3 June 2009

Digital creative content – dawn of a new era

By Gregory Wee

(Published in’Campus & Beyond’, a weekly column written by Swinburne academics in the Borneo Post newspaper)

Digital creative content, or sometimes referred to as creative multimedia content, has been the driving force behind the success of the internet, entertainment and mobile telecommunications industry. As market penetration expands, digital devices are increasingly in need for more content, not only for entertainment purposes but also in the area of education and information. The success of iPod and iPhones is due in part to the many content and applications available out there. But how exactly has digital creative content impacted the global arena on such a large scale? How is its impact on us in the home, industry, business, and in our career?
We may have heard of this term before, or we may not have at all, but it is one of the fastest growing forces in the creative industry today. Digital creative content refers to any creative product that may be designed, produced, distributed and used, at any stage, in and through a digital form. This can include a range of creative content which involves a combination of elements such as audio, video, photographs, text and animation for the purpose of entertainment, information, research, business or education.

In other words, digital creative content can include websites, educational CD-ROMs, computer games, movies, animation and comics which are partially or solely made with a digital tool, distributed and used on platforms such as a DVD, the internet, the mobile phone or any other digital devices. This may also be extended to include navigational devices installed in vehicles or in hand-held instruments, virtual simulation systems used in flight and military training, flood and traffic management systems, and graphical user-interface systems on medical instruments, just to name a few.

The digital revolution is affecting the way we communicate, distribute and gather information, and the way we work and play. We read the daily newspapers online, do our work on the computer, communicate through email and our mobile phones, shop online, play computer games and watch movies online. Posters and billboards are now electronic displays with moving pictures, sound, animation and videos combined. The information kiosk at the shopping mall is now interactive. In some countries, the car navigation system can guide you to wherever you want to go. In the not so distant future, we all hope to be able to work from home. The need for digital creative content and its applications is far reaching and is limited only to the advancement in technology and the imagination.

Currently, the internet and mobile phones are fast gaining ground as the next playing field for new business setups and advertisers. As more and more of the younger generation (and also much older ones, I can assure you) begin to use the internet and their mobile phones more frequently, and as this becomes more entrenched into their daily routines, digital content is quickly becoming the marketing tool of this era.

We have seen how large business corporations are falling over each other in the race to maintain dominance in this new digital battlefield. Headlines such as “Google buys YouTube for US$1.65 billion” have become something very common. Almost every other week, we read headlines about some funny-sounding large corporations buying up tiny little internet startup businesses somewhere with equally funny names. And not to mention, self-made internet millionaires or billionaires are getting younger.

The digital revolution, the Internet and advancement in the field of communications have changed existing business operations and have opened up new possibilities for new ventures and ideas.

This revolution has created new business models which rely more on creative ideas rather than old-fashioned products or services, which is making it harder for traditional economists to factor into their calculations, and for older businesses to comprehend. How do you explain the successes of ideas such as Facebook and Twitter? And this phenomenon is not just happening on the global scale. In Malaysia, a small company called Nuffnang started selling small advertising spots on blogs to potential advertisers. It has since grown to a leading and respected company with offices in Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Australia.

According to MDeC, the global market value for creative content combined for 2010 is projected to reach RM280 billion for animation, RM119 billion for games, RM360 billion for special effects. The Malaysian government is fully aware of the value of this industry and has already been supporting such initiatives through its MSC Creative Multimedia Content (MSC-CMC) in giving out funding for intellectual properties, support for market access, forming strategic alliances and enhancing skill development.

Success stories through these initiatives include successful 3D animated feature film Geng Kami in 2009, the co-production between MDeC and Al-Jazeera’s Children’s Channel to produce 26 episodes of Saladin: The Animated Series, and the setting up of Hollywood’s Oscar award-winning special effects and animation Rhythm & Hues Studios in Cyberjaya in 2009, and of course the UK-based computer games design company Codemasters in Malaysia.

According to MSC Malaysia, the creative multimedia industry in the country was valued at RM2.4 billion last year. This development does not seem to be impeded by the economic slowdown. On the contrary, it is projected to reach RM3 billion by the year 2010.

Gregory Wee is a senior lecturer with the School of Computing and Design at Swinburne University of Technology. He can be contacted at gwee@swinburne.edu.my.