Technology is enhancing and disrupting every sector of business and society, in every part of the world. Like a benign virus, technology can worm its way into any value chain, find efficiencies and share information transparently, automate and simplify processes. Startups are endlessly seeking markets that might pay for new and better services.
Web Summit in Lisbon in November 2017 brought together 60,000 people working in tech businesses, from aspiring startups to large corporations, from marketers to developers, plus investors and policymakers. New products were showcased and ethical problems explored in hundreds of talks and panel sessions. Hundreds of startups hustled for investment and partnerships. The energy, ingenuity and ambition of the movers and shakers in the tech ecosystem was awe-inspiring.
Nobody can ignore the pace of technology change, and what may seem futuristic and far-fetched on stage here will be affecting consumers and businesses in a matter of years, or maybe months.
So what trends should media brands be monitoring? I have summarised six key themes to be aware of:
Video already drives engagement on mobile and social: media brands need to adapt to this form of story telling and engaging audiences. But the gaming and entertainment industry, in search of more immersive experiences, are already developing augmented reality (AR), volumetric video and virtual reality (VR). As more mobile devices evolve to be capable of handling these forms of content, consumers will become used to the visual experiences, and media owners will need to develop new ways to present content.
Digital content is now increasingly discovered through social platforms and via influencers. So media owners must work out how to promote digital content properties from the very earliest stages of planning new content, and become familiar with analysing data on how previous content was discovered. Content creators and media brands have to review their relationship with distribution platforms like Facebook.
The furore over fake news on social media and its influence on political change has sharpened the focus on which media brands to trust. Several high profile newspapers have built resources in investigative journalism (but bringing new digital tools to bear) to enhance their reputation for independence and accuracy. The debate on the value of human curation over algorithms is still fierce.
Artificial intelligence was everywhere – from the high profile Chief Humanoid Sophia to the use of chatbots for customer service and machine learning to analyse mountains of data. AI is also behind the real time natural language processing of Amazon’s Alexa, which could revolutionise how people search for answers.
Rapidly changing job roles mean that school and university students must acquire different skills, with some calling for more “code literacy.” Those already working will need to accept the need for lifelong learning, using a mix of online tools and face to face. The proportion of freelance workers will grow, gaining flexibility in hours and location, and providing on-tap expert skills for larger organisations.
Technology has been evolving faster than our ability to develop ethical codes and regulation. Social platforms and algorithms can be gamed for political ends. Technology will destroy some jobs (including truck drivers and call centre agents) and create new roles, causing social disruption. Large global tech corporations have enormous power and governments struggle to collect taxes and control monopolistic practices. And as AI starts to surpass human intelligence, how can we ensure its power is not exercised to the detriment of human values? But tech can also be used for good, to counter inequality and fight climate change.
I have explored these six themes and the implications for media brands in more detail in a series of articles – links on each title above.
In the meantime, if you have any spare time, there’s hundreds of videos of web summit talks on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/WebSummitHQ/videos/
And if you’d like to discuss how some of these tech themes could impact your media business I’m happy to have a chat over the phone or over a coffee. Just get in touch.
About the author:
Carolyn Morgan has over twenty years experience launching, growing, buying and selling specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. Carolyn now advises publishers large and small on their digital strategy and writes and speaks on digital publishing strategy.