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The Future of Content 2011

The Future
of Content

World Economic Forum in collaboration with:
Bain & Company


Over the past decade, the rate of innovation in the media, entertainment and information space has accelerated to a blistering pace. Digital products and services have become integral components of our daily lives, and, as a result, the way we consume content has fundamentally – and forever – changed.

Proposed and launched by the Media, Entertainment & Information (MEI) Industry Partners of the World Economic Forum, The Future of Content explores the future of multiplatform content creation as storytelling increasingly moves from a singular, linear narrative delivered across “one-way media” such as print and broadcast, to content that can be delivered across platforms and devices such as tablets, social media sites and gaming platforms.

This website serves as a compendium of key insights from the year-long project.

The Primer is a comprehensive e-book that illuminates the “lay of the land” for the media ecosystem. It examines several important MEI themes: the ever-evolving interplay between technological innovations and consumer behaviours, the new business models that companies are introducing to better manage a shifting landscape, and the role of public policy in stimulating the entire content ecosystem.

The interactive Strategy App examines six principal disruptive forces and their impact on the future of content:

  • The rise of new digital aggregators
  • Technologies that leverage data and context are taking personalization to the next level
  • Emerging economies are bypassing a large investment in fixed infrastructure in favour of mobile Internet
  • Digital convergence is disrupting traditional TV and video distributors within a multiplatform world
  • Social media is driving new forms of curation and disrupting traditional discovery of content and products
  • Inexpensive mobile hardware, software, collaboration and infrastructure technologies are driving democratization of the content creation process

You will also find a collection of thought pieces from members of our Steering Committee on forward-looking trends in content creation, as well as ideas and insights captured at our workshops from around the world.

We warmly invite you to explore The Future of Content with us and would love to hear your thoughts. Please follow us on Twitter: @wef_content.

The Strategy App

We are in the midst of a period of unprecedented media innovation that is changing the lives of billions of people across the globe. It is an exciting time for consumers, as innovators develop new platforms and devices to entertain, inform and connect users in ways that were only dreamed of a decade ago.

For content creators, distributors and aggregators, it is a time for concern as well as joy, as the landscape shifts beneath their feet. An innovation in one part of the ecosystem may reduce costs or improve the customer experience, but it might also disrupt a content creator’s business model, reduce an aggregator’s market share or diminish a distributor’s value proposition.

In this, the strategy app, we profile some of the principal disruptive forces affecting the media landscape in which creators, aggregators and distributors interact with one another and with the consumer. These forces are fundamentally transforming the content ecosystem with implications for users, businesses and policy professionals.

a) The rise of digital aggregators

The rise of new digital aggregators is forcing content owners to fundamentally alter their business models.

  • Digital aggregators – such as Hulu, Spotify, and The Huffington Post – are growing quickly and putting significant pressure on content creators
  • Many aggregators are thriving by offering a fundamentally different business model than their traditional media companies
  • Although content creators are responding to this disruption in a variety of ways, they remain vulnerable

b) Personalisation 

Technologies that leverage data and context are taking personalization to the next level

  • Consumers want relevant, personalized experiences that grab their attention and rescue them from data overload
  • Companies are leveraging micro-segmentation technologies to capture personal and contextual characteristics to create and deliver the most appropriate content
  • Business operators, however, must delicately balance the consumer demand for personalized experiences with the need for respect and privacy of personal data

c) Bypassing fixed, embracing mobile 

Emerging economies are bypassing a large investment in fixed infrastructure in favour of mobile Internet

  • Large emerging economies are expected to take a different media and communications development path from mature economies
  • Content providers entering emerging markets should recognize that there may never be deep, wired, broadband penetration and embrace a mobile future
  • Some global media companies are building innovative solutions to succeed in lower-bandwidth environments

d) Digital convergence across platforms 

Digital convergence is disrupting traditional TV and video distribution within a multiplatform media world

  • The expanded capabilities and performance of online video are empowering “cord cutters” to cancel pay TV and premium TV services
  • Although many traditional TV distributors also deliver broadband Internet access, they are taking steps to reinforce their competitive position across the video ecosystem
  • Cable operators are enhancing their pay TV offerings, strengthening their digital assets and expanding ownership in other parts of the content ecosystem

e) Curation and discovery with social media 

Social media is driving new forms of curation and disrupting traditional discovery of content and products

  • Social media is a global phenomenon and the fastest growing platform for media consumption worldwide
  • Traditional tools for discovery of content and products face disruption from emerging social tools
  • Content businesses are leveraging social media to facilitate discovery, empower active curation and enhance content

f) Democratisation of content creation 

Inexpensive mobile hardware, software, collaboration and infrastructure technologies are driving democratization of the content creation process

