Originally published December 16, 2006
Content is not worth much in this new sphere - but I think this was bound to happen anyway. In the old sphere of Broadcast Television which turns 60 years old in America this year, the amount of content amassed by producers is mind-boggling. Supply and demand economics function in the world of media too. Already this content is being recycled into history productions; every new-year we see The Year in Review shows that re-use content from the day before at one point; popular culture 'retros' the recent past with an almost a scientific precision. As the content silo gets higher, old content becomes new again - so supply will increasingly outweigh demand. Content will get cheaper and cheaper until it is worth about as much as it costs to make - which is declining.
Network television created a need for the remote control; we all know one voice above others in a conversation can be annoying, not worth much at all. But we also know a conversation where people are listening to each other can build nations. New media applications enable the voices in a conversation among equals. Applications that help everyone become producers is not the end, it is the Road to a new world.
Web 2.0 is a vision of where we are on that Road. I believe we are at the point in the Road where uni-directional media ceases to exist.
The lessons learned in the first generation of mass media can show the way forward. The thing that makes television work is the magic of story telling and the fascination with the medium it's being told through - an application of imaging craft that effectively illustrates a magical story.
Young audience are taught and are socially conditioned for lineal thinking; the Story through magic media is mesmerizing.
Now, with all things on demand - the challenge is to make new again the fascination. The theory goes, an application of imaging craft to tell a story is a synergy of three elements: video, audio and story; now the forth and fifth element is introduced to the experience; You the watcher adding content; and the Other, watching You adding content, adding content also. So production, going forward will more and more be self producing by the(not viewer) participants.
Content will be cheaper to make and to buy; the profit margins will be in Interactive Content Interfaces, the gadgets like the Apple iPhone and the pc by IBM. When applications become like toasters and cars or in other words 'infinitely friendly' - (which will happen over time through increasing Tech 'IQ' and the better engineered interfaces and a familiarity with the Road we're all on) - manipulation of it will become autonomic like breathing or watching TV. The engineering of friendly technology is being driven forward brilliantly today, with only a tiny part of the potential market in play. New gyro-game-controllers that bring the gaming experience into the physical world; music production and recording; publishing interfaces for spread sheets, text and photo and now live motion production and distribution are making media truly interactive. Verbal interface is on the horizon.
Tailoring applications to serve the clients manipulation arts is the key to a profitable business model. Grouping tools, types of content, accessibility and aesthetics in an Interactive Content Interface will be important. More important may be understanding of who the client is and Branding particular Interactive Content Interfaces to maximize specific market segments.
Tim O'Reilly at O'Reilly Radar who's group coined the term Web 2.0; thinks all these applications will end up as down loadable widgets from cyber space, rather than applications you will hold in your computer; at any rate, all must be inter-lockable and available on demand as tools in a fluid manipul-space that is accessible.
More importantly Tim O'Reilly points out that great applications get better the more people use them. Collective intelligence will create new applications and ways of linking them.
(For example the feed back loop in Google's search engine that tailors your search to your history of searches is wonderful. Tag Clouds offer visualizations of subject content for an article or entire blog. Blog Logs network web sites that have similar web search patterns.)
Advertising space sold on these Interactive Content Interfaces will continue to be the profit engine as applications and perhaps this global computer Tim O'Reilly envisions, are developed. The old industrial-tangent business model, those who make hand held devices or table top 'things' and market them to a large middle class will underpin new business in the short term. The value of this Web 2.0 Road we're on comes as researchers link better, communicate better and solve problems faster.
A great example of this is the project to find a solution to the grand unified theory, a problem so complex it demands this new technology.
For developers of new business, content should be seen as the board in a 'board' game - it sits there and does nothing - the fun is in learning the tactics, faster, better or different than the other players who gather to play it.
If the end user can manipulate the game by combining tools and content in their own way, the game story takes on an algorithm of complexity like real life.
New business models should enable the end user to manipulate information or content. Link new applications in combination that allow them to manipulate content in ways the developer hadn't considered. Like the wrench in a Socket set - no matter what size bolt you want to turn there's a Socket(application) that snaps onto the wrench(interface). One size fits all; or in this case; All applications fit one interface(and all interfaces).
All applications should 'snap' into place like Leggo or work together like a Mechano Set. For example, the 13 year old can: synthesize a sound he recorded; added it to a video; that plays only after his Sister triggers the motion detector; that activates the web cam; and the face recognition software; that then chooses and runs the video he knows will scare her out of the room.
Update February 27 2007:
The correct word is "repurposed"