Loose Change: Trends of 2010
One of the great things about the new year isn’t so much that we get a fresh start, but rather that we know the exact moment the old year ends and the new one begins. One second it’s 2009 and literally the next it’s 2010. In business, most changes – even those that have been predicted – play out over such a long period of time that we often don’t recognize what’s happening until it’s too late. This happened repeatedly throughout much of the media world in 2009. Despite all the warnings about shifting consumer behaviors and marketing mix allocations we seemed surprised as primetime audiences continued to shrink, magazines and newspapers closed by the hundreds and bloggers started elbowing their way into the front-row at fashion shows sitting next to the likes of Anna Wintour.
So as we sit in early 2010 – here are a few connected trends that will continue to unfold over the next decade:
Audience fragmentation that started with cable television that in the 1980’s will continue as ever more specialized content is available across an increasing array of digital platforms. Innovations in distribution will continue at such a rapid pace that no one company will have a monopoly for any extended period of time – and those companies that invest too much in any single platform will continue to feel pain. Finally, the most interesting new content creators will continue emerging from far flung places far outside of large companies – and the most astute companies will find ways to harness this talent rather than relying entirely on their own original content creation.
No doubt the pending Comcast / NBC Universal merger will have a profound impact on the media landscape over the next decade, too – but this deal is not so much revolutionary as it is a continuation of the kind of mega-deals that started back in the 80’s when GE bought NBC, Cap Cities bought ABC and Tisch acquired CBS.
The far more revolutionary changes are looser, happening on a smaller scale and generally going unnoticed until they gain such critical mass that we are caught off guard by their appearance. Thomas Friedman’s column last month where he spoke of the Great Inflection ; the impact of widespread, low-cost technology coupled with cheap connectivity – was one of those moments. The story about the small Minneapolis ad agency Greer & Associates was especially fascinating.
The explosion of digital content over the past decade also guarantees that the decade ahead will be filled with more stories like that of Mike Florio, Brian Stelter and Jane Aldridge. Florio started ProFootballTalk.com in his West Virginia home back in 2001 and grew its monthly following to over 1 million visitors according to a recent piece by sports media reporter, Richard Sandomir. These days, Florio’s site is a centerpiece of NBCSports.com’s football coverage. Same story with Brian Stelter, who was brought in-house by the NY Times after starting his influential television news blog, TVNewser, while in college. Expect more of the same when NY Fashion Week starts-up again next month. The next decade’s most influential voices in the world of style are now finding their way to the front rows and to millions of eager consumers every month. In the case of 17 year-old Jane Aldridge, her widely read blog Sea of Shoes also led to her own shoe collection at retailer, Urban Outfitters.
So while the most profound changes in media don’t always happen with the immediacy and clarity of the ball dropping in Times Square – they’re happening as we speak – and they promise to make the new decade among the most exciting the media business has ever seen.
Minsider columnist Dan Lagani is the founder of Tre Cani Advisors, a media consultancy focused on digital media, fashion, beauty and retail. He is the Senior Advisor to StyleCaster Media Group and was previously president of the Fairchild Fashion Group, overseeing media brands including WWD, WWDMen’s and WWD.com; Footwear News; Fairchild Summits, Books and Classifieds; and Fashioncareers.com.