Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wired Validates 5 of Our Trends

We're already seeing validation of some of our trends. The January issue of Wired ran two articles of note to our trends: cutting the cord and the gig economy.

About cord cutting, we said, "We expect some people not to cut the cord because it’s more complicated and not necessarily cheaper if you cut the cable cord." In an article called "Cord-Cutting Is Gonna Suck in 2016, But It'll Get Better," Wired identified the same problem we did: the cost of different subscriptions services, the complications of how to access it including of when you exceed your data limit means that cord-cutting isn't the solution you think it.

We also said the gig economy will generate coverage in 2016, and that "To pessimists, it means that people won’t have the safety net of company-provided healthcare and benefits." Also in the January issue (and not yet available online), is an article by Jessi Hempel called, "A New Deal: Gig-Economy Workers Need Protection. Now." Check out the article when it becomes online.

Actually, in his Letter from the Editor, Scott Dadich identified other trends that validated ours. Dadich feels that VR will go mainstream in 2016 while we think VR will still be much more of an early adopter tech next year. 

We agree with him (or he with us) that "AI comes to the everyday" (we said, "The rise of AI"). We both offered up concerns about unicorns, mostly that startups worth upwards of $1B will become on the verge of extinction -- okay, that's overstating things; it's just going to be much more difficult for them in 2016. 

And in "Autonomous driving gets serious," Dadich agrees with us that "we won't be handing over the steering wheel this year," and that a big issue is "talking about regulations" -- while we said the big issue isn't the tech or safety issues but "the insurance requirements."

So, judging by Wired, we're doing pretty well with our predictions.

Also, check out Fast Company's "Twenty Predictions for the Next 20 Years," by Robert Sarfian, which has a lot of interesting good trends.

Meanwhile, by the way, we expect a lot of IoT news coming from CES next week.

Here's to a happy New Year, and more tech validations.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Key Predictions for Trends in 2016, Part III

Here's our third set of trends that we expect to have an impact in 2016:
  1. The market for wearable tech and for IoT will continue to grow. Expect IoT-enabled tech to be a big story at CES.
  2. 3D printers will be popular in schools.  Getting students comfortable with 3D printers is a great for seeding the market, but don’t expect them in every home just yet.
  3. The importance of a college education will continue to generate media interest. The media will continue to look at whether a college education is worth the student debt loads as well as what kind of education we should provide our students. In an age of instant access to facts, memorizing certain facts may not be as helpful as actually understanding the underlying issues around history, science, literature, etc. and may not be indicators of future career success.
  4. Crowdfunding will lose buzz. With even Hollywood A-listers turning to crowdsourcing their projects, we expect the novelty of crowdfunding to fade, which will make it harder to raise money this way.
  5. eBook sales will plateau. After years of growing sales, eBooks’ momentum stalled in 2015. eBooks aren’t going away but they won’t totally replace traditional books, as some had feared or predicted. Increasingly, buyers may demand the ability to make a cross-platform book/eBook purchase, much as already happens with music purchased from Amazon, where you can the actual CD and direct download to your phone. 
  6. Drones may start falling back to earth. Like Icarus, drones may be flying too close to the sun – and airplanes -- but there problems go beyond that. While Amazon has unveiled a possible drone to help it make deliveries, consumer drones may be the cool gift that sits in a corner until they answer this question: What do you do with a drone after you’ve taken aerial photos of your house? 
  7. Will FinTech shake up traditional banking? Apps that support banking and financial services, like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and others, will generate a fair amount of business press coverage under headlines questioning whether FinTech will disintermediate traditional banks. FinTech will make inroads but won’t go broadly mainstream in 2016. That includes Bitcoin, about which there was much buzz in 2014 and almost nothing in 2015 except when some reporters thought they had uncovered the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto, the apparent mysterious inventor of Bitcoin.
  8. China may live in interesting times.  There’s a lot going on that will get coverage here. Expect coverage about the environment, including Beijing’s epic pollution and a lot of coverage about its economy, including the impact of the Renminbi being named by the International Monetary Fund as a main world currency, rising wages and an aging workforce, all leading to a possibly slowing economy. And continuing from prior years, there will be a lot of coverage about intellectual property infringement and Beijing-sanction hacks against U.S. companies.
  9. The concern about cybersecurity, privacy, encryption and government surveillance is already changing. Due to the tragic events in Paris and San Bernardino, many will take a 180-degree turn on government surveillance, and demand the government to do more, not less. Expect more coverage about cybersecurity and privacy – especially as the EU enforces stricter data privacy rules (which will have an impact on cloud provides likes Amazon Web Services). Interestingly, despite the Vtech hack, which may have made children’s information available, we don’t expect much coverage about smart toys and privacy.
  10. A big issue with driverless cars won’t be the technology or safety record. It will be the insurance requirements and state laws. California recently said that driverless cars will need a steering wheel and a person who is certified to drive – even as Google has designed a driverless car without a steering wheel. (The reason: it will be the transition from driverless to driver when accidents could occur.) But auto insurance will see that premiums will go down as accidents decrease – and that will change one dynamic of driverless cars (perhaps not theft, however). 
Let us know if you agree or disagree.

