Friday, January 13, 2012

Real-time broadcast vs. On-demand

I’ve not been an active radio listener for many years, particularly after I discover podcast about 5 years ago when I first bought my iPod Classic. Many years ago, when TV first became popular, it was said that TV would kill radio. Of course, that didn’t happen.

For me, podcast basically replace what 95% what radio can offer. I know there are still many people listening to radio, old habit lives. However, I think that with the popularity of internet and smartphones, the traditional way of media consumption is being changed which actually applies to both radio and TV. The change is permanent and there is no turning back. That’s why I’m very susceptible of some announcements in the last few years about some rich folks investing in digital audio broadcast, additional TV channels, etc. Those are lateral development of traditional media. The quality of sound would be better and there would be more choices in terms of content. Those things are fine. However, I hope their media development plans would consider the factor that I wanna talk about here: ‘real-time broadcast’ vs. ‘on-demand’ content. If they don’t, they better going back to do some brain-storming and go back to their drawing board.

Traditional media dictates what is being broadcast at what time. I don’t care you watch the shows on old CRT TV or new OLED screen TV or on iPad/smartphones, the channels are different, but what you see is the ‘live’ stuff that the media company is broadcasting. That’s fine for important live events, such as breaking news, sport games, stock market programs, etc., i.e. anything that’s time critical. However, for the rest of stuff that’s not time critical, I don’t think the new generation of viewers and those, including me, riding on the tech enhancement train, would still be willing to abide the broadcasting companies’ fixed schedule to access those non-time critical programs. In other words, we all want ‘on-demand’ contents; we want to watch what we want when we want it. Such concept has actually been well-known for decades. Just think about LD, CD, DVD, video tapes, etc, all these are recorded media for our consumption at our convenience. Now, things are just being changed to digital form without any physical media. Namely, that would be files for download or via live streaming. That’s what podcast and video/audio archive can offer.

Since my data plan for my iPhone is not unlimited, and there are still spots in the city that connection may not be good, I still like to use Wi-Fi to download files that I wanna listen beforehand and enjoy them at the time that I want. Also, harddisk is not expensive; I still like keeping my personal archive of stuff that I really like for my future access. I would say that 95% of my time with my iPhone with earpiece on is for listening podcast. Actually, I’m quite surprise about that as I always consider myself a music lover. I do have tons of music stored at home as well as in my iPhone, but podcast becomes my favorite pastime currently over music.

My podcasts library includes a few different genres: news, news critics, tech news, paranormal stuffs, comedy, talk shows, etc. I usually listen to those time critical one, i.e. news-related podcast first, then move on to the rest. Also, I prefer to listen to them on my iPhone rather than using iTunes at home. Cuz, I find the X2 feature (i.e. playing content at double speed) surprisingly useful for podcast consumption. Some people would worry that it may sound funny or the words would be said too fast to be heard clearly. Indeed, that’s not true at all. X2 is not X4, the voice of speakers are totally listenable without any issue. The best part is that I can finish listening the podcast in half the time that I suppose to spend. For instance, for a program of 90 minutes long, after skipping about 10 minutes of commercials by sliding the program bar and using X2, I can finish the whole program in about 40 minutes. That’s very efficient. I still have a backlog of programs pending to be consumed on my iPhone, also, the continuous finding of new programs and new episodes of existing favor programs keep my backlog growing day by day, that’s why they eclipsed my music listening time in recent months.

Anyway, going back the on-demand nature of audio/video archive, I think what the traditional media companies have to do for sure in order to stay relevant in these days and future would be:

Making sure you have an archive of your old programs if you don’t have one. Better be in iTunes Store or else.

  1. Making sure you have an app in iTunes and Android Marketplace to access your programs. Cuz, I don’t think your content would be widely distributed if they can only be access via some specific standalone purpose device, e.g. TV, satellite radio, digital radio, etc. They are doomed to fail in terms of cost and hassle.
  2. Be interactive with your audiences by using Facebook, chatroom and forum.
  3. Designing your programs in a way that fit the new way of consumption. E.g. truncate them in tranches for easier digestion, more intact content on episode basis, etc.

As this new form of media content consumption trend is here to stay and it is very likely to replace the old format, I think media company better sit tight and prepare if they still wanna be in the game in coming years.

No comments: