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TrendReport Track Record for Predictions for 2013

For more than a dozen years, Birnbach Communicates has compiled an annual list of media trends for its clients, who operate across a range of industries, including technology, financial software and services, unified communications, storage, security, biotech, healthcare, clean tech, senior services, consumer, social networking, nonprofit and education sectors.
In 2013, there were some big new stories that were not suprising – like Obamacare – and some that were totally suprising – i.e., twerking, the election of a new Pope, and Twitter going public. (We know we've lumped those three together but we do not mean to give equal weight to them.)

The trends and topics we identify help the agency work with its clients to work more effectively with reporters, producers, bloggers and other influencers. We also look at the way topics are being covered by media and in social media, and at how those stories are told. We continue to see that the way stories can and should be told is continuing to shift.
Here's our annual report card of how we did with our 2013 predictions

  • The story still matters.  No question that story and messages continue to matter, even in an age of 140 characters. Companies may still not consistently tell their stories visually (using still photos, videos and infographics) but at least many are trying. We also said the information companies want to communicate must be customer-focused, and that is increasingly true in 2013, and will continue in 2014. Grade: A.
  • Corporate values and personality matter. We said that “in 2013 and beyond, social media will multiply the impact of values and corporate personality. Companies need to be prepared to communicate not just their selling proposition but also their values and personality as they engage with customers via social media. Social media expert Paul Gillin validated this in a recent column, “The Power of Trust,” in which he made the point: “Marketers who understand this power are in a position to build bonds with their audiences that transcend market cycles because those bonds are based on shared values and interests.” Grade: A.
  • Social media is relevant for B2B companies. We said 2013 would be the year that B2B companies realized they needed a social media strategy, too.  This was validated by a company that brought us in three years ago, asking for insights on their media strategy. When we told them they should consider social media, they sniffed, and said their engineering customers would not use social media to help them with their jobs. This summer, they called us back and asked about enhancing their social media strategy. Grade: A.

General Consumer Trends.

  • The Battle for the Living Room.  We were right that there was a lot of coverage about the battle for the living room but we missed one part of the story. There was a lot of coverage about TVs in the first half of 2013 but in the last quarter, the battle hasn’t been between high def and ultra high def TVs. It’s been about Microsoft’s Xbox One vs. Sony’s PS4 (that’s PlayStation4 for those of you older than 35). Because we missed the gaming console part of the story, we’ll take points off our score. Grade: B+.
  • Battle between different streaming services and cable’s embrace of streaming.  This got a lot of coverage but not in terms of specific comparisons across offerings and fee structures from Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. Instead, the coverage focused on new original programming being developed by some of the streaming services, and the implications as those services evolve to better compete against cable channels like HBO and Showtime.  We expect more coverage in 2014 about streaming vs. cable as well as Netflex vs. Amazon Prime and cord-cutting. Grade: A.
  • The battle among huge companies. Apple v. Google v. Samsung and Microsoft. Oracle v. Everyone Else. This is one of the great memes of tech journalism this decade. Grade: A.
  • The Battle for Map Supremacy: Apple v. Google v. Nokia v. Microsoft v., Amazon. This got some coverage but we overstated this. Grade: C.
  • Apple TV set and the future of TV. People may spend much time actually watching a TV but there continues to be interest in how Apple may revolutionize our TV-watching experience. Whatever plans Apple may have will be the continued focus of speculation in 2014. Grade: A.
  • Automated home and smart appliances.  Media coverage started strong in the first half but dropped in the second half. Interesting that some trends are not strong enough to maintain buzz for an entire 12 months. This could be the result of a CES bump where some topics get off to a strong jump in January but fade when there’s not a lot of new products available. Which means, there could be more interest in smart appliances after CES 2014. Grade: B.
  • 3D printers: Not yet ready for prime time. We said “2013 will be the year in which the media proclaims the arrival of 3D printers,” and that was on target. Still not seeing them widely adopted yet but we expect continued coverage about the implications for manufacturing. Grade: A.
  • The three most important aspects of the future of tech in 2013: mobile, mobile, mobile.  We may have overstated things when we said to look for the rise of a new CMO – not chief marketing officer but chief mobility officers – but mobile continues to be important. Grade: A-.
  • Forecast: cloud is everywhere. From predicting that more companies will rely on the cloud for access to proprietary information in 2013 (a notion that would have been inconceivable just a few years earlier) to expecting a few outages this year but that they won't have much impact on the cloud's momentum, we nailed this one. Grade: A.
  • Bring Your Own Device to the office (BYOD) will be go mainstream. Our main prediction was that BOYD would be so mainstream that that “the media will be able to refer to it without having to spell it out.” And that turned true. Grade: A.
  • Mobile search: Still important but we probably overstated it in terms of media coverage, particularly about mobile search firms competing with Google. Grade: B.
  • Jobs, unemployment, and recruiting and the need for specially-trained employees for specific industries will be a big story. The Boston Globe validated this with a story in April "Demand rockets for visas to bring in foreign workers." There were other articles, too. Grade: B+.
  • STEM will continue to be a push by businesses. Coverage about STEM continued in 2013, including recent editorials in the New York Times about the need to attract more girls into STEM. Grade: A.
  • App burnout: This continues to generate some coverage but mostly in the form of concerns about being over-connected. Grade: C+.
  • Robotics will generate buzz. We said to expect that advances in robotics will generate coverage in even the more staid business publications (beyond Wired and Fast Company).  We saw some coverage in the New York Times. Grade: B+.
  • Biotech consolidation. Mostly there was concern about a possible bubble among publicly held biotechs but that’s not the same thing as consolidation (even though that could be the side effects of a bursting bubble). Grade: C-
  • Regulatory changes will continue to impact financial services firms. We said this would be an important story that might not get a lot of attention because “the work involved is so technical.”  We were right about that.  Grade: B.

