A couple of days ago I was contacted by students at Hyper Island for an interview about the future of digital communication. Here are their questions and my answers:
1. What do you think will happen in the future regarding digital media? For example real time applications, Flash, Adobe Scene 7, Motion Graphics, Mashups?
Innovation Will Gravitate Towards the Efficient
It is always difficult to say anything about the future. Even the inventors themselves can rarely tell how their inventions will be used. Remember for example that Twitter was created as a way to let people know via SMS where the party was. Their invention then took on a life of its own in the hands of the users. On the other hand, this kind of “Darwinistic” innovation is a key feature of the digital technologies. Especially when it comes to innovation in the realm of open source and open APIs.
What we can say is that innovations will gravitate towards increased efficiency in different fields. And this realization is useful. Whenever you come up with an innovation or a campaign, ask yourself: will this make things more efficient? If the answer is yes, the innovation will stand a chance of succeeding, if not, it may at best become a short lived hype. In particular, innovations making collaboration and coordination more efficient are interesting when it comes to the internet since they promote themselves.
Good Bye Flash, Micro Sites & Poor Indexing
Real time applications will be important because they’ll make things more efficient. “Awesomely cool” but utterly useless Flash-based micro sites have always been a bluff and will increasingly be called as such by clients with a deeper understanding of the internet. Such sites make nothing efficient. Perhaps some people will disagree with me here and start arguing that I’m way too rational and that people buy with their emotions, but my bet is that these critics don’t understand the social web. What is often inefficient about these Flash-porn sites is that they are SOCIALLY inefficient. There is no way for me to efficiently share and discuss the content with my friends.
Recently we have started seeing “share”-buttons thrown into the mix, but these usually don’t tap into the actual behavior of people, and are just there because “social-media-is-the-new-hip-thing-and-therefore-we-need-share-on-Facebook-button“. Again, ask the question – will this make things more efficient in some dimension? They are also often inefficient in that they’re not indexed properly by search engines. The question then is, what are they good for? For inspiration? As some sort of interactive film? Very recently (like, right now) I saw one such campaign where they were actually showing commercials for the campaign on television! Making advertising for advertising must be the ultimate proof of failure and inefficiency.
Flash in general will get fierce competition as we will want sites to be more application-like, fast, optimized and useful. HTML5 will be a primary technology and may well put Flash and Silverlight in the shade.
Mashups & Commoditization
Mashups will continue to be super important because the idea of mashups resonates with the basic idea of innovation: take the best of what’s around and make it better. Since the costs of interacting with other open API innovations are so low, the total value of all parties in a mash up interaction will increase. We all benefit from mashups. If somebody has made the best map, like Google Maps for instance, there is not much point in using energy making a copy of that, but rather put our energy into innovating a new service and use their map. They win, and we win. More than anything, users win.
A lot of what required coding before are now commodities that you can pick up and just connect to something else through an open API. Smart people can thus create quite cool innovations by just putting pieces together. An internet-innovator friend of mine said that he’s very reluctant to try anything that he can’t build a first prototype of within an hour. He’s one of the most interesting and successful innovators of the new web in Sweden.
Real Time & Concurrent Editing
Technically, real time and concurrent editing will be important. I don’t know exactly which implementations of this will be the killer apps yet, but true real time collaboration is efficient and will become very popular. Not least by means of Google Wave. But we may well see other applications than these. For example live use of scripts for different purposes. There are a gazillion imaginable uses for such live scripts, but to get an idea, imagine a script being uploaded and run on a users iPhone returning different data depending on conditions such as position, battery status, orientation, in call status, who else is around, etc…
Real time and social search is very interesting and is an area where Google is lagging hopelessly behind. Here, Facebook and Twitter rule.
And of course, mobile will be important, but there will be less difference between mobile and non-mobile. What is non-mobile today anyway? The iPhone is not a mobile phone with computer capabilities, it’s a computer that you can make calls on. And it has very comprehensive sensory systems like camera, video, positioning, integrated internet connection, gyro, accelerometer, compass, etc… Laptops have most of these too, but are lacking a few things like positioning and true mobile internet. The next generation of MacBooks will have a SIM-card slot and positioning. Mark my words.
Short answer: Real time. Mash ups. HTML5. Mobile.
2. What is the next big thing? (The new Facebook/Twitter for example)
The next big thing is Google Wave and all the amazing applications that will be built on top of it. Twitter will probably tip over and become mainstream in Sweden, but I’m not sure of it. Facebook with their aquisition of Friendfeed and their new search functionality is becoming very powerful as well.
3. Which trends do you see in digital media?
See question 1.
4. What qualifications will the media industry require?
Great rebels. Great thinkers. Great designers. Great writers. Great system designers/programmers. Great digital networkers. Great storytellers. Amazingly great leaders who can make all these other people love to work together. People who are not afraid to fail. People who can make the current Swedish labor legislation go away. Howard Roark.
5. What is the biggest challenge for the future in the media industry?
There are a lot of people today with power, who’s power relies on a monopoly of information and information distribution. These people will fight hard to stop anything that will remove their power. It’s very natural. They will eventually loose, but they will destroy a lot of value as they fight in increasing desperation. The music industry is the obvious example of this. It will be a perfect rerun of what happened when free-to-air radio was introduced.
Another challenge is our labor laws. Many agencies today have to fire people, but the law forces them to fire the newcomers, and the newcomers, on average, know more about digital communication. Also, for the same reason, they won’t be able to recruit the people their clients demand. This will create a downward death spiral. In nature, those who are able to change in accordance with the changes in nature survive. We are no different.
For me and for Honesty, this is good news of course, since we will be able to recruit the right people from the start.
This blog is written by Walter Naeslund and has been around since 2007. The blog is about the journey of starting an advertising agency and a sneak peek behind the scenes of what goes on at the Honesty HQ in SoFo, Södermalm. It is also a blog about communication & technology. The blog has gathered almost a thousand posts over the years with several longer and shorter breaks. Welcome and enjoy.