Tag Archives: Digital Future

Jeff Cole and USC’s Center for the Digital Future. And yes, the Future is Digital.

18 Jan

Bob Dylan was right (as usual). Times are a-changin’ (again…and again and again and really, really quickly).

Jeff Cole, Director of USC Annenberg’s Center for the Digital Future, was a formidable introductory speaker for our program. Besides mentioning standout music from his collection (I respect any Pink Floyd fan), he highlighted some key findings from the Center’s World Internet Project and Digital Future reports, which survey how and why Internet technology impacts individual and consumer behavior, as well as entertainment and communication media. While Cole claims that television was originally the “most powerful medium ever invented,” the Internet has fundamentally dwarfed it, forever changing the way we interact and consume information. Here are some world shattering predictions:

  • Print news will be obsolete within the next five years. While newspapers used to land on doorsteps once every 24 hours, news cycles now need to be updated every 30 to 60 seconds to be considered up-to-date.  When Internet penetration reaches 30 percent in a country, printed news declines. Every time a print newspaper reader dies, they are not being replaced. Forty percent of Internet users give up print subscriptions to find the same information online for free. The same bleak statistics apply to print news magazines (Time, Newsweek). However, much to my personal happiness, some magazines will continue to survive (women’s fashion magazines, The New Yorker) since much of the consumer pleasure is directly linked to tangible page flipping.
  • Schedules are disappearing. Remember TV Guide? Poor Rupert Murdoch certainly does. He bought TV Guide in 1995 for $3 billion and sold it in 2009 for less than $1. And why did TV Guide become obsolete? Because of technology like TiVo, DVRs, iTunes, Pandora, and Hulu. We no longer need to schedule our entertainment viewing or consumption; we can view or listen what we want, when we want it. Additionally, the plethora of available choices has helped with the demise of schedules. In 1975, 90% of television was on three major broadcast channels. Last year, five broadcast networks shared only 40% of total viewing. Television is escaping from the home: in 1975, we spent 16 hours a week in front of one screen; in 2008, we spent 34 hours a week in front of three different screens. With Internet radio, we are no longer restricted to our local stations. Music used to have a ritualized, formalized release pattern: a single hit the radio, then another single six weeks later, then the CD was released, if you wanted to buy a single song you had to buy the entire CD, then the group went on tour, repeat ad nauseum. Although the Internet will never replace the experience of going to a live show – I believe the live music business will continue to thrive – business models for purchasing music and home entertainment are going digital. Virgin and Tower Records no longer exist. Blockbuster and Hollywood Video are going in that direction (thanks Netflix and Netflix Streaming!). And likely the DVD player as well (the CD player is well on it’s way…though I sincerely hope people will keep record players around for posterity’s sake. Vinyl just sounds better).
  • The future of digital content is addressability. How do we acquire digital content, and how can media corporations continue to be profitable? While the Internet will always be susceptible to theft (ie, downloading music and movies for free), and we can continue to pay fees and subscriptions, what will happen to advertising? We know that recognizability and reliability help a brand cut through the clutter. But with consumers no longer paying attention to traditional ads, companies will need to customize ads for the viewer. Based on media viewing patterns, or grocery purchases, or music downloads, advertisers will have the ability to tailor ads to the individual consumer’s interests. Customized content certainly raises privacy issues – how and why would these companies know so much about me, and what could happen to that information? Would consumers be able to opt-out of advertising altogether? If so, how will corporations be able to create mainstream content?

As a future digital manager and entrepreneur, I am fascinated and excited by these possibilities. The world is moving online, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Though I have to admit, on a personal level, there is something so satisfying about curling up and reading the paper version of the New York Times or LA Weekly…though this may be a long shot, I hope that we can sustain some personal connection to media and information WITHOUT the omnipresent broadband facilitator. Stay tuned, world.

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