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Technology to cater for couch potatoes

IF YOU are a baby boomer, you will have experienced the dawning of the greatest of the three world economic revolutions: the technological.

While the agrarian revolution saw hunter-gatherers become farmers and graziers, and the industrial revolution saw factories and cities created en masse, the technological revolution is transforming the lives of farmers, graziers, factory workers, city executives and every other person alive today, regardless of occupation, nationality, size of landholdings or number of gold credit cards drawn to the max.

As a post-WWII boomer, you cursed the early PCs as they crashed, you sent the first fax cartoons to your mates, bopped to the first videoclips, invested in the first CDs and hoped your bulky mobile phone would ring to impress the restaurant during those power lunches with clients.

We now have thirty-eight cable channels filling our lounge rooms with international news, sports, documentaries, sports, cartoons, sports, and more drivel than you or I could ever have dreamed possible in our worst nightmare.

While electronic media is expand-ing into new products and dimen-sions, its ownership is shrinking. Media watchers claim the world’s media is now in the hands of only six people – all of them proudly profit driven.

So where is media heading?

Perth-based media and communi-cations consultant Thomas Murrell believes that there are clear media trends of convergence, content and creativity taking us into the twenty-first century.

The future, says Murrell, is digital.

Techno-nerds are responding to the information explosion by devel-oping amazing hardware to allow the convergence of lots of functions into just one or two.

We will soon have an infotain-ment centre dominating our couch potato lives, which will replace our existing TV, computer and phone functions – into a single incoming line. As choice and quality increase, the initially high cost of all this will decrease to a surprisingly low level.

Multichanneling will mean each existing TV channel will actually send four or five separate channels of programs or other information into our infotainment centre, giving us the opportunity to escalate the remote-control power struggle into full-on domestic war.

All these choices will fragment the market, driving marketing gurus crazy as they try to capture and define an exploding amount of user-data – like nailing jelly to a tree.

The concepts of family viewing and mass market will disappear.

We will have an increase in discrete individual activities, using one piece of equipment for many functions simultaneously – like using your PC and watching TV interactively. The demand for content to fill the great maw of multichannels is so extreme that content becomes king.

So, as we plug ourselves into our PCTV to trade through e-commerce, check our email, update the budget spreadsheet or just zonk out with Ally McBeal, we might reflect that the real winners in the media of the future will be the content providers and distributors – those who will, together, control the brand, the product, and the money.

l Ann Macbeth is a futurist and principal of Annimac Consultants.

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