|Issue:||North America 2005|
|Topic:||Content owner to connected consumer–managing the digital content ecosystem|
|Title:||Executive Vice President, VeriSign|
|Organisation:||Telecommunications Services Group|
Vernon Irvin is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of VeriSign’s Communications Services. Mr Irvin has led the transformation of the global communications practice, including the integration of key acquisitions such as UNC-Embratel, Illuminet, HO Systems, Unimobile and Jamba!. He is currently responsible for the communications division’s global operations. Mr Irvin joined VeriSign from American Management Systems (AMS), a business and IT consulting firm, where he was the Executive Vice President of the global communications, media and entertainment division. Before AMS, Mr Irvin was the President of the Content and Media Hosting Division of BT Ignite, the broadband and Internet services business of British Telecommunications, plc. He has also held executive positions at e.spire Communications, Ameritech and MCI. Vernon Irvin serves on the Board of Directors of CTIA–The Wireless Association. He is a board member with the University of Southern California’s Centre for Telecom Management and serves on the Network Reliability and Interoperability Council, collaborating with public safety and federal agencies and the communications industry on homeland security and emergency network issues. Mr Irvin is also a board member of the William and Mary School of Business and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley. Vernon Irvin received his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.
The growth of digital technology–the massive increase in the availability of devices, bandwidth and IT infrastructure–has made it easier to access media at home, at work or on the go. Today’s consumer seeks interactive controllable experiences, but there is still no widespread business model to pay for such access. Advertising still pays for most content, since new technologies such as RSS (Rich Site Summary) syndication and DRM (Digital Rights Management) are not yet in wide use.
Over the past decade, the worldwide consumption of all types of media has grown significantly and media usage per capita per day has approached ten hours. A significant portion of that media usage and interaction occurs via the global voice and data networks. From web portals, bogs and instant messaging to iTV (interactive television), SMS (Short Message Service) and location-based information services, today’s connected consumer is driving significant advances in the consumption of digital entertainment. Part of the expansion in media usage is caused by the massive increase in the devices, bandwidth, technologies and IT infrastructure that makes next generation media experiences possible. In the past ten years alone, we have seen dramatic increases in the density of storage, in the speed and efficiency of processors, the capacity memory systems and a dramatic reduction in hardware manufacturing costs due to a highly integrated contract manufacturing supply chain. As a result, highly efficient general-purpose devices, and great numbers of new purpose-built devices, are now available in categories like mobile phones, set top boxes, PDAs, PVRs (Personal Video Recorders) and portable audio/video players. A second key driver in the increase of media usage worldwide has been the use of advanced technology to increase the accessibility of the media. From the comfort of one’s own PC or mobile phone, a connected consumer can listen to or buy music, hear the radio, watch TV, read the news or participate in information sharing communities that cover general interest subjects like politics and special interests topics like photography. The Internet and mobile networks also help drive media usage by providing always-on access and a variety of content ‘push’ mechanisms that actively prompt the user to engage with media products and services. Much of this content is still supported by advertising today, but powerful new technologies such as RSS syndication and DRM are giving rise to more effective paid content subscription programmes. This explosive combination of new technology and device advances, coupled with new media distribution outlets and new media products and services, has initiated a substantial shift in the habitual methods used by the media to engage the connected consumer. The consumer is no longer quite as excited by the traditional media product and viewing experience as he was in the past. Today’s connected consumer is looking for more engaging content–an experience that is highly interactive and affords the user more control. For those involved in the creation and distribution of media, now is the time to find ways to engage these connected consumers, and to begin to define and build the next generation of media products and services that will appeal to this growing class of connected consumers worldwide. A key goal of this process will be to create new products, or redefine existing ones, to meet the interactivity and control expectations of the user while also reducing the barriers required to access, experience and, ultimately, value new forms of digital content consumption. Most content creators and media distributors will encounter some significant challenges to building a successful brand in this new media marketplace. For starters, the sheer volume of innovation on the technology side–whether it be in devices, software or services–makes it more difficult to make the right choices regarding the key technology infrastructures that will provide the distribution mechanisms for the new media. The usual evaluation criteria of performance, scale, interoperability and open standards continue to apply. Nevertheless, since media and media experiences can be