It would take a brave person to predict an empty 2013 after the frenetic, tumultuous past few years. Compared to 2012, there might be fewer official events in the diary, but history doesn’t send out a press release a few weeks before pivotal events. As a journalist, I have often felt recently that more news happens in a week than we often see in some years: Press scandals, bank scandals, the Arab Spring, Spain’s Indignados, Occupy X, the Olympics, the simmering crisis in the Eurozone and the rise of the BRICs and beyond. Many of those stories won’t end when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve.
The major themes for 2013 will be extensions, often on an upward trend line, of what we’ve been seeing since the beginning of the global financial crisis. For a lot of consumers, it doesn’t matter when one recession officially began, ended or double dipped, they still don’t feel better off than before the crisis began. Spain is one of the focal points of the European financial crisis and the Spanish people have coined one of the best phrases to describe to the boom years – “cuando pensábamos que éramos ricos”: loosely translated as the time when everyone “thought we were rich”. People want value, and they want something to value.
People also want to know who they can trust. Institutions, leaders, governments, companies, and yes, brands, have all taken a knock since the beginning of financial crisis. The last few years must have been a boon to companies focusing on crisis communications and reputation management. With investigations keeping regulators busy on both sides of the Atlantic, we’ve still got some dirty laundry to air in 2013.
In 2013, Europe will continue to struggle, which will provide headwinds for opportunities in the UK. No one knows what will happen in the US and whether the distressingly dysfunctional political system will drive the country off of the so-called fiscal cliff. Contrast this gloom with continuing growth elsewhere, and it is clear that companies with a global focus and international competency stand to weather the economic storm in the West better than companies with a wholly domestic footprint.
Digital media opportunities are booming outside of North America and western Europe, which helps explains WPPs international shopping spree, some 36 acquisitions around the world in countries including Vietnam, Russia, China and Brazil.
My work is focused on helping independent news organisations in many of these rapidly developing economies to make the digital transition. Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific will drive social media growth in the next two years. Argentina, Mexico and Brazil are leading social media growth in Latin America. Digitial is remaking media as people across southeast Asia turn to the web as a more trusted source of news. In Africa, the mobile phone is the only way that many there access the web. Research by TNS found that 58% of sub-Saharan Africans said that social networking is the most important activity on their web-enabled mobile phone versus 26% globally. In India, 40% of smartphone users are ditching newspapers to consumer entertainment, news and sport content on their handsets. China’s Tencent and Sina as well as Russia’s search giant Yandex are trying to extend the dominance they enjoy domestically to other markets. Yandex is moving into Turkey and striking deals with major social media players there in a challenge to Google. Tencent has quietly but strongly moved into Indonesia.
Next year might lack some of the high-powered events we have seen in the UK this year, but with companies having to work harder to win the trust of wary and weary consumers and digital disruption sweeping across the world means that 2013 will be anything but empty.