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Content 2020 – A look at the new digital era

Today’s increasingly connected world has introduced a slew of new digital media platforms, each jostling for the attention of ‘digital-native’ consumers. This has put immense pressure on content providers to redefine their value chains.

In fact, by 2020, the information, media and entertainment (IME) industry will see even greater shifts as content providers align their business with today’s ‘digital first’ imperative. Yet, many companies are unsure what true transformation requires—in terms of culture, process and technology—and where to begin.

The key is to ‘be’ digital, not just ‘do’ digital. Businesses will need to learn how to leverage customers’ digital footprints to draw more insights, improve consumer experiences, and enrich learning.

As we move into 2017, the current IME landscape will restructure into three “mega-segments” in the near term:
• Information providers will become purveyors of insights.
• Entertainment companies will deliver holistic experiences.
• Education providers will focus on enabling students to achieve their ultimate learning outcomes.

News and information services: From inputs to insights
Traditionally, news and information services companies have helped their readers stay informed and shape public opinion. Thanks to the Web and social media, content is considered a commodity today, compelling players in this space to offer consumers more choices, more substance, and more value.

To keep audiences constantly engaged, news and information services providers must always seek to enhance the content they gather, organise, and publish. This can be best done through big data. For instance, news outlets can leverage analytics to find out which news gets the most clicks and which news sparks the most discussions.

Broadcast and entertainment: From entertainment to experience
In a traditional entertainment ecosystem, studios and television networks do not have a direct interface to their customers; the entertainment they create is delivered through third parties such as theatre chains (theatrical releases), retailers (home video), streaming providers (on-demand Internet streaming media), and broadcast stations (TV).

Since the last-mile customer experience is not in their hands, they cannot control and fine-tune the content they provide according to their consumers’ behaviour and experiences.

Maintaining customer stickiness is a function of the channel that delivers enhanced end-user experience. Understandably, many players exploring ways to launch their own streaming environments (think HBO GO and Showtime Anytime) and through mergers with service providers.

This trend is expected to continue, even as technology giants such as Apple put more pressure on content creators to allow them use their platforms. That said, entertainment companies will continue to rely on third-party platforms like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Facebook to deliver their content.

The transformation of education: From outputs to outcomes
This is the age of an intersection of educational publishers and service providers (universities, assessment and certifications providers, for example). While content providers are venturing into affiliated services that complement their core content, service providers are increasingly creating native content that can be exposed on various platforms and drive learners to their services.

We expect educational content providers to shift from providing specific output to the learner (educational content, testing, certification, degree) to helping them achieve their desired educational outcome, such as gaining expertise in a particular field, or taking a step into the career of their choice. This means educational providers will need to engage with learners across the learning cycle and intervene at the right time, through the right channel.

There is limitless potential for these institutions to leverage digital technologies. Educational content providers can employ predictive analytics to understand behaviour and therefore personalize financial aid and scholarship options; create lessons, labs, assessments and expert interventions throughout college, based on the platform and learning mechanism of choice; offer individually tailored recommendations for additional courses or certifications; and match skillsets required by hiring firms to a candidate’s aptitude and knowledge. Some leading educational services providers have already started measuring the effectiveness of each and every element of their content value chain and learning interventions based on learner outcomes.

The digital era will continue to bring challenges for businesses in the IME segment. Businesses need to continuously adapt because what was a differentiator for IME companies yesterday could very well be a commodity today. The only way to survive is to continuously re-evaluate organizational strategies and tune content ecosystems accordingly. Whether a company aims to be a content provider feeding content to public platforms, or a platform player with complete control of content and delivery, the content ecosystem will likely require transformation in order to align with the business vision.

Ashish Chawla