Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Birnbach Communications' Top Predictions for 2012, Part 2

Here's Part 2 of our predictions:
  1. Shifting to more efficient light bulbs in 2012 will not cause the end of the world. Last year, there were a lot of published complaints about the fact that legislation signed by President Bush would replace the traditional 60-watt incandescent light bulb with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs or LED fixtures. The New York Times and Wall St. Journal both ran stories about consumers stockpiling traditional 60-watt incandescent bulbs. Guess what: The deadline for shifting to more efficient bulbs came, and suddenly it became a non-story. We don’t expect there to be much coverage this year as people realize the alternatives do actually deliver decent white light. (Please note: we represent a manufacturer of sustainable architectural LED-based fixtures.)
  2. Academic integrity will continue to be important to deal with cheating scandals. With many Americans unemployed or underemployed going back to school, we expect more will take online courses for convenience.  But because of competition among job seekers, people will look for programs that ensure academic integrity of their tests – and those academic institutions will turn to technology to monitor tests to ensure there’s no cheating. As more school districts open up virtual academies for students K-12, expect that academic integrity will become important even at the elementary and junior high school levels.
  3. The most overused phrase in 2012 could be: lean-back/lean-forward user experiences.  Lean-back activities are those in which users passively access content, like watching TV. Lean-forward activities are those in which the user is actively engaged in consuming content, as when they’re searching for content on the Internet or via an app. Lean-back activities can last as long as it takes to watch a sitcom or movie, while the attention span for lean-forward activities tends to be much shorter.  While useful, LB/LF leaves out one other way people now access content: standing in line, holding their smartphone in the position that Jerry Seinfield described as modified chipmunk: with hands chest high and head bent to check out their screen. Of course that amounts to the same thing: short attention spans. LB/LF is important as content developers look at how to best present their content. Also expect to hear a lot of about ultrabooks – PCs as sleek and thin as Macbooks. We expect that Post-PC will be a term we’ll hear a lot in 2012, given the exploding popularity of tablets, especially iPads. 
Let us know if you agree or disagree. Check back tomorrow for additional predictions or click here for Part 1 predictions.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Birnbach Communications' Top Predictions for 2012, Part I

We've been issuing annual predictions going back a decade now. Our goal is to help our clients more effectively understand and engage on topics of interest for social media.

We will be rolling out our 2012 list of trends over the next two weeks. Here are the first few:

  1. The desire to be connected 24/7 may change in 2012. You almost never have downtime anymore, and people are beginning to notice that’s not all good.  Sure, if you are waiting in line at the post office or bank (something today’s kindergarteners won’t do by the time they hit college), you’ll be able to check email, play an app, text your friend, or make a call. But this lack of downtime may negatively impact our ability to concentrate and avoid distractions at work and at home. The recognition that we actually need to disconnect, that we need downtime, is likely to generate coverage this year. Already a handful of companies have limited email, both during the day and after hours – and we think more will join those ranks. We also think the concept of going on vacation without access to email or cell will become more of a status symbol because it now takes a lot of money to disconnect yourself from your regular workday.
  2. We may be immersed in social media, but we’ll spend less time with actual people. So many people use social media sites – from Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn, to Pinterest and Quora and more -- that people have less time to spend with their friends and family. We’re not sure if this will get much media coverage, but we’ve seen some books addressing the topic (like last year’s “Alone Together” by MIT Professor Sherry Turkle). We expect more attention will be paid as kids in schools face a new way to feel alienated.
  3. Value will be king in 2012. Upscale consumers, suffering from frugal fatigue, have started spending again.  But for the 99% of us -- a phrase that will be popular throughout 2012, due to the presidential election -- will continue to look for value. That bodes well for Groupon, LivingSocial and other sites offering discounts. However, some companies have complained that they’ve lost money on their promotions through Groupon, so a question in 2012 could well be: “Do group discounts actually generate a return for companies?” Expect two other questions this year: “Will Groupon turn out to be a good investment since its Nov. 2011 IPO at $20?” and “How many e-coupon sites do consumers want or need?”
Let us know if you agree or disagree. And check back tomorrow for additional predictions.

