Thursday, December 31, 2009

Musings on the past decade

The all-too-expected stories of the past decade have over-hyped all of the "best" lists and "stories of the decade." Yet, the closing out of the first ten years of the new millenium is indeed cause for reflection--a look back at what we experienced and what events were most impactful.

Here then are my observations and thoughts as I look back on 2000-2009.

Reality television: The phenomenon of reality TV started in the 1990's but, over the past ten years, has become not only standard fare on network and cable television but also a ratings leader. Think about it--American Idol, as an example, dominated ratings and provided the music industry with a star like Carrie Underwood who sells millions of albums and wins tons of awards. Stories like Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert and Jennifer Hudson grew out of this blockbuster franchise.

Survivor continued its success and paved the way for a show like The Amazing Race. America learned again how to dance with Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance? And, on cable, we were introduced to Tim Gunn and his sense of style, alongside Heidi Klum, on Project Runway.

What started out as a solution to a strike by Hollywood actors turned into something far bigger--reality TV found millions of willing viewers across a variety of "reality" situations. And, in the process, the networks got lazy and produced less and less original programming.

Social Media: Like reality TV, social media started before this decade. But, it was only in the past few years that social media went mainstream. Parents discovered that Facebook was actually a pretty cool place to re-connect with old friends. Twitter's usage grew and tweets became a news source versus the more traditional news releases and press conferences.

The demise of the printed word: It's a bit sobering to know that I'm one of a falling number of people who actually read a newspaper--not the online version. The very American industry of printed work on newsprint, and the history of great writers who have penned these words, is dying a not so slow death. And, in the past couple of years, we've seen the magazine industry follow suit--titles are either going away entirely or are on life support. Books are also impacted given the rise of e-readers. While this trend may be eco-friendly, it's a sad one for those of us who enjoy seeing printed words, phrases, paragraphs and stories.

Access to information--now: In the beginning of the decade, most of us huddled around a television during the day on September 11, 2001, to see the events in New York and Washington unfold. By the end of the decade, we would have been able to watch that event coverage on our handheld device. Images (still and video) of the day would have been uploaded more frequently to YouTube and other media outlets online.

Consumer-generated media means that there are millions of "reporters" out and about when news happens. Thus, we get our information now--via Twitter, viral media, e-mails passed from friend to friend to friend, texts, etc., etc., etc. "The demise of the printed word" phenomenon noted above is very much linked to this consumer-generated activity.

There--those are my key reflections back on the decade that was, focusing on how we as consumers consider, act and consume. What will the new decade bring in this area? I won't even hazard a guess given how quickly the above trends took root and became a part of how we live.

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