Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

In an era of change, we need to be mindful of what actually is changing and what isn’t, says The MediaShop’s Sean Sullivan. Sparked by his fascination with the predictions of futurists, he has explored 10 themes that are set to shape media platforms in the future. While the themes themselves are sourced from a presentation by Zenith USA’s Tom Goodwin at The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit held in the UK earlier this year, the interpretations of those trends are his own.

The first trend is abundance: while there is a plethora of content available, people pay no attention to most of it. Instead, they engage with media platforms at what Sullivan calls “breakneck” speed, and are simply exhausted by it all. This means the greatest challenge facing marketers is securing meaningful attention from consumers.

The disappearance of digital is the next trend Sullivan picks up on. He says marketers analyse the amount of time consumers spend online to the Nth degree. However, the concept of time spent online makes no sense at all for younger consumers – online simply “is”. “We talk about social media as though it is something people do, rather than just the way things are,” he says. “As such, we need to stop thinking of online and digital as physical activities and see them as a natural part of our everyday lives.” 

The big take-out:

The 10 trends shaping the media platforms of the future urge us to be forward thinking and forget about vertical channels – they’re not the way of the future.

The third trend relates to our need to put things neatly in silos. Yet, while we still have media channels that are vertical silos, these don’t work in the same way due to platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Netflix. “Today’s industry is more horizontal than vertical,” Sullivan says. He predicts that in future there will be screens everywhere and our phones will constitute the most important screen of all. To this end, he says while people are wondering what the next big thing will be, it is likely that we have already found it.

Fourth, Sullivan refers to blurred lines. It’s not just media channels that are blurred, but devices themselves are becoming harder to categorise. Does watching television on your phone count as watching television? Is Netflix classified as television, given that it is delivered through the Internet? Sullivan says we need to better understand that television doesn’t exist as it used to, but that what matters is video, content and making content that is right for the context.

The fifth trend is personalisation. Screens are becoming increasingly intimate, and the most personal of all is the phone. You watch it alone, it knows your schedule, where you are, what the weather is like there and your search history, says Sullivan. While phones present phenomenal opportunities, we should be focusing less on big data and more on intimate data.

The hottest media topic for the industry at the moment has to be virtual reality and new reality frontiers – the sixth trend. New realities create new ways of thinking about advertising, transformed by augmented and virtual reality. This means we shouldn’t try to force these realities to fit into an existing approach, but rather create a new one.

Set to be a disruptive industry trend, the predictive Web is going to change things dramatically. The Internet is set to become what Sullivan calls a “pervasive interface” that tells us where we want to go and what we want to do – it’s an Internet that will give us the right message at the right time and place, he says.

Separating buying and shopping is the eighth trend. “This ‘e-commerce separation’ sees buying as a world of search bars, subscriptions and dash buttons, while shopping will be created around themes, content marketing, experiences and adding more joy to the purchase process,” says Sullivan. He explains that adopting this trend will be about making things either easy or beautiful, or they will simply have no place.

Ninth, Sullivan says chat bots and personal interactions will drive audience and consumer relationships. It’s about the vanishing interface, and he predicts that brand interactions may not take place through screens at all in future. In fact, there is a move away from screens. “With platforms such as Amazon’s Alexa and wearables, we could live in an environment where information comes to you without a screen at all,” he says.

The final trend involves artificial intelligence. Sullivan says this belongs at the centre of future strategies and not on the margins. “Businesses need to stop basing their future strategies on what they have done in the past. We should learn from the past, but look forward, not back,” he says.

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