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Rich content is, without a doubt, the name of the game today. Rich digital content, that is. For, let’s be clear, content consumption across the world is taking place digitally. Of course, factors such as the exponential rise in global smartphone usage and internet penetration have done their bit, too. After all, these mediums have provided consumers with the option to access the content of their choice-be it information, entertainment or social activity-anytime, anywhere. In other words, content discoverability and access have become simpler than ever before.

There is, of course, a catch. While most generic content-that is, videos, music, et al, are available (and accessed) in abundance, not all categories fall into the same bracket. As businesses are moving towards a digital landscape, it was only a matter of time for celebrities to make their presence on digital media. This trend started with celebrities enhancing their presence on social media. However, the issue with this approach was that it could not be monetized. Now, celebrities are realizing the monetary value of having a digital presence, keeping in mind that many relevant factors can be monetized. These may include (and, naturally, not be restricted to) managing contracts, promoting upcoming events, selling tickets and merchandise for events , or engaging with fans in an interactive and personalized manner. We believe that 360-degree celebrity management across all these aspects is the next wave that will play a large role in changing the very dynamics of entertainment. For example, popular artist Drake leverages social media to the fullest. He is most active on Instagram, where he has more than 37 million followers. By building a culture around @champagnepapi, he has enhanced Toronto’s visibility, turned OVO into a clothing line and festival, sidestepped traditional music revenue channels by having the most-streamed album of 2017 thus far and is the fourth highest-paid celebrity in the world. Another interesting example is Kim Kardashian teaming up with application developer Glu Mobile to launch Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a lifestyle-centric game. In the first two years, the game raked in over $100 million, according to Niccolo de Masi, the developer’s chief executive officer.

Clearly, content related to celebrities-though extremely sought after-is difficult to access. And this brings us to the point of this blog-the need of the hour is for an increasing amount of celebrity-related content in a digital format. It makes sense, celebrities would be able to reach out to their fans in a more convenient and streamlined manner. Engagement levels would be much higher, and, subsequently, so would the fan’s loyalty. In a nutshell, the celebrity would achieve multiple benefits by simply adopting a single digital channel. Fan loyalty, content monetization (through events, merchandise, etc), enhanced connectivity and perhaps even meeting their fans-the list is endless.  Therefore, the need of the hour is a service that fills the void of accessing that very content.

Ideally, such an offering ought to provide rapid and streamlined monetization of such content. The platform also ought to execute celebrity management in an end-to-end manner and supports the creation of a celebrity’s profile, content programming and all activities pertaining to operations and management. In short, the idea is to enable celebrities to connect, interact and sell to their followers, while managing and accessing their accounts on the platform.

Now, let’s talk about the nuts and bolts of such a solution. It’s quite straightforward, really. The artist registers on the platform and the content is curated by experts, thereafter uploaded and made live on the same. Last and perhaps the most important, customers are able to connect with that artist. Isn’t that, after all, the entire point?

But, what’s in it for each party-that is, the celebrity and the customer? Why would such a platform be required in the first place? Well, for the celebrity, the platform can:

  • Support rich media content, such as videos, photos, blogs, et all
  • Leverage social media networks to connect with fans
  • Promote new and exclusive content and events, sell tickets and monetize the same, while obtaining real-time reports on the same
  • Execute live broadcasts to speak to fans

On their part, customers can access personalized content, interact in real-time with the celebrity of their choice and one-stop access to various content, such as blogs, photos, videos, events, etc.

All in all, in the era of online content, social networking and “always-on” connectivity, accessing relevant and personalized content is all-important. After all, isn’t that what every successful player in the digital content ecosystem ought to aspire to achieve?

March 14, 2018 0 comment
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Urban population has been increasing at a growing pace throughout the world. This new urban generation is different, not just in their preferences but also, how these preferences are defined and fulfilled. A large share of this new urban population is connected to the internet, especially in emerging economies. The proliferation of smartphones or feature-phone is higher than even the television or radio. And this presents a great opportunity for the digital content providers and telecom service providers both.

