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Media Predictions for 2011

For the past decade, Birnbach Communicates has compiled an annual list of media trends for its clients, who operate across a range of industries, including storage, security, unified communications, financial software and services and other technology sectors, healthcare, senior services, consumer, social networking, and nonprofit and education. These trends help the agency's clients more effectively understand and engage on topics of interest for social media.

We will be rolling out the trends on our blog, PR Back Talk mid-Jan.

  • The battle between the iPad and the iPad Killers, the race for apps and the impact of tablet computing will be a main theme. In 2011, there will be lots of choices among tablets from other manufacturers, but the (soon-to-be-announced) iPad2 will give Apple the momentum to continue to dominate the market - even as other tablets offer videoconferencing and other features not available in the current iPad. Expect to see a lot of coverage about an "iPad killer," but also expect the iPad to remain king of the hill at year's end. In our app-enabled culture, part of the iPad's success in 2011 will be the availability and variety of its apps. Also expect to see much discussion about the battle of operating systems: iOS vs. Android because the Apple vs. Google makes a compelling story angle. The media will also look at the impact of tablet computing on how students learn while using tablets and how people spend time online - already there are indications that users spend more time on social media sites and less time on email. There will also be lots of stories about the impact on the PC market. (Anyone remember netbooks?)
  • 2011 will be the year of app-based media subscriptions. Last year lots of publishers either rolled out or announced online subscription access fees. This year, publishers are rolling out apps for iPad and other tablets as well as e-readers to help them generate subscription revenue. One challenge for publishers and consumer alike: Justifying app subscriptions when current single-edition app access (at $3.99 per single-issue for Wired or $4,99 for each issue of Time) can cost significantly more than annual print subscriptions (e.g., $20 for Wired, $30 for Time). Early adapters seem to be willing; the real question is the price point that the rest of the population will be willing to pay.
  • The converging media phenomenon will gain momentum in 2011. With early generation gadgets on the market that combine TV and Internet, it's time to get rid of the old way of thinking about media. For example, we need a new term for video content that we're already accessing on devices that are not traditional TVs. Meanwhile, the same convergence will continue to impact how news is reported: Newspaper reporters, who once only filed print stories that appeared nearly 24 hours after the news hit, are not only going to continue to be filing stories in near-real time, but also they will be producing accompanying video. Meanwhile, broadcast reporters will post text versions of their segments on their websites. Radio stations will provide video on their websites to accompany the audio-only pieces already accompanied by text-based articles. This already started taking place in 2010, but expect more cross-channel news operations in 2011 and beyond.
  • Companies will be judged not just on the quality of their social media engagement, but on their frequency. Just as people assume a company has gone out of business or is in a downward spiral if it hasn't issued a release or otherwise updated its website in a matter of months, the same need for frequency holds true in social media. In 2011, people will now assume your organization has gone out of business or that you have left your job if you haven't posted or updated your blog or status in a month. To keep brands and images relevant, social media content needs to be a consistent drumbeat, rather than an occasional dribble of information.
  • The press release will not die in 2011. Like Mark Twain, who commented on premature announcements of his passing, the reports of the death of the press release are greatly exaggerated. News embargoes may be dead but press releases are still relevant. Press releases are certainly not the only way to get out news, but they can still be effective in 2011 and provide value, if only by enabling organizations to post fresh evidence of corporate activity and providing search engine optimization (SEO) opportunities.
  • The rules for social media will continue to evolve – rapidly. This is a no-brainer, but important for companies that have not yet fully engaged with social media yet. Why? Because the rapid change presents an opportunity to jump in, and catch up quickly; after all, many companies are still taking social media baby steps. While some still wonder if social media is the equivalent to CB radios in the 1970s, as a concept, social media will survive – and not just because people like playing Farmville and Mafia Wars on Facebook. That said, some of the platforms will rise and fall in favor. (We're talking about you, MySpace.) That's why companies need to pay attention to the changes so they are not caught off guard.
  • Companies will be judged not just on the quality of their social media engagement, but on their frequency. Just as people assume a company has gone out of business or is in a downward spiral if it hasn't issued a release or otherwise updated its website in a matter of months, the same need for frequency holds true in social media. In 2011, people will now assume your organization has gone out of business or that you have left your job if you haven't posted or updated your blog or status in a month. To keep brands and images relevant, social media content needs to be a consistent drumbeat, rather than an occasional dribble of information.
  • The press release will not die in 2011. Like Mark Twain, who commented on premature announcements of his passing, the reports of the death of the press release are greatly exaggerated. News embargoes may be dead but press releases are still relevant. Press releases are certainly not the only way to get out news, but they can still be effective in 2011 and provide value, if only by enabling organizations to post fresh evidence of corporate activity and providing search engine optimization (SEO) opportunities.
  • Traditional media will move to stable, if fragile, footing as the economy recovers – but they can't relax. The worst may be behind them, based on the reduced number of traditional newspapers and magazines that have either shut down or shifted to an online-only business model in 2010 as compared to the prior two years. But the old ways of doing business won't survive the "new normal" because even with a recovery, media properties will never again see revenue at the 2007 pre-recession levels -- unless they innovate and find more ways to generate revenue aside from traditional ad sales. That means finding a way to charge for online content on the revenue side. That also means fewer staff and resources, perpetual deadlines and multichannel content.
