Our 3rd annual industry report on emerging entertainment, media and technology trends is now available.
• 157 Trends
• 28 optimistic, pragmatic and catastrophic scenarios
• 10 Non-technical primers and glossaries
• Overview of what events to anticipate in 2020
• Actionable insights to use within your organization
Futurists spend just as much time looking back as we do forward, and as I write this annual letter from my office in New York City I’m reminded of where I was on this day twenty years ago. I was living in Japan back then, surrounded by early smartphones, Tamagotchi virtual pets and Palm Pilots. On my MiniDisc player I was undoubtedly listening to a mix-disc with songs from The Matrix soundtrack. I vividly remember debates at work about whether or not the world as we knew it was about to end because of Y2K and a wonky computer glitch.
Those working in entertainment, media and technology grappled with intense uncertainties beyond that Y2K bug:
- MySpace and Napster both went live, and they signaled a radical change in distribution. What happened when people shared movies, songs, games and news content with their peers rather than buying from a store?
- Google and Yahoo! had just launched, and unlike America Online, Compuserve and Netscape these new platforms were freely available to everyone from their inception – and without needing to download software. Easier access could bring hundreds of millions of people to the internet. What would become of human editors and producers when platforms made content decisions algorithmically?
- Impeachment proceedings had been brought against President Bill Clinton, which foisted CNN, Fox and MSNBC into positions of tremendous influence. With lots of time to fill, the networks brought on board in-house pundits and commentators and engaged them in shoutfests. What about the after effects on public trust of media?
- It was a time of record layoffs. Companies cut hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S., due to a bunch of factors: an economic crisis in Asia, a downturn in oil prices, a weakening manufacturing sector, and increased merger and acquisition activity. News organizations were headed into a downward slump. How would the internet and early smartphones impact the business of news?
- At the turn of the last century, we were still trying to make sense of the Columbine High School massacre. How could something like this happen in America? How would we change gun laws to prevent something like this from happening again? How would news organizations deal with the ethics of reporting, publishing and airing this kind of story?
Twenty years later, your organizations are still facing many deep uncertainties connected to those questions we asked before:
- Social networks have permanently shifted the distribution of content and have ushered in an age of algorithmic determinism. How will you convince GenZ, Millennials and Gen X to pay for content?
- Will streaming platforms survive all of these new planned subscription models? Or will this lead to even more consolidation?
- You’re still figuring out your mobile strategy, even as all the data prove that we’ve entered a new post-smartphone era. Will your company be fast and nimble enough to change strategy again before you’re disrupted out of the market?
- You’re uncertain about the difference between Twitch and Mixer and what compelled Ninja to switch streaming platforms. (Perhaps now you’re also wondering what, exactly, Twitch and Mixer are and what that has to do with ninjas.) How does your content, your products, and your services fit in to this new world?
- You don’t know when 5G will roll out everywhere, and you’re questioning the business cases and infrastructure models for 5G. Related: is e-sports really a thing?
- And you’re undoubtedly thinking about all the domestic and international events on the horizon. How will the trade wars, Brexit outcomes, U.S. presidential election, North Korea’s missile testing, the 2020 Olympics, climate change and our race to the Moon and Mars impact our business, our industry, and our way of life?
You must get into a habit of confronting uncertainty while thinking about the past and future simultaneously. At the end of The Matrix, Neo told us “I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.”
We’re always at the beginning of an evolution. You and your teams can reduce uncertainty using data-driven signals, trends and scenarios. Make connections between the end of 1990s and today –– and then connect today to your preferred tomorrows.
– Amy Webb