Clearly enough, telecom service providers offering engaging and diverse content to their subscribers will have a distinct business advantage. However, there are two challenges you will need to understand before jumping to the solution:

  • The devices accessing the internet (or digital content) are changing globally
  • The traditional big production houses are not the drivers of digital content

Devices Accessing the Internet are Changing Globally

In a 2011 report by Cisco, personal computers found mention as the highest internet traffic grossers. In the same report, it was projected that by 2015 this traffic would be down to 87%. Guess what, by the end of 2016, only 45% of global internet traffic came from PCs while mobile phones accounted for about 50% of it (see Figure 2).

If you see the device trend for internet access, there are only two segments which have a positive growth rate – Mobile and Other Devices. Other devices include gaming consoles, e-book readers, home appliances, Smart TVs, and every other device (remember the urban living).

As the growth rates suggest, smart devices like TVs, Gaming consoles, vehicles and security systems will have more share of this traffic in future along with mobile phones.

What does Digital Content Provider Want?

Multichannel publishing of digital content has been a major challenge for digital content providers. While 10 years ago it had been a manual process requiring hours of rigorous work, now we have content management systems for the same. Some OTT service providers, like YouTube, are already taking advantage of multichannel publishing.

Multichannel publishing directly meets almost all the demands of content providers and network operators.

While a digital content provider would like his/her content to be available to a large audience (often on the global stage), a network provider wants the subscribers to spend more time on the network.

Solution – Digital Services Platform

The only way to ensure this is through a centralized digital services platform where content providers and network operators can converge. Such platform will lead to:

  • For Network Operator
    • Access to vast amount of content for the network provider
    • Zero infrastructure cost
    • Lower content procurement cost, as content is sourced directly from the creators
  • For Content Provider
    • Single platform to publish all types of content (including apps)
    • Digital asset management (DAM) for cross device optimization
    • Lower Time to Market (TTM) for content
    • Access to global audience

Evolution of Digital Content Landscape – Future

The Type of Market

A January 2016 article published in ‘Strategy&’ “Understanding digital content and services ecosystems,” authors presented an evolution matrix for the digital content ecosystem based on the development stages observed in the most developed countries (Figure 4).


As you can see in the figure 4 countries will start from Quadrant II (low per capita spending + low advertising spending) and will gradually move to Quadrant IV (high per capita and advertising spending + good e-commerce availability). As a network provider, you can adopt content strategy best suited for the market(s) you operate in, as per these quadrants.

Changing Content Consumption Patterns

Additionally, trends in global digital content consumption show that consumers are shifting from content ownership to streaming content (figure 5). Thus, anytime a user looks for a type of content, he/she is skimming the internet for it.

Right content, at the right moment, can improve the CLV and help reduce the churn telecom operators. This is possible to achieve for operators with the help of a digital services management suite, which is equipped with real time analytics.

The results of real time customer usage data analysis can help offer an appropriate suggestion to the user or even pre-empt the search itself, leading to customer delight from satisfaction.

Opportunities for Digital Content Providers & Network Operators

Digital content space is evolving fast. Especially with increasing proliferation of mobile phones. Today 55% of the world is connected to the internet thanks to mobile phones. More than 100 countries with an estimated population of 3 billion +, currently have internet penetration of less than 50%. The average growth of internet population in these countries had been approximately 15% between 2015 to 2016.

Much of this is expected to be driven by mobile usage, and data consumption on or through mobile, presenting a huge opportunity for digital content consumption. A major part of this opportunity can be captured by:

  1. Local Content Providers
  2. Cross device content accessibility (mobile, computer & television)

The integrated content delivery platforms present an opportunity for brands as well, to source and run campaigns through user generated content (another revenue opportunity for telecom operators).

September 26, 2017 0 comment
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financial-perfomance-of-telecom-operatorsTelecom network operators have been grappling with the declining profitability trends and margins across the world. Not just that, the ARPUs have also been declining across all markets without prejudice. Even though the internet traffic had been growing throughout the world, including the emerging markets, the net margins have been declining.

