Disclaimer for the online state of affairs and online consumer trends
Every year I write the online state of affairs and online consumer trends to get a grip on an ever volatile market: the online consumer. So you and me. Trend articles, however, have been plagued by opportunism, inconsistencies and outright copying. For the readers who want real explanation, here's a disclaimer with an explanation of the approach and way of thinking.
I am not a trend watcher.
And that is not intended to respond to the trend of trend watchers not to call themselves a trend watcher and then still charge € 4000 for an hour of speaking. I am not neither went to trendwatch school nor was apprenticed to a trend guru. And yet I write trends and everyone thinks that's fine. That is right reason for me to explain a bit. Because even if it concerns future music, you should at least be critical of the composer.
Enter at your own risk
Trends are tricky.
These are lists that we like to check to keep up as a reader. As an article they offer the author some prestige (“Look! A trend watcher!”) and especially website traffic. Editors therefore like to see these kinds of guest contributions. However, they are typically not strongly tested in terms of content. Because that costs time and therefore money that simply isn't there anymore. The financial compensation for journalists has been declining for several years and there is considerably more pressure on the editorial staff. No one will ask me to write a 100% searched trend article at a normal hourly wage. Far from it, according to the 13 (!) euro cents per word at De Persgroep (AD, De Volkskrant, Trouw).
And because today's readers are more interested in a cat on a skateboard than an in-depth piece on pension accrual, so you get more of one than the other. An article like the five AI trends of 2020 scores better than The online state of affairs. Moreover, as a trend writer, you are rarely if ever addressed about the accuracy of your predictions. So it is easy to score.
By definition, everything is subjective.
Even if you only write 100% objective articles about, for example – how polarizing – American politics, the selection of topics is still subjective. Also with a 50/50 split between the Democrats and Republicans, because which side of an event do you shed light on? As a writer you have certain ideas that are expressed in a certain signature that attracts a certain target group. Writers and editors are therefore in my opinion biased.
Studies contradict each other.
Example from the Online State of Affairs:
Statistics Netherlands states that 90,3% of the Dutch in 2018 had a smartphone or mobile phone. The 2018 Global Digital Report by HootSuite and WeAreSocial reports 97% (slide 205). An investigative journalist would compare the research method, the sample size and applied methodology. I don't have that time. In this case I simply choose CBS directly, because that is a Dutch, non-commercial study. But the CBS is again incomplete. Only the Global Digital Report research indicates how much time we Dutch people spend online per day and what we do exactly. So I bring it up anyway, because I think that insight is very important. I choose the source per fact, but therefore give the link for reference.
Pay attention to time, place and person
Everything is context.
One development, for example, is the decline in the average number of daily Facebook users. What follows is a boring story of facts that doesn't really interest you:
Facebook itself reported that in its second quarter for 2018, for Europe. But reports nothing about the Netherlands. That's what we have it for Social Media Research from Newcom, but only the one for 2018 (normally released at the end of January (addition: was released on time, see my article: Bye Facebook). The decrease is mainly reported among young people up to 20 years of age. Furthermore: 10.8 million facebook users, 7.6 million daily facebook users. No comparison with 2017. Let's include it ourselves (here, recover offline again), then we read 10.5 million Facebook users and 7.5 million daily users. So that's not a drop. But where did we read that fewer Dutch people use Facebook?
To illustrate, a random article from the AD by Niels Klaasen on 17-11-18: The Dutch walk away from Facebook: trust is declining. The headline paints a different picture than the facts quoted: Facebook second quarter, 7.5 million users… and a new Newcom survey of 1,175 users, the Newcom Trust Monitor 2018 (here in the Internet Archive). Confidence is falling, but no figures on actual use yet. Only: "In the poll, more than a quarter of those polled indicate that they have started using Facebook less or much less in the past six months, compared to 9 percent who have started using it more.“. Nice warm-up for the upcoming Social Media Monitor 2019, but it doesn't say anything about the number of users or the number of daily users yet. You can Facebook less, but still check your timeline daily. The conclusion that all Dutch people less facebooking in terms of number of users and number of daily users is (now) not yet confirmed. But of course it sounds better. That's why I got one myself Telecom research to the number of Facebook app installs. Only that is an expensive research for which I get facts from another publication (including AD.nl), not from the actual research. Hassle, huh?
The signs are not unambiguous
What exactly is a trend?
A trend, according to Words.org, is a “estimated direction of a particular development”. In the current communication era, where a simple tweet can result in hundreds of media messages full of explanation, reactions and background, everything can be labeled as a trend.
However, there is a distinction in trends:
- mega trends describe social evolution and last about 10 to 30 years, such as digitization or globalization.
- maxi trends take 5 to 10 years and describe medium-sized trends, such as solar panels, for example, which are now coming under pressure due to criticism of the climate agreement.
- Microtrends are the shortest trends that come and go, often focused on a product, service or lifestyle. You often don't even see them. Crocs or dub smash for example.
Trends crochet together.
Hyves came and went as a microtrend, falls under the maxitrend of social media and that in turn falls under the megatrend of digitization. An article on online marketing trends that names AI, chatbots and Micro Moments as the trends of 2020, however, makes no distinction. While I think AI is a real megatrend (Giga!) and Micro Moments is another marketing term invented by Google. However, if you explain this interpretation and context, you will quickly lose the reader's attention. And if you would only write about mega and maxi trends, then your trends actually change little per year. However, the focus on microtrends is dangerous, as Hans Rosling argues in this video. He argues that if you only use the news to understand the world, you miss the big trends.
Based on a true story
Reasons enough to never read a trend article again.
Better a content book, right? My approach is therefore to build a storyline. A story has a beginning, middle and end. It has fascinated us humans for many thousands of years. And it has a moral. I therefore called the online consumer trends 2018 the Year of the Wolf, and 2019 the year of the countermovement standardization. I outline a situation, substantiate it extensively with facts and conclude with a conclusion. I also do that with the Online state of affairs. It is up to the reader to be fascinated by the approach and to be convinced by the facts provided.
I continuously collect articles, news items, studies, columns and press releases. In doing so, I pay attention to the reported facts and their source, the interpretation of the medium and how this coincides with current trends. This is actually the de Haystack method. Around October I will do this more extensively and I will ask various people in my environment for their observations. A different generation or background often provides a surprising angle. I will start writing over the Christmas holidays. And no, luckily that doesn't feel like work, because it is a lot of work.
Why all the effort?
I'm not a journalist.
I started writing from my positions as e-business advisor, head of marketing & communication and content marketer. With a business and commercial approach, because that chimney has to smoke. For me as an entrepreneur now, turning turnover is much more important than finding out facts.
Free product means that you are the product yourself.
Facebook and Google offer free services because they make money from you. This also applies to the free insights that my many hours of work provide you. With this I am building the company name Bloeise and my own name as a B2B ghostwriter. One new customer is worth all that effort.
I can do this for you too.
I now also apply the annual consumer trends to Emerce and Frankwatching. More reach, more criticism, hence this disclaimer. With this I also show what I can do for your company: write a sharp story that makes sense and with which you draw the attention of thousands of readers to your topic.