turned" at the touch of a button. The death of print? Absolutely not. But another route to market? Probably. Another link in the digital chain? Yes. Who will be first to exploit it?

Search me, guv. I'm only a columnist. Have a good one.


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