The not-hot list for 2019
Every year around this time, analysts, thought leaders and self-proclaimed gurus predict the hottest trends in media and technology for the coming year. And while it's helpful for marketers to hear about things they may want to test out and invest in, it's equally important (if not more so) to identify what to dial back in their marketing mix in order to put their time, effort and budget dollars elsewhere. With that in mind, here's my take on what's "not" for 2019—the 10 media and tech phenomena (in alphabetical order) that are falling out of vogue.
Next year will bring consolidation in a marketing technology space increasingly defined by oversaturation, new data regulations and shifting marketing budgets. As a result, now is most definitely not the time to start an ad-tech company, especially considering that venture capital investment opportunities are all but drying up. Forrester predicts a 75 percent drop in martech VC funding, from $7.2 billion in 2018 to $1.8 billion in 2019.
Cord-cutting is the new norm, much to the detriment of cable networks. Streaming services like Netflix are seeing big gains, even as Disney prepares to enter the streaming market in late 2019. With so much consumer choice for powerful original programming outside of the traditional TV ecosystem, it's not surprising eMarketer forecasts the number of U.S. cord-cutters will increase nearly 33 percent this year.
With a reported 70 percent failure rate on Facebook, consumers are looking instead to have human-first interactions with brands. That's not to say that online chat won't continue to grow as a staple of customer service, it will just be with a lot less bot. Instead, the AI that powers chatbots will play a vital background role to facilitate person-to-person chat.
The digital distinction has become redundant. Just about all media is now digital. So let's call it what it is: It's no longer digital marketing, it's just marketing. And it's not digital transformation, it's business transformation. Brands that want to win in 2019 can no longer treat digital as a separate thing—it's got to be the only thing.
Facebook launched its Portal video-chat device in October of this year, amid a backdrop of massive consumer trust issues, in an attempt to compete with Amazon's Echo Show. Met with reactions of "hesitation and revulsion" by the press and called creepy and ridiculous (among many other things) on social media, Facebook's attempt at selling hardware was doomed before it even had a chance.
In a world of YouTube video dominance, do consumers really want another place to create and watch long-form content? Particularly on a platform that's fostered short-form culture? It doesn't help matters that back in September, Instagram's co-founders abruptly resigned. And when that news broke, we also learned that parent company Facebook was never supportive of IGTV in the first place.
Online advertising duopoly
Say goodbye to the Facebook-Google duopoly and hello to an impending "triopoly," as Amazon will more than double its online ad revenue this year. While the company still has a way to go in order to gain the kind of market share that Google and Facebook have, Amazon is poised to take the No. 3 spot, passing Oath and Microsoft.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but that's not doing Snapchat any favors. As the OG platform of stories and playful AR interactions, Snapchat has been plagued by copycats that have successfully chipped away at its user base. In October, Instagram overtook Snapchat as the most-used social media platform by teens. Users continue to exit the platform, and perhaps not coincidentally, Snapchat execs continue to exit the company in droves. But that doesn't mean it's dead. Expect the platform to pivot in 2019 away from its ephemeral content origins to stay in the fight.
Social media fatigue is real. Between news of it being addicting, causing depression and presenting privacy concerns, more and more people are taking breaks from it. We learned this from our own Gen Z study as well as Pew's revelation that 42 percent of Facebook users age 18-plus have taken a break of "several weeks or more" from it this past year. While paid social media (advertising) will continue to grow in 2019, brands will increasingly stop wasting time and money on organic social media.
Sales of VR headsets have nosedived even as manufacturers like HTC and Oculus slash prices. We already know all the reasons why: They're cumbersome, expensive, not very portable and solitary. Augmented reality will continue to suffocate virtual reality as the consumer immersive media of choice in 2019.
Overall, 2019 is shaping up to be less about marketing hype and more about marketing sensibility. But that doesn't mean there's a lack of opportunity for innovation. Successful brands will benefit from a heavy dose of creativity in their media and technology executions, while also designing new ways to future-proof their businesses. The patience and courage to test, learn and iterate in marketing is something that will always be hot and never a "not."