2011 – a partial and incomplete review

End of year reviews are many and range from the heavyweight and the slightly less high brow. This post is definitely closer to the latter.

Rather than present a well-researched roundup of 2011’s top trends in social media and technology news, I’ve collected a handful of the year’s features that stood out for me.

(You could even see it as a stitched-together list of blog posts from the past 12 months that I didn’t get around to finishing …)

Content curation

Hardly a new idea, and arguably one that’s been around since 131 BC, content curation was increasingly visible in 2011.

From LinkedIn with LinkedIn Today to Google with Google Currents to Bit.ly’s News.me collaboration with the New York Times, companies were keen to offer new ways of finding relevant content.

But the real boom was in tools like Scoop.it – possibly this year’s more useful version of Paper.li – that allow users to gather and distribute their favourite content. There were also less time consuming alternatives like Visibli.

Unfortunately I most often encounter Scoop.it and Visibli on my phone, where both services slow page loading speeds to almost nothing, but nevertheless they add another layer to the way information is shared and presented.

However, if the rise of content curation continues in 2012 I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before we have to ask who will curate the curators?

The decline and rise in digital music

iPod - revolution rockThis year the iPod turned 10 years old, having become to the MP3 player what Hoover is to the vacuum, or more pertinently what the Walkman was to the portable cassette tape player.

Its continued decline more a product of iPhone/iPad-shaped ambitions, Apple nevertheless sold more than 300 million iPods in the decade to November 10, 2011.

But the biggest digital music story this year was to be found in the cloud, with Spotify leading the charge.

The first six months of 2011 were dominated by speculation as to whether the iTunes-in-the-cloud service could launch in the all-important US market. The tech press duly exploded with excitement in July when Spotify did just that, in the process unveiling a partnership deal with Facebook.

YouTube expands film service with rentals

YouTube’s move from amusing cat videos to Hollywood films took on a new, monetised direction this year when it began renting full length films.

US users of the service – which allows films to be played on Google TV, Android tablets with Honeycomb, and most Android phones – were even offered the oscar-winning King’s Speech for free.

Clearly it’s not a good time to be a company like Blockbuster, but the options for streaming films online already include services like iTunes, Blink Box and LoveFilm and the space is set to become even more crowded in the UK next year when Netflix launches over here.

Meanwhile, the July launch of the BBC’s global iPlayer app could herald yet another shift in viewing habits, as content offerings further fragment.

BBC social media guidelines for journalists

Social networks – particularly Twitter and Facebook – have been actively courting journalists for some time, though the widespread promotion of Twitter accounts and hashtags on television and radio suggests they may be preaching to the converted.

But in the unlikely event that evidence is required to prove journalists are heavy users of social media then the BBC’s updated social media guidelines could provide it.

“Few news organisations can now doubt the crucial role social media plays in breaking down barriers to engagement, opening up newsgathering networks, and as an outlet for journalism,” explained the BBC News’ social media editor Chris Hamilton when the guidelines were updated in July.

Their key points – among them, “don’t do anything stupid” – strike a common sense balance for how journalists can use social media in a responsible way.

An incomplete review

So there you go, no room for the launch of the iPad 2, the 10th anniversary of Wikipedia, UK regulation of Facebook and Twitter marketing, new daily deal offerings from Google and FacebookTwitter’s privacy problems or the 15 billion apps downloaded from Apple’s iTunes Store.

Nor was there space for the future of social media after August’s London riots, the welcome news that Europe’s digital divide is gradually shrinking or the loss of Apple’s visionary leader Steve Jobs.


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