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TrendReport Track Record for Predictions for 2014
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.
There were a lot of big stories, many of them international and tragic in scope, in 2014 that we did not predict including:
- Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
- The Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa and patients in the U.S.
- Ferguson, the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, protests and the racial divide
- Domestic violence, Ray Rice and the NFL.
- ISIS, the beheading of kidnapped Americans and the re-engaging by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria.
- The kidnapping of Israeli teens that sparked fighting in Gaza.
- The Crimean crisis.
- e-cigs and vape.
- The deaths of Robin Williams and Joan Rivers.
- The fall of Bill Cosby and the senate report on torture.
There were also a lot of positive news we didn’t predict including:
- The Noble Peace Prize to Malala Yousafzai.
- The Ice Bucket Challenge and ALS.
- LeBron James returning to Cleveland.
- The identification of King Richard III’s remains.
- The Rosetta Mission landing on a comet.
- The amazing cultural phenomenon of “Frozen.”
And some business stories we didn't expect, such as the competition between Uber and Lyft, along with Uber's probably over-the-line aggressiveness or the rise of Snapchat supplanting Facebook (which, in a kiss of death for teens, is more popular with middle-aged parents than with their kids).
The worldwide, non-ecumenical appeal of Pope Francis (could he be Time Magazine’s first consecutive person of the year?).
The trends and topics we identify help the agency work with its clients to engage 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 shifting.
Here's our annual report card of how we did with our 2014 predictions:
Media & Social Media Trends
- The media business has not stabilized. Unfortunately we got this right. The New York Times just completed a buyout program of 100 newsroom employees that saw some prominent reporters like Stuart Elliott, a leading advertising columnist, and Bill Carter, author of several best sellers about the TV industry, leave the Grey Lady. Yet the Times claims that it still has approximately the same number of newsroom employees – just different mix of skills. Grade: A
- Journalists continue to use social media to announce and report – and broadcast reporters often recap the mood on Twitter. Reporting on what celebrities are Tweeting about a news incident is not, by our definition, news but we’re seeing a lot of that on broadcast news, even online – when, if I want to see what at celeb is Tweeting, I can go right to that celeb’s Twitter ID. Grade: A
- Traditional media will be burned in 2014 by jumping on a social media trending topic. This feels true even though we can’t point to a specific episode. Grade: B
- Native advertising will be big in 2014. Clickbait or Native Advertising is a big deal in 2014. A lot of people don’t seem to like it but it seems like it’s here to stay for the near future. Grade: A
- Marketing via flash mobs will seem so 2009. We were right about this. Grade: A
- Instagram and Pinterest will remain important sources for recommendations and inspiration.
- Neither site was dethroned in 2014 but Tinder may have captured the prize for generating the most buzz in 2014. Grade: A because we were right about the importance of Instagram and Pinterest as well as a growing awareness that there is a disparity between what people post and the lives we actually live, and that marketers need to make sure they develop easy-to-capture-and-share content, particularly with regard to video and still photography.
