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TrendReport Track Record for Predictions for 2012

Before we issue our annual list of trends and predictions of media and social media issues next week, here's our annual report card of how we did with our 2012 predictions.  Based on the trends we identified, the biggest stories in 2012 included cord cutting – dropping cable TV service either as a way to save money or to try new watch-anywhere apps such as Hulu Plus and Netflix – as well as cybercrime,

General Consumer Trends

  • Value will be king in 2012. As consumers look for value by checking deal sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and other sites offering discounts, we said to expect two questions to be asked: “Will Groupon turn out to be a good investment since its Nov. 2011 IPO at $20?” and “How many e-coupon sites do consumers want or need?” The answer to the first question is a resounding no – shares are trading at just $4.79 at the time of writing, which has resulted in a lot of noise about whether founder and CEO Andrew Mason’s future at the company. As to the second question, Motley Fool addressed it in a recent article, ”Is Groupon Trying to Become the Next Amazon?”, pointing to consumer “deal fatigue.”  We got this right but this topic of value and daily discount sites was not, in our opinion, a top story this year. Grade: B+
  • Shifting to more efficient light bulbs in 2012 will not cause the end of the world. We said that despite media attention that people would be stockpiling 60-watt incandescent bulbs ahead of a legislative deadline replacing them with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs or LED fixtures (a bill signed by Pres. Bush), this would be a non-story. We were right. Grade: A.
  • Academic integrity will continue to be important to deal with cheating scandals. Academic integrity did not go awaybut was not the big story in 2012. The big story turned out to be MOOCs: massively open online courses, which according to the New York Times, are “usually free, credit-less and, well, massive.” (The fact that they are credit-less is perhaps the reason academic integrity and reporting on academic cheating was not a significant story this year.)  Examples of MOOCs include edX, a nonprofit startup from Harvard and the MIT, which has 370,000 students this fall in its first official courses; Coursera, which features courses from 33 Universities including Stanford, Brown, Princeton, Columbia and Duke; and Udacity, which offers online computer science courses. There was also continued coverage of Khan Academy.  We said to expect growth in terms of more people signing up for online courses – so we got that right – but we overstated academic integrity. Grade: B.
  • The most overused phrase in 2012 could be: lean-back/lean-forward user experiences.  We also suggested other overused words could be pivot (in when a startup changes its focus and business model), ultrabooks (PCs as sleek and thin as Macbooks), and Post-PC.  Lean-back activities are those in which users passively access content, like watching TV while lean-forward activities are those in which the user is actively engaged in consuming content. Despite being validated by Entrepreneur Magazine “Lean In” in its “Jargon of the Month” in May 2012, variations on “lean in” or “lean back” were not overused in 2012. Probably “fiscal cliff” was the most overused phrase in 2012. The Wall St. Journal validated “pivot” with its article, "'Pivoting' Pays Off for Tech Entrepreneurs." We did better with Post-PC, getting validation from the New York Times (“As New iPad Debut Nears, Some See Decline of PCs”), Bloomberg BusinessWeek ("IPad: The PC Killer"), Fortune (“IPad vs. Surface: Let the tablet war begin”) and others.  For what it’s worth, the Wall St. Journal nominated another word as most overused word or phrase for 2012: Innovation. The article, "You Call That Innovation?" makes the case that "Companies Love to Say They Innovate, but the Term Has Begun to Lose Meaning." Back to our predictions, we overstated one but got other overused phrases right. Grade: B+.

