Has there ever been an industry that faced as much uncertainty and such low visibility as the media industry? Media executives have lately taken to throwing up their hands and declaring their uncertainty in public (all emphasis is mine):

In the next year or two the media world will begin to figure out what consumers really want on digital platforms and how that can best be monetized, but “we’re really in the first inning of that game,” Fox Networks Group President Tony Vinciquerra said Wednesday to Wall Street analysts attending the annual Credit Suisse Media and Telecom Week conference.

Right now, “what we’re trying to do is be very clear about something that is not clear. We really don’t know what the consumer really wants,” he said. (via TV Week)

Executives from the Gannett Company and the Washington Post Company said they were also focusing on the Internet. But no one would predict where the business was going, even in the near future.

Donald E. Graham, chairman of the Washington Post Company, said that the “only honest answer” to that question is, “I don’t know.” (via NYT)

THE FUTURE OF ONLINE ADVERTISING is still taking shape, but at least one type of ad may not be around long: the 30-second pre-roll spot. That’s according to Curt Hecht, chief digital officer at GM Planworks, Starcom MediaVest Group’s dedicated media unit for General Motors, who spoke about the topic Thursday at an industry conference.

Consumer acceptance of pre-roll ads is “completely undetermined,” said Hecht, at a panel on advertising trends of the Fortune 500 at a Cowen and Company Internet conference. “I don’t think we know yet what the consumer wants.” (via MediaPost)

It “will be determined over time” whether advertisers will simply shift dollars to digital media from broadcast — particularly as viewers get DVRs and use them to skip commercials. (via USA Today)

Of course, Yahoo has become the poster child for the Fog of 2.0 — the response to strategic uncertainty at Yahoo and, to be fair, across the media industry has been to try as many new things as they can think of, which naturally leads to the “peanut butter” strategy decay. Yahoo plans to focus more on what the customer needs:

Expand customer-centric culture and capabilities — Yahoo! will develop rich experiences for each audience segment and deliver solutions to meet the needs of all advertisers and publishers worldwide.

The problem is that, in the this increasingly complex networked 2.0 world, customers don’t know what they need. And providers don’t know either. What happens when the buy side and the sell side are wandering lost in the fog?

I keep coming back to this Henry Ford quote:

“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

As much as media is obsessed with the scarcity of attention, the real scarcity is in innovation.