Top 6 Predictions for New Media in 2016

Now that we’ve all seen The Force Awakens and we have hopefully recovered from our holiday hangover its time to hunker down and take a look at where new media is heading in 2016.

I wanna be big. Like . . . Ronnie Coleman big!

2015 was a banner year in new media as we’ve seen a number of platforms legitimized by industry awards(Netflix beating our HBO for total Golden Globes nods), a ton of big purchases and investments(Disney’s purchase of Maker Studios), as well as advertising budgets shift their focus towards metric-rich platforms.

So here are some of the things I’ve noted as 2015 came to a close and 2016 ramps up:

1. Your Audience Matters More than Ever

IP thief personified: The Fat Jew

Your biggest asset is your audience and this year it will determine more and more who gets the job in 2016. Ask any entertainer and they will tell you the same thing. Without their audience, they are nothing. The same goes for writers, producers, and on-line personalities at any level.

One of my big considerations in hiring talent is their audience. We all want the most qualified person to get the job but we also want people to see the final product.

It boils down to this: a) Do we like you? b) Can you do the job? and now we have to be aware of c) Do you bring an audience?

Depending on the job, its not always an equilateral triangle, but I can tell you that in 2016 your audience will be a huge factor in who gets the gigs.

2. Mainstream: VR and 360

Stoner’s Paradise: Google Cardboard

The market place is still anyone’s race as Google Cardboard attempts to capture the most eyeballs with its simple solution to VR and 360, Oculous Rift continues to innovate with its next iteration of their game changing headset, and Microsoft’s augmented reality headset made some serious headway in giving us a terminator-like vision as we approach our daily life.

Target Acquired: Future SOA extra

What does this mean for next year?

Expect a TON of new 360 content on youtube from the usual suspects of Redbull, off road racing, and anyone else on the periphery of extreme sports. But whoever finds a compelling way to use this new technology within the confines of narrative storytelling has the opportunity to made a big cultural dent.

Music videos and horror shorts are already making huge strides.

3. You down with OTT? Yeah, You Know Me

Honest Trailers: Screen Junkies Plus

Everyone is taking cues to jump into the over-the-top/subscription video on demand space and this year you’re going to see even more entrants into the market.

Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon are pressing forward in the OTT/SVOD space and creating their own IP as quickly as they can, but they aren’t the only game in town. Verizon’s Go90 service has made in big splash attracting top talent to the service as well as possibly adding the much sought after NFL. Add in NBC’s SeeSo, Screen Junkies Plus, HBO Now, Sling, Watchable, and Showtime — You really got to ask yourself “Why do I need cable?”

Does the consumer have bandwidth for all these services? Is there enough quality content to sustain all of these endeavors? Are we just re-creating the same problem as soon as you try and bundle them together?

4. Catch phrase of the year: Digital First

We’ve barely started 2016 and I’m already tired of the phrase but that won’t make it any less important. Like Verizon’s Go90, you’re going to see a huge shift towards making content that is designed to be consumed on a phone as its primary viewing platform.

This is going to mean a huge shift in the way that content is made given the fact that the 50" big screen is not the most viewed screen in most American’s homes for people under 25. Content is going to get shorter, brighter, and louder.

5. The Return of the Second Screen Experience

Forget this mess. I’m going to #Shondaland

Outside of live sports, must see TV events are becoming rarer and rarer but there are some outliers like the #TheBachelor and #Rosewood. These shows have found a way to effectively incorporate the second screen experience by harnessing the power of their stars, creators, and fans on social media.

Fans of these shows know that by engaging in these #livetweet sessions there is a chance that Kerry Washington may tweet you back or Morris Chestnut may fave your response.

Can Go90, Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix find a way to incorporate this into their marketing plans? When guys like Noah Kinsey are live-tweeting their virgin watching of the Harry Potter franchise years after its release and still finding an engaged audience it seems completely possible.

6. The Branded Cream will Rise to the Top

WTF indeed! — The President on the WTF podcast

Free (virtually free) distribution platforms like Youtube and podcasting have democratized media and allowed anyone to cultivate their own audience. Yes, the 45% Youtube tax is a cost of global distribution as are some minor costs associated with getting listed on the itunes podcast charts, but you have access to billions of potential customers.

On Youtube, you’ve seen the best rise to the top with a healthy middle class Youtubers starting to emerge as well. Expect these monetization models to start to shift as brands see the value in knowing exactly who’s actively engaged with their message.

Everybody and their mother has a podcast these days but according to the content marketing institute, less than 3% of content marketers are using the medium. Look for major brands to start moving into the space previously occupied by comedians or at the very least start to poach talent as they make a play on this very engaged audience.


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Zeke Thomas is a creative producer at Defy Media, freelance new media consultant, and host of the Getting Real with Zeke podcast. If you liked this story and want to read more like it, sign up to his newsletter to receive more of his writing more often or just find him on twitter.