A 'content agnostic' future

Toaster recently worked with Samsung’s R&D team in Seoul to ideate, design and build new ways for smartphone owners to pair their smartphones with new out-of-the-box TVs.

This work was focussed on the behavioural science, UX, tech and design necessary to build the optimal customer experience for this one precise unboxing moment - but it opened a lot of thoughts about the changing ways we use screens.

The future is content-agnostic

Once upon a time, there was a clear relationship between physical screen size and the content we’d watch on it or the purpose it had. Phones were for direct comms and social media, laptops were for work and more social media, and TVs were for, well, TV.

Assumptions about what sort of content matched which screen size ran through all kinds of businesses, from Hollywood to TV broadcasters to agency networks - but that correlation is well and truly dead.

Content of all kinds (with varying levels of interactivity baked in) is being delivered to a spectrum of networked devices, ranging in screen size from the ubiquitous smartphone up through phablets, tablets, laptops, desktops, to flatscreens, home cinemas, and beyond.

That content then also covers a spectrum, from direct comms text and video, social media, photography, music, videos, various formats of advertising, through to the various genres of TV content, and up to feature films.

However there is no longer a fixed relationship between device and content - people listen to the radio on their laptops, they start watching box-set TV on their smartphones on their way home and finish the same episode on their home cinemas or flatscreens, they watch feature films on their phones and tablets, they make video calls through their laptops and their TVs as well as their smartphones, and consume social media on whatever screen is closest to hand.

Of course, not all content suits all devices - people are as unlikely to browse cat memes on a home cinema as they are to watch the collected works of Tarkovsky on their iPhone - but most correlations between device and content no longer apply.

The future is very much one of a personalised cloud of content and apps following us all, to be shown intuitively on smart screens of every size, some that we carry with us, and some which are larger and fixed in place.

The implications for agencies, brands and content producers are legion, but the most obvious is that ‘digital’ will mean a set of behaviours, not a set of devices or traditional content constraints, nor any particular genre of content - on-demand, non-interruptive, personalised, and intuitively ‘there’.