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SXSW Thoughts 2012

SXSW is still going on in Austin at the moment but the EDU and Interactive conferences are officially done.

How was SXSW? Massive. The conference literally is a city by itself. Multiple venues, 20-30 sessions per hour and thousands of parties. Over 250k people will come to Austin for SXSW this year. That is over 30% of the normal population of Austin.

I thought it might be good to summarize what SXSW Interactive really talked about.

Major outcomes/themes of SXSW 2012.

  • Healthcare is the new social. The government is eager to clean the mess we call our healthcare system. The open health data initiative (http://www.data.gov/health) is key to this. Lots of money will flow to this tech sector since there are healthcare companies with deep pockets to buy it.  Simple projects like iTriage.com provide massive value to companies like Aetna.
  • Education needs reform. In the short term the attention will flow to social teaching platforms but there is little money to be made in this sector without the help of student loans. I suspect reform in this sector will be hampered by revenue model issues. The tech folks that focus on creating solutions for the K-12 public school sector will see the most traction in the near term.
  • Social is a bubble. Very few if any social apps or sites have any revenue. It is inevitable to have these sites collapse unless they embrace something like advertising. Most of the apps at the show were features of another site like Facebook. Few if any had original technology that didn’t depend on the Twitter API, Google Maps API or Facebook API.
  • The 2012 election will be decided on social. Focus on transparency, fact checking and online donations will drive the new candidate.
  • TV is not going anywhere.  Former Vice President Al Gore said no current technology rivals the richness of TV in terms of content. The goal is not to replace TV but converge with it. TV based social apps will drive much higher advertising rates in the near future.
  • Google may not be the winner in social but they still command a large amount of your daily internet time. Fragmentation between Google+ and Facebook is not helping the consumer.
  • Android still doesn’t get any love. Developers are still choosing to launch apps on iOS first. This was really shocking to see considering the Android phone penetration. Nokia and Blackberry have been thrown to the side of the road. They are no longer relevant.
  • Mobile Marketing is still in its infancy. Mobile ad formats are inadequate and there is a large lack of understanding of how mobile advertising currently works.
  • Near Field Payments or NFCwill become mainstream at the end of this year. Companies like ISIS and Google Wallet will lead the way. This will be a massive change to the US Economy over the next 18-24 months. If IPhone 5 has NFC in it, it will solidify the concept and push it mainstream. Almost all Android phones will have it by years end.
  • Privacy will be a renewed movement. People’s social profiles have gone out of control. Many people expressed concerns about not sharing pics of kids and family on Facebook anymore. Newer more secure platforms will start to gain traction. Try out burst.it for example. Apps like Highlight are overly socia in my opinion.
  • Portals are returning. Sites like Pinterest.com, Pixable.com etc are just a re-skinned form of Yahoo.com. Curation of the internet is necessary. None of these sites have any way of automatically filtering for you, they are all socially sourced. People are throwing tons of money at these ideas. Welcome to 1999 again.
  • US interactive business models don’t always translate to other economies. But the bigger ideas are easy to copy and implement locally. Think Ren Ren, Yandex, Baidu etc.
  • eBooks are coming of age. The iPad, Kindle and Nook are going to create a whole new type of book, newspaper and magazine experience that really shows what HTML 5 can do.
  • Event Planning apps were a big deal. Apps like Schemer and Glomper made some traction.
  • Apps became creepy. Apps like Ban.jo and Highlight know, display and share everything about you.

Overall, SXSW was a really enjoyable event. It is hard to digest but if you pick off the things that interest you the most, you can really get a lot out of it. The US economy is for a massive change this year.  Keys to having any of these predictions/statements come true will be dependent on the 2012 Presidential election.