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The Future Of Content

Audiences and their tastes and interests are changing constantly, rapidly and situationally - to be able to keep pace with such a dynamic audience - Content companies need to innovate not just offerings, but also business and operating models

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Consumers of today and the future are increasingly intolerant of Linear Television content and fixed timeslot led one-way broadcast communication. Interactivity & consumption on demand, freedom of choice and ability to express opinion is key to these Digitally Native consumers who are not tied down by prejudices, habits or methods of the past. Technology today - helps meet their unstated desires and aspirations - that of control, choice, and contextual relevance.

It is such consumers and their constant quest for newer experiences, driven by relentless adoption of technology, that is driving the next wave of content consumption. From a business perspective, this implies that it is the Consumer who should and must be at the very center of our core strategies and financial models. The days of "supply side" business models - where consumers are expected to buy what producers have to sell, is fast getting replaced by "demand side" economics. As a content owner either you realize what each consumer wants and deliver exactly that - or you risk being discarded. Acceptance of Consumer Demand is critical; that's the hard fact. Everything else - technology, data, analytics, strategies & business models - needs to best adapt and deliver this core proposition.

Going forward, I believe, the 3 key tenets driving content are:
" Data (of Consumption),
" Speed (of Platform),
" Quality (of Content).

The era where broadcasters and content owners decided content offerings, based on assumptions and biases, derived from fuzzy data points, is over. Consumers are cherry picking content based on what inspires them, what interests them, and what appeals to them at a purely instinctive level. And, this is different for different people. The audience is no longer a gigantic mass of consumers that behaves or consumes in the same manner.

Today's content offerings thus cannot be 'one size fits all'. Technology allows targeting each individual of the audience to understand their consumption and interests. Using insights, derived from individual consumer choices, content players in the digital era are fine tuning their offerings. But this is not easy, and is constantly evolving. As AI becomes more nuanced, this ability to consistently serve content that delights the consumer, real-time, will become more sophisticated and commonplace. Content offerings in the future would thus need to be driven by robust data and meaningful insights.

The second tenet is Speed of Content production, delivery and engagement platforms, that drives the speed at which consumers create and consume content. Increasingly critical is the concept of NOW - perhaps even more important than fundamental concepts like Right or Wrong. Along with unfettered demand comes the need for immediacy of fulfillment.

Platforms that allow us to instantly express and instinctively engage - are the ones that drive serendipity. Unique serendipitous experiences are an essential demand today. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, WeChat and others - platforms that drive this - are the ones that are growing exponentially.

Traditional conventions of quality, veracity are being challenged by spontaneity of expression, instinctive creativity and ingenuity of ideation. The phenomena of social media stars, comes from the speed at which they can put out things, without being bound by conventions and rules. This has forced even traditional content creators to follow the path of consumer generated content, to gain eyeballs and remain relevant. However, this comes with its own set of challenges. Quality and credibility of content is often at risk today in an era of content volume and speed of delivery. Established media businesses can ill afford a loss in reputation and thus will likely focus on quality content that drives consumption, rather than speed of delivery, that may not be credible. Striking the right balance between quality and speed, credibility and attraction, engagement and entertainment - is vital.

Which brings us to the third pillar of content of the future - Quality. A good story, well told, visually appealing and leaving behind a contextual and relevant takeaway, always works.

Data insights in the past seemed to suggest millennial audiences only prefer short form content. But millennials don't just consume long form content, they in-fact indulge in binge consumption. There is of course a lot of snacking on short form content, but little loyalty to the same. It's just something that catches the eye, and you choose to click on it. Or not. Whereas, with the longer form content, it usually ends up meeting the latent need for a good story.

Lastly, a rapidly changing digital economy necessitates flexible specialization as well as a mode of collaborative competition, between organizations in the three areas. More so since it may be unsustainable, and possibly also inefficient, for one organization to try do it all. Today, audiences and their tastes and interests are changing constantly, rapidly and situationally - to be able to keep pace with such a dynamic audience - Content companies need to innovate not just offerings, but also business and operating models.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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