The future is “streams and flows”

Bruce FriendA new Ipsos OTX study of 7,000 online consumers ages 13 to 74 reveals, among other things, that people in the U.S. spend more than half their day consuming media.

Over half their day!

…thanks to smartphones and laptops, people are now spending one-half of their waking days interacting with media, and have increased their media consumption by an hour per day over the last two years.

That’s more time than they spend working or sleeping.

This is the essence of hyperconnectivity, for not only are we connected to media, we’re also connected to each other at the same time.

The study is stunning and ought to be good news for people who make media content. The news release goes on to say that “Communicating is now entertaining, and entertainment is communication,” and this has profound ramifications for legacy media companies.

Ipsos OTX president Bruce Friend notes in the study that “content is the medium now,” because people are able to access it on their own terms. He also notes that content is its own media platform and advises media companies to stop trying to find time slots and instead “attach ads to content so it lives and thrives with it in a meaningful way.” This is profoundly wise, because unbundled content is the future, and that future demands that such content live on its own, absent from the packaging with which we’d like it to be seen.

This is because we’re moving from an age of the stagnant page (or video) to the age of streams and flows for everything. The real time Web is just getting started, and now is the time to immerse ourselves in this world.

Kevin KellyI’m in the middle of interviews for our forthcoming book, “2015, The Future of Local Media,” and spoke this week with Kevin Kelly, one of the greatest minds in the world today. His essay “We Are The Web,” published in Wired in 2004, is a deep introduction into the Web and culture, and it ought to be required reading for everybody. It was a great honor to speak with him, and I asked if he’d write that article differently today.

He replied that he’d keep the first half intact, but that he’d add more about where we’re heading. That, he insists, is what he calls the “second Gutenberg shift,” which is a world of information streams and flows in real time. The first Gutenberg shift, according to Kelly, was not just the printed word, but more so the ability to attach annotations, footnotes and references to text. These could be used to group information. This is second nature to our world today, and the Web is making such linking and organizing extraordinary.

It is the ability to identify, sort, organize and pinpoint videos in real time that is coming. We put tags and notes on video, Kelly says, but technology can and will do better. Labs, he noted, are working on ways to instantly map videos for discovery through means not yet invented. This is what he means by the “second Gutenberg shift,” a world of flows and streams that includes video. He concurs with TED founder Chris Anderson that the Web is clearly moving to video, but not just of the YouTube or TV station website variety. Just as we easily move text around, we will do so with video.

Who will make those videos? Everybody.

Twitter is perhaps the clearest example of media in a real time stream. Dave Winer’s “River of News” concept is another. We work with our clients to move them to what we call “Continuous News” for exactly the same reason. If we’re ever to be players in a world of streams and flows, we must begin today. Most people who have difficulty with the concept have it because they’re still thinking of “the page” and everything associated with the bundled news hegemony.

We cannot and must not let this world develop with us just following along. We ought, instead, to be leading the way, with our products, of course, but also in educating our public about the evolution to streams and flows.

Advertising is content, content that belongs in the stream. This is a field with serious money potential, and we need to be the ones showing everybody else how it’s done.

(Originally published in AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel Newsletter)

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