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Please, Wait
3rd January 2020
Since hindsight is 2020…
By Narendra Nag
In the year 2000 I was transitioning from running an independent web-design shop to working as a reporter for a traditional newspaper. In 2020, I find myself leading a team trying to build and launch the most advanced video platform as a service this world has ever seen.

In these last twenty years, I have seen computers upend newsooms, digital upend marketing, and now mobile upend entertainment. Along the way, I have started up, worked at startups and large companies, been acquihired, built global teams, and traveled, lived and worked in different parts of the world.

All made possible by my super-powers — an ability to communicate, code, and care for people well.

Since hindsight is 2020, I couldn't resist using the pun and looking back at three key inflection points I lived through at the intersection of media and tech and how they so reliably inform my future.

In the early noughts, I was part of newsrooms (first print and then TV) that were undergoing massive transformations. Typesetting was being replaced by QuarkXpress, email was becoming commonplace, the internet was spreading from the one computer in the corner to being widely available across all computers, and Facebook and Twitter were still a few years away.

The thing that changed the most, was time —almost overnight, news-cycles became compressed, news got stale a lot quicker, what qualified as enough-time to research and do a story kept getting lesser, and the time to reflect slowly started to vanish.

Faster began to mean better.

In the late noughts and early tens, I found myself in communication and advertising through the acquihire of my fledgling digital agency. I saw digital go from being a line-item and a check-box exercise in a traditional marketer's playbook to being seen as the cure-all panacea for all marketing problems.

But, the real impact was on the pace at which audiences changed. Where cohorts could reliably be expected to stay the same for years (if not decades), now audiences began to evolve faster and faster, moving from one meme to another and from one identity to many.

We've gone from a world where audience segments were made up of hundreds of thousands of people, to every one of us becoming a segment of one.

In the mid to late tens, mobile networks completely upended entertainment. Since they first launched, the TV industry hadn't had to deal with the kind of transformation that arrived nearly overnight — after all, appointment viewing remained the norm even if a plethora of terrestial, cable and satellite channels competed for attention and ad dollars.

Piracy, Youtube and Netflix changed audiences forever. Suddenly, audiences were consuming the content they wanted, at a time of their own choosing.

A world where all entertainment is streamed is inevitable, but to me, the biggest change is in the nature of content itself. And no-one in the traditional industry has the time, money or intellectual bandwidth to even think about it because they are too busy trying to fix all the technical and engineering challenges of launching a streaming service at Netflix-scale.

Which, very neatly, brings me to the present — where we have spent the better part of 2019 building and verifying an engineering architecture that is designed for a world where 5G will be ubiquitious, where 4K streams will be the norm, and where appointment viewing will have gone the way of the dodo.

To everybody in the 20s, I can say only one thing — grab every job that gives you the opportunity to learn, and say yes to things that scare you.

The universe is conspiring to help you succeed.

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