Content, Here and Now

What does the increasing compression of time and space mean for content?

It means I order a few books online—that is, books of the dead tree variety—and an hour later I mindlessly reach for my iPad to start reading one of them. Donald A. Norman would call this an associative activation error. I might say it’s emblematic of brain rewired for instant content gratification on the device of my choosing.

Give it to me!

Good or bad, we have grown accustomed to media that is served up right here, right now, and however we want it. The anticipation of content’s arrival seems like an antiquated nuisance. Not being able to access it after its initial release is an irritant. Missed last week’s episode of House? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that. Heard about a book on the podcast you listened to on the way to work? Download it while you pour your morning coffee, and start reading it at lunch.

A liquid, not a solid

In addition to its speed and ubiquity, content usually costs less now. It also needs to fit into a lot of different boxes, because it now needs to fill temporal gaps in all kinds of spaces—standing at a bus stop, waiting in a restaurant, passing time in line at the bank, etc. The diversity of our new content boxes makes the bygone days of fretting over whether your website looked the same in IE and Netscape seem laughable.

Yes content creators, it is your problem

Clearly, there are serious implications for content producers here. On one hand it has never been easier to push content out, yet on the other, it has never been more exasperating. From paperbacks to PDFs to fixed-width websites, most content is still rigid and oblivious to its viewing context. Technology can help, but smarter content ultimately requires deliberate choices by its creator.

These won’t be simple choices, and they will most certainly have an expense tied to their implementation. But making these choices now will be a lot less costly and a lot less painful than pretending you don’t need to make them at all.

Posted in: Content

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