The next sacred cow to be slain

Following the theme of my Ritz Carleton experience…

The computer and the internet have changed the world forever, there is no doubt about that. But they have hit some areas of business harder than others and they have had to adapt or die – quite often in a short time period. The typewriter was one of the first to go and many have followed. I remember only a few years ago, as a keen photographer, thinking that it would be a long time before digital pictures reached the quality I required; now we almost expect our cellphones to deliver the quality of film. So where do we think the next big area of unthinkable change will come?

TV – already in the metamorphosis change from analogue to digital and now well on the way from over the air to over the net. Within 2 years I think we will see a flood of TV networks that are web-only, and that also give us – the customer – what we want, namely the ability to watch what we want and when. Yes, some of this is already here but the explosion has yet to hit the mainstream.

Copyright restrictions – this is probably one of the big hurdles that needs to be overcome to achieve the TV of the near future. Why, as a UK citizen who happens to be travelling abroad, am I banned from watching the BBC iPlayer (something that my taxes go towards funding)? Why do films still get released under different region codes and at different times? The visual entertainment market (TV and film) seems desperate to make the same mistakes that the music market made in an attempt to hold on to their control of a quickly shifting market. People are already getting around the ‘no iPlayer abroad’ restriction through the use of VPNs set up specifically to do so (and undoubtedly making a lot of money for the website owners); DVD players have been region-hacked almost from day 1, so why persist?

Advertising – tied in with both of the above is what’s going to happen to the advertising world. I wonder, how long it’s going to be until no-one actually wants to pay to advertise at half time during the Super Bowl? This year saw only the second occasion when costs were lower than the year before; is this the start of a slide? And how much longer can the advertising manager who’s pushing his CEO to pay $3m for a 30 second advert get away with it?

Buying and selling on the internet – this is a subject in itself but my feeling is that things are going to change radically in the next 5 years. For a variety of reasons it’s actually getting more and more difficult to find what you’re looking for on the web. Sometimes it’s dodgy tactics used by website owners (how often have you ended up at a site that doesn’t even sell the product the link suggested?), other times it’s simply the size of the choice that stops you finding what you want. Either way, as our time to browse reduces (partly because we’re all on Facebook…) there’s going to be a revolution where we start demanding a more personalised and focused service from the web. Some sites are already starting to attempt to change our browsing habits and are making slow inroads but it will still be a year or two before they really take off. But what this space when they do.

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