Some of the biggest opportunities for journalism in the future is likely to come from the concept of technology convergence. This convergence manifests in three main ways: in terms of the actual device on which news hounds consume content; connectivity with the internet; and the process in which the consumers interact with media companies.
As the form factors through which news consumers can access content increase in number, the price point for such new devices is evidently decreasing. This combination of increased affordability and choice for consumers has led to some significant design challenges for news companies. From having to cater just for traditional consumption through the likes television, radio, print and PCs, media companies now need to manage mobile smart-phones, tablet devices like the iPad and many kinds of portal digital readers.
These convenient portable form factors are fast becoming ubiquitous. The last decade has seen the mobile industry converge with traditional media at an incredible rate. Whilst international mobile operators ten years ago were still debating about the possibility of cost-effectively streaming video content and news on smartphones, these services are now simply taken for granted in most developed, and many developing countries.
Media companies that want to survive have needed to up their game to cater for mobile devices in a relatively short span of time. As the percentage of total news consumption on mobile increases, and as mobile technology itself advances few would dare to argue that we have not already passed the point of no return.
Convergence affects journalism on a number of different levels in the media value chain: from production processes all the way through to consumption. One of the biggest drivers of this is device connectivity to the internet. If mobile communication helps remove the location element from traditional news broadcasting, then internet access helps remove the time element of it.
Even 20 years ago, it would have been practically impossible to imagine a world in which you would be able to receive the latest news from just about anywhere on the planet, regardless of where you are coming soon. One would be mistaken however to think that only the way media is consumed has changed. The latest wave of technology convergence largely revolves around interactivity with the consumer.
User interactivity not only provides immediate feedback to content creators and distributors, but also has the (already partly realised) potential to create fresh content on the fly. Converging technology enables both journalists and consumers alike to create, capture or distribute the latest content immediately. Of course, this brings with it a number of new issues such as establishing the credibility of the source, privacy and at a more macro level, even freedom of speech.
As these three drivers of convergence continue on their path, the logical next step in the technology equation is likely to be information organisation. With so much content already available on so many different devices, if there is no structure to what users can access then the best, or most reliable content, might not necessarily surface easily. Without a hierarchy of information, reputation and relevance finding information would be much like playing lottery online – you can take part but you will rarely ever win! The challenge that Google and Bing currently face in the online world will soon become a challenge all media companies worth their salt will need to address.
For consumers, the last decade has already seen a leap in both the quality and accessibility of information as a result of convergence. By the looks of what’s in store, the next decade is likely to be just as exciting, if not more.