The man who knows

Duncan Stewart. (All rights reserved - Achilles.Media)

The Banff World Festival kicked off yesterday with a series of inspiring sessions, amongst which Duncan Stewart’s highly anticipated nextMEDIA Tech, Media and Telecom Predictions.

 Duncan Stewart is widely recognized as one of the country’s leading researchers and « futurists ».  Each year, he and his virtual team of about 7000 experts around the world establish what they consider to be the year’s main media and technological trends.  A perilous exercise in an industry in constant flux

In fact, Stewart started off by giving himself a report card for last year’s predictions, reminding us that “some of them were insanely out of the consensus”.      In 2010, Stewart predicted the explosion of digital tablets sales, at a time when the iPad was still just a concept.  “We predicted between 10 and 12 million sales…Everyone was skeptical.  Turned out we were right!”

His vision of 2011 can be broken down into 4 main themes:

1.  In 2011, there will be more sales of smartphones and tablets than computers.  By the end of the year, 1 in 4 « computers » will be a smartphone or tablet.  Most people use their “computer” for simple tasks, like word processing, email and spreadsheets, and smaller devices are sufficient for those needs.

* Why it’s important: content producers and creators should take this trend into consideration when creating new IPs: lean coding and light processing are more important than ever.

2.  TV is more important than ever, and OTT is NOT taking over :  just two years ago, the future seemed grim for television in the wake of new platforms and new consumer habits.  But according to Stewart, TV remains the “Super Media” – and in fact, its status as such is strengthening, as its share of advertising markets is actually growing.
And what about the “OTT menace”?  Stewart brings interesting elements to this very hot debate.  According to him, there are still too many standards, the technology is still very hard to use and the typical “couch potato” TV user is still too passive to actively search for content and massively embrace set-top boxes such as Apple or Google TV.  As for Netflix, its real penetration among TV users is quite small – Stewart argues that it is truly “rerun TV”, and Canadians still prefer live broadcasts  (61% say they prefer looking at programs live on their televisions.)

Google TV's remote


* Why it’s important : Will this trend change once these new players start commissioning original content, as Netflix announced early this year with House of Cards?

3. Wireless spectrum is not infinite:  We are quickly reaching a cap in wireless capabilities.  Already, New York and San Francisco are running out of wireless spectrum – and there is no such thing as “unused” spectrum.  This will be the major challenge of the next years, especially with the success of tablets.  Wireless data growth is expected to be about 280% in 2011.

* Why it’s important: We can assume that if we reach the limit of the Internet’s “physical capabilities”, there will be major consequences on the current business models as the “era of free” might come to an end.

4. Social Networks may be enabled by the Internet, but they are not the Internet: today, if TV is “the fire around which the tribe assembles”, Social Networks are the fuel of that fire.  More and more, they are changing the way we navigate and live online, and have unique impacts.  A telling example is how differently one must evaluate CPMs (Cost Per Mille or Cost Per Thousand) and CTRs (Click Through Rate) on social networks, who score low in terms of driving transactions, but have a very high retention rate (5%) and are now the main tool in brand building.

* Why it’s important: Social Media cannot be assessed in the same terms as traditional media; its main value resides in the sheer volume of fans and the high adoption rate of brands.

Stay tuned for more thought-provoking insights over the next few days!

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