The Future of Content: Where to from Here?

The Future of Content: Where to from Here?

In 1996, Bill Gates famously published an essay called ‘Content is King’. He foresaw a future where the internet was essentially a marketplace for content, and any business or individual would be a publisher vying for attention. Fast-forward nearly three decades and most marketers would agree that Gates’ prediction came true.

But what does the next decade – or three – hold for the world of content? At Canto’s Content Innovation Summit 2024, we asked three world-leading thinkers on content creation and digital asset management to consult their crystal balls. As the panel for The Future of Content: Where to from Here? explains, there’s every reason to feel optimistic about the future.

An explosion of content and form

The vast amounts of content being created are well-documented, with some estimates suggesting 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years. Smartphones and digital media have enabled everyone to become a photographer and broadcaster. This rapid change has been influenced first-hand by Santiago Lyon, who spent forty years as a photojournalist before becoming Head of Advocacy and Education at the Content Authenticity Initiative.

“Since the advent of digital technology some twenty-five years ago, we've seen an explosion of volume. In the mid-1980s we’d travel the world for the Associated Press, with portable dark rooms set up in our hotel bathrooms to develop our own film and then send pictures down the telephone line. Each colour picture took forty-five minutes to send – the world's story was physically limited in terms of how many pictures we could send,” says Lyon.

“Compare that to now, the Associated Press and other news agencies are putting out 3,000 pictures in 24 hours. If you were to show somebody forty years ago the technology we have today, their eyes would be like saucers!” 

In future, the sheer number of images used to tell stories will be exponentially larger, giving viewers a more comprehensive view of the world, according to Lyon. But the methods of distributing that content will also be transformed. 

He explains: “In five years you can imagine a world where we're consuming content through implants or wearables, and where everything is voice-activated or even thought-activated. It sounds like science fiction, but as we've seen over the past decades, things like that have become a reality.”

Intelligent content management

A future filled with content requires effective content management. This is where the true potential for innovation lies, says Chris Olive, Senior Director of Global Sales Development at Canto, a leading provider of digital asset management (DAM) software. 

“The journey from desktop publishing, to portable media, to the rise of digital assets has been an incredible journey. And what's amazing is that there's so much more potential on the journey ahead of us,” he says.


The future of digital asset management will see greater innovation in how businesses can source, organise, edit and distribute their assets. It’s an area of real passion for David Lipsey, ‘the Godfather of DAM’ who is now Academic Director at Rutgers University and Consultant with Smithsonian Libraries. 

“We're on the cusp of a new way of dynamically ascribing intelligence to both content and objects. As they are created, assets will arrive with evermore effervescence around them of what they are, where they came from, and what's influenced them,” says Lipsey.

With around two-thirds of content never being used, Lipsey argues more intelligent content management will create “a higher order of accessibility and potential use, present at birth. I really look forward to the ever-increasing capacity of technologies to enable the journey of content and the adjudicated use of content.”

Merging human and AI

Despite wider industry doom-mongering, the leading experts at the Canto Content Innovation Summit argue that marketers should feel optimistic about the future of AI as a way of “automating your more mundane and time-consuming tasks”.

Carrie Wadlington, Operating Advisor at the venture capital company JMI, foresees a future where human creativity is enhanced by this technology. Carrie says, “I remember working with an amazing creative director who would ideate and come up with a campaign concept, but then have to generate forty-five different ads and ten different sizes for all of the different platforms. My hope is using GenAI to automate that mundane work, because you don’t become a creative director to build out ads in different sizes.”

This merging of the human and the AI will also become vital for businesses, according to Lipsey. “I can see us morphing into an area where we have more collaborative dynamics. There’ll be a more equitable share of content, and revenue generated by that content, in order for businesses to prosper and adapt,” Lipsey says.

Experts agree that technology will continue to outpace our ability to understand it. Their advice for marketing teams and individuals? To keep in mind the human-AI collaboration, asking what value the tech brings and what value you bring.

Lyon puts it like this: “When photography was invented, painters thought it would put them out of business. And instead what happened? You got the advent of impressionist art and abstract painting that was another way for creative people to express themselves.”

A question of authenticity

One of the trickier issues coming downstream is authenticity. With more content, much of which will be AI-generated, provenance will be a fundamental part of image creation, storage and distribution.

“People are beginning to realise that our current habits around what we trust and believe are based on things that aren't very reliable,” says Lyon, who grapples with these questions at the Content Authenticity Initiative.

“We’re creating a mechanism whereby people can understand where content comes from originally and how it might have been modified along its journey. It’s the digital equivalent of the nutrition labels you find on packaged goods in a supermarket. It's important today because not only has the volume of content increased exponentially, but the ability for people to decontextualise content has never been easier.” 

Realising the value of content

One final cause of optimism for marketers is that businesses are increasingly realising how much value content has financially. Wadlington explains that at JMI, digital assets are used increasingly to inform investment decisions.

“We're finally seeing the valuation of digital asset repositories being talked about in mergers and acquisitions activities. If I’m undergoing activity on either side of the fence, from buying or selling, I get an asset repository with a quarter of a million assets in it. Each one of those images cost thousands of dollars. And that arc is going up very quickly,” she says.

Corporations will also be increasingly protective over their content and creative processes. Many are investing in custom-made generative AI engines trained on their corporate data, and then protected under their own intellectual property, says Wadlington. “I do think IP attorneys are going to see a lot of business, that's gonna be a great profession to be in,” she adds.

A bright future

So, world-leading thinkers believe the future of content is a bright one. Only time will tell if these expert predictions bear fruit in the coming decade. But, for Lyon, one thing is certain: “We're only limited by our imagination. We can go anywhere we want.”

Chris Olive from Canto, Santiago Lyon from the Content Authenticity Initiative, David Lipsey from Rutgers University, Carrie Wadlington from JMI, spoke at The Content Innovation Summit 2024 presented by Canto.

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