What’s happening?

All of the lights

2010 was an exciting time in digital media. Facebook was pre-IPO, Kanye had just joined Twitter <!–in 5.5 years: 320 tweets, 1 Following and 1 Like–>, and brands were still experimenting with social.

He’s on a horse: the man your man could smell like in 2010.

Those next four years were amazing. Something new seemed to happen every day:  apps & services launched <!–Instagram, Snapchat, Uber–>, advertising campaigns broke new ground <!–The Man Your Man Could Smell Like & Old Spice Man Internet Responses–> and brand stumbles led to the social media fail meme <!–retail discounts during Hurricane Sandy–>. Each client project was a chance to do something never-been-done-before. Brands needed guidance understanding the single largest shift in communications history. And we charted the course, albeit, barely ahead of them.


Digital is still changing the world. Of course it’s still changing the world. It’s 2016. The difference now is we expect digital to change the world. And expectations leaves us feeling like today’s new things aren’t as cool as yesterday’s new things. But, digital thrill still exists. Many of the rides that began years ago are today at crucial stages in their story. Here are a few that I find interesting. 

Digital ads

The majority of display ads are bad. But 2016 brand budgets are headed that way. Disappointment looms. The AdTech industry struggles to compete with Google and Facebook. And reports of fraud make display ads an even riskier gamble. Something’s got to give. Advertising bright spots: podcasts & Facebook.

Digital marketing measurement

Where big budget moves, justification follows. Brands usually plan, target and measure campaigns based on demographic data, with a bit of psychographics sprinkled in. Big Data and natural language processing make knowable new aspects of the consumer personality. Look for start-ups like Receptiviti and People Pattern to give brands new ways of understanding their audience. Hopefully, spend becomes more efficient and display ads become effective.

Publishers v. ad blockers

Publishers need ads to keep content free, but readers want a good experience. Users install ad blockers to block ads as much as they do to block the hefty javascript that serves them. Is Facebook’s Instant Articles the answer? Maybe it’s a better browser.


Will I need to charge the battery or fill the tank?

Are electric cars sustaining innovation? Or are they truly disruptive? Is Tesla a car company? Or a battery company? Does it matter? The bigger, drivetrain-agnostic question is: will cars become commoditized?

Who’s driving? 

Self-driving cars are cool, but what’s their reality timeframe? Getting the technology right is part of the puzzle. Legislation and, more importantly, many human-operated cars stand, or swerve, in the way. Google, Apple and others have a long road ahead.

No, really. Who’s driving?

Clayton Christiansen says Uber isn’t disruptive. To the taxi industry. But what about to traditional employers? Or car manufacturers? It’s not their technology that’s disrupting, but the anything-as-a-service business model they pioneered. How will the gig economy affect employment legislation and what will transportation-as-a-service mean for car ownership? Ford & GM get it.

The cable bundle

Over-the-top content providers <!–e.g. Netflix, Hulu–>, aka streaming services, started as content aggregators. They collected and made available online content that could only be accessed through traditional cable or broadcast channels. Networks responded to these services’ increasing popularity by offering streaming services of their own, e.g. HBO Now. To counter, Netflix & crew started developing their own original content.

More and more networks are offering their own apps. This threatens the aggregation model that initially powered streaming services’ growth and is still vital to their existence. So vital that, according to Morgan Stanley, Netflix spends twice as much licensing content as it does creating it.

So…will the streamers double down on original content? Continue to carry competitor content? Will the networks continue to sell it to them? Can they afford not to? How many separate apps, and bills, will consumers tolerate: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, ESPN, NBC, CBS, FOX, etc…? Or will we see more offerings like Dish’s Sling TV, with [what we now call] cable providers offering much smaller, more customized bundles?

Unicorns and Unicorpses

I spent five-and-a-half of the last six years at two start-ups. One of them is currently a unicorn. I hope it keeps its horn. 2016 is starting out as the year of the unicorpse <!– it’s supposed to be the year of the monkey–> More here, here, here and here.


Watching things end can be as exciting as watching them begin. What’s got your eye these days?

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