  • Prices of content production, storage, serving and collaboration tools have dropped considerably, while functionality and ease-of-use have improved
  • As a result, the number of content creators is growing rapidly, leading to a significant jump in content production
  • In response, content creation businesses are leveraging bottom-up content models, introducing branded content on low-cost platforms and differentiating themselves by creating higher-quality, exclusive content

The Primer

a) Introduction

The strategic context primer illuminates the “lay of the land” for the media ecosystem and examines several important MEI themes. It explores how technological innovations are impacting consumer behaviours (and vice versa), new business models that capture key trends, and the role of public policy in creating regional and global content hubs.

b) Technology Trends 

There are several important technology trends that are impacting the Future of Content:

  • Digital media is growing rapidly across the globe, but traditional media is expected to nearly keep pace in many fast-growing markets
  • Most mature markets will have deep mobile Internet penetration by 2015. Among fast-growing economies, however, only a few of the largest (e.g. Brazil, Russia, China) will have high penetration of mobile Internet
  • Most of the other fast-growing economies will not have significant mobile Internet access in the near term, with the feature phone remaining the primary form factor for the next few years
  • As a result, global and domestic companies are tailoring content and devices for a low-bandwidth world

c) User Behaviours 

Partly as a result of the afore-mentioned technological trends, user behaviours are shifting dramatically.

  • Digital consumption across mature economies has increased significantly as customer needs and expectations have evolved
  • Text and video content in mature regions are increasingly consumed online
  • In fast-growing regions, digital media consumption is centered on social media

d) Transforming business models 

In response to today’s most pressing issues and business model challenges that confront incumbents and newcomers, many organizations have adopted transformative business models.

  • Revenue and profit growth of content creators are under pressure from digital entrants and online aggregators
  • In response, incumbents are exploring a variety of new business models
  • Legacy cost structures present additional business model challenges for incumbents

e) Public policy initiatives 

From the policy perspective, this project identifies six policy levers to enhance domestic content industries and analyzes two public policy models in-depth for media sector development. In the accompanying section, we compare the “export wave model,” a national level plan to bolster domestic content creation and export content abroad with the “hub model,” which focuses on creating a cultural media hub through broad infrastructure and ecosystem investment. We also explore current short and long term issues regulators must consider while still bearing in mind issues “on the horizon” that have the potential to shape media policy of the future.

  • South Korea and Singapore have advanced their respective national media industries using two different public policy models
  • The export wave model uses a national-level plan to stimulate domestic content creation for export
  • The cluster model focuses on developing a “creative cluster” through direct capital investment and ecosystem support
  • Both models can be described using six policy dimensions related to domestic content industries
  • Regulators must consider a host of short- and long-term issues once a robust media ecosystem is established


Thought Pieces on the Future of Content

What do robots, verbs, sand dunes and luxury handbags have in common? Forward-looking and thought-provoking, a collection of forward-looking thought pieces from members of the project Steering Committee may offer you a few glimpses of the future landscape of content creation.


Can a Robot Reboot Education?  by Lance Weiler

How Ordinary Verbs Will Evolve Our Discovery of Content by Steve Rubel

Content Creation in the Arab Region by Tony Orsten

Content Creation for Luxury Brands by Thomas Romieu


Can a Robot Reboot Education

By Lance Weiler

In Switzerland, a girl puts the finishing touches on a small knitted version of a robot. Satisfied, she sets the tiny robot down on a piece of moss — then steps back and snaps a picture.

Meanwhile in Sydney, a mother and her daughter assemble a robot that shares their passion for “Brains”, their feisty Jack Russell terrier. While it takes less than five minutes to make their robot, they spend half an hour attempting to photograph “Brains” with his new tiny friend.

I know these stories because the people who created them took time to play in a storyworld that we are co-creating, entitled Robot Heart Stories.

Designed as an experiential learning project focused on media literacy, Robot Heart Stories uses collaboration and creative problem-solving to put education directly in the hands of students.

At-risk students, a robot and an actual space launch sit at the centre of a fun and educational co-created storyworld that is controlled by fifth graders. The two classrooms sit a continent apart and must work together to get a lost robot home. In order to do so, they need to engage a global community to accomplish the mission.

The experience begins when a robot named LAIKA crash lands in Montreal and must make her way to LA in order to find her spacecraft and return home. One classroom in LA (English speaking) and one multimedia workshop for children in Montreal (French speaking), use math, science, history, geography and creative writing to help LAIKA make her way across North America.

