Monday, January 7, 2019

Enough of To Do's, Here's My To Don't List

Today I feel overwhelmed by my To-Do list. What I really need is a To-Don't list... The only problem: For a long time, I haven't had time to develop one.

With the start of a new year, I decided to identify some resolutions for things I need either to not do or to stop doing.
  1. Don't multitask. There may be some tasks when multitasking is fine -- like folding laundry while listening to a podcast -- but it often seems that multitasking takes longer to finish each of the tasks than if I handled them separately. So I'm going to try to monotask (as that a word?) -- focus on one task as time. And I will try to reduce distractions.
  2. Don't spend too much time on Twitter, Facebook, BuzzFeed. This will be a bit tricky since we help clients with social media. That said, it's one thing to be engaged on social media when working for a client and another because I'm bored or finding it hard to focus. I may have caught up with what friends are doing but I probably should pick up the phone and talk to some of those people. One strategy: to set strict limits on personal use to avoid the somewhat empty feeling I get -- the same as when I binge on junk food or crappy TV shows. 
  3. Don’t put off the work that’s tough to do or is important but less interesting. No one likes doing the hard work, the heavy lifting, the sometimes-joyless tasks. But if you put off those tasks, you’ll never get them done, and they’ll weight heavier on you. So I’m going to try to start the day doing the least appealing but important tasks first, and then reward myself by handling the things I enjoy doing. I’m hoping knowing there’s something else I look forward to as soon as I finish the unpleasant task will serve as an incentive to more efficiently get through the dreaded work.
  4. Don't break my schedule into tiny bite-size units. I have a tendency to overschedule but I've found that when I give myself permission to block out an hour or two to do a project (rather than trying to squeeze time into any available free moment), the project is better, and completed more efficiently. The challenge is that work can expands to fill the time you have allocated -- like a meeting that should take only 30 minutes but expands to an hour because that's the amount of time we all agreed to. If we get everything done in a meeting in 40 minutes, I'm going to try to end the meeting and move on to something else on my list.  
  5. Don't try to squeeze too much in. Overscheduling is a problem. The solution to back-to-back-to-back meetings and tasks isn't always to squeeze more things into less time or to multitask our way through meetings where we're paying half-attention. It gets worse if we let ourselves get distracted by emails, texts or notifications.
  6. Don't go to a meeting unprepared or without an agenda. I learned this lesson a long time ago and it's still important. You don't have to stick to the agenda but the process of thinking about an agenda and the goals for a meeting make it more productive than going in and trying to "wing it."
  7. Don’t rely on PowerPoint. When you have to give a presentation, you have to give a presentation. Sometime people feel they have to get through the presentation – so much so that they don’t interact with the others in the room. It's important to be flexible and make sure you answer when clients ask a question, even if you haven’t reached the section later in the presentation that addresses that question. It looks like you’re dismissing their concerns when you say, “I’ll get to that on slide 23.” We want sessions to be conversations rather than a droning presentation, and when clients ask questions, they’re telling you their priorities, concerns and interests, and it’s important to pay attention.
  8. Don't get caught up in crossing off everything on my to-do list. We all put a lot of pressure to get everything done but that's not always possible. Sometimes things come up that need to immediate attention. It's okay to carry some things over to another day. Especially because I should not let myself be ruled by my to-do list; for example, while I feel better keeping my desk organized, that's not a priority over more important, more immediate deadlines. So I will try to give myself permission to not cross off everything everyday -- of course, I still have to meet deadlines. 
  9. Don't get upset that most things take more time than I estimate them. Sometimes things do take longer. The information I thought I had may not be as accurate or solid as it needs to be. Or it takes more back-and-forth with a reporter to schedule an interview. Not over-scheduling may help with this.
  10. Don't continue to do the same things the same way every day -- and expect that things will turn out different. That's Einstein's definition of insanity. Some routine is okay but you can't expect things to be different if you don't try alter your routines.
  11. Don't let evaluating things delay making decisions to seize opportunities. By that I mean, make sure to think about trying new things. Look at the pros and the cons, and then don't belabor things too long. Make a decision and jump.
  12. Don't forget to check in with the team and with clients. Don't assume everyone knows the status of projects or has all the information they have to get their jobs done. Sometimes emails get overlooked or forgotten. It's important to check in to make sure everyone has current info and expectations.
  13. Don't be so busy that I can't stop and look at the bigger picture for a client, team member or myself. Sometimes it doesn't take as much time as I think to consider the big picture. I was once at a strategy workshop when the leader asked, "How much time do you think it takes to make a strategic plan for a client?" The consensus seemed to be that it would take a couple of hours. Instead, the workshop led us through an exercise that got us developing a strategic plan within the hour.
  14. Don’t hope that bad news will disappear. No one likes confrontations but it’s better to address bad news as early as possible rather than hiding your head in the sand. You need to figure a solution and address it early because otherwise it can become a bigger issue.
  15. Don't feel the solution involves more of me. I've seen this with other small businesses. The boss thinks the only solution is for him or her to spend more time on a problem. Long-term, that doesn't work but the demands on the CEO are such that we need to be able to shift gears. My business is team oriented, and I need to keep the team engaged; another way of saying this is: don't overlook the talent and insight on the team -- make sure they're empowered to offer recommendations.
  16. Don't check email, various news sites constantly. In fact, during vacations, I've turned off all notices and alerts. They're too much of a distraction. But I'm also turning off the sound for text messages and emails when I need a solid block of time.
  17. Don't watch TV or Netflix when I have other things to do. That goes with the not wasting time on social media (number 2, above) but warrants, alas, it's own bullet even if I'm just entering time sheets for client billing. 
  18. Don't forget to keep in touch with people I enjoyed working with. We all get so busy that we forget the personal -- the people we like working with. We do too much by text or by checking out their posts on social media but forget that that's not a substitute for actual conversations. Staying in touch with friends and colleagues is important even if it's not work-related.
  19. Don’t get too busy that I feel I can’t organize my desk. When you’ve got lots of deadlines, it’s easy to let things pile up on my desk. But eventually, the piles get overwhelming. When I started out, I used to joke that cleaning off my desk was basically my job: it meant that I had completed all my assignments. To an extent, that’s still true. Once I’ve filed (and throwing out or recycling is filing) things off my desk, I feel better and more organized. And I know I don’t have to clean the entire mass of piles at the end of the day; a little bit at a time is perfectly ok. So that’s what I’m going to do after posting this article.
  20. Don't try to get by with too little sleep. I will try to get more regular sleep. (Let's see how that goes.)
That's a big list, with some overlapping items. I will likely add more over time.

Meanwhile, here are a few To Do's that I want to incorporate:
  1. Set aside specific time to respond to email. Right now, I tend to let the sound of arriving emails distract me from whatever task is at hand. It can take minutes to recover from a distraction so I’m going to set aside time to answer emails. There will be exceptions such as if I’m expecting an important, time-critical email or on days when we have an important client news.
  2. Define what results look like. In other words, don’t assume everyone understands what the results should be. It’s important to spend time setting expectations in advance. At the same time, make sure the deliverables are relevant to the client so that it’s not like opening a pack of socks for your birthday when you expected an Xbox.  
  3. Keep upgrading and changing skill sets and talents to fit the needs of an ever-changing marketplace. It’s easy to be so busy that you feel you don’t have time to learn or that you’re so good, you have nothing else to learn. You can’t succeed or continue to succeed by being complacent. You’ve got to continue to learn new approaches, look for new insights and understandings as the business world evolves. Sticking to what you used to do, and doing only the things that used to work, won’t get you very far. We have a client who pivoted his business three times, moving to where the market was heading, buying new equipment and either retraining current employees to get new skills or hiring new employees who had those skills. The results: the company made the Inc. 5000 of the Fastest Growing Private Companies for three years as a 20-year-old company, when many companies’ growth starts to slow down.  
Need more motivation or insight? Here's what author Jim Collins said in a Bloomberg interview, "Good to Great Expectations: Jim Collins on getting to the next level":
"The imperative is to manage our time, not our work. This is why the whole question of balance and finishing our work is insane. There are only 24 hours in a day, so what difference does it really make if you work 10 hours or 14, given that there are a thousand potential hours of work? The real question is the incredible rigor of what goes into the hours you allocate.



"As I look at the most effective people we've studied, a 'stop-doing' list or not-to-do list is more important than a to-do list, because the to-do list is infinite. For every big, annual priority you put on the to-do list, you need a corresponding item on the stop-doing list. It's like an accounting balance.



"I’ve found that real change comes from genuine displeasure with oneself.  Anything less -- including the usual 'I really need to...lose weight/get organized/exercise more often...' won’t survive the inevitable periods of stress we all experience at one point or another."  
For other tips to be productive, check out the following:
I'm not a productivity expert and this list is more for me than trying to preach about some system to others, which is why I'm posting it on my blog (as opposed to trying to publish it somewhere). 

I will try to check back at the end of the year to see how I did. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

9 Political Trends (Without Getting Political About Them)

Happy New Year (we hope). We don’t usually make predictions about politics, and we’re not about to change that now. 

That said, there are some issues that touch on politics that will get attention. We mention them below (but not the partisan issues) because these are topics reporters will cover in 2019. (We also broke out some of these trends under our finance sector trends.)


1.   The state of the economy, including a volatile stock market, trade wars, trade deals and tariffs, taxes, deficits and unemployment will get a lot of attention in 2019. We’re not taking sides, merely pointing out what to expect will be top of mind. Recession watch will increase, after 37 quarters of the longest expansion. China will be a big part of the story. (Please note: when we wrote this, in early December, we didn't think there would actually be a partial government shutdown due to a lack of funding for the border wall -- so we got that part wrong -- but there has been growing attention paid to the financial impact of the shutdown on the economy, the furloughed federal employees and others hurt by the shutdown, and we feel the financial impact of the shutdown will be trending.)

2.  Brexit, if it happens, will be big news. It will happen but we think it won’t deliver on the promised benefits. London's role as a finance capital will also be evaluated and discussed in the media. (It is an important issue because as much as many feel that employees can operate remotely, location still matters to finance companies.)

3.  Student debt levels and Millennial’s financial habits. Expect to see articles about how student loans will impact down-the-road growth since millennials, who may be underemployed or working a part-time with a couple of side gigs, may not be able to afford to purchase homes.

4.  The state of healthcare will get attention. Again, not taking sides (although it seems important to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions) but in the buildup to 2020, there’s going to be a lot of discussion about what healthcare should look like. Expect continued concerns about drug prices with not enough understanding of the costs of drug development, which can take a decade and investments exceeding $2 billion.

5.  Election reforms will get discussed on op-ed pages. Still not taking sides (although it seems important not to suppress votes in a democracy) but poorly designed ballots, early voting, absentee ballots, machines that don’t breakdown while offering a paper trail, and enough polling places in poor neighborhoods are issues certain to be reported on in 2019.

6.  Climate control and extreme weather will be a big story. After a record hot year a more wildfires, hurricanes, floods, heat waves, etc., 2019 will see more debate and coverage about rising sea levels and how to protect people and property, manage Federal and state lands and what we can do or should do and the Paris Agreement. We don’t necessarily expect progress or solutions (in 2020, that will depend on who’s elected president) but the topic will be get a lot of media attention.

7.  Gun control and the state of the NRA. In 2018, the NRA reported a $55 million drop in revenues. We don’t think the NRA is on the ropes, financially, nor politically, despite some 39 new Democrats in the House of Representative. But at a time when schools routinely schedule lockdown practices and people aren’t safe in temples and churches from gun violence, we do believe there will be discussion/coverage in the media in 2019 about what can be done.

8.  The 2020 campaign will unofficially begin in 2019. This is obvious but we feel there will be a lot more coverage of presidential politics in 2019 than during any year prior to the actual presidential election. We’re not going to make any other predictions.

We've tried not to take sides, and hopefully we succeeded. These eight trends will eat up airtime and ink so we feel it's important to at least acknowledge them because it means that the media may not have the resources to cover your story.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

9 Finance & FinTech Trends for 2019

Each year we look at trends that will be relevant to our client base. Since a significant portion of experience has been with financial software companies, financial services and FinTech, here are 9 trends we think will be important in 2019:
  1. Trade wars, tariffs trade deals, globalization, deficits and the state of the economy will be a big story. China will be a big part of the story. And recession watch will be a significant angle, after 37 quarters of the longest expansion in U.S. history. For example, we expect a lot of how- to-prepare-for-the-coming-recession articles. We're not going to predict how the economy goes -- though an uncertain economy combined with a volatile stock market doesn't look good -- just that it will clearly a big story in 2019. 
  2. Brexit matters but not from a political perspective but for what it means for London. Our interest here isn't in the political implications. We feel that there will be a lot of coverage regarding the impact on London as an important finance center. Finance firms and those that provide services to them may find they need to shift their European offices from London to some other EU city. We would have bet that Germany would be the most logical successor to London, but with uncertainty around what happens after Merkle, we will want to hedge that bet. (Though compared to the unrest in France, Germany still looks like a better choice.) 
  3. A big year in iPOs? Some high profile unicorns -- including Uber (currently valued at $72B) & Lyft ($15B), Slack ($10B) and maybe Airbnb ($31B) are looking like they'll go public in 2019. There will be a lot of attention paid to how they do with the idea that their IPOs serve as a market indicator. That may not be accurate. Moderna went public this month and raised $604M, valuing the company at approx. $7.5B. But the stock immediately fell below its initial asking price. So hard to read the tea leaves on that. If they delay their IPO, that, too, will generate coverage -- and tell us something about the market.
  4. FAANG stocks will continue to generate ink. FAANG stocks are: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, and they will continue to dominate media coverage because a significant majority of Americans rely on them for information and entertainment. That's not going to change in 2019. (Keep in mind at least one of those companies isn’t profitable.) That said, Microsoft has almost stealthily become one of the most valuable companies but adding M to the acronym makes it unpronounceable. 
  5. The Cannabis market is growing strong. One issue that really hasn’t gotten attention: Because under federal law, pot is still illegal, the cannabis market remains a cash business – even in states that have legalized it. We expect three topics to get coverage: 1) Will banking laws change to allow legal cannabis retailers to accept credit card payments? 2) How much taxes is legal cannabis sales generating for each state? 3) How does HR handle employees who are work while high?
  6. Student debt is a big issue and will continue to get coverage. This is an ongoing story that we include in our list because, while obvious, if we did not mention it, someone might gleefully knock us for not mentioning such an important issue.
  7. The allure of the heartland for business and investment. The Midwest and other parts of the country that are not on the coasts have been slowly but steadily getting coverage over the past two years as being great, overlooked alternatives to expensive, overheating markets like San Francisco/Silicon Valley, New York City, etc. We think those articles will continue to hit in 2019. We also think economics of the heartland will take on additional importance as the 2020 elections approach, and voters, reporters and politicians realize there's still a strong feeling of have-notism among residents in rural communities. 
  8. The evolution of FinTech. Consumer-focused financial tech startups, known as FinTech, began as concepts to disrupt traditional banks by offering digital-first financial services. But because of the complexity, the initial wave of FinTechs focused on banking function at a time. We've reached a point when Fintechs are in a position to combine more offerings that are smarter, more dynamic and interactive than traditional banks' website or app functionality, offering new ways to bank, invest, pay and manage mortgages, track spending, etc. In 2019, we expect more FinTechs to be acquired by traditional banks but not just because of the FinTech's technology but because they provide access to millennials who may not be thrilled with traditional banks. There's also B2B FinTechs, which provide services to banks. We expect those to grow in importance but will be hard for them to get coverage outside of when they're acquired because they play a very behind-the-scenes role.
  9. The state of bitcoin. Bitcoin and blockchain went mainstream in media coverage in 2018 (as we predicted) and will continue to generate coverage in 2019. In a time of daily political chaos, we think more people will be interested, there will more skeptical coverage trying to make sense of the bitcoin market. We think it will continue to defy logic but that won't stop people from investing in bitcoins or the market reducing its volatility. 
Let us know if you think. We will publish another set of predictions in early January so stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

4 Additional Media Trends for 2019: including "News Fatigue"

We live in a media-centric world. And by "we," we certainly mean Birnbach Communications but we also mean Americans. That's true even as:
  • Traditional media has been facing a tough time because their business models have been failing, despite a significant uptick in the demand for news.
  • Digital media isn't the sure thing it was once thought to be, despite the lack of traditional media's baggage (like lack of printing presses).
  • Local media outlets have been shutting down, despite the common wisdom that hyperlocal was a solution.
  • People aren't reading newspaper content on paper (but on screens) or watching TV shows on TV (but on screens).
Last week, we issued our top five media trends that included: the rise of streaming content; the age of mass media is dead; the broken business model and the rise of "news deserts"; social media under scrutiny; and more apps will try to fight/block fake news.

But we have more -- yes, more -- media predictions. Keep in mind that some of these are based on predictions we made for 2018 but it's important to note that we believe this trends will continue, which is why they didn't make our top 5 but why we're included them here:
  1.  The shorter/faster news cycle is distracting Americans and causing news fatigue. We're suffering from news fatigue -- overwhelmed by news notifications on our phones that seems to buzz every hour. There’s never enough time to process significant news before we’re buzzed by the next alert (that may not be relevant). News is so pervasive it overtakes previously non-politicized events like sporting events, entertainment industry award ceremonies, family holiday meals, etc. That buzz is so addictive that people actively check social media to get the latest shocking news. Even reporters who don’t cover politics flood their social media timelines with political news (regardless of their political beliefs), making it harder to get their attention when pitching them. The 24/7 distraction also makes it harder for people to pay attention to your story – so it may take more touchpoints to break through the clutter.
  2. The incredible shrinking newsroom. A decade ago, most newsrooms used to employ more reporters to cover the news, and the amount of pages that newspapers and magazines had to fill was larger. Today, news reporters have to cover more news with fewer resources and less space. Locally, at the Boston Business Journal, a terrific weekly, staff reporters typically file four or so stories a day, may have a weekly newsletter they produce and then must write a longer article for the weekly printed edition. Radio reporters now also have to write up a print story for the website in addition to producing their stories for the radio. All of this is to say that there are fewer reporters and they have to produce much more. This makes it challenging for them to take meetings, cultivate sources, uncover stories that need to be told. According to the UNC School of Media and Journalism's Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, the result of all this is that "Many newspapers have become ghosts of their former selves, both in terms of the quality and quantity of their editorial content and the reach of their readership." (See credibility issues, below.)
  3. The credibility of news media is under attack. There is at least one area of commonality between liberals and conservatives: each group has key media it favors (due to confirmation bias, i.e., their echo chamber) and those outlets whose reports they disagree with and don't believe. Americans increasingly hate either Fox or CNN; the New York Times or Wall St. Journal, for example. With Trump and others calling articles they don't like "Fake News" or "the enemy of the people," and people on the other side pointing to Hannity (who had said he wouldn't campaign for Trump but then came out on stage at Trump's last rally before the midterms), etc., the problem is that the credibility of journalist and media outlets across the spectrum is now being questioned.  That's a real problem for PR functions and agencies who work with reporters, editors and producers to tell their clients' stories. If there are those who disbelieve the New York Times or Wall St. Journal, will they believe your organization's news in those or other outlets? Seems doubtful. 
  4. The war on screen time. There will be greater acknowledgment that we’re all on screens too much throughout the day. It’s a problem for everyone, not just adults. We expect more people – suffering from news fatigue, will turn off notifications on their phones so they don’t get interrupted/distracted as much. And somewhat ironically, there will be apps, like Apple’s "Screen Time" and Google’s "Family Link," a parental controls app, that will help you manage your screen addictions.
We've previously mentioned news fatigue in posts about living in the "Age of Anxiety" and are including it in our 2019 set of predictions because we think both will continue (we're not out of the anxiety woods yet and were going to continue to suffer from news fatigue for some time to come.

We will post more of predictions over the next few weeks. Let us know what you think.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

3 Wall St. Journal Articles Validate Our "Age of Anxiety" Prediction

Back in Nov. 2018, we blogged about a new prediction: "Age of Anxiety to Continue into 2019." 

The factors leading to the Age of Anxiety include:
  1. What can seem like a continuous cycle of breaking news. Each hour we got another notification on our phones about another piece of news. The notifications can feel like they're hitting so often that we don't have time to process what happened an hour ago, leaving us feeling unsettled.
  2. The continued proliferation of fake news, by which we mean disinformation -- intentionally false news spread deliberately (not merely news that one politician or another disagrees with) -- is succeeding in creating an atmosphere of distrust of news, politicians, institutions and each other.
  3. The spread of misinformation -- wrong or incorrect information that is spread but not necessarily with the intent to deceive -- on social media is polarizing and causes distrust, which leads to anxiety. Social media also spreads anger as people inside one bubble get increasingly angry at people in another bubble.
  4. Uncertainty about the economy, the future of healthcare (including key features people like: keeping kids on parents' policies until age 26 and coverage for people with pre-existing conditions), etc. leave people anxious.
There are other factors but for this blog, the key point we also made in that prediction is:
Consumers are looking for less stress, and we expect articles about unplugging and de-stressing. We also expect that companies that can position their products or services as helping to reduce stress, will see those messages resonate with consumers (even if that approach is not necessarily newsworthy on its own, i.e., it might not generate media coverage even as that approach could be effective). 
We are advising our clients to look at how they can help reduce stress and anxiety through their products and services. 

Meanwhile, here are three Wall St. Journal articles that appeared yesterday and today that validate our prediction:
  1. Inner Peace Is a Booming Business though the columnist adds a cynical perspective: "Voices calling you to ‘find your escape’ are likely seeking a buck like everyone else." We think cynical plays won't work but the headline affirms our prediction.
  2. The Battle to Control Your Mindfulness: A pair of apps preach relaxation to millions of customers -- but the competition between them is anything but Zen.
  3. The Benefits (and Risks) of the Mental-Health Day. More workplaces are allowing time off for employees facing stress, anxiety or depression, but not all bosses are understanding of their workers’ needs.
Mindfulness has been getting increasing play over the past few years, and we expect that to continue in 2019.
Please note: we realize that by pointing out that we're living in the Age of Anxiety, we're not necessarily making people less anxious. But we think it is important to understand the moods and trends. 

Please also note: When we say "validated," we don't mean that the Wall St. Journal saw our prediction and said, "Yes, those folks at Birnbach Communications are correct." We mean that we made the prediction, and then the Wall St. Journal wrote about articles that touched on a particular trend, proving we were right in making our prediction.


Monday, December 17, 2018

Our Year in Review for 2018

In the spirit of that quote from Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it," we're taking a look at some highlights from 2018.



We correctly predicted that the news cycle would get faster and shorter -- that is: instead of a 24-hour news cycle (which was the case until about a decade ago), we now have news that breaks hourly. Or it seems to break hourly. And then the significance of the news dissipates in less time than ever. In 2018, there were just a couple of news stories that played out over a week. Must were forgotten the next day. 

So as a way to remember good things that happened, to look around, here are some highlights of Birnbach Communications' year:
  1. We generated nearly 36 bylined articles (for our clients and ourselves) this year -- nearly as many as we did in the last two years combined. This represents a growth in our thought leadership practice.
  2. Blog articles we wrote for clients continued to drive traffic to their sites. For one client, traffic in 2018 increased substantially over the prior year. We generated 95.46% more visitors than 2017 and saw an increase of 95.24% in terms of new users in 2018 to the site as compared to 2017. The number of pageviews increased by 37.95%. For context, we worked for the client in 2017, too, so it's nice to see continued growth for them. 
  3. In our second year working for a STEM non-profit, we came up with new ideas to extend their reach. Our recommendation to develop a turn-key press release for the non-profit's partners was successful and generated more than 80 articles in local, education and national media.
  4. We helped a client manage an acquisition by a global player that's little known in the U.S. Our work helped generate ongoing coverage of the deal and its implications. Our strategy successfully generated coverage and traffic to the site.
  5. We helped generate awareness around funding announcements for clients operating in AI/robotics, healthcare and fintech sectors. 
  6. We generated international coverage for a non-profit and provided PR recommendations for an international scientific research institute.
  7. We expanded our experience into agtech, fintech and finance, AI and robotics. 
  8. We have strengthened our positioning in thought leadership.
Our work in 2018 helped raise the profile of our clients among key constituencies, drive traffic to their site and supported lead-gen activities. Our thought leadership campaigns led to an acquisition and positioned our client as forward-thinking in their sectors. 

