What is content democratization and how is it changing the business landscape?

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As the name implies, content democratization allows individuals and small businesses to create and share digital content in more ways than would have been possible in the past. It eliminates previous limitations of the traditional media space, such as price and technology barriers that restricted content creation and sharing to fewer people.

This new media may include blogs, ebooks, podcasts, songs, videos and other digital content. It’s often supported by online platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or LinkedIn, which allow users to distribute content at little or no cost. As a result, the creative industry is changing rapidly and the boundaries between old media and new media are evolving.

Content democratization is more than a passing trend

Although blogs, personal pages and other online content have been around since the birth of the web, online dynamics continue to change. Today, there are 5.3 billion internet users worldwide, and smartphones and faster internet speeds have fundamentally altered where we consume content.

Consulting firm PwC reports that consumption of digital content has risen by as much as 30 percent over the last four years. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed consumption further. It’s now common for people to spend 10 hours a day viewing or listening to content on the web. By 2022, online videos will make up more than 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic, a 15x increase over 2017.

The controversy with media giants

Amid all this content disruption, there is a growing battle between traditional media versus new media. Legacy media companies — newspapers, magazines, broadcast television and radio outlets that had a lock on markets (and in some cases became monopolies) — are witnessing continuing declines in subscriptions and viewers. Public perception of many of these “old school” media companies also trends negative. While new media companies, such as social platforms (think: TikTok) and online magazines (think: Vice media) are hot.

Traditionally, the traditional media companies controlled the information and entertainment streams. However, they face ongoing systemic challenges. Often, they continue to operate with a large and costly physical infrastructure — in the case of newspapers and magazines, this means printing expenses, for example. If they don’t go digital, they’re unable to deliver the type of content people are craving, where they crave it. And if these companies do deliver content online, thanks to paywalls, ad blocking software and changing customer preferences, these companies can still see their influence wane.

Old media vs. new media

The changing media landscape has huge ramifications. For one, consumers no longer learn about new products, ideas and trends solely from broadcast television and the print media, where audiences can’t engage directly with the company or each other. New media is digital and online, where individuals can advocate for new products, and connect directly with people across the world.

These artists and creatives often take advantage of free and low-cost online content distribution platforms to reach people. In many cases, they attract millions of followers or subscribers and monetize content. Some of these “influencers” are becoming genuine celebrities.

Not surprisingly, marketers, advertisers and others are taking notice. New channels and interaction points are emerging as old and new media redraw the battle lines. One study found that 77 percent of marketers want to work with micro-influencers - people who typically have between 5,000 and 100,000 highly devoted followers.

The growth of new media

A glance at the numbers reveals how profoundly the world is changing:

New media

Old media

New media careers

The pervasiveness of new media has also resulted in fundamental changes to jobs, careers and the workplace. For example, there’s now a growing need for skills that were previously the domain of entertainment industry specialists. Here are some of the new media roles available at companies big and small across industries.

Outlook for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs now have opportunities in new media that never before existed. Before a person needed a media giant to get ideas and content out to their local neighborhood. Today, they only need a webcam, internet connection and new media skills to reach the global audience using TikTok. Yet, these careers require knowledge, expertise and the right tools — including software for creating and editing videos and photography, handling graphic design, creating illustrations and animations, overseeing UI and UX tasks, managing 3D and augmented reality, and tackling marketing and social media tasks.

How will traditional media adjust?

As content democratization continues, look for traditional media outlets to continue to acquire new media outlets. We also expect legacy media organizations will continue to shrink and play an increasingly niche role. Some will try to reinvent themselves. Yet even if they shed the physical infrastructure, legacy thinking will still place them at a distinct disadvantage.

What’s the outlook for the greater economy?

Content democratization and new media are driving fundamental changes in consumption and behavior. The economy is shifting to user-created content and new forms of expression. Look for today’s applications and platforms to continue growing while new ecosystems and apps emerge.

The bottom line? There’s no longer a need to be in the “creative” industry to take part in new media, and the barriers to getting the necessary tools and skills have all but disappeared.

At Adobe, we believe that creativity isn’t just for the lucky few. Creativity is for everyone, it’s everywhere, and it connects us all. With the sheer amount of devices, apps, and new media platforms — we are in the golden age of creativity, and the opportunities for success are limitless.