Photo by Vadim Sherbakov

The Future of Content Consumption

TL:DR Content Consumption will have a larger focus on original documents and stories will be more emphasized.

“Did you see what happened today on the news?” My mom asked one night at dinner. “Nope,” I replied. She proceeded to list off all of the headlined news stories. I listened dutifully.

As she let on about one news story to the next, I kept thinking about how slow her source of information was. I had read about her “headlined news” four days ago — via a tweet and two accompanying articles. I was astonished, but also not surprised, that my mom was just hearing about it now!

The conversation reminded me of those times I played telephone as a child and how a message got distorted as it passed from person to person. Was this game just a representation of how the world’s news actually worked? How many people had the news passed between that my mother had mentioned that morning? How many people from the time I was informed about it, until my mother had seen it on the news that morning? How many people had added their own slant and bias?

The way people consume content has changed over the last ten years. The traditional medium such as TV, radio, film, books, newspapers, magazines, word of mouth and story telling, are no longer the only way to hear or read about the happenings in society and the world today. Today, we consume content through videos (on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo), social networks (like reddit, Facebook and twitter), blogs, and news sources. The ways in which content is consumed nowadays has grown exponentially.

It’s interesting that many news organizations have yet to master how to leverage these new forms of media. The audience has no control over the time they can listen or watch content on the radio and TV. Although, digitally, an audience can put a cap on how long they consume an article for — leaving it and picking it up at a different time. One is able choose to only read about a particular topic for 10 minutes, opposed to being required to listen/watch before it disappears. The fight for content producers have changed from focusing on eye balls to creating content which adds value to people’s lives.

Individuals are leaning towards individualized content consumption. Individuals are no longer satisfied with being considered part of the mass market. They yearn to feel special, loved and desired. They want the content they consume to do that for them. Look at the followers of popular YouTube stars such as JacksGap and Shep689, whose fans send them fan mail and gifts. In return for the gifts and support, the online stars give these fans a shout-out, for a few minutes, in their videos. People create emotional attachments with web celebrities in a way that is different from past celebrities. These online celebrities in some ways are more real and more accessible. They are also more niche based and more focused on specific audiences. Niche audiences bleed into people’s TV watching habits. People now have more control over what they watch and when they watch it. Soon it will be the same for other types of media.

Imagine a system where individuals input their query and the system aggregates the information from multiple original sources. These sources are video, print, tweets and other forms of content related to that particular subject or topic. This allows people to collate news just for their ideals and thought processes. It also allows people to determine what they view. For example, if a particular person has a left political view but indulges in right political views, they can tailor their content to keep them abreast of the competition. One day, I see people having the choice of only being fed the content and views that they desire. At that point, it calls into question society’s intellectual capacity because intellectual growth happens through discussion and confrontation.

Gone are the days when people only watched three channels, the days are coming where the content will be king no matter the medium or context.

Look at what Upworthy has been doing, it has been creating little soundbites for the Millennial Generation. Allowing them to receive news that feeds into their sensibilities. I have to commend them for linking to the original broadcast, however, usually the full context is hard to find or unavailable because they’re behind paywalls or the media company only has clips allowed on their proprietary online video site. For example, I have found that watching the entire episode of “Meet the Press” when Rachel Maddow confronts Jim DeMint and Ralph Reed over Gay Marriage is impossible because MSNBC only supplies clips of the episode. Why are they breaking up the experience? What if during the minutes that were cut, there was a profound statement that could further the intellectual conversation or further my understanding of the situation. Breaking it up destroys the flow of the discussion, allowing for watchers to lose interest. If the intent of the media is to have more people watch their programming, why do they make such a poor experience?

Let’s make a comparison to responsive web design. The fundamentals of responsive web design deals with taking the same content and having the same or similar experience on all platforms.

The future of media is not going to be who can master the newest medium, but who can present their content correctly on all devices and through any experience. For example, a news story should be accurately told in 140 characters, in long form, on video, on the radio, mobile and desktop experiences. No matter where an individual is, they should have the opportunity and the choice to pick the experience for their content. With organizations such as DeFranco, Inc. covering popular news in 2-4 minute sound bites, the question becomes how can media adapt to these sources or are new networks required to pave the way? Where should the focus be? There are going to be organizations that should focus on integrating horizontally into the news, meaning that they communicate information really well in 140 characters. While there will also be organizations or people who can create content that can be experienced over multiple mediums.

This would require a shift in journalists and the media from predefining the medium the story is delivered, but creating valuable enough content that it transcends the media and adds value to the people reading or experiencing it.

As content changes, the power of story will remain and guide our messaging and our experiences.

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