In December 2004, a mock documentary about the future of news began making make the rounds of the nation’s journalists and Web professionals.
The video, produced by two aspiring newsmen fresh from college, envisioned a nightmare scenario — by the year 2014, technology would effectively destroy traditional journalism.
In 2008, Google, the search engine company, would merge with Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, and in 2010 the new “Googlezon” would create a system edited entirely by computers that would strip individual facts and sentences from all content sources to create stories tailored to the tastes of each person.
A year later, The New York Times would sue Googlezon for copyright infringement and lose before the Supreme Court.
In 2014 Googlezon would take its computer formula a step further. Anyone on the Web would contribute whatever they knew or believed into a universal grid — a bouillabaisse of citizen blog, political propaganda, corporate spin and journalism. People would be paid according to the popularity of their contributions. Each consumer would get a one-of-a-kind news product each day based on his or her personal data.
“At its best, edited for the savviest readers,” the system is “a summary of the world — deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything ever available before. But at its worst, and for too many, [it] is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow and sensational.”
That same year, the New York Times would fold its tent and become “a print-only newsletter for the elite and the elderly.”
“It didn’t have to be this way,” the video concludes.
And it probably won’t be.
Ha! (Oh, and “bouillabaisse”? Best word ever.)