What are the main current digital media trends, and what impact do you think will they have on business communications in the next 5 years?
It's a tough one, as things seem to be changing in this field so quickly. All the same, here's an attempt at the answer.
People nowadays expect a lot more than they used to from their digital media experiences. Instead of just being passive consumers, people now like to interact and play with their media, to customize their features, to create, contribute and share their own creations, and to access exactly what they want, when they want it. Only ten years ago, people were mostly sat in front of TV screens for terrestrial and cable channels, videos and game consoles. Now things are moving towards all forms of entertainment and social interaction coming through the computer screen. Before families fought over the TV remote -now they’re fighting over the computer.
Right now we’re experiencing a kind of mini-boom in Internet use, where huge numbers of users are flocking to be a part of ‘web 2.0’ communities and to make use of the many online features now available. The video-sharing site YouTube counts about 13 million users per month, the social-networking site Facebook claims to have 66 million regular users and is forecasting 180 million within two years and Google Earth has had 200 million people download their software. Google Earth alone has a number of users equivalent to the population of the 5th largest country in the world. This a change in the way people interact with media of epic proportions, and it’s a hugely exciting time for everyone, especially digital media developers, because digital culture is changing so quickly and there’s plenty of opportunities for new and innovative ideas.
The market has changed so much in the past two years, that it’s hard predict exactly what will happen in the next five, but it’s probably a safe bet that trends of content-creation and the desire for interactivity will continue. As more people around the world gain access to technologies such as digital cameras, video cameras, personal computers and mobile phones, so this surge towards creating large-scale digital communities is likely to continues. I am pretty sure that mobile phones and PDAs will become more and more prominent as the main supplier of all our digital needs (as they are pretty much already) and this will require digital media producers to be aware of how best to tailor development for handhelds. There’s been a steady rise in the popularity of games too, and this will continue to spread from consoles, to web-based multiplayer experiences, for entertainment, marketing and training. Above all though, I think what will be most interesting will be how all the multitude of features now available on the web will be combined to add even richer experiences for consumers. We are only just beginning to scratch the surface of what we can do with everything out there.
So it’s a cliché I know, but business communications will need to be particularly flexible, adaptable and sensitive to what’s going on in the Net, as one moment something might be the next-big-thing, while the next it might be old-hat. People are increasingly media-savvy and are now looking for authentic experiences that they can actually get involved in, feel a part of and not just observe quietly from the fringes. We’re all now drawn to experimentation, new ways of interacting and fresh ways of using the technology at our fingertips. So ultimately businesses will need to be creative in their approach if they are to appeal to the digital generation. But then that’s half the fun.