Amy Webb’s Tech Trends for 2015

I didn’t go this year, but Amy Webb’s “2015 tech trends” presentation at SXSW is always buzzed about. She puts her slide decks online, and this year’s edition already has 143k views. Of her 55 trends, 8 seemed immediately relevant to what I’ve been thinking about:

  • Algorithms: Businesses will be building and using algorithms increasingly to create designs and curate the news. Buzzfeed has used algorithms to their advantage — they’ve built automatic feeds to identify archival content that match the current conversation, to resurface. They’ve gotten millions upon millions of additional page views from their content with this algorithm.
  • One-to-few publishing: Newsletters, podcasts and niche networks for a very specific audience. Although its a hard sell for businesses, advertisers want to be a part of a small, exclusive network — and engagement (which is richer in smaller communities as the content is more exclusive and targeted) is the metric of the future. Webb has identified a few familiar names in her “watch list” for this trend: This American Life, Serial, This., PRX, Today in Tabs.
  • Video: In 2014 we watched 40% more video than in 2013. The majority of videos were watched on smartphones. YouTube and Facebook are the big players here.
  • Ephemerality: Webb predicts that in 2015, ephemerality won’t be restricted to stand-alone apps (Snapchat, Meerkat, Confide) but instead be built into most of our existing applications. The business opportunities for ephemerality exist in new uses for text-messaging and time-sensitive marketing materials. Also interesting: “We believe it is possible for brands to have 1:1 conversations at scale, and for news organizations to publish content as conversations.”
  • Ambient proximity (aka beacons): New technology to push or receive information to mobile phones based on location. Bostonians who go to certain locations could get push notifications with WGBH News coverage giving them history and background on that place. While I was in Austin, I experienced the RadioLab/Detour co-production that used beacons to guide me through an interactive story.
  • Consumer > Device: Creating content based not on what device a consumer is holding (aka thinking about responsive design), but on what that consumer is doing (is she in bed reading? In line at Starbucks?) and what is relevant to her in that particular setting. How cool would it be if a smartphone could identify situations to offer a woman a one-click shortcut to WGBH Children’s Programming if it sees her in a situation where she needs to distract her kids?
  • Collaborative software. New productivity tools like Slack combine email, instant messaging, social media and cloud storage. My newsroom uses HipChat, but email is still the best way to contact people outside of my production. Webb says to look for Facebook @ Work (which claims to leverage staff productivity to check updates and post photos during work hours).
  • Data. Webb discusses the rise of CDOs in organizations (Chief Data Officers) who will figure out what data the organization should collect, analyze and interpret.

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