Ad Age's Digital Predictions 2016

From the Demise of Texting to the Next Phase of Facebook Messenger

Published on .

Reprints Reprints

Credit: iStock

Facebook's Messenger Opens for Business
Facebook's chat app is poised to become the social network's next big revenue stream. Originally an instant-messaging service, Messenger was spun off into its own app in 2014. And after a series of announcements, now it's ready to start up its own business. Last year Messenger began testing ways for businesses to use the service as a customer support line and for people to use it as an artificially intelligent assistant that can do things like order an Uber car. As more people use Messenger to communicate with businesses, expect Facebook to find a way to charge companies for the privilege, as it's done with its own social network. –Tim Peterson

The Death of Texting
Emojis ruled in 2015. But GIFs, those quick looping videos or animations, are the next messaging app trend. In Asia, GIFs have been huge on apps like WeChat and Line. The appeal is obvious: Why use a standard yellow smiley face when you could send someone a three-second cat video? The fancier, funnier cousins of emojis are familiar from sites like Tumblr, but they're about to get much more mainstream in Western markets, since Facebook finally embraced them. Facebook Messenger integrated a GIF-finder, and some brands have been using them on Facebook too. Between emojis and GIFs, who really needs text anymore? –Angela Doland

Headhunters Look to China
Given the explosion of online shopping in China and how crucial that market is, more multinationals will tap executives with experience there to oversee their worldwide e-commerce strategy. Case in point: Mars recently promoted its China general manager, Clarence Mak, to chief customer officer and global e-commerce leader. Mondelez International's Cindy Chen, global head of e-commerce, also has worked in China. –Angela Doland

Refined Virtual Reality
This year will deliver more sophisticated virtual reality experiences, refined storytelling and increased layers of interactivity, given the consumer arrival of the Oculus headset and a variety of big deals in the space. Oculus partnered with premier VR storytellers Felix & Paul Studios to develop long-form, narrative content. Disney made a $65 million investment in Jaunt VR. And 20th Century Fox is diving in as well, unveiling "The Martian Experience," based on the blockbuster movie, at its Fox Innovation Lab during the Consumer Electronics Show. –Ann-Christine Diaz

2016 Won't Be 360-Degree Video's Breakout Year
There are plenty of reasons to believe 2016 will be the year that 360-degree videos hit the mainstream. Two of the biggest digital video services, Google's YouTube and Facebook, already support the format that lets people swivel their viewpoint all the way around a scene. And Facebook's Oculus VR has finally begun selling the long-awaited consumer version of its virtual-reality headset that, like Samsung's Gear VR and Google Cardboard that are already in the market, is more tailored to 360-degree video viewing than a smartphone.

But while the ways to watch 360-degree videos have grown, there's still the question of what people will watch. The New York Times, Vice and Disney are among the content companies already producing 360-degree videos, but too many of the 360-degree videos currently available offer beautiful documentary-style landscape shots yet lack a clear story or characters that can entice mainstream audiences and offset the format's learning curve. If people are to tune in to 360-degree videos consistently, those videos must survive the novelty of the form; their content needs to rival, if not surpass, what people could watch normally. And for that to happen, filmmakers need to experiment with the form. That will likely require more time than 2016 holds. –Tim Peterson

In this article:
Most Popular