Opinion

The Future

FutureWhat will the media, marketing and entertainment industry look like in the not too distant future? In a feature that first appeared in EncoreNic Christensen finds out.

Newspapers, TV as we know it and magazines will be dead in five years, or 10 years, or possibly 30. It’s hard to put a definitive time frame on change in the media landscape.

What we do know is that the key trends and indicators are already there. A proverbial canary in the mine signalling the transformations to come.

Forecasters and futurists argue there are clear trends looking ahead.

“The die is already cast with where the media and advertising industry is travelling but that process is being accelerated not just by the internet but by consumers,” says Phil Ruthven, chairman of market research and analysis firm IBISWorld.

Ruthven is one of a number of experts who argue change in the media will be driven by two forces: disruptors and consumers. And he is not alone.

Creative technologist at M&C Saatchi James Bush says the key to understanding the future of media lies in examining consumer behaviour and how technology is impacting it.

“It will be interesting to see how advertisers and publishers use technology. There are a number of companies that are developing technology to take advantage of things like contextual behaviour,” he says.

Mark Pesce, one of Australia’s leading futurists, says the companies who survive well into the future will be the ones who are able to cater to the demands of consumers in the ever-expanding multi-platform world.

“In the future, I should be able to watch (content) on my tablet or my smartphone or get it beamed on to my eyeballs from my Google glasses – whatever it might be,” says Pesce, an honorary associate in digital cultures at the University of Sydney.

“Content must be as promiscuous as possible and that’s what we don’t see right now.” Pesce points out that many media companies and marketers are still struggling to adapt to the full impact of the internet which has been around for more than two decades.

“The internet makes everyone a publisher of content,” he says. “It has eliminated all the barriers to distribution and this affects everything including production. Now competitive forces are able to enter the market with no barriers to entry.”

The future of print

When it comes to newspapers very few experts are willing to predict the demise of a centuries-old medium.

But whether they will survive the coming decades is a legitimate question.

“It’s a very big call but I suspect the answer is no,” says futurist Pesce.

He points to the falling cost of tablets, already as low as $60 for some devices, and says: “In the future you will get a Herald subscription and they will throw the tablet in. When we get to the point where devices are essentially invisible, ubiquitous and cheap then this idea of distributing on paper will have gone away.”

Media futurist Ross Dawson also believes traditional print newspapers are living on borrowed time. In 2010 he launched a newspaper extinction timeline for every country in the world predicting the US will be the first to see the end of newspapers as early as 2017, while countries like Canada, Singapore, Denmark and Australia would see the death of print by the early 2020s.

He also noted that the developing world will see the trend through the 2030s and into the 2040s but now argues the decline is accelerating and may come sooner.

“Even in India and China and many other developing countries circulation is falling, in some cases dramatically,” says Dawson. “A few years ago there was talk of growth in newspapers in many developing countries but now we are seeing a potential acceleration of those timelines so it’s quite likely there will be a compression from the dates I was originally suggesting.”

Phil Ruthven of IBISWorld believes we will still be reading print newspapers beyond 2030.

“Some forecasters say we will see the end of them within 10 to 20 years and I’m not convinced of that – I think it will take longer,” says Ruthven. “You will still see some vestiges of newspapers – be they local or what have you – for up to the next 30 years. I don’t think we’ll see the last of them until the 2040s.”

The future of TV

Futurists agree that IPTV, the delivery of programming online straight to viewers rather than broadcasting over the airwaves, will fundamentally change viewing behaviour of television in the coming years. “Television executives are good at avoiding this question but it is going to become paramount,” says Pesce, who points to the National Broadband Network as a threat to traditional models of broadcasting, especially for the free-to-air networks.

“The NBN has this infinite carrying capacity so we have to ask why do we still have terrestrial broadcasters?” says Pesce. “The ABC and the SBS have been at the front of this but the commercial broadcasters are falling behind because they have locked themselves into being redistributors of American content.”

In the years to come, TV industry insiders suggest we could see production companies cutting out the middleman as they create their own IPTV channels. The possibility of a Southern Star or Shine channel is entirely feasible.

IBISWorld’s Ruthven is also adamant that IPTV and online video will change the model for traditional broadcasters. “You’ll have TV but it’s very hard to say it’s TV as we know it. Broadcasting as we know it will change given the way younger generations have grown up downloading content,” he says. Much of the business model for current TV networks is already under threat, opening the door for services such as video-on-demand, but they are too are affected by the prevalence of illegal downloading and face a questionable future.

