What we’ll see in 2013 in digital media


Robert Andrews


1) Branded content will re-fuel media: Call it “content marketing”, “native advertising” or “advertorial 2.0.” The tactic of producing marketing that mimics editorial has been around for some time, but a new wave of online publishers are blurring church and state further and further. In 2013, this branded content will become more popular than ever, helping to fund publishers struggling with conventional revenue approaches and helping advertisers communicate in a world  of cacophony and dubious ad effectiveness. This model will test users’ ability to separate editorial from advertising content (assuming that separation still matters to them). But many practitioners hope to create content that delights both marketers and readers alike — which, if successful, could grow an industry long thought to be in the doldrums.

2)  Moving your content library among providers will become a big issue: Content access services like Netflix, Spotify, Mog and Lovefilm Instant promise consumers unlimited access to their favourite music and movies, organised just like their physical collection — as long as they keep paying. These services are becoming more and more popular; many consumers have now curated their music or movie libraries for multiple years. But, as rival services compete on price, what happens if consumers want to swap providers? When it comes to library migration, you can’t take it with you. Rebel hacktivists will find ways to free their music data from services’ clutches for use in cheaper or better new apps. But other users will lobby politicians to have their exporting rights guaranteed.

3) The app advantage will disappear: When publishers and other content owners noticed that, unlike on web, digital consumers were only too happy to pay for nonsense apps like iFart, they knew they had to be on mobile and tablet devices, too. For many, this has been a safe refuge from the world of the web, which even the digital mavens at Wired magazine recently derided as a “clunky design experiment.” Perhaps, most importantly, wrapping content in an app afforded publishers the ability to “reset the economics of digital media,” former editor Chris Anderson said. But this net benefit was premised on a stark distinction between executable code and an open web. That gap has been closing and, in 2013, will shrink significantly, as HTML5-based “web apps” and responsive design mimic executables in the same browser window from which publishers had sought sanctuary.