Ryan's Blog

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The Future of Media

I'm just back from the Belfast Media Festival. Once again a great day, but also very much TV focused.  I did however, realise what I've been doing wrong all these years. I've been railing against the TV obsession in NI Media institutions, and I shouldn't have been, it's still a vital part. I think I've known what I'm about to say for a while, but the pieces have started to fall into place in my mind. Right now (more in the past than the present), TV channels, commissioners and Talent act as trusted guides. They tell us (the dumb receptacles that is the audience) what we need to see. They schedule programmes that they've commissioned or produced at the time that they want us to see them.  They control access to that content, giving us a limited time to enjoy them (unless we're willing to pay extra for the plastic disk version). In the future (or now really), four things are happening (in no particular order)
  1. the audience become their own guide (using VOD tools like Netflix, LOVEFiLM, iPlayer etc.), circumventing the controlling aspects of the scheduler.
  2. the audience start telling the trusted guides more about what they want, allowing the guide to serve the personalised content (using connected TVs, Social Media, Mobile Second Screen Apps)
  3. the audience become the trusted guide for their network, sharing recommendations with their friends using tools like Zeebox, Getglue, Twitter etc.
  4. the audience become the content producer, pushing their content into broadcast platforms like YouTube, vimeo etc.
When that happens, the traditional TV companies lose control. They're not the only source of great content, they're not the only recommender of content, they don't hold the keys to the content vault. The TV content producers need us (the digital content industry) to help them stay relevant in the face of the four things above. We can give them the tools to help get their content into the right VOD applications, we can give them tools to help gather audience desire, we can build tools that plug them into the trusted guide ecosystem, instead of leaving them on the outside. We can help them filter the great content produced by the audience, letting them use the power of their distribution networks to bring that content to a wider audience. They need us to enable new and exciting formats and techniques for presenting content, be that games, or infographics, or toys or something we've not even thought of yet. I don't think the TV focus in the digital content world will change any time soon, but we should be able to help them stay relevant.