In 2014, familiar content surfaced in exciting new forms. Photo via Cross-stitch ninja
The year is almost over, and Jake Keyes and I thought it would be a good time for us to take part in the year-end tradition of looking back at some of the interesting trends we observed in 2014. This year we’ve seen some old media reinventing itself, and a lot of new media taking on some of the traits of its more established cousins. It’s a fascinating time to be in this field.
Hashtags Got Serious
Last year Facebook joined Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Vine in supporting the use of hashtags for tagging and finding content. So now we can #selfie and #LOL in even more of our networks. But this year we saw the rise of hashtags to create and spread several important national conversations. #YesAllWomen, #Ferguson and #ICantBreathe allowed people all over the country (and the world) to share their thoughts on the impact of these events, and also became a critical part of the way these stories were discussed in traditional news media.
Newspapers Doubled Down on Interactive Storytelling
At the end of last year, on December 20th, The New York Times published an interactive map of U.S. dialects. In just a few weeks it became the paper’s most visited piece of content of the year. If 2013 was the breakout year for interactive journalism, 2014 marked the year that it became a staple of the industry. There were dozens of excellent examples: The Times had pieces like its map of baseball fandom and a chart of political views by birth year. The Washington Post used a digital format to highlight findings in the CIA interrogation report and to look at how Ebola spreads. This trend has not been without controversy. At The New Republic, a push toward interactive storytelling and digital media was part of Chris Hughes’s vision for the magazine, a vision which led most of the magazines writers and editors to quit. It is clear that well-made interactive stories draw readers, and spread quickly on social media. Time will tell how far their adoption spreads beyond the largest news outlets.
Delivery Platforms Became Content Channels
If you stream digital TV shows or movies, you probably get most of it from iTunes, Netflix, Hulu or Amazon (assuming you’re getting it legally). In the past few years, Netflx, Hulu & Amazon have also been trying their hands at making original serial programming. This year Amazon had a breakout hit in Transparent, while Netflix has made the biggest commitment to original programming, announcing scads of new series coming in 2015, as well as returning seasons for their current hits House of Cards and Orange is the New Black (not to mention more original episodes of Arrested Development). Other digital channels, such as Yahoo! Screen and Crackle, are also looking to make a dent in this forum, but without the pre-established audiences of their competitors, they’ve got some catching up to do.
Amateur Creators Went Pro
At the same time, over on the UGC channels where we’ve always had the possibility of breakout celebrities, popular creators started to emerge as bonafide media personalities. This year, YouTube promoted their stars’ channels with traditional billboard and TV ads. In New York City, we even saw their faces plastered across subway cars. Meanwhile, Twitch has helped turn E-Sports into a full-blown phenomena, with the rise of popular content-creator/e-athletes, national championship competitions, and coverage in both video game and traditional news media.
Blog Neglect Continued to Spread
I started the year with a post on how to attack “Blog Slump”, but we failed to take our own advice and we only managed to publish a dozen posts this year. But when I was doing research for that piece in January, I discovered that we’re not alone – many of the most outspoken and prominent voices in Content Strategy had been neglecting their blogs as well. I’m not too bothered by it, since I think this is a sign that maybe we’ve moved past the easy “Content Strategy 101” discussions. Plus, a lot of those voices are still expressing themselves, just in more distributed places.
But Podcasts Are Having a Renaissance
In a landscape with so many sources of streaming video, the idea of listening to podcasts might seem like pushing your TV off the media center to replace it with an old radio. But podcasting has continuously provided an outlet for smart comedians, scientists, film aficionados, designers and countless other professionals and amateurs with something to share. And as podcasts like Serial and Welcome to Night Vale proved, it’s also a place for episodic storytelling. In fact, this year, there are so many lists of great podcasts, someone could make a “Top 10 Lists of Best Podcasts” List.
And of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give honorable mention to The LEGO Movie, one of the most fun movies of the year, and quite possibly the most successful example of branded content of all-time. What content trends did you get excited about this year?