The humble television has dropped dramatically in price while becoming ever more sophisticated. What will the TV of the future look like? Center director Jeffrey Cole explains.

By Jeffrey Cole

It’s a tough time to be a television set manufacturer. So much is being asked of the manufacturers: we expect them to spend billions of dollars to distinguish passing trends from lasting innovations.

The humble television set is an old technology (it began to appear in the 1940s). Over 70 years later, we expect it to become state of the art, and add features and perform functions not even dreamed of when television broadcast its first signal.


It used to be so easy for Zenith, Magnavox, Admiral, RCA and Sylvania: all they had to do was receive black and white signals over the VHF (2-13) band with not even a dream of a remote control.

In just one measure of how much has been completely transformed, none of those manufacturers exists anymore (a couple do under their names which were acquired and have nothing to do with their origins). All of those sets were made in the U.S. And, no one has touched a television set to change the channel in years. Today’s flat screens are designed so that you never touch the set: Samsung, Sony and LG don’t want our grubby hands anywhere near their beautiful works of art.  (more)

From the Center’s Digital Future Study.

Infographic by Joanna Kim.

See all of the Center’s infographics here

One early worldwide study of television found that those who owned a television slept on average a little bit less than those who did not. Might the internet have the same effect?

The internet does not seem to be associated with less sleep.  (more)

The time has come for a teenager to get that first smartphone. Parents, before you head to the store, save yourselves a lot of heartburn with these simple steps.  The Center’s chief strategy officer Brad Berens explains.

(This is the first in a series of practical tips about parenting in the digital age.)

Parents of adolescents worry about when a kid should get her* first smartphone. It’s a legit worry. On the plus side, smartphones connect kids to a vast world of information, resources, entertainment, and community… and that’s the down side, too. The magic mirror is a source of infinite distraction that fits in a palm, even a young one.

But, parents, before you hand over a handheld device—whether it’s a phone or a tablet, with a data plan or without—here are some conversations to have. They’ll make life easier later.  (more)

At the 2019 Emmys on September 22, the four broadcast networks collectively had one show that won an award. On November 12, the Disney+ streaming service launches. These two milestones mark the end of television’s first era and the beginning of another. Center CEO Jeffrey Cole explains.

The next 12 months will see the most important transformation in the entertainment industry — at least since the beginning of television in the late 1940s. We are six weeks from Disney firing the first and most important salvo in the coming television streaming war. November 12 will mark the launch of Disney+ at the Netflix-killing price of $6.99 per month. (I recently took advantage of a great promotion and bought a three-year subscription at $3.88 per month.)

A year from now, after disruption and transformation, there will be new combatants in the streaming battle, while old ones will be injured or eliminated. When the smoke clears, we will see a different playing field in a changed industry.

We are at the end of the first era of television. It should be celebrated.  (more)

The internet is ubiquitous. It is difficult to get away from it, especially because of the continuous connection available through smart phones. This perpetual linkage provides many benefits, including some that are job-related.

But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? For example, what if users begin to feel that they can never get any desired sense of separation for the world of work?

In the Center’s Digital Future Survey, we asked those who use the internet at work if technology has made it harder for them to separate their work life from their personal life.  (more)

From the Center’s Digital Future Study.

Infographic by Joanna Kim.

See all of the Center’s infographics here

BTS fandom has swept across America over the past two years. Xin Song, a visiting scholar at the Center, explores how social media helped the group become a household name.

By Xin Song

BTS, the Korean boy band, has become big in America. By one measure, BTS is even bigger than the president: according to CrowdTangle, from November 17, 2018 to February 17, 2019, the K-pop band topped the Twitter charts with 407 million interactions, while President Donald Trump as runner-up only got 104 million. Given that BTS had already achieved status as the most tweeted-about celebrity/celebrity group in the preceding two years, maybe this ranking should have been no surprise.

