A glimpse of future communications

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Multiple devices, numerous alternatives, more targeted content, round-the-clock video content...
the demands on the communications sector are growing as technology leaps forward. What will survive and what will disappear? We asked Helene Juhola, R&D Director of the Federation of the Finnish Media Industry (Finnmedia).

Printed material is quickly shifting onto digital formats.
Will electronic readers be as common in a decade as mobile phones are now?

- There are predictions that as electronic readers (e-readers) improve, they will to some extent replace smartphones and mini-laptops. It is also expected that there will be more emphasis on the original capabilities of mobile phones. However, e-readers will have to become more versatile. On the other hand, new uses are being developed for mobile phones, such as personal recognition, payments and code-reading, which do not work as conveniently with larger devices. Thus, mobile phones and e-readers may be able to operate in tandem.

Is the printed newspaper disappearing completely?
- This remains an open question. There aredifferent ways of reading depending on the user interface. E-readers and reading online require more conscious selectivity and searching, whereas reading a printed paper includes more opportunity for impulses and surprises. It is also difficult to fit a broad package of reading material into an e-reader. Printed and electronic communications can complement each other and work together, as they already do.

How about the printed book?
- The value of a literary object remains high. A well-produced book appeals to several senses, and novels remain popular, particularly as gifts. The ability to flip through a book is important: you get a better sense of the whole work than you can with an e-reader, and it's easier to return to a certain section. Which format is more convenient or comfortable to use depends largely on what kind of book it is and how it's intended to be used. In the US, a lot of Harlequin romances and similar book genres are read in electronic form, because readers don't want to store the paperbacks on their shelves.

What will happ en to nonfiction books as online data search methods improve?
- Non-fiction book series and the like are disappearing. More or less permanent information such as history and mathematics will still hold their own in printed form, but especially on the B2B side, the ability to provide and update information makes the web a much more useful format. There is an appeal for highquality printed graphic design that is difficult to replicate on the web. Feel, texture and smell are all elements that can be varied in printed products.

Marketing communications and consumer-produced content are growing explosively. What is the role of journalism?
- Journalism is irreplaceable because we still need expert information and analysis. Ways should be developed to make journalistic use of readers' participation and special know-how as well as ideas that emerge in web forums. In the B2B sector, communications already involve plenty of collaboration with experts and journalists.

Will moving images replace text?
- There is more of an emphasis on the visual aspect. Illustrative videos are increasingly being used to convey information. However, people have different ways of processing information; some learn more quickly through images, others through words. There is a need for various complementary forms and material that is optimal depending on the user and the situation.

What is happening to the literacy skills of children and youth who are accustomed to a stream of images and sounds?
- Reading is essential for the development of thinking. As we read, we create mental images as a basis for processing the information and forming concepts. It has been found that children and young people who are primarily used to moving images do not necessarily have the concentration skills needed for reading and analysing long texts. This is not a good development trend.

Where does the real value of multichannel
offerings lie?

- The multichannel approach is here to stay. Nearly 80 per cent of Finns already use the web, and sales of electronics are constantly growing. Usability is essential, and consumers want various alternatives
for different situations. Communications firms must think carefully about whether everything really needs
to be available in mobile formats. There's a great need for cooperation. We're currently considering various business models related to tablets and so on.

Are reality shows squeezing out high-quality productions from television?
- Fads have a certain lifespan, and reality shows are now enjoying their moment. We should reconsider the division of labour in television production in Finland, though. The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) should not necessarily be competing with the commercial channels, but should instead concentrate on producing important content related to culture and education. It remains to be seen whether the viewing public will eventually split more clearly into those who watch entertainment and those who favour more serious culture, as has happened in many countries.

Are web and mobile advertising cutt ing off revenues for traditional advertising?
- The web's share of all advertising is growing steadily. In print media, measurement of the effectiveness of advertising is always indirect, whereas online you can track the number of clicks. This does not necessarily tell you much about effectiveness. We need to develop means to measure the effectiveness of advertising carried out across multiple channels. More and more maximally-targeted marketing communications based on databases and analytics is being produced all the time.

Text Minna Takkunen | Photo Susanna Kekkonen