How to spot the future

How can you tell which innovation will become a success?

The terrific May Wired story “How to Spot the Future” notes that anyone trying to figure out which kinds of innovations are most worth paying attention to has to come up with ways to “size up ideas and separate the truly world-changing from the merely interesting”. I thought this was worth sharing!

“At Wired, where we constantly endeavor to pinpoint the inventions and trends that will define the future, we have developed our own set of rules,” writes executive editor Thomas Goetz. “We have seen some common themes emerge, patterns that have fostered the most profound innovations of our age.”

Wired lists seven rules for what to look for:

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Four global tech-powered trends growing right now

recent piece at Fast Company featured four deep tech trends identified by futurist Jan Chipcase, whom travels the globe to understand how technology (and design) are taking shape across various dimensions of our lives, from the workers of China to the citizens of Africa — and every nuance in between. In short, we should expect to see the following trends belie many of our perceptions and behaviors that relate to technology, currently and in the near future. Continue reading

7 digital media trends to follow

Super-investor Warren Buffett claims many social media firms are overpriced. If this is true or not will largely depend on how social firms and brands are able to capitalise on the below essential social media trends. Undoubtedly, the level of integration some brands have in social media is set to deepen. But how?

1. Social commerce and monetisation

Brands will look at how to get a return on their interaction when they have the fundamentals in place. Connecting e-commerce sites to social media accounts has been a tactic taken by several brands to date. However, you can expect to see a rise in f-commerce (Facebook commerce) where brands fully integrate online stores with their Facebook pages, enabling fans to buy products without having to leave the social network. Online fashion giant ASOS was the first European brand to set up shop on Facebook at the start of the year, and Dove and French Connection are reported to follow suit.

 

2. Mobile and location connected experiences

With large-scale mobile payments in the horizon some places and an increasing number of people owning smartphones, the coming years will be all about location and shopping on-the-go. The launch of Facebook Deals in January further enables brands to offer users real-time rewards and offers. For brands and agencies working with them it will be key to find a way to best use mobile services to offer offline and online experiences that complement each other and that add to the user’s brand experience. One focus will be to find a working model that allows brands to reward users who regularly “check-in” or mention the brand in social media updates with personalised deals.

 

3. Branded content

As people have become accustomed to seeing and ignoring online ads, and adding filters, branded content is an important trend for the coming time. Creating bespoke branded content that succeeds to enhance customers’ social media experience and offer value to them will be vital for smart brands wishing to stay ahead of the game. Fully integrating the content across all social media platforms, along with links back to the brand’s website, so that the customer experience is unison, will also play a key factor in engaging with consumers.


4. Consumer content curation

With an increased number of tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts and news articles, people are looking for ways to filter the rapid flow of content coming their way to a manageable size. ShinyShiny has previously written about social curation sites like Paper.li and Flipboard, and similar services can be expected to appear on the market in the coming time. Most of these filter content based on popularity, so for professional content creators like customer publishing agencies, it will be essential to produce quality content that has high sharability, as well as reach out to key influencers, to ensure the content does not get stuck behind such curation filters.

 

More bargains to the left? Roger that.

5. Group buying

The rise of Groupon and other deal sites is a sign of what is to come in e-commerce. In a time of austerity, people’s desire to obtain a ‘good deal’ and buy products or experiences at highly discounted prices will continue to grow. For publishers and brands it will be key to find a way to capitalise on this, either by launching their own group buying services or partnering up with existing sites.

 

6. Video content

Producing quality video for online distribution is becoming less expensive and more accessible. It is also arguably the most engaging way for brands to connect with consumers online. With people and companies using management platforms like Brightcove as well as video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo, we will see a growth in this sector.

 

7. Social gaming and online currency

Social games are a favourite past-time for many of Facebook’s 550k strong community and will continue to grow in popularity. There are already some games on the market with elements of brand connection, like Pet Society, as well as the entirely branded game Me to You: My Place, thought to be the first branded Facebook game in the UK. As micro-payments become more accepted we can expect more brands to enter the social gaming market over time.