GSMA predicts that mobile data growth may score a CAGR of 47% over 2016-20 period mostly driven by 3G and 4G network availability. For example, LATAM will see 38% 4G connections by 2020 from 16% now in 2017. Similarly, MENA will be at 19% from current 6% in 4G penetration. The reasons for data usage growth is not just the availability of higher speed networks (read CAPEX by Operators), but the availability of digital content. The growth of OTT players in the arena explains a lot (see Figure 3).

Additional factors like connected TVs, online PC games live streaming etc. are slowly catching up with the data growth rate. This exploding proliferation of digital into telecom arena is both an opportunity as well as a threat to the traditional telecom business.

The good part is, few players have already started to evolve and take the opportunity head on.

The Challenges of New Environment

  • Cannibalization traditional revenues by OTT services
  • Decreasing data prices
  • Increased churn or lower CLV (customer lifetime value)

The combination of demographics, technology and user behavior, all point to the availability of content as the primary driver of this opportunity. Emerging markets like LATAM, Africa, APAC and the Middle East are all bustling with new users of below 25 years of age. These users are spending more time online than any previous generations.

More than 2/3rd of this user group accesses YouTube daily, even more than 50% of Facebook subscribers access the platform daily on their cell phones.

It is not that everything should be optimized for cell phone usage, but that modern users are no longer vying for the ownership of the digital content (limited storage space on cell). The paradigm is shifting to streaming content. This trend, with the increasing bandwidth and lower data tariffs, is only set to rise further.

Content is The Surf Board

The wave of change can be turned into opportunity using digital content. Since users are increasingly turning to subscriptions, operators with highly diverse digital content will enjoy an edge over others.

  • Higher User engagement
  • Lower churn
  • Higher data revenues
  • Opportunity for subscription revenues
  • Opportunity for On-Demand Content services

What Type of Content?

According to a report published in Strategy&, a PWC mouthpiece, the daily pageviews in the media and entertainment category peaked at 282 per internet user, while in Africa this figure went as low as 32 per user, signifying the availability of local language content. Example of Indian local language content growth story points to the similar opportunity (see figure 4).

Not just the content consumption, but even the success of a brand’s marketing effort depends on the adoption of local languages. The same KPMG report states that more than 80% digital users are more likely to respond to a digital ad if it is in the local language as compared to English.

Developing local language compatibility is going to be ever important if OEMs, content providers and network operators are to attract and retain more and more customers.

Sourcing Local Content

Sourcing content can be a big challenge for telecom operators, especially when they are operating in as linguistically and socially diverse regions as APAC or Africa. The best possible method is to engage with a digital service provider to cut the content procurement and distribution cost and time.

Digital content provider benefits both the telecom operators and content creators (see figure 5). Digital content providers offer digital asset management service to content providers, while network providers get access to highly diverse and easily distributable content.

The platform allows users to generate and share content, all the while saving storage and procurement costs for operators.

On the one hand, the digital services portal allows global access to content providers, and on the other telecom operators also have access to all kinds of content regardless of their regional presence. Also, due to user shift to subscription based content, switching between operators may be difficult as user preferences and usage history are captured by one operator.

Conclusion

Today’s digital environment is for a “global network and local content.” As users spend more time on mobile phones and online than ever before, the operators can use this opportunity to turn from network providers to a more holistic service provider (read VAS). Fortunately, there is no dearth of the type of possible service inclusions – content, government, mobile payments, entertainment, etc.

September 14, 2017 0 comment
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‘’Image analysis capabilities are increasingly becoming advantageous for providing cutting edge landscapes to the applications in the content based product portfolio. The features like discovering specific content in the Ring Back Tone application through artist/singer image, adding moderation capabilities to content management systems, filtering user generated content for any ‘explicit’ content and enhancing Augmented Reality based application are some of the upcoming innovations in the Artificial Intelligence domain.’’

There’s no doubt about it-Deep Learning-based image analysis has come to the fore. Deep learning is a branch of artificial Intelligence that identifies patterns in data. That data could be images, sounds, the list is endless. What caused this rise? Simply put; the increased and enhanced performance of computers and associated algorithms.

Take a look around you-multiple organizations are investing heavily on building artificial intelligence capabilities to improve upon algorithms for image analysis capabilities. In fact, it isn’t a secret that several startups are also expanding in the artificial Intelligence domain and are working on building image analysis competencies.

A few of the organizations have started offering image analysis capabilities in the form of readily available services over open APIs. These organizations are continuously refining the algorithms and upgrading their image catalogue so as to increase the performance and accuracy of the results and avoid any overhead on application developers.

The convenience of the image analysis capabilities over open interfaces have brought immense opportunities for many organizations to come up with diverse features to their existing content based products and applications. This, naturally, provides an innovative edge to products and enhances the end users experience. The integration of these capabilities through open interfaces into the existing products and applications reduces the development life cycle, speeds the time to market and at the same time enriches the product experiences through innovative features.

Just to give a glimpse of how the image analysis can provide an edge in existing products or help in building innovative product altogether, some exciting product enhancements are listed over here. I am sure the list may go endless but they should be adequate to give you a prevue of how the applications can be enriched by using the AI capabilities.

  • Applications supporting Image based search

One of an attention-grabbing use case is to add the image based search to the current set of content based applications. If you see a picture and just desires to do search based on that, no necessity to enter that object description or celebrity name etc. You just need to open the application interface to click at the image search option, point the camera to the object/artist or the famous person that you want to get information for and just click at it.

  • Adding image moderation capability to content management systems

In the content management system, the content providers can upload the content, associated meta-data and then share the content/metadata to different applications for consumption. Through image moderation capability, it is possible to notice the ‘explicit’ content which may not be appropriate for some applications.

  • Adding more authenticity to the attendance management system

One way to improve the attendance systems are to let the attendance system pre store the images of employees and compare the image of the person punching the card to the pre-stored data and check if the card punched indeed corresponds to the person punching it.

  • Image detection based surveillance

The surveillance system can detect the movement, takes images and compares it to the fed information in the system. If it detects some movement that does not compare to the fed images, it raises alarms.

  • Kids’ Education Applications

In the coming years, image analysis can play a huge factor in education sector and help children learn quickly by using their phone, pointing it to different objects and get to know about them various details.

Suggestion from my end for the organizations exploring to get the image analysis based functionality into their products, is to gauge the market by quickly integrating the functionality by creating prototypes, demo it to the intended customers and getting their feedback to fine tune and eventually make their products future ready.

One thing is for sure that the image analysis based experiences are there to stay. Different organization will come up with different innovative ideas to build their product portfolio more robust. Need to wait for some time before it makes inroads into our life like many other innovative things that we are now get used to of.

September 1, 2017 0 comment
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Typically, millennials are highly individualistic and dissatisfied with vagueness of information, something that almost never concerned previous generations. The millennials want to experiment with new story formats, form factors and payments mechanisms. In short, they want to stir the hornet’s nest and make it work to their own advantage.

Millennials see technology as a window to the world; real and virtual isn’t much different, as for them the process of communication, for most part, is carried out through technology. Everything nowadays is shared and liked and commented upon, from their most private feelings to their day-to-day encounters. They have long established a sense of comfort and collectiveness when it comes to the digital world—especially social media. Millennials are extremely individualistic, tech savvy and quick to adopt new technology trends. They are the first generation to have grown up online, and mobile device has become their favorite channel for online viewing.

According to TNS Global, millennials in the APAC region are spending the equivalent of almost a day on social media. In Africa, as well as Latin America, millennials are cutting the cord to their TV, and using social media for all their information. Often screens overlap, as multi-screen behavior is in, with 57 per cent of millennials stating that they are consuming content on their smartphones while they are watching TV.

Social networking applications, gaming, instant messaging, banking/finance, education and health and fitness applications are very popular in Africa. In Latin America, millennials prefer Snapchat and Spotify in particular, with Facebook also high in popularity.

Their virtue as consumers makes them difficult to market to and hence, marketers have realized the importance of staying relevant to this segment. This is, simply put, as millennials count for majority of their consumers. This generation is highly aware and cautious when it comes to purchasing anything online, and why not? They know they can access a wide range of options and they are capable of grasping when someone’s just trying to sell them something. However, their presence on a variety of digital media provides marketers to get them engaged through innumerable ways, offering marketers a plethora of opportunities.

