Off target: Seven predictions about the future of media that didn't hit the spot

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Off target: Seven predictions about the future of media that didn't hit the spot

Futuregazing is an appealing pastime for media types, but a dangerous one as well. Here is just a small selection of digital and media predictions that turned out to be way off the mark. It makes you wonder what proportion of media predictions being made today will turn out to be similarly misguided...

Let us know your favourites and any we missed in the comments below.

1. 'Tablets will save newspapers'

In April 2010 Rupert Murdoch said the iPad "may well be saving the newspaper industry". The following February he put his (company's) money where his mouth was by announcing the iPad newspaper The Daily. 

-- What happened: The Daily lasted just 21 months, closing last December after failing to gain enough subscribers, while losing $30 million a month in the process.

The huge growth of tablet PCs is credited with helping newspapers build digital susbscriber bases. However, even those considered leaders in the digital subscription market such as the Financial Times and the New York Times are still struggling to break out beyond their traditional print audience. The evidence so far shows tablets alone are not the answer.

2. '3DTV will become mainstream'

3DTV has held the "next big thing" title in entertainment technology for years. Analysts at DisplaySearch predicted in 2010 that 3DTV would be mainstream by 2014. 3D smartphones and games consoles have also launched in recent years with much fanfare, and 3D sport was expected to be the primary driver of the technology. 

-- What happened: Despite media hype, 3DTV sales have remained slow and companies that were making devices with 3D displays have for the most part quietly dropped the technology. Most recently sports broadcaster ESPN announced it was closing its 3D channel due to "limited viewer adoption". 

As Forrester analyst James McQuivey described it: "The whole problem with 3D TV is it was a solution to a problem consumers didn’t have.

3. 'Ecommerce will never compete with bricks and mortar'

-- What happened: Ecommerce has grown rapidly to become a $1 trillion market worldwide. Though it's still not as big as physical sales it's taking an ever greater share. In the UK where the shift is happening quickest, online sales are forecast to account for 11.6 percent of all retail sales, up from 10 percent in 2012. Four out of five music and video purchases are now made online, as are half of book sales.  

4. 'No one will want to check football scores online' 

Thanks to Soccernet founder and journalist Gred Hadfield who tells us that an executive at Soccernet's original home DMGT said in 1995: "Nobody will want to get football scores off a computer - when there's Ceefax."

-- What happened: Soccernet, now named ESPN FC, is the most popular football site in the world. Ceefax was shut down last year.

5. 'No one will buy books and newspapers online'

Clifford Stoll was adamant in Newsweek in 1995 that printed media wouldn't be bought and sold over the internet, going as far as to ridicule people who had predicted a digital revolution in media:

...Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

-- What happened: In 2012, 20 percent of the total US books market was digital, up from 15 percent in 2011, while bricks and mortar physical sales dropped seven percent (according to BookStats). We don't know the full extent of digital newspaper sales, in Stoll's defence, but Apple has credit card details for 575 million customers, many of whom have bought digital magazines and newspaper editions.

6. 'People will choose travel agents over online booking'

Sorry, but we couldn't resist including this one from Neil Thackray, co-founder of our parent company Briefing Media, who was then in charge of uTravel...

-- The reality: Seven in ten people in the UK booked their holiday entirely online in 2011/2012, according to research by analysts at Mintel.  

7. 'There will never be a Sun on Sunday'

This isn't strictly a media economics one, but it's so enjoyably wrong we thought we'd include it anyway.

Here's a YouTube clip of Michael Wolff on Sky News (at 1.13) saying the unfortunate line: "No I do not think we will see a Sun on Sunday, not now, not ever...because (News International) have an imploding company." (thanks to @SebastianEPayne for the reminder).


-- What happened: The Sun on Sunday emerged from the ashes of the hacking scandal on 26 February 2012, little more than seven months after the closure of the News of the World. Though it has failed to quite match the 2.8 million circulation of the NoW when it was closed, the SoS has retaken the top spot with a circulation of 1.9 million in May (ABC).

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