At the same time, Robot Hearts Stories extends beyond the classroom, as the project welcomes involvement from a global audience. Participants of all ages can share their own passions in the form of a creative act involving a robot that they can print, customize and document. For each photo or piece of art featuring the robot that is submitted, the “signal strength” of LAIKA grows stronger and enables her to return home.

Robot Heart Stories is the first in a trilogy of participatory storytelling experiments I’m working on in an effort to better understand storytelling in the 21st century.

The rapid democratization of the tools used to create has dramatically challenged the role of authorship. Many of those people formerly known as the “audience” feel as if they are their own media companies because now they are able to create and instantly “publish” for the world to see.

Within my work, I’m constantly challenging myself to experiment with the way I design, produce, and distribute the stories I wish to tell. It is part of a Story R&D (research and development) process where storytelling meets design methods often used within software development. I filter parts of the creative process by designing “with” instead of designing “for”. Co-creation is often a messy thing. Part of the struggle is firmly rooted in a lack of infrastructure, as the tools to co-create are often limited. In order to make a participatory story emotionally relevant, you need to know how to collaborate with others and, in some cases, with large teams working across different disciplines.

For instance, Robot Heart Stories currently has over 50 collaborators in eight different countries. The team was quickly assembled via a number of tweets and postings to educational and transmedia groups. Our logistical design for Robot Heart Stories is a cross between something like Amazon Mechanical Turk and the way open source software projects are run. Tasks are listed and collaborators take on as little or as much as they can. The project is broken into teams focusing on different core areas – production, education, storytelling, technology and social media.

An interesting emerging trend that I have witnessed first had is the power of storytelling as a transformative educational device. Not only did the students in LA and Montreal bridge language and cultural gaps, but they also collaborated in an effort that sparked an interest in travel and exploration. Other schools, teachers, students, parents and children participated over our 10-day beta launch. From classrooms of autistic children to classes where English is taught as a second language, Robot Heart Stories engaged children of all ages while igniting creativity and learning.

As we move forward with our trilogy of participatory storytelling projects, Robot Heart Stories 2.0 will see LAIKA travelling the world, stopping to visit host families around the globe. Along the way, we will continue to build media literacy applications and experiential learning tool kits for students of all ages. Learning that works across generations can be powerful. I know because the inspiration for Robot Heart Stories came from a simple observation – when my mother teaches my three-year old son how to read on my iPad, my son is always teaching her how to use the device.

Lance Weiler is a storyteller, entrepreneur and thought leader.

How Ordinary Verbs Will Evolve Our Discovery of Content

By Steve Rubel 

Pointing and grunting are arguably the most innate human gestures. It’s something children do at a very early age. Cavemen basically invented them. Oddly enough, these are increasingly the very same actions that we use to interact with content. Mouse clicks and touch screens are forms of pointing. And the rapid rise of new speech-enabled interfaces such as Kinect on the Xbox, Siri on the iPhone and voice actions on Android show we will all be grunting more at our screens.

For the entire history of mankind, however, these innate gestures did little to help us discover content. Search engines and social networks – the two ways we increasingly access information – do not rely on these natural actions. They utilize more complex motions like typing and posting.

That’s all about to change.

According to Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow, by simply adding an optional Facebook share capability to common online applications such as an e-commerce check-out or taking an online poll, companies can increase traffic and revenue by 12.98%. Yes, he’s done the math.

However, these actions are not frictionless. They require a user to take the extra step to share.

That changed last September when Facebook revealed that the ubiquitous “like” button is giving way to all kinds of verbs. Two of these – “read” and “listened” – are already live. Facebook users who install certain news and music social applications can opt in to share their actions, effortlessly. In other words, if you read news or listen to music on the social network, it’s broadcast.

A handful of media companies jumped in head-first. And the bet has paid off. For example, two months later:

  • Yahoo! News saw a 600% increase in traffic coming from Facebook, and people who connect to Facebook on Yahoo! read more articles than the average user
  • The Guardian’s news application is generating, on average, almost a million extra page impressions every day
  • MOG, an online music streaming service, said it saw a 246% jump in new users in the month following the launch

All of this frictionless sharing is delivering real business results. It’s just getting going.

Soon pointing and grunting, complemented by other natural verbs like reading, watching and listening, will become optionally social and therefore make content more discoverable. Facebook is first, but surely others like LinkedIn, Google and Twitter will follow suit.

This should delight the content community. However it creates challenges too.

Already some warn to be careful when reading articles on Facebook that you don’t want others to know you are viewing. The privacy controls are there, but it’s important for media and entertainment companies to continually educate.

