While everyone at theMIX agency hit the new year with all cylinders running, we took time to brainstorm a host of major trends in tech media we expect to play out over the next 12 months. Here’s eight of our favorites:
YouTube Star/Major Media Convergence
In 2014, the entertainment industry finally realized that grassroots YouTube celebrities have larger fanbases than their top talent. In 2015, expect to see major film studios, TV networks, and music labels doing their best to appeal to (co-opt?) YouTube’s biggest stars in a huge way. We’re talking sponsorships and content sharing on the major YouTube personality channels, and numerous crossovers happening in the other direction. (Think PewDiePie on the Jimmy Kimmel Show, for instance.) At the same time, expect major media stars to start putting more effort into expanding their own YouTube channels.
Growing Ubiquity of Wi-Fi Greatly Increases Rich Media Consumption on Mobile
While most people in tech already take the availability of ubiquitous Wi-Fi for granted, its explosive growth across the US (available even on mass transit and in public parks) will inspire huge changes in how we consume media on mobile—most especially rich media like streaming music and videos. Expect this to become more noticeable in 2015—and for it to further erode the centrality of television and media consumption on dekstops/laptops.
Continued Decrease in Digital Music Sales Inspire New Distribution Models
You may not remember the last time you bought music online, but chances are you’re streaming music from Pandora, Spotify, or Rdio right now. In 2014, digital music sales dropped 14%, while streaming services rose 54%. Those trends will continue this year, and artists like Taylor Swift, who pulled her music from Spotify, will search for new ways to distribute their content. (Both she and Beyonce are releasing their music independently.) Some may even follow the lead of Thom Yorke, who sold his album via Bittorrent. As all this happens, expect Apple to shift iTunes’ business model. (Recall that Apple recently purchased Beats Music... which includes a streaming service.)
Media Backlash Over VR Hype
After Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of Oculus Rift and the subsequent hype over virtual reality last year, we are inevitably bound to hit Gartner’s Trough of Disillusionment, in which media outlets put aside their glowing coverage, and start asking difficult questions. That very thing happened around Second Life 8 years ago (as James can explain to you at length), and virtual reality faces the same problem that SL faced: Due to VR’s high costs and learning curve, mass adoption will be slow—and when tens of millions of users don’t suddenly materialize, reporters will (however unfairly) start wondering if the technology is Not All That.
Reverse Exodus of Tech Journalists
Over the last few years, we’ve seen numerous journalists leave the industry amid layoffs and monetization struggles. But since then, more opportunities have emerged for journalists in non-traditional digital media publications like Buzzfeed and Vice, making a return to journalism a pretty enticing prospect for writers eager to get back behind the pen. In fact, the reverse exodus has already began: Dan Lyons, once a Forbes reporter who famously defected to marketing software company Hubspot in 2013 and helped HBO write Season 2 of Silicon Valley, just made a very high-profile return to journalism at Gawker’s Valleywag. Expect to see more ex-reporters follow his lead in 2015.
Dedicated Internet Security Coverage from Major Media Outlets
Major outlets like the New York Times have had dedicated security journalists for forever. But security and privacy online are becoming even more a major part of the mainstream public discussion, due to revelations around NSA eavesdropping and the hacking of Sony (allegedly by North Korea over The Interview). As interest in security topics continue to grow, we predict we’ll see other publications appoint dedicated security reporters—or at least make covering security a major part of reporters’ beats.
Instagram Becomes Social Media’s Most Important B2C Platform
When was the last time you bought something new without first checking out reviews online— especially on your phone, right before you’re about to make a purchase? The importance of these reviews are multiplied tenfold with just ONE image included— and an image from a celebrity or influencer can make these products explode. This, coupled to the continued growth of smartphone ownership and usage, points to Instagram becoming the most important social media platform for B2C outreach. We expect to see everyone— from large brand name products and department stores to local stores and restaurants— begin to use Instagram more and more frequently to build relationships with their loyal customers, and peak the interest of new buyers on their own Instagram profiles. This will even become more important to companies than sponsored advertisements in the picture feed. On the consumer side, expect Instagram to emphasize the use of search to help users discover new products/restaurants/etc. via images and hashtags.
New Opportunities in Local Media Coverage
Remember Patch? The truth is “hyperlocal news” efforts are not new, and for the most part, they’ve proven hard to monetize. However, some of our San Francisco team have become daily readers of Hoodline, which was formed in Spring 2014 by merging a bunch of independent well-read neighborhood blogs...and it feels, well, different. Eric Eldon, TechCrunch’s previous co-editor, is now at their helm. Whether Hoodline will be able to successfully monetize is unclear, but we’re still very excited to see the site expand and others experiment with similar models. Neighborhoods, after, all are at the heart of our daily experiences, and city newspapers and broadcast don’t do a good job of covering the “small stuff” citizens also care about like new construction and petty crime.
Watch this blog for updates, because throughout 2015, we’ll closely watch the news to see how on-point our forecasts turn out to be.