One of my roles is as “theme champion” for metadata and convergence with the Creative Industries Knowledge Transfer Network, or KTN. This post is cross-posted from the CIKTN website with permission.

As I’m sure anyone reading this knows by now, this year has so far seen two stages, or rather, “challenges”, in a three-stage TSB funding round for feasibility studies around converged media. Challenge 1 looked at hyper-local media, challenge 2 at ideation, that is, tools and techniques which help new ideas come into the world. Challenge 3 is about to launch this autumn and will concentrate on metrics: how technology can help release more information – and in more detail – about how content is consumed and used in the digital realm, something of inestimable importance to, amongst others, content creators, content owners, broadcasters, publishers and of course advertisers.

As ever, to publicise the funding call’s launch and explain both its rationale and the processes involved in applying and – should you be successful – following through, we’ll be holding a series of events around the country: Liverpool on October 14th, Belfast on the 15th and London the following week on the 23rd. More details will be going out in a newsletter forthwith. We held similar events in London, Manchester and Glasgow for challenge 2 and I thought it might be useful for me to recap on some of the key themes I saw emerging in the various presentations, panel discussions and individual conversations over the three days. I’ll spread it over the course of a few posts as I’ve quite a bit to get down here and I emphasise that this is my own personal synthesis. This is a wide open, complex area with a lot of divergent opinions and practical approaches and any one commentator would come away with their own set of observations.

Anyway, here’s my take, in no particular order, starting with…

We were promised jetpacks

OK, so that’s a little facetious, but… There’s a real sense, at least amongst broadcasting execs over the age of, say, 35 (and I’ll get on to the issue of demographics shortly) that we’ve been promised a new age of interactive, convergent media for the last ten years or so and yet nothing has really delivered. From my own experience both at the BBC and later heading up the interactive team at an independent supplier to the BBC, I saw the corporation “get religion” about convergence and mulitplatform in the early noughties only to retreat from it strategically over the last couple of years. And the Beeb isn’t alone – ITV is another major broadcaster that’s only recently reined in its interactive activity.

And yet, and yet… there’s Bill Gates’ short term/long term paradigm at work here, I think. Digital advocates like myself promised way too much ten years back – the audience simply wasn’t where we thought they were, or, rather, wanted them to be. But now? Well, for one thing, there’s an entirely new digitally literate, games-infused generation becoming young adults – consumers and citizens (not to mention the touch screen babies behind them). And they have vastly different expectations of media then those just a few years older. And of course, the technological environment has changed beyond recognition. Promiscuous multi-screen consumption and ubiquitous media aren’t science fiction any more – they’re a rather quotidian fact of life.

In short, I wonder if the mainstream broadcasting community is making its retreat at precisely the wrong moment.