Some of my colleagues and I were joking about the repeat “year of mobile” predictions at the office a few days ago, and something occurred to us: The reason why it’s never going to be the “year of mobile” is because “mobile” isn’t a screen, it is a state of being. It’s because consumer habits have raced ahead of our year-to-year cycle of annual prediction.
Look at screen convergence, at screen context versus situational context. Is it still “mobile” if you’re on your couch? Think about how the iPhone 6+’s launch this year blurred the line between tablet and “phablet.”
The funny thing is, consumers aren’t even consciously thinking of watching content on mobile versus tablet versus desktop. They want their content. Are they watching more content on the thing that we call their “phone”? Sure. Are they watching more advertising on the thing we call their “phone”? Not so much. Phone, tablet, laptop -- what’s the difference? And that’s what’s important, not wasting hours thinking about a “mobile strategy” with regards to screen. Better to think of “mobile” as a situational context. Anyway, not an area I would want to have to make a prediction on for 2015.
But if you had to ask me what my 2015 predictions for the media industry would be, well, here you go:
1. We’re going to see a very visible example of why the conversation about net neutrality is one that needs to go on. I’ve said before that we aren’t really taking into account the fact that the Internet might not be able to handle TV. I think 2015 will be the year we’ll have at least one incident that will remind us how much we don’t fully have a grasp on our digital content infrastructure. Let’s say, a Netflix original series hits the Internet at the same time as an HBO show’s two-hour season finale is airing? I don’t even want to think about the angry tweets that will ensue.
2. This one is a depressing one for those of you who are in advertising (disclosure: I am in advertising), but people will continue to opt out of ads wherever they can. The recent launch of Google Contributor and Google’s YouTube Music Key -- ad-free subscription services from a company that makes a vast majority of its revenue from advertising -- is the canary in the coalmine. Publishers will be offering more options that will continue to shake things up for advertisers and ad-tech companies, who thought that they could just keep putting more ads anywhere they possible could.
3. Great storytellers will continue to be lured to ad-free platforms like Netflix, HBO, and Showtime. Just take a look at the just-announced Golden Globe award nominations and see which channels (can we even really say “channels” anymore?) dominated. In a digital world, you get pennies from advertising and dollars from subscriptions. That’s not a difficult choice for a content provider to make. Not to mention that if you ask any storyteller if they would rather write a show in which they have to consider advertising breaks or one where they don’t… well, what do you think they’d pick?
See a trend here? Pretty much every quasi-prediction I’ve made for 2015 is making the assumption that we are going to have to navigate even more content, good content, and that this growing “content bubble” won’t just affect consumer choice; it’ll affect how we have to make business decisions. Which leads to another great battle to watch for in 2015: the competition to be the people’s “content operating system.” What (smart TVs? MVPDs? Apple? Hulu/Netflix?) will be the way people discover and consumer all this content?
Like if there are going to be subscriptions charged for this stuff, how many subscriptions will consumers pay for before they get annoyed?
Or what if we hit the realization too late that we’re supporting a robust digital content infrastructure with an incredibly flimsy ad business model -- and digital delivery networks that aren’t prepared for the load?
So many fun questions to sort through in 2015. I’m happy to talk to any of you about it over drinks during the week leading up to New Year’s Day. Come on, this is advertising. I know most of us won’t be too busy.