Magazine article Information Today

That's Infotainment: Part Deux

Magazine article Information Today

That's Infotainment: Part Deux

Article excerpt

Convergence. What will it look like? We'll have product platforms you can hold in one hand, musical and video clip selections on the to-do lists for every database designer, and phone calls to TV Guide's digital programming office to schedule system-surge times. Expect to learn the lingo of The Biz or The Industry (as they call it on The Coast); discover, create, and integrate radical new sources of content; and find that one's discovering, integrating, and creating never seemed radical to anyone but oneself.

Will anything traditional survive the change? A rising tide may lift all boats, but it can swamp a lot of them as well. One thing seems obvious, though profoundly depressing to me personally: The entire notion of connecting information-seeking behavior to a geographic location--like a library--may dissolve. The flow of infotainment will become as ubiquitous as electricity. Only its absence could cause any surprise. The idea of journeying to a physical site or having to look at a clock to schedule an answer to a question--how absurdly retro that will all seem.

Creating Customized Channels

On the other hand, the impetus to reach answers instantly could see information professionals creating customized kits that automatically filter quality sources into the user's line of sight. ("Attention, students! All freshmen who have completed their classroom selections should move to the iPod/PDA line, where the library paraprofessionals will verify that your machines carry the university's Virtual Library Portal menu, customized to your individual curricula. Those living in on-campus dormitories can also access portal menus, as well as other services, on the televisions in their rooms. Off-campus residents should check with the library on access options offered in cooperation with local cable channels.")

What will appeal to the universal audience? What will that audience require? What will it take to build those appealing products? Who will pay? Now, this is all crystal ball guesswork, of course, but here goes.

What will appeal? The answer is products, which are short, precise, and authoritative, but mainly short. Expansion on a topic will come in the form of new answers. The "layered" look of Wikipedia and blogs will set the standard. This approach lets the user get the basics while suggesting--subtly--that one might want more. The layered look does not force users to read more content than they want to read. However, if the user does want further research, the layers can accommodate them easily. Layering for different markets, including international ones with different language and cultural contexts, will constitute a basic function for all multinational operations.

Multimedia content will integrate coverage from different venues in different formats. A congressional hearing in PDF will connect to CSPAN videos, linked from Web-based archives. Images of news coverage will link to print coverage and blogs. Television services, such as TiVo, will become infotainment archives. This new business will grow out of the interactive digital programming services for cable television that will continue to enrich the content envelope around their products as cable companies compete with telephone companies for the broadband market.

As the legal archives grow, so will an underground black market of DVD-R archives networked by users, no doubt moralistically buttressing their rebel force approach to intellectual property by pointing to all the low-user-interest items that are preserved ("if it weren't for us, it would be lost by now") and to content with public-domain issues. …

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