Technological change moves at ever increasing speeds, and the latest wave has fundamentally shifted how we create and distribute content. For agile startups and smaller companies, who can take more risks and move faster, these new trends present an opportunity to take customer share from established leaders. Larger companies need to innovate and adapt, or lose their competitive edge.
How can legacy players navigate the new content landscape? The first step is to understand how technology has transformed it.
The New Internet Star
Historical advances in microchip and battery technology have allowed audio and video equipment to become smaller, more portable and readily available to the general population. Gone are the days where a only a trained cameraperson could shoot footage. Now every person has the ability to shoot high-quality footage on their phone in their pocket.
Traditional software solutions have also made giant leaps—with mobile video titles, effects, editing and rendering tools allowing the creation of professional videos in minutes.
Meanwhile, increased internet speeds allow users to upload content faster at higher quality and in larger sizes. In addition, the cost of services has dropped, encouraging traditionally bandwidth-heavy services to move to the cloud. Upload tools have improved in usability, allowing for the resumption of uploads if they fail. And users can automatically tag content using intelligent algorithms.
All these innovations add up to richer, more engaging and desirable content. Faster mobile connections let users enjoy it anywhere and any time, increasing the volume of consumption and presenting a key opportunity to grab the attention of a listener, reader or viewer. And to meet this demand, content creators have upped the production of podcasts, short videos and bitesize content.
More of What Users Want—Before They Know They Want It
Machine learning has made it possible to personalize users' content feeds. In the past, users would need to search for content which matched their own interests, or go to a trusted source which they knew would deliver. With companies storing users' preferences, tastes and likes data in the cloud, it is now possible to understand the users' tastes and even predict what they may want before they go searching. Algorithms can surface personalized and timely relevant content to a user without them needing to lift a finger. Users have come to expect customized content. Content creators need to participate in this mode of distribution, or lose out on visibility.
Machine learning has also allowed computers to imitate the process of writing stories, playing music and producing videos. After being trained with large datasets of existing content, machine learning is able to produce new variations of content, and is constantly improving. Capabilities range from imitating the style of different artists to the singing of lyrics in the style of a singer. Many of these advances are open-source, which allows anyone to pick them up and create their own content without needing the skills themselves—further democratizing the playing field, and raising the bar for competition.
New Money, New Possibilities
New funding strategies have additionally propelled the rapid creation and distribution of diverse and independent content.
Previously, creators relied on sponsorships, commissions, self-funding and/or advertising. Each of these sources has its own drawbacks in terms of content ownership and credibility. New technologies, however, have enabled crowdfunding of content, helping to free content creators from these limitations. Followers subscribe to ensure content creation continues, and micro-payments via cryptocurrencies have further accelerated this trend.
The Road Ahead
Digital content plays an integral role in our daily discovery, learning, entertainment and engagement. The way we experience and consume content has rapidly changed in response to technological innovations. Digital content will continue to play an increasingly prominent role in our lives, expanding in influence as technology further evolves and connects more people.
As more users interact online, we expect to see content from creators all around the world increasingly being consumed. Rising stars on YouTube and Instagram will increasingly gain funding and launch careers based solely on their content. As technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality improve and become democratized, we will see those content experiences merging with real life, such as content creators becoming a guest teacher for classroom learning, or curating and narrating your vacations as your tour guide.
Individual content creators, with independent brands, will command an increasingly prominent position. To stay relevant in this new landscape, larger companies need to embrace mass content creation tools, provide monetization options for creators and curate distribution channels for the right audiences.
Instead of creating closed content ecosystems, which are difficult to scale, think about how your company can open up to allow content from contributors, then use filtering and personalization to curate and maintain the quality of the content during delivery. Also, find ways to empower content thought leaders around specific subjects, with the tools and monetization options which allow them to continue creating great content for your platform.