As the debate rages on, as to which medium is king, be it content or distribution, I am putting up my contender for the crown. I say technology is king. How did I arrive at this conclusion? The first step, was not to look at how I consumed media, but how I purchased media, as those are two different processes. Then I identified my role in the market. I am a 23-year-old maximiser. My age group happens to be the target audience of most media today. In essence I am both the solution and the problem to this surplus of information brought about by the move from analog to digital.
How do I consume media? I find I use information to find out about stuff I am interested in, be it for work, for class assignments, to learn new things. To stay up to date on what is going on in the world, but more focused to fit my own niche. For research, to find out what’s going on around me, as conversation starters, or at social gatherings. This list compiled from ten minutes of brainstorming consists of everyday functions. These are things that I do daily. From this it can be safe for me to deduce – again for me, as no two people are alike – that the value of information for me is to be able to function and complete my tasks. These functions are in all aspects of my life but can be categorized into:
Social (new music, movies etc)
Again these will differ for everybody, as no two people are alike. Now my consumption pattern is also different from the older generation. I am part of the on demand generation. We want our information when we want it how we want it and straight to the point. I do not have the time let alone the attention span to read every single news article I see. Instead I find I have a 2 level step to filter what I read and what I do not. I first browse the headlines. Those that intrigue me, I skim the first paragraph or blurb right under them. Those that do not, go in my ignore bin. For most of the articles I can get the news or information from the article from that piece alone. For some however, after reading the introduction, I open up the whole article and read the entire article. What matters to me therefore is more of getting the news and information in a short succinct form. I find I care less about the opinion and just want the facts.
Now to the next question of how do I purchase media? I am guilty as charged when it comes to the ‘why pay when you can get it for free’ crowd. However, there are some media that I consume out of necessity. One such thing is news. My consumption of news can be categorized into two forms. Human and electronic. Human in the form of word of mouth, being aware that being human in itself is a limitation on how much news I can consume. Technological in that apart from being made to read the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times in print by my time in financial PR, my consumption is strictly through electronic means. Seeing as “electronic” is extremely broad I will clarify. Now this may differ for many people, however for me my consumption is less from the television and radio and more from my cell phone – more specifically my blackberry – my computer and my iPod touch (which is basically a mini computer). Those stories that do not make it to these mediums do not reach me, except through human means. These devices allow me to access the information on the go whenever and wherever I please and so have added value to me.
With the slew of new eBook readers following the Kindle and Sony Reader, and the development of concepts for flexi paper, its time to focus on the future. The dot.com game is over; we have missed that horse. Companies should take their losses and focus on the device/platform game. Focus on the future technologies coming out and how to use those to your advantage, to create a paying model.
It’s no longer about the content itself, but how it is differentiated by the technology, ease of retrieval, targeted aggregation, added benefits – cost, time, data correlation, analytics, etc – or whatever else technology will allow us to do in future. There is no short-term solution, a change of this magnitude, requires massive infrastructure change and change in business model and minds, culture, companies and management. You can’t get people to pay for things they don’t need – with the only exception being the Wall Street Journal – and they are used to getting for free. Don’t make the same mistake with technology. Implement a payment structure immediately to train users to paying and go from there. The sooner we realize content is no longer king the easier life will be. There is so much information out there, that it is the technology used to reach the audience that will differentiate them.