  • Live integrated real-time interactive multimedia events – we used to call those events "TV shows" – will become more common in 2011. Producers will seek to combine active social media with passive viewing on one screen. You won't be limited to just voting for a contestant on a reality show, you can also comment on everything about the show. Hate Ryan Seacrest? Now you can let everyone know. The difference is that in 2010, you had to comment on Twitter or Facebook. In 2011, you'll be able to comment next to the action, and be able to interact with others on one screen as opposed to watching your TV and typing away on your computer. (Bravo has already embraced this approach, according to a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, "For Bravo, One Screen Isn't Enough.")
  • Hybrid will be the overused word of the year, followed by mashup and "curation." The word "hybrid" is no longer relegated to plants or, more recently, cars. The continued popularity in the business world for cloud-based computing and virtualization -- and yes, we know: they're not the same thing – will also drive businesses to want to maintain some control of their data and processes onsite, in their own servers, leading to a hybrid approach, for example. Mashups used to describe the combination of two songs (on "Glee") or two musical styles, but can be used to describe anything that combines elements of two different things. As used in 2011, curation does not have anything to do with healing. Sometimes known as "digital curation," the term generally refers to the concept of a website that offers information selected and maintained by an actual human (who might be known as a curator if this were a museum), not by an algorithm. In newspaper circles, this person used to be called "editor."
  • The Top 12 Business & Technology Stories in 2011.
    1. The economy, including the deficit, unemployment, taxes, the incoming class of GOP legislators, regulations, and the "new normal."
    2. The battle for healthcare reform or the repeal of ObamaCare, depending on your political perspective.
    3. The continuing battle among tech giants: Google vs. Apple vs. Microsoft vs. Cisco vs. EMC vs. HP vs. Oracle vs. SAP. Also expect reporting on the battle between the iPhone carriers: ATT vs. Verizon.
    4. Mergers & acquisitions will likely increase in 2011, and some coverage look at the implications and impact of those mergers. There were more than 2,700 acquisitions last year, and this year the tech giants listed immediately above still have lots of cash on hand to acquire companies that will help converge service offerings.
    5. Are we ready for 3-D TVs. (Last year the coverage was all about the invasion of 3-D TVs. This year, the backlash to a trend that failed to live up to its hype.) We do expect a lot more attention devoted to interactive TV-like devices, including Internet-ready TV sets in the living room that are also tied to smartphones and tablets.
    6. The state of the media, especially print media, online-only business models and online subscriptions. The media – traditional and online can't help but cover itself.
    7. The status of Facebook, its policy towards privacy, and the demise of MySpace. (Last year, it was Twitter's business model – which has yet to be fully answered.)
    8. The status of OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.
    9. The advertising recovery.
    10. Local search, personalization and the growth of Groupon and similar businesses.
    11. Net neutrality, web traffic speeds.
    12. The new small business model. It used to be that small businesses were the real job engine in the U.S. economy. That's no longer the case as technology allows for contractors and virtual teams to launch new companies and products. Where you once needed dozens of employees to launch a new software product, these days you need a few employees and an outsourced team in another country.
  • Top trends from 2010 that will continue in 2011.
    • Mobile access will become increasingly important in 2011, thanks to the popularity of tablets and the rollout of 4G wireless networks.
    • In-flight Internet access did become more widely available in 2010, and we expect it to grow more popular in 2011.
    • Online credibility will continue to be important.
    • Location-based services and behavioral targeting by advertisers.
    • Online privacy will continue to be important.
    • Three tech companies received the bulk of media attention in 2010, and they will continue to so in 2011. According to a study for the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, those companies were Apple (15.1 percent) and Google (11.4 percent), followed by Microsoft (3 percent). (Tech writer Farhad Manjoo wrote an article that discusses the reasons in an NPR interview, "Does Apple Get Too Much Media Love?") We think that Facebook will join AAPL, GOOG and MSFT in being the most written about tech companies.
    • Two main topics were the focus of much of the consumer tech coverage in 2010, and they will continue to do so in 2011, too. The two topics: smartphones and digital cameras (although fewer people feel the need to use the word "digital" to describe cameras anymore). Tablets will become a more important topic in 2011, as noted above.
    • Videoconferencing no longer resides just in executive conference rooms. You can now get videoconferencing a growing number of devices and a growing number of carriers thanks to 4G rollouts.
    • The continued growth of e-books and e-reader sales, following record e-reader sales and some e-books outselling their deadwood version. There are now best seller charts for e-books, for example. And after a record year in the sales of e-readers, expect another record year in e-book sales, leading to articles in 2011 that talk about the inevitability of the shift to e-books, especially after the expected launch of Google Editions, which is set to offer read-on-any device e-books. The one exception will be children's books, especially popup books (to be known as 3-D books).
    • The continued evolution of communications. People under age 28 don't use their smartphones to place or receive calls – instead, they use them to text, not email, their friends. People above the age of 28 prefer email. The telephone carriers love texting because they make significant margins from texts. Expect more coverage, and more people switching to texting. Notice, too, what did not make this list:
    • MySpace: Obviously not 2010 technology, but clearly not one of Rupert Murdoch's successes. I saw an article in my town's local weekly paper that touched on MySpace by asking, "Does anyone remember its URL?" Ouch.
    • Chatroulette: Which blasted onto the scene in early 2010, quickly becoming the source of jokes for late night comedians, hadn't been in months until an article in the Times reminded everyone. The Times thinks that options you might call Son of Chatroulette -- connecting via text, connecting via video using Facebook IDs (to reduce the likelihood of bad behavior) will succeed where Chatroulette's naked men failed the effort. We're not so sure. We can't keep up with our friends and friends of friends even now, much less to make connections to new people the way these Sons of Chatroulette make possible.

     

Tell us what you think. Did we get it right? Are we way off base? Drop us a note at birnbach@birnbachcom.com.


 
 
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