In an era where our digital footprint is larger than our carbon footprint and content can be distributed on a plethora of platforms and channels, it begs the question: ‘Where do we go from here?’ Taking a peek into the future of the content space, we explore four strands of inter-related technological development that will have an impact on content over the next five to 10 years…
1. Big data and personalisation
Our lives have become quantified and measured to an extent unimaginable 20 years ago. The Tesco Clubcard is a great example of this and is apparent to us each time we receive our personalised vouchers. But there is also, less obviously, the digital trail we leave behind us every time our mobile pings a phone mast, whenever we click our way through the web, whenever we use our Oyster card or interact in some other way with the computerised infrastructure of our society. And the result is a big, big mountain of data about each and every one of us.
The challenge and ultimate benefit of this heap of data is that in the future we will be able to provide very personal, ultra-relevant content to our customers, according to who and where they are. The Google Now app, for example, allows it to take traditional search functionality and turn it into anticipatory content, meaning that it knows if you take the train at 5.30pm most days, so will proactively update its feed with the relevant travel news.
2. Conversational content and AIs
Conversational content is also enabling a more streamlined process for obtaining relevant information. Google’s voice search is becoming more conversational, for example the question ‘Who is the president of the USA?’ will deliver a specific answer ‘Barack Obama’, which can then be followed up with an unqualified ‘How old is he?’ – without repeating the search on Obama. These developments set up the tantalising prospect of conversations with your computer, your car or, further afield, a department store window display or other brand presence. And of course, all these AIs will have to be primed with bespoke content.
3. Wearable tech
While you might very well end up chatting to your dress or watch in 10 years time, there is wearable technology present today. For instance, we already have Google Glass, a head-mounted wearable computer that operates by voice command, and the Galaxy Gear watch, which requires short-form content for sub-3in display screens. Expect content requirements for these gadgets to match their rapid development over the next three to four years. Websites such as Vandrico delve deeper into the future of wearable tech and upcoming gadgets.
4. The Internet of Things
In recent years connectivity to the internet has come to devices such as TVs, fridges, thermostats, printers (notably Berg’s Little Printer), cars and even the wearable tech mentioned above. This is the bow wave of the Internet of Things (IoT), in which we expect to be able not only to communicate with these connected devices, but also to allow the connected devices to talk intelligently to each other. This market is set to expand rapidly, so companies, such as Nest with its Heating application, are in an excellent position to exploit it by becoming authorities on the connected world. Not only does this provide you with content themes for your traditional digital channels, but it will also give you the edge in developing content for devices on the IoT.
All these trends will require content formats to evolve – to a greater or lesser extent – over the next few years. Screens will get smaller (watches) and bigger (whole walls), curvier and more flexible. And AI devices might not even have a screen, so our content planning could be based on audio and conversational patterns. Linear narratives will be replaced by forked narratives with multiple paths, or will be chunked up into small fragments. In short, the future of content will evolve to become more complex and more sophisticated, but nevertheless more effective for all that.
Posted by: Robin Barnes, Digital Director Cedar