When online shopping started to go mainstream, I thought a new wave of real-world retail would rise from the ashes of the high street. I figured when buying our stuff online moved from novelty to normal, new value would be found in physical shops around an experience or level of service we'd begun to yearn for.
It feels like we're already seeing a surge of new specialist independent shops which build a deeper relationship with their customers. But I can imagine no stronger indication of this prediction coming to pass than Amazon's—who take more credit than any for the demise of our high street brands—recent announcement of their impending move onto the high street.
After all that's happened in the Western Hemisphere this year, I predict a very similar third wave lurking just beyond the horizon for the news business.
We've heard a lot recently about the echo chamber effect of social media, where our views are persistently reinforced by the same-minded people we choose to follow. Throw confirmation bias into the mix, where we believe and share stories which reflect our point of view regardless of their veracity, and it's easy to see why opinions have become so polarised and politics so frighteningly binary.
We've been fooled into believing our views reflect the majority because the majority of what we see reflects our views. And we appear increasingly shocked when we discover they don't.
I struggle to believe our values are so fundamentally different and we are so evenly divided between two opposite extremes.
Our newspapers don't make a secret of their individual biases, but I see them beginning to polarise in a similar way. I compared the top ten stories in the home pages of The Guardian and Telegraph as I wrote this, and found they had only the biggest story in common. So we're no longer getting two different slants on the same topics—we're getting a completely different set of news.
As newspaper revenues are more and more connected to the volume of online page views, it is perhaps unsurprising that they increasingly promote stories which reflect the prejudices of their most engaged visitors, who will comment, like and share—and bring more traffic.
I suspect I'm not alone in finding myself less trusting of the news I read. Not because I think the stories themselves are inaccurate but because I feel I'm being fed a collection of stories which together paint a certain picture I'm more likely to react to and, crucially, share with my like-minded social media circles.
The negatives of all this will, I think (and hope), hit home soon.
When they do I think there's a huge opportunity for a completely new approach to news, where veracity and balance are king, and sensationalism has no place; somewhere we know we can go to read the facts and are encouraged to form our own opinions.
I'd buy that for a dollar.