When a week’s vacation can leave us behind on social media trends, early adoption becomes more about pattern recognition than bandwagon jumping.
Mediaphiles dismissed Foursquare as a toy, until it suddenly owned the geo layer. Internet junkies took afternoon naps and missed Pinterest’s leap to #3 in social networking. Mom couldn’t log into Hotmail; now she owns Farmville. All of these trends were forecast well before their big breaks, largely due to the astute eyes of early adopters who are ready to add new and fresh tools to their media-consuming arsenal.
Here are eight media trends we’re tracking right now. Some are right on the cusp of becoming mainstream and others still have a bit to cook before breaking the surface. What patterns are you observing in the media world and what do you think will be the next big thing? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Targeted, Geo-Mobile Coupons
When Foursquare started garnering press coverage in 2009, co-founder Dennis Crowley confessed his dream was to one day know users well enough to target smart coupons on the fly. He wanted to send push notifications that essentially said, âWe know you like pizza, and itâs dinner time right now. Pizza Place X, two blocks away, has a special.â
That day has finally come. With 1.5 billion check-ins, 750 thousand merchants, 20 million users and millions of geo-tagged tips, Foursquare now has the ability to deliver hyper-relevant coupons to its users. I just started getting them and theyâve been surprisingly accurate.
LevelUp and other mobile services are digifying the in-person coupon space as well. We expect this field to mature rapidly now that geodata infrastructure is in place and half of all U.S. mobile phones are smartphones.
2. Audio Watermarking
Technology for embedding subliminal signals in audio — digital sound waves humans cannot consciously detect — is being used to track data and connect digital devices in increasingly clever ways. New York-based startup Sonic Notify, for example, built technology that allows television shows such as Bravoâs Top Chef to invisibly activate a viewerâs smartphone or tablet with related content while watching.
As audio watermarking becomes more mainstream (and consumers acclimate to the idea), opportunities for mobile content integration at events and retail stores will arise faster than you can play a Beatles record backwards.
3. Passive Location-Based Networking
Highlight was the most popular by far, gaining 300% more buzz than any of its peers. Its hook is that it’s completely passive: Users allow the app to track their locations throughout the day, then when other Highlight users (friends, potential connections) are nearby, it shows both parties the nearby userâs info.
Though buzz was high, the big question around this trend is whether the utility of such apps will outweigh the privacy concerns (and battery drain). Thereâs certainly competition in the space, so weâre likely to see a lot of movement around this concept this year.
4. Motion Tracking and Facial Recognition for Intention Data
CBS‘s hit series Person of Interest called this one last September. As facial recognition and motion tracking tech becomes more accurate and less expensive, the ability to digitally divine real-world intent is coming into our grasp.
Interpublic Group, for example, has a laboratory in Manhattan where Xbox Kinects, flatscreens and fake grocery aisles come together for some serious spying. When you pick up a box of Pop Tarts, the motion sensors track your face to see if youâre smiling or frowning about what you see. Screens then output data on how long youâve lingered in front of a particular product, and ads trigger based on your gender (which cameras infer) and what objects youâre touching.
All this will help product marketers deliver better experiences. Once we get past the âcreep-out phase,â consumers will likely start expecting — and appreciating — such personalization in their everyday shopping ventures.
5. Automatic Social Media-Activated Discounts
Handing a coupon to the waiter after a meal can be embarrassing for customers and time-consuming for employees. American Express has figured out how to bypass both challenges using social media.
The credit card company recently launched Twitter and Foursquare integrations that allow cardholders to sync their plastic with a social account, then take advantage of in-store coupons with no more effort than a tweet or check-in.
For example, many Foursquare locations have â$5 Offâ AmEx specials. If a user checks into a location with the special and uses an AmEx card, the storeâs credit card machine pings AmEx, which verifies check-in with Foursquare and then credits $5 to the userâs card.
6. Brands Building Publications and Entertainment Channels
âWeâre all publishersâ is a trite phrase by now, but big brands are starting to take the mantra seriously. With budgets behind them and no advertising to worry about, companies are building media properties meant to compete with TV stations and magazines.
Red Bullâs homepage, for example, looks like an action-sports news site. The company pumps out professional-grade news articles, feature stories and videos each day, pushing them to social marketing channels such as Facebook and Twitter. This fuels the company’s social media accounts with content and points followers back to Red Bullâs site, rather than elsewhere on the Internet.
Fashion companies are especially keen on building publications to compete with traditional media. Several have even reported that building entire publications is no more expensive than advertising. A look at the sites of Tory Burch and Kate Spade show where these brands are investing their efforts.
7. TV on the Internet
The Thursday Night TV lineupâs days are numbered.
Barry Diller, the media mogul who greenlit The Simpsons while running Fox in the ’80s, thinks broadcast television is the next big disruption in media. As weâve seen with music, Internet users want to consume individual pieces of content — tracks, not albums; episodes, not box sets. They want to pick and choose, and they want their content online, not attached to a cable TV plan.
Dillerâs latest project, Aereo, puts live broadcast TV on the Internet. Itâs the next step to cutting the coaxial cable entirely.
8. Mobile, Immersive Reality
Digital technology allows us to be in one place while experiencing another. Skype and FaceTime connect people across the world, in person. The next evolution of this is immersive video and augmented reality.
Google is developing augmented reality glasses, which would enable wearers to view data layered over real life. A startup called Condition One makes iPad video apps that let the tablet holder move around a faraway scene, like a battlefield. Thereâs even R&D happening to create video-enabled contact lenses.
Tron, The Terminator and The Matrix, here we come.