We are all familiar with the maxim ‘content is king’, which if you Google you’ll find attributed to a certain Mr Bill Gates of California. It is from a speech he made in 1996 where he asserted ‘Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting.’
For much of its infancy the internet was seemingly putting paid to Bill’s idea. But as piracy starts to be seriously tackled (at least in developed economies), advertising dollars move online and businesses work out how to charge consumers for their content, Bill’s view is looking more and more prescient. The speech is well worth a read, check it out here.
Bill’s speech didn’t, however, describe a future, our present, where people can access content including linear TV, over a plethora of internet connected devices. There are now hundreds of TV channels on cable and billions of videos on the internet across thousands, if not millions of sites.
We’re at a stage now where we’ve never had so much choice over what to watch, when to watch it and on which platform or device to watch it on.
Indeed, keen amateurs are uploading 72 hours of video a minute on to Youtube. Broadcasters and established TV production houses are putting their content libraries online through their own media players and the likes of Netflix, Lovefilm and Blixbox. While hundreds or illegal video streaming sites offer the latest American hit shows until they get shut down. Then there are new niche broadcasters in between, the AdultSwims, Maker Studios, VBS.tv, Pinch TV, etc, offering content too. There is just so much to watch, so little time to do so.
But not all content is equal. People aren’t just going to substitute broadcast linear TV programming with Youtube amateur funnies. They aren’t interchangeable, but they are of equal importance in a consumers diet of video content. It is the effect connected mobile devices and TVs are having on broadcast linear TV viewing which is more fundamental. People are already bypassing scheduled linear TV as the latest BBC iPlayer figures demonstrate as do the IAB’s multiscreen marketer research.
But for all of this choice we’re still left with the question ‘what should I watch tonight?’ In simpler analogue times the choice was narrow and navigation straightforward. The printed TV guide listed what was worth watching on TV and entertainment stores like HMV or one of the big four supermarkets was where you went for DVDs.
Today’s world is much more complex with unlimited digital choice and fragmentation. With that comes the problem of navigation.
It’s with this new broadcaster viewer dynamic in mind that content discovery and recommendation becomes king and I think there are 4 big drivers that will determine how people decide what to watch: trusted brands; influential tastemakers; big ‘personal’ data; social buzz/recommendation.
Trusted brands that serve specific audiences (no matter how niche) will play a vital role in aggregating video content from around the web. They’ll act much like magazines and newspapers; make, curate and recommend content for audiences that share common interests. Newspapers and magazines already do this of course, though so far more as a bit of fun than as a core offering. Expect a long tail of niche lifestyle editorial sites/apps establish themselves’ as content guides to the video web: redux is a good example worth checking out.
Influential tastemakers, the ones with big Klout scores, will be another way we navigate and decide what’s worth watching. Celebrities/critics/tastemakers act in much the same way as a trusted editorial brands. Their recommendations on what’s worth watching and where, is likely to become more important than it already is.
Big ‘personal’ data and algorithms: where recommended content is based on what you search for; what you check into or view; what other people who are ‘similar’ to you watch; what your friends like and what has successfully been AB tested. Peel, Get Glue and Viggle are just a few companies who are designing their content discovery businesses on the back of this.
Social buzz/recommendation. Twitter and Facebook commentary have made the TV water cooler moment instant and potentially global. Being able to join in with your network will determine what content you end up watching (the herding effect). So, what’s trending amongst your network and the wider population acts as a ‘word of mouth’ recommendation and as social currency. A Buzzfeed for TV, as well as Twitter and Facebook, are the type of properties that will flourish.
It was a significant criticism of yesterday’s Leveson Report into Britain’s national press that the inquiry gave so little credence to what was said on social media despite the recent spectacular examples of the new reach and power of this medium.
Out of the 4 content discovery drivers it’ll be the one, or combination of, that proves most useful to consumers that will succeed. Zeebox seem well placed to act as an online video content guide (all though at the moment they’re limiting it just to linear TV) and seemed to have got the mix of big data and social buzz/recommendation right in their offer.