The Digital Universe

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So this morning I read some quite astounding figures about the growth of digital content and data. Research by technology consultancy IDC estimates that the ‘digital universe’ grew by 62% last year to 800,000 petabytes (a petabyte is a million gigabytes). To put that into context, according to The Guardian that’s enough to fill 75Bn iPads and is a digital output equivalent to the entire population of the Earth tweeting continously for a century (God forbid).

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It is estimated that if you stored all human language used since the dawn of time in digital form it would only take up about 5,000 petabytes (apparently less than 1% of the digital content created since the beginning of computing). This year’s 0.8 Zettabytes (a million million gigabytes) is forecast to rise to 1.2 ZB next year and over the next decade to expand by a factor of 44.

About 70% of this digital universe is generated by individuals. Individuals who, as illustrated clearly by Mary Meeker’s Morgan Stanley Internet Trends Report (PDF), continue to move towards data rich environments. Like social:

…and mobile:

I have no philosophical conclusion for what this means for humanity beyond reflecting that I don’t think we have even begun to understand it’s implications for content producers of all kinds. Let alone what will happen as the stuff around us becomes ever more informationally connected and data generative. As Russell once said:

“All this web stuff is going to look like a picnic compared to the horrors that will be dealt to the agency and media businesses when every product has a communications channel built right in.”

My belief is that good content will always find a way. But one thing’s for sure – mediocre no longer cuts it.

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