The Constant Trends in the Media involves the invention of more effective ways of distributing information. As the pressure of information builds up and the number of recipients increases, so the existing media are used more intensively and new ones are invented. Where new media are more efficient than the existing media, the old media go into a relative or absolute decline.


Current developments suggest that the forthcoming period will be rich in new and more efficient media, through the computer and electronic revolution. Parts of the older and more labour intensive media are likely decline and merge with the electronic media. The media will be increasingly driven by promotion funds from the increasing range of products on offer from Distribution.

CM and Data Base Networks

The computer is becoming a subtle media for the flow of information (from Automation) . Data Banks and Bases are being established, and will become part of, or tie into, the Computer Media.

The public telephone systems have been increasing their carrying capacity. Large firms and other organisations have linked their computers together in Local Area Networks - generally using the public telephone systems. This has facilitated the linking together of these Area Networks, to form the Internet. Thus the Scenario of the last paragraph is coming about - even if rather disorganised at present. Many organisations are making data files searchable by others on the Internet - which is likely to be mechanism for a more organised on-line access to a wide range of data banks for many purposes.

Home Information Systems

In the home, video systems have become widely available. Though possibly the video camera/home TV systems has not taken off to the extent forecast. Nevertheless, these have stimulated the production of a wide range of firstly cassette and disc material for home viewing with the video shop taking its place beside the book shop. Secondly, with the internet achieving more carrying capacity these gave way to internet sites providing these materials on line to the home. The video shop had a short life.

It has long been feasible to pipe the entire information requirements into the home electronically - rather than move the information in a piecemeal fashion (broadcast, mail, publications). The mode of doing this may settled as fibre optics - though other methods are still in the mix: using telephone lines from the exchange to the home (effectiveness declines sharply with distance to the home); use of wireless especially from satellites. A cumulative problem occurring is that the infrastructure for these methods requires a high population density to make them economic. Rural areas lag behind what is regarded as sufficient carrying capacity for the above materials being produced. The pressure is on to provide the infrastructure although it is not economic - with the internet becoming regarded as a necessity. We can expect rural areas to lag behind what is regarded as sufficient - both because of economics, and as urban areas continue to be provided with applications with higher data carrying requirements. There is something of international competition - some advanced countries struggle to provide consistently a few million data bits a second - while others sail through with tens or hundreds of millions. That will be the pattern for some time - with the trend towards the higher end.

The importance of having the home hard-wired into a cable system is that it enables the home to interact and interrogate sources of data which is not possible with the older media (the present TV can only passively receive incoming signals). The speeds are likely to depend on the success of the entertainment industry to persuade people to take up more data intensive applications.

If this is to be the route to hard-wiring, then all TV, telephone, and other information services can move along it.

The home has been joining the Internet which despite their up-grading can struggle to handle moving pictures. The Internet over fibre optics cable is another matter - and is being offered by cable companies.

Forecasting developments over the last two decades to where we are now was in fact easier than seeing the way ahead. It is in fact easier to state the ultimate developments:

While the Internet has mushroomed, its carrying capacity for moving pictures is patchy as above. Its not yet certain what its infrastructure will settle into - though it maybe fibre cable.

If cable catches on, it could go through a transformation at present being seen on the Internet, attracting data banks to provide on-line material.

The traditional telephone suppliers are trying to up-grade their connections - though they face formidable difficulties as above. If they do not it is difficult to see that they have a long term future. If they do, they are in a good position to organise the two way interaction discussed above. As they also carry the Internet signals they are in a good position to adapt the experience here to a wider use. Much of the problem is the final connection between the exchange and home. Attempts are being made to use high frequencies over these lines - but very often the actual data speeds do not achieve what is advertised. Rural communities provide particular problems as above.

Traditional broadcasting stations are likely to face heavy competition, unless these developments are on the slow side.

The speed of developments, and the form they will develop, are thus unclear at present. Though what to look for and monitor is clear from the above alternatives.

A potential way these developments may unfold is shown in the diagram.

Notes on the Media 2000+ Diagram

  1. The forecast behind this Diagram was made in the later 1970s. It is retained in its original form as it illustrates the problems.

  2. The decline of print has to be viewed against the fact that people do not like reading large amounts of text on screen based media. The ergonomics of newspaper and magazine design is at a very high level, while that of the screen media is at a low level. Thus designers of World Wide Web pages have to allow that people do not like reading more than a 1 or 2 screen fulls on an item - while computer hobbyists buy many large traditional printed magazines on computers and the Internet. This ergonomic problem has to be overcome before the on-line world will be really with us.

  3. The Home TV Camcorder & Video, where video cameras would replace traditional film and still pictures has not become widespread as thought. The price of video cameras have not reduced a great deal, which may be one reason. Problems with screen- based material, as in the last paragraph, may be another. The slowness here however may not disrupt other developments.

  4. There is no evidence yet of the Electronic Wall in the Home. The problem with this concept was seen in the early 1980s, when some of the early Personal Computers used the TV as its monitor screen to save costs. The reasons this did not catch on are still debated in the literature. If the PC hobbyist is using his PC the rest of the family cannot watch TV - it is clear that the PC and TV are used in different rooms. This is a version of the problem that several people do not usually read the same newspaper at the same time. This problem has not really been thought through for the new media - but it is likely that the technology grand electronic wall will not be the way it will happen. Unless or until the screen ergonomic problems are resolved people are likely to want their reading material in printed form. The question then is: will it be cheaper for people to print out what they want in the in the home - or mass-print greater volumes in factories as at present, and deliver it to the home. There is also the issue of advertising - upon which much of the economics of publishing depends - as well as advertising being essential for the general commercial process. Successful ways have been found to introduce advertising into screen based media - especially data banks created of the internet content, combined with recording of peoples' interests from searching the internet - the concept of Big Data. This has been so successful that it has it is taken advertising away from other media, and hastening the decline of the more expensive print media. At present the trend is for similar carriers to evolve for both the home and for business, rather than for two separate ones. But as the needs are rather different, ultimately two are likely to evolve as in the above Diagram.

  5. The diagram omits Theatre and Cinema. Theatres have re-opened in many large towns, generally on community basis, although some have closed again. Cinema has shown continued growth, especially among the 15 - 25 age group. The chance of a night out especially among the courting is the likely driver.

In the Advanced Countries we are now standing in time at the last part of the development of this Diagram, the previous developments over the last decades having gone more or less as envisaged. We are not really much clearer how the events will unfold in the last part of the Diagram than we were in the 1970s. This is unusual - for generally the unfolding pattern becomes clearer as the future comes closer to you. We can be clear about the ultimate scenario, but not of the developments to reach it. How long it will take for the ultimate Home and Business systems to be in place is uncertain. This may mean that after several decades of quite rapid change, the future change will be slower.

We are a lot clearer of the problems which have to be overcome in the last part of this Diagram than in the 1970s - as in the text and in the above notes. Monitoring them will give the clues to how the Diagram will unfold.

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