Wednesday, September 06, 2023
COPA Digital Spotlight - The Changing Face of Digital.
My goodness things change so fast in digital it is so hard to keep up even for me after 35 years. The past year we have experienced some interesting developments in the digital world and I have identified some macro issues that will disrupt the market or shape its future. A couple of COPA Judges -  Jean-François Bérubé and Anik Magny have chipped in on the discussion. 

1. Facebook and Google taken to the Legislative wood shed.

The free ride of unfettered access to free content created by third party publishers is over. The theft of this content and I have been pointing this out for years to deaf hears. The news industry is grasping at a paid model, but a free to paid model is too late for some publishers. I noticed the newsstand copy of the Globe and Mail (very thin BTW) and was tempted to get one, but the cost was $4.00.

What the future holds?: The current legislation of the digital giants providing content fees to publishers is wrought with potential bear traps. How do you enforce it . Facebook just went offline for Canadian content and we are waiting to see the impact.

2. Influencers go mainstream - Only Fans becomes the new Playboy

Even though Facebook and Google take a lot of heat for their profits through their market dominance. One side effect of this is the ecosystem of “Influencers” that was created . This is a multi-billion dollar ad market that that they do not get a cut off except for the free user generated content provided for this ecosystem. The use of “Adult” content on “Only Fans” page as become the new “ Playboy” with centrefold type celebrities sharing experiences with their fans. Ya gotta say its a better deal than a print magazine subscription and sex still sells in the digital age. LOL

Advertisers targeting A 18-34 are leaning this way as the best way to reach this group. But don’t ask Budweiser of the viral side effects of this tactic from the stealth marketing activity in the USA from the left and right to shape public opinion. Traditional media have been left in the dust for this generation of consumers as this group prefers video to text, use ad blockers and are smartphone zombies. The COPAs this year added this as new category. 

Anik Magny, COPA Judge, Podcaster
The growing ecosystem of influencers is indeed something to keep an eye on. Several studies show that Generation Z is abandoning traditional media due to a lack of representation and diversity of opinion, but also out of mistrust and lack of confidence in institutions that all too often seem to follow a political agenda. As a result, they are turning to people who sound and look like them, with a variety of opinions. Some podcasts available online last for hours, so it's possible to capture the attention of Generation Z with denser content, but we need to rethink our formats and the way we deliver it. 

Traditional media don’t always maintain a bond of trust or a sense of community with BIPOC communities. The strength of influencers lies in their proximity to the public and the sense of belonging and community they are able to create, which has become almost impossible with traditional broadcasters.

3. AI Generated Content opens a New Pandora Box

This is the latest salvo by tech using AI as a tool and promising a new and better world. But AI content software vendors are being sued by book authors for content theft and the USA is looking at regulations to keep deep fakes that are occurring in the market. The movie industry is at a standstill on the use of AI and its possible use in the industry.

I am a skeptic on AI right now as it is not 100% correct, your may get three different answers to the same problems from three different software.  My brother who was an AI lab manager at Google and we discussed his work, he told me AI needs experience to work to achieve a better outcome of the 10% error rate of math. I always used the error rate of math with my brother to bug him about his work.  LOL (Math Error rate is plus or minus 10% 19 out 20 times).

BUT….I recently got casted in a commercial where I did the voiceover and script. During post production the script was changed and my voice was edited using AI. In this scenario the producers creativity is enhanced with minimal cost, so AI is here to stay

Jean-François Bérubé, COPA Judge, Content Creator
AI Generated Content has emerged as the latest technological frontier, offering a disruptive impact on a variety of industries. As with any change, many individuals are terrified or upset by it. However, AI is here to stay and will change the way we operate. AI is creating previously unimaginable opportunities and making individuals more efficient in their work. It can be a good thing in the creative process because it speeds up a lot of the phases in content creation and can be an excellent helper, removing the tedious tasks while humans handle the human activities. Having stated that, it is prudent for society to create guidelines while using such technology.

Anik Magny, COPA Judge, Podcaster
It's understandable, even natural and necessary, for artists to be concerned about the crazy rise of AI. But by talking with independent artists, particularly small production companies and non-profit organizations with a small or no staff, I saw a potential benefit in AI. Some are considering using artificial intelligence to assist them in applying for grants - a long and energy consuming process that discourages many. I found this interesting. Could artificial intelligence eventually offer the help that so many small players lack? I don't have the answer, but I found the discussion very interesting.

