Recently we were involved in a think tank round table discussion with the Georgia Tech Future Media Group. Here are the discussion participants and discussion notes.
FutureMediaSM Industry Roundtable Series Georgia Tech Research Institute, July 27, 2011 FutureMedia Fest 2011
SiteMinis, Marci Troutman
Sitminis provides companies looking to turn mobile phone “browsers” with a way to turn their mobile Websites into brand consistent, fully functional m-commerce destinations without losing control or profits to third parties — regardless of the type of cell phone or carrier their customers use. http://www.siteminis.com/home.html
“Multimedia” itself is changing: Media itself— in all its elements— is rapidly being transformed in the way it is being created, distributed, consumed, and even thought about. We can no longer look at multimedia as a set of fixed commodities, but rather as an entity through which the means of transmitting is evolving with technology and changing behaviors.
Lack of synchronicity: There continues to be a consistent lag in the ability of industry to keep up with ever changing consumer demands. Company concern over competitive advantage is hindering agility and timing of content release.
Limited release no longer compelling: Content control, based on limited release models, are not compelling enough to raise consumer demand and can even contribute to more missed opportunities to connect with consumers.
Illegal downloading: Increased fragmentation of huge amounts of content over multiple distribution channels and platforms continues to exacerbate illegal downloading, undercutting transmission control and revenue streams. In some cases, content providers fan the flames of illegal downloading by delaying release in an effort to create buzz, pushing frustrated consumers to find other (faster) means of getting to the content— illegally if necessary. So, in order to mitigate illegalities, we have to make it easy for consumers to find content they are willing to pay a fair price/schema for.
Unique content providers vs. search engines: Search engines are vigorously competing with industry to present consumers with the same content, delivered faster (i.e. consumers may get their online content about a car product from a search engine rather than industry sites specializing in the automobile industry). The emergence of discovery engines will alter this landscape even further.
Shorter lifecycles: The moving target of consumer behavior coupled with ever-changing technology and its applications is making the lifecycles of companies shorter and shorter. (For example, the conditions that helped make Netflix or Facebook successful will not be the same conditions for the next successful business five years from now, or even two years from now.)
Accelerated R &D cycles: The multimedia space is changing so rapidly that companies are struggling to move faster and faster through R & D cycles to bring innovations to market, a daunting challenge to businesses that don’t have the resources of an industry giant like Google.
Real-world replication: Those products and services that most appeal to consumers have been those that “reach” people in practical and emotional ways. How can this dynamic be replicated in the media space?
Cost of Implementation vs. Cost of Conversion: Many companies simply do not have the resources to convert legacy systems— however inefficient they may be. But the market call to implement new technology and update outdated systems or die is becoming more and more real to businesses and industry.
Bandwidth: Much of what can be accomplished in research spheres and brought to use in the multimedia market will be impacted by the availability and effective use of bandwidth. Unregulated vs. regulated pipelines for media is taking center stage as legacy systems try to control bandwidth to avoid the cost of conversion and lower power needs of wireless systems are further crowding and already crowded sensor infrastructure.
Robust mobile graphics and video: In the dynamic multimedia domain, dazzling, visually compelling graphics and video applications transmitted over mobile platforms will be attractive to consumers.
Content Management: Novel services that help businesses and consumers effectively manage pervasive content in meaningful ways will be in demand.
Search/Discovery Refinement: Products and services that can offer nimble innovations in content navigation, indexing, and segmentation, allowing users to better move through a sea of content, will be critical.
Archive Sampling: With vast archives of content now available, new industries that can pinpoint once “perishable” content for fresh applications will be attractive to users (i.e. music sampling of older content by artists and producers to create new content.)
Multisensory Media: The new frontier may be media that is even more sensory— and able to appeal to consumers on an emotional level. Applications that provide users with a “real- world” experience that be seen, felt, and ultimately, known will be winners (i.e. replicating the experience of “kicking the tires” or test-driving a car without going to a showroom or car lot).
Media Curation: Individuals and businesses highly skilled in analyzing, synthesizing, and conceptualizing media on multiple levels and formats in a seamless way will be in demand.
Discovery to decision: Those new modes of media that help people make decisions for useful application in their everyday lives will be in demand.
