Finally, 2014 is officially over. The ball has dropped, and it's time to turn our sights to the year ahead. If you are anything like me, you've already had your fill of "New Year, New You" mottos being blasted around social media. So in the spirit of the New Year, I've decided to reexamine 2014 and what I've learned.
Being a Digital Native is Hard Work
Just when I thought I had a handle on the technology or media industry, some new gadget or app came along and blindsided me. There is just so much to keep up with, from company acquisitions (I'm looking at you, Facebook), to new gadgets (I still haven't gotten around to buying the iPhone 6), to waxing and waning media trends (Serial was fun, now where's season 2?). It's not easy staying in the know.
Luckily, in 2014, the way we consume news started to change. Social media companies took notice and started pushing out news along with the typical status updates and tweets we came to expect. No more jumping from GigaOm to CNN and back to Slate for me. All I have to do these days is pop over to social media site of choice to see what's going on. Take Facebook for example. Pew Research reported in September of 2014 that roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use Facebook to get their news. That's a big chunk of people, almost 30% of the general population. While I'll never stop using multiple sites to get my news, I must confess that I am a big fan of the "Trending" sidebar on the Facebook homepage. I'm even warming up to the idea of Twitter's "While You Were Away" feature, which shows users important tweets they missed during social media off hours.
Online Privacy is Essentially an Oxymoron
Sure, you can change your passwords every month and lock your Facebook settings to "private," but no one is ever really safe from a good hacker with a lot of time on his hands. Just look at Sony. One of the biggest media companies in the entire world suffered a debilitating breach of privacy in 2014. Remember when Dropbox and Apple's iCloud were hacked just a few months back? Let's face it: 2014 was the year of privacy breaches. And the worst part is, things could only get worse.
In Pew Research's Privacy in 2025: Experts' Predictions survey, online experts sounded off on what they think will happen to online privacy in the future. Some said that a secure online infrastructure is impossible in the future, especially in the United States where personal freedom seems to trump all. Others noted that if we don't come up with a viable solution to keeping personal data safe, we run the risk of a global catastrophe.
No matter which side you fall on, the privacy debate could have a strong impact on media companies and how they reach users. For example, Pew Research also reported that, "80% of those who use social networking sites say they are concerned about third parties like advertisers or businesses accessing the data they share on these sites." In the year 2015, media companies have to be extra careful regarding what kind of information they ask users to provide for marketing and advertising means. If they push too hard, they run the risk of users clamping down on their personal information, and becoming increasingly unwilling to provide anything to untrusted parties.
Never, Ever Stop Innovating
My December column focused on the podcast Serial, and how it-seemingly out of nowhere-skyrocketed to fame in mere months. That's right, a lowly podcast shook the media foundation to its core. Not only did the number of downloads for Serial top 5 million in December, the show also landed host Sarah Koenig on the Colbert Report, and even inspired a Christmas-themed parody on Saturday Night Live. If that's not making it in showbiz, I don't know what is.
I'm not going to spend the rest of this column talking about Serial (though I could talk about it for hours), but its popularity reminded me of one very important aspect in the media industry: there is always room for innovation. Looking forward to 2015, I'm excited to see what kinds of new gadgets, companies, apps, and so forth pop up. One of the best things about this industry is the element of surprise, and I'm gearing up for another great year of scrambling to stay on top of it all.