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Future of digital content: reader study

Page 5 of 6

Topics from round one
User control of content
Content creation tools
Business models
Market aspects
Round 2 voting results
Strength of views
Table of votes
Topic views after round 2
User control of content
Content creation tools
Business models
Market aspects
Mobile and XML
Other topics
Comment on this issue of Analytic

Topic views after round 2 (continued)


Although respondents were generally in favour of usability, some felt that quality content as such was more important than factors such as presentation and organisation. The main contention was over the question of whether managers were prepared to carry out adequate requirements analysis or not.

The optimists believe that better usability will be a feature of future information services. Interactivity, mindmaps, timelines, better navigation tools, improved linking, greater use of multimedia, more multilinguality, semantic interfaces, facilities for access for the elderly and disabled, better guidelines for authors will be some of the aspects of usability we will see. Technical improvements such as e-paper and greater portability will help usability. Authoring tools will support usability through templates, style sheets and other methods.

The pessimists believe that poor management will lead to a failure to carry out adequate requirements analysis and usability research, or the results will not be carried over into the products and services. Tools will not support greater usability. Interoperability will be hampered by a lack of standards.

Other comments imply that one reason for pessimism lies in the belief that managers place time to market before good usability testing, and that they think users are prepared to put up with bugs and bad design.

Business models

The voting showed that the way we had grouped factors from round 1 along an optimistic / pessimistic axis was not in line with the respondents' ideas. Therefore, we present here simply the various possible factors from both rounds.

The use and integration of multiple distribution channels will continue and mature. There will be greater integration with other business models such as customer relationship management.

There will be a more focussed view of content with proper integration of all e-factors including portability, ubiquity, immediacy, personalisation, multimedia and DRM.

Commercial digital libraries will emerge as a new model.

There will be better cooperation between different players in the value chain. This could lead to web-based collaborative publishing, subject specific web sites fed by authors, an increase in event based publishing (for example sport and cultural activities).

Branding will be used to hold onto customers and there will be further advances in merchandising related to content and the use of the 'upgrade' model. Advertising may be merged into content in multimedia products.

Content will be developed for serial delivery rather than unique objects.

Managers, affected perhaps by high profile failures and fears that short term ROI will be too low, will have difficulty in developing the new types of organisation that will support new development. Better models and measures of ROI are needed. Change management needs to improve.

Some respondents reminded us of the immutable nature of business basics and that change in fundamental attitudes takes a long time. The e-business world and traditional business need to cooperate and work better together.

Market aspects

Economists are notorious for their "on the one hand, on the other hand" attitude and advice. Such an outcome is evident in the factors identified and the voting.

The most optimistic believe that new business models will transform current delivery channels. People will agree to pay for content on a pay-per-view basis, leading to a reduction in subscription based and free publishing. Events such as sports and music can be used to encourage the use of paid content.

More generally, views are mixed.

There will be continuing mergers and acquisitions.

The low growth in the advanced economies and the failure of so many dot.coms will stifle investment. Growth, shake out, more growth is the normal state in markets.

Users are currently apathetic to advanced content and delivery. Companies will simply fail to deliver sufficiently attractive content.

Key success factors will include:

• identifying added value for a critical mass of users,
• developing a workable micro-payment system,
• recognising that the web is not the best way to deliver everything, it needs to be used along side traditional channels in a bigger marketing network.

Mobile and XML

Two specific areas were widely included in round 1 responses, mobile content services and the rise of XML. Clear opinions were expressed on these topics in the voting but whereas XML was strongly endorsed, views on mobile content were evenly split between those seeing a rosy future and those more pessimistic about future development.

The mobile optimists believe that users will move to accessing content via mobile devices, adding this access to the existing success of voice and text messaging.

The mobile pessimists believe that the majority of users have no real interest in paying for anything except inter-personal communication from mobile devices.

Optimists also favour the view that good marketing, quick benefits in practical applications, speed to market and pricing are key factors. Mobile becomes a hand-held "everything" device.

Pessimists point to health scare factors, lack of investment in networks, and the dominant position of telcos who are incapable of creating content people will buy. Consumers will only pay for "cant live without" content.

The general mood on XML is unmitigated optimism. XML will be the main technology enabling the integration and expansion of digital content products and services. Fears of tagging being expensive are countered with the view that it can be handled automatically in intermediate processes.

It is recognised that widespread take up is necessary for success, quality of programming is important and that so far buzz and talk exceeds implementation. XML is important for integrated media companies and for tool interoperability.

Other topics

In round 2 respondents were asked what other topics they thought were important that had not come out of round 1. There were not many responses but topics listed were:

web services, web browser development, non-commercial publishing, skill shortages in some regions, hardware options, AI, data mining, library issues, digital archiving, content in e-mails, email newsletters, search engine development, sponsored web sites and web advertising, content as environment for advertisers, advertising support model main one for some time, hardware and software readers, proprietary formats, what type of content and readers for e-books, R&D and its funding, social value of most content, globalisation.

We had intended to carry out a third round where interdependencies between views were examined. Where there are clear views on topics there are dependencies, for example between the outcome of IPR developments and the other factors. However, the time taken to collect and collate views in an e-mail study of this type has turned out to be greater than expected and we have decided to publish the study with the current results.

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Last up-dated: 16 February 2024

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