They want to be included, they want to participate and connect, be heard and responded to. They seek authenticity and an exchange of value, that too, on their terms. Millennials’ yearning for social connectedness is based on good storytelling. But, in today’s context, content has to be hyper local, delivered on the user’s mobile at the time and place of their choosing.

It is not enough to tell any story.

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July 13, 2017 0 comment
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The digital content space in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is, for all intents and purposes, booming. And why not, the region is, after all, conducive to everything mobile!

Permit me to quickly illustrate this point. As per GSMA’s The Mobile Economy 2017 report, smartphone adoption witnessed a 46 per cent increase in 2016, while subscriber penetration stood at 59 per cent for the same period. It doesn’t end here-by 2020, these figures are expected to reach 64 per cent and 62 per cent respectively. Unabated growth, this!

Naturally, then, this growth has had a cascading impact on mobile broadband uptake. To elaborate, Ericsson’s Mobility Report on Middle East and North East Africa (November 2016) states that by 2022, average active smartphone data consumption per month will reach 13 GB, from 1.8 GB in end-2016. Meanwhile, mobile data traffic is expected to reach around 4.8 Exabytes per month by the end of 2022. This is almost 13 times greater than at the end of 2016. Clearly, mobility has made a lasting impact in this region!

A natural consequence of this growth (in my opinion, at least) is a significant increase in the consumption of digital content. And that, dear reader, is merely the tip of the iceberg. The aim of this piece is not merely to examine which content is king (though that bit is included). The idea is to examine the gradual shift (if any) in a customer’s consumption patterns and preferences in a multi-screen era.

What’s Driving Digital Content

It would be a bit of an understatement to say that mobile applications are in demand in MENA. Here’s why-as per industry estimates, almost 85 per cent of mobile internet users have downloaded an application. Briefly, the applications in demand include email, social networking, videos, news and weather, sports news and hobbies.

The trend, in short, is clearly shifting towards non-linear viewing. On-demand viewing is the order of the day, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey. Industry reports state that the lion’s share of mobile data traffic is generated by video streaming, social media, messaging and browsing.

As per industry reports, in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, YouTube is the numero uno application, while in Egypt and Lebanon, social media applications hold the spotlight.

Let’s start with video-on-demand. This has, without a doubt, managed to carve a niche in the MENA digital content space.

Simply put, over 304 million smartphone users will be watching OTT TV and videos at least once a month by 2021. This amounts to more than triple the number in 2015 and up from 5 million in 2010. No mean numbers, these!

Of course, no piece on digital content is deemed complete without mentioning social media! The common perception is that social media has (quite literally) taken the MENA region by storm. Why? Simply put, this channel has become an important facet for content distribution. According to the Digital In 2017 Global Overview jointly released by We Are Social and Hootsuite, the number of active social media users stood at 93 million, with a penetration rate of 38 per cent, as of January this year. On the same note, 83 million (or 34 per cent) of these customers access social media sites on their mobile handset.

What Will Shape Digital Content…

Not surprisingly, gaming will emerge as particularly significant in this space. As per reports, this space is expected to triple in size from $1.6 billion in 2016 to $4.4 billion in 2022. Online and mobile games are to net the most interest, while the most popular categories will include massively multiplayer online games (MMOGS), action, casual, and social games.

Moreover, on-demand, interactive and personalized entertainment-centric content is expected to be a standard feature. Advanced virtual reality bundled with digital agents and holographic entertainment worlds is expected to transform the customer’s entertainment experience. The convergence of the Internet with television, telephones, kiosks, autos, and wireless devices will further create many new media channels.

In sum, the rules of the digital content game in the MENA region have changed. While the overall outlook is bright, operators would do well to make a laundry list. In my opinion, these should include offering converged content and service-centric products, focusing on sponsored data and opening up existing APIs to third party developers. This is, of course, merely the beginning. A long and (possibly) rocky road lies ahead. Operators, are you geared up to meet the challenge?

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June 19, 2017 0 comment
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