What’s the future for all media? Here’s my list of expectations, which I present as irrefutable axioms, followed by a few thoughts.
Media content will be consumed digitally.
This includes music, movies, news, and books. Any type of media that isn’t consumed digitally will be a toy, a novelty, or a relic. (Future media producers will still produce physical things, but those products will be closer to toys interacting with media, not the media itself, i.e.: RockBand)
Media will be available a la carte, on demand, on any device.
What you want, when you want it, wherever it is convenient for you to consume it. No packages, no bundles, no waiting a week after initial airing, no limitations on what devices you can consume the media on, so long as the device is appropriate for the format.
Media will be pay-per-experience or licensed for personal use, but not owned.
Listen closely: your notions of ownership and the positive emotions and memories of owning a ‘thing’ are real, but neither necessary nor absolutes. Your younger brother or child has vivid emotions and memories of an epic video game sessions, or listening to a fantastic album he downloaded straight into his iPod. He may not have that same experience you had of buying that first CD, but his experiences aren’t diminished or lesser.
Let’s work backwards to move forwards:
What’s the core value of music or a story? The experience, emotions, or knowledge it imparts on you. If you’ll indulge my super-power approach to understanding the future, imagine a world where a friend recommends a piece music or a story to you, and right then and there, you experience it. Fantastic! Was it necessary to to hold something physical? No. Were you expected to experience other pieces of media with it, or restricted in anyway in where and when you could instantly experience it? No. Now that experienced it, is there a purpose to owning something physical or otherwise? No. (If you wanted to experience it again, you would do that)
This Matrix-like consumption is the (hidden to most) goal we are heading for with media. Everything else we’re familiar with is the collected legacy and cruft of a pre-digital world working against physical limitations. Those limitations are gone, leaving us to optimize against the economic constraints. Presently, we’re witnessing media distribution (in all legacy forms) exhibit symptoms of its fatal future.
So why have I been harping on this?
Two-fold. One of the great economic constraints that is slowing our march towards the future is our ability to adopt that same future by letting go of our media habits and the legacy surrounding it. Second, if you’re in the business of creating, moving, using or sharing traditional media, your job is going to change. That change might not be for 5 years or 15, but it is coming, so best be prepared.