Year-End Round-Up: Digital in 2011, Part 2

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ADOTAS – This is the continuation of a two-part commentary, the first part of which ran on Friday. For Part 1, click here.

2011 Prediction: “Superphones” Go 4D — And Beyond

We expected that Superphones would go into 4D, and maybe Siri is a good example of that, but it seems we greatly underestimated the slowness at which the platforms would progress, and only a few vendors are dipping into 3D experience without much user love or market attention. This shows a change in dynamics: how phones have become mobile computing platforms, progressing at the pace of app developers.

2011 Prediction: Discovering “Lifestreams”

Now that the Facebook Timeline has begun rolling out to all users, early complaints are turning into praise, as nostalgia trumps resistance to change. But beyond reminiscence, life recorders, platforms that track your activity over time — whether it be your jogging routes or your most frequently visited websites — are hitting the mainstream because they have an inherently practical side, too, and one that the expanding digital user base seems to have latched on to. Because the success of advertising often hinges on the connection consumers make to a brand, smart marketers who use Lifestreams effectively can establish the connection users have to, or reliance they have upon, certain brands, by showing them in the context of the user’s life. History, for the first time, can become the future of advertising, as journeys into the virtual past open up doors to the virtual present. This could become a massive opportunity for engineered marketing serendipity.

2011 Prediction: Digital Magazines Are Still Searching for a Soul

Not only did they search in 2011, but at least some magazines also seem to have found one. Flipboard, which we predicted in 2011 could be an inspiration for other tablet-formatted magazines, truly took off this year, becoming incredibly central in the space. The Economist’s bi-monthly Intelligent Life is now offered for free in the App Store, sponsored by Credit Suisse. The fact that media are willing to give away a high-value product such as this shows that they’re panicked about retaining their readership and will go to extreme lengths to retain it. Of course, it also devalues the magazine, taking away some credibility by not charging a premium for content. At the end of the year, while digital magazines are seemingly finding themselves, printed media seems to be soul searching more than ever.

2011 Prediction: The Cloud Becomes a Kite

Think about how many devices you check your email from on any given workday. You might start off on your tablet over breakfast, transition to your smartphone while on the subway to work, spend eight hours at your desktop, and then head home and send a few last-minute emails from your personal laptop. You should have increased possibility and productivity with all these devices at your disposal, rather than being hamstrung because you didn’t think to email yourself a file on the way out the door. Enter Dropbox and Evernote, strong candidates for efficiency-maker of the year. Apple entered a new era with iCloud liberating their mobiles from the Mac, as Amazon turns the Cloud Drive into a kite with introduction of the Kindle Fire.

2011 Prediction: Going with the Flow: “Liquid Experiences”

That familiar blue thumbs-up that you see on almost every website you visit shows the pervasiveness of the Facebook “Like” feature. Like a page, see it on your feed. But now, as Hulu, Yahoo News, The Guardian and other popular sites integrate more fully with Facebook, you don’t need to actively “like” something in order for it to appear on your profile — it’s posted automatically. The iPhone has integrated Twitter; Spotify will stream music wirelessly over a Sonos music system; and with the launch of the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s Whispersync becomes even more important to Kindle Store customers. Moving fluidly from device to device, app to app, task to task, makes the experience more enjoyable, the user more engaged. And engagement is one of the best things a marketer can hope for.

So What’s Next?

Digital is here to stay. Consumers are hooked. Marketers are finding success in new channels that weren’t even available a few years ago. Developers are having a blast, and device manufacturers are doing everything they can to uncover new segments. As with all other years I have been in mobile and digital, 2012 is going to be mind-blowing. There are a few trends we’re beginning to pick up on for the coming year, and our full Digital Trends forecast will be available on our website on January 3.

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