Other people look forward to the end of the year for holidays, but we look forward to looking back at our predictions to see how well we did.
Before getting to the results of how we did on the trends we picked, let's start by noting which trends did not pick. First, we stayed away from talking politics and making predictions about the election -- and we're glad we did. (While our parents told us not to talk about politics, we are interested aspects that affect the media, and we will pick up some of the implications in our predictions for 2017 -- so stay tuned.) We also failed to predict that the Chicago Cubs would win the team's first World Series in 108 years (but we'll go on record that Theo Epstein, who was in charge when the Red Sox won its first championship in 86 years and was the brains behind the Cubs, is a lock to make it into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame).
Here's a look at how we did on the predictions we did make:
1. The media will have a good year. Overall, 2016 was a difficult year for the media so we got this one mostly wrong. That said, from a business perspective, we said, "Some media outlets still haven’t figured out how to build a sustainable business model from paywalls, online ads, and native advertising (aka clickbait)" -- and we were right about that. But campaign dollars did not do as much as we thought to boost traditional media revenues. Worse, the credibility of the media was attacked by both political parties and by the media itself. This is a serious problem, especially considering the attack on "facts" that occurred as a result of this year's political campaign. Grade: B-.
2. Drug pricing will get a lot of attention. We got this one right. There was a lot of media and social media attention, mostly regarding the rising cost of EpiPens. What we overestimated was the level of action that Congress took (not much beyond some hearings). Grade: A-.
3. Tech turns into Towers of Babel. We overstated the situation for Internet of Things. It made progress but not yet the way we thought. It did turn into something of a backdoor security issue, and we certainly can expect more of that to come. Grade: C+.
4. The rise of Artificial Intelligence. We said, "The ways we can use AI and machine learning will increase in 2016, helping us make better business, personal and health decisions and helping to address security concerns." We think that's right (and we're not saying if our use of AI helped us come to that conclusion. People will continue to be concerned about the implications of AI, but like IoT, we think those fears won't slow down acceptance. Grade: A.
5. Whither unicorns and their business models? We got this right, too: Some unicorns – startups valued at upwards of $1 billion – faced some serious issues. Even as Trump used Twitter to win the election (according to him), Twitter the company encountered problems as it tried to sell itself to companies no longer interested in the little blue bird. We believe it will be increasingly difficult for Unicorns or Unicorn-wannabes in 2017. Grade: A.
6. Content management remains king. This was an easy one. Grade: A.
7. More will cut the cord in 2016. Despite this headline, we actually said that "we expect some people not to cut the cord because it’s more complicated and not necessarily cheaper if you cut the cable cord." But we did say that people are more likely to watch TV on devices as opposed to gathering around a big screen TV to watch as a family; that's on the decline. Grade: A.
8. The importance of a college education will continue to generate media interest. Student debt was a topic during the primaries but faded as the campaign went on. So we mostly overstated this; we also said that the nature of education will have to change in an age of instant access to facts, making memorizing certain facts not as helpful as actually understanding the underlying issues around history, science, literature, etc. Grade: B-.
9. The gig or on-demand economy will continue to grow. We're not sure if the number of people in the gig economy has increased -- since we don't know if there's an accurate way to measure the gig economy -- but there has become more media coverage and mainstream. Grade: A.
10. Virtual Reality won’t go mainstream, yet. Media outlets like the New York Times, Wall St. Journal and USA Today now offer virtual reality content but VR is still much more of a novelty than an accepted mainstream technology. It could become more mainstream by 2018. Grade: A.
11. But it didn't grow as much we expected. Grade: B.
12. 3D printers will be popular in schools. We said don't expect 3D printers in every home just yet. We were right. Grade: A.
13. Crowdfunding will lose buzz. People are still using crowdfunding but we feel we were right that "the novelty of crowdfunding... (will) fade. Grade: A.
14. eBook sales will plateau. We don't think eBooks will fade but we were right in that there wasn't much media buzz about eBooks in 2016. Grade: A.
15. Drones may start falling back to earth. Consumer drones like the one that fell on the White House lawn (in 2015) have caused some issues and demands for regulating their use, but drones are not the buzzy media topic they once were, as we predicted (and as validated by the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo. Grade: A.
16. Will FinTech shake up traditional banking? Apps that support banking and financial services, like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and others, are disrupting (or disintermediation) traditional banks. But credit cards are not about to be displaced so easily, which is why we think FinTech isn't really shaking up the industry yet. No doubt it will get there, within three to five years. Until then, don't throw away your check books. Grade: A.
17. China may live in interesting times. China got the media's attention -- including for regarding the valuation of the Renminbi and cybercrime perpetrated against the U.S. and U.S. businesses -- but not as much as we expected. We think the new administration will focus more attention on China. Grade: B-.
18. The concern about cybersecurity, privacy, encryption and government surveillance is already changing. Last year, we did not predict that Wikileaks, with apparent help from Russia, would play such a significant role in this year's election. But the party that did not get hacked is being led by someone who seemed to campaign on the promise to do more with cybersecurity to catch domestic-based terrorists before they carry out attacks. Grade: B.
19. A big issue with driverless cars won’t be the technology or safety record. Actually, there's still an issue with the technology but the insurance requirements and state laws remain an obstacle. Grade: B+.
Now, we're looking forward to our next favorite part of the year: Making predictions for next year. Look for them to hit in mid-December.