Channelisation = Curation

curatorJon Miller, News Corp‘s Chief Digital Officer, ruffled some feathers at CES by predicting “channelisation” as a trend for the web in 2012, in that video for the web will move towards a lean back approach. In this scenario users would become more passive in their consumption of content, with programming being done by organisations to offer “sequential” viewing.

It is easy to dismiss anything News Corp does in the digital realm as clutching at straws, but I think Jon Miller has a point – but is simply describing it with the wrong term. When most people watch television, they don;t necessarily want to search the web for review of the latest shows to discover something they might like – they want to sit and “zone out” to relax. Video on demand is great when there is something you have missed on TV, or for content you want to see – but what about those times when you just want *something* to watch? These are the times when Miller’s prediction may come true.

Currently, for both television and radio, the majority of content is broadcast at a certain time of day, with a team of programmers deciding when the best time is to catch the right demographic for the show – whether that by lunchtime news, or evening dramas. Different channels also have different focuses, with some offering mostly children’s shows, others focusing on music, and others on family comedy or drama – you have Nickelodeon, MTV, FX, and many many more since broadcast went digital.

What Miller is predicting is that these niches and programming times will come to web content and he’s right – there are already digital “channels” for content sorted by niche, as well as playlists that have been carefully crafted by the programmer’s hand – and Youtube have been leading the way alongside the traditional broadcast channels.

The terminology used by Miller is, however, inaccurate as this trend is not “channelisation” so much as a continuation of the trend of curation. Yes large media organisations will continue to programme their content in order and by time slots – but the opening up of video on demand services from all these channels will allow much smaller organisations to provide cross-channel curation. If the channels who provide the content are still showing their ads before, during and after each show, then curators could start channels focusing on more specific interests and smaller niches than a broadcast channel could do – there will be channels dedicated to crime shows, medical shows, shows with appearances from certain actors, and more. A user will just have to think of a single genre or idea that they want to watch in a show, and there will be a “channel” or that.

More interesting than the drive to smaller and smaller niches, which could, at least in part, be algorithmically generated – will be the focus on the curator. If a user trusts the taste of a journalist, presenter, blogger or other figure – they may be more interested to watch the content that user picks than the content programmed for any particular channel. A single curator may decide that they want to share their love of old silent movies – and would then create a playlist of their favourites and share it on the web for others to watch with them. These curators could add to the content by providing commentary from their own knowledge of the content – offering a place where consumers could find a new love.

Equally, groups of curators could join together to offer more regular programming than the one-off playlists of individuals, basically creating “channels” without any of the budget and monetary constraints of a real channel. They would not have to pay for licensing as the content owners will bundle ads with the in-stream content, and so people will curate out of love and interest rather than having to focus on budgetary constraints. Channelisation implies that media corporations such as News Corp will be the ones controlling the playlist of content, but 2012 will see the role of such organisations fall back to providing content for others to turn into a wealth of different “channels” where the barrier to entry essentially falls to zero.

This move to curation has already happened in music, where Spotify and Turntable.fm have been giving curators a platform to share their music loves – 2012 will see this trend make the jump to television and film.

NB: Curation is a large part of The Descrier – a new media organisation that is currently in stealth mode for which we at TechFruit are founding members.

[Image courtesy of Object Not Found]

About the author: Tim

Tim is a digital entrepreneur and the editor of TechFruit