The future of business is the “mesh”

Lisa Gansky, author of “The Mesh,” talks about a future of business that’s about sharing all kinds of stuff, either via smart and tech-enabled rental or, more boldly, peer-to-peer. Examples across industries — from music to cars — show how close we are to this meshy future.

In her book Gansky says “We are moving away from a world where we aspired to own everything. Now, we can have access to goods and services with the same utility, convenience and enjoyment as owning them, but without the associated expense and hassles. This shift is at least in part powered by the little devices that we are all carrying around- the web-enabled mobile devices that allow us to easily reach out to find each other and locate ‘stuff’.”

 

Dead meat? The decaying prospects of the music business

Innovative enough for ya?

Are you yearning to see Robbie Williams rejoin his bandmates in Take That this summer? More than 1.3 million are. Demand for the tour is so colossal the tickets were gone in a couple of hours. Ticketmaster, only one of the ticket agencies selected, received 20 million page views that day – far in excess of the number seen when tickets for Michael Jackson’s planned comeback went on sale a couple of years ago. Plenty of Take That tickets are for sale online – at up to five times the original price tags.

Indeed, the music business is still a big boom for the hottest acts. The past few years since online illegal file-sharing became rampant, live concerts, the sale of songs to advertisers and the sale of all sorts of merchandise, have not done a bad job of offsetting the decline. Will Page of PRS for Music, which collects royalties on behalf of writers and publishers, has added up the entire British music business. Although the sale of CDs and records have since 2001 slid by 40 % in Britain, he reckons the music business in total turned over £3.9 billion in 2009, 5% more than in 2008. It was the second consecutive year of growth. The longest, loudest boom is in live music. Between 1999 and 2009 concert-ticket sales in America tripled in value, from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion, pretty much mirrored by the British trend.

However, trouble seems to lurk below the stratosphere. The way the music business has adapted to disruptive online piracy does now show significant signs of being insufficient to counter stagnation or decline. The research firm Pollstar estimates that the 50 biggest worldwide tours grossed $2.93 billion last year – 12% less than in 2009. StubHub, a large website on which tickets are traded, says the average concert-ticket price dropped by 18% between 2008 and 2010. The head of Live Nation Entertainment said last year that 40% of seats routinely went unsold. Another sign of decline is that some labels seem to be abandoning A&R (talent scouting and artistic development).

Bands appear to have pushed average ticket prices about as high as they can go, and tested the limits of supporters’ appetites with long tours.

The rise of digital music is scant compensation. Growth in sales of digital music halved last year despite increased action on behalf of governments to tackle digital piracy globally. Some say pricing of tickets in live music is a main problem, though airline-type pricing and methods where prices float with demand is being experimented with.

The lack of innovation in the music business to tackle declining CD sales may partly stem from the current structure of the industry. The power in the music business is perhaps too spread between too many different types of middlemen who are fighting for their share of the pie. Record companies are working against change, because they don’t see themselves as important in suggested business models.

This problem of dispersed power and insufficient leadership is seen especially in the marketing and branding of not-so-famous bands. So many different players are involved in this that the outcome is often very inconsistent – hence inefficient in engaging the crowds. The musicians themselves, the music management agency, the record label, the booking agent, the producers, different designers, venues and promoters etc. are all very much involved in shaping the perceived brand of a band as a whole. In contrast to the case in most other industries, an authority at the top strategically guiding the entire marketing process is lacking.

Innovation and substantial change in business models is needed if the music industry is not going to shrink significantly over the next decades. As I have suggested before, what looks most promising is collaboration between musicians and brands with marketing agencies acting as intermediaries (not record companies). This is well exemplified by the band OK Go and its viral video hits online. In essence: don’t sell music, use music to sell.

However, it is easy have ideas and to see the main problems; the hard part is finding the creative solutions and executing them successfully.

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Read a later post on the future of music: Digital music at an impasse