Living in the future: new media, new consumers, new desires

The old media model of the twentieth century was monolithic and based on a broadcast model. Large scale media players distributed a fixed series of products to a passive audience.

In the twenty-first century we are seeing the beginnings of a new media model. The passive broadcast audience is fragmenting into niches. Now audiences are not passive. They have been trained to engage with their media by years of playing online games. And they also expect to be able to engage with other people as part of their consumption of media. Thus the audience is no longer merely an audience, instead they are participants. And those participants are hyperconnected with each other.

This evolution is causing shifts in the business models of organisations that deliver media content. The power relationship between the creators and distributors of media and their erstwhile audience is shifting.

The introduction of new devices is also driving this trend. Social computing is truly here now that we have devices like the iPad or Android tablets. These devices encourage collaborative behaviour and sharing of the media participation experience.

Participants (or consumers) in this new media landscape are also on the move. No more are we tethered to a television or desktop computer. Our computers are in our mobile devices like cell phones, laptops and tablet computers. Our consumption while on the move is only limited by battery life (especially if using Apple devices).

A defining feature of the media that will be successful in this new milieu is device neutrality. Successful media products will not need to be played on a particular machine or device, nor will we be forced to consume it on only one device.

This means that licensing and related legal constructs will need to evolve too. Consumers want to buy the rights to content only once but to be able to consume it on our various devices at will. Consumers also want ways to give our right to the content to another person to play on their devices.

Consumer demands for this kind of flexibility are growing and will continue to increase. The media industry needs to face up to these kinds of demands and find ways to accommodate these consumer desires. Locking down access is not the answer. Loading increasingly onerous legal obligations upon consumers and enforcing them vigourously (for example by way of Digital Rights Management) is no way to address the evolving consumer demands.

It is time for the new media creators and distributors to find new ways to price-in flexibility and ease of use. The realities of a global market for digital media must be acknowledged.

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