1994 is on the phone, and it has a vision of the newspaper industry if you want it

Published 2011-05-08

"There are many people who believe that newspapers are dinosaurs, and that they're going to become the roadkill on the information superhighway in the not too distant future. We believe exactly the opposite. We believe that newspapers in fact can evolve into a new form of media that blends the old familiar aspects of a newspaper with the new technologies that are emerging, so that you have the ability to read and browse and scan as we do today, at the same time being able to interact with the newspaper, to interact with advertisers through your newspaper in ways that are not possible with print media today."

The above quote is from a man by the name of Roger Fidler, who back in the 1990s was the Director of New Media for Knight-Ridder Inc's Information Design Laboratory.

Remember when the "Information Superhighway" was the all the rage? Turns out plenty of folks back then were thinking about how to convey and disseminate information on a digital platform while most people outside government and academia knew of the internet as chat rooms and message boards provided by services such as Prodigy, Compuserve and a little company called America Online.

Charged with studying potential opportunities for newspaper companies in the digital arena, and developing a "long-range vision of where the newspaper industry is headed over the next five, 10 or 20 years," Fidler's lab in 1994 developed a promotional video that displayed the capabilities of a "whole new class of computers" -- the electronic tablet.

This electronic tablet would weigh less than two pounds, meaning it's portable, and would blend text, audio, video and graphics.

"Around the turn of the century," it would become a staple of our everyday lives as readers would browse articles and turn pages just like a newspaper.

And if an article interests you, all a reader had to do was touch the text to read the full story, which they could then save, or share with friends and family.

"What you read is no longer limited to the physical constraints of the printing press and production process. A story is edited for content and completeness, not the newshole," the video stated.

I spent some time ruminating on how this opportunity to own platform for distributing content passed newspapers by. I can only offer educated guesses and ideas that have been rehashed all too often since the "death of newspapers" debate began.

The important question? Who is the Roger Fidler of 2011, and how can we put her or him in a position to realize their vision?

Video via Gawker.