My Digital Predictions for 2016

2015 was a year of big change for digital, with users gobbling up ad-blocking software, erasing billions of dollars from the online publishing business, and mobile becoming the primary way for users to search the internet. With 2016 shaping up to be yet another huge year of innovation and shifts in user behavior, this seems like as good a time as any to make a few predictions for what we see happening in the year to come.

Mass-rejection of poor mobile experiences

Quite simply, there is too much good stuff around for the bad stuff to do well. Given the wealth of options and the ability for consumers to research and consider multiple options very quickly, why should they do well? They won’t.
Businesses that continue to view mobile as an afterthought, or a peripheral problem, and don’t invest the necessary resources to ensure that they are providing users with a premium mobile experience will inevitably suffer.

Although this is a tough prediction to quantify, I think that we will see some panic set in in the second half of the year, with companies and brands realizing that mobile is not just a smaller version of a laptop, and will begin to understand that context and circumstances are fundamentally different.

Finally, I think that more and more businesses will start to adopt a mobile-first strategy, or at least begin that conversation, realizing that the trend towards mobile is real. That’s not to say, however, that reaching users on desktops won’t still continue to be important.

Facebook making more moves to solve its generational issue

There has been a lot of stuff written in the past year-or-so about how millennials and Gen-Z are rejecting Facebook en masse. Last February, an article in The Washington Post described Mark Zuckerberg as “no longer the coolest kid in school”, and mentioned a report that tells us that a million teens are leaving Facebook every year. And while, in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t seem like a huge deal, there is no question that teens, and twentysomethings are preferring the new generation of social tools, such as SnapChat and What’sApp, and don’t really seem to have much interest communicating with people they don’t actually know, or sharing information with a couple of hundred people at the same time, preferring to interact one-on-one. That’s also bad news for Twitter.

While Facebook was smart to acquire both Instagram and WhatsApp in recent years, Instrgram, at present doesn’t really do a great job of facilitating the one-on-one communication desire, and WhatsApp has not stood the test of time in a faddy social technology world among a faddy demographic.

Facebook, however, are acutely aware of this issue, and given their deep pockets and huge workforce, it won’t risk dying of old age without a fight.

Big changes in display advertising

If 2015 was the year of ad blocking, then 2016 has to be the year that the publishing and the advertising industries react. There is just too much money at stake for content creators, and even giants like Google and Facebook to give up on this lucrative revenue stream. In-fact, many publishers, including the traditional newspaper companies fund their entire operations through allowing ads to be placed on content pages, and there survival depends on the ability of their industry to do something about it.

It’s hard to say exactly what will happen, but my guess is that interstitial, and auto-play video ads will all but disappear from the web, which in-turn may lead to fewer people adopting ad-blocking software. I think we will also see an increase in native ads and sponsored content. Whatever it is, consumers of the web have spoken, and they have made it very clear that they don’t like the current state of play.

Okay, that’s it. Let’s see how it plays out.

Happy New Year from all at Embrace Interactive!