Happy New Year to media types everywhere

04 Jan 2012  |  Raymond Snoddy 
Raymond Snoddy

Raymond Snoddy looks at the year ahead - predicting that Rupert Murdoch will be humble, having stumbled across the concept for the first time in 2011; that he will not be on Twitter beyond Easter but that he will launch a Sun on Sunday; that the iPad will head towards the mainstream, with or without Premier League Rights; and that yet again the vast majority of newspapers will stubbornly refuse to die...

When it comes to forecasting economists have it easy. All they have to do is take a bunch of numbers and extrapolate. So anyone with the level of numeracy of a blackbird can effortlessly predict the reconstruction of the Euro Zone with the Greeks, at the very least, thrown to the wolves. And nobody is going to lose money forecasting a double-dip recession in 2012.

It's much more difficult forecasting what's going to happen in the media in the first few days of the year, never mind the remaining 362 days of 2012.

Did anyone forecast the closure of the News of the World last year? Could anyone have possibly imagined that Rupert Murdoch at the age of 80 should mark the arrival of a New Year by signing up to Twitter? The same man who for many years wouldn't even use email and who bought MySpace for $580 million and sold for $35million.

There are those who thought it all a hoax but a quick analysis of the Murdoch tweets demonstrates their authenticity. The genuine Murdoch is a fan of Republican candidate Rick Santorum in Iowa. According to Murdoch, the anti-homosexual campaigner and believer in "intelligent" design was the only candidate "with genuine big vision for the country".

We can predict that throughout 2012 Murdoch is going to be humble, having stumbled across the concept for the first time before the Commons Select committee. His New Year resolution according to Twitter? "Try to maintain humility and always curiosity. And of course diet," tweeted Murdoch.

Twittering is a courageous step for the octogenarian Murdoch, who has attracted more than 100,000 followers in a matter of days. He will find that the Twittersphere can be a cruel place with lots of abusive people, particularly when your name is Murdoch.

The arrival of the twittering Murdoch is still a great coup for the 140-character company, which is about to open up in London, even though not too many media chief executives will be brave enough to follow the Murdoch example.

Just don't bet on the Murdoch Twitter account surviving beyond Easter, unless he regards it as an act of humility - the modern equivalent of voluntarily sitting in the stocks to receive rotten fruit.

His new-found humility will not reach to standing down as chairman of the News Corporation or putting News International titles up for sale. We might even see the launch, at last, of the Sun on Sunday. It would be almost rude not to.

The rise and rise of Twitter is a small symbol of the all-pervasive spread of social media. This could be the year we have to stop talking about social media as a separate unified concept - just as saying something is 'digital' or 'new media' no longer makes much sense.

According to one specialist the concept of social media will splinter in 2012 with Social Business coming to stand for everything covering marketing, business intelligence, customer services, sales - everything. The 'social dimension' will simply be essential to organising people within an organisation.

Another splinter will see the continued rise of Big Data in 2012, with marketers and researchers increasingly trying to mine the huge quality of data people share every day - 250 million tweets for instance - to gain insights into consumer behaviour and beliefs.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the ones to watch in 2012 include Foursquare (for those who like to tell people where they are right now and send pictures of themselves) and Klout, which seeks to convert those with online influence into business value.

The review predicts there will also be more "trans-media" experiences in 2012 along the lines pioneered by Domino's Pizza, which posted unfiltered feedback onto a big screen in Times Square.

It's a Sorrell year so we can predict the positive quadrennial effect on advertising revenue of the Olympics, the US Presidential election (which will not be won by Rick Santorum despite obviously being supported by God), the Euro football championship, with the Queen's Jubilee thrown in as an optional extra.

As a result Sir Martin Sorrell's Group M is predicting 3% growth in advertising revenue, instead of a big fat zero.

However, in the UK we need to be cautious. As ITV chief executive Adam Crozier warned recently, the presence of the BBC means commercial broadcasters won't get much addition purchase from the Olympics.

This could however be the year when Crozier makes his first big expansionist move through acquisition in the production sector. ITV will soon be largely debt-free and with a shortage of buyers out there a bargain could beckon.

You don't have to be Gypsy Rose Lee to predict that 2012 will be the year when the iPad moves far beyond the ranks of the early adopters and head towards the mainstream - with or without Premier League rights.

It must be so because I got one for Christmas. It's a lovely object. A thing of beauty and wonder. The only challenge now is to find a use for it and avoid leaving it on the Central Line.

The relentless spread of the iPad should provide very necessary revenue supplements for newspapers, which will face yet another year of challenge and contraction. Though yet again the vast majority of newspapers - national, local and regional - will stubbornly refuse to die.

As always there has to a boring word of caution to set against the apocalyptic visions that spread as rapidly as norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, at this time of year. A necessary corrective comes from Barb's biannual study of online viewing. In the November study, 15% of UK respondents said they watched TV on a PC, laptop or tablet device - a rise of only 0.5 since the same period in 2010 - which means that we can predict that Netflix, due to launch early this year in the UK, will struggle to gain a foothold despite being able to show BBC programmes such as Dr Who, Top Gear and Spooks.

Happy New Year to media types everywhere and be sure to follow Rupert Murdoch on Twitter for as long as the phenomenon lasts.


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