i-Media: coming to any device near you

With 2010 now well underway, during the past few weeks there have been several clear sign that the media industry is arriving at an inflection point.

These developments could lead to new opportunities for content publishers and their service partners, and a more engaging experience for media consumers worldwide.

In early January Google announced the arrival of its Nexus One mobile handset, which many people believe could dethrone the iPhone thanks to its powerful web and media capabilities, and lower acquisition cost with no ties to any particular service provider.

The same week, several consumer electronic manufactures including Sony and Panasonic announced 3D TVs and other related innovations for enhancing the consumer entertainment experience.

On Jan 21 Amazon announced that it was making its Kindle e-reader open source so external developers can create new applications, including games, productivity tools and so-called ‘active content’ .

Finally, on Jan 27 Apple announced the arrival of the highly anticipated iPad, an Internet-connected, clipboard sized device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, playing games, and reading e-books.

However, perhaps the most important announcement, which ironically seemed to have less media buzz, was that 5 leading publishers – Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corporation and Time Inc. (The quintet’s publications include Time, WSJ, Fortune, Wallpaper, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and GQ) –  were jointly participating in an independent venture to develop open standards for a new digital storefront and related technology, thus allowing consumers to enjoy their favourite media content portable digital devices of their choice.

While these various announcements are correlated, the decision of the 5 high-profile publishers should spark the digital media revolution we’ve been waiting for, as more and more media publishers identify profitable ways to embrace the capabilities of digital media and the Web.

Together, these recent developments will significantly change the media game, with different implication for the various service stakeholders:

Implications for media providers:

  • Innovative digital media viewing formats, delivering a consumer-focused reading experience for books, comics, blogs, and magazines.
  • The ability to offer consumers a more engaging media experience through new display formats, interactivity and personalization. This could include magazines with real-time information, personalized article selections, integrated photos albums and videos, as well as links to additional media resources.
  • Development of an independent store front, loosening the grip of Amazon’s Kindle Store and Apple’s forthcoming iBookstore.
  • A means to shift from selling magazine products to media service
  • A new distribution channel for delivering media to markets worldwide, with low incremental printing, transport or distribution, costs.
  • A new advertising medium, offering advertising partners greater value through more granular user profiling and metrics on digital media consumption habits and possibly contextual location information.
  • An additional channel for driving the sales of printed media.

Implications for service providers:

  • After Netbooks, e-media devices offer the means to develop a new product line, further developing their mobile Internet services.
  • Another compelling reasons for consumers to subscribe to mobile Web and media service plans.
  • The possibility to act as a trusted retailer, offering integrated purchasing capabilities for occasional media consumption or service subscriptions.
  • The opportunity to make content and advertising more contextually relevant for consumers, by adding location-dependent information.
  • Another service platform in which to integrate and cross-sell other services, including voice communication, messaging, information, entertainment, device personalization, etc.

Implications for media consumers:

  • Greater choice of engaging, on-demand, media. Benefits could include custom article selections with real-time information, integrated photo and video albums, and additional resources. Such features could be included in extensive back catalogues and/or publication libraries, while offering simple previewing capabilities before buying.
  • A more personalized media experience, including greater interactivity, access to non-published material, recommendations and new product previews, social networking capabilities, etc.
  • More convenience enabled by instant gratification and content portability across different media devices and platforms, including smart-phones, e-readers and laptops.

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