The Big Media Developments of 2016

While doing prep for our semi-annual retreat for Social Starts, I’ve been thinking a lot about where media will be going over the next year and beyond. As the leading moment-of-inception venture firm, we do regular “step-backs” to help refine our investing strategy and to highlight where opportunity exists for wealth creation. In addition, with my work as Editorial Director at Vidcon – the super-amazing annual online video conference in Anaheim in June – I’ve also been pondering “what it all means” and “where it’s all going”.

So as part of the media’s annual orgy of reflection and forecasting, I figured it was time for me to share my predictions. Here’s the first installment of what I think the big media developments of 2016 will be:

RELEVANT VIDEO FOR EVERY WEB PAGE. In 2016, the trend towards video taking over the internet will accelerate. Text and photo web pages without prominent video will begin to seem as antiquated as AOL’s "You've Got Mail" refrain. This spells opportunity for companies that make it easy for content creators to develop their own video – but also for distribution companies that provide truly relevant video to enhance or augment web pages. Unfortunately, in the end, it won’t matter all that much because…

WALLED GARDEN GROWTH ACCELERATES.The open web is under siege and the aggressors will continue to gain ground. Facebook leads here, as it dominates more and more of our waking screen time, at the expense of the open web. As publishers race to upload video and articles natively to Facebook’s servers, there will be less and less reason to leave the comfy confines of the Big Blue. Snapchat, as well, will continue to grow its own kingdom, as Generation Z eschews the demesnes of the older folks for the new Big Yellow. As each become all-encompassing plushy palaces, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave”. And we won’t want to. This will change how media companies look at deploying assets on the internet, and will lead to a de-emphasis of branded web destinations and more eyeballs, attention and dollars flowing to Facebook – and Snapchat too if they can figure it out.

SNAPCHAT FIGURES IT OUT.I’ve been impressed over the last 12 months by some of Snapchat’s moves, and by some of their key hires. Imran Khan, James Veraldi and others seem to be helping to turn an accidental success into a vibrant, exciting and entertaining world. Publishers on the Snapchat platform are seeing positive results and the biggest stars are building amazing communities. I expect Snapchat will extend its dominance over the GenZ/Tail-Millennial world during 2016, and that means great things for the creators, brands and media companies that figure out how to profit from their huge engaged and powerful audience.

THE FTC STARTS GOING AFTER NATIVE. Deceptive ad practices in the US have been on the FTC’s radar for some time now. But in 2016, the FTC will ratchet up its enforcement, as at least a handful of popular YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and other influencers get nabbed for including brand messages without disclosing that they were paid to promote. It’s going to get expensive – and that means that the new influencer marketplaces and agencies are going to need to be much more careful in how they bring brands and creators together. A lot of rocks will be tossed – and more than a few glass houses will shatter.

Finally, I predict: More media predictions in the coming days! Stay tuned for the second part of my forecast on the big media developments of 2016.