The Pew Research Center released a report last year called Digital Life in 2025. You’ll find a summary of it here and the downloadable PDF is here. I should point out that the report is now almost a year old, but since the vision is for ten years out, it’s still quite relevant and an interesting read.
If you don’t have time to read the entire 60-page document I’ll summarize it for you with two bullets:
- The Internet becomes more like electricity and,
- It’s all about access, not ownership
You could argue we’re already living out the first point today. The web is ubiquitous and thanks to inexpensive, powerful sensors and embeddable devices, the Internet of things that we’re rapidly heading towards means everything will soon be connected and burying us in even more data.
I think it’s terrific that my home’s thermostat can now be accessible from my phone. I’d love this concept even more if it meant that digital content operated more like electricity.
Today, however, I need a variety of apps to consume and manage all my content. Here’s a short list of some of the content apps I use on a daily basis: web browser, Oyster ebook app, Kindle ebook app, Next Issue magazine app and Evernote. If electricity operated this way you’d need a set of international travel adapters and converters to work with all the different plugs in your house, at the office and on the road.
I’d like to think that one day we’ll have a universal digital content app that lets you do it all. I’m not sure that will happen by 2025 though, not when all the major players insist on building and reinforcing their walled gardens.
The second point, about access, not ownership, is already playing out in the music world. iTunes helped break the chokehold record labels had when they used to force us to buy entire CDs. In the next stage of disruption, services like Spotify are helping tear down the dominance Apple built with iTunes.
More recently we’ve seen the same phenomenon in other digital content areas. Next Issue gives me access to dozens of magazines, including their archives, as long as I keep paying them every month. Then there’s Oyster and Kindle Unlimited, which offer similar broad, unlimited reading options for ebooks. As I mentioned last week, these ebook services will undoubtedly expand in the next 12-18 months, becoming your all-access pass for the topics and genres you love most.
If you have the time, I recommend reading the entire Pew report. The two items I covered here are the ones that resonated most for me but the report is loaded with plenty of other insight and perspective from quite a few industry experts.