Nevertheless, the promise of natural gestures for content discovery for both the media and consumers is greater than the pitfalls and that’s good news for all.

Steve Rubel is Executive Vice-President, Global Strategy & Insights for Edelman, USA – the world’s largest independent public relations firm. In this role, Rubel studies the future of media and works across the firm’s practices and geographies to help clients unify their communications strategies across traditional, emerging, owned and social channels.


Content Creation in the Arab Region

By Tony Orsten

The Middle East region is made up of 22 countries and 350 million youthful citizens. With 600 TV channels, many hundreds of newspapers and magazines, Internet penetration growing rapidly and smartphone take-up exploding, the opportunities are abundant to stimulate content creation in all its forms.

But, in my opinion, while the platforms are there, the content that reflects the lives and aspirations of the largest demographic groups is missing. The evidence is striking: Arabic appears in less than 1% of the Internet although it is the fifth most spoken language on Earth. Another issue stems from the fact that, at present, indigenous content is simply not compelling and entertaining enough to warrant spontaneous viewing. That leaves most of us to judge the region and its culture almost entirely through news reports. So, how do you stimulate and support the people of a whole region to create and disseminate content that will be compelling enough to grab the attention of viewers around the world?

Here in Abu Dhabi, the government has realized that growing the nation cannot be achieved without ensuring the skills needed to create content are grown as well. twofour54, the Arab World’s only content creation community, was created three years ago to address this need.

Our name is based on the geo-coordinates of Abu Dhabi: 24° North, 54° East. twofour54′s vision is to enable the development of world-class Arabic media and entertainment content, by Arabs for Arabs, and to position Abu Dhabi as a regional centre of excellence in content creation across all media platforms.

We have attracted 140 new and existing media businesses from all over the region and the world to come to twofour54 and start the process. From the big names such as Fox, CNN, BBC, Sky and Viacom to numerous small regional producers, all have come to twofour54 with the intention of stimulating a creative economy, sustainably, in the Arab world and tapping into an opportunity represented by an audience and talent base of 350 million people.

We train thousands of students and industry professionals across the region in production and journalistic skills so that they can begin to look at “The Media” as a profession. We facilitate and invest in thousands of hours of new production in TV, gaming, animation film and web content and now have a community of 2,000 professionals working on our campus and a further 2,000 online in our creative lab.

This week, I have screened a number of outstanding new pieces of work created at twofour54 by first-time producers. It’s a new beginning for them and hopefully for content in the Arab world.

Tony Orsten is the Chief Executive Officer, TwoFour54, United Arab Emirates, and a Member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Media, Entertainment & Information.

Content Creation for Luxury Brands

By Thomas Romieu

Brands – in particular, in the high-end segment – represent values attached to cultural heritage, creativity, craftsmanship, excellence and highest standards. These values and the brand’s character also need to be safeguarded when communicating on the internet. Therefore, the adequate management of new tools is important to protect brands and their identity online. The brand protection aspect is a crucial part of any digital strategy, as well as in telling the story through the new channels.

Indeed, the latest trends and technologies of content creation and storytelling are being leveraged in non-media industries, particularly retail and consumer.

In fact, the advent of the Internet as a major communication vehicle for brands has opened strong opportunities for brand content development, beyond advertising, in-store promotion and printed collateral:

  • Brands have virtually free “real estate” via their owned and operated websites to express their values and showcase their products and services
  • The development of social media sites has paved the way for additional brand content expression

Brand “non-media” content is expressed in ways that strongly resemble media content creation, with the following major trends:

1. Video is prevalent: over 40% of European Web users (over 55% in the US) have watched at least one video in the past month. It is likely that video will prevail as the ultimate brand expression, both on brands’ own sites (being used as a repository of all brands videos and offering best-in-class video players – as epitomized on ) and on video destination platforms (e.g. YouTube).

2. Branded content tends to expand beyond the legacy 30-second TV ad: to engage users, brands are simultaneously developing:

  • Long-form content (see BMW’s Ambush film).
  • Short-form content (such as Kenzo videos). The latter is particularly useful as it constitutes a “snacking size” that is most effective when used as a social media post (on Facebook, Google+, etc.) to engage social media users, as it’s adapted to social medias’ fast information renewal rate.

While most branded content consists of videos, branded content may also be declined via other means, such as photographs (see Zara’s Dear America).

3. Co-creation of content: mirroring media content creation, non-media companies tend to crowdsource creation by empowering third-party players to contribute to content creation. As an example, Tag Heuer hired Eyeka to get connected with its pool of creators (filmmakers, graphic designers, photographers and animators) and have them create a video/animation that establishes the Link watch, with its iconic S shape bracelet link as the epitome of modern elegance and style among successful, sophisticated urban consumers (see Tag Heuer’s Youtube channel).