Premature deathwatch of things that are very much alive.  Reporters and bloggers like to write is the purported death of various, usually popular items, devices or technology. Here’s a list we predicted would be proclaimed dead, and how accurate we were:

  • e-Readers: The Wall St. Journal, among others declared e-Readers as on the way out. We disagreed, and feel dedicated e-readers are doing fine, thanks. Grade: B+.
  • Flash: It’s probably on the way out but it’s not dead yet. Grade: B+.
  • PCs: Sales are declining but businesses continue to rely on PCs. That’s not going to change until tablets are more on par with PCs in terms of capabilities and performance Meanwhile, Deloitte says “larger screens and keyboards go a long way toward explaining the PC’s enduring popularity not only for work-related tasks, but also for watching videos.” Grade: B+.
  • Cable TV: More people may want to be cord-cutters but doing so requires more patience than a lot of people have. Cable TV subscribers will decline but many will stay as cable continues to improve the viewing experience on devices other than TV sets. Grade: B+
  • 3D TVs and 3D glasses: We said that 3D glasses for the living room use is dying but 3D TVs are not yet dead but we’re not sure about the 3D TVs’ future. Grade: C+.
  • Blu-ray machines and DVDs: Blu-ray player sales were up 3 percent on Black Friday, according to Home Media Magazine. That’s pretty good for technology that was written off (by others) as being dead. Grade: B+.
  • Radio: There may be a lot of alternative apps to traditional radio, but radio continues on. Grade: A.
  • Landlines and cellphones that aren’t smartphones: These are not dead yet, either. Grade: A.
  • Press releases: Despite social media, there’s still a place and a value to press releases. Grade: A.
  • CES: No less than star consumer review David Pogue (formerly of the New York Times) called CES 2013: "Spicing Up a Ho-Hum Tech Show." Grade: A+.
  • Privacy: After leaks and NSA spying (neither of which we predicted), privacy continues to be a big issue. Grade: A.
  • The Office: We were talking about the need for offices as we’ve used them (not the NBC comedy “The Office).  According to a Wall St. Journal article, "Say Goodbye to the Office Cubicle; Walls Come Down as Many Companies Switch to Layouts Designed to Foster Collaboration," one of the companies that helped "spawn the cubicle craze more than 40 years ago" is "turning a profit these days by trying to kill it off." Bottom line: we still need offices. Grade: A.
  • Paper: We’re still a way from being paperless, nearly 40 years from the time BusinessWeek published an article claiming we would go paperless. Grade: A.
  • Social media gurus: This was one area that we felt was ready for the deathwatch, noting “Most of the ones we see claim to be gurus and to be able to help you generate thousands of followers – yet, anecdotally, many so-called gurus have relatively few followers themselves.” Not a lot of media coverage but a lot of social media backlash to self-proclaimed gurus. Grade: B+.
  • Media relations: We said, “Social media is no longer just for early-adopting B2B companies but media relations continues to be important. By the end of the decade, both media relations and social media will converge into a single integrated effort.” We stand by that. Grade: B.
  • Ongoing stories we said to expect to see covered in the media in 2013.
        • The implementation and implications of Obamacare: This is one of 2013’s biggest stories (other than twerking, which we didn’t predict). This will be a big story in 2014 as both political parties try to make their cases ahead of the midterm elections. Grade: A+.