BTS has become a global phenomenon. Time magazine named the group the “biggest boy band in the world.” Forbes magazine featured an article on BTS mania entitled “The K-Pop Group That Finally Won America Over.”  Three BTS albums landed No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart in less than a year; the last group to accomplish this feat was the Beatles.

All of this has occurred even though BTS has never released an English-language album. Most of their songs are in Korean, and only one of the seven boys speaks fluent English. How did this K-pop act become so popular? And how did they manage to break into the American mainstream market? One thing is for certain: social media played a critical role.  (more)

From near annihilation, the company behind Windows, Surface, and Xbox came back to join Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google at the top of the tech world. Center director Jeffrey Cole explains how they did it.

By Jeffrey Cole

Recently, I was speaking at a conference when someone asked, “Who is currently the best CEO of a media, technology, or entertainment company?” Despite all the work I do in the industry, I didn’t have a ready answer to the question. After carefully thinking, I came to a surprising conclusion: the best CEO in the industry succeeded the worst. The company is Microsoft.

It isn’t that one followed the other: Steve Ballmer deserves to be remembered as one of the worst CEOs ever not just by looking at who followed him but based on his record. And Satya Nadella is the best not in comparison to Ballmer, but because he reinvented one of the great but moribund technology companies.

The big four (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google) should have always been thought of as the big five–adding Microsoft to its august company. But Microsoft fell behind the others and stagnated for many years because of poor management. Now, five years after Steve Ballmer stepped down, it is the biggest of the five.  (more)

A new California law that strengthens employee benefits will force Uber and Lyft to reevaluate its corporate practices — with deep effects on the get-a-ride-services.  The Center’s chief strategy officer Brad Berens reports.

This week, the California legislature passed an important bill that could result in the reclassification of Uber and Lyft drivers as employees instead of contractors. The change might entitle drivers to minimum wage, benefits, collective bargaining, and a host of other knife-to-the-neck threats to the short-term survival of the ride-hailing companies that are, in the long term, dead already.

In a since-updated breaking news story, New York Times reporter Kate Conger shrewdly noted the most alarming, if unsurprising, part of Uber’s response:

Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, said that the ride-hailing company would not treat its drivers, who are independent contractors, as employees under the California bill. He said that drivers were not a core part of Uber’s business and could maintain their independent status when the measure goes into effect as state law on Jan. 1.  Uber’s business, Mr. West said, is not providing rides but “serving as a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces.”

Let’s be clear: of course drivers are a core part of Uber’s business.

Here’s a simple test: could Uber exist without drivers? Answer: no.  (more)

How often, if ever, do you look at and shop for goods on the internet, but when it comes time to buy, you purchase from local stores?

If you are among the internet users to do so, you are not alone in this endeavor. It has been a consistently common activity for a strong majority of users for many years.  (more)

The Center’s new 147-page “Surveying the Digital Future” report includes more than 100 issues that explore the impact of digital technology on American users and non-users.

New subjects in the study include views about using body-implanted chips for increased security, fake news, mainstream media, and regulation of social media.

Download the report here.

Nearly 60 percent of American banking customers would consider moving their money to accounts offered by familiar companies, such as online retailers, search engines, or big-box stores, even though they have no experience with financial services, according to a new study on the future of money and banking by the Center.

“We strongly believe banking is the next industry to be completely disrupted by digital change,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the center. “Our research shows customers are far ahead of the banks in looking to the web and apps as their preferred banking methods. Download the Future of Money and Banking Report here.

The Center has published the ninth edition of World Internet Project report, the collaboration between the Center for the Digital Future and partner organizations in countries worldwide.

The 54-page study explores views and behavior about internet use and non-use, devices for internet access, years online, user proficiency, reasons for not going online, politics and the internet, freedom of expression online, media reliability, online security and personal privacy, and activities on the internet.

Download the World Internet Project Report here.

Center director Jeffrey Cole explores transformation of the media for the keynote address at the leadership meeting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

View the video here.