Stanford Prof: ‘Uncertainty Is Opportunity if You Have the Right Frame of Mind.’

According to futurist Paul Saffo, consulting associate professor, Stanford University, and distinguished visiting scholar, Stanford Media-X, there’s an amazing amount of opportunity in the changing media landscape.

“We are on the midst of a fundamental change in the whole information industry,” Saffo said. “Everything is media.”

“There’s a massive shift from information to media, but there’s also a shift from mass to personal,” he explained, citing the fact that more video cameras were sold in cell phones last year than on their own.

He believes that the Information Age is over and we are at the dawn of the Media Age. Magazine publishers are at the forefront of this change, but it is difficult to see where to go. “You’re at ground zero of this revolution, and that’s a hard place to get perspective,” Saffo said.

Where can media companies look for new ideas?

“If you want to look for a short-term success, look for something that’s been failing for 20 years,” the futurist said. “If everyone agrees it’s a bad idea, do it.”

Saffo cited Amazon’s Kindle as a good example of this. “We’ve been failing at ebooks for 20 years,” he said. “The Kindle is the 128k Apple of ebooks. It’s not the iPod of ebooks. That is coming. … It might come from Apple. It wouldn’t surprise me.”

Google is the media company that Saffo thinks best shows the way into the future, but might not be the biggest company in the future. “The companies that get biggest are going to be the ones that harness the smallest quantum of information,” he said, arguing that the group that “harnesses the single click” will ultimately rule the world.

Saffo closed with a plea to the audience: “If you fear change, leave it in this room when you walk out the door.”