If we take a step back and review the evolution of the Internet and the exchange of data on a global level, we can see quite clearly which big businesses have stood out from the pack and whose evolution will significantly determine our future: content, big data, banking, and wireless communication.
Content is the foundation of the web, and without it there is nothing. Its evolution has been amazing considering that 25 years ago, computers were black and white and very few could even play a basic video. Content on the web has been the source of global interconnection. Not too long ago, web pages were filled with text, they were ugly, and offered little more than hypertext or links. Nowadays, websites, mobile phones and TV tend to display less and less text in favor of more photos and videos. Content is becoming much richer and more audiovisual thanks to increased bandwidth.
Bearing that in mind, content becomes one of the big businesses of the Internet, and its creation just as much as its distribution will play key roles in how our future progresses. Although, there is of course still much progress to be made: multiplatform, organized, localized content, on demand.
Having spent 25 years on the Internet specializing in content, I see infinite possibilities for business development. Content, and especially its monetization on the web, is only in its infancy and I still cannot fathom how Google is capable of maintaining YouTube without having any clear use for it. Thinking about those millions of videos occupying hundreds or thousands of terabytes with content that contributes nothing to the company makes my hair stand on end… I can’t understand that their only way of monetizing the platform is with ads that almost nobody sees, thereby making YouTube completely obsolete in my opinion.
Content creation on the Internet is mainly accomplished in two ways: the first, and most used, is by the user who feeds content into the platform (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram…) and the second, is the company that creates its own content, be it through outsourcing or through its own creation (media, newspapers, television…). Neither of these methods of content creation has evolved much in the last 3 or 4 years due to the fact that, despite having more technical capabilities and bandwidth, few advances have been made in terms of monetizing content.
Monetizing is no easy task since users are all too accustomed to “everything free” and that has led to the failure of many paid models, leaving few alternatives to inserting ads into free videos. Personally, I believe that the tendency for users to expect “everything free” will change. At this time, an average user may perhaps utilize 99% free content, but in the future they will tend to demand higher quality and be open to the idea of paying for certain types of content so long as the cost and method of payment also evolve to adapt to the modern digital consumer.
If we analyze this last comment, we come to the drastic conclusion that only a handful of companies will be able to control the content business on a global level. The business strategy here is volume, with flat rate models or low fees for on demand downloading from huge quantities of users. Therefore, I believe that the next concept to be revolutionized is “Home Content”, where there is still plenty of room to grow, to evolve, and still much to offer in the content business. Computers are completely obsolete while mobile phones are peaking in terms of design and usability leaving little more to be offered that would be truly revolutionary. But, the house, our home, is still by and large in its infancy.
The TV watching experience must change radically and content is the basis of the entertainment business at home. Companies like Movistar TV are betting big on controlling this content.
Another one of the big businesses that the web has brought us is the information that the user generates while they interact with content. The new age of digital knowledge opens a large door in the world of marketing because the way we understand sales has changed from a global to a personal level. La individual level data that the Internet offers is astounding. This information is a global superbusiness where big Internet companies see a true goldmine.
Understanding the user and how they interact with technology and content is of the utmost importance in order to analyze their consumer profile. There is still plenty of information from users to be soaked up. In my opinion, hypercontent is key to the evolution of big data, the next step in understanding users’ actions and interactions with content.
Banking still hasn’t really taken off in all the ways that it needs to. Payment systems are undoubtedly a cornerstone to the evolution of the digital world if we want to make the Internet a great business. From my point of view, many banks are completely oblivious to what is about to happen.
I don’t understand why Google hasn’t developed its own personal funds manager or something similar to Internet banking. Or why not a platform of credits to close the circle of Gmail, YouTube and the Play Store? Or an application to set up direct deposit and payments for payslips and bills?
With millions of users, Facebook or Google would have much more credibility with younger users than many of today’s banks. Furthermore, with their huge masses of users they could offer conditions that banks would never be able to keep up with. I see an excellent opportunity to completely redefine what being a bank really means to the digital user. Young people speak a different language than that of traditional banks.
The companies that have suffered the most given the changes over the last 20 years are surely those of telecommunications, namely wireless carriers. Slaves to infrastructure and networks, they must adapt their offers to user demand. In fact, we have gone from pricing plans where voice was king and we spoke about cents per minute to flat rate data plans that made SMS messages a thing of the past. The big providers have had to adapt and adjust their offers to the demand generated by successful startups, who determine the consumption habits of these carriers’ clients.
It’s obvious that at this moment, data is the big business of mobile phone companies. But, what would happen if a company decided to offer free data in exchange for inserting ads? Where would that put mobile operators on the totem pole? Access to the web will be cheap and customer loyalty to a given operator won’t come from their current model of offers, but rather from their ability to offer bundled services like news, home automation, and localized content.
In conclusion, the big businesses that have emerged in the new age of digital communication are completely influenced by both innovation and by the demands generated by users themselves. The time is coming when we may rewrite many of the concepts we once thought would last a lifetime.