On the future of media, the audience and us.
I’ve never been labeled a ”futurologist” before, but last week I was. I had been invited to talk on a panel at MIPTV under this banner. Three of us – me, Eric Scherer from France Television and Bill Baggelaar, SVP of Tech production and Post-production at Sony – were tasked with commenting on the trends for the future that IHS’ Principal Analyst Paul Gray had talked about in his presentation just before us.
My role was that of a producer and creator (and developer and strategist and…), basically coming from the content production side a bit more than my two co-panelists. And while Paul’s presentation was interesting – touching on everything from VR and AR to the ”democratization of video” – I still felt that the greatest changes for anyone in the media business are in the core of what we’re trying to tell, how we’re trying to tell it, whom we’re trying to reach and how.
Firstly, as a producer and content creator, I think one of the main things we’re facing right now with regards to making our craft profitable (or more profitable) is that it is about finding new connections – or discovering the ones that are already there and how we can make use of them. We need to think creatively ow we can knit together active, creative audiences with brands, publishers, networks, companies and organizations, using stories and content as our thread and the – for each case - most suitable media platforms as our canvas.
I believe – as I’ve also recently read in a couple of articles – that we’re moving into an age where the best merchants, the ones making the biggest impacts on markets, are also the best storytellers – not necessarily the best producers or manufacturers. It will increasingly be about the ones that can reach an audience with their stories, stories that are crafted to resonate with the audience and foster engagement and thereby loyalty.
SecondIy, thinking back on the different future trends Paul Gray talked about, from the democratization of video to the fragmentation of content everywhere, there is a fundamental need for each and everyone of us in the creative industries to start to listen a lot more. We – everyone in the business – need to reshape our way of thinking about audiences.
As a comparison, anyone who has children probably know the situation when you need to get something done quickly, and you basically order your kids around? It might work, but you’ll be upset, they’ll be upset and it’ll be no fun for anyone involved. If we listen to them, know what their life is like from their point of view and can factor that in to what needs to be done, we’ll have a much easier time. And while this might work well with your children, the same methods can have an even greater impact on an audience you’re trying to reach. Respect and attention!
Thirdly, I liked what Sky’s Jeremy Darroch said in a panel the day before - "If content is the tennis ball, technology is the top spin that we put on it to make it bounce a bit higher”. It’s a quote that’s been used before, but it’s no less true for all that.
Ultimately though, what I feel all technology innovations in media are helping us do, is move into a new kind of storytelling. If the majority of stories told over the past hundred years or so, probably much longer, have been based on the classical Hero’s Journey – protagonist’s world is upheaved, protagonist needs to go on some kind of journey to evolve and become a better hero… Today, with the connected society we’re seeing, with the technological possibilities available to us, we’re looking at a shift towards a “Collective Journey” instead. These are stories and narratives made possible by the technology today, and see us as a collective that face the challenges, take the risks, reap the benefits. We are uniquely individual, but the total of our collective is more than the sum of its parts.
I feel this is a momentous shift in how we approach storytelling and storycrafting, and the content development needs to move with this.
Fourthly, the question was asked during the panel if we feel there is a certain need for broadcasters to go down the ATAWAD road – AnyTimeAnyWhereAnyDevice – and I absolutely do, as long as it is based on sound research. For me it’s quite simple – if you know whom you’re trying to reach, you need to know where they are. If they are everywhere at any time on any device – you definitely need to consider being there too. If not, someone else will be.
The future is always notoriously difficult to predict. One thing we can be sure of is that it will never be 100% alike what we envision it to become. But right now, the possibilities are there for this to be quite an interesting ride...