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Plus Report - By Thomas Baekdal - September 2021

9/11 was the first large-scale online news event, and it showed us the trends that we see today

I had originally intended to publish this article on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, but on that day it just seemed inappropriate to divert the focus away from the personal recollections that people were sharing to instead talk about the media. So I decided to postpone this article.

However, this is a pretty important story because 9/11 was the first true online news event, and it showed us that news would never be the same again. So many of the media trends that today seem normal were revealed (at scale) for the first time in 2001.

9/11 was also the first major news event where I spent a long time analysing the coverage. It was the first time that I thought about media analysis, and it was instrumental to why I'm a media analyst today.

So what are these trends? Well, let's talk about that, but before we do, it's important to point out that 9/11 did not create any of these trends. The changes that we saw were already happening, and would have happened regardless. But 9/11 illustrated these changes, and it acted as a catalyst for the future of the media.

But let me tell you a story of how this changes the way we think about the media.

Personal story

I live in Denmark, but 9/11 still had a very personal connection to me. On September 11, 2001, my uncle (a banker) was in New York and was supposed to be in a meeting in the twin towers. So as we saw the planes hit, I remember talking to my family who told me that they had tried to call my uncle but that he wasn't answering his phone.

And so I spent that entire day not just as a news reader, but as someone who was thinking about a family member being in the middle of it. And when the towers fell and we still hadn't been able to contact him, it wasn't just news. It was a deep personal worry and a feeling of tragedy.

Now, as it turned out, my uncle was perfectly safe. He wasn't in the building at all, nor anywhere near it. The reason he didn't answer his phone was because it was 2001, international calls were expensive, so he had switched it off. But the point is that, for most of that day, we just didn't know.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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