Avignon Forum: Digital Metamorphosis of the Cultural Universe Still Has Far to Go

By November 21, 2012 1 comment

Digital is still a long way from having completely transformed the cultural sector. However a new study indicates that five major trends have already considerably shaken up the cultural sphere: the quantity of information, personalisation, aggregation, community and engagement.

With the aim of finding out whether there are any “reasons to hope in the digital era: 2005- 2012”, Bain & Company has carried out a study* for the Forum d'Avignon (Avignon Forum**). The study measures the changes in behaviour regarding the consumption of cultural goods and services brought about by seven years of digital revolution, which have seen the appearance of a wide range of technologies – including online music and video, e-book readers and other tablets, plus online games. It seems that we are right in the middle of a revolution, and far from attaining what the strategy consulting firm describes as the ‘age of reason’. Nevertheless we can of course already observe some major trends that have turned the cultural ecosystem upside down and which will continue to do so: the quantity of information, personalisation, aggregation, community and engagement.

Innovation trends

First of all, consumers now have access to an infinite variety of information, and we see that they are showing increasing interest in new experiences linked to a growing appetite for cultural services. As an example, the number of books available on Amazon.comincreased nine-fold between 2005 and 2012. Another basic trend highlighted by the study is that of ‘community’. Given that people more often seek advice from friends than from search engines, it is clear that social networks have a major role to play in people’s choice of media and content. The study emphasises that the number of Facebook users has grown from six million in 2005 to over a billion in 2012. New experiences therefore seem to be a central driver of the latest trends. Laurent Colombani, Partner and Head of the French Media section at Bain & Company, who co-authored the study, points out that this represents a “huge challenge for commercial platforms, which are forced to continuously invent and re-invent new models. But it’s also a challenge for government bodies that have to update the regulatory framework, which is vital to sustain a viable creation ecosystem.”

Impact of these trends on industry

Next, audience fragmentation has fostered the emergence of powerful ideas forums, ‘meeting points’ served by aggregators of information and material. A further trend highlighted by the study is the growing personalisation: 75% of all films seen on Netflix in 2012 were viewed on the basis of a personal recommendation. In fact one can probably safely say that the increasing segmentation of viewpoints, which is a global phenomenon in human society, is at its most extreme when it comes to the consumption of cultural goods and services. Today Internet users want to be able to access a whole world of material that suits their personal tastes, or can even anticipate what they will want. The study also analyses the impact of these trends on the leisure and entertainment industries – music, videos, books and video games. The analysis suggests that each segment has its own current degree of digital maturity and that prospects for the future in this area also vary.


*“Culture, imagination and passing on: creators of value(s)?”, conducted among 6,000 consumers in France, Germany, the UK, Russia, the USA, Brazil, India and China.

**From 15-17 November 2012, Palais des Papes, Avignon, France

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