        • Gun control laws: As an issue, guns generated a lot of media coverage. Grade: A.
        • Deficits, spending cuts, taxes, etc.: This got a boost when the House of Representatives pushed the government to shut down for two weeks. This will continue to be a story in 2014. Grade: A.
        • Made in the USA: Continued to generate coverage, including in the July/August issue of Fast Company featured a compelling story, "The Road To Resilience: How Unscientific Innovation Saved Marlin Steel;A little maker of metal baskets shows how U.S. manufacturers can thrive against all comers. Grade: B+.
        • Cybercrime and cyberwarfare: Lots of coverage on this, especially in the first half of 2013 before leaks and NSA took over. Grade: B+.
        • Salaries paid women vs. men. There was some coverage about salaries but even more coverage about the roles of women in business, thanks to Facebook's COO, Sheryl Sandberg, has generated tons of coverage as the result of her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In 2013, Lean In became the big gender-related story. Grade: B.
        • Cashless payments. We expect cashless wallets to go mainstream by 2016, and are holding to that, even as alternate credit card payment systems like Square proliferate.  The Boston Globe validated our prediction with an article: "Not paying by smartphone? You soon will, many bet. Grade: A.
        • Crowdsourcing/daily deals: We were right that crowdsourcing continued to be a big story and right that daily deal sites would decline in coverage. Grade: A+.
        • Star Wars: We were not surprised Wired made the new Star Wars film (not due to 2015) a cover story, but we were pleased. Another good prediction. There will be more speculation on characters and story lines in 2014. Grade: A.
        • Fees: We said we “don’t actually expect there to be a lot of coverage of how companies use fees to cover costs and raise revenues. However, we expect companies to continue to rely on fees on services they used to provide for free to boost their bottom lines.” Grade: B.

        Ongoing Tech Trends we expect to continue:

        • Cloud computing going mainstream: This will continue in 2014, too. Grade: A.
        • The battle of tablets: This will continue in 2014, too. Grade: A.
        • Gaming for business:  Gaming will continue to be integrated into business and training apps to keep people engaged and entertained. Grade: B+.
        • Big data: The media will continue to cover big data as it continues to go mainstream…until big data is supplanted by the next data trend. Grade: B+.
        • Consumerization of enterprise apps: We were right about this, too. Grade: B+.
        • Hybrid IT: By this we mean technology that combines on-premise and off-site/cloud solutions. This is still important but we don’t think generated a lot of buzz. Grade: B-.
        • Second screens: This got a boost from when Twitter went public (which, by the way, was a story we missed; we did not expect it to go public until 2014). A lot of the Twitter IPO stories looked at Twitter’s relationship with commenting on TV programs. Grade: B.
        • Infographics: We expect companies to use infographics – visual representations of information like survey data – to make information shareable via social media but we don’t expect print media to reprint corporate inforgraphics because they typically take up too much of a user’s screen, particularly on smartphones. That doesn’t mean infographics are not worth producing, it just means B2B companies need to be realistic in terms of goals for their use. We nailed this. Grade: A.

      Overall grade: B+/A-.

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