2011 was a massive year for digital media but 2012 looks like it’ll be even bigger. As ever, Fast Web Media will be at the cutting edge of the new technologies and developments that will arise in digital over the next 12 months, and to give you a sneak peek at what we think could hit it big this year, here are our top ten digital picks for 2012.
Window shopping – from your couch
2011 was a massive year for e-commerce, with a record-breaking take of over $1.25billion being posted on Cyber Monday and Apple and Amazon revealing all-time high sales of the iPad and Kindle over that same weekend. Experts attributed this massive surge to Couch Commerce, a new term used to describe the act of buying from your couch, on a mobile or tablet, rather than on your computer or laptop. This is only going to continue in 2012, with eBay recently announcing a ‘Watch With eBay’ update to its iPad app that will give users the opportunity to browse products from the TV programmes or adverts they are watching as they are watching them. The update further strengthens the ties between traditional and digital advertising and with mobile and tablet sales showing signs of outselling desktop and laptop PCs in 2011, Couch Commerce could become the dominant method of online purchasing over the next twelve months.
The Cookie Monster
26th May 2012. A date burned into the minds of many online marketers – the deadline for the so-called ‘cookie-law’. The announcement from the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2011 that user consent must be obtained before cookies can be stored is posing many concerns for marketers. Some privacy software solutions have emerged, but the overall concern is that data capture will still suffer. This data is vital in understanding user behaviour and site analytics – the ICO website lost over 90 per cent of its Google Analytics data when it applied its owns guidelines. The ICO admits that the “implementation of this new legislation is challenging and involves significant technological considerations.” Despite the ICO being frank in its discussion of the matter and giving ample advice, questions of how this legislation will be policed and enforced are subject to intense debate and may prove to be the law’s ‘make or break’ point towards the end of 2012.
Search gets personal
The proliferation of smartphones that provoked the explosive growth of geo-location software and apps continued as a hot bed of activity over the last 12 months. 2011 was the year that saw mobile phone use of Google Maps exceed that of desktop use, with Maps being the third most used function on mobile phones after calling and texting. In addition to dominating the outdoors, Google launched Indoor Maps in 2011, which helps people navigate indoors spaces, such as airports and shopping malls and uses WiFi to track your location in place of satellites. In addition to Google expanding its local service capabilities, Google + check-in deals are on the horizon, meaning Google will have social in addition to local as the heart of its search results in 2012.
Plus points for Google’s social network
Siri says ‘hello’
The iPhone 4S talking assistant app, Siri, caused quite a stir when it was released in October 2011. With intuitive usability and confident functionality, Siri uses voice commands to carry out many different tasks and actions, like sending texts and emails. Siri’s use of natural language and humour in receiving and processing responses compared to the rigid commands used for other voice recognition technology is what sets it apart from other smart phones. In response to Search queries, the app returns a single, most relevant response, which has led to some speculation that the use of Siri to search could be ‘game changing’. Last year, Gary Morgenthaler, an early investor in Siri, confidently declared that the simplicity of Siri and its responses pose a real threat to Google: “A million blue links from Google is worth far less than one correct answer from Siri”. Whether Google is in trouble will depend ultimately on how user behaviour evolves as well as how voice search and technology develops in 2012.
Google TV v Apple’s iTV
Having raged on our desktops and in the palm of our hands for years, the battle between Apple and Google looks set to move into our living rooms in 2012. Both companies are likely to launch internet-enabled TVs this year and both seem confident of success, with Google’s Eric Schmidt in particularly bullish mood last month. He claimed that Google TV will be in most homes by the summer and that the search giant’s Android technology – on which the TV will be built – will put it ahead of its competitors. For their part, Apple have plenty of reasons to be cheerful too, with the iTV reportedly set to feature voice activation and seamless integration with all Apple devices and the iCloud. Which features will be most popular with consumers when the products are rolled out remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: digital is no longer confined to the computer.
Battle of the bands
The latest figures show that 21.3 million digital albums were sold in 2011 (26.2% of total album sales), and with new digital platforms emerging all the time that figure is only going to rise. The question is: which platform will rule? iTunes and Spotify are already well established, with the latter now boasting over 2.5 million customers following its launch in America in 2011. However, significant new players in the online music market have risen, with Google and BlackBerry primary among them. In November, Google launched Google Music in the US, with a number of exclusives from big name artists acting as a key incentive for new users. Meanwhile RIM’s BlackBerry Music offers users 50 tracks a month, which can be listened to offline and organised into playlists, for the price of £4.99. Sharing, track availability and unique features will be key to all platforms, but as ever the most successful service will be the one that offers the best value for money.
Gold for BBC’s streamed Olympics?
2012 could be a massive year for streamed online content, with the BBC’s coverage of the London 2012 Olympic Games set to play a huge part in its development. An expected 24 streams of live content will be available via the BBC’s website and coverage of every venue for entire sessions is a first for broadcast sport. If the plans prove as successful as the BBC is hoping, it’s likely the organisation would aim for similar coverage of other big sporting events, like Wimbledon and the World Cup, and other networks would almost certainly begin to develop similarly advanced streaming technology. It’s not just the athletes who have plenty riding on London 2012 then – the future of the BBC’s sports content, and the potential for interactive online streaming as a whole, is likely to be decided too.
AND not OR
2011 saw a handful of brands focus their energies entirely on one web platform, with Strongbow just one example of a company using its website solely as a way to drive traffic to its Facebook page. Such dramatic moves are likely to become less frequent in 2012. As the web evolves, platforms are becoming more integrated, one feeding into the next – search feeds your site, your site feeds social, social feeds search. Having a great website but bad SEO, or a brilliant Facebook page but a poor website simply isn’t going to work anymore. For a truly effective digital strategy, the best path to success is site AND search AND social. The luxury of choice won’t be an option in 2012. ‘Or’ will be a four-letter word.
The Year of MediaCityUK
There were plenty of goings-on at MediaCityUK in 2011 and there’ll be plenty more this year. With the BBC starting to get settled, the new hub of the UK’s media will welcome ITV and a host of other big name players over the next twelve months. The move is likely to make for a more centralised and representative British media, with Manchester and Salford at the very centre of its operations. The importance of these two cities is no surprise to us though. Fast Web Media has been based in Manchester since 1995 and though we’ve expanded into London, Amsterdam and Athens since then, we’re proud to have such a strong heritage in this great city. We’re already set up at MediaCityUK and we can’t wait to be part of the exciting developments as the site evolves during 2012.