- Thought leadership will continue to be important to B2B companies. This is going to be true for at least several years to come. Grade: A
- Sales and marketing need to be more integrated. Perhaps this seems like a no-brainer but we’ve seen this doesn’t happen enough. Sales and marketing need to work together on direct marketing, web content, marketing automation, advertising, social marketing and PR to generate qualified leads and move them through the sales pipeline. Grade: A
- Social media tracking services will hit it big in 2014. More measurement We probably overstated this. They’re important but there are too many different solutions measuring too many different variables. And even when they’re measuring the same variables, the algorithms generate different results that it’s hard to know what’s accurate. Grade: B
- CES is no longer the top tech convention. This is continuing a downward trend. Grade: A
- PR Spam will still be an issue. Now there’s concern that too much social media content is just repurposed press releases. We believe that’s more true than we’d like. Grade. B+
- Cloud computing will still be the big tech trend. A no brainer but still true. Grade: A
- 2014 is the year people experience Tech Fatigue. We didn’t see a lot of stories about this but we feel it’s somewhat true based even on the reaction to the unveiling of new versions of smartphones. Because those smartphones are only incrementally better – A better camera sensor, big deal – people are disappointed. Grade: B
- Cars and clothes will increasingly include design features for smartphones. Have definitely seen this in clothing but has not hit yet with cars. But it will. Grade: B+
- Upgrading the retail experience. This was true but the bigger story seems to be same-day delivery of online purchases, whether by messengers in big cities or by drones in the future. Grade: B+
- Drone deliveries will not take place in 2014. We’re right but same-day deliveries became a big deal in terms of buzz. Grade B+
- The continuing battle among huge companies. Google v. Apple v. Samsung v. Microsoft, Oracle v. Everyone Else. Again, continuing a trend from prior years. Grade: A
- Wearable technology is still ahead of the curve but will generate some coverage as part of the Internet of Things. Google Glass fell off the cliff relatively early in 2014 but the Apple Watch (coming in 2015) validated the category, as did fitness trackers. Grade: B+
Ongoing Consumer Trends
- The Battle for the Living Room. Grade: B
- Cord-cutting will continue to be a top story. Grade: A
- Consumers still expect Apple to unveil a new way to watch TV, but Apple will offer, instead, the iWatch. We nailed this one except we got the name of the Apple Watch wrong. Grade: A
- Premature deathwatch of things that are very much alive. People love to predict the death of various, usually popular items, devices or technology. Here are candidates for 2014:
- PCs: We said PCs are not dead yet and corporate sales kept the category from seeing overall declines. Grade: A
- Cable TV: We said, “We don’t think cable companies will disappear anytime soon because they’ve made bundling – phone/cable and Internet – so indispensable.” Grade: A
- Press releases: Despite social media, there’s still a place and a value to press releases. Grade: A
- Media relations: We said it would continue to be important, and we feel it still is, despite inroads from social media. Grade: B+
- Actual deathwatch: Things we feel are actually dying.
- The phrase “at press time”: Grade: A
- Paper-based holiday cards: Grade: B
- The words “authentic” and “artisanal”: As much as we’d like these words to die, they remained strong in 2014. Grade: C-.
General news stories
- More interest in workplace diversity. Unfortunately, this topic did not generate as much ink as we expected. Grade: C
- Growing Hispanic influence. Except in terms of reforming our immigration policies, this did not generate as much as attention as we had expected. Grade: C
- Real estate market. This generate some attention but not as much as we expected. Grade: B
- The new Thanksgiving tradition is shopping on Thanksgiving. As much as we don't like it, this was definitely a thing in 2014. Grade: A
- Stock market and the biotech bubble. While we didn't see much about a stock market bubble, we did see more about a biotech bubble that didn't arrive. Yet. Grade: B-
Ongoing stories we’ll see covered in the media. Each year we provide a list of stories the media will continue to cover, which include:
- Obamacare and midterm elections will be the never-ending stories in 2014. 'Nuff said, really. Grade: A
- Deficits, spending cuts, taxes, etc.: This wasn't a dominant story line but it popped up fairly often. Grade: B
- Cybercrime and cyberwarfare: Still important. Grade: A
- Privacy and security will continue to be issues that only experts care about. Consumers are generally ok with posting information about themselves to generate more followers, likes or subscribers or to get coupons or discounts. Grade: B+
- Bitcoin and cashless payments will continue to generate interest. BitCoin is not yet broadly used by consumers. But the advent of Apple Pay, its e-wallet app, now available on any Apple devise using iOS8.1, it could be bigger in 2015. It did generate a lot of coverage at the start of the year. Grade: A
- Star Wars: Not something our clients could leverage -- B2B enterprise software is not often discussed in that galaxy far, far away -- but there's huge interest, even a 80-second trailer is endlessly analyzed for clues. Grade: A
Ongoing Tech Trends we expect to continue:
- The battle of tablets: Grade: A-
- Mobile everything will be important, including mobile search and mobile recommendations. Grade: A
- Crowdsourcing will continue to be a source of investors and a marketing boost. But that will primarily be for consumer-oriented products, not B2B technology. Grade: A
- Virtual startups in otherwise unlikely fields. Grade: B+
- 3D printers are still not yet ready for prime time. Grade: B+
- Big data: Grade: A
- Consumerization of enterprise apps: Grade: A
- Second screens: Grade: B+
- Cognitive and context computing: A bit early on this. Grade: B
Overall grade: B+/A-.