2018 Industry Predictions From Yet Another Person Who Has No Ability to Predict the Future
Without fail, two things happen every December:
- New York City has three days of mid-60s temperatures, confusing the hell out of everyone, right before temps plunge into the 20s and stay there until March. After the cold showers.
- Every idiot comes out of nowhere with their “predictions for the next year” pieces, as if something about thirty one days of candy canes and eggnog gives every self-proclaimed guru in the world the ability to see the future for one month only.
That said, this is not a “predictions” piece. If I had the ability to accurately foresee this crap, I wouldn’t be writing about it, I’d be drinking Pina Coladas with Emmy Rossum on the beach of the private island I’d own because I’d have bought 200,000 Bitcoins at $.003 a piece.
No. Instead, I write this from seat 4K of a flight from EWR to HKG, my 14th international trip of the year, and hopefully, my last before the clock rolls over to 2018.
So rather than predictions, I figure I’ll share with you what I’ve noticed gaining steam the past 12 months, and from that, try and extrapolate what it might mean for 2018 and beyond.
(Good thing) 5G — In 2017 I saw people really starting to look at 5G for the first time as a relatively close reality, instead of a fantasy that was still light years away. From massive backbone companies such as Huawei Technologies to small startups that focus strictly on the AI space, this past year has seen a strong trajectory towards the faster speeds, lower latency, and almost zero lag that 5G will offer.
A huge bonus that comes with strong adoption of 5G, that few people stop and think about is this: When you can have 10x the amount of devices per tower, each at much higher connectivity speeds, you’re freeing up the 2G, 3G, and even 4G networks for things that are less bandwidth intensive. Think Internet of Things: When I board the subway and my connected watch notices that my heartbeat has just gone funky, indicating a probable heart attack, it’ll use all that now-free space on the long forgotten 2G network to alert to the subway I’m on, bypassing the next two stops to get me to a station closest to a hospital, where paramedics will be waiting. All automatic, all through basic minimal data.
(Good thing eventually) Cryptocurrency (and Cryptocurrency’s weird older brother who rarely leaves the house but you just know he’s calling the shots, Blockchain technology) — I saw an explosion of cryptocurrency this past year, as I’m sure you did too. I don’t mean that it’s new, since I and many others have been preaching about it for six years or more. But 2017 comes to a close with Crypto is as close to mainstream as it’s gotten so far. Obviously led by Bitcoin, otherwise known as “the thing that everyone can name, but less than .0001% of the world can actually understand,” Bitcoin, flanked by both it’s younger brother and sister Ethereum and Litecoin, leads a Cryptocurrency market that now has a higher capitalization than Morgan Stanley, which, unlike the dot com bubble of 1999–2001, might not be as insane, because (and this way oversimplifies things, but whatever) Crypto runs on Blockchain, which is real, and has practical applications that extend far beyond currency.
Remember, people started throwing money at the Internet when the media started reporting that people were throwing money at the Internet. Same thing is going to happen with Cryptocurrency. The difference (and major unknown factor) here is that unlike the Internet, which after five minutes people “got,” Crypto has a ton of hurdles to jump for it to ever become mainstream. From a consumer and business side, the simple act of adoption of Crypto as a secondary currency, or even as a replacement currency, isn’t as simple as cash or a credit card. From a government side, politicians are scared of things they don’t understand, and they definitely don’t understand Crypto right now. China went so far as to ban it. Will the US follow suit? Considering that as of this writing, we’re a few days away from losing an open Internet, I put exactly zero faith in politicians doing the right thing for Crypto or the economy as a whole. Until Joe from Wisconsin can easily buy dinner with cryptocurrency, until the business traveler in Miami can easily pay for my travel with cryptocurrency, and until I can easily send some Litecoin to the PTA of my daughter’s school instead of still having to write a damn check, we’re nowhere near ready to make this massive of a switch.
For those comparing it with people “getting used to” shopping online, there’s one major hitch: When I purchase something on Amazon, I’m still doing it with a credit card that the world has spent 75 years making me comfortable using. Crypto will continue to grow, and I’ll continue to be an active proponent of it, but insofar as middle America buying their McBurgers with .0000012 Bitcoins? No time soon.
(Very bad thing) Actual “fake news,” not just the term “fake news.” In 2017, we saw the frightening ease with which complete and utter fabrication was not only taken as news gospel, but shared around the globe with immediate repercussions. Whether false information was used to allegedly affect the outcome of a president election, as in the United States, to Britain’s uncertain future after Brexit, to the continued increase in speed of “internet judgement,” in which someone is accused, judged, and found guilty at the speed of light and with a mob mentality, I don’t see any scenario in 2018 in which is even remotely begins to decrease.
