Might consumers pay for content? | EU


During the “Understanding Disruption” conference in April 2013, the EU’s Future Media Lab. had the opportunity to sit down and talk about the future of media with William Higham, Consumer strategist, futurist and author. William is the managing director of The Next Big Thing, a forecasting and strategy consultancy in the UK.

Future Media Lab (FML): How do you envisage media in 2050?

William Higham (WH): It’s going to look very different to what it does now. We’re going to see brand new media formats. There will be links between apps, magazines, books and video games. That will be the biggest change – brand new media formats. We are going to see some of the same behaviour continuing – people will have the same needs. But we’ll have hybrid media. As far as screens are concerned – they will all be the same – on a mobile phone, a tablet and the TV – they will simply be different sizes. So maybe your tablet folds out so you can put it on your wall and it becomes a TV screen. Actually, at the moment, a tablet could either be a magazine or a TV. That’s something to think about.

FML: Who will be the journalists?

WH: We will continue to see good amateurs coming through. The peer-to-peer networks will bring up good amateurs. So there will be lots of amateur websites offering advice and information – these will thrive. But you will always need specialists. People need to be able to trust those who are writing. So there is absolutely a role for good quality journalists, who understand how to write a sentence and have authority.

FML: Will we arrive at the right business model to pay for quality content?

WH: I think we will. The subscription model is the way forward, as well as micro payments. People may ask, why should you pay for content? Young people have grown up without having to pay. There are three reasons: if the only way to get what you want is by paying, if the only way to get good quality is by paying, or if it the only way to get content conveniently. Young people are happy to pay for things they want that are convenient and good quality. So, yes, they will pay if it fulfills one of these three needs.

FML: How will brands connect in the future?

WH: Increasingly it will be about relationships with the customer. It’s going to be much less top down than it was. There is going to be a much flatter hierarchy of purchase – so increasingly it is going to be transactional. “I am going to buy from you because you have something I want”. People are going to buy from someone they trust and have an emotional relationship with – so we are going to need to see the creation of brand families. The customer needs to feel part of that family.

This interview is part of the recurring blog series of short interviews with representatives of different media or related sectors. Our first interviews were with Kerstin Jorna, Director, DG MARKTat the European Commission; Michiel Buitelaar, the COO of Digital Media at Sanoma Media NL; and Jean-Jacques Deleeuw, Head of New Media at RTL Belux(Luxembourg).

Image: William Higham giving his keynote address at the Future Media Lab. April 2013 conference, Understanding Disruption. Photo ©Thomas Geuens.