By Kevin Meyer
Baekdal has a fascinating article, complete with some fantastic illustrative graphics, showing how our sources of information and news have changed over the past couple centuries… and how they will continue to evolve. Below is just the overall summary graphic, shrunk considerably, so visit the original site to really dive into it in detail.
You'll note that the time scale is a bit skewed, but just because so much change has happened so recently. The article goes into considerable detail of the changes occurring during each time frame, but I'd like to summarize the most important ones here.
was to go out and meet them. It was all about face-to-face
communication. If you wanted to sell a product, you would go to the
local marketplace, where you would setup a stand. But this also meant
that the only way for you to get information – or to give information
back – was to be at the right place at the right time. You didn't
really know what happened in another part of the city.
Moving on into the long era of newspapers.
communicated. Now we could get news from places we have never been. We
could communicate our ideas to people we had never seen. And we could
sell our products to people far away.
That was truly a revolution… until the radio changed the game.
During the next 60 years the newspapers dominated our lives.
attract people's attention – the Radio. Suddenly you could listen to
another person's voice 100 of miles away. But most importantly, you
could get the latest information LIVE.
It was another tremendous evolution is the history of information.
Moving on to…
During the next 40 years a new technical revolution, the television,
was introduced. It started to real get public interest in the 1950s,
and by the year 1990 it was huge. It had surpassed the newspapers and
magazines, and it was slowly obliterating the radio. Now people could
not only hear information, they could also see it.
The 1970s-1990s was also the time where the newspaper executives
were realizing that something was going terrible wrong with their
Information, fast, immediate, and visual. What's next?
1998 was the year when the internet changed from being a geeky place
that had little relevance, to ‘every company needs to have a website'. It was a place where everyone could get information from
everywhere – at least in theory. People also started to realize that the internet was more than just
information. You could give something back. You could join the
conversation. You could be a part of the experience instead of just a
Notice anything? The velocity of information evolution is accelerating… rapidly.
In 2004, only 6 years later, the internet had revolutionized how we
For the first time in our lives we were being exposed to more
information than we could consume. In the age of newspapers we had to
choose what we wanted to see. But in 2004 we had to choose what we
didn't want to see. This had a devastating effect on the traditional forms of
2004 was also year when a new phenomenon started to take off –
Social Networking. The concept had been slowly gaining ground with the
concept of blogs. It was an easy, simple and affordable way for
everyone to share their ideas. And you could post a comment. For the
first time, everyone could create their own sphere of information
without doing ‘technical things'.
We've gone from centuries to decades to a few years… and now significant change is happening in the span of months. Perhaps in the future we'll look back on this and see each change as just a smaller step in the larger electronic/online information revolution, but each change is still nearly as dramatic as the change from newspapers to radio.
2007 was also the turning point for the traditional websites. It was
once the most important change, but now people compared the traditional
websites to newspapers – a static and passive form of information. We
wanted active information. We wanted to be a part of it, not just
looking at it.
The blogs also started to get in trouble. Just as TV had eliminated
radio (because it was better and richer way to give people LIVE
information) so are social networks eliminating blogs. A social profile
is a more active way for people to share what they care about.
And where are we today?
The new internet is completely dominating our world. The newspapers
are dead in the water, and people are watching less TV than ever. The
new king of information is everyone, using social networking tools to
connect and communicate.
Even the traditional website is dying from the relentless force of
the constant stream of rich information from the social networks. But 2009 is also going to be the start of the next revolution. Because everything we know is about to change.
We're just at the beginning of the next revolution? So what's next?
Social news is quickly taking over our need for staying up-to-date with
what goes on in the world. News is no longer being reported by
journalists, now it comes from everyone. And it is being reported
directly from the source to you – bypassing the traditional media
channels. Instead of having a
journalist reporting what some analyst are saying, you hear it from the
analyst herself. Social news is about getting news from the source,
directly, and unfiltered.
And a new concept in the form of targeted information is slowly
emerging. We are already seeing an increasing number of services on
mobile phones, where you can get information for the area that you are
Now imagine the year 2020…
traditional printed newspapers no longer exists, television in the form
of preset channels is replaced by single shows that you can watch
whenever you like. The websites have a much lesser role, as their primary function will
be to serve as a hub for all the activities that you do elsewhere.
Social news, as described previously, is going to be the most
important way that people communicate. The traditional journalistic
reporting is by now completely replaced getting information directly
from the source. Everything will incorporate some form of targeting. You will be in
control over every single bit of information that flows your way.
In 2010, two new concepts will start to emerge. One of them is
intelligent information, where information streams can combine bits
from many different news sources. Not just by pulling data, but
summarizing it, breaking it apart and extracting the valuable parts.
The concept of having to get the paper, sit in front of
your TV, or look at your computer, will be long gone. Information will
not be something you have to get. It comes to you, wherever you are, in
whatever situation you happen to be in. The information
stream will be a natural part of every second of your life. It is not
something you get, it is something you have.
I know a lot of people bemoan the loss of "journalists"… but what are (or "were"?) journalists anyways? Yes they are trained, but they are also a filter. And as we know, any filter has a bias, admitted or not. Looking back it's actually frightening that newspapers, often just one newspaper in a town or city, was considered a reputable source for information.
Compare that to today where we can receive live tweets directly from the protesters in Iran, create dynamic and lively social communities around niche interests with immediate information flow, learn new concepts when and where you want, and ponder and learn from the insights of great minds who in another era would never have been heard from.
How will future information evolution affect you… and your organization?
[UPDATE: You'll find this analysis of Baekdal's post rather interesting! Hat tip to Keith!]
david foster says
If he’s trying to look at information in general and not only commercial information, he should consider the *printed book*….a technology introduced circa 1500 which had enormous social influence.
Regarding commercial information, the traveling sales rep grew up along with the railroads, and made a big contribution to the dissemination of information about manufactured products throughout the country.
david foster says
Also…Sears, Roebuck, which got going about 1890, provides a great example of the business exploitation of a new communications technology (U.S. mail) and a new distribution technology (package express), both enabled by the growth of the railroads.
Great post…very thought-provoking about where we are headed.
My questions when I first read it: When do we (or will we) reach critical mass? When is “all information” too much information? Or will that not be an issue? Will we evolve and learn how to cope and manuver through the info? Is getting the unfiltered information going to be too much for some? Are the brutal facts going to be overload for those living in their ‘white-washed’ world? What impact will that have on society?
Again, great ideas and where it’s pointing to for our future!! I am VERY excited to watch what roles out!
david foster says
Dawn…you might be interested in my post Duz Web Mak Us Dumr?