Top 10 Predictions for 2012

It’s that time of year again when everyone writes their predictions for the upcoming year. I have read several already. Most of them read like they were written last year or…4 years ago…I mean video is a 2012 prediction? really? Or social media will be integrated into all business processes…sigh. I believe 2012 is going to be much more disruptive than any of us can really predict.

Here are some emerging trends that I am seeing that will continue to gain steam in 2012.

1. Increase in Copyright Battles

If you have not been following the legislation on SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) you are not aware that the music and film industries are starting to feel like threatened middle managers and would like to change the Internet as we know it. Most everyone who understands the impact of SOPA is against it. My personal beef is that I would be restricted from posting cool videos of my 10 year old (I have already received a copyright violation email  from YouTube for the video of his band playing Sweet Emotion).

But there are much bigger concerns such as the ban of linking to sites deemed offending…who gets to be the judge of that?

The bigger concern of the bill is that, as stated in eWeek 

“The language of SOPA is so broad, the rules so unconnected to the reality of Internet technology and the penalties so disconnected from the alleged crimes that this bill could effectively kill e-commerce or even normal Internet use. The bill also has grave implications for existing U.S., foreign and international laws and is sure to spend decades in court challenges.”

Meanwhile, over at Google Books, Google is dismissing lawsuits from The Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers who would like to stop Google from scanning millions of books in libraries and making digitized content from them available in libraries and online.

The only halfway decent argument for SOPA is the protection of revenue for content creators. However more and more the Internet has provided additional revenue streams and serves as a broader, more democratic distribution channel. Content creators who are not tied to outdated revenue models of the recording and movie industry will not see legislation such as SOPA as a benefit, but more as a hindrance. This leads to my second prediction.

2. We All Become Free Agents.

Well maybe not everyone, but the number of free agents will increase dramatically. The lingering high unemployment numbers have pushed many people who would be happy at a 9-5 desk job into the Free Agent world, and many people who are tired of the layoffs and uncertainty have finally decided to become the captain of their own destiny. This includes musicians, comedians, and writers.

In business this movement has been announced and celebrated by authors such as Daniel Pink of the Free Agent Nation and Timothy Ferris of the 4 Hour Work Week. In comedy  Louis CK released his latest stand-up special online only for $5 without any Digital Rights Management and based only on the honor system. He made his money back and more. Musically, I have witnessed my teen and his friends ignoring radio hits in favor of independent artists who offer their music for sale as well as encourage peer to peer sharing of their music.

3. Increase in Disruptive Advertising

Another industry that is feeling threatened is the Advertising Industry. For a very long time advertising as been a default revenue model. One of the first tremors in the model was the shift from CPM or cost per impression to CPC cost per click. Now, more and more there is evidence that CPC is not performing as well as expected. This may be a result of people who are not advertising professionals now being able to create and post their own ads. There are a lot of bad ads out there and it is quite noisy. But when revenue is at risk, the natural response is to turn up the noise. Facebook recently announced that we will be seeing sponsored stories in our newsfeed. Thanks, Facebook – I am sure that will greatly improve my user experience.

4. Privacy Battle

My other issue with Facebook this year that I believe will bleed into 2012 is the privacy issues of frictionless sharing. Most people are not savvy enough to know that they are sharing every article they look at when they agree to the Facebook app that is in the way of them getting to the article they want to read based on seeing that their friend read it. I am feeling certain that the backlash to frictionless sharing is going to be brutal. The result of which will lead to my 5th prediction.

5. Decline in Sharing

I have seen a dramatic decrease in sharing among many of my Facebook friends and I am hearing many other people say the same thing. The novelty of “checking in” on Foursquare has dropped with the adoption of  Location Based apps only increasing 1% from last year. I think enough people have been burned or read about someone else getting burned by a status update that the enthusiasm for free digital speech is tapering off. I see this as social media maturing. It is moving from the toddler years of constant exploration and ongoing dialog to being more of a utility. People will still look for reviews, recommendations, opportunities, and they will still do a bit of bragging online, but the focus will be more on sharing on social media for a purpose rather than just because we can.

6. Social Media will be Integrated into Our Physical World

Alright, admittedly I have not wrapped my mind around this trend enough yet. But I do know everything is moving to mobile. With mobile comes augmented reality. Augmented Reality enables us to gather data and contribute data to our physical world. Add in the mass adoption of location aware applications and we will be living in a world where we are surrounded by relevant and timely data. I know this is a huge trend and I know it is going to sneak into our lives quietly. It is going to change everything! I know this and yet I struggle to wrap my mind around it. Please share your thoughts with me.

7. Growth of Google+

There have been so many articles trying to bury Google+ before it even began to walk. However, I believe the Google+ is going to become Google. Ask 10 people on the street what Google does and I would bet that all 10 of them will mention search first. But Google is sooooooooo much more than search. However, all of their services have been very fragmented and the average person is not even aware of 90% of them. Google+ continues to integrate all of those services into the network. As long as it does not get too crowded or cumbersome, I can see Google+ becoming a leading network for business professionals and the main destination for Google services.

8. Linkedin Gets More Respect

Linkedin has been in the news quite a bit and I continue to get request for Linkedin workshops. The reason is Linkedin continues to evolve. I would not say innovate, but they are definitely evolving to a place where we can get valuable and up to date business intelligence. If they continue to work to own that space, they will continue to get more respect.

9. Growth of Social Entrepreneurship

There are 3 trends merging. The first is nonprofits are getting more creative in finding ways to raise money by entering into a for-profit mindset. I have seen nonprofits selling tickets to private events or selling relevant products and services to raise money. The second trend is the rise in for-profit companies developing a business plan that is focused on social good, also known as social entrepreneurship. One example of social entrepreneurship is Greystone Bakery who focuses on providing jobs to low-income families. The third trend is the increase in corporations promoting Corporate Social Responsibility because people are paying attention to how companies behave. Just ask Bank of America. The social good mindset is truly being embraced by today’s youth who are not only active in social good, but in taking control of their future.

10. Politically Active Youth

2012 is an election year…if you haven’t heard. I believe the youth movement of the 2008 election was only a preview of what we are going to see in 2012. Occupy Wall Street brought the youth onto the streets to make a change (take that Malcolm Gladwell). In 2010 The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, two late night TV shows that cater to college kids hosted an incredibly successful Rally to Restore Sanity. Well, I do not know that sanity was restored…but a lot of people attended including me and my son who will turn 18 in 2012 and will be eligible to vote along with approximately 12 million other young people who were not eligible in 2008. The politically active youth have caused the most important political analysis to be moved from TV to Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. It is truly going to be an interesting election to watch and participate in.

The world is changing fast and I believe the events that will occur in 2012 are going to be more disruptive and more life changing than any events we have witnessed before in our lifetime. Fasten your seat belts and drink some coffee because you are not going to want to miss this.