4. Dominance of USA Publishers in the Programmatic Ad market
The cost to play in the market is that you have to make a profit based on $2CPM or less. Pretty tough for a Canadian publishers. Agencies the big players take a blind eye as clients want a low CPM. This is not sustainable for Canadian publishers as USA based ad networks  have flooded the market with a low cost advertising that is putting Canadian publishers out of business. We need advertisers to buy Canadian. Here is a Toronto government ad that is on CNN, this should not happen.

How do we do this?
We need barriers to entry to the Canadian market to level the playing field from the cheap USA digital imports that are flooding the market. Television faced the same issues in their history with USA border stations, magazines with USA titles restirected to newsstand only and we need to do the same for digital. Canadians are too soft and polite and we need to act like a Bear with tariffs, tax deductions and sales taxes as the weapons not the ill-fated content tax that is facing major hurdles. Where is Shelia Copps when we need her!!! Buy Canadian!!!

5. Streaming Opportunities for Canadian Content Creators

Here Canada has already lost the battle to Hollywood. All the major streamers are USA based. Canada's only positive side effect is that Toronto and Vancouver have becomes hubs for USA film and commercial production outside of LA and NY. This can only be a good thing as it has fostered a independent film community that will help create the next generation of content creators in Canada for the video generation.

I had a first hand look at this new generation when I was casted as “ Human” in a Toronto Film School  production of  "Blood Sisters” produced by Jessica Duval as part the student's final thesis. The Toronto Film School is one the top film Schools in Canada and the COPAs will be reaching out to all the film schools in the country to participate in the COPA’s this year to help raise their profile. 

Jessica Duval - Producer - Blood Sisters
As a filmmaker you need like minded people to bring a story to life from the individuals in front of the camera to behind. You become family, working that many hours together.  It’s been a pleasure working with the Toronto Film School and all the students who assisted on set to already working artists in the industry traveling from as far as Ottawa to provide their expertise and join the vibes.  We as Canadians may be the cheaper route for Hollywood but we keep growing. I look forward to what the future holds for this production piece, resources are endless. A series might just be what the humans are asking for!” 

6. Wink, Wink…Criminal activity is rampant in cyberspace

Ya think with all the chatter about cyber crimes it will go away, but it has not. As Barnum and Bailey use to say, “There is a sucker born every minute” and this is still true with all the scams out there, I have come across fake movies casting calls, but this latest one is a doozy as it uses fake video testimonials about an AI software from Elon Musk, CBS and even Premier Ford.


You end up a getting a calling from a Quebec phone number, btw. These were posted on Facebook using multiple fake identities. This was a paid campaign on Facebook and they earned revenue on this. If Facebook can filter news they can filter this, but they did not. This poses the question does Facebook profit from all the scams out there?

What is the Roadmap for the Future for Content?

Anik Magny
In the years to come, it will be imperative to review the form of the products - it will no longer be possible to keep the classic 30- and 60-minute formats, for example. We need to adapt the form to the content, as well as the narrative structure, without abandoning quality content.  The notion of format came up again and again during discussions with young BIPOC in the cultural industry. Quebec television is standardized, with few types of format: 30 minutes or 60 minutes, including commercial breaks. Many are calling for a carte blanche - a freer, more fluid space with lighter subjects.

Web Series is a new form of Content
Well, I have seen a glimpse of the future, I have been working on a Web Series cast as a Asian Crime Boss this summer and it will have 100 two minutes episodes that will be available on TikTok and another web series I worked on “Pork U” (trailer link) a comedy that will be available on YouTube this fall. These independent film productions is a new wave of content outside of traditional models.

Canadian Content creators need to adapt to this new environment , but to succeed is a very challenging as the industry needs protection from the global giants that dominate the industry. We welcome your comments for further discussion.
- Martin Seto
About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the producer of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPAS) with 30 years of life expereince in technology, advertising, media and creative exploration. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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Lorene Shyba says:
Full of terrific information, Thanks!...
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