Street Fight Staff and Friends Predict 2017’s Top Stories (Part Two)

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As 2016 draws to a close, we’ve once again asked Street Fight staffers and columnists to look into their crystal ball and offer prognostications for what they thought will be the biggest story (or stories) in local in 2017.

This is the final installment in our annual series of predictions pieces. On Tuesday Freckle IoT’s Neil Sweeney weighed in with thoughts about the future of attribution.  And yesterday we ran the first installment of staff predictions. Click here to check out all of our predictions for 2017.

From all of us here at Street Fight, we wish you a happy and prosperous 2017, and are excited to see where the industry is headed next.


Voice Search Nearly Doubles in 2017 (And Explodes in 2018+)

headshotDavid Mihm, founder, Tidings

Following the arc of Moore’s Law, the speed with which voice search eclipses other form factors will take half the amount of time that it took mobile search to overtake desktop.

In May of this year, Google announced 20% of its mobile queries were voice. If they choose to re-release that stat before the end of 2017, I predict it’ll have nearly doubled. Voice will be a plurality of all searches by the end of 2019.

Following Amazon and Google’s lead, Apple will open up Siri even further to allow third-party app developers even more hooks into action-oriented searches as it tries to keep up with the competition.


Marketers Will Adopt “Complete Identity Management”

Gib-Olander-150x150Gib Olander, SVP Product Strategy, Infutor

The big theme at Forrester’s recent Marketing 2016 event was “How to Succeed in a Post Digital World” — one where marketers must deliver “1-to-moment” experiences, giving customers exactly what they want in their moments of need, wherever they are, whenever they need it. 

Based on what our clients are telling us, we’re already seeing the market embrace the power of complete consumer identity management to do precisely that.

It’s true that to anticipate and satisfy customer needs, marketers must continuously build contextual and predictive consumer attributes: from demographics and psychographics, to online and mobile behaviors and purchase histories.  However, a key ingredient to success in 1-to-moment marketing is the ability to deliver attribute-driven personalization in an omnichannel environment.  And that requires complete, current and accurate customer identities.   

Only when marketers know exactly who the customer is on the other end of an outreach or transaction, whether in-store, via email, when online browsing or through an inbound phone call, can they optimize the treasure trove of attribute profiles they’ve built. 

In 2107 we’re going to start seeing smart SMBs making efforts to build customer and prospect lists with complete identities and starting to identify when, where and why customers make buying decisions. They’ll use this information to be present in the mirco-moments when consumers use mobile devices to make buying decisions. 

We’ll see that our plumbing contractor will ask for our email address to send us a price quote, invoice or receipt, and then use it to query a service to complete our identities and link them to a variety of systems both parties use frequently, such as:

  • loyalty programs
  • email newsletters
  • Facebook campaigns
  • mobile wallets
  • event calendars

Once consumer identities are compete, accurate and accessible, SMBs and enterprises alike will have the key to unlocking an understanding of their customers. As importantly, they’ll have all of the links necessary to reach them across channels—perhaps even before they’ve anticipated their next purchase. Through complete customer identity management, true 1-to-moment marketing will also emerge in 2017.


AI Will Become the Next Local Commerce Battleground

Michael BolandMichael Boland, Chief analyst and VP content, BIA/Kelsey

AI will become the next battleground in local commerce. This will mostly happen through personal assistant apps such as Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Through these apps’ growing use, voice search will reach 25 percent of mobile search volume. Google will emerge as the winner of the “personal assistant app wars,” due to its more robust search index and knowledge graph. In other words, this war will be won on data and content, rather than hardware, front-end UI or bells & whistles.  

Amazon’s Alexa will shine for product and commerce applications while Microsoft and Apple will exceed with vertically-specific content niches where they establish best-of-breed content and data partners (i.e. Uber). Apple will hold a small advantage with Siri, given the iphone’s ubiquity and Siri’s on-deck positioning. Its focus on iOS-centric data like contacts differentiates it… but its capabilities are limited for that very same focal range. Though Siri lacks the comprehensive data and knowledge graph held by Google, one wild card will be Airpods as a Siri companion. For some mobile users, they’ll emerge as a pervasive and ambient audio channel to inform about surroundings — sort of an audible version of augmented reality. This behavior will start to develop in 2017 with the foundation that’s set by the hardware, and an equivalent Google wireless audio offering for Android devices. More substantive content delivery and ad models will follow in later years.


Local Publishing Will Build on the Success of “New Class” News Sites

Tom GrubisichTom Grubisich, Local America editorial director and “The New News” columnist

I’m climbing out on a limb and forecasting an overall positive 2017 for local news publishing. The year, I believe, will build on innovative moves made within the industry starting in 2015 and continuing into 2016.

I think we’ll see the launch of more “new class” sites like Jim Brady’s Billy Penn in Philadelphia (2015) and The Incline in Pittsburgh (2016) and Jim Friedlich and investor colleagues’ Denverite in the Mile High City (2016). 

My optimism about the expansion prospects of Ted Williams’ profitable Charlotte Agenda’s (2015) was tempered by the abrupt closing earlier this month of his Raleigh Agenda (2016). The closure was blamed on venture’ inability to “figure out a sustainable business model for this market,” according to the no-longer Raleigh editor-in-chief.

“New class” stands for sites that are millennial- and mobile-friendly and which celebrate the venerable but sometimes frayed heritages of communities and their neighborhoods — but also spotlights what’s new and shape-changing. The tone of these sites is conversational, but often underneath is a knowledge of local history and a sharp eye for emerging socio-cultural and economic trends.

With millennials growing into the dominant demogoraphic, including in purchasing power, the times are ripe for startup local sites that favor them. But for all their upside, “new class” sites need solid funding. That’s the lesson of the abortive expansion of The Agendas.

My predictions for 2017:

  • Brady, with help from his minority partner Gannett, will expand to at least one more site beyond Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
  • Denverite will expand to at least one city that’s part of the broad renewal of once-thriving urban cores which, like Denver, are building 21st-century societies and economies with new and diverse demographics and new and lofty missions.
  • TAPinto, which has grown to 57 sites in North Jersey and suburban New York, will take its franchise model to more communities.
  • One chain of daily papers will make a bold move to raise long-faltering digital subscriptions to a critical mass so it’s not so dependent on ad revenue. My end-of-the-tree-limb prediction: The chain will brand subscriptions as a “passport” linked to consumer deals like discounts at restaurants and other local retailers.