Technology has democratized content creation

25th July 2013 | By Mouseworld Now Correspondent |

rahulWe all know about Wikipedia. It’s the largest example of how a whole world is contributing in assimilating information and has created a mammoth storehouse of information. This is arguably more authentic and independent than carefully researched encyclopedias and has a far greater reach. It’s a great example of technology being used in a simple and effective way. Let’s look at some other industries if this is happening there as well.

Media

Traditional media has worked on creating expert content, serving it at a low cost to consumers and attracting advertisers to make money. Social media has now become a serious new alternative for advertisers to spend on. Facebook did sales of over $1B in the last 12 months. LinkedIn has gone public and is doing hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues. There are individual bloggers who are able to make significant ad money through their blogs – and there is a long tail market itself. Ad spend on Internet is expected to rise to 23.4% by 2015 from about 15% today. A big chunk of this spend is TV, so all the growth in Internet is happening at the cost of print – newspapers, magazines etc. And a growing chunk of the Internet spend is social media – bloggers, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and the ever expanding user Internet. So the democratization of content in traditional media has already picked up steam and we should see a significant disruption in the next 5-10 years. Almost all new popular sites are promoting user generated content, sometimes curated and sometimes not.

We are also seeing innovative campaign management around this new democratic content. We have seen somebody like President Obama in the US use this very effectively and we are seeing leading Indian politicians also warming up significantly. So the trend is very clear.

Books

An author friend of mine joked with me the other day that there are now more authors of books than readers! While this is a pretty big exaggeration but if you read this article http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/a_writing_revolution/, you can see what he means. The interesting statistics is that since the year 1400, number of published authors grew 10 fold in each century until the year 2000. Currently, including books and new media, authorship is rising 10 fold every year. That is 100 times faster. “Authors, once a select minority, will soon be a majority.” This is democratization.

Enterprises

There is certainly a wave of more inclusion in enterprises. More and more companies want to provide every worker a voice and take a more inclusive approach towards policy making. Intranet portals are gradually looking more and more like a combination of Wikipedia and Facebook vs. the traditional information portals. The leading enterprise software companies – Oracle, SAP and Microsoft have all made a number of acquisitions that helps the enterprise software to go more social and more democratic. So the strategy is clear and certain to unfold over the next decade.

Looking within an enterprise function – specially marketing, consumer is again the king. There is no real information gap and referrals by existing customers through a process of democratic content have a lot of focus. Almost all big insurance providers in India have this focus of having existing customers create happy content vs. traditional PR efforts.

Education

Education is a field that has relied on expert content. This continues to be so in K-12, but in higher education, especially in fields like liberal arts, business and research, we are seeing students both contributing content and using content by collaborating with a more world-wide community. User groups are plenty and have millions of posts that are made every day. We at Sunstone Business School, have students collaborate and research topics such as Organizational Behavior and produce content and only use expert content more peripherally.  Since the whole focus is not on passing information, there is no right answer but to develop a way to think through issues, this process is more effective.

Entertainment

Music, Film and TV continue to be major sources of specialty content. Music is further ahead on the democratization curve but Film and TV are still behind. The emergence of independent music portals (“inde” music) has been significant with more and more producers. However, as a % of the larger music industry, it’s still small, albeit growing.  Sure, people watch some independent content on Youtube, but largely they still view specialty content. It’s merely a distribution channel, not really a beehive for independent content. My guess is that these industries will remain a powerhouse of specialized content till there is a way to market independent content effectively.

It’s worth exploring what makes entertainment unique then.  I feel it’s the ease of search and then ability to quickly consume content. Attention spans are low and consumers need to stumble upon content and get a preview in less than a minute and then see some more. Music and Video offer longer engagement – a song is at least 2-3 minutes and a video of any kind, even a short film is more like 20 minutes, most of it much longer. So it’s a bigger commitment and a consumer may not commit to it. And without consumers, there can’t be producers. So bottom line is that democratization of content lends itself better to content that can be consumed quickly.

This is, overall, a happy situation for consumers, but also a scary one for content producers. Along with democratization, producers tend to gravitate to either major blockbusters or get relegated to the long tail. The middle ends to get thinner and thinner. This puts the burden on experts to rise up the curve and produce even better.

It’s clear though that this is an irreversible process. The march of technology is ruthless and is fuelled by a strong venture-backed entrepreneurial system. They are intent on disrupting it one by one. You have to be sure that you are on the right side of this trend as a professional, though personally, you are sure to be a beneficiary!

 

– By Rajul Garg, Director, Sunstone Business school

(The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those held by Mouseworld now.)

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