Friday, December 15, 2017

Key Predictions for Trends in 2018, Part II

When we evaluated trends for 2018, we came up with more than five -- while avoiding politics. 

Here's what we're calling our Bonus Set of Predictions:


1.  The media landscape will change in 2018. Beyond newsroom layoffs and publication shut downs, which is upsetting, the media landscape will change in other ways in 2018, thanks to three deals: a DOJ-opposed AT&T -Time Warner combination, a more likely Sinclair Broadcasting purchase of Tribune Media, and a Disney acquisition of Fox’s TV and movie studios (but not Fox News, Fox Sports and Fox TV channel). If two of those three deals go through, expect others as defensive moves.  In an Internet of media choices, consolidation at this level may not be in the consumers’ interest.

2.  Artificial Intelligence and robotics, now interconnected, will continue to be “hot.” A.I. and robotics will be combined in articles (instead of considered separately as in prior years), and we expect to continue to see scare stories about a “robocalypse” in which A.I.-enabled robots replace human workers as well as more-reasoned articles that debunk the scare stories. We’re not as worried because there we think it will open other types of jobs, and that implementing A.I. seems inevitable because the potential benefits could be so significant. 

3.  Innovation often will come via business models. You might not be able to get a reservation at that great local restaurant you’ve been ordering from but that’s because of their delivery-only business model relies solely on mobile-ordering apps. By eschewing things like waitstaff, expensive leases, and needing to focus on turnover rates for tables, these restaurants are able to flourish in a notoriously tough sector. We expect coverage of that sort of innovation – not so much of technology but in the use of technology – to continue in 2018.

4.  Bitcoin and blockchain is hitting it big time. Lots of coverage. Still not mainstream but finally reaches a point where people who haven’t paid attention at least have heard of the two cryptocurrency terms.

5.  Is the internet dying? Long before the (possible) end of net neutrality, some have predicted that the internet is dying. The internet (which was once so important it was always capitalized) has been subsumed by apps and by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which control much of the online ecosystem, from app stores to cloud storage to online ads. Ending net neutrality favors those five companies, while making it harder for small disruptive startups.

6.  The first amendment becomes a battle-ground issue. Between campus culture wars (regarding who can speak on campus and who can disrupt those who try to speak on campus), varying definitions of hate speech and the more-open expression of bigotry, the fight to protect free speech will generate coverage in 2018. Part of the challenge is a polarize climate is finding the balance between allowing free expression and preventing bigoted express.

7.  Millennials’ impact will change how companies market products and services. Currently America’s largest generation (sorry, boomers), millennials have had a significant impact on the workplace. In 2018, marketers will increasingly realize they need to change how they reach the 4.8 million 26-year-olds, and the millions of others currently 25, 27 and 24 as they encounter life-defining moments that include: choosing a career or to enter the gig economy; buying or renting a place to live, along with renovating or making repairs; taking on different responsibilities such as paying taxes and keeping track of their finances, including retirement; getting married, deciding whether or not to have kids and/or get a pet, and cooking. Millennials’ preferences and needs have already spawned new apps and services to deal with these responsibilities and choices. For example, we’re seeing a rise in food-delivery apps from restaurants that offer only takeout (not sit-down) service because they have a kitchen but no need for a dinning room. We also expect a trend that began in 2017 to continue: companies will continue to develop educational programs such as classes, online tutorials and how-to videos on what the Wall St. Journal called “such basic skills as to mow the lawn, use a tape measure, mop a floor, hammer a nail and pick a paint color.” We also expect millennial preferences to become the default choice; for example, doorbells may become vestigial as millennials text, not ring, when they arrive at a friend’s house.

8.  Smart-Home automation will gain acceptance but still a niche offering. Smart homes are preferred in some markets by some buyers but not everyone wants them or values them yet. That said, smart home technology and appliances are getting easier to find, install and deploy. One possible driver of smart home tech could be counter-intuitive: with a growing population of seniors aging in their homes, their adult children may insist on installing tech that can help them monitor their parents. As long as the internet doesn’t crash, adult children will be able to check in on their parents, adjust heating and air conditioning (already possible with Nest and other devices), turn on lights and get help via apps that their parents may not have figured out. As tech-friendly boomers age in their own homes, expect them to embrace smart-home technology. We think Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to be a widely used phrase but that “smart home” is a more user-friendly term that may be easier to market. By the way, the biggest smart home tech segment will continue to be intelligent personal assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home speakers.

9.  The ranks of unicorn startups will grow but expect a backlash because unicorns are difficult to sustain. There’s a lot of money being thrown around, which is why we expect some of the enthusiasm for unicorns to diminish. It’s been very difficult to maintain a $1 billion-plus valuation in a meaningful exit. Also, we think New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo is right when he said, a continued threat for startups is that just “fewer than 1 percent … end up as $1 billion companies” and that the Frightful Five (Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft) can out-pay key employees (an issue in the A.I. space), out maneuver or just invest in startups and co-opt them.


10. Religious nonprofits will be able to publicly make political endorsements, but doing so will change how they are perceived. As this is written, the GOP is discussing whether to eliminate the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits nonprofits from endorsing political candidates. We think Congress will repeal Johnson because it’s a campaign promise President Trump made. However, we think – and some, who otherwise hold opposing views, agree that it will affect how American’s perception when religious organizations are turned into political action committees. 

In our next post, we will post a set of ongoing trends that we think are important to keep in mind.

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