The future of content

screens-460px__mediumOver many years I’ve had the opportunity to watch the content industry evolve in ways I could not have imagined when I first started in my career.


It began not long after college where I was responsible for watching PBS programs to help determine which shows should be licensed for VHS distribution in retail video stores.  Later it was choosing and licensing software for preinstall on PC’s (Sony and Compaq), followed by building products to distribute music over the Internet (Liquid Audio and MusicNet), then choosing TV and Games Apps for Mobile Phones (Motorola Mobility) and, most recently, licensing web Audio for the connected car (Harman International/Aha Radio).


From one screen to another; faster and faster.



Content is a nebulous term and there are a lot of different definitions of it (See: 40+ definitions). A couple I like:

 “Content comes in any form (audio, text, video), and it informs, entertains, enlightens, or teaches people who consume it.”

Or perhaps, even better:

“Content is anything you produce that your audience can consume with its senses.

These days, here in Silicon Valley, much of the chatter about content is less about the content itself and more about the technologies that help create it and distribute it, particularly if it’s related to the Internet or a Mobile device.


I believe the discussion will change over time based on the evolution I’ve seen from my own experience.  We’re moving toward a day when whatever content you want to experience will be available to you anywhere, whenever you want it, in the highest quality imaginable.   


The current debates about such things as bandwidth, cellular connectivity, screen size, audio compression and other delivery related topics will abate in importance. Distribution issues will be solved, new ones will evolve.   (For example there are already rumblings of the world without smart phones).   The bottom line is that we will reach a point of saturation where our ability to distribute content will surpass our ability for the human mind to digest it (perhaps we’re already there:- see Present Shock)  The technology behind the content creation and distribution will – of course – still be there, but the content itself will become more and more the main focus.


And, it’s as it should be.  It’s the whole point.   Content, the way I’m thinking of it here, far proceeds the current trends in technology surrounding it.    People have been telling stories, playing games, writing and performing music and gossiping since the beginning of recorded history.   We’ve just thrown in some technological digital seasoning to spice (speed) things up a bit.  Content is as old as the story around the campfire, the play in ancient Greece, the song hummed in the night, the rumor from a neighboring village.


Sure, content is changed by technology; try to make a film without a camera. However, at its heart it’s not about the technology. The creation of and sharing of content is a primal need ingrained in humankind’s DNA.   It’s so fundamental, in some ways it’s like mental food.   Just as food removes the hunger in your belly, content removes the hunger in the mind; hunger for news, for ideas, for entertainment and gossip.    Have you ever had the experience where you haven’t had your phone, TV, or any news available for a while (backpacking, for example). When you see them again, you’ve got to get full; have a nice content meal?


If we are, in fact, moving toward a world where whatever content you want to experience will be available to you anywhere, whenever you want it, in the highest quality imaginable – what will this world look like?   How will it change us?


When I was growing up the music I heard, the movies I saw and the books I read defined and shaped me as a person.  Content helped me make sense of the world.  It still does.  I’m excited to see an unlimited “content world” unfold and see how we will all change and evolve because of it.


Of course, content will continue to do what it’s always done: entertain, educate, inform and inspire.  Perhaps over time, as it continues to become more available in better quality, it will have an even more profound impact –  evolve us all in remarkable, unpredictable and positive ways.


I hope so.  Because content can also be defined as ideas.  And ideas create reality.










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