How will we consume content in 2015

We are about to enter an age where news and content has never been so freely available, and with so many ways to stay connected with events around the world we could be overloaded with information if we're not careful. So how will we access our favourite stories in the future?

The biggest change to our daily consumption of news and content will be a dramatic shift away from paper and from the computer screen. Devices that allow us to grab it on the go, be it on the bus, on the train or in the local coffee shop, will dominate as we move towards the third screen epoch, that is your mobile phone or your internet tablet waiting around the corner.

The mobile phone industry is already showing us devices with bigger screens and within 5 years there is nothing to say that this trend is likely to change direction.

A decade of devices getting smaller and smaller has been reversed thanks to the touchscreen display.

Now today's latest phones from companies like HTC, Samsung and Apple are constantly focusing on delivering customers bigger touchscreen displays.

With screen technology getting cheaper and the urge to deliver bigger screens, like those found in the HTC HD2, Samsung Galaxy S, and Dell Mini 5, combined with apps, means accessing content via the mobile web or via a dedicated custom designed app is likely to be the norm in future years.

But it's not just mobile phones that will offer you news and reviews on the go. Apple's iPad, which has already got newspapers and magazines in a flurry of excitement, will have been around for some 5 years by 2015, and if devices like the iPad prove successful they are likely to have had a massive impact on the magazine and newspaper industry.

"I hope that we will see more and more people who tend to get their news from their PCs or phones or, in the future, the iPad turning to The Times in its digital editions", says James Harding, editor of The Times newspaper in the UK, discussing the company's recent decision to erect a paywall around its content.

Newspapers, which have struggled to meet the demand of the explosion in online reporting, are struggling to raise enough money to run a thirsty newsroom, due to a culture that sees leaner operations run by small groups of remote workers without the usual associated costs.

A way to combat this is to follow business-focused publications like the Wall Street Journal in the US and the FT in the UK, in charging its customers to access content online, as well as developing a stream of different applications in which to get the latest news or chew the fat over a comment piece.

This shift away from a free world will see people having to pay for delivery mechanisms just as they have done for the last 200 years via newspapers, magazines and pamphlets.

"New devices don't come with a history of free", says Robert Andrews, editor of PaidContent:UK. "The iPad and mobile offers a chance to start charging at ground zero".

It's one of the problems that the Internet has caused large media brands, which Andrews believes will still be around in 5 years time. By giving away content at the beginning he believes papers will find it hard to succeed in charging in the future.

But The Times hopes that it can create a bevy of content for a bevy of different devices to suit the needs of the reader in the future.

"We're aiming to reach out to a world of people who want to get information and ideas, but not from the printed page. They look to their phones and their laptops and their TVs to inform them. We want to be there - and on a host of new devices to come", Harding goes on to say.

The Times is not alone in this venture with the Guardian already charging users for its £2.39 iPhone app to access the news on the go.

"The newspapers want to be on every device", comments Andrews. "But the ease of entry of the web has seen lots of plurality. Specialist news sources will be stronger."

It's a belief that is also shared by Ben Hammersley, editor at large of Wired magazine in the UK.  

Hammersley believes that in 5 years time people won't be defined by the newspaper they read, but the device they read it on.

"30 years ago reading a newspaper was important as the newspaper you carried was the symbol of who you were. Today that signifier isn't there. That means you're more likely to read stuff that interests you from wherever you see it, rather than because you are trying to tell or convey who you are. In the future the device, not the newspaper will become the symbol".

And that's what magazine publishers, from IPC to Conde Nast, are hoping as they all start to vie to create concept magazine issues for an impending flood of digital magazines that will grace the iPad and other internet tablets.

"Traditional publishers love the tablets because they understand it", says Andrews. "It feels like something they used to consume".

It's also something inherently more exciting after years of designed formulaic templates for the Internet. The iPad allows them to design content once again.

With plenty of players starting to appeal, no doubt on the back of the iPad, the market is expected to explode towards the tail end of 2010 with the launch of Google Chrome OS - the search engine's operating system that will power a number of internet devices.

Demos so far show that the operating system will be focused around a web browser; making content the key battleground in its success, while at the same time bringing down costs further as, in fine Google tradition, it will be free.

By 2015, Google Chrome OS will be 4 years old, while the iPhone and iPad OS 8 years in the making.

But while devices like the iPad and the latest Android-powered phones from HTC will allow access to content on the go, the type of content that we consume is likely to change as well.

Features and more non news-specific content is likely to be considerably more interactive; with HTML 5, Abode Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight technology all working to make video and flashy graphics a common case occurrence, while portable devices might cause user generated content (UGC) to decline.

"The iPad is great for content consumers rather than content creators", says Andrews while Hammersley believes UGC might disappear altogether.

But one thing is for certain, our content will continue to go digital with paper editions becoming relics of the past. Whether that will happen by 2015 is still something that most believe is unlikely.

Suggesting that you can do so much more online, James Harding of The Times says that: "We can provide video, interactive graphics, personalised news feeds and a chance for people to engage, directly, with our journalists".

It's these kinds of features that most publishers are hoping will allow them to become the multimedia players of the future, rather than the print barons of the past.

If you enjoyed this article, then head over to our Future Week homepage where you'll find a collection of features on what gadgets will be like in the year 2015.



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