_Ian Kelso is an interactive producer, strategist and the Principal at “Modern World Communications”:http://www.modworld.com/, a Toronto-based interactive production and development firm. He is also President and a founding board member of the New Media Business Alliance “(NMBA)”:http://www.nmba.ca a member-based not-for-profit industry association representing interactive digital media content production companies in Ontario._
*One Degree: What is the NMBA up to these days?*
We are in the midst of a very busy and exciting period at the moment. NMBA is developing a number of new programmes and services including a new conference, a monthly networking event, an online industry directory and the return of our popular iLunch case study series. In August we moved to a new office and hired a communications and membership coordinator so now there are three of us working more or less full-time.
Over the past year we have also co-founded a national umbrella association — the Canadian Interactive Alliance — with 7 other New Media organizations from across Canada. One of our first projects — which NMBA is managing — is a national economic profile of the industry due out this spring.
*One Degree: How has your mandate changed since your inception in 2001?*
It hasn’t changed that much really. We started NMBA to fill a niche. In the late 90s interactive content had lost some of its cachet in the over-stimulated fervour around e-commerce and e-business. At the time Toronto was rife with industry groups yet none of them were dedicating much time to the business of content production. NMBA began as more or less a forum to discuss interactive product development and commercialization. I guess we were the true believers — that content would always be the core reason people spent their time consuming interactive media.
*One Degree: The web is becoming more of a social environment these days. Many of us use blogs, feeds, IM, social networks and other new technologies to stay connected and find others with similar interests. Is there still a role for “real world” associations and physical gatherings?*
Absolutely. Though each of these technologies plays a highly valuable role in facilitating, developing and managing relationships, there is nothing quite like a bunch of live humans getting together in a room! I do think however that associations must recognize that their role is changing. They need to identify areas where they are able to contribute real value-added services and try not to duplicate existing networks. Rather they should aggregate, facilitate and focus them on specific goals.
*One Degree: What major trends do you see in online content in Canada?*
Certainly mobility is coming of age – finally. It is transforming television and gaming the same way that it did voice several years ago. And portable entertainment makes the media experience much more individualized (portable devices tend not to be shared and certainly aren’t great to gather around with a bucket of popcorn). We can now pull together almost all of the pop culture media that defines us into one device and carry it will us wherever we go. Mobile still lacks the speed of broadband though, so it may still take several years before we can call it a truly mass entertainment medium.
On the other hand the web and the console still have a lot of possibilities that I think are unexplored. As Flash continues to become more of a development platform and game consoles create richer and higher definition experiences we will still look to them for the most immersive content for some time to come.
I think the trend for the next few years will continue to see the fragmentation of the TV audience except where it is long-form and based on spectacle (sports, long-form drama, reality TV) and the movement of informational and comedy programming more to the podcast and streaming video. Games of all types will be developed for broader and broader audiences and we will see average time spent increase dramatically on all game platforms in the next five years.
*One Degree: Is there a role for the government in protecting or promoting Canadian content on the Internet as they do in other media?*
I think so. To me it’s about investing and developing the wherewithal for companies to create interactive products that can succeed and compete both nationally and globally. The best Canadian content is that which is produced with our own talent and expertise and consumed all over the world. I think we as Canadians take a lot of pride when this happens. Now we may be hard pressed to compete head to head with the giant media-making machine from south of the border. They are great at marketing a monolithic type of content that is driven by a very sophisticated understanding of the human desire for success and celebrity. You might say it is “Brand America” — their content is their culture. We need to develop our niches.
In Canada we are of course saturated with U.S. content on all platforms and have been for many years. Yet most Canadians still see value in ensuring that we consciously carve out some space for our own cultural expression. (If they didn’t, believe me we wouldn’t have a CBC or Canadian content regulations.) And I truly believe producers need access to their national markets to develop viable products and gain the experience and the expertise to enable them to export. This means that we must mould public policy to ensure that at least a good portion of what we do create nationally is also marketable to the rest of the world. We must find our own “Brand Canada” in the interactive space and promote the hell out of it.