Media Perspective: Out with the boring old digital gubbins and in with the new

Since this is my last column of the year, I thought I should do one of those look-back-at-the-year pieces columnists love so much. It's an easy way to squeeze a piece out: fire up the Google, review a few old articles and try to find a theme.

You know the kind of thing: "2008 - Year Of Change." Unfortunately, calendar years are seldom that neat theme-wise. Just like decades really: the 60s might have been swinging for the media, but my parents just busied themselves paying the mortgage and working out if Mac Fisheries was cheaper than Fine Fare. So I'm not going to try to slap a label on the year.

But, since I have got to write something, I thought I'd suggest that there's something of a change of direction going on in the "digital" world. And 2008 might be the inflection point.

It starts with a sense that digital thinking is thoroughly embedded in all the places it needs to be. It's not new news, it's just how things are. We have an incoming US President who's hiring a National chief technology officer and got elected in considerable part because of his digital savvy.

Certainly there are a lot of businesses, agencies and brands that are still floundering with this stuff. But no good ones. The only people left who aren't fully into it are too rubbish to survive or eccentric geniuses.

If your company decides that 2009 is the year to "really embrace digital", get the hell out of there. Which means that many of the people who started all these digital gubbins are well and truly bored with it. The joy for many of them was the pioneering, being out on their own, making up the rules.

Now that the rules are well known, it's all got a bit flat. The past few years have seen the digital pioneers eyeing up all sorts of new possibilities, 2008 has seen them dipping some toes and, I suspect, 2009 will see them making some bets and jumping some ships.

One place they'll be jumping will be the messy place where the digital meets the physical. Lots more toy-hacking. Lots more mucking around with home automation. Lots of getting objects to twitter. You won't be able to go to a meeting without someone saying RFID (and you'll get extra points if they pronounce it "arphid" and mention "The Internet of Things").

More and more people are getting excited about printing again and about the possibilities of paper. I think it's all going to be rather exciting. Like the days after the first dotcom bust when all bets were off and the really interesting web stuff got built. Only, this time, you might not need a screen to join in.


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