Screen of Choice
By 2015, CISCO estimates there will be 15 billion smart devices connected to the internet. How the media adapts to this huge shift is critical, writes Matt Eaton.
On 30 November this year, Time Warner tapped Digitas CEO Laura Lang to become CEO of Time Inc, publisher of magazines such as Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and People. The decision to appoint an outsider with deep digital knowledge, but no publishing experience was an interesting one, but may prove to be its smartest move yet in facing the digital future.
Lang's appointment is also a strong indication that as we head into the next decade the media industry will, as it has for the past few years, be thrown into even more disruption. But it's not only magazines.
Earlier this year, YouTube unveiled its latest challenge to the TV industry by launching 100 online channels of original programming from partners, including The Wall Street Journal, Madonna and Ashton Kutcher. YouTube's venture, backed by a US$100 million investment from Google, will see about 25 hours of original programming a day.
Michelle Guthrie, director of strategic business development at Google Asia Pacific, says its strategy is not television as we once knew it, but a new way of delivering and interacting with content.
"My sense is that it is going to be different content. It isn't going to be content that we are used to in the TV industry with that [high] level of production cost. But that doesn't make it any less compelling and any less relevant to the viewer."
But Guthrie says this strategy is not only about content. All channels will have multiple ways of generating revenue which throws even more pressure on the established TV industry.
One strong advantage that plays into Google's hands is that many believe the future of media consumption is tablets.
At this year's annual CASBAA conference - a meeting of the TV industry's biggest players - tablets and mobile devices were declared inevitable in defining the next decade of media consumption.
Andy Lack, CEO of Bloomberg Media Group, told CASBAA that tablet devices would "blow a hole" right through other devices and be a real game-changer for TV.
Jana Bennett, president of worldwide networks and global iPlayer at BBC Worldwide, argues audiences still want a mass experience. Yet, she says, part of the future growth for content will come from mining niches and catering to people's passions.
"People switch around these devices and will use them as a means to their end, which is entertainment and information and we need to be thinking about TV everywhere in lots of different combinations," Bennett says.
"The great appeal about these things is the crystal clear quality for video and I think audiences and viewers understand quality."
Blair Westlake, corporate vice-president of media and entertainment at Microsoft, says tablets, smartphones and "smart glass" are fast becoming the focus of the entertainment experience.
"They [tablets] are absolutely here to stay. People will use the connected television set hand-in-hand with a device they are able to control. These devices and their usage are growing exponentially," he says.
"If one is fixated on a 40-50 inch TV as the future, I would probably go back and do some reading."
I want it now
Another trend tablets are bringing is a new level of personalisation that traditional TV has been unable to deliver.
Vincent Lam, managing director of CSM Media Research Hong Kong, agrees consumers will be increasingly demanding about their media consumption over the next decade.
"Media consumption is becoming more and more personalised after the introduction of smartphones, tabs and pads. They also enable media consumption anywhere at anytime.
"These new gadgets provide convenience for consumers and satisfy their personal style of consumption."
Heading into the next decade, there are some lingering issues the media industry will have to shake. Piracy is one of those issues.
"Eradicating piracy is not an easy task. It cannot be done without legislative support and heavy penalties imposed to the pirates," Lam says.
"However, piracy can be controlled, though not rooted out, if websites are willing to pay for contents or contents are funded via sponsorship or advertisements.
"As a result, consumers have proper means to access the contents for free or at very low cost."
On the other side of this media equation is the rapid marriage between advertising, content and human behaviour.
Jacki Kelley, global CEO at UM, argues the potential for brands to connect to people with highly targeted content options will only grow.
She says new applications that build a history of users' lives, food preferences and emotional states, which are catalogued and shared over social networks, offer brands new levels of engagement.
"I think we would all agree that this is one of the most exciting times to be in our industry and media specifically is extremely exciting," she says.
"We have the ability today to tag almost every object on the planet. If consumers can tag objects, we have the ability to match that with specific content."
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- Universal McCann
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