A memo written by the managing editor of the Washington Post in 1992 says a lot about how much of the future of media was obvious even then, but it also misses the most disruptive force the industry has seen — namely, the rise of social media.
Even more interesting than what this former editor got right, however, are the things that he and almost every other visionary completely missed — and one of the most important was the way that the news industry would be transformed by social media. From blogs to Twitter, that transformation (or what Om has called the “democratization of distribution”) has probably been more disruptive than any other technological development since then, and it is one that many media entities still have not fully adapted to or taken advantage of.
Potts, a former technology writer for the Post, explains that managing editor Robert Kaiser was invited by Apple chief executive officer John Sculley to attend a conference in Japan about the future of digital media, and the memo (which Potts has posted on his site as a PDF) was his attempt to sum up what he learned for the newspaper’s senior managers. Much of what Kaiser says seems blindingly obvious now, but as Potts notes: