Content Experience is King, and so the inevitable consolidation
so says the latest report from the Creative Industries’ Knowledge transfer Network. Five years ago, I used to say that context was king, ten years ago that content was king – how twee those statements now sound! Now, coming into the mainstream understanding of the potential of digital content, are what have previously been “future issues”: consolidation and convergence, and how people access digital content (distribution).
The report is the fruit of the efforts of a KTN Beacon project, which sought to engage with the Creative Industries to both extract and provide insight into the future of digital content. The project sought to explore how the continued impact of these technologies would affect content creators, distributors, and most importantly, consumers. The report has been created to help people understand the radical transformation digital content will have on the creative industries, and to provide businesses with outline areas of opportunity where innovation is most likely to occur. Its 30 pages long, and well worth a 15 minute read.
Of particular interest to the cultural sector – and something that I’ve been musing for some time – is the notion of consolidation. Jeremy Hunt’s announced £60m worth of cuts from DCMS’s new budget. That means less money for the arts, and less money for digital. (The writing’s on the wall therefore.) We need to NOT be asking for money for things that have already been done. Not another bespoke Content Management System. Not another bespoke Customer Relationship Management software. Not another portal platform for listings or aggregation. There are lots out there that already work – they might need development in certain areas (for example, a payment widget may need to be added, or there might need to better security or monitoring).
Get out there and look to share systems – seek organisations who’ve already developed them, and work out if you can invest a smaller amount of money, develop the unique feature or improvement that you need, and so help each other. Organisation A paid for the original development, organisation B pays for the extra functionality, both organisations benefit: organisation a from having an improved system, organisation b from having the system they want without paying for it to be created from scratch.
This business model is called “commons sourced” or “social sourced”, and a great website for non-profits to start these discussions around who uses which software tool for what, and so be in a position to work out if there might be development potential from working together is Social Source Commons.
I’ve worked on a few collaborative working projects now that are a possible precursor to consolidation via my role as Associate for Mission Models Money. On these projects, the focus of my work has been about encouraging cultural organisations to share the cost of developing digitally: Scotland’s five national performing arts companies are collaborating to develop a web presence to deliver audience development, and Newcastle and Gateshead’s Cultural Venues have come together to consider how they could share online channels, platforms, and opportunities for the benefit of them all. This is opening up the conversation around them sharing staff digital/content development skills, hardware and financing.
Festivals Edinburgh is of course the new umbrella body created to help Edinburgh’s Festivals share the cost and responsibility of all areas of development, and have a greater impact, reach, scale and value than the sum of their individual parts. MMM and I worked on earlier stages of their collaborative working agenda too. (They’re presenting a case study at the upcoming AmbITion Scotland roadshow in Edinburgh, and look out for an exciting announcement on that date, 10th June, from Festivals Edinburgh, Scottish Arts Council and AmbITion Scotland!)