9 predictions for 2012

Posted on December 31, 2011

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If you’ve read this blog before you realise I talk about a mixture of things here. This post will cover similar territory – the worlds of media, tech, internet and even a bit of wider business (though not much about family – even if the thought of forecasting upcoming pregnancies, divorces etc. has got me thinking).

Anyway, these are in no particular order…

1. In digital media, the bedrock revenue stream of display advertising will continue to struggle. Don’t get me wrong, those year-on-year upward forecasts from WPP and the like you see in the business pages aren’t wrong generally and there are bright spots, such as the rise of video (finally), but every month the number and sophistication of players outstrips the sector revenue growth.

Add to this downward pricing pressure making for a buyers’ market – aided by ad networks, ad exchanges, demand-side platforms and the glut of pages for sale. And I haven’t even mentioned how much ad spend is being taken by Google and increasingly Facebook.

Of course display isn’t the only game in town. Across B2B and consumer publishing expect to see more user-pays initiatives and diversification around areas including events, data services and custom publishing. But ads ain’t what they used to be.

2. Big brands will fail. To which many of us will lament: “Oh no, I always loved what they did.” Then we’ll realise just when the last time was we actually spent any money with them. This goes for online media but it’s much bigger than that. How many people loved Habitat? Not enough (love or people) to save its stores. We’ll see more high street failures – don’t tell me you thought your love of Amazon would never have a downside – and also those in supposedly hot areas.  In consumer tech, expect the number of TV makers to thin out further.

3. Speaking of high streets, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of hyperlocal. I would say that, given a couple of areas of interest, but that big SoLoMo thing that we heard about from Eric Schmidt at the start of the year (who coined it first?) and then a lot more about at Le Web in Paris recently will finally get the ‘Lo’ to go with the ‘So’ and ‘Mo’ of social and mobile. (A sentence no one should ever have to write.)

But it won’t just be about daily deals and getting shoppers into certain venues. My guess is that long term that’s only about a quarter of the opportunity, max. Hyperlocal ties up with wider movements around environmentalism, localism and even a return to an economics where we trust – even personally know – those supplying us. Might not be that much happens over the next year – except ‘hyperlocal’ or just plain old ‘local’ will become buzzwords.

4. There will be worrying signs out of China. Back in 2007 I predicted an imminent stalling of the world economy. I couldn’t take any credit for that – and I would have without modesty accepted Roubini-level plaudits – because I also predicted the driver would be China’s economy stuttering due to, among other things, growing pains. Well it turns out China’s onward progress (feel free to debate that grouping of words) has been just about the only positive economic news of the past two or three years, by traditional yard sticks. The danger now might well be that there is over-expansion in some areas, which feels almost inevitable when anyone (an individual, sports team or whole country) has been on a tear for several years.

5. Google+ will be closed. Or if it isn’t closed, expect all the talk by the second half of the year to be about that happening. I’m not sure the company has the stomach to try to pursue what is, until now – sorry folks – an elaborate hang out for geeks. They’ve retrenched before with Buzz, Wave and a long list of other projects. Message to Google: You’re great at search, few others are. Focus on that.

If you’re wondering right now whether you should have a G+ presence for your business, after mild dabbling in 2011 I’d say hold off and still concentrate efforts on the big boys, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (mix dependent on what you’re trying to achieve).

6. Having said that, there will be room for another large social network. I have literally just started looking around Pinterest, an image-centric social network. I’m not saying it’s the Great White Hope but that – despite the heft of the likes of the FB-TW-LI holy trinity – there are low barriers to someone else coming along and acquiring many millions of users within one to two years. If not Pinterest then another image-based service might be the one. If Instagram gets its rollout right over Android and other non-iOS platforms don’t bet against it.

7. I blogged elsewhere about being glued to the TV (more like a stuttering online audio feed in many cases) to follow the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics these last couple of months. Much of what has come out will have sent shock waves far and wide, even if it was no surprise to a lot of those in the mainstream media. The time hasn’t been right of late – maybe due to the ordinary people whose lives have been demonstrably blighted by the practices of an out-of-control few than any celeb testimony – but eventually, in 2012, the Inquiry will be followed by action, which is likely to see the UK media more heavily controlled. By the end of the year, we might have an idea of what we lose by the media lacking teeth, instead of what we gain. Oh – and James Murdoch won’t last the year in his current role.

8. The four standout tech/internet companies of the past couple of years – Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google – will continue to grow and battle each other over the next 12 months but for Apple the real post-Jobs transition begins. There will come a point, possibly quite soon, where the ‘What would Steve do?’ question can no longer be about specific projects and product lines in addition to his whole approach to business.

The man who built – and re-built – Apple will continue to cast a long shadow and be revered, rightly so, but his former top team will start to move in new directions. Some will build on current momentum – one rumour of recent weeks has been about Apple as TV manufacturer, which will accelerate what I talked about in (2) – and others feel like tinkering that he wouldn’t have wanted. Another recent rumour is about a seven-inch iPad – wasn’t he anti that size tablet?

9. And finally… the world won’t end. Forget all those prophecies about ‘2012’, Mayan or otherwise. This is both a metaphorical call (in an economic sense) and literal. If the latter were true, I’m confident no one is going to come calling pointing out how wrong I was.

Have a healthy and happy 2012 everyone.

TH

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Posted in: Social media, Work