Visual audience evolution in four screens:
4/ Online handheld devices, like the just announced Apple 'iPhone'
'Fourth Screens' like this one, look set to be the devices a lot of us carry around in the same way the iPod and other mp3 players have become ubiquitous...just a few years ago we didn't even know we wanted them, now it seems everyone's got one.
Last year I mentioned Microsoft's Origami project and speculated how it could be of use to photographers who already carry laptops, mobiles and PDA's around as an integral part of our working gear.
This Christmas I bought a 'multimedia viewer' as a gift, a fairly esoteric piece of kit, which works as a 'digital wallet' for CF card data storage, but also plays mp3's, shows stills and plays video. There are more than one make of these things, but so far they occupy a pretty small niche.
But the market reach and cachet of Apple, means their new 'Internet Communicator' looks set to be the possible tipping point for widespread use of handheld devices - defined as 'The Seventh Mass Media' - to view digital visual content.
This has profound implications for people who produce visual stuff.
Which means us.
In the past I speculated about how people already tend to use their iPods. Most people have simply thrown their entire music collection on 'em - shelfloads of LP's or CD's are now being carried around in people's pockets.
Sooo...what's the chances of people using new visual handhelds to hold personal collections of other material? Like pictures?
Sooo...how much would you pay to download say, the latest Magnum in Motion presentation? Or an illustrated biography of Eugene Smith? Or a video tutorial about Aperture? Or the latest episode of Ugly Betty?
Apples iTunes already works like this, with singles, short films and some podcasts. Again, until iTunes existed, we didn't know we wanted it, but recently iTunes recorded its 2 billionth song download and sells 58 songs a second.
Apple have also released Apple TV, a box to connect to a HDTV - again, to act as a collection hub for visual material,
which can then be sync'ed to the iPhone or an iPod Video for carrying around in your pocket.
Newspapers and TV are set to be thrown up in the air by the increasing use of visual handhelds - You Tube has already shown a massive demand for short video clips, mostly viewed (I suspect) over a cup of coffee and a sandwich at the office computer.
Well, now they'll be viewed with a cup of coffee on the tube, or train, or bus...just like reading a newspaper.
The potential audiences to be reached by visual material is potentially mindboggling in a new age of consumer defined media consumption - people will increasingly obtain visual information at times, places and in types of their choosing, NOT defined by the schedules of TV channels, or the print runs of newspapers.
It also represents a possible huge audience for photojournalism, perhaps surpassing the previous print audience...if we make efforts to engage with them via this route.