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SXSW 2012: the Digital Disruption Continuum


What I didn't see at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) this year is just as important as all the interesting things that I did experience. So, I'll start with some of the most notable topic departures from the prior years.

The denial, by big media company executives, of the digital disruption phenomenon is much less pervasive than in the past. As an example, blaming others for the continued downward spiral of the newspaper industry now seems futile.

The backlash from the industry's SOPA and PIPA lobbying effort may have already tempered the traditional media's trustworthiness mantra. Moreover, one particular never-ending scandal is a constant reminder of the apparent credibility gap that exists today.

References to "User Generated Content" are gone from panel discussions, as everyone now recognizes that digital storytelling and self-publishing is open to anyone with a point of view -- via the internet, enabled by numerous free cloud-based tools.

Low-cost digital multimedia production and distribution empowered the revolution that has transformed the music recording industry. Now few people doubt that the film and video entertainment industry is next in line. It’s inevitable.

While last year "content marketing" practices were evolving, several SXSWi panelists now claim that it's more of a mainstream activity. That being said, transmedia storytelling is being driven primarily by the entertainment industry. My own project work is somewhat unique -- as commercial storytelling activity is still limited to a few B2B pioneers.

The Convergence of Mobile, Cloud and Social

The renewed focus on smartphone and media tablet apps was prevalent throughout the panels that I attended. These applications are often dependent upon a cloud services business model and incorporate a social media ingredient -- for online engagement.

Overall, there's less emphasis on social media tools, but more focus placed upon the advanced skills that are required to use them effectively. Luminaries and pundits now believe that it's all part of a mainstream digital economy that will drive the jobs market across the globe.

I also spent some time with the UK Digital Mission delegates and was reminded that the Global Networked Economy rewards all entrepreneur ingenuity and ambition -- regardless of the geographic location.

Talent Neutrality - it's a Small World After All

In a session entitled "The Next Big Thing," I was fascinated by the socioeconomic results from thriving high-tech freelancer communities in Bangladesh and India. The SXSW Startup Village was populated by several companies that had out-tasked or totally out-sourced their coding and operations work to teams in developing nations.

Online supply and demand matchmaking for human resources is made possible by the essential worldwide investment in broadband infrastructure. Perhaps the internet is already considered the greatest single economic equalizer to impact all humanity. If that's the case, then are you prepared for the consequences?

As the next wave of people -- most likely via a mobile wireless connection -- join the billions who are already online, web content will increasingly become multi-lingual by default and translation services (automated or manual) will be more commonplace.

While I'm somewhat comforted by the knowledge that English is considered the de facto language of international business, I also recognize that narrative that was created in the author's vernacular is likely to be so much more captivating and engaging.

Clearly, the future of multiplatform storytelling will include many challenges for marketers that work with (or for) multinational organizations. The quest for more specialized digital creative talent will fuel applications for increased international collaboration -- and the tools to enable that online interaction.

Maybe you've considered this scenario and have formulated a workable solution. But what if the best design talent for your next web series is unable to speak in any language -- then just wait until 2013, yes there's an app for that.

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