What to Expect in Tech, Digital and Social Media in 2018: Top 5 Trends to Watch For

Only about a month into 2018, mass communication predictions for the year include exciting trends like podcasts gaining more importance and Google’s visual search taking online shopping to a whole new level. Let’s see what other predictions are made for 2018 in Reuters Institute’s study on “Journalism, Media and Technology Trends and Predictions 2018”. The latter being quite extensive, we have singled out trends relevant for social media (SMM) and digital marketers or just those who like being on top of trends to save their time. The study was led by Nic Newman, Research Associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

But first, let’s sum up what happened in mass communication industry in 2017, particularly:

Audio content will be on the rise in 2018.
Photo credit – HystoryOnTheNet
  • Facebook’s new algorithm, engagement being its main defining variable, was blamed for promoting misinformation, propaganda and polarizing content.
  • It became clear for many in 2017 that when it comes to prioritizing values that major information platforms choose for themselves, interests of the Silicon Valley businesses are not always in tune with the interests of the world as a whole.
Propaganda, misinformation and political advertising on social media platforms. Photo Credit – Cool Material
  • 2017 also showed that world governments, including US, UK, Australia and others, have finally started to take steps to take action against possible damaging effects that social media may have on major aspects of decision -making.
  • The rise of “horizontal storytelling” is finally taking place (that means that videos in horizontal view are on the rise among publishers).
Horizontal storytelling on the rise as platforms start acting upon the percentage of users browsing on mobile.
Image credit – Reuters Institute Report

As for the year of 2018, taking into account the existing grounds and development trends, we focus on 5 predictions the report makes that we believe anyone in the media, journalism or tech industries should pay attention to over the coming 10-12 months.

1. Efforts to Minimize Publishers’ Dependence on Major Platforms

Around half of the surveyed leading editors, CEOs and digital leaders (44%) expressed concern related to the increasing power that platforms gain, with 55% of them representing newspaper groups noting that their profits have been significantly influenced by digital advertising that goes to those major platforms. This takes place against the background of Facebook trying to keep visitors on its own platform longer in order to sell that attention to the advertisers, instead of giving dues to original content creators via referrals.

Publisher attitudes towards major platforms.
Image Credit Reuters Institute Report

This could lead to a few possible scenarios unfolding:

  • Facebook will damp down news in feeds, promoting an alternative “Explore” section for publisher content;
  • more publishers will decide to pull back from platforms if the situation continues in the same direction;
  • armies of internet moderators will have to be employed by tech companies (which YouTube is already doing) to filter through publisher content;
  • platforms will be accused of free speech suppression, because who would be authorized to decide which content is or is not to be removed?
  • and finally, it may lead to more talk about the issue and little action to solve it, which probably is one of the most likely scenarios that the story will unfold by.

2. Working on Building Trust in the Era of “Fake News”

As in 2017, the issue of fake news is going to remain a priority in 2018. Photo Credit – Infowars

Along with the ease of sharing information, the internet has exposed users to a vast array of facts, counter-facts and alternative facts, which often makes it difficult for the users to decide which piece of information is more credible. One of the primary challenges that the platforms face IS the fact that they have become an easy channel for misinformation, propaganda and abuse. In this case, the platforms need to effectively juggle between freedom of speech and being a channel for “clean” information that is not in fact damaging in its nature.

One great example the report refers to is the experiment conducted by the University of Washington synthesizing Obama’s one speech and animating his face in a completely different footage to fit the speech, this being done with incredible accuracy. This just demonstrates how vast the opportunities to create fake but fully believable pieces of information are.

This issue can unfold in a few possible scenarios:

1. platforms will use all possible technologies to block such content, but will not be able to outsmart the “hackers”;

2. alternative fact-checking techniques will be employed (one of which is AI currently already being used), including additional funding;

3. published content will be better labeled making the SOURCE of the content more visible, including better tagging and descriptions, as well as smart algorithms;

4. there will be efforts made to increase news literacy by employing educational programs, initiatives and campaigns for not only the general population but also for the publishers themselves.

3. Social Media and Messaging Facts and Trends

Social media 2017 facts and 2018 trends.
Image Credit – Nishith Blog
  1. Facebook usage is the highest, but it is stopping to grow.
  2. Facebook will focus more on user loyalty than on reach.
  3. Decline in participation by Facebook users because of having “friends” from so many different spheres in life is taking place. Sharing of personal content is moving to smaller and more closed communities.
  4. WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are gaining traction rapidly.
  5. Instagram is one of the fastest growing networks of 2016/2017.
  6. Facebook is dominating SM through ownerships of all above networks but Snapchat.
  7. Twitter continues struggle for growth.
  8. Facebook will roll out FB Messenger for Kids in 2018.
  9. Mobile story format hits mainstream with Instagram surpassing Snapchat and Facebook taking efforts in the same direction.

4. Social Platforms Challenging TV in the Bigger Markets 

Facebook might go for obtaining streaming rights for the Premier League for 2019-2022 along with Amazon and Google. Image Source – The Sun
  1. Looks like Facebook is going to be serious in its efforts to take a bigger bite, having pledged to spend billions of dollars to advance its TV ambitions. This will most probably include major focus on video, and even possibly owning program rights for own shows.
  2. Facebook is expected to be one of the main contenders for the streaming rights for the Premier League for 2019-2022 along with Amazon and Google.
  3. This shift of attention towards TV, entertainment and sports can naturally leave existing online publishers out in the cold.

5. Shifting from Advertising to Reader Payment 

44% of the publisher respondents believing that digital subscription will be the leading source for revenue.
Image Source – Mac Rumors

The majority of survey respondents from the digital sphere (62%) believe that advertising will lose its power over time to paid content instead. This sounds valid against the background of advertising price drops due to lack of demand and abundant supply, ad fraud and widespread ad-blocking practices.

Currently, the big tech platforms have the biggest share in new digital advertising money because of the efficient targeting of audiences they allow. But many believe that Reader Payments are the future with 44% of the publisher respondents believing that digital subscription will be the leading source of revenue soon. To be in the loop with this possible development, publishers will be forced to not only change their business model, but also seriously work on the content they create and the audience they target with it.

Subscription or reader payment based approach could lead to a new form of the digital divide – a gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern digital devices (information in this case) and those who have limited to no access at all.
Image Source – Broun Bytes

This, of course, can lead to the emergence of a two-tier information system, which will also challenge the idea of information being available to all, as well as democracy and progress. Since those who will be able to pay will be exposed to more credible and valuable content, and those who won’t – this time will be receiving the lowest quality content and a lot of misinformation. This issue will also be raised many times in 2018.

What does this mean on a larger scale?

Another development to look for along the same theme is the greater focus on ad-blocking by default that various browsers will incorporate to better the experiences of their users. Apple solves this problem even more effectively by offering users to turn on “reader view,” which strips out all advertising, branding and contextual related links.

Facebook and Google already attract 84% of the entire digital advertising market.
Image Source – FBadTraining

And on a larger scale, this means that publishers are left with a tiny little share, which will continue shrinking, with Facebook and Google already attracting 84% of the entire digital advertising market. This, in its turn, will lead to a number of consolidations, partnerships and media takeovers among publishers to be able to compete with the giants by building scale.

Looks like, overall, a bumpy but very exciting year is ahead! Keep tuned for further developments by following us on Facebook or checking Amatuni Copywriting Blog. Meanwhile, if you’re curious about more details on trends and developments, read the full report here.

By Viktorya Mirzoyan