With January almost over and people now getting back into the routine of work, now is a good time to review the web technologies which you should be embracing this year. These are the technologies I feel will help you push ahead as a media organisation in 2013 and set you apart from the competition.

Responsive design

Responsive Design is where websites are designed to automagically fit the content to the screen size. This is done by placing everything in a grid, and allowing each column to dynamically resize. Rather than measuring items as pixels and points, you use the good ol’ percentage and em.

With the explosion of mobile devices, it’s no longer acceptable to have your website fixed at 1000px wide. If you’ve ever tried to read a fixed-width website on your phone, you know how painful it can be – If you zoom in to get the text at a reasonable size, you then have to scroll left and right.

The term “responsive design” was coined 2010, but now it has finally started to take off in 2012. Sites such as Mashable, Microsoft and Google News are all mainstream sites who have adopted the responsiveness. (This Media Realm website is also responsive – try resizing your browser window and see what happens with the content).

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles to Responsive Design now is not the technology, but the mindsets of designers and developers. If you’re embarking on any website projects this year, I encourage you to talk to your web developer about how to make the site responsive.

HTML5 players

HTML5 is taking off, and is making it a lot easier to embed cross-browser and cross-platform players into a web page. You can now build highly customised, unified experiences for your users. Wether you’re serving on demand audio and video, or streaming it live, there are now stable technologies you can utilise.

Gone are the days of linking to your streaming URL and expecting the client’s browser to handle it, or push it off to a widely used client (I’m looking at you: Windows Media Player). Also gone are the days of embedding a flash player on a web page and expecting that to be adequate.

If you’re wanting to get started with HTML5 streaming media, take a look at MediaElement.JS. This Javascript player is highly customisable, and handles most of the compatibility issues for you (hint: it includes a flash fallback player which it can swap in seamlessly).

Spotify

Spotify opens up a few new possibilities for media organisations. By building a native app, you can curate and share music with the masses without needing to worry yourself with music licensing. If you’re working for a radio station, there is also the possibility to build an app which makes available all of the songs you play. I’ve been prototyping an app in my ‘spare time’ which does just that, and it looks promising.

From a marketing perspective, Spotify is a good opportunity to increase time spent engaged with your brand, and also perhaps attract some more people into the brand.

Spotify probably isn’t a platform you should embrace as a priority, but it’s more than worth looking into.

Geo-targeted content

Geo-targeting content to mobile users has the potential to be one of the more profitable new technologies you could embrace this year. Apps such as ShopperNova have shown people actually want to receive targeted advertising – over 500,000 people so far! By creating a similar platform linked into your own brand, you can tap into this new engagement opportunity and revenue stream.

Second-screen

This is technically more of a TV term, but I couldn’t think of a name to give it for a radio context.

Have you ever asked listeners/viewers to interact with you on your Facebook page? If so, you are already utilising the second screen. Why not strengthen that multi-screen experience by building opportunities for interaction into your own websites and native apps?

Using Facebook and Twitter certainly has it’s benefits, but you can only do so much with them. There is also the small issue that plugging these social networks possibly does more to build their brand than yours (you mightn’t think of it as harmful, and for the most part I don’t either, but I can’t help but wonder how these sites will transform as they try and turn a larger profit).

By building opportunities for interaction within your own platforms, you can increase engagement, control the message more, and provide a steady stream of content for your own websites (by placing those comments and discussions in the main stream of content, rather than placing it in a small widget on your sidebar).

Audio and Video On Demand

I feel the long time staple of a media organisation’s website – the humble podcast – is on it’s way out. It’s cousin, On Demand Audio and Video, is waiting and ready to take over.

This is more about the shifts in ways people are consuming content than the specific underlying technologies. Yes, podcast feeds themselves will be around for ages, and the actual content will still be produced and uploaded. However, the linear fashion of accessing this content needs to change.

Podcasts are organised into “feeds” and then typically sorted by date. However, people rarely seek out content based on the date or name of a show. By moving away from the old-fashioned podcasting way of thinking, we can re-organise the content around subject matter, popularity, significance, and relevance.

Audio and Video content should be tagged, categorised, and transcribed to increase it’s searchability and unlock it’s potential.

Big Data

With all the recent articles of Obama’s election victory and how he used so called ‘Big Data’ to get there, I can’t help but wonder how media organisations can start to unlock the potential in the data they have (or can get hold of) about their audience.

I think this is of particular relevance to Not for Profits who can begin to segment their below-the-line fundraising campaigns in ways never thought possible. Imagine linking your donor database with social networking data with online survey results with online listening/viewing habits with competition entries. There’s a heck of a lot of data out there, and it’s now just a matter is breaking down the information silos and joining the dots. I believe organisations capable of harnessing this effectively will see results never thought possible.

Mega Drop-down Menu

This is more of a design trend than a technology, but I still think it’s awesome so I’m going to put it here at the bottom of my list. Have you seen the main navigation structure of sites such as NBC, Channel Ten, and NPR? Rather than display a list of links, their menus go further and actually organise content in a meaningful way within their drop downs.

I think I like NBC’s menu the best. In their schedule drop-down, you can see the prime time schedule for Today and Tomorrow, as well as find last night’s shows and the full schedule.

Within NPR’s menu you can listen to news, add programs to playlists, and view a categorised list of shows.

These Mega Menus remove a layer of navigational complexity by displaying more organised content up front.

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a IT Professional, Broadcast Technician, Software Developer, and Solutions Engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008, and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I provide freelance services through Media Realm - in particular, to the media and not-for-profit industries.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden