By the year 2020, we’ll be seeing the next phase of the digital revolution: an internet in every device (even on your face) and a world where we interact through mobile social channels instead of browsers. According to Dillon Baker at Contently, a content marketing company, the media technologies that will dominate in 2020 will be 5G internet and the internet of things (IoT), virtual and augmented reality, and the consolidation of social platforms. “The numbers suggest that many marketers will let these trends go by, says Baker, “but you shouldn’t be one of them”.
5G Internet and the IoT
Why didn’t smartphones take off in the early 2000’s like they have in the past few years? Simple: wireless data was expensive and trying to do anything other than get directions or check the weather was difficult. Nowadays we have 4G and Wifi everywhere and that makes it a lot easier to use data intensive apps. Just as the auto industry would never have happened without the creation of the highway system, smartphones are useless without the internet—“if it computes, it must connect. Otherwise it might as well be a brick”, says Matt Goddard, CEO of R2integrated. The internet of things, connected by a massively upgraded 5G (about 10 times faster than 4G), will be everywhere, connecting cars (especially driverless ones), homes and everyday devices. User will be able to “optimize” their daily lives by syncing all of their devices. This means a lot more data for marketers. “The IoT is a marketing goldmine” says Goddard. The amount of investment by companies like Intel and Cisco show just how transformative they believe the IoT will be. For marketers looking to get ahead of the curve, the IoT should be a priority.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Have you experienced virtual reality yet? Marketers and media types are pretty excited about this new technology but the results have been mixed: either your mind was blown or you were disappointed. Many believe VR will take off when there are innovations in two important areas: control and content. “The ability to interact in an environment, especially using your hands—which is your natural method of interaction in the real world—is sort of the golden chalice of VR”, says Christine Cattano, executive producer of Framestore VR, a creative studio that specializes in creating VR experiences. Three devices released last year (HTC Vive, Playstation VR and Oculus Touch) are trying to meet this challenge. However, because of the hefty price tags (~$850 for all the components needed), this technology probably won’t achieve widespread market penetration until 2020 or beyond. You can compare early VR content with early film, which took years to evolve into its current form. “The first film was a train coming into a station—super literal, right?” says Cattano. “Seven years later, George Melies is doing crazy things that could only be done film. It took enough experiments, wacky minds, and to be frank, enough balls, to do the stuff that is imaginative.”
Augmented reality (AR) is similar to VR, where a device is strapped in front of your eyes. The difference is the display is broadcast onto the world around you. Christopher Mims, Wall Street technology columnist, recently said “AR is the most exciting technology you’re ever likely to encounter. It’s the future, the dominant way we will interact with computers and the internet”. In last year’s Facebook F8 keynote, Mark Zuckerberg said AR could be as radical a transformation as mobile phones were: “a lot of the things we think about as physical objects today, like TV’s, will just be a one-dollar app.”
But here is where marketers have to be careful not to apply contemporary constructs to futuristic devices. “[Some marketers] keep bringing up this vision of wearing some sort of augmented reality device and you’re walking down the street and the cool thing we’re going to do is…we’ll just serve more ads”, said Cattano. “Someonw will definitely invent an ad blocker not long after.”
(Even More) Platform Consolidation
By 2020 is may be hard to understand the internet as anything other than a consolidated platform. “When it comes to where people go to read, watch, and listen to content—in other words, where marketers have to be if they want attention—major platforms will likely be in control. Leading the charge here in North America will be Facebook,” says Baker. It already controls a truly global social network and is extending its reach by offering Free Basics to developing countries. Even though the project was recently rejected in India, it is likely Facebook will continue to push it elsewhere. “When you consider that by 2020, 6.1 billion people are predicted to own smartphones, Facebook’s strategy to bring the majority of those users through a Facebook controlled platform should be fruitful,” says Baker.
eMarketer predicts that social platforms will only command 21.7 % of total digital ad spend, but this is where the money is flowing. “As marketers have increased their use of social media, their spending is also rising, and this shows no signs of slowing.” Baker says “even if marketers don’t fully embrace the platform takeover and shift their ad spend away from programmatic web display ads, users likely will.” He points out, “Eighty six percent of time spent on mobile is already spent on apps, compared to only 14 percent on mobile browsers. Considering that 3.5 billion people will own smartphones by 2020, that’s a huge amount of people who rarely use the internet on a web browser, assuming that ratio holds steady.”
Baker, D. (2017, July). What Media Technologies Will Dominate in 2020? Contently Quarterly: The Tech Issue, pp. 34-39.