This post started as part of my post from yesterday which was about practical Google Reader tips. I went off on a tangent about the evolution of how we consume digital media, and after feedback from my friend Titjof I decided to expand on that and include some guesses about where we’re headed. Welcome aboard!
Google Reader: Collecting lots of cool reading material
I’m in love with information. I constantly find myself exploring and getting lost in unfamiliar intellectual territories, and I feel comfortable in that state of curiosity and bewilderment with learning new things. After getting a taste from one area of interest, my mind often wants to jump to something else that’s related on some level – or not – so that I can get back to the first area and learn more from a new, fresh perspective.
When I found and started using Google Reader I found it exhilarating to collect blogs and websites that I found, to be able to get updated on lots of new content without having to surf around and look if they’d published something new. This was the way the internet was used, by me and surely many of you readers of this blog too, a few years back.
Curation: “Personal best picks”, but enhanced by the crowd
Then the curators came along. With Twitter, something changed because you were starting to get continuously “fed” with great content that came recommended from people you had more or less of a rapport with.
And then Flipboard got huge. And after that Pulse, Zite, Prismatic… All of them beautiful apps/websites with great UX design factors and one simple function: “Automagically” presenting you with a great mix of content from many different topics and areas, where the relevancy of the content is validated by coming from “trusted sources” or having made a big impact on the social web.
This sacrifices “totally personalized selection” but instead offers the user a no-fuss, no-hassle reading experience when you just want to “get a dose of cool ideas in your head”. And that’s all so far, so good, right?
So, I was thinking of this “curation revolution” and then I asked someone I work with – ”Is anyone still even using Google Reader, or otherwise subscribing to RSS feeds? Is it a relevant way to consume content, with what alternatives we have today?” to which I got the reply – ”Sure, I use it all of the time, I have like five feeds I never want to miss!” – and that got me thinking… This was last week, and so yesterday it led me to sit down and do my “content cleanse”. I’m pretty sure I’ve found a way that suits me, to combine my own selected content with curated media and end up with a good mix.
… And Beyond
So, where will things move from here? In the discussion of content, channels, platforms, aggregation, curation, syndication and “all that”… I think we’re forgetting about “format”, at least on the visionary side. Of course we talk about the rise of mobile, how smartphones and tablets are our primary media consumption devices. But disregarding what technologies and infrastructures are in place or on their way here now – how are the users going to want to consume (or “prosume”) content?
My feeling (I don’t sport a fancy title like “digital strategist” or the like, so I’ll just be intentionally and justifiedly vague) is that we want to co-create and share content in tribes rather than crowds. Because within those small networks, interaction from any person in the network has meaning and influence on the originator of the content – and on the whole tribe. And if the traditional media companies want to compete for our attention with their big-scale content, they’d better present it with a tone and a format that lets us engage with and, to a bigger degree than today, control it.
What I’m saying is – don’t just serve us content, but the tools and the infrastructure that lets us contribute to your content in a meaningful way. And this includes physical technology that might not be released or even conceived yet. What will Google Glass and similar projects mean to bridge the gap even more between producers and consumers?
How can we try and think of developments that haven’t been thought of yet? What technological and digital innovations would you wish for if there were no limits? Please share!