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Peter Csathy

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A New Golden Age of Content

Posted: 12/27/2013 7:15 pm

Amidst the maelstrom of technology shattering decades-old media-centric business models -- a reality that continues to frighten many in its wake -- often lost is the fact that we are now in the midst of a new golden age of content. Yes, it's true. There has been too much doom and gloom, and not enough of the content creators' boom. We will look back at this era decades from now as being a period of creative boom, not bust. Here's why.

Mobile. We now have more than seven billion mobile devices worldwide -- more mobile devices than people on this planet. Just think about that. That absolutely is a revolution. And thanks to this mobile revolution, content creators now have the opportunity for the first time to reach virtually any of us anywhere we are at any time. And they are. Hulu just announced that over 50 percent of its subscribers now watch their videos on tablets or mobile phones.

But reaching us does not mean that content creators must find us directly. If they do their jobs right -- which means telling compelling stories -- we consumers will do the work for them. We will find their content ourselves. In fact, we will do even more than that. With 58 percent of online videos consumed on social networking sites, we enthusiastically (frequently feverishly!) will go further. If we like what we have consumed, we will pass it on to our families, friends and co-workers -- and we will urge them to consume it themselves.

Just take a look at Will Ferrell. He -- in the guise of Ron Burgundy of Anchorman fame -- is literally everywhere now. We have put Mr. Burgundy everywhere. We retweet his videos. We post them. We have become individual broadcasters and marketeers, amplifying the voices of creators whose stories we deem worthy to be seen and heard (even those, like Mr. Burgundy's, that are blatant promotions!). Think about that. That is quite incredible.

Not only has the media distribution game been disrupted by the new technologies, the form of that content itself has been disrupted. Gone are the days of creativity being locked into serial 22-minute segments dictated by traditional broadcast time slots and ad spends. Digital media (online and mobile) has shattered those constraints, unleashing a torrent of unprecedented creativity. Content creators have more ways than ever before to express themselves. Those ways truly are unlimited, because mass story-telling has been democratized. All of us can have a public voice -- and most of us now do. We can tell the stories we want to tell. Some may be "traditional" in form, but others most certainly are not. Have you seen YouTube lately? Have you seen your kids' school homework projects lately? At our school's recent parent-teacher conferences, I was amazed by my son's sophisticated iPad-driven multi-media presentation about "The Big Bang." That is creativity. That is power.

And, here's the deal. An audience exists for all of it -- both the traditional and the new/disruptive. These forms don't compete with one another, precisely because our mobile "phones" are with us 24/7, giving us more (not less) of an opportunity to consume. And, consume we do -- voraciously. All of us like to experience a good story -- and we enthusiastically embrace new ways of telling them -- anytime, anywhere.

We now live in a world where we have myriad choices of content available when we want it - so long as content creators create compelling content and give us those choices. This is what Kevin Spacey so eloquently discussed in his recent speech that reached many of us via the same digital media technology that launched this new golden age. Binge viewing Netflix-style works. Why? Precisely because some consumers (but not all) want it that way. Netflix simply offered a new type of content package. A new mode of consumption. It's not binge viewing vs. "traditional" viewing. It's not either/or. It's simply different. Different experiences. Some don't need the water cooler conversation. Some crave it. We can self-select what we want. We want that power and control. Just make it compelling.

Due to its unprecedented reach and endless "packaging" possibilities, that content also can impact us like never before -- not only to buy things (although that too is true, look again at Mr. Burgundy), but also to inspire us. To motivate us. To mobilize us (just look at digital media-driven global political upheavals of the past two years). To fund even more new stories to tell.

Don't fear this disruption. Embrace it. We are in a new golden age.

 

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