I was tempted to make a set of predictions on what 2012 would bring (other than the Mayan apocalypse), but it’s a crowded marketplace out there for those with crystal balls. Nearly everyone with a WordPress or Blogger login has put in their bets as to what the New Year will bring, and nearly all of them are likely to be wrong.
The single biggest reason why 2012 predictions are wrong: they describe trends that are already happening, or — in some cases — have already passed. That’s the tricky thing about predicting the future in the new millennium: more often than not, the future has already happened.
Still, in leafing through dozens of lists, I’ve found five predictions that are indeed likely to define the communications industry over the next 12 months.
1. Credibility Becomes King. Or, at the least, prince. Writing for the Nieman Journalism Lab, Robert Hernandez said that content creation is so easy, and the supply of content so great, that what really matters is not the ability to reach the masses, but to have the masses believe you:
“With technology empowering everyone with the ability to create and to distribute, I predict — and wish — that in 2012 the new dominating factor will be Credibility. Actually, earned Credibility.”
Bookmark this. In a world where attention is limited, this is huge.
2. Brand Journalism Goes Mainstream: Penned by Derek DeVries, this was number 10 on PRSA’s inconsistent list of 12 public relations trends for 2012. Brand journalism is the idea companies can create content just as easily as media companies, and the smartest companies will drop the corporate-speak and start bringing their consumers/readers smart, pithy, valuable content. We’re seeing the trailblazers do that already. But the barriers to adopting this sort of mindset should fall even further next year. Will people take “brand journalism” seriously? They will if brands keep in mind Trend 1, above.
3. Big (Health) Data Becomes Bigger: Electronic medical records vendor Practice Fusion put out their own list, which included Circle Square‘s Michael Lake predicting that the growing amount of data stored in EMRs will prompt a boom in analysis of this kind of health data. While predicting a dramatic increase health IT penetration has been a sucker’s bet for the last decade, I’m confident that the increasing amount of data will shape how we understand and talk about medicine.
4. Influencer Rating Companies Lose Influence. Inkhouse says that the “influence bubble” will deflate in 2012, suggesting that narcissism-driven services like Klout will be exposed as something less than useful. That doesn’t mean that the need to understand influence will grow any less important. It just means that we’ll have to get smarter about how we define our terms. Real influence tends to work its magic in small, poorly defined groups, and those that develop the tools to enter and engage those groups will have an advantage over those that simply invent metrics.
5. “Conversations” Becomes the Killer App for Journalists: Joy Mayer, writing for Nieman, makes this plain: “In 2012, the divide will grow between journalists who are intently aware of and responsive to the needs of their communities and those who continue to make decisions based on long-ago-learned fortress mentalities.”
The sentiment here isn’t new. The wonderful Columbia Journalism Review article “The Newspaper that Almost Seized the Future” makes it clear that the idea of using electronic community to cement relationships between journalism and reader predates even the web browser. But we now have all the tools to make this real. A year from now, reporters who refuses to engage (on Twitter, in comments, on Facebook) will court irrelevance, no matter how big their news outlet.
Please use the comments to highlight other great predictions that I may have missed, and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year.