4. Viral circulation: reflecting media companies’ initiatives, brands manage to optimize content circulation via social networks: they circulate their contents on the most popular platforms, thereby favouring content transfer via “sharing” functionalities; they also integrate these sharing features on their own sites.

Thomas Romieu is the Paris-based Group Director, Digital, LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton, France. He is also a Member of the Steering Committee for the World Economic Forum project, The Future of Content. 

Future of Content Workshops

Future of Content Workshops 

Jakarta: ‘Firing up Asia’s Creative Engine’

Supported by a foundation of solid macroeconomic performance over the last decade, the media and entertainment industry in Southeast Asia is well positioned for strong growth. Although penetration of traditional internet and subscription TV services in the region remains far below world averages, media consumption in the region is supported by mobile phone penetration. National governments in the region, moreover, are taking steps to foster greater access to broadband internet, further buoying the media and entertainment industries. Although the headwind of intellectual property concerns remains, content creation in Southeast Asia is flourishing as large corporations embrace a multi-platform world and as citizens consume social media in significant quantities.
Firing Up Asia’s Creative Engine (PDF 0.2 MB)
Future Of Content Factpack (PDF 3.8 MB)
Southeast Asia Whitepaper (PDF 0.4 MB)

Rio: ‘Content Creation in a Multiplatform World’

In Latin America, though traditional media remain relatively healthy for now, industry players recognize that change is approaching. Especially as Brazil leads the way in the social media boom, questions are arising regarding the impact of digitalization on traditional business models and consumption expectations. While consumer appetite for online content is growing, ad spending on digital media remains a small piece of the overall advertising ecosystem due to incumbent practices. Sustainable monetization of new formats remains unclear and a shortage of funding for entrepreneurial media ventures restricts innovative development. Traditional media will need to quickly understand the changes that lie ahead and adapt accordingly.
LatAm Factpack PDF (0.7 MB)
LAtAm Whitepaper (PDF 0.2 MB)
Rio Session Summary (PDF 0.1 MB)

New York: ‘Winning Strategic Battlegrounds’

The goal of this interactive, scenario-based workshop was to allow participants to deep-dive on key implications of new and emerging business strategy trends in content creation, aggregation and distribution. Participants were divided into groups to explore different media businesses facing strategic challenges. Both media incumbents and digital disruptors then needed to develop a strategic plan in response to one of two scenarios: the battle to attract global peer influencers; and the battle to appeal to “millennials” in Latin America. After each group determined its plan of attack, discussion leaders formed a panel to discuss business insights, points of tension and challenges to conventional thinking that arose.
Summary Workshop PDF (0.9 MB)



We would like to sincerely thank all those who have so generously contributed their time and valuable expertise to this project:

Steering Committee Members

  • Angela Courtin, Aegis Media North America
  • Susan Kish, Bloomberg
  • Ian Rosarius, BT
  • Linda Boland Abraham, comScore
  • Laura Lang, Digitas (2007 – 2011)
  • Marcel S. Reichart, DLD, Burda Media
  • Nuri Colakoglu, Dogan Media Group (DYH), 
  • Steve Rubel, Edelman
  • Paul de Sa, Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  • Robert Madelin, Information Society and Media (INFSO), European Commission
  • David Gallagher, Europe, Ketchum Pleon 
  • Christophe Nicolas, Kudelski Group
  • Thomas Romieu, LVMH
  • Patricia Rockenwagner, McGraw-Hill
  • Gary Regenstreif, Thomson Reuters
  • Keith McAllister, Thomson Reuters (2009 – 2011)
  • Jose María Sanz-Magallón, Telefónica USA
  • Scott Spirit, WPP Plc
  • Richard Riley, Yahoo! Sarl
  • Arnaud Robert, Walt Disney Company
  • Lance Weiler, Independent Filmmaker

Project Development

  • World Economic Forum – Media, Entertainment and Information Industries
  • Diana El-Azar, Head of Media, Entertainment & Information Industries
  • Akanksha Khatri, Project Associate
  • Mengyu Annie Luo, Project Manager, Associate Director
  • Alejandra Velez, Project Support, Community Manager
  • Lena Woodward, Project Support

Project Advisor

  • Bain & Company, USA
  • Charles Kim, Partner and Head, North America Media Practice 
  • Danny Hong, Manager
  • David Winterle, Consultant
  • Audrey Zhao, Associate Consultant

Academic Partner – Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Renu Kulkarni, Founder and Executive Director, FutureMedia