“The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” ― Alvin Toffler in Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century
I am often reminded of Toffler’s famous observation when I see the rapid disruptions in the world of communications. It’s becoming difficult for comms pros to keep pace, to consult clients and remain relevant in an industry that is constantly forcing us to learn, relearn and unlearn.
‘Hyperconnectivity’ is one such trend and is going to define the future. What it essentially refers to is a paradigm shift from ‘going online’ to ‘being online’ – a coming of age of the internet; the reality of a parallel virtual universe.
According to Cisco, by 2015 – that’s two years from now, the amount of data crossing the Internet every 5 minutes will be equivalent to the total size of all movies ever made, and that annual Internet traffic will reach a zettabyte – roughly 200 times the total size of all words ever spoken by humans! This reflects our hyperconnected world and hyperconnectivity disrupts our profession in the following manner:
- Complex media environment: We need to be agile and alert. It is increasingly becoming a complex media environment. We need to be adept at communicating ‘in’ and also ‘across’ different platforms being aware that the message will be consumed differently and conveyed further increasingly differently. It’s complex where there are numerous apps, different screens, different devices, different formats and add to it the customized narratives for each. While we talk content, it’s interesting to realize that the monopoly over content by prominent individuals and conglomerates have been completely broken. A good story can be told by anyone, anywhere with great impact. Managing narratives have become difficult and this brings me to my second point of target audiences.
- Demanding Audiences: Our audiences demand more, and along with the story we need to deliver an ‘experience’. Interactivity is important, so is the format and experience of consumption, and we have to take care of all, knowing fully well that a story that isn’t credible won’t last long.
- Audience Fragmentation: Audiences have access to multiple sources of information. Loyalties switch across platforms depending upon the format and experience across platforms and there can be 'multiple loyalties'. Multiplicity of platforms actually means audiences are getting divided into smaller groups and the same group of people might exhibit different behaviors across different platforms. This brings me to my third point.
- Measurement Difficulties: How do you make sense of all this? I am not too sure of accuracy levels of current data analytics and to what extent are they effective when it comes to some sort of predictive modeling simply because of the overwhelming number of variables that are coming into play. Will be glad if any reader can enlighten here…
- Monetization difficulties: How do you monetize what you create? How do you protect what you create from being duplicated? While we talk of content marketing and content being king, content actually seems to have become real cheap thanks to over supply! You should read this interesting piece (if you haven't read it already) in The New York Times, that talks of the Slow Death of the American Author.
Critics in India often argue that this reality is not relevant for India. Given the weak broadband & data storage infrastructure, including the huge digital divide, any talk of internet enabled media doesn’t necessarily find takers among all media practitioners always. I wonder if we can move in any other direction though.