The symbolism couldn’t be any more distinct: 300+ newspaper leaders from around the world, gathered to learn about the future of the media-industry — in a venue that used to house the printing press of the Danish newspaper Politiken.
The huge printing presses that once were placed right on town hall square were now moved to the suburbs and replaced with a small stage, where Sofie Hvitved, futurist and senior advisor/head of media from the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, tried to take the audience of 300+ at INMA Media Innovation Week in Copenhagen into the future.
“We weren’t really sure what hit us back in the ’00s, and we’re still in the same situation,” she said. “The world is ever more fragmented and becomes ever more complex.” But she also stressed that we don’t have to sit back and be unprepared. Instead, we can study the future to get a clearer picture of possible scenarios.
Understand the emotions of the liquid consumer
The first challenge is that it’s getting ever harder to decide what consumer needs are like, Hvidtved explained.
“We can no longer segment people as we use to: Consumers constantly make new choices, they’re impatient and disloyal. It’s a generation of liquid consumers.
“They already expect to be recognised by companies, but also expect brands to help them create ‘a better version of me.’ But technology may help us understand consumers better in the future. If you look at the newest headsets, they understand our emotions, and we can expect data to be more emotional in the future.”
Creator economy, Web3, and NFTs
We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of individuals that become “media creators,” and this type of Wordpress-ification will continue, according to Hvitved.
If Web3 and blockchain-technology get a true breakthrough, it could strengthen the direct relationship between individual creators and their audiences. On stage, she was skeptical about most things related to NFT’s, but also pointed out that it’s one of the instances where the hype about crypto investments may block the long-term impact.
The Metaverse: not Second Life v2
Some trends are almost cursed by the first press coverage and the public perception of “The Metaverse” has been largely influenced by pictures of attendees a Facebook conference wearing virtual headsets. But Hvitved asked media managers to think of a wider range of technology and a much longer time-frame.
“The metaverse is so much more than a company. It’s an understanding that media will be more immersive than the present-day flat screens. It could range from the ABBA-concerts with hologram-avatars to contact lenses with information. This is not a revolution, but an evolution of different types of technology that will change over maybe 10 to 20 years.”
In the media landscape of the future, content may be selected, altered, and presented entirely by technology. Robots are already creating pieces on sports and business news in simple formats.
But Hvitved predicted it will happen on a much greater scale, pointing out that curating may be entirely data-driven, which might disrupt access if media companies don't dominate the distribution channels.
“This could become a question of whether you as a media company have any of the content that the audience is presented with on their preferred channel.”
Hvitved presented the INMA audience with a list of AI-driven tools that have the potential to change media landscape such as language dubbing, virtual hosts, influencers, and AI as part of the editorial team.
She specifically pointed out three services and platforms that demonstrate some of the possibilities that lie ahead.
Miquela: A virtual character with 3 million followers on Instagram.
Quillbot: An AI-robot which paraphrased any text and present users with a new version.
(One of the paragraphs in the section above was “rephrased” by Quillbot for demonstration purposes. We’ll leave it to readers to guess which section.)
Regulation on the rise?
Several governments have already interfered in the battle between Big Tech and the legacy media industry — for example, allowing media companies to bargain collectively when trying to reach an agreement with search-giants like Google.
Hvitved is pretty confident we’ll see more regulation of data, media, and channels in the coming decades.
The question that remains to be answered is whether this will be through media laws or self-regulation like the Meta board.
You can find more coverage from Media Inovation Week is sponsored by ArcXP, FT Strategies, Google News Initiative, Meta, and Piano — here. Others sponsors include Aptitude, Chartbeat, flowplayer, smartocto, Stibo DX, United Robots, and Zephr.