Kai Henniges, CEO of global video-on-demand site Viewster, says: “There are a number of business models being developed through subscription and also advertising but all them are threatened by piracy. As Hollywood studios and content producers continue their battle against online piracy, they are seeing small victories such as the shutdown of file sharing site Megaupload in 2012.

Henniges claims: “The day authorities closed down Megaupload we saw a 20 per cent uptake in traffic – that tells you something.”

The future of radio

For a ‘traditional’ medium such as radio the future is likely to be dictated by the continuing shift to digital and what that will mean for existing broadcasters.

There is also the obvious question of audience erosion by music streaming sites such as Spotify which are just in their infancy in Australia.

Former DMG Radio executive Dean Buchanan says there are opportunities and threats to radio, but overall he is optimistic about its future.

“(Radio) has historic strengths. It’s portable, free, immediate and live and given the traffic snarls we have in our major cities… radio will continue to command a unique place in the media landscape,” says Buchanan, who now runs a talent management firm looking after radio and TV personalities.

According to Commercial Radio Australia, Aussies are already jumping on the digital radio bandwagon with more than one million digital radios sold since their introduction, a figure that will only grow in the years to come, especially now that increasing numbers of car manufacturers are embracing the technology. “The industry has made significant inroads with Australian vehicle manufacturers,” says Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia.

She says the greatest challenge facing the industry is to make the most of digital. “(We need to be) offering listeners greater interactivity, more programming, better sound, plus scrolling text and slideshows to complement the audio,” she says.

It’s a viewpoint shared by Buchanan who also argues digital radio will change listening habits in the years to come. “Your radio entertainment time is increasingly fragmented and that is both an opportunity and a threat,” he says. “There will be more competition coming online and for radio that means being available in so many more forms than just the AM or FM dial.”

He points to the success of digital stations like BBC 6 Music and Radio 4 Extra which are both pulling million-plus audiences ahead of commercial stations.

“This is significant because it the first time some of the digital BBC radio brands have overtaken commercial,” says Buchanan.

“Digital radio in Australia is still in its infancy but digital is going to have a massive impact on radio in this country.”

As for the question of music streaming and its impact on radio, ABC boss Mark Scott told Encore recently that he sees traditional radio offerings working with streaming not against it.

Scott said: “We’re working in partnership with some of these people. If you go to Triple J you’ll find a feed that links back to our playlist. I don’t think you can pretend those streaming services aren’t there. I don’t think you should be in denial of the impact they could have but you can work with them in a way, just like we work with iTunes.”

The future of advertising

As media changes in the years to come, so too will advertising and the way in which today’s advertising agencies do business with clients and also internally.

The Brand Agency’s head of strategy Paul Yole says the relationship between agencies and clients will have to change. “The business will always be about ideas because that’s our strength, that’s what we do well,” says Yole. “But what we have to understand is that we have to change how we source and produce those ideas.”

Yole argues that technology and the media is changing consumption of content and that the approach of agencies is evolving. “This goes beyond creative communication. We have to make the client’s life better and that goes beyond shooting out ad messages and helping their business,” he says.

M&C Saatchi’s creative technologist James Bush says the way brands advertise will change dramatically in the future and that creative agencies will need to source many more of their ideas from online users and take better advantage of strategies like crowdsourcing. “From a brand perspective, we are seeing crowdsourcing become bigger. People come up with an idea before it goes into manufacturing or prototyping. They are seeing if there is a market for it,” he says. In many ways this shift from focus groups to real-world testing has already begun. “Brands such as Starbucks already offer you the chance to contribute and say what you think a new product should be. Brands are responding more and more to that,” says Bush. He says advertisers need to be using crowdsourcing both on a macro level to understand the market and also on the micro level to better understand consumers and their behaviour. “Technology will allow us to understand how people are engaging and what they looking for, how people are connecting to brands and which brands,” says Bush.

The future of media buying

In the world of media agencies the future will be defined by greater specialisation argues Mike Cooper, worldwide CEO of PHD. “We’ve got analytics people, data people, brand science people, content experts. That degree of expertise will continue to flourish, which puts media in a very central position,” he says. But that’s not to say generalists will be out of a job. “Senior clients, at some point, are going to want to have a conversation with somebody who understands the whole picture and they are not going to want to have some fragmented conversation with multiple people across hundreds of areas,” he says. The other major factor that will impact media agencies in the future is the globalisation of brands although local agencies will be called upon to come up with local solutions.

 

Encore issue 5

This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.

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