Monday, January 16, 2012

2011 Trends Report Card, Part III

Here's the final part of our report card:
  • The rules for social media will continue to evolve -- rapidly. Our point: Companies are still learning how to navigate social media, which gives newbies the opportunity to jump in, and to learn from what others are doing well as well as from mistakes others have made. One challenge remains: staying ahead of the range of sites, which can rise and fall in popularity...like the once dominant Friendster. Google-Plus launched in 2011 after some high profile social media failures on Google's part, but which generated 65 million users in a few months. So Google-Plus has quickly become a site that businesses should consider as part of their social media strategy. It's not to late to sign up, but it does mean another site to pay attention to, in addition to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
  • There weren't media stories directly about this but in 2011, companies were judged by how quickly they respond to social media situations.  For example, when Kenneth Cole posted an offensive tweet about protests in Cairo during the Arab Spring, it took him six hours to respond to criticisms.  The story became focused on the amount of time it took Cole to respond. Overall: A.
  • We said the press release would not die in 2011, and we feel that it didn't, even as some companies used Twitter to issue news.  We feel that the press release will continue to be relevant in 2012.
  • Traditional media did move to a stable, if fragile, footing in 2011, as we predicted. 
  • While there were more apps designed to allow viewers to interact with other viewers while watching TV, these apps are more for avid fans and did not exactly become common. Perhaps that's because it's an uncomfortable combination of lean-back activities like watching TV and lean-forward activities like using a computer. (Expect to hear a lot of people talk about lean-back/lean-forward activities in 2012.) We overstated this one. Grade: B-.
  •  Hybrid, mashup and curation were used a lot in 2011, but they were not the most overused words. According to Lake Superior State University, the list of most overused words include: Amazing, Occupy, baby bump and man cave. I really dislike the last two. Grade: B.
  • We were right about some of the top stories -- the economy, health care, politics, and the battle among Google vs. Apple, etc. (Check out an excellent Fast Company cover story that further validates this prediction: The Great Tech War Of 2012: Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon battle for the future of the innovation economy.)  We were wrong about 3D TVs -- not much media interest when there did not seem to be much consumer interest in the technology.Oprah's network, OWN, got some coverage, but was not a major story -- just as it did not turn into a major cable network. Yet. (Don't bet against Oprah.) Overall grade: B+.
We'll publish more of our annual predictions tomorrow. In the meantime, you can check out all our 2011 predictions here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.

Friday, January 13, 2012

2011 Trends Report Card, Part II

Here are more grades on some of the trends we predicted for 2011.
2011: The year of the app-based media subscriptions. Pricing for app-based subscriptions were a big issue for publishers, but many now produce free apps that enable either per-issue (for a fee) access or free access for print subscribers. Some publishers have not figured things out, charging more on a per-electronic copy than for a per-print copy. Slowly more subscriptions are available on the iPad's Newsstand, which is great in that it aggregates a number of publications in one place, but not so good for publishers that once could expect their apps to appear on the screen by itself. Overall: B since this did not get much media or social media attention.

Converging media continues to converge.We predicted blurred lines among traditional media as newspapers reporters post video versions of their text stories; TV reporters post text versions of the video staandups, etc. That trend will continue in 2012 and beyond. Overall: A.

We'll publish more of our annual report on Monday. In the meantime, you can check out all our 2011 predictions here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 Trends Report Card, Part I

Before we issue our annual list of trends and predictions of media and social media issues next week, we think will be relevant in 2012, here's our annual report card of how we did with our 2011 predictions.

The Battle between the iPad & the iPad Killers
The battle we predicted between the iPad and the "iPad Killers" did not turn out to be much of a battle, as most of the wannabe iPad Killers were quickly considered misfires. HP's TouchPad was launched and taken off the market within a matter of weeks (writing off $3.3 billion to “the wind down of HP’s WebOS device business," which was the platform for the TouchPad). RIM's PlayBook launched without some key software apps.

We don't think we were wrong in calling it a big trend, though.  In an article, "Tech 2011: Biggest News Stories of the Year" published in Dec. 30, 2011, Wired included three tablet-related stories, including "Non-Apple Tablets Proliferate -- But No One Seems to Care."  Wired nominated two other tablet-related news events as top stories:
We were right in predicting that the iPad2 would continue to dominate the market, that a lot of media coverage would be about our app-enabled culture, and that there would  be a lot of discussion about iOS vs. Android. There were not as many stories as we expected for the PC market. We did not predict the Kindle Fire, which generated huge amount of coverage (overshadowing Barnes & Noble's equivalent Nook) as the media continued its attempt to anoint an iPad killer. Overall, an A-. As for 2012, we expect that the soon-to-be-disclosed (in a bar, perhaps) iPad 3 will be popular, and will continue to dominate the market. The Kindle Fire will do well, but a re-priced iPad 2 will outsell the Fire. Some Android tablets will continue to improve and to sell units, but will mostly eat iPad's dust.

We'll publish more of our annual report tomorrow. In the meantime, you can check out all our 2011 predictions here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.