USC's Cole forecasts the digital future

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PHONIEX-At this year's annual American Magazine Conference, Jeffrey Cole, director at the center for the digital future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, spoke about the magazine industry's need to penetrate the digital future.

Mr. Cole and his team of researchers are currently undertaking the study of the Internet that he feels should have been done with the TV in the late 1940s.

"Television was the only mass medium that we knew ahead of time that would be a mass medium," Mr. Cole said. "We should have tracked people before its appearance and each year afterward to see how it affected their lives, and we failed to do that then, but now we can do that with the Internet."

Thus far his findings have shown that the Internet is not only a part of the individual's everyday lives, but that it also puts the user in control.

"Consumers don't want to receive 15 minutes of fame, but 15 megabytes of fame," Mr. Cole said.

So how do consumers react to corporations purchasing popular Web sites?

"MySpace is like a nightclub, in that once the uncool kids or worse the parents start showing up, they find some place else to go," Mr. Cole said. "They move somewhere else at no cost to them until they find the next cool thing on the frontier."

The trend that media as a whole is being transformed by the Internet is shown through branding.

"Brands that are recognized offline are where teens go online," Mr. Cole said.

What about the fate of newspapers and reading?

"Anytime a newspaper reader dies, they are sadly not being replaced by a new one," Mr. Cole said. "Information-only based magazines and newspapers do not hold a bright future, so they must move online."

Some magazines, according to Mr. Cole, will never die in print form.

"Women's magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair will last for hundreds of years," he said. "They won't be in trouble, because the advertisements are looked at just as much as the editorial, because it's the experience of reading the publication that matters."

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