Making predictions in digital media can be a dangerous game. Conjecture such as "2006 is going to be the year of mobile" come to mind. How many of us this time last year even knew what Pinterest was, let alone predicted its popularity explosion? With that being said, Adweek is attempting to make some educated guesses about where this industry might be headed. Here are eight trends to watch for as 2013 unfolds:
Amazon Gets Serious
Amazon has cornered the e-commerce market, so like Bo Jackson, it's been on the hunt for hobbies it can be really good at: a cloud computing platform, a streaming video service, an app store, a tablet, an advertising platform. With all those pieces in place, expect Amazon to begin to tie them together in 2013. The crown jewel is Amazon Web Services, which would allow the company to pipe content and ads to just about any digital platform, including connected TVs.
Ad Tech Shakeout?
Remember how last year was supposed to be the year of ad tech consolidation? Outside of a few ad tech outfits buying mobile ad firms, that didn't really happen. But it could in 2013. Marissa Mayer, who's making a big programmatic push at Yahoo, has reportedly kicked the tires on Turn and Mediaocean, among others. Facebook's already said to be in talks to buy Atlas Solutions from Microsoft; the company might need to stitch together some more platforms. Facebook's Exchange's beta program could prove to be an elaborate beauty pageant via which the company decides which demand-side platform to purchase (breaking the hearts of the rest of the participants). Google and Adobe have already each built out end-to-end ad tech stacks but might want to pile on some more pieces to keep ahead of the competition.
Regulation Gets Tighter
The online advertising community has been waiting over two years for the Federal Trade Commission to follow through on its call for a universal Do Not Track mechanism. That could happen in 2013. After launching an investigation of data brokers and updating Coppa, the regulatory body has made some advances in its online privacy probes. The question is whether the departure of the FTC's consumer protection head, David Vladeck, will slow any moves and what those moves would be. FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz has publicly applauded the industry's self-regulatory efforts and said it should partner with Web browsers on Do Not Track.
Gaming Drives Second-Screen Viewing, Maybe Ads
Second screening has largely meant checking Twitter while watching The Real Housewives. That term will expand in 2013 as more consumers switch off their cable boxes and turn to connected devices like Xbox. Microsoft has rolled out a second-screen companion app SmartGlass for its gaming console, which should get people familiar with using their smartphones or tablets in tandem with their TV. And with Nintendo's Wii U selling strong in the holiday lead-up, more families should wrap their heads around the idea of cruising the Internet on the big screen. If conjoined consumption experiences get traction, conjoined ads should soon follow.
All eyes are on Pinterest to be the Instagram of 2013, and it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine the social scrapbooking service selling to Facebook. The social network has already shown an interest in image-centric companies, and Facebook Gifts underscores its e-commerce ambitions. Folding in Pinterest's product-littered pinboards and adding a Facebook-operated buy button could realize that goal and position Facebook as Amazon's biggest rival yet.
Tech or media company? New CEO Marissa Mayer sure seems to be leaning toward the former, as she looks to get Silicon Valley engineers to fall back in love with the beleaguered portal. But she still needs to convince the New York ad world that Yahoo knows what it is and what it wants to be. She's starting at CES.
Brands as Publishers
Content marketing became all the rage this year as brands from IBM to Amazon to Unilever started thinking more like publishers. Most of the conversations centered on embedding companies within digital consumer experiences by way of visual or text-based content. Paul Polman, Unilever chief exec, planted his firm’s flag in the movement by saying it "is reallocating budgets to enable us to make content in an always-on world. Agencies need to organize themselves around the consumer, not the client."
Mobile Payments Take Off?
Starbucks shook the digital landscape in November by partnering with mobile payments service Square, allowing customers for 7,000 retail locations to pay for cups of java with the Square Wallet app. It underscored a year where the digital wallet continued to develop as a force in modern marketing. In another example, Apple’s Passbook feature for the iPhone 5 lets consumers save coupons, redeem them and buy products all in one app. But early reaction to Passbook has been indifference, showing how far the mobile payment dream still has to go.