Interaction models: Consumers of tomorrow will expect multimedia that allows them to impact and interact (i.e. Cisco’s Videoscape). Successful companies will be those that can design novel ways to plug into the core experiences of the consumer (that core set of wants and needs that people have) and then present it in a consumer-centric way that has meaning in their lives. Interaction via immersion will be critical.
Bridge the Digital Divide: The growing divide between those “connected” and those who are not will have greater impact on the media ecosystem of tomorrow. Those services and applications that can address the challenges of rural areas and different cultures (both within the United States and globally) in effective ways will become increasingly critical.
Create “low-friction” use: Even in the vast multimedia domain, people will still want tools, devices, applications, and services that are simple and easy to use.
Right-time narrative & delivery: Applications and services that capitalize on targeted marketing & advertising innovations to reach the consumer with a relevant story at the right time will be the winners.
“Lean-back” enablers: Tools and applications and that allow people to interact and consume multimedia in portable, casual ways will have success (i.e. the lean-back use of an iPad vs. the lean-forward use of a laptop).
What does it all mean?
Media technology as entertainment: There has been a fundamental shift in how media is viewed. Not only will users expect multimedia to be entertaining, tomorrow’s users will assume that all media will be interactive, and engage them in an emotional, real-world way.
Generational tug-of-war: Many market behaviors and changes will still be affected by resistances of those who are unwilling or untrusting of new media vs. speed of adoption of those pushing for new applications and uses.
Pay to play: The multimedia frontier will be one based on pay to play models of engagement. Society and government will need to face, in real terms, who is going to pay for what. How will tomorrow’s multimedia landscape be controlled? In what ways will cost impact that control? (Early experimentation of paywalls by the likes of the NY Times, Economist, and Wall Street Journal are examples.)
Agility in thinking: People need to think in agile, malleable ways to best make use of the increasingly noisy and multidimensional media space.
Regulation: The multimedia domain has given rise to a whole new world of business practices, ownership configurations, and consumer engagement that no longer apply to archaic business rules and regulations. Government will need to key to those areas of the media ecosystem that should be regulated to protect consumers and encourage new market growth.
Personalization Nation: The rise of personalization services will not supplant the necessity of people understanding and controlling what they need and want.
Imagine what the medium wants to be: Researchers should look at the multimedia ecosystem and start exploring what the medium could be, based on what people want to do with it, and build an innovation platform from there.
Keep up: Researchers will need to be more adept in keeping up with the pace of technology and trends. For example, what if in five years there is a quantum shift in bandwidth? If delivery of media gets faster, then the possibilities with media will change dramatically. Researchers and academicians need to be poised for and create the unexpected.
Match multimedia R & D with businesses opportunities: Researchers, academicians and businesses will need to come together at the nexus of how best to exploit media innovation to improve peoples’ everyday lives.
Societal impact: There is a lack of educational research on how all of this new media effects human behavior, if at all, and what would be different about the behavior of tomorrow’s citizens based on the changes that are happening. For example, people now congregate around content digitally, effecting social dialogue in new ways. How has all this new technology changed our social and economic structure?
Positioning will be everything: Companies need to be thinking about how to best make themselves “obsolete-proof.” Well-positioned companies of tomorrow will be those who have positioned themselves as “channels,” so that when multimedia transmission formats are disrupted going forward, they can be the first conduits of innovation.
Show sophistication of usage understanding: Businesses and industry need to understand how new technologies and media offerings can be presented in sophisticated ways that plug into how consumers will access and use that media seamlessly.
Demonstrate customer-centricity: New technology and forms of media are merely tools in maintaining what will still be most important to tomorrow’s consumer: quality customer service. The fundamental truth of understanding your customer’s needs will remain. Businesses will need to effectively demonstrate what problem they can solve for tomorrow’s consumers, and then qualify themselves to do it by showcasing how their services match up with user needs and wants. Delivering and following through— regardless of the innovation used— will mean everything.
Understand that middlemen are becoming obsolete; New ones will likely emerge to address new needs: With content moving through an ever increasing number of channels directly to the consumer, disintermediation will prevail. The value of traditional content controllers is increasingly being challenged. Industry and businesses must get beyond trying to control content and focus on reaching the consumer directly. The multimedia paradigm works best when it is working with the consumer.