What You All Looking At?

Tell me to go on a course called ‘Future Media Innovation Technology’ and I’ll roll my eyes like you might. WTF does this even mean? Is this even relevant? Fact is – yes, yes and yes and why cos we’re in the middle of an industry crisis, crisis and crisis.

Regardless if you work in music, TV, radio and newspapers/magazines – we all consume these platforms. Whether it’s reading your free copy of Time Out on a Tuesday, vibzing to the radio or basking in the dope content on Nation of Billions – we’re all creators, consumers and curators of content, yet the platforms and tools it’s created on are changing fast, and the scariest thing? No one really knows where exactly things will end up.

Let’s start with TV (who even still has a TV these days??!) The Internet has changed the way we view TV. Internet has become so vital to lives, like freshwater, it’s a necessity. We’re a generation raised on instant services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube – we can chose what we want to watch and when we want to watch it. TV is becoming cyber-social, a shared experience with others online and we can take it personal.

Take a huge live broadcast like MOBOs, Twitter was aflame with comments and reactions to the show. You can communicate with other viewers, and have instant reactions from performers and actors. The introduction of secondary-screens tablets, iPads – provides an alternative virtual view of the content we watch and TV producers are aware of our diminishing attention spans. When was the last time you just watched a programme without being on a laptop, phone or tablet? TV producers are attempting to regain our attention through offering alternative content on our handheld screens. YouTube has recently announced that its supporting Virtual Reality Content, which gives viewers access to 360 degree videos, all from some simple cardboard tech used alongside their mobile!

The next TV revolution is 4K TV’s. Yes, that’s four times the number of pixels than standard HD TV. By 2016, the BBC wants to broadcast in 4K – that’s nothing compared to Japan’s plans to broadcast in 8K TV. I’ll let that sink in – 8K TV – sharp isn’t even an understatement; you can purchase your very own 8K TV for a mere $133,000.

TV is funded by either advertising or a licence fee. Rewind 30 years ago, the control of Television content was out of the viewer’s hands and in the hands of the programmers. Now, TV is no longer an appointment to view, you can control when you want to watch TV, take out a subscription and watch online – hell even binge on it. This has not only been bad news for licence fee funded broadcasters (cough BBC) but even for advert and sponsored channels, we have the power to pause, rewind and stop – we can skip the ads if we want to. Who’s going to continue to paying for adverts when they can be avoided and when the licence fee just keeps rising?

It’s not just TV; radio has and is undergoing a huge shift. For years people have been smiling away saying radio is dead. But in 2015, it looks very much alive and kicking. Industry giants such as Apple, Tidal and Spotify are tapping into the ways we consume music. Playlists curated by your favourite singer, or radio shows hosted by your favourite rapper are now available worldwide thanks to Apple Music and Beats 1.

The launch of global radio station Beats 1, anchored by ex-Radio 1 presenter Zane Lowe, Hot 97’s Ebro Darden and Rinse FM’s Julie Adenuga, has done something FM and DAB seem to have failed at, they can be accessed on any Apple device. If you don’t like the presenter you can go to a curated playlist – hip-hop, ‘chill’ – or my guilty pleasure Ja Rule Radio. But put all this exciting hype aside, no one really knows where any of this is heading. Zane Lowe even touched on this at the Radio Festival 2015, where he sat in conversation with his ex-BBC boss Ben Cooper. When asked about if Apple Music needed Beats 1, Zane was unsure; ‘We’re working this out, time will tell”. And that’s the beauty of this change; no one truly knows where it’s heading or what anyone needs.

The major players aren’t the only ones, changing the ancient FM algorithm.  Recently pirate and internet radio has seen a revival. Internet Radio is free. Rules? There are no rules. It’s uncensored and platforms can do and say what they want – all you have to do is look at the increase in popularity of platforms such as NTS and Radar Radio. But it’s not just the platforms; it’s the DJ’s and tastemakers too. There are now several artist-hosted shows on your airwaves, from Dr Dre, Drake, Pharrell and even Elton John.  There’s an indisputable appeal in your favourite artist co-signing new talent – they’re credible, I mean they live and breathe the music – why would you not take their word over your average disc jockey?

BBC is slowly tapping into this artist seal of approval. Forming part of the station’s schedule from January 2016, Radio 1’s Playlist will take place Thursday evenings from 9-10pm and will include mood, theme and event based playlists that will be available for download via the BBC iPlayer Radio app. It’s a nice idea, but is it a bit late off the mark?

It’s like our senses are changing. The way we watch, listen and also read content is transforming – but the essence hasn’t changed. Since the beginning of man humans have always created ways to entertain the senses. When people talk about the ‘music industry is changing’ or ‘newspapers are dying’ sometimes they miss the point. The urge to consume news and be informed isn’t dying. The longing to listen and the urge to discover new music isn’t on the verge of extinction. It’s the platforms that we’ve been comfortable broadcasting/publishing it on, is what’s changing. And as for the creators? They can’t keep up.

Newspapers have been steady on the decline for years, for the generation hooked on social media, and hand held devices, your breaking news source is often your Twitter timeline – or – or any other omnipotent social platform. Social platforms know this, so they’re creating publishing offerings such as Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News and Twitter Moments – but what does that say about the future of publishers? It’s a scary thought to know Facebook & co could act as the information gatekeepers, and filter what we consume through their own lens. Recently I’ve found myself needing to double-check any news I see, if I don’t carefully look at the Twitter handle I could pretty easily become an embarrassing victim of a fake or inaccurate story – oh the social shame.

As for magazines? Well it’s probably not long before magazines are put in a museum, as an old relic of the past for people to get all-nostalgic over. When I was 18 all I wanted to be was a journalist, I wanted to see my name printed, on paper – my name on a computer screen would just not suffice.

Music magazines were a little before my time, but they were once the perfect escape for readers. If you lived out of the musical city hubs, music magazines would keep you in the loop. Music journalists held the power of the critic, and an artist could be made or broken with the word, and we readers would only know about them once we bought the magazine. Now?

What’s the need to buy a magazine when you have music blogs or better still when the Internet or Twitter let you unearth the next big thing for yourself? Take NME magazine, at its height, it was the biggest music magazine from the UK, it sold over a quarter of a million copies, in July circulation fell to fewer than 15,000. Now, it’s dropped the £2.50 price tag and is a freebie printing 300,000 and thrusting it into the hands of unwelcoming commuters. Can print survive? Who knows. Could it see a revival like vinyl?

If you can’t keep up, you will get left behind

Everything’s changing. The consumer, the viewer, the listener are growing up on newer, faster and more innovative technologies. The technology used to create, publish and broadcast content is also changing. For a while it seems like the mass creators of the content haven’t kept up. It’s like they thought the Internet was a little fad that would disappear. But now it’s clear; if you can’t keep up, you will get left behind. Just look at all the defunct magazines, newspapers, radio’s and maybe TV channel’s that didn’t survive the storm.

Content creators need to rethink the way they store and package content; TV, radio and magazines can’t remain a singular storehouse of one medium – no one wants that. Having an unvarying way of doing things is so so boring. Sooner or later, we’ll get it right, and as soon as we do, we’ll have to hold our creative hats and embrace the next shift, but I guess that’s the beauty of it and boils down to the power of our imaginations.