I had an opportunity to attend the PRSA: Media Predicts event last night, courtesy of my partners at Miner Productions, whose video interviews with the panelists I predict will be the best part of the whole carnival. We’re in the middle of that frothy season of media predictions for what earthshaking business and technology events will transform our lives in ’08, and this event was among the frothiest. Trumpeted as event not to be missed, where media pundits from the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Forbes and BusinessWeek would lend us their oracular insights, the evening offered up some truly stunning predictions:
Kara Swisher, BoomTown columnist from WSJ: "We’ll have a recession next year."
Don Clark, Deputy Bureau Chief from WSJ: "Some of those Virtual World companies will disappear."
Jim Goldman, Bureau Chief at CNBC: "Companies like Oracle and SAP will do well."
Robert Scoble: "Apple will launch an iPhone with video."
There you have it. That’s what nearly 400 people assembled at the Computer History Museum gathered to hear. I hate to say it, but this was the quintessential Public Relations event. More packaging than substance. Much of the panel dialog rambled around this device that a panelist is trying out (Scoble had a Kindle, Swisher hates it), who’s the most out of touch with technology (Goldman still prefers the phone to email? Gasp!), and offhand references to jetsetting and importance (Swisher mentioned at least three times that she was in the UK last week, Scoble sat on a plane with John Edwards).
All fascinating things, truly, but it felt more like an Editor Appreciation dinner brought to you lovingly by the people who have to pitch them. And so the evening ended on helpful tips from the panelists on how to pitch them so as not to annoy them. I saw more notes being taken on those words than anything else said during the night.
Okay, now that I’ve vented–I battled 2 and a half hours of bay area traffic to hear predictions–there were a couple of decent insights from the panel. The money quote was from Kara Swisher, who said "When will Yahoo! get off its sorry ass and do something." I think the simultaneous sucking in of breath from 400 people shut down the AC. It may have been the only totally honest and unguarded statement of the evening, and spot on. There was a brief thrashing on Widget and Web 2.0 me-too companies based on ad-supported business models–and the accelerating meltdown of the ad industry, which may be accelerated by the recession. Scoble noted the ongoing insanity of having dozens of separately authenticated Web 2.0 tools and the need for some kind of integrated single sign-on, but no one’s holding their breath.
My table companion, John Hamilton from Miner, noted a key between-the-lines insight for the evening. The one thread that ran mostly under the surface the whole evening, but kept reappearing as a subtext, was the importance of video. Sure there was a brief discussion about the trend toward broadband video on mobile devices, but it was the frequent references to video as asides in other discussions–and people video blogging parts of the discussion with their phones–that had more predictive weight than any pronouncements from the panel.
If you want to catch the video, and other discussions of the event, check out the PRSA site.
Update: Louis Gray has a much more upbeat assessment of the evening than me. He’s both a better reporter and editor than I am, but his spin is also a little too kind, I think.