A Report from the Cloudy Crystal Ball

As 2018 fast approaches, I like to look back to predictions I made at the start of last year and judge my powers of prescience. Unlike many analysts who prophesize like Nostradamus, being broadly vague so they don’t get caught, I admit upfront that my crystal ball is very cloudy. Nevertheless, I do my best to be specific by taking a broad view of the world and linking thoughts around current issues and events as best I can. Judge me as you will

If one theme carries through all, it’s that a People First focus still makes our world go round — not Mobile First, Digital First, or anything else first. Sadly, there are still too many people who don’t get it… and didn’t get it last year. So, without further ado, let’s look at how the predictions panned out.

Last year I predicted that disruption was stale and would need to be rethought. What exactly is being disrupted? Does Uber ‘disrupt’ the rider? Does Amazon ‘disrupt’ the buyer? Of course not. People don’t want to be disrupted — they want great service and selection. They want to get from point A to point B with ease. And you can argue that this has always been true. Certainly, it reflects the original proposition of Sears Roebuck & Co. back in the 1800s, which today would have been called a disruption, and of Walmart back in the 1960s (the same). Sears’ website explains:

“Thanks to volume buying, to the railroads and post office, and later to rural free delivery and parcel post, they offered a happy alternative to the high-priced rural stores. Years later the company adopted the motto “Shop at Sears and Save.” Because farmers could do so in the 1890s, Sears prospered.”

But their problem was that they stopped thinking about their customers. Digital was a direct customer proposition offering ease of service and selection. And while Walmart and Sears missed the digital wave, Amazon jumped on it. Because like all great companies, Amazon thinks about their customers.

So what did Amazon do in 2017? They went beyond their website, opening bookstores, fulfillment centers, and creating jobs. They even bought Whole Foods. The strategy was so compelling, Alibaba in China followed suit with talks about More Mall. And some of you might have noticed the extensive “television” advertising they are doing around AWS.

Other companies strove to change our world for the better rather than disrupt, like when Tesla’s Elon Musk partnered with the Australian government to create a powerful battery.

And of course, shakeups continued in the social platform world. For one, Twitter extended their character count. And while Snapchat and Twitter have not found their full place, Snapchat continues to pivot, now releasing the data they said they never would, and creating what might become an industry standard: a split screen between news and comment. So my take is, rather than disrupting, they are looking to serve.

I predicted Fake News would become big business…and it exploded. The creators, platforms, and publishers behind fake news gained so much power, in fact, that Congress and the CIA got involved. This held especially true with the Russian ad scandal. As I cite in a recent piece, Defense One reported that some are calling it, “weaponized narrative”.

And Facebook hired 30,000 people to catch Fake News creators, proving how important the issue is.

But determining what is real can be a challenge. Your Fake News may seem real to me, and my real news may seem fake to you. To some, the New York Times is as egregious as Breitbart. In “Why I Hate the New York Times”, John Stossel at Fox News lambasted NYT Trump coverage, calling it Fake News. Meanwhile, the New York Times published a piece on how to combat Fake News across channels. Editorializing facts is muddying the waters.

I also predicted that Media would return to its human roots. Despite the turmoil of what is fake and what isn’t, some outlets remained convincingly open and news-focused in a world that craved authenticity and trust through troubled and changing times. The Washington Post continued to hire, fueling the ongoing demand for political interest.Vice Media’s coverage of the Charlottesville white supremacist protests stood out in August, the Washington Post’s Russia probe, and even the Harvey Weinstein investigative reports in the New York Times. The unrest around the planet, fed the news frenzy, making the 24/7 cycle ever-more important.

As such, mindless Programmatic media buying is on its deathbed, resulting in additional media upheaval. Because in a world where we should be able to target more efficiently, the question of who and what we are targeting continues to swirl.

Ad load times slow down the internet because the algorithms are fighting in the background of your download, so users now think ads are irrelevant, merely gunking up their feeds. And they turnmore and more to ad blockers. But ads continue to pay for content, and great ads still have a place online—and beyond.

In his article, “Programmatic Advertising is Dead,” even the pioneer of programmatic, AppNexus CEO Brian O’Kelley said:

“Programmatic is an obsolescent technology built for the one-dimensional and monolithic internet of Eudora and Netscape. It’s wholly inadequate for the dynamic ecosystem of music and video streaming, interactive gaming, app stores, the “Internet of Things,” GPS, cloud cognitive software and virtual reality.”
As I predicted, TV continued to be important across devices, and live events continued, as they always have done, to be important. As Michael Wolff’s book,Television is the New Television says, “We live in a world where every device is a television.” But beyond TV, the power of experience endures. Concerts, movies, and even some categories of brick-and-mortar shopping grew. Eventbrite data says:

“Nearly 8 in 10 (77%) millennials say some of their best memories are from an event or live experience they attended or participated in. 69% believe attending live events and experiences make them more connected to other people, the community, and the world.”
An April 2017 article from Campaign Live explained this reality further:

“People’s social lives are becoming more public – captured as they happen and shared far and wide. A night out becomes a performance in itself; every moment is captured and shared and the experience is curated for friends and followers.”
Given this, VR continues to look for its role, often as a way to enhance or remember experiences, but sometimes as a proxy. AR, on the other hand, is an enhancement of what is, and has an easier role to play in marketing and communications.

So that’s that. In 2017, technology didn’t change our lives so much as we continued to shape technology. As we move into 2018, people are still people, and advancements will continue to reflect that as per the mantra, People First.

Now, are you ready for next year? Let’s see what 2018 will bring!

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