valued rather subjectively, key criteria such as performance cannot always be measured with benchmarks. Poor sound quality for a ring tone, frame-skipping video with Internet Video-On-Demand, or poor user and transaction interfaces, can all contribute to sub-par consumer experiences. Poor user experiences will ultimately damage the credibility and value of the brand that is trying to connect with the digital media consumer. Key for content creators and distributors, is taking the time and care to make sure each new content experience caters specifically to the strengths of each specific new device. Considering the lack of media experience and standards for so many new devices, choosing a lowest common denominator approach to content distribution will lead to experiences that do not engage, and ultimately interest, the paying consumer. Speed of deployment of new content models is another key to new media success. Today’s connected consumer is rabid for the latest, most popular, content and media services. Content owners need to be sensitive to their window of opportunity and focus on deploying their content on the systems that give them the broadest and fastest possible way to reach the consumer. By approaching the market with the right content, at the right place, at the right time, and with the right methodology, content creators and distributors can protect their financial interests and help drive their brand as a pervasive provider of valuable digital content experiences. Content creators and distributors can help extend the half-life of popularity for a new piece of media by deftly managing the media distribution across multiple delivery channels: Internet to PC, Internet to TV, Internet to portable device, mobile to feature phone, etc. Perhaps the most significant driver of the time-to-revenue issue related to new media models is the actual acquisition process. The simpler and shorter the process that a consumer must pass through to engage with the media, the faster the number of subscribers will grow and the more repeat or multiple product consumers will be created. A successful digital content strategy for content owners and distributors must also take into account the promotion of the new services. Just as in traditional content distribution, digital content experiences need to push at the consumer with compelling messages at a time and place that will lead to user action. This means that content owners need to understand their target demographic and understand the reach and frequency required to attain their business. Today’s media world is already chock-full of promotional noise by traditional and new, competitive, media offers. So content owners and distributors need to think creatively about reaching the connected consumer, align their investments in promotion with the different device and network opportunities that will lead to the broadest content acquisitions per dollar spent. The most important part of a promotional programme for new media content and services should be its focus on the impulse purchase opportunity. By finding ways for the consumer to learn about the new content or experience–especially when they have the time or opportunity to try it–distributors will obtain a higher conversation rate and a better return on their promotional investments. Perhaps one of the most exciting and potentially the most important elements of a new media content strategy are the opportunities afforded by the combinations of different networks and associated devices that can be taken advantage of. Content creators and distributors can extend the definition of a content product by including specific ties into the different devices and network features available in the infrastructure. Instead of just creating a story or video or song and then trying to distribute it to different locations, new media technologies let you efficiently deliver unique experiences around a specific content concept to multiple devices, thereby increasing the value of the content on each different platform. A simple example of this might be to connect the functionality of a PC strategy game to a mobile version of the same game; another example might be allowing mobile phone users to contribute to blogs, or stories, or post topics to community forums via SMS messages. A broadband mobile strategy can not only play an important role in cross promoting content products and valuable new content experiences, but can also deliver important new revenue streams as digital content consumers see the additional value that cross network, cross device, subscription premiums will deliver. Interesting new applications of video, community features and location-based services create all the elements for breakthrough experiences and significant revenue opportunities. To realise the breakthrough, though, content owners need to find partners that can help bring these services to market with existing and future network standards, service providers, and technology standards. Content, as they say, is king; the digital content revolution will make premium content drive new business and revenue opportunities. To drive new business, though, creative ways must be found to navigate the complexity of devices, technologies, networks, services and product definitions. All this must be done in ways that keep content relevant and exciting to the growing ranks of the connected digital entertainment consumer. The toolkit you need for success in this growing new media marketplace includes device targeting, speed of deployment and freshness, lowering the barrier–but not, necessarily the cost–for experience acquisition, promoting the new services where the consumer can try on impulse, and finding infrastructure help that can support deployment of content across network types, device type and technology standards.