Media Trends

  • Converging media will continue in 2012. We still think lines of cooperation and competition will continue to blur among media properties: radio stations now post photos and text articles on their website while newspapers feature video channels. And with cord-cutting, more people are watching TV shows on anything but a TV, mostly smartphones, tablets and computers. However, this was a bit topic for media coverage. Grade: B-.
  • E-books will improve their experience by providing new interactive and multimedia content. We said that with “the growing capabilities of e-readers,… expect e-textbooks to include interactive exercises, and nonfiction e-books to include more video, photos, and audio, while fiction books will come packed with featurettes much the way DVDs are packaged.” Bloomberg BusinessWeek validated that prediction with an article, “Easier E-Books with Inkling,” that said, "E-books will improve their experience by providing new interactive and multimedia content." We still think this will happen but we were optimistic to think e-book featurettes would be a regular item in 2012.  We now think that will happen within three to five years.  Grade: C+/B- for being too ahead of the game on this.
  • Ongoing stories we’ll see covered in the media
  • The 2012 election, healthcare, taxes and tax reform, and job creation.  The candidates, the process, the election as horse race, Super PACs, the strength and weakness of the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall St. movement (as well as the 99% vs. the 1%), and sometimes the actual issues. Grade: A – of course this was a gimme but it would have been odd to leave this one out.
  • The euro and euro zone economies and the debt crisis -- particularly troubled Greece and Italy and stable Germany and France -- and the impact of all of this on the US economy. Grade: B because while the EU economy did generate U.S.-based coverage, it was not as big a story in 2012 as it was in 2011.
  • Facebook’s IPO and its implications for the rest of the social media sector. Grade: A- because we did not predict that it’s IPO would be flawed.
  • The battle between Facebook v. Google+. (Interestingly, Twitter won’t be considered even an also-ran in this story.) Grade: B- because Google+ has not competed effectively with Facebook.
  • The battle between huge companies. Apple v. Google v. Microsoft. Oracle v. Everyone Else. Grade: B+ because we did not mention Apple v. Samsung.
  • The state of the media – because the media love reporting on their competitors as well as themselves. Grade: C because this was basically a non-story in 2012.
  • Online privacy will continue to be an important story. Grade: B, which would have been higher if we had linked online privacy with Facebook’s changing privacy policies. Sample New York Times article: “Facebook Changes Privacy Settings, Again.”
  • Online reviews – specifically whether they are from real customers who have bought the product or whether they are positive phony reviews paid to counteract real negative reviews – will generate coverage.  Grade: B- because while this generated some attention (like in a Mr. Know-It-All column in December’s Wired), this was not a big story.
  • The economics and environmental impact of fracking, an efficient but controversial way to extract oil and natural gas from shale. We expect climate science and global warming to be issues during the general election, specifically when discussing regulations. Grade: B.
  • Net-specific issues such as net neutrality (the need to prevent broadband providers from blocking access to competitors), the e-tax loophole (in which e-retailers don’t require customers to pay sales tax, which gives Amazon and others an advantage over bricks-and-mortar retailers that do charge customers sales tax), and anti-piracy legislation (Stop Online Piracy Act aka SOPA and Protect Intellectual Property Act aka PIPA). Grade: B+/A-. Sample Wall St. Journal article: “Cybersecurity Bills Duel Over Rules for Firms”; sample New York Times article: “Security Bills Bruised by Lingering Fight.”
  • Cyberattacks on B2C websites. As more high profile sites get hacked, expect more reports that reinforce fear and uncertainty of online commerce. Grade: A because this got a lot of attention this year. Sample Wall St. Journal article: “Cybersecurity 2.0: Encouraging companies and intelligence agencies to share information freely is a good first step.”
  • Cyberwarfare: the act of attacking one’s enemies by hacking. It’s happening on both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US media has reported that China is using cyberwarfare against the US, including corporate espionage, so expect it to spread elsewhere. Grade: A+ because this got a lot of attention this year. Sample New York Times articles: “Asleep at the Laptop,” “Expert Issues a Cyberwar Warning,” “Mutually Assured Cyberdestruction?,” and "U.S. Suspects Iran Was Behind a Wave of .”  Sample Bloomberg BusinessWeek article: "Life in Cyberia: A new brand of warfare is under way. Our five experts discuss the best defenses."  Forbes:  “Gauss: Yet Another State-Sponsored Virus?” Bloomberg BusinessWeek: “Cyberwars Reach a New Frontier: the Airport.” Wall St. Journal: “Iran Blamed for Cyberattacks; U.S. Officials Say Iranian Hackers Behind Electronic Assaults on U.S. Banks, Foreign Energy Firms.”
  • The rising threat of Chinese businesses, the Chinese economy and the Chinese military. Grade: A because this got a lot of attention this year. Sample Wall St. Journal article: “FBI Traces Trail of Spy Ring to China” while Bloomberg BusinessWeek made this a cover story: "Inside the Chinese Boom in Corporate Espionage" and the New York Times reported: "The Electoral Math of Romney's Stance on Trade with China."
  • One story not likely to be covered for most of 2012: Tim Tebow. Not that his 15 minutes is up. Expect the media to regain its interest with the start of the next NFL season. Grade: C- because Tebow continued to generate media attention, though not at the level of 2011.


General Business Trends

Tech Trends

  • Converging technology, like the “paperless office,” won’t live up to its hype. The real story with converging media is BYOD – Bring Your Own Device to the office. We correctly identified BYOD as a trend but overstated problems with multiple devices as a topic of coverage. Grade: B-.
  • Data will be bigger in 2012. Big Data did generate a lot of coverage, too many to cite. But we’ll one New York Times article: "The Age of Big Data," which says it all. Grade: A.
  • Ongoing Tech Trends we expect to continue from 2011:
  • Cloud computing: This trend started in 2010 but continues to go mainstream. Grade: A but we admit this was a gimme.
  • The battle of tablets: Just because the first battle went in Apple's direction does not mean that wannabe iPad Killers have given up the fight. Competitors still want to get into the action and capture some of the marketshare. From the media's perspective, it's a two-horse race between the Kindle Fire and iPad. We expect a third option to gain some traction, but the iPad will continue to dominate. Grade: A.
  • The three most important tech trends will be mobile, mobile, mobile. Unless the three most important trends are social, social, social. For example, enterprise technology now needs not only to have an intuitive interface, it also must be accessible on iPads. Grade: A.
  • Gaming is not just for kids. Gaming will continue to be integrated into business and training apps to keep people engaged and entertained. Grade: B because while the trend continued it did not generate the kind of media attention we expected.

Marketing Trends

  • The press release will not die in 2012.  It did not die, even as some continue to say it will.  Grade: A.
  • The role of CES will diminish next year. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) continues to be important but SXSW is beginning to eclipse it. Grade: B+.
  • Social media will play a bigger role in the marketing mix for B2B companies. Based on articles and conversations with prospective clients, we were right about this. Grade: A.
  • Reporting and metrics will continue to be important for marketing functions. This will be true in 2013, too. Grade: A.

Overall, we earned an A-/B+.

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