Harley Santa Barbara ©Gary Hayes 2005A post without the obligatory “I-just-read-this-and-heres-the-link”. Just me having a very mild rant – no links, just words. Content over technology, perhaps.

There is no doubt the media world is in serious transition now. Not the sort of slow transition we have seen since the early 90s as the global network gradually infiltrated our everyday lives but far more profound and ground shifting. A level where the essence of human personality (as blogs become vlogs) and the highest quality media (as real media becomes HD) are beginning to dominate that same network. A shift where the old business models are truly starting to see cracks in their foundations.

As with any transition where the new replaces the old there is a tendency to focus on the enablers too much. Like the first travellers by steam train, there was more interest by the watchers in the turbines, the coach decoration and the sheer power of the machine rather than the destination itself – the reason the thing existed for in the first place to get bodies from a to b. It took a long time before trains became commonplace and now of course we see them mostly as functional and providing a basic service, while we concentrate on the ‘life of travel’ they enable. The same was true of the car, plane, phone, early TV and so on. So here we are ‘blinded-by-the-next-light’ as we turn this corner towards ubiquitous, broader, bandwidth.

So it is no surprise that we have commentators the world over, in their train-spotting garb with laptops at the ready, ooh’ing and aar’ing over the new toys on the shelf. These new toys being bit torrent, VoIP, IPTV, PVR’s, PSP’s, 3G mobiles, Xbox360s, MP3 players and so on, and so on. Basically shiny new gadgets that enable new ways to distribute content – but why, oh why, can’t we cut straight to the chase – the content itself. Bit torrent is great, sure. But like the invention of any technology that allows us to self publish and share – cave wall painting, paper, books, the telephone, cassette, CD, VHS, DVD the medium is most definitely not the message. The other technical enablers VoIP or IPTV are just more variations in an already established protocol to move audio or video around more efficiently. When we got over the remarkable texture of mass produced manuscript paper we were able to appreciate Shakespeare’s sonnets. When we lost our fascination in the those amazing moving projected pictures we were able to consider what Citizen Kane really meant. When we stopped gasping at the feat of moving 10 million polygons per second, we just played Halo. Let’s hope when the hype of hyper-distribution dies down we will get on with really creatively exploiting the opportunities.

Then there are the client devices the PSP, PVR, Media Center to XBox360 and so on. All basic computers in new ‘emperors’ clothes – each new device with a faster processor, bigger hard drive and more receivers for broadband/cast content, part of the transition to who knows where. In any case we all know these are PC constructs. Perhaps we have two clear devices in the future – a home ‘everything’ and a mobile ‘everything’ – sometimes one wishes we could get to that final design quicker. Much the way the car settled into a common format after 40 years or so, we can imagine a converged home server device that connects to any content source and has the horse-power to play photo-realistic games – but here we go again, even I’m talking about the next shiny train coming along the tracks!

We are moving swiftly towards democratisation of media distribution, a long tail of user generated, self-published content, some good, most average but hopefully full of invention, new forms and deeply personalized. Content that surprises with its originality, content that breaks as many moulds as there are left. As we turn this particular corner, lets hope the transition is swift and that we can again focus quickly on creating compelling new media types, fresh services and the a new generation of interactivity. Never mind the bandwidth feel the content.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005