Last year around this time, I published an inaugural “not-hot” list in response to all of the forecasts surrounding the hottest media and tech trends in store for the advertising industry in 2019. While it’s helpful to explore what might be the next shiny object on the marketing landscape, it’s also important to know what once-buzzworthy things might be falling out of vogue, or even dead on arrival. History can now judge to what degree I was on point for my 2019 list. For instance, I was wrong about Snapchat pivoting away from its ephemeral content origins but there’s no doubt the platform became less “hot” with the unforeseen rise of TikTok. So, with that, here’s my (all new) “not-hot list” for 2020 (in alphabetical order).
Following moves by both Safari and Firefox to block third-party cookies (by default) on their browsers, Google has planned an imminent announcement about Chrome and how it will handle third-party cookies. Privacy is, of course, the major concern here, given that third-party cookies collect, track and use all sorts of data about consumers—often unbeknownst to them—as they move from site to site. The demise of the third-party cookie will have a major impact on programmatic advertising as walled gardens, first-party data, and contextual targeting step up to fill the void.
While I applaud Amazon’s recently announced Day 1 initiative, in which the company releases new products in limited quantities to get customer feedback, I cannot see a compelling use case for the Echo Loop. It’s a bulky ring that is tethered to the Alexa app on your smartphone. In a world of smart watches that: a) actually have a display, b) are becoming increasingly stand-alone, and c) provide so much more functionality (including fitness tracking), the Echo Loop doesn’t seem to add any unique value—especially at a price point of $129.99. Sorry, but this one is DOA.
Let’s face it, the smart-home space is dominated by Amazon and Google, and Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem has a tiny fraction of compatible devices when compared to the competition. And while Apple hopes to change that reality with an infusion of new engineering hires, critics say it’s simply too late to play catch up. Within just the smart speaker market alone, Apple has a mere 2 percent of share against Amazon’s 25 percent and Google’s 22 percent (according to IDC). As a die-hard Apple fanboy, I hope I’m wrong about this one, but it’s not looking good—unless Apple can channel the great Steve Jobs and bring something very disruptive to the space.
Where do I start with Libra, Facebook’s crypto currency? How about the fact that in front of Congress this past October, Mark Zuckerberg himself said, “I actually don’t know if Libra is going to work.” Libra is under enormous scrutiny by U.S. lawmakers, who are extremely concerned about privacy, regulation and market impact. As a result, many of its original announcement partners have backed out of the project, including PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, eBay and Stripe. All of this means enormous headwinds for Libra, which may be too strong for it to regain forward momentum.
Political ads (online)
Even though the 2020 U.S. election may break records when it comes to voter turnout, that’s not the case for political ads and social media, which have become like oil and water. When Facebook recently announced that it wouldn’t fact-check political ads, the harsh backlash that ensued spawned a number of other online media platforms to respond. In turn, Snapchat announced plans to fact-check political ads, while Twitter banned political ads from its platform altogether. Meanwhile, Google (which owns YouTube) just revealed plans to disable audience-targeting based on political affiliations and public voter records.
Like I said last year in reference to its new Portal device, Facebook shouldn’t be in the hardware business—especially now, with the company mired by what seems like an endless stream of privacy scandals. Yet Facebook keeps trying to make something out of Portal—this time with its new Portal TV system. A device that can see and hear you from a company that’s lost consumer trust doesn’t seem like a winning combination, not to mention reports that Portal is simply not selling.
While Instagram continues to make ‘like’ counts private, there are rumors this might also happen to its parent platform, Facebook. This comes on the heels of Twitter reducing the font size of follower counts a year ago in the hopes of placing less emphasis on popularity. Heading into 2020, this is certainly not the last we’ll hear about the siege on social currency in an attempt to “depressurize” social media. But as I’ve previously shared, I’m not sure how these efforts materially solve the actual issue of social media anxiety, bullying and depression.
Instagram announced its standalone messaging app, Threads, on Oct. 3 and already is sending out a survey to its user base (myself included) asking to what degree we’d be disappointed if Threads were no longer available. To be honest, I don’t really understand the purpose of Threads since it doesn’t (yet) seem to be all that differentiated from Instagram’s native messaging feature. For now, it feels redundant, and unless Instagram can make the app uniquely valuable, it seems like it’s headed into the sunset.
Although Twitch is still the dominant streamer in the esports space, for the first time it’s facing its share of challenges. This fall, the Amazon-owned company saw viewership declines following a three-year growth trajectory. Arguably more troubling, however, is the exodus of at least four of the platform’s top streamers, like Ninja and CouRage (and hence their followers) to competitive platforms like Microsoft’s Mixer and YouTube Live—each of whom made exclusive deals. While I don’t think Twitch is going anywhere anytime soon, it’s certainly not the only cool kid at the party heading into 2020.
With the streaming wars in full effect, how can there not be casualties as more and more platforms hit the market in 2020? My bet is on Vudu, which Walmart is reportedly looking to sell, to wave a big goodbye next year. Although it’s dabbled in the original-series space with ad-supported streaming, including a remake of the 1983 movie “Mr. Mom,” Vudu just doesn’t have the kind of credibility and Hollywood clout to compete effectively with the likes of Disney Plus, HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock.
There you have it: The second edition “not-hot list.” 2020 is primed to see plenty of disruption in our industry, likely with varying degrees of success. And when it comes to failure, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge believer that innovation happens by experimenting towards success—which means being willing to fail and fail often.
Said another way: To be “hot" requires a whole lot of “not.” So here’s to even more “not hot” media and tech moments as we welcome the new year (I’m looking at you Tesla Cybertruck).