I was fortunate to be invited by the Digital Journal to participate on a panel last night about the future of media – a subject that attracts a lot of attention as traditional media valiantly scrambles to stay vibrant and viable.
For the most part, the panelists were well behaved and provided some great insight into how the media world is changing. In particular, it was interesting to hear from Anjali Kapoor from the Globe & Mail and David Skok from Global News about how their organizations are evolving and embracing change. Polar Mobile’s Kunal Gupta provided some great insight into how mobile devices are changing content consumption, while Facebook’s Elmer Sotto talked about the role that Facebook is playing as a distribution platform.
The question everyone in the room wanted to know, of course, is what the future holds for media. Everyone involved in the media business or interested in the media is looking for insight about what’s over the horizon. What they got from the panel was that everyone recognizes that things are dramatically changing but no one knows what exactly is going to happen.
For example, there was an animated discussion about how mobile users are consuming lots of content. Kunal talked about how mobile users consumes 100 pages of content on Time.com’s wireless application, compared with 14 pages of content for Time.com’s Web site. There was also a healthy discussion about the iPad and whether it could be the saviour for the newspaper and magazine businesses. And we talked a little about how location-based services might be an interesting opportunity.
That said, you could sense the frustration in the audience. They’re not looking for glimpses of the future or tidbits about what’s currently happening; they’re looking for tangible information about what’s coming. They want insight about the bleeding-edge technologies or services that will impact media.
As much as no one wanted to disappoint the audience, the truth is no one really knows. If we did, one of us would probably be working for a red-hot start-up focused on revolutionizing the way media is created and consumed.
Instead, people have to live with the fact the media world continues to be a volatile and evolving environment. The good news is that a growing number of media companies have embraced the fact they need to change or die. It means there’s a lot of self-analysis happening, as well as a growing willingness to experiment.
To me, the future of media and who ends up surviving all this upheaval hinges on who creates the best content. As a former reporter, I truly believe that story telling is as important, if not more important, than ever. Whether it’s a video, newspaper or magazine article, Facebook update, blog post, photo or tweet, content is still King. How we economically create this content and how we consume content is still very much in the air, which leaves lot of room for more panels on the future of media.