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The Future of Media: Two views

MUMBAI: Media in the new digital age - that was the theme of the Media Thinkers Congress held at the St Regis Hotel in Singapore, organised by Media magazine last week. The thinking behind the congress was to get some insights into the current state of media and what will media be like in the future.


Barbarian Group strategic planning head Noah Brien said: "Media has proliferated. Today, everything is media: everyone is a media creator; people are uploading photos, links, writing blogs. More devices have come in for creating media, majority of the content being put up online is personal. Earlier, the content was not media shareable; the vast majority of content was never meant to be monetised. So that is putting pressure on the media world as traditional publishers, marketers and advertising agencies seek to understand ways of attracting these eyeballs which have been taken away by this non-commercial media."


He added that lines are blurring for traditional media on another front. "Earlier, NBC fought ABC - they did not undercut their own media businesses? advertisers funded media products. Now, even advertisers are becoming media. Consider Johnson‘s babycentre.com which is bigger than the biggest parenting online media site called parents.com. Red bull has a site which rivals even ESPN‘s action sports site."
 
Brien elaborated that distribution had also become disintermediated. "Where earlier it was owned by a few people and was an excellence skill set, now with Blogger, Youtube and Flickr, this has come to rest with everyone. Today, 20 hours of videos is uploaded to youtube.com every minute. There are close to 10 million hours of video on youtube.com enough for our entire lives."


How do media companies deal with the web in this scenario? Brien believes that companies should go all the way or go niche. "In the digital age, you have to stay out of the middle; you are either mass or niche. Build on your prior success, on your audience. Media agencies and media owners need to buy equity in some of the startups who are coming in with innovations on the internet."
 
PHD Australia managing partner Mark Holden spoke next about the rapid technological changes and how these are going to affect the media agency in the future. He began by saying that "if you can predict technology you can predict what media will look like and if you can predict media you can predict what the media agency will be in the future."


Holden pointed out that by 2014 lithium sulphur batteries will provide 10 times the power they provide today and even wireless power should become a reality. "You will have wipo or wireless power zones then like you have wifi zones now. It will mean limitless possibilities for devices which depend on power," he said.


He added that storage is going to become cheaper by 2015. "Today PCs with 1 terabyte (TB) harddrives are going for $500. By 2015, the price will be $500 for 3TB computers. By then, Google wave and cloud computing will be a reality."


On the connectivity front, Holden said a majority of homes in developed countries will be on fibre optics with speeds of 100 mbps while 4G and Wimax will offer 50 mbps-100 mbps speeds.


Holden broke up viewing interfaces into portable, fixed and communal. On portable viewing interfaces, he was extremely bullish on foldable OLED (organic light emitting diode) screens bringing about radical changes in the way we use phones. "The phones of the future will have this two foot screen which will be unfoldable to watch a movie, and what have you."


2015, according to Holden, will have seen the evolution of pattern recognition and correlation based software. "So, devices will know what you are interested in and overlay it over anything else."


He revealed that LED contact lenses would further lead to a proliferation of augmented reality viewing options for advertisers. As far as fixed screens are concerned, Holden pointed out that most TVs would have Ethernet ports and hard drives, while 3D, ultra HD (exceeding the resolution of the human eye) would be the norm. "This will further enhance our experience and affect the way we consume TV," he predicted.


On the communal screen front, he said that most screens will be digital with 3D and Super HD capability, while out-of-home screens will be multitouch and face-aware using Red-eye technology. Holden pointed out that the impact of these technological upheavals will be violent. "Because of the increase in media, there will be an increase in inventory, which in turn will lead to further ad funded opportunities and long form branded content. Advertisers will become prolific programme producers and agencies will need to have programme production capabilities. Additionally, they will have to invest heavily in social marketing."
 
According to Holden, the mobile phone will become the marketing battleground by 2015 with it serving as a high reach and high segmentation medium. What will impact agencies more will be the blurring and convergence of media like online, TV, radio, cinema and the outdoors. "With one in every two ads being online, it will be the end of the era of ad delivery and the beginning of the era of ad serving to each medium," he said.


"The CEO of a media agency in 2009 is CEO of a people-based business. In 2015, he will be a CEO of a software based business. Automation and optimisation software will take a lot out of the manual work which is resorted to now days."


Holden believes that content and software development will become expected offerings of a media agency and they will have developed a new breed of social marketers who will maintain a database of consumers for social marketers. "There will be an increase in neuroscience research with planners training in behavioural economics and becoming marketing investment managers. Buyers will become data and software-based traders," he said in closing. "Agencies will need to stay ahead of the curve. The views a little better there."

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