The Man Who Knows

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RICK MACDONNELL

BANFF, Alta. — In all my time in Banff I had never once laid eyes on the famed Fairmont Banff Springs, one of this country’s most awe-inspiring hotels. As I drove up Spray Avenue I marveled at the lush greenery, the massive would-be castle that is the Springs, and its majestic mountain backdrop.

I stepped from the car and was funneled inside by a pair of velvet ropes, and not thirty seconds after I had registered for the Banff World Media Festival (the event that brought me there), a stranger beside me leaned in and covertly said, “By Thursday, you’re going to know the future.”

Was he full of it? Absolutely—this wasn’t a conference that demonstrated fully functioning robots and pre-crime—but it didn’t take long for me to realize that what this gentleman had meant was that this gathering of people included some of the sharpest and most advanced minds in media today. Specifically, Duncan Stewart.

Stewart, the Director of Research, Technology, Media, and Telecommunications for Deloitte Canada, was opening speaker for the event, and delivered an hour long treatise on the future of media in this country. As I said to my buddy, Jim, not ten seconds after Stewart finished speaking, “I could have listened to him talk all day.”

Stewart’s orientation speech was meant to not only lay the land for the rest of the festival—what topics would be discussed, what new technologies to look out for, what myths had been debunked—he also laid out the future of technology in Canada for the next few years. And some of his findings were remarkable.

Deloitte’s research team consists of 7,000 people from all over the globe, so his statistics were extremely well=informed. While I’d love to delve into everything he talked about, I’ll spare you a wall of text and settle for a few of the highlights.

By 2014, more than half of all computers won’t be computers

What this means is that in three years, more people will be accessing information via their smartphones and tablets than desktop computers. This brings into focus just how mobile our media is becoming (and has become). The notion of plunking yourself down at a desk in order to get work done, talk to your friends, or surf the net will eventually be seen as the product of a bygone era. What will this do for productivity? What will this do to interactivity? How may it affect the way we form—and maintain—relationships, both personal and business?

Computers are a lean-forward medium; TVs are a lean-back medium

When someone sits down at a computer they are a digital lion stalking its online prey. They have a specific goal, a destination in mind, and they are on the hunt for an end result. When someone sits down in front of a television they’re like a chilled out Koala, lazily watching things unfold in front of them. When someone is on their computer they are in lean-forward mode, and are actively engaged in a task, while TV watches are leaning back, passively engaged in a task. This concept is important to the world of advertising, and seems to answer the age-old question of why internet marketing is so much more ambiguous than television advertising. 

PVRs are used for only 3.1% of TV views in Canada, and about 7% in America

So no matter what the TV networks tell you about how PVR is destroying the Nielsen ratings, it’s just not true. So go forth and PVR in peace. Downloading on the other hand…

When we run out of radio spectrum, prices are likely to go way, way up

There is only so much spectrum out there. We do not have an unlimited amount of radio space to work with. So as new devices and technologies emerge, the radio spectrum continues to fill up. Eventually, it will fill up. What then? Prices will be jacked up, and things may get very, very complicated.

Social media will continue to work in concert with live television

People have become very active while watching television shows, to the point where over 60% of us now watch television while using a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The reason being we want to interact with others in real-time while we watch our favourite shows. Twitter has revolutionized the way people interact with media, and its introducing the “re-linearization” of television, as Stewart says it. This means that people are going back to linear (live on their TVs) viewing, as opposed to downloading their favourite shows online.

Crashing the internet?

Netflix accounts for 0.1% of TV hours watched in the U.S but 28% of the bandwidth usage. If Netflix were to rise to 7-10% of the internet usage, it would literally crash the internet. We simply do not have the bandwidth to support tens of millions of streaming videos at the same time.

Google and Facebook engage different parts of your brain

This was a point I found fascinating. Google has a click-through rate on their ads of nearly 10%. Facebook, on the other hand, has a click-through rate of about 0.1%, a pretty paltry number. However, Facebook’s brand recognition score is 5% as opposed to Google’s nearly 7%. What this means is that people are seeing and remembering brands on Facebook at an extremely high rate, but they aren’t engaging with them. Why is this? The answer, as it turns out, is that our brain effectively turns off—it’s in relax mode—when on Facebook. This is a social platform and we’re there to casually hang out online. We don’t want to be pitched to. We don’t care for buying things. We’re not looking for anything, as opposed to when we’re on Google, where the entire experience is based on looking for something.

Stewart’s presentation was chock full of details and predictions, too many to relate here, but too few when hearing him live. The man is so engaging, so on the ball, that I would never pass up the chance to listen to him speak again. 

Do yourself a favor and follow him on Twitter or like him on Facebook. His continued insight is invaluable for anyone interested in the fate of technology moving forward.