Media Trends in 2016: Why I’ll Be Watching the Underdog

This post was selected by the editors of Context as one of the best posts about the marketing and advertising published on Medium in 2016.

Forecasting the future is usually a fool’s errand — especially in a fast-changing industry like media. But I recently recruited two brave colleagues to make their 2016 predictions for a new internal GE podcast, Marketing Decoded, and I loved our conversation so much, I wanted to share it. (We’re making the episode public, so if you have 10 minutes, please listen in here.)

From Amazon’s unexpected Golden Globe wins to virtual reality’s strong showing at the Sundance Film Festival, 2016 is already shaping up to be a year for underdog players and emerging platforms. Here are five trends that my would-be fortune-tellers — Alexa Christon, GE’s head of media innovation, and Trevor Guthrie, co-founder of GE agency partner Giant Spoon — and I expect to define the rest of the year.

Streaming gains appreciation as a new genre

Streaming video is giving traditional/linear television a run for its money. But, as a recent New York Times article, points out, streaming TV may be more like an entirely new genre than just another medium. On the heels of Amazon’s Golden Globe victory, expect more high-quality streaming series that shape a new set of viewer expectations and conventions.

Brands continue to embrace bespoke content

Streaming platforms also give brands another opportunity to engage consumers with great storytelling. This is obviously an area in which we’re quite bullish — we’ve seen tremendous results from both our Breakthrough Series with National Geographic and our podcast, The Message, which is co-produced with Panoply. But as consumers continue to show a platform-agnostic appetite for strong stories, brands will increasingly experiment with creative ways to reach new audiences.

The eSports economy expands

Maybe the Super Bowl won’t be a live stream-only event anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean digital sporting events won’t capture the imagination of the mainstream. Already, eSports events can draw crowds big enough to fill Madison Square Garden. By 2019, global revenues from the industry are expected to reach $1.1 billion.

Virtual reality content grows up

The media world has been buzzing about virtual reality for a long time (and we were very excited to dip our toes into this medium with a New York Times partnership last year) but maybe this is the year virtual reality content finally comes of age. At the Sundance Film Festival, for example, the number of VR experiences on display has more than doubled over the last year and more Hollywood studios are reportedly experimenting with the technology.

Tonality/personalization distinguishes new voices in news media

With only 24 hours in the day, you’d think consumers would be maxed out on the amount of news media they can consume. But emerging challengers continue to surprise old stalwarts and build impressive audiences with fresh takes and unexpected voices. Old guard players are already adopting new guard tactics but, this year, traditional outlets could make advances to acquire new competitors.

Follow Context to stay abreast of the entire year-end feature and upcoming original stories from industry leaders in 2017.