Media you will be using in 2014 (and probably 2015)

No matter whether you are just an “average” user checking your Facebook news feed two times per day, or a disillusioned communications manager, these platforms will attract your attention during 2014. Using the term “platform,” I assume that communication channels and web site that aggregate and/or deliver information also fall under this category.

Facebook, a few weeks after the New Year, launched “Paper,” an application that could replace Dashboard in mobile devices of those willing to consume information in a traditional “article-like” format. On Paper’s side, algorithms that are presumingly better aggregate topics that are important for a user. Currently they are not active, and the selection is done by anonymous editors, but the social graph will definitely show what it is worthwhile.

What to expect: new optimistic earnings in light of the growing mobile advertising (looks like FB figured out how to seamlessly place ads into your mobile device) and new accusations about safeguards for personal data (by the way, some longstanding opponents have given up). I don’t think that the teen exodus will have any influence on the way Mark Zuckerberg and Co. manages the company.

LinkedIn is probably one of the most overlooked popular platforms in the world. Because of its business model (users have to pay to get access to most of the features), a lot of members abandon LinkedIn after creating a profile. Actually it is a powerful tool to reach out to people you won’t otherwise connect with. It is one of a few applications that is worth every penny spent on it. The company isn’t afraid to experiment and shut down features that do not work. Currently LinkedIn focuses on small and mid-sized businesses, which helps to differentiate from other social networks.

What to expect: the company will continue strengthening its presence moving even further away from all the potential competitors and squashing new promising startups.

Instagram is probably close to its prime, but not to earnings. For some companies it is a sort of a magic wand: Nike integrated this app into its marketing toolbox so smoothly that can boast of having the largest community there. Starbucks and its cups with Grand Latte became a symbol of a new photo era (remember: snowflakes and cups of grand macchiato?) that foresaw a “selfie generation.”

What to expect: more sponsored posts in your news feeds: Instagram, after it was acquired by Facebook, became much more revenue-conscious. In the past couple of years Instagram is the main harbor for teens annoyed by parents’ attention on Facebook. Seems that Instagram can go offline and start making campaigns with brands outside of the Internet. But will Facebook allow it to grow in this unexpected direction?

NPR will become an integral part of the “Internet of Things” sooner than you might expect. Sound needs a much thinner bandwidth, and even a 4G network can transmit the required amount of content. The company, which is still considered a non-profit organization, secured contracts with Ford, Google, partnered with Quora to cover the Olympic games in Sochi, while its former employees occupy executive posts in Twitter. Penetration of mobile devices made radio sexy again, because this channel is widely available, free and convenient.

What to expect: I won’t be surprised if NPR will be able to repeat the success of Netflix with creating its own “big thing.” Decades ago, in the Soviet Union, radio theatricals were extremely popular. Probably, NPR will cook its own radio show that is doomed to become a new “House of Cards?”, a blogging web site that returned interest to reading without interruptions and switches between various open tabs in the browser. And it is no coincidence that the only metric Medium shows to users is how many minutes is needed to read a post. It is possible that Medium will become a good repository of information, as for now the majority of posts are written in good English and very articulated.
When I think about such platforms that accentuate only one type of activity, 90s and early 2000 come to my mind when AOL and other “multi-everything” portals ruled the party. Ironically, years after that the paradigm turned 180 degrees, and specialized web sites are running the show.

What to wait next: Medium raised $25M from Greylock and Google Ventures, and the next logical step would be to create some revenue streams. Except obvious advertising, Medium has a lot to offer to thoughtful brands aiming at an intellectual audience.
Also, the competition in this field is intensifying, and probably the main competitor, just concluded its “invite-only” period and became available to everybody.

Quora has potential to become a more credible source of information than Wikipedia (because answers come from industry professionals, and the special algorithm pushes such topics up), but is stuck in the middle without a clear growth strategy. I see some growth potential in a close collaboration with corporations allowing them to use Quora’s assets and provide a platform to cooperate with employees.

What to expect: However, advertising looks more appealing to Quora’s executives. As one of the project’s advantages, they mention a “long tail”: “Eighty percent of our views happen a month after an answer is written,” - states Adam D'Angelo, a co-founder of the project. No doubt, it is a strong competitive advantage as only few web sites experience users’ recurrence to old web pages.

Netflix will conclude this list as the most powerful and influential media channels of 2014. Not only it surpassed HBO and Showtime and became a topic of president Obama’s tweet, but is also planning to spend as much as $3B on content acquisition in the next years. Such hefty expenses prepared the ground for numerous case studies: MBA students currently learn about Netflix’s financials in accounting classes. “House of Cards” is already extended for the third season, and the company became the major reason why providers were allowed to prioritize network traffic. Who knows, probably in a few months we will see new internet tariffs where we will pay not only for the amount of content consumed but also according to what we spend the megabytes on.

What to expect: new franchises, entry into new markets (especially China, India and Russia) and possibly increase in price (investors expect to see returns, finally). The major competitors, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video, have their advantages, but Netflix was fortunate to become standard ‘de-facto’ in the industry.


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