2020 Revisited: 10 trends in media

Image: Adobe Stock Image: Adobe Stock
Image: Adobe Stock

What happened to our media predictions during the most unpredictable year?

1. Colliding ecosystems

What we said: The tech giants have started to compete as never before.  They all have developed video services and gaming, they all make devices, and are all involved in commerce.  We saw this continuing and escalating.

What happened: The pandemic accelerated and developed this trend.  As we will explain in the upcoming 2021 Carat Trends report, the tech giants are now starting to join their services up, so that they offer complete, integrated products for their users. For example, Amazon has added it’s Twitch live video streaming service to its music platform.  We also saw lots of disputes between the tech giants, including Apple blocking gaming apps from Facebook and Google in its app store this summer.

Did we get it right? ABSOLUTELY

2. From platforms to producers

What we said: Where platforms like Netflix had previously operated as libraries for other producers’ content, they will now begin to make their own shows and movies, leveraging their wealth of data and control over algorithms. We also see this with Google answering queries within the search results, rather than sending traffic to other websites, and Apple taking features from popular apps and making them part of their operating system.

What happened: The most prominent example of this was how many of the platforms were rushing to create or adapt their own versions of Zoom when the pandemic led to a spike in video conferencing.

Even newer players like DoorDash got involved, as the delivery app created its own virtual stores.  However, not every experiment worked: Amazon created its own video game, Crucible, in the summer, but had shut it down by October.

Did we get it right? ABSOLUTELY

3. What's yours is mine

What we said: We highlighted the rise of the rental and resale marketplaces, seen in the rise of start-ups like Rent The Runway, By Rotation, and ThredUp.  We showed how both rental and resale were better for the environment than fast fashion, and how the trend was moving into other areas like accessories and toys.

What happened: The pandemic happened.  Sadly, there were fewer events to go to and the idea of renting outfits that other people had worn started to feel like a bad idea.  However, the resale market has continued to grow.  ThredUp has reported increasing sales and shows like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has continued to encourage people to get rid of their old items. 

Did we get it right? PARTLY

4. Invisible money

What we said: We highlighted the big changes in finance, the move away from cash, and the rise in new banking and payment services that allow you to measure your balances as if you were using a fitness app.  We also speculated the rise of crypto and paying with messaging apps.

What happened: Contactless payment received a massive boost from the pandemic, simply because it is a safer way to pay.  Some new banks saw their valuations drop as consumer spending went down.  Facebook’s crypto project still hasn’t been launched, but it looks likely to come (in a less revolutionary form) early in 2021.

Did we get it right? YES

5. Life is just a video game

What we said: We reported on how, as it grew, gaming was having a bigger impact on the culture than ever before, influencing anything from the music in the charts to the look of sports broadcasting.  We said that we expected gaming to become a more popular night out, with the rise of VR arcades.

What happened: Sam Mendes’ film 1917 was an early proof of our ideas – a film shot to look like a first-person shooter, that made the director’s first world war story relevant to a whole new audience.  When the lockdowns happened, we saw sports go online, including F1 and football staging tournaments within games, to keep fans entertained.  Gaming’s rise has continued, and its influence on the general culture has never been greater.

Did we get it right? ABSOLUTELY

6. Play it your way

What we said: Gaming has made audiences crave interaction. Many creators and platforms are now experimenting with interactive stories and ‘choose your own adventure’ games, like Netflix’ Black Mirror film Bandersnatch, and Porsche’s live ‘game’ within Twitch, where players controlled two actors as they hunted for a car.

What happened: We saw a few good examples of this in 2020, including Samsung’s ‘game’ in Instagram stories, and Tinder’s interactive ‘Swipe Night,’ plus Netflix’s interactive version of Kimmy Schmidt.  However, it’s possible that this trend peaked in 2019, as these films can be hard to make in distanced surroundings.

Did we get it right? PARTLY

7. Cookie cutters

What we said: We claimed that the cookie was under threat from both legislation like GDPR, and technology companies like Apple and Mozilla, who wanted to let their users block tracking more easily.  We said that this would lead to more brands and publishers trying to collect first-party data, for example, through selling directly to customers.

What happened: Apple doubled down on its actions against cookies in the launch of iOS14, which will soon make it much easier for users to opt out of mobile app tracking too.  Google is actively trying to find ways to remove cookies from Chrome by the end of 2022.  More brands are selling directly, partly as a result of Covid and the lockdowns, including Heinz and Pepsi.

Did we get it right? ABSOLUTELY

8. Dark[er] social

What we said: We showed that social media was becoming a much more private place. More people were restricting who could see their content and more people using messaging apps like WhatsApp as their primary social channel.  We also showed how some brands and influencers were taking advantage of this by creating fan-only spaces or monetising by creating a more premium level of content that only some followers could see.

What happened: Dark social has been one of the stories of the year.  When the pandemic and the lockdowns happened, channels like WhatsApp were perfect for organising, especially locally, but also were used to spread rumours and misinformation, for example trying to claim a link between the virus and 5G.  While the use of dark social has grown, platforms like Facebook had to get better at policing what content is shared.

Did we get it right? ABSOLUTELY

9. Post-production advertising

What we said: Advertising is traditionally fitted into gaps in content. Last year, we showed a new trend of advertising being inserted into the content itself through post-production techniques. Interesting players include Mirriad (doing post-production product placing on TV shows), and Bidstack (inserting ads into online video games).

What happened: This market is still growing (Mirriad has seen their share price triple this year), especially in China and the US.  The formats have seen growth in lockdown – especially in-game advertising – but the formats have not hit the mainstream yet.

Did we get it right? PARTLY

10. The age of addressable TV

What we said: Penetration of smart TVs has risen to over 50% in many Western markets, meaning that we are now in the age of connected TV.  There are various ways to buy addressable TV ads, including via manufacturers like Samsung, on YouTube, and Sky.

What happened: This was another trend accelerated by the pandemic.  When lockdown happened, sales of smart TVs spiked, and viewing of on-demand content rose. While the subscription channels were the most apparent gainers, people are also watching more ad-funded content, including catch-up and YouTube.  YouTube says that in the US, more than 100m people watch the service on their TVs every month.

Did we get it right? ABSOLUTELY

So how did we do with our predictions? Even in a 'Black Swan' year like 2020, seven of our ten trends predictions did become a reality. And even though the pandemic impacted the additional three trends, they still partially move forward.

More than altering the direction of change, crises have accelerated change. Not everything was so unforeseeable after all.

One of the critical lessons of the pandemic is that even if we cannot foresee everything, preparing for significant long-term trends – more connected lives, virtual workplace, shifting attitudes towards privacy – can help us navigate beyond temporary disruptions.

This is why, in our 2021 Carat Trends report, we will factor how notable societal trends intersect with shorter-term tech and media trends – and what the implications are for brands.

Listen in to our 2021 trends predictions on Carat’s Human Element podcast.

Get In Touch