Media Consumption: Piecing the bits together…

I had more time than usual this morning to read the papers as I was sat on the 6.10 from Euston to Sheffield for three hours.  Not usually accustomed to reading the Guardian’s online section as I’d mentally discarded it years ago as a bolt-on for the digital illiterate, I found it most interesting – they’ve got their act together.  There are a number of threads which run through the stories they have which I’ve kind of plotted, starting with…

One Size Fits All Networks posits that the future of telco’s is in triple and even quadruple play, that is bundling phone, Internet and [IP]TV services [and in the future mobile].  Video Networks who run HomeChoice have certainly had success in recent months with their triple campaign.  In France, Free too have been successful with a similar strategy – they have a subscription IPTV service with 750000 users accessing 85 channels. The advantages of IPTV? DSL, the article goes on to argue, has the advantage over cable in that it is not shared – so you can access the long tail of niche content.  One thing that isn’t explained is why everyone is using Microsoft’s IPTV software.  Why are they? have they developed an industry standard or are they trying to monopolise a gateway to the user in the way that Sky have with satellite, or both?   The other question I have is why the utility companies are not getting in on the act?  Centrica [owners of British Gas] etc. already have a ‘relationship’ with the customer, the pipe stuff to your home [or rent it off others, but that’s just details] – why if supermarkets are to be the new banks, cannot utility companies become the new telcos?

TV over mobiles  is more problematic and certainly it is difficult to foresee 3G networks ever being able to compete in delivering content to home devices in the way wired telco’s do.   Indeed I find it difficult to see how they manage to charge for the content they provide anyway – who pays? – especially when, as an Orange  spokesman states:

"you can use MobiTV to watch regular telly in moments of microboredom".

Microboredom.  A great word and a great use case for selling premium rate content.  Create or find environments where you know people will find staring at shoes the only way of passing time and offer to alleviate them from this stupefying hell, at a cost.   Where? Office meetings perhaps, your commute of course, or that last bastion of  truly private space – the loo.

The promise of this on-demand media [which the BBC is also getting in on with it’s IMP project], however, may not be the holy grail we think it is.  Further into the Grauniad online section we find that Lolo Jones of Narrowstep, a kind of online personal TV station similar to Vimeo or a video Odeo, has found that:

"Even though we offer different ways to access the broadcasts, including video-on-demand, we find that 70% of viewers just watch live TV"

Dull, yes and not entirely unexpected given what we know of the long tail and the 80-20 rule.  But with so much money at stake in servicing these niche markets it’s kinda important. 
What is not brought out in the Guardian is how these new ‘channels’ for media consumption are themselves embedded in different use cases each with their own drivers played out in ways that are socially complex.   Gone are the days or TV research [such as David Morley’s work] when TV consumption meant the front room and focused attention.   Demand has fragmented and with it the different contexts, to the extent that it is often useless to generalise as patterns of behaviour are not discernible. This sentiment is echoed by  John Thackara [of Doors of Perception], interviewed in the same section [Talk Time], who makes the point that:

"’Users’ are perceived by to many companies as passive masses whose role in life is to receive – and pay for – egregious pre-packaged content. I refuse that role".

Amen. But many strategists and decision makers still don’t get this, though money on research must be being spent as new research companies seem to be springing up all the time to service information around ‘media consumption’. 

There is always search.  We know that people search is key.  ‘Scratching the Surface‘ looks at Yahoo and it’s new subscription search – searching for deep content amongst subscription based services which are only going to increase as A/V content starts to flourish online and via IP.  Blinkx are there already and it will be interesting to see how they manage to hold their ground in this market.  As an aside I notice now that BBC News and Sport now promotes A/V content from it’s index pages alongside text based content [with only subtle design differentiation].

Oh, and Alice gets a nod from the Grauniad too, it must be getting better.  From the 5th Estate to the 4th.   It’s happening more and more.

see also:
News item – BT Selects Microsoft TV as Software Platform
Priya on BBC’s IMP Project