Some 2015 Predictions

— Big savvy internet publishers will spend a lot of money posting things directly to social networks that they do not own or control. This will be a success by every immediately important measure: these posts will reach and delight many people; they will assume new forms, most of which will have fresh potential as vessels for advertising. Some of these forms will closely resemble common website posts, which will suddenly feel clumsy and unnecessary. Other types of website posts will not find a comfortable home on social networks. From the networks’ perspectives, this will be fine — these posts never did that well anyway. The publication of non-viral, non-native-social content will begin to be viewed by a new breed of triumphalists as either pathetic or vain. Home pages — now less curated selections of stories than uncomfortably revealing glimpses into the social sausage factory — will be considered by large sites to be something of a liability.

— BuzzFeed (disclosure: where I worked for a couple years) is out front on the native stuff, with a team dedicated to “distributed” content, not to mention an enormous video unit that already publishes solely to YouTube and Facebook (First Look is trying a newsy version of the concept, and Fusion is doing entire shows on Instagram). BuzzFeed is a large and diverse company applying capable people to a new project that may or may not be the future of its business — it has room to experiment. However, with any public evidence of success, it will be emulated by less-savvy and more vulnerable companies, large and small, looking for any escape from a set of converging and downward trending lines. In 2015, notable (choose your definition) publications will declare their intentions to go fully distributed — or some other term that means the same thing — effectively abandoning their websites and becoming content channels within Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or Vine or Instagram.

Websites that expect to be able keep doing what they’ve always been doing will undertake this endeavor and fail. Websites that don’t mind changing their goals and identities completely — newer ones without much institutional momentum or history — will undertake this endeavor and succeed. It will resemble the multi-decade struggle to bring magazines to the internet — which, if we’re really honest about it, has been a failure — in that there will be large familiar categories of writing that will not be easily transferable to the new medium. Related: 2015 will be the year that a large magazine company folds a major lifestyle brand into a Pinterest page.

— The personality-driven professional use of Twitter will reveal itself, like all other phases of Twitter, to be a weird and regrettable aberration. For the media, Twitter will settle into its ultimate role on an increasingly television-like internet as its grim and noisy and constant 24-hour news channel. The Twitter gaffe cycle will be compressed and amplified; this year, however, nobody’s heart will be in it.

Proud spammers and uncanny cynics and weird internet plagiarists and liars will be given a lot of money. Some of them will remain openly terrible; others will back uncomfortably into legitimacy, turning their content operations into “news organizations” and pretending it was the plan all along. They will be welcomed warmly by those few who remain to welcome them.

— It will be declared problematic to call things or people “stupid.” This one’s been coming for a while, and it’s finally time. Unlike empathetic identity-based problematicals, this one will serve only the powerful. Its enforcers will disingenuously adopt the language of social justice.

— GamerGate will return under different names in multiple venues. Its agents will not be GamerGaters or even necessarily know what GamerGate is, but they will behave almost indistinguishably. Publications that defy the wrong internet communities will be held to insincere political standards in full view of their inherently cowardly advertisers and “brand partners,” who, with plenty of easier ways to spend marketing money, will cave. (Related: This will be a great year for the neoreactionary movement!)

— Facebook will release those publishing tools everyone is so worked up about. They won’t seem like much at first. But Facebook video is instructive: It was a feature that nobody used, then it was ice buckets everywhere, and now my page is totally rotten with native Facebook video reshared from accounts I’ve never heard of. These contextless videos of Animals Acting Like People and Easily Stereotyped People Confounding Expectations are so much more viral than anything else in my News Feed. It’s not even close. Links are doomed. Teens hate links!

— The future-of-media types either go quiet or insane as they realize that they spend most of their time defending… ads.

— Old media layoffs will accelerate; coverage of old media layoffs will all but disappear. Magazines — national magazines at large companies! — will vanish in silence.

— The acquisitions are going to be weiiird. Will Yahoo buy CNN? Sure, why the hell not. Would Facebook buy BuzzFeed? Again: WHY NOT? It would solve more problems than it would create. What’s left for a vanity purchase? Wired? Maybe some tweetstorming VC can buy it and destroy it and remake it as this generation’s Industry Standard.

— Some of these acquisitions, especially the small strange ones, will serve as a humbling and traumatic experiences for hundreds of young Content producers, who will first cheer and feel pride before gradually realizing that it was never about them at all; that their companies were always just… companies.

— Imagine the new JOBS. So many new varieties of feed-stockers: Maybe Twitter will hire a bunch of “anchors” to retweet celebrities and politicians and terrorists? Vine news production units? Hundreds of people will be hired to create videos for Facebook that work just as well without sound as with sound. Apple Watch breaking news notification writers! In general, though, barring big macro BAD THING, this means more jobs, which is good (especially if you’re very young). The least interesting and most important internet media prediction for 2015 is that it will be a lot like 2014, but just more.

— There will be a backlash not against podcasts but against the podcasting voice, which is really an extension of Ira Glass voice [30 seconds of post-rock] which is a mutation of NPR voice.

Prediction for 2015: URL-shorteners will fall out of fashion and long, luxurious URLs will become symbols of status and prestige.

— Mark Slutsky (@totallyslutsky) January 5, 2015

— No human, for the entirety of 2015, will be convinced of anything but his own rightness by any “explainer” site. They will become extremely popular, fully stocked with “Perfect Response” and “Reasons Why” posts that are first and foremost affirming to the reader, and secondarily intended to demonstrate the rightness and virtue of the sharer. One high-growth post-type in 2015: “You’re Right, But For Even Better Reasons Than You Think.”

The result of this glut will be a social media discourse nightmare — more engagement than ever, but carried out at a distance, through articles written in slightly more composed and assertive versions of your voice, by people who sound like they know what they’re talking about but might, in fact — sorry, I mean ACTUALLY — not. Mainstream neoliberalism might monopolize explainerism right now, but don’t worry: it’s compatible with any loose and selfish ideology! (Related: An earnest discussion about ideological platform biases, possibly? We spent a lot of time last year worrying about the forms of Content privileged by the new internet, but what about the consequences of the forms? The new internet loves markets. The new internet thinks in markets!)

— The SERIAL EFFECT: So much True Crime.

— A splashy recent hire will leave Fusion (maybe soon!).

— Lmao Vice IPO, jesus. Awl IPO??

— Uhhhhhhhhhh

— sdg;bjasdfkj84asfjfl’