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TrendReport 2002 Q3-4
Stanley Bing, the pseudonymous Fortune columnist and real-life PR chief for CBS, was right about the first half of 2002. It did feel a lot like 2001, "a year that was distinguished, more than anything else, by the fact that we survived it."

Trends and Lessons for the 2nd half of 2002

  1. Death of synergy for global media players
  • After Vivendi, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsman, there are few solid global media companies left. News Corp. is shaky. CBS may be okay.

2. Hot products:

  • DVDs
  • DVRs (digital video recorders like TiVo)
  • Multi-function wireless phones (providing desktop-like PC applications, advanced browsing, video/audio functions)

3. Hot issues:

  • Digital rights management "Hollywood vs. recordable DVDs" Record industry vs. peer-to-peer
  • The now-you-see-it-now-you-don't economy
    • what color is your recovery?
    • Changing choices for health insurance, retirement investment
    • Greenspan, the Fed & interest rates
    • VCs scorecard – follow the money, if there is any money; and the need for greater transparency in their disclosures. (Check out: How Long Can VCs Keep the Curtains Closed? by Business Week's Linda Himelstein)
    • Computer security – it's been just a little too quiet
    • E-Christmas, etailers – after disappointing back-to-school seasons, it doesn't look like to be a happy Christmas for retailers
    • Airline industry and vacation traveling – will continue to be a bumpy ride
    • Cable companies vs. telcos in Internet service market

4. Cold issues (though may periodically rise to the front page)

  • The impact of environmental issues on business? Has interest in this area nosedived, along with stock prices and confidence in corporations? Or has lack of attention by the Bush administration and talk of war driven these issues into the background?
    • Meanwhile: The National Environmental Trust just put out a report that says that babies born in LA inhale higher levels of air pollutants during the first few weeks of life than people are supposed to inhale during a lifetime.
    • Meanwhile: There is no clean water left in the U.S. Some states have taken it upon themselves to impose very tough environmental restrictions on manufacturers, farmers and developers. Will more follow?
    • Meanwhile: Globalization took a major hit with the refusal of the U.S. to back the Kyoto Treaty, and there are minor rumblings of some sort of economic retaliation by a handful of nations.

5. Impact on business & tech media

  • Now that Upside is down, what will happen to Red Herring?
  • Shrinking news hole makes competition that much harder
  • Blogs – Web logs where reporters and others present their unvarnished opinions. This is a mode that's becoming increasingly important because of the phenomenal growth of people who operate their own Blogs, including traditional journalists (like San Jose Mercury News' Dan Gillmor and Newsweek's "The Practical Futurist" by Michael Rogers) and traditional outlets (like MSNBC's Weblog Central. Check out the Los Angeles Times article and Wired Magazine's "Big Media’s Me-Too Blogs" (www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.09/start.html?pg=6).
  • Spam – continues to be a source of annoyance and a topic for discussion. Articles in mainstream press cover impact on businesses (because everyone spends too much time deleting spammed emails), about anti-spam legislation and technologies and approaches for reducing spam hitting your inbox.

6. Politics intrudes on business

  • War with Iraq
  • War against terrorism
  • Anti-globalization/anti-America movements in Europe
  • Political implications of fighting the war
    • Homeland Security

7. Corporate Scandals, continued:

  • Accounting for stock options
  • Quality of earnings
  • Corporate governance
  • The role of CEOs – now the butt of punchlines on the comics page
  • The role of CFOs – enhanced "transparency"
  • The role of board members
  • Continued media assault on accountants, auditors and SEC – and more criminal indictments
  • Continued media assault on banks and financial analysts – spilling over to industry analysts
  • Lawyer backlash – in terms of accountability, since they have not been sullied by corporate scandals
  • Investor lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits

TrendReport Track Record for Q1-Q2

We did pretty well with the trends we predicted for the first-half of 2002:

  • The War Against Terrorism and Security: Unfortunately, we were right about this prediction. Balancing security and privacy will continue to be an issue. The media will continue to be interested in advances in biometrics devices. Impact of terrorism on the economy, business travel, insurance, etc.
  • Pharmaceutical Pricing: We thought this issue would become a more important story closer to the mid-term elections, but the possible war against Iraq overshadowed the overall health care issue.
  • Convergence and Home Networking: Though this was a big trend at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we overstated this trend (although right about DVDs). Perhaps this will pick up during the Christmas season.
  • Layoffs, Bankruptcies and Industry Consolidation: Unfortunately, we were right that layoffs would continue through much of 2002 (albeit at a slower pace than 2001), despite some economists seeing the light at the end of the recession tunnel. But we did not anticipate how many large companies would declare bankruptcy or have to restate earnings due to fraud – or how many executives would do the "perp walk," head bent as they were led to a waiting police car.
  • Whither IPOs?: We predicted a rise in IPOs compared to 2001, but the bigger story was "Whither VCs?" Lots of media wrote about give-backs in which VC firms released money collected or waived obligations on funds not yet collected. As the market continues its bi-polar swings, the media will continue to look at the future of VCs, start-ups and corporate innovation. The latest trend: .
  • Airline Industry Slump, Travel/Transportation Alternatives and Increased Security: We were right in predicting continued bad news for the airline industry and the type of coverage it would receive. There have been a bankruptcy, but no consolidations (yet). There's been a lot of attention paid to labor disputes. And the media will continue to cover new security technologies and regulations and their impact on the passenger experience (screening time, costs). Amtrak's role and subsidies will continue to be covered.
  • Mid-term Elections: We overstated the impact of this. Most of the change in newspaper coverage has been since Labor Day.
  • Nanotechnology: We continue to predict that there will be significant media attention when the first nanotechnology-based products actually reach the market.
  • Rise of Biotech Sector: We predicted continued good news, but now this sector is hit a bunch of potholes.
  • Broadband glut: We were right about ongoing debates about the Telecom sector and when to expect a recovery (probably 2004).
  • Return on Investment (ROI): We were right about this. For VC, reporters and investors, the most important three factors in business remain: ROI, ROI, ROI

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