Tofflers talk about upcoming changes at NAB

LAS VEGAS — Those ever-fragmenting audiences with increasing niche interests that have been causing havoc for the industry are no accident, futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler told a crowd at the National Assn. of Broadcasters confab on Wednesday.

It’s all symptomatic of an enormous, global shift that’s under way, the Tofflers said, and any company or business that does not adapt or adjust to the shift will not likely survive.

The co-authors of bestsellers “Future Shock” and “The Third Wave” said that the ongoing explosions of new-media technologies “are part of something happening that’s bigger than most people understand.”

Referring to a phenomenon they described in “The Third Wave,” the Tofflers said that the world — led by the United States — is undergoing a transformation from an age of “massification” to “demassification.”

The industrial revolution produced a society built on mass culture and a one-size-fits-all mentality, they noted. But new technologies have disrupted that model. The boundaries between producer and consumer have been greatly narrowed. New technologies “arm the consumer,” and that cannot help but bring fundamental changes to the economy, the Tofflers asserted.

The Tofflers pointed to the example of digital cameras, which are undermining the longtime film developing business. The advent of small, portable devices that allow consumers to do everything from take their own blood pressure to view movies or television shows any time they want herald a new era of more direct consumer involvement in production and even design.

Heidi Toffler put it in stark terms for the audience of broadcasters: “If you’re getting everything on a personal computer or a portable device, there’s no need to even have a TV.”

The bottom line of demassification, they both said, is that “we’re going to have to deal with a lot more complexity — socially, politically and economically.”

Heidi Toffler emphasized that “the one-size-fits-all” model — offering limited options and selling to a large, homogeneous market — “is the way mass industrialized society was designed.” Any entity that clings to that model “will go down,” she said.

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