Tech-based creativity: ‘interactive digital media’ firms employ over 10K in Ontario

TORONTO – An economic sector that incorporates pockets of the entertainment, tech, and marketing industries delivers more value to Canada’s economy than its clients and practitioners may realize.

On Wednesday, industry association Interactive Ontario released “Measuring Success: The Impact of the Interactive Digital Media Sector in Ontario,” a comprehensive report that concludes the interactive digital media (IDM) sector directly employs 10,900 full-time employees in the province; supports an additional 6000 jobs in its wider economy; and generated revenues of $1.3 billion (against expenditures of $954 million) in 2015.

It’s also a youthful sector: 86 per cent of the province’s 877 IDM companies have been founded since 2000 – nearly half since 2010 – and the average age of an Ontario IDM worker is just 32 years old.

Interactive Ontario hopes the report will spur the public, postsecondary, and private sectors to support further growth in the rapidly growing industry, whether through government funding, capital investment, or partnerships to develop and hire new talent, executive director Christa Dickenson told ITBusiness.ca.

“It’s such a young industry, the sooner we can put stakes in the ground and track growth from there, the better,” she said. “We’ve always been lumped into other reports, and we really needed to have one that specifically covered interactive digital media in Ontario.”

Of course, simply defining the IDM sector can be a challenge, she acknowledges, given that the tools at its disposal are constantly evolving. For now, Interactive Ontario’s base definition of IDM includes companies that create digital content and environments that provide users with a “rich interactive experience,” or that provide services that directly enable those experiences. Thus it presently includes video game companies and certain advertising and design firms, but not the majority of web designers, who were included in the past.

“Defining ‘interactive digital media’ and what it captures is definitely a challenge, because we’re at such a rapid pace of growth that’s never been seen before,” Dickenson said. “The sector already includes jobs that simply didn’t exist a year or two ago… so it’s possible the next report may have a completely different definition.”

That said, regular ITBusiness.ca readers will not be surprised to learn the sector is keeping up with today’s smartphone-driven marketing world, with 90 per cent of Ontario’s IDM companies focusing on mobile devices, followed by 68 per cent each on desktop devices and web browsers. Further burnishing their digital native credentials, 74 per cent are omnichannel, developing experiences for three or more platforms.

Those experiences compete impressively well on the world stage, Dickenson said, with 80 per cent of revenues coming from outside Ontario – a testament to both IDM’s lack of borders and Canada’s world-class talent.

“We’re already known as a leader in this industry, and I think we’re too modest about it,” she said. “So to have something we can finally use to raise that flag is a real feather in our cap.”

You can check out the full report here, or watch Interactive Ontario’s video summary below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of ITBusiness.ca turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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