Please note: We're going to take a break for Christmas and New Year's -- which isn't to say we won't be working, just not blogging.

Happy Holidays, and see you in 2016!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Key Predictions for Trends in 2016, Part II

While we sometimes look at cultural events, we will not discuss the impact of "The Force Awakens" since many have not seen the movie yet (or have not seen it a second time, yet) nor the presidential election.

Here are our second set of marketing and technology trends that we think will have an impact in 2016.

  1. Content management remains king. With traditional media’s downward trend and social media’s continued prominence, companies must continue to promote themselves as thought leaders through social media, blogs, videos, bylined articles, videos and more. And they must do so an ongoing basis to remain fresh and relevant.
  2. More will cut the cord in 2016. There will always be a reason to watch TV on a big screen but too many families watch TV on separate rooms on various devices. Cable isn’t something you need, even for sports – although in some cases you need to have a cable subscription to access programming on your device and you certainly need Internet access to be able to stream. So we expect some people not to cut the cord because it’s more complicated and not necessarily cheaper if you cut the cable cord. Too much good shows to watch.
  3. The importance of a college education will continue to generate media interest. The media will continue to look at whether a college education is worth the student debt loads as well as what kind of education we should provide our students. In an age of instant access to facts, memorizing certain facts may not be as helpful as actually understanding the underlying issues around history, science, literature, etc. and may not be indicators of future career success.
  4. The gig or on-demand economy will continue to grow. For optimists, the gig economy gives people the ability to work when they need to, where they want to, to take on new opportunities and experiences, and to be more entrepreneurial (like the guy who took shares in then-private Facebook to paint its offices and wound up with shares worth $200 million). To pessimists, it means that people won’t have the safety net of company-provided healthcare and benefits. We expect the debate about the gig economy to continue in 2016, as courts decide whether Uber drivers are employees, whether they can unionize, etc.
  5. Virtual Reality won’t go mainstream, yet. The New York Times’ new experiment with virtual reality as an immersive advertising platform – which included a free cardboard VR viewer for subscribers –was impressive, but its cardboard viewer hasn’t sent crowds to purchase more sophisticated and more expensive viewers. That said, others will follow the success (or failure) of what the Times calls “the future of news.” If it is the future, expect it to make reporters’ lives even more challenging because of the additional work it takes to film and edit immersive VR.
We will issue our next set of predictions tomorrow. But let us know what you think of today's trends.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2016 TrendReport -- Celebrating 15 Years of Trends

As we have for 15 years, we've compiled a list of trends to help our clients navigate the complex and ever-changing communications landscape and engage more effectively with traditional and social media and other influencers.

Here are the first set of trends for 2016:

  1. The media will have a good year. Some media outlets still haven’t figured out how to build a sustainable business model from paywalls, online ads, and native advertising (aka clickbait). But 2016 will be a good year financially with billions to be spent on political ads from the candidates and their Super PACs. Unfortunately, the good times won’t continue into 2017. Some interesting media startups, trying to bring back long-form, thoughtful coverage of news will get attention from other media sites, but will find it hard to build a sustainable business in an era that favors quick celebrity news.
  2. Drug pricing will get a lot of attention. Concern about out-of-control drug pricing began in 2015, when Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals increased the price of a 62-year-old drug from $13.50 a pill to $750. Drug pricing will continue generate outrage and ongoing media and political attention in 2016. The impact of more scrutiny and the possibility of new pricing regulations may make it more difficult for pharma companies, including virtual biotechs, to raise funds to invest in drug discovery. This may cause investors to sell, and may burst the biotech bubble that industry followers have been predicting.
  3. Tech turns into Towers of Babel. The concept behind the Internet of Things is that all devices will be networked-enabled and be able to communicate with each other to provide us with more convenience and data to help us make better decisions. The reality is that competing vendors and proprietary platforms have set up a tech version of the Tower of Babel, and that may be a real problem for companies looking to take advantage of IoT.
  4. The rise of Artificial Intelligence. Don’t worry – despite concerns from Elon Musk and other tech influencers as well as the plot points in various Hollywood movies in 2015 – self-aware AI robots aren’t going to take over humans in 2015. But 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.
  5. Whither unicorns and their business models? Unicorns – startups valued at upwards of $1 billion – were big in 2015. Expect coverage in 2016 that questions whether the unicorn bubble will burst. This will be true not just of privately held startups but also of publicly held companies (that represent the next stage of unicorn development) that fail to fully monetize their businesses. Twitter and Yahoo! – that means you and other social media platforms that fail to live up to financial expectations.
Look for more trends over the next week. And please let us know if you feel we got things right or wrong. 

