myChannel

It started with the town crier. Then the daily newspaper. It broadened with radio and then television. Communication now comes at you from all angles – via papers, magazines, journals, radio, digital radio, satellite radio, terrestrial TV, TV text services, digital TV, satellite TV, cable TV, mobile portals, push alerts on mobile devices, newsgroups, websites, RSS newsfeeds, streaming media services and pod-casting.

The choice has become so complex for consumers that there is even a choice of magazines and websites dedicated to helping us make a choice. The selection and diversity will continue to grow but the act of “choosing” is about to change significantly. We are returning to just one channel – myChannel.

This article isn’t just some futuristic dreamscape – there are innovative and concrete services today that don’t just hint at the future, they belie it with an uncanny accuracy. They work. Adoption is widespread and fast. They change the rules.

As communication consultants, we anticipate these developments and adapt our methods and consultancy to our clients accordingly. If Fuse adapts faster than our competitors then our clients prosper, and so do we.

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the latest communication innovations. It turns out, there are some common threads.

RSS

A recent report from Jupiter Research (“Addressing Market Opportunities with an Innovative News Medium”, 11th March 2005) quantifies RSS penetration by consumers at home at 12%. The primary advantages RSS delivers the users are:

  • Choice – the user can pick and choose specific newsfeeds one at a time, and subscription to lists of feeds with a common theme (eg, technology news, health, education) is increasingly popular. With the advent of endeavours such as attention.xml, consumers may associate themselves with peers whose opinion they value to allow news of potentially higher interest bubble to the top
  • Collation – multiple sources are centralised for the user’s convenience
  • In your own time – the sources can be examined at any time
  • Filtering – the sources can be examined in any way.

Pod-casting

As with all successful mass-market electronic devices, the ways in which the Apple iPod is put to use has extended beyond the original vision of its creators. Pod-casting is one such application of the iPod.

Quite simply, pod-casting is the downloading of often transient audio material from the Internet and transferral to the iPod for listening to later. The material can be specifically sought, or a regular source can be downloaded and transferred automatically as it becomes available – general news, specialist news, and audio magazines. Of course, pod-casting can be defined as “audio RSS”, and this will develop to “audio-visual RSS” as more mobile devices permit video storage and play.

The primary advantages to the user:

  • Choice – the user chooses what to listen to and when, rather than being dictated to by broadcast schedules and reception (London Underground doesn’t offer ideal radio reception, nor is Radio 4’s Today programme easily picked up in New York)
  • Collation – multiple sources are centralised for the user’s convenience
  • In your own time – the sources can be listened to at any time
  • Filtering – only download what you want, and skip through that too (watch out for audio-visual search technologies such as Blinkx)

On-demand digital radio

Digital radio is offering greater choice and clearer reception, and innovative services enabled by companies such as Otodio will soon tempt listeners with a diverse selection of on-demand programming. Listeners have choice in their own time.

On-demand platform-agnostic video

A new era of video distribution is being chimed in with the increasing success of super-fast consumer broadband, such as the 8Mb service from UK Online, the Personal Video Recorder (PVR) as pioneered by TiVo, and Video on Demand (VoD) services, such as from Video Networks. The term IPTV is being bandied around (TV over IP) to describe what would otherwise be labelled television on demand.

The primary advantages to the user: choice, in your own time with filtering.

myThis and myThat

Websites are becoming increasingly flexible in enabling visitors to customise their content preferences and in anticipating user needs intelligently (see Touch Clarity). This trend is compounded as users’ expectations grow to the extent where mass personalisation has become a ‘qualifying’ rather than ‘winning’ criteria. The advantages to the user include choice (of the most apt personalisation), collation, and access in their own time and filtering.

One channel, or infinite?

So there’s a common theme here. The user, the recipient of news and information, the listener, the viewer, the inter-actor, has been empowered to set the schedule. It’s what they want, when they want it and how they want it. They have one channel (at least they will have when future technology converges the channels described here) and they own it. It is myChannel.

But what are the ramifications for those trying to get their news or their clients’ news on to myChannel? The impacts will be manifold and include:

  • Considerably more fragmentation of the target audience of communications campaigns
  • Less precise timing of delivery
  • Increased opportunity to provide niche information
  • Less certainty of how each recipient is receiving the information
  • Greater opportunity for innovation in inviting and securing interaction
  • The need for new mechanisms for gauging campaign success.

 

The word “broadcast” is being resigned to history – there just won’t be a communication medium that has the breadth to be described as “broad”. Intelligent and insightful PR consultancy has never been so critical to organisations striving to communicate effectively to a mass audience seeking to exert selectivity in the face of too much information, too much choice!

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