I know it's a little late for a new year's predictions column. We've all read 'em (most likely in between last-minute online shopping jaunts while we pretended to work during those last few days before the holiday break). We've all nodded our heads if we agreed or made quiet snorting sounds to ourselves if we disagreed. And we've all probably forgotten what most of them said by now.
But that's fine. This isn't a predictions column. This is a reality column. And the reality might be a lot more shocking than you think.
Over nearly two decades of being involved in web development and online marketing, if there's one thing I've learned it's that if you're able to shut out the hype and look at the actual trends you can learn a lot about where things are going. Relying on the industry press to tell you what "the next big thing" is rarely works if the big thing has an adjective/revenue ratio greater than one. If there's lots of noise but not much money, the thing you're hearing about probably isn't all that big.
On the other hand, it's also easy to miss reality by willfully ignoring data and behaviors that don't match your own preconceptions. Just ask a (most likely former) book or record store owner or an old-timer in the newspaper biz if you don't believe me. Just because you want the world to be a certain way doesn't mean that it's going to comply.
The secret behind those who write the "prediction" columns is that they're able to 1) ignore hype; and 2) adjust for their own preconceptions when looking at data. The secret of those who are good at predicting isn't that they have magical powers, but rather that they have highly developed BS detectors. "Predicting" isn't about magic, it's about seeing reality…even if that reality isn't something that you want to see.
Want a dose of reality? Let me toss out a few headlines selected from recent posts on my new favorite research-aggregator site Factbrowser:
What do these headlines tell us about what to expect in 2013? Before you read onwards, try an experiment: go back and read those headlines again. And rather than fixate on any one, try to look for patterns. Done? Good. Time to move on.
Even granting that none of these numbers could be labeled "definitive" on their own and also granting that it's probably a good idea to accompany each with a fairly large grain of salt to account for the biases of the organizations collecting these numbers, a few things seem pretty clear about where we're headed in 2013 and beyond.
Like I said at the beginning of this column: these aren't predictions, they're observations of reality. I've used stats gathered from one site as examples, but a few minutes with your favorite search engine will certainly yield plenty of other statistics that tell the same tale.
As a poet once said, "You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." You don't need to be an online pundit, either. Reality's pretty easy to see once you decide to look for it.
Welcome to Reality image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.
December 5, 2013
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