Instead of updating TrendWatch once a year, we plan to look at trends twice in 2016. To subscribe to our TrendWatch newsletter, please email us at TrendWatch [at]

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Track Record for Our 2015 Predictions

A lot of people issue predictions, but we feel it's important to look at the prior year's predictions to provide some integrity to the process. But it also helps us focus on changes for the following year.

We try to cover a lot of ground when making predictions, certainly covering our client's sectors (without taking away from what they're doing or hyping what they're doing). But there's a lot of things we miss. For example, we -- like most of the rest of the world -- did not predict that Donald J. Trump would be a GOP front runner for five months. (We're guessing that only Donald J. Trump would have made that prediction last year.)

So here are our grades based on the trends we predicted for 2015:

Here are our predictions for 2015:
  • Wearable tech will be big in 2015. Wearable tech was successful but not necessarily "big." That's in part because most wearable tech is still in the oxymoron stage – where it either works as fashion or technology or neither but not both. But the other reason it's still not enough reason for most of us to buy and wear them. We still feel wearable tech will become mainstream but maybe in 2016. Grade: B-.
  • Expect sensory overload. Just don't expect that yet. We meant that the Internet of Things (IoT), which will use built-in sensors, networked-enabled smart devices to capture information and communicate to bring a higher level of convenience for humans, would overwhelm us with too data from sensors. Clearly that didn't happen in 2015. On the other hand, we said "within two years," so that means we still have time to be rigt, if this happens by 2017. Grade: B-
  • Content management remains king. We got this right though we've seen some decline in the impact of infographics (though they're still flourishing on Pinterest). Thought leaders through blogs, videos, bylined articles, social media, traditional media will remain strong in 2016. Grade: A.
  • Watch for the monetization and maturation of social media. We were right about Snapchat but wrong in terms of Twitter, which has matured but has not been able to apporiately monetized its users. The revolving door of Twitter CEOs validates that others are expecting monetization even if Twitter can't deliver. Grade: B.
  • More will cut the cord in 2015. Streaming services did become ever more popular this year, with new apps from HBO, CBS and others. But the realization finally seems to have hit that cutting the cord isn't simpler, may cost just as much, and that to be able to stream video from the Internet, you still need Internet access, which is still provided by cable providers. (Check out this recent Bloomberg Businessweek article: "Cutting the Cord, Not the Cost.") We got this one right. Grade: A.
  • The importance of a college education will continue to generate media interest. Because student debt continues to grow, the value of an education became an ongoing story in 2015. Expect that to continue in the election year. Grade: A.
  • After a couple of more-or-less stable years, 2015 will be a rough year for print media. Unfortunately, we were write about this. There were layoffs in newsrooms in Philadelphia, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, New York Daily News. (And not just print:  even ESPN laid off several hundred employees.) According to Poynter, the reason: "This year has been a worse year, not a stabilizing one, for advertising. Digital and other new revenues are not making up those loses. As new strategies (like paid digital subscriptions or contracting printing) settle in for a few years, they still generate revenue but not growing revenue." Grade: A+.
  • There’s always going to be a new site generating lots of buzz, but those may not be the ones to reach your customers. By way of example, we cited Yo, an app generated a lot of buzz in 2014 because it allows you to say only “Yo” to your friends. Haven't heard much about it in 2015 so we think that proves our point. Grade: A.
  • Wearable tech will allow new ways for marketers to interact with consumers. This prediction was ahead of the curve but we remain convinced this will happen and that it will be a bit creepy. Grade: C.
  • The temptation for marketers is to be everywhere all the time – but more Americans will try to disconnect, if only for a few hours or the weekend. When a popular meme on Facebook urges people to look up, and turn off their devices, we may be at odd moment. We don't seriously expect people to put away their devices for good – as a society, we are all too addicted to them. But we are seeing people talk about unplugging for the weekend as a sort of electronic cleanse. Grade: A.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Preparing our annual track record of predictions

We're getting ready for one of our favorite times of the year -- no, I'm not referring to the holidays though I enjoy them, too. We're finalizing our annual track record of predictions for the current year while we also prepare our predictions for the coming year.

We've been doing this for more than 15 years, and it's become a way for us to close the year.

Expect our track record by the middle of this week, and the predictions by next week. Consider them a slightly early Christmas present (or a late Hanukkah present).