Automation: Fuelling the ‘Second Economy’ of Media & Entertainment
By Ryan Leigh
Vice President, EMEA
This article about artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on content marketing got me thinking about the Second Economy of Media and Entertainment (M&E), including its effect on the human job landscape. The term ‘Second Economy’ describes those jobs that would have previously been done by people, but are now predominantly carried out by machines.
For example, when I was in college I worked part-time in a call centre for a large catalogue retailer; taking orders, processing payments and generally having my time monitored by a dastardly clock within a very obvious yellow screen of death every time I left my desk… A job that has been summarily (thankfully) superseded by online ordering. There are thousands upon thousands of jobs that would once have been manual, but are now supervised or monitored instead. (On my daily London commute I often hope for one or two more).
There is a similar trend in the M&E industry, where competition across the sector demands that content be produced more quickly and efficiently than ever. As a result, there is an emerging Second Economy of positions that were previously filled by skilled workers, but are now taken care of by automation and abstract concepts like ‘The Workflow Engine’.
Day to day, you’re probably familiar with algorithms editing your content for personal engagement; Facebook Trending? iOS Memories? Perhaps you hadn’t even stopped to consider it. How long then until an algorithm is used to edit a feature length film or primetime sports highlights? It seems there is a limit to what is considered ‘acceptable’ for automation at any given time, and that the limit will continue to be pushed higher and higher over time, with each new innovation gaining gradual acceptance; what was once unthinkable is now unavoidable. In that case, what’s next?
I’ve had countless discussions with prospects and clients over the past 18 months that centered almost exclusively on automation of the supply chain. It’s something that other industries nailed years ago; Just In Time (JIT) manufacturing emerged as a concept in the 60s and 70s with Toyota. A variety of factors including things like standardization (or lack of) are leading Media companies to examine the delivery of content – both in and outbound – and ask how they can become more efficient. Often a great deal of manual effort goes into the ordering and receipt of content, then chasing up, then conforming a mishmash of material into some form of standard… before passing it on to the next lucky customer to start all over again!
In my opinion there are two parts to the solution here, one is smart automation and the other is standardization.
In the short term – whether we like it or not – content will continue to be delivered in a variety of flavours. A smart system can and should interpret the required delivery spec and ensure that anything erroneous is automatically corrected (where possible), flagged for manually handling (where needed), or rejected (where necessary). Orchestration removes 90% of the headache from content acquisition, since follow ups and chasing are also done via automated emails from the system. When properly leveraged, cloud infrastructure enables direct access for suppliers to ingest and scalable processing once content arrives. Work Orders can be used to assign the appropriate priority, manage resources and report on exceptions. An investment in this kind of system should seriously reduce overheads concerned with chasing suppliers and getting content through the door in some form of recognizable format. One step closer to Just In Time manufacturing for M&E.
Longer-term, there are initiatives pertaining to the standardization of content that should – once adopted – really reduce the amount of intervention required. In our work with the Digital Production Partnership (DPP) we’ve been looking at the application of SMPTE’s Interoperable Master Format (IMF) for use in Broadcast and Online. It’s precisely this kind of standard that will enable the second – and perhaps greater – wave of automation to proliferate through M&E, because it will reduce the friction when moving content between organisations.
If Automation is the engine; Standardization is the oil between the wheels.
The Second Economy of M&E needn’t be about removing people from the equation. It’s about finding value in the human elements of production; increasing creative input and making time for real editorial decisions.
An editorial algorithm? Not on my (smart) watch.
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