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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 10:17 GMT
Digital media 'empowering users'
By Peter Feuilherade
BBC Monitoring

Man with cameraphone
Cameraphones allow citizens to report the world around them
A different mantra is replacing "content is king" as the new slogan of the media industry, delegates at a London conference on new media have been told.

As more media become increasingly available in digital formats, and traditional models of media packaging and distribution start to unravel, "the customer is king" is fast becoming the industry's new catchphrase.

During a session at the Financial Times Digital Media Conference on what media consumption in the UK might look like in 2012, several speakers predicted a big rise in the sharing of information among online communities with common interests.

Consumers are exercising more control, said Microsoft's Neil Holloway, Already in the US, 70% of personal video recorder users are skipping adverts, he noted.

"People want to connect to information and connect to their friends," he said. "The focus will be on highly personalised experiences."

Suggesting that advertisers might be missing a trick, he added: ""Today only about 5% of global advertising is online, yet 20% of media is consumed online. This is an amazing opportunity for advertisers."

Stronger together

"Collaborative usage of the internet is rising," said Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, a free online encyclopaedia written by thousands of users.

The scope will exist for far greater personalisation of all forms of content, and end users will be empowered and have greater influence, controlling how, where and at what price they consume content
Ed Shedd, Deloitte
"This is a social innovation, and not just a technological innovation," he said. Collaborative editing of music and video content were the next likely trends, although this depended on free licensing and the availability of easy-to-use software, he added.

Lorraine Twohill, director of Google's European marketing programmes, said consumers of news from the media were transforming themselves into providers of information.

The pioneering South Korean "citizen journalism" website Ohmynews now had some 33,000 citizen reporters, though it still used professional editors too, she noted.

Ms Twohill cited a recent quote from News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch - "We tell you less, you tell us more." - to illustrate how some of the global media were engaging with the potential power of citizen journalism.

She added that the mainstream media should also start responding to another blogging-related trend, micropublishing, which allowed authors not only to control the editorial and publication process but also to determine the fees they charged for access to their work.

Show me the money

"The trick for media companies is how to embrace multiple content in a profitable way," Ed Shedd of the UK consultancy firm Deloitte told the FT Conference.

Tabloid reader
Traditional media like newspapers are being forced to change
By 2012, in the developed markets of North America and Europe, "content will be delivered anywhere to a growing range of devices," he forecast.

"The scope will exist for far greater personalisation of all forms of content, and end users will be empowered and have greater influence, controlling how, where and at what price they consume content."

In what was a very US/Europe focused gathering, some speakers acknowledged that Western media markets have much to learn from more hi-tech advanced counterparts in Asia.

In Japan and South Korea, mobile TV services have been reasonably successful, with significant numbers of customers already paying for services, while China has been one of the first countries to develop a mainstream market for online games.

In the new era in which the consumer will supposedly be "king", the feeling among many delegates at the London conference was that traditional media players, including public service broadcasters like the BBC, still have a future, as long as they could reinvent themselves.

The growing trend towards on-demand viewing, although still representing a small minority of all TV viewing, was starting to exert the pressures of the internet on the world of commercial television.

One day, schedulers might even find themselves redundant, warned David Moody of BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial division.

For Rod Henwood of the UK's Channel 4, the key to ratings success for TV channels still lay in content. He told the audience passionately: "Take risks. Creativity differentiates."

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