Did you know that in 2018 alone, internet users spent a collective 2.8 MILLION years online? That’s a lot of data.
And over 33 percent of that time was spent on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
These websites have become some of the most valuable companies in the world…
And that’s all thanks to the information they extract from their users.
While it doesn’t seem like an exciting market at first glance, data is reshaping the world as we know it.
In fact, data is quickly becoming a commodity more valuable than gold, silver…
And even crude oil.
Consider this: The revenue of the global digital advertising market is set to reach nearly $665 billion by 2026.
In the U.S. alone, this is a $100 billion market… and 80% of it is in hands of tech giants Google and Facebook.
It is a market ripe for innovation and disruption, and one that savvy investors should be following closely as the fourth industrial revolution speeds up.
Here are three data trends to watch as the next great digital revolution takes place.
1. Data And The Evolution Of Media
The emergence of internet news, streaming television, and an infinite amount of content on-demand has left media companies at a curious crossroads.
Newspapers are floundering, television channels are scrambling to find new ways to drive up their dwindling viewer numbers, and even major websites are struggling to maintain their ad revenue.
But some companies are taking innovative new approaches to tackle these issues.
Thompson Reuters (NYSE:TRI) is a media monster to keep an eye on as the industry continues to evolve, but for an entirely different reason.
Reuters is a well-established news source, respected around the world. With operations in over 100 countries, many other news channels rely on Reuters’ sources and stories to gain unique insights into the world’s most critical developments.
While Reuters is best known for its groundbreaking journalism, it also offers a plethora of data analysis and financial tools that have become absolutely vital in hedge funds, trading desks, news channels and more.
And then there’s Disney (NYSE:DIS). Disney is a household name. The production giant responsible for some of the most beloved and highly viewed films ever.
But its box-office success will be a drop in the hat compared to its big-picture plans.
Thanks to its incredible maneuvering within the film space, including the widely publicized acquisitions of 20th Century Fox and Marvel Studios, Disney is absolutely crushing its competition.
But what many people don’t know is that this maneuvering and its wider strategy is built entirely through its data streams.
From “MagicBands” in the company’s theme parks that track customers’ every move to neural monitoring of test audiences during film previews, Disney can fine-tune a customer’s experience on a granular scale. And as it enters the streaming war, one can be sure that it will not lose its innovative edge as it goes head to head with Netflix and HBO.
2. Real-World Applications
The data boom isn’t limited to new media, however. It also has real-world applications which are poised to transform entire cities and create a way of life that most people are still struggling to understand.
Using your browsing history, information from your cellphones and the complete technological saturation of many of the world’s biggest cities, internet giants like Google and Microsoft are using complex algorithms to build a new world right before our eyes.
Humans have essentially become walking, talking data machines, churning out information that is absolutely vital to building everything from better cities to providing a new understanding of the ‘human condition.’
Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is leading the charge on this front.
The internet giant knows everything you’ve ever searched for and everywhere you’ve been, both in the real world and online. It has so much data, actually, that if you were to download it all, it would add up to millions of Word documents.
While it may seem scary, or downright invasive, what they’re actually doing is much less sinister than many of the major regulatory bodies make it out to be.
Google’s smart-city startup, SideWalk Labs, for instance, has recently released a piece outlining new plants to transform Toronto’s Lake Ontario shoreline into “the most innovative district in the entire world.”
The neighborhood will include smart traffic lights, optimize energy usage, self-driving delivery vehicles, and much more, leveraging the data collected from residents to improve each of these features, and in turn, create a sort of tech utopia.
Not to be outdone, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is looking towards similar goals.
Between the Internet of Things, cloud storage, and artificial intelligence, Microsoft is not holding back in its mission to create smarter, safer, and more efficient cities. With the help of its vast resources and analytical capacity, Microsoft is looking to dramatically reshape what we thought we knew about the cities of the future.
Not only does it hope to utilize data to revolutionize the inner workings of city infrastructure, but it’s also looking to secure its role in the urban planning of the future. With its data edge, Microsoft will be able to follow traffic to create more efficient streets, quieter neighborhoods, and less stress for residents.
3. The New Mad Men of Advertising
And finally, there’s advertising. The data that no one really likes to talk about.
Gone are the days of traditional advertising where suited men in New York City high-rises ruled the day…
We’ve entered a new world of data-driven adverts, reaching billions of people with just a click of a button.
Though Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is not yet on Google’s level, it’s still reinventing the advertisement world as we know it.
Instead of actually creating its own content, the company relies on its users to churn out videos, blurbs, and stories for it. But in doing so, the tech giant collects a shocking amount of data which it uses to fine-tune its potential to target those same users with curated advertisements. And in turn, it has become one of the most profitable and valuable companies on the planet.
In fact, as of early 2019, Facebook has an average of over 52,000 unique data points on each of its nearly 3 billion users.
Though Facebook and Google attended a Capitol Hill meeting over censorship and other issues, the company has shown no signs of slowing, with its share price growing by 22 percent this year alone.
While Facebook and Google currently dominate the scene, publishers are constantly looking for new ways to take on the media giants. From ad cooperatives to simply taking the plunge and hoping for the best, publishers are becoming desperate to compete.