Future Focus: The Intimate content ecosystem
This is a new series of occasional insights, musings and theories I’ve been building on how the broader world around us is evolving.. more individual pov that’s supposed to make you think and react rather than data driven insights that are meant to inform.. I would love to know what you think of these so do drop me a note or hit me up on social @varunduggi
How many different subscriptions have you had in your life?
Now, I know that at first instinct your mind will scan all the video streaming platforms you've subscribed to, then some publications and stuff like that... But, I want you to think about this from a different lens...
What about school? College? Your gym or yoga studio membership?
because if you think about it, all of these are things you subscribed to ( or rather your parents did in the first two cases). You paid a recurring fee to get a service in growing your capability set ( be it intellectual or physical). And these subscription services gave you content in a live/physical space that enabled your personal growth in what can be called a Grouped content ecosystem. Your content was delivered to you in a group setting with many others... So, while it gave you value it wasn't necessarily customised to you and your needs. That's where Personal tuitions or personal training came in.. but still, you had to go to the place of activity in most cases or the person delivering the content had to come to you ( which reduced their window of scaling up their subscription base.) A trainer can only go to a limited number of clients in a day.
This slowly started unravelling with the digital economy. Educational and skill enabling content through players like ( from an Indian context) Unacademy, Upgrad, etc.. as well as phygital fitness companies like Cure.Fit ( there are tons of international examples) were enabling the individual deployment of what were traditionally grouped content activities. And then... 2020 happened.
"Nothing can happen for decades and then decades can happen in weeks"
- Vladimir Lenin/George Galloway
( there is a lot of confusion about who the above quote can be attributed to)
And suddenly, all the individual deployment players scaled up overnight. Because that was a( and is) the only way we could function. But, most of what I've said above is stuff you know... what you might have seen but not realised is the growth of another form of content that has scaled up alongside these that could change how we as human beings live, learn, work and grow. It's what I call
The Intimate content ecosystem
What the scaling up of digitally enabled content deployment has given all of us is a toolset to learn, teach & propagate anything that we might feel might give value to others in a non-public format. The critical part being "non-public"
Take Podcasts for instance, while they're deployed across platforms.. listening to them is an intimate experience.. you feel like your immersed in the content ( or rather sitting on the same table as the hosts..) which builds what I can only call a sense of intimacy that other social/video platforms do not. You, listen and learn.. you create and project information for someone to plug in and imbibe. And as many podcast hosts have done build additional exclusive courses, events, content that are delivered behind a paywall.
Another example is the resurgence of newsletters, to have something sent to you that informs you and makes you think and learn in your own time and mind in a cyclical manner which you also might have to pay for ( like a growing stream of paid newsletters do require) is built on trust and not availability.
Now add to these two the stream of learning/Edutainment platforms that allow anyone to impart learning's and skills across the most diverse topics from art to gardening, from music to mechanics, yoga to dance and from economics to comedy without ever having to leave their homes ( on both the learn and impart sides) and you can look at the intimate content ecosystem in its entirety.
The simple layers of,
Give the basics/general stuff (podcast/free newsletter) as free content
build communities ( social/ discord,etc) to whom you deliver value
Put the deeper/interactive stuff ( Paid newsletters/Live sessions/workshops/courses) behind a paywall
the fact that everyone from google to apple is getting into these models as well as the stream of journalists& beyond moving to paid substack newsletters shows that the non-traditional learning/information space is one of the biggest opportunity spaces for individuals who are willing to spend time in building content that delivers tangible value to everyone who can consume it as individuals.
And in doing so also giving everyone the ability to build to learn and earn as individuals while imparting and receiving a bespoke set of skills and information that we opt in to without the traditional constraints of physical spaces and organisations. This unbundling of what were activities that were most times relegated to the category of "hobbies" or " side gigs" can become the very things we do full time. Because think about it, we all have things that we love to do outside of our jobs which we never felt would be anything beyond "stuff we like to do" now you can connect this personal narrative to your professional narrative and build value beyond the physical constraints that the world has had around us.
Welcome to the growth of the "intimate content ecosystem"