Japanese teenagers and the general population of Singapore tend to be among the best gauges of the technology future. Unfortunately those are half a world away for me, so I have to learn to look local.
I find that the next best observable thing is busy commuting mid-level executives and their offspring. My part-time vantage point is watching suburbanites commuting into Manhattan. During peak commuting hours, many of these head downtown to Wall Street or to Madison Ave to play the ad game. During off-peak hours, their offspring head into the City to become cosmopolitans. My observation is that both groups have a good track record of being ahead of the technology adoption curve. That commute into the City is an early adopter zoo where one can safely observe technology-savvy species evolve before the eyes. The Metro North Indicator works.
Along the same vein, passengers on JetBlue and other lower-cost airlines tell their own tales. Couples with kids: that's where the action's at. See how they entertain. 3DS and tablets and laptops and smartphones and iPods.
A decade ago such observations made it clear to me that RIM and their BlackBerry line were about to go mainstream. On a series of peak adventure rides into Manhattan, I counted that 100% of the observable passengers were glued between BlackBerry screens and newspapers.
And now, about ten years later, a recent count brought the BlackBerry count to zero. The bring-your-own-device trend and worker demands has has led the iPhone and similar looking Android devices into the enterprise.
But what has become very clear is that the printed newspaper is on its last leg. I'm seeing very few newsprint readers these days and lots of eReaders (including tablets).
The Metro North Indicator is clear: print is on a one-way track to extinction.