While the major social media outlets (which next year I’m hoping we’ll stop calling “social media outlets,” and rather, just “media centers,” because, let’s face it, social is life now, there’s no need to fractionalize it anymore,) spent 2017 rolling out numerous plans to combat so called “fake news,” the results have been less than spectacular, to say the least. And as more and more people turn to their “social echo chamber” to get what they believe to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I believe that despite the horrible damage, mistrust, and economic peril that “fake news” has, and will continue to cause, it’s not going away anytime soon.
(Potential to be a very good thing) The Rise of Influence, and the (Even Further) Fall of Advertising. I’ve been saying the same thing since 2001: No one believes how great you are if you’re the one that has to tell them. Unfortunately, brands were slow as hell to learn that (they still are, mostly) and the ones who bothered to try and learn it would usually screw it up by trying too hard, or giving up too soon.
But the past few years have seen an increase in companies learning how to use influence correctly. I’m not talking about a Kardashian getting $50k to post a photo of some crappy lipstick. I’m talking about solid, strategized, micro and macro-level influence campaigns. Companies are learning that by simply targeting those in their ecosystem who a) have already shown an interest in their products, b) have an audience, but (and this is important) understand that having an audience is a privilege, not a right, so don’t waste their time with BS, and doing so with the clear understanding that whether money changes hands or not, any review needs to be honest, clear, and upfront about the fact that there’s a relationship. That promotes trust, and trust is influence. I see this positive trend continuing in 2018, to the benefit not only of brands, but more importantly, to the benefit of consumers.
(Ridiculously bad thing) The US Internet will become (even more of) a have/have not system) — For the past six years, the term “net neutrality” was occasionally thrown around, primarily by people for whom the Internet was their career in some form or another. As is usually the case with major changes, the majority of those affected by that change don’t realize what the change means until it’s way too late.
Net Neutrality essentially states that the Internet is to be treated like a public utility — i.e., the same law that protects you from Con Edison jacking up your electric bill by $300 simply because you live a block further than whatever, also protects you when Comcast tries to charge you more for viewing certain content, or doing specific things online. Right now, you pay for access, and that’s where (theoretically) the reach of the provider to whom you give your money ends. They can’t charge you more because you binge Game of Thrones, or because you’re using the Google ecosystem as opposed to the Yahoo one. (Yahoo, by the way, a company owned by Verizon, one of the largest Internet Service Providers in the world. Ah. So now you see why net neutrality is so important.)
And more than that, why every ISP is doing everything in their power to kill net neutrality. The current head of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is a former attorney for, you guessed it, Verizon, and has made it very clear that his single goal is to destroy net neutrality entirely. Despite anyone with three brain cells realizing that this will result in higher costs to access the Internet in the United States, no one in any position of power seems wiling to step up and stop his corporate pandering. So barring a last-minute hail Mary, and despite that the FCC’s very charter states that killing net neutrality is the EXACT opposite of what it was designed to do, 2018 will more than likely continue to divide the haves and the have nots, this time in a potentially much more lethal way than ever before.
OK, fine, one blue-sky prediction:
(Overdue thing) 2018 will probably see the start of the eventual death of a major social media player. Now mind you, when I say “death,” I don’t mean it’ll disappear. I simply mean that the majority of the users will slowly just stop using it, and the value of it will greatly decrease, a-la MySpace. If I had to put money on which one, I’d bet on Twitter. Going to 280 characters this year smacked of desperation, not unlike someone saying “look at me,” as all but a few care anymore. Twitter has essentially become one massive war zone, pitting political agendas, fake news, wanna-be celebrities, and of course, bots, against each other in a war that’s destined to make us all deaf long before it produces anything useful. While it certainly won’t go away as long as a loud-mouthed head of a certain country keeps using it like a five-year-old on the dying vestiges of his first sugar high, the usefulness of it beyond that has been waining for some time now. Again, I don’t see Twitter dead and no longer operating in a year, but I think those who listen will be assigning it much less value than they do today, which is, in my opinion, much less than last year, and so beyond.
(Blatant Plug Thing) I will, however, go on record and guarantee one thing for 2018. If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s going to be harder than ever to keep up with the changing landscape of your industry next year. That’s why I’m throwing a one-day conference on January 24th in NYC, to help you do just that. Join us?
DISCLOSURES RELATED TO THIS ARTICLE:
- I speculate in Cryptocurrency, and hold a position in Litecoin
- I’m a Key Opinion Leader for Huawei, but all my opinions are entirely my own
- I hate Ajit Pai with the fury of a billion suns