We look forward to continued growth in 2019, and wish you the same. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Birnbach Communications Issues Five Media Predictions for 2019

For the 17th year, here are our top media, social media and marketing predictions for 2019. It is a disruptive time for the media, bringing both chaos and opportunities.

Without further ado, here are five of the agency’s top 5 media trends for 2019:

1.      The growing number of streaming content services make consumers harder to reach. The number of people who stream content as well as the number of apps providing on-demand content is rapidly growing. Already 61 percent of Americans, age 18 to 29, regularly watch or listen to what they want, where and when they want it, according to Pew Research. Apps for CBS, TBS, NBC and ABC are ad supported – only by national brands – but more dominant services including Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, YouTube Red, and Spotify Premium are ad-free, putting their subscribers out of reach for marketers.

2.      The age of the mass media is mostly over. It’s a niche world now. Partly that’s because marketers can now reach very specific audiences, along with nanoinfluencers, since online media can tailor content by gender, age, interest, political persuasion, etc. (Unfortunately, print media also is increasingly becoming niche, due to an ongoing reduction of the number of pages and size of their news staff combined with an increase in subscription rate.) In 2019, it’s complicated and expensive to reach a broad audience so marketers need to consider targeting key audiences through niche media.

3.      The broken business model for news will cause continued problems in 2019, including an increase in “news deserts.” It’s not only print media that will struggle in 2019, online media will struggle, too. The reason: online subscription fees are lower than print subscriptions and online ads generate less money that print ads (even though online ads provide much more useable data). We expect, unfortunately, more layoffs, smaller printer runs, smaller and less frequent issues – both online and in print. In 2019, we're going to see a growing number of "news deserts," defined by the UNC School of Media and Journalism's Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, as "a community, either rural or urban, with limited access to the sort of credible and comprehensive news and information that feeds democracy at the grassroots level." News deserts are a problem because it means communities aren’t getting critical information related to civic life, government services, etc.

4.      Social media will continue to undergo scrutiny and it won’t look good. And despite that, people still won’t quit Facebook, Twitter, etc. amid growing concerns about privacy and disinformation campaigns. We expect Congress and the EU, the UK and other governments to look to regulate social media. But we also expect that most won’t be able to regulate effectively because most politicians don’t have a firm grasp of how social media works. There will be more hearings but not many solutions because it’s a complex issue that algorithms alone can’t solve.

5.      More apps will try to combat fake news. Already there are at least a dozen initiatives – with names like The Trust Project, News Integrity Initiative NewsGuard, The Journalism Trust Initiative, Accountability Journalism Program, Trusting News, Trust & News Initiative and the oddly named Media Manipulation Initiative. Many are funded and staffed by journalists and also use algorithms to detect fake news. We hope they succeed but suspect they’ll be as successful as Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter have been to fight hate speech -- which is to say: not very effective but better than nothing. (A.I. will get a lot of attention but trust in algorithm will decline.) In the meantime, Axios’s Jim VandHei offered some suggestions: Stop using the term – it doesn’t help. And people should “Quit sharing stories without vetting them.” (We don’t think that will happen, either.)



In addition to these media predictions, we will roll out additional trends focusing on technology, fintech, artificial intelligence, retailapoclypse, the labor shortage and gig economy, and other topics here on our blog at blog.birnbachcom.com.

Please let us know what you like or disagree with. We'd love to hear from you. As usual, next November, we will evaluate how we did with this year's predictions.