If I had to give the start of 2024 a Star Wars crawler, it would be this:
Content 2024: The Epic of Extremes
Volatility reigns! Since January last year, trends such as digital disruption by AI, economic uncertainty, the rise of Gen Z, W3 vs Metaverse, and political extremism are intensifying the best and worst of content times.
This volatile period brings both unprecedented pitfalls and nearly limitless potential to the Content Curious. Will they rise to the challenge?
How are these trends intensifying content extremes? This article summarizes exactly that, along with some key implications so you, the content curious, can prevail.
The following trends are causing rapid change, tension, and conflict.
Every organization is having to change how they work to embrace digital. This trend was already happening before the pandemic, then accelerated with the rise and continuation of the pandemic. (We’ve discussed this trend here and here and here.) Now, it’s in overdrive thanks to widespread access to artificial intelligence. Companies need to address end-to-end digital customer experiences and remote or hybrid work with employees and partners. Every organization needs to communicate more effectively through digital channels.
In many ways, Web3 and Metaverse are competing visions of the future of the web. Web3 addresses control and access, touting a highly decentralized approach. Web3 also has become inextricably linked to distributed technologies like blockchain and, consequently, controversial cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency, and by extension Web3, took a major hit with the failure of cryptoexchange FTX and the massive fraud exposed behind it.
The metaverse, on the other hand, focuses on the experience of the web and beyond. Metaverse is associated with augmented reality and virtual reality, reminding me of an upgrade of Second Life. In theory, Web3 and Metaverse could move along their merry ways and coexist. In reality, there’s a lot of conflict, as we explained in our 2023 trends.
As another example, the metaverse brings up questions of ownership. Facebook renamed itself Meta and has diverted many of its resources into not technically owning the metaverse but dominating it. The metaverse also brings up questions of access. While the Consumer Electronics Show featured even more AR/VR headsets and devices, mainstream adoption is elusive. Sales in 2023 were slow, and the price point for headsets and devices remains high.
In 2024, what we’ll face isn’t the realization of either Web3 or the Metaverse but the continued tension and conflict over what they could and should be.
Related to the first two trends, artificial intelligence, including generative AI, is booming. More people are more ready than ever to embrace it. For instance, generative AI and machine learning have been used in content contexts for at least a decade, in my experience. But when OpenAI launched the generative AI app ChatGPT at the end of 2022, 1 million users signed up in five days.
We’re tracking developments in AI, including the potential and the pitfalls, in these articles and roundups. And we’ll continue to do so this year.
The rise of Gen Z continues this year. Gen Z is growing up, which means they’re entering the workforce and evolving as consumers. They’re digital natives. They’re the most diverse generation. They want brands that align with their values. Many are or aspire to be influencers. As their share of voice and share of the market continues to grow, organizations will need to factor Gen Z even more into their products, services, experiences, and communications.
It’s an election year in the U.S. at a time of political extremism fueled by conspiracy theories. The far-right activity will likely continue to drive extreme actions such as mass shootings, fabricating evidence to support claims of election fraud, storming capitols, repeals of abortion rights, not taking vaccines or wearing masks, bots spreading conspiracy theories and hate, and intensification of hacktivism. In fact, World Economic Forum has identified the mis/disinformation driven by such extremism as the top risk in 2024.
Responses from governments around the world in the form of more legislation and enforcement of it are likely this year. We’ve tracked highlights related to misinformation and disinformation in these roundups:
In the U.S., last year started with a fear of recession that never quite panned out. But trends 1-3 above are still driving tremendous economic doubt. World Economic Forum reports that “2024 prospects remain subdued and fraught with uncertainty.” Companies in the tech sector and beyond are shifting priorities, and that shift has continued to drive layoffs. The tech sector alone had a 200% increase in layoffs last year, and layoffs at Google, Microsoft, Snap, UPS, Citigroup and more have started this year.
Now that we have a rundown of key trends at work, let’s turn to some of the content extremes emerging or continuing in 2024.
As we head into the year, we’re seeing the extremes of 2023 get even more so. I share 5 in the table below, along with sample stats related to each.
|We Have This...
|But Also This...
|Useful AI + Ease of Content Creation
|Misinformation + Low Quality
|High Content Consumption
|Channel + Search Instability
|Content Proving Value
|High Pressure for More Value + Scale
|Corporate Responsibility + DEI
|Causewashing + Dark Patterns
|High Customer / User Expectations
|Antitrust, Privacy + IP Abuses, + Fraud
Again, those stats are only a sample. As you know, at Content Science we like facts and evidence. So you can find plenty more data in the sources noted.
So, there are tremendous opportunities and obstacles with the state of content in 2024. Yet when I think about the question posed by our Star Wars crawler, “Will the Content Curious rise to the challenge?” I am optimistic. We have learned more than ever about what makes content effective, what makes content operations successful, what content principles can help, and how to become more resilient. And that’s only scratching the surface. With such insights and tools and the right mindset, content professionals can thrive this year.
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