If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that predictions and projections are useless, and that the man who makes them is a fool. This has been true, certainly, of politics, and truer still of climate change and business conditions. In the world of media, entertainment and tech, however, there are some trends that have now become impossible to overlook, and several that have such juggernaut momentum that they look set to roll well into 2018 and beyond. With that in mind, and with our eyes fixed firmly to our crystal ball, here are our media predictions for 2018.
Continued dominance of subscription
It doesn’t take a genius to see how the subscription model has disrupted traditional markets – Netflix, the poster-child for that world, has obliterated several industries in just a couple of simple clicks. Millennials like the simplicity of the payment scheme, and value the huge range and choice that subscription businesses tend towards.
But the recurring payment model is also growing in some sectors long thought dead and dying. Newspapers, for example, are now seeing a resurgence thanks to direct sales. The New York Times gained 130,000 subscribers in November. The Wall Street Journal is up 300%.
Of course, Netflix and Amazon Prime continue their remarkable and insurmountable growth, thanks largely to their ad-free experience and slew of award-winning and dynamic original programming. But 2018 will see Hulu surge forward as the third horse in the race at the same time as YouTube plans the launch of its own subscription model. Spotify and Apple Music continue to erode conventional music services, and have proven that people will happily pay for ad-free radio. Even radio service Pandora, which fell by the wayside in recent years, is now set to launch a $9.99 monthly service.
Experts are dead, fake news abounds, opinion is fact, and nothing is to be trusted. This is the media landscape of 2017, and its tribalist, paranoid tendencies will continue long into 2018. Experts predict the rise of more and more independent, single-viewpoint publications, and the increased dominance of pseudo-journalism and blogging via mass-market platforms such as Medium.
The next 12 months will likely see individuals become their own media outlets, essentially, as the anchors and editors of traditional media – alongside a slew of celebrities, influencers and activists – become more vocal and influential than any conglomerate media corporation. Naturally, there will also be a rise in services that lend or verify credibility to these media nodes – independent fact checkers like PolitiFact and FactCheck have grown vastly in influence since the rise of tribalism, Trump, and the echo chamber.
The evolution of influencers
Influencer marketing has grown at breakneck speeds in the past 12 months, and has become formalised and commoditised to an alarming degree. Amongst all the huge ad spends and unlikely endorsements, the creativity, originality and authenticity of advertising has become somewhat lost.
The FTC in the US has recently introduce rules about sponsored posts and declarations of payment, while fresh worries over the wisdom of algorithm matching have prompted many brands to return to the fundamentals of relationship building, trust and transparency. Influencer marketing will continue apace in 2018, but it’s likely that advertisers will go after a sniper approach over an expensive carpet bomb campaign. By choosing smaller, more original, more authentic, more appropriate influencers to spread their messages organically, in 2018 brands will harness the power of influence platforms without diluting their cachet.
This year’s tech headlines have been dominated by the rise of both Amazon and Google’s smart speaker platforms. These are already changing the way that some early-adopters consume media – the continued rise of podcasts, for example, and the return of digital radio, can be pretty neatly pegged to the advance of these audio-dominated platforms.
More significant still will be the new entrants in the race. Leaked reports from a manufacturer in Taiwan state that Facebook is building a 15-inch touch-screen smart speaker to introduce in 2018. Apple’s own HomePod, which launched fairly quietly this year, will be front and centre in the tech giant’s plan for the coming months, while Samsung is set to release its mass-market model very soon.
Artificial intelligence, until now a mainstay of fringe tech and science fiction, looks set to influence almost every aspect of the media landscape in 2018. Just look at the acquisitions of the world’s biggest tech companies in recent months: Google’s parent, Alphabet, has acquired 11 AI startups over the past five years, the most of any public company. Apple has bought seven, while Facebook and Intel have taken over five apiece. Twitter has acquired four AI startups in the same period.
A great deal of these deal with predictive analytics, audience matching and search processing. Some are augmented reality-focused. But the most interesting ones are those involved in media creation. Sports Illustrated, for example, has developed a tool built by Arkadium that creates infographics from scratch. Traditional news agency Associated Press, meanwhile, has used something called Automated Insights to generate and predict stories from political headlines to the results of conference-level football matches, while smart bots are mimicking editorial language across the entire spectrum of media consumption. If 2018 holds any certainties, then, it’s that articles like the one you’re reading right now will soon be written by AI alone.
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