Desire for ownership is being supplanted by “collaborative consumption” – sharing goods – as a result of economic developments and the pace of technological change, while demand for instant access to all content and “the ubiquity of reviewing” meant that power was shifting away from existing brands, according to Ben Hammersley, writer of 64 Things You Need to Know Now for Then and the UK prime minister’s ambassador to ‘Tech City’ in East London. People increasingly want “freedom from obligation” and commitment to long-term payment plans for goods and services, he said.
Delivering the opening keynote at the CTAM EuroSummit in Vienna this morning, Hammersley said that the desire to be free of obligation meant that people were increasingly turning away from long-term subscriptions. If someone leased an apartment for a year, the would not want to sign up for a two-year subscription plan. “This is a major trend – in the US over a million and a half cable and satellite subscribers disconnected last year,” he said.
Hammersley said that Moore’s law – the doubling of the capacity of silicon every five years – meant it was difficult to anticipate future developments in technology. This made it difficult for companies to plan ahead in the long term, he said. Technologies that seem cumbersome today will rapidly become compelling thanks to the effects of Moore’s Law, he said. Dismissing new digital technologies because they are not particularly compelling today could mean disaster in a few years’ time, he said, citing the example of Kodak’s dismissal of the digital camera, which it invented.
Moore’s Law increasingly delivered technologies that enabled people to consume goods and services more flexibly, according to Hammersley. Younger consumers increasingly would not accept long-term commitments that tied them to particular providers, he said. This also applied to ownership of TVs as devices, he said. Advances in TV technology such as 3D were “bullshit”, said Hammersley. “The TV isn’t very good as a thing…but it’s a focal point in the social life of people,” he said. “As a screen technology it really sucks. It needs to be looked at from a social point of view rather than from a technological point of view.”
Hammersley said that things such as the BBC’s decision to live-stream coverage of the Olympics on iPlayer, available across multiple devices, meant that linear TV was essentially “broken” as a model. YouTube was now the most significant platform for music sharing, he said. The dissemination of music videos on YouTube made consumption of the long-tail of content a mass phenomenon, with users able to see how many others shared their tastes at a global level. Anything that prevented access to content would fail, he said. “This includes things like trying to own the second screen,” said Hammersley. Almost everyone aged under 30 years old viewed more than one screen at one time, he said.
Hammersley said he believed there was a shift under way from channel brands to content brands and auteurs. The “ubiquity of reviewing” was one of the biggest changes underway that would shape future consumption patterns, he said. Social networks and user comments on all services meant that consumers demanded “instant customer service”, with every consumer’s views being privileged. “This is really making the life of people trying to sell stuff very difficult indeed,” said Hammersley.
Taken together, these trends would make service providers’ lives very difficult, said Hammersley. However, the same developments meant that “we are currently living in the golden age of content”, he said. The quality of factual programming, drama and news had never been as good as it was today, as technology had enabled content creators to see the “best stuff from the rest of the world”, he said.
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