Welcome to the December 2020 edition of Top Conversations in Technology, where we break down which topics are leading, rising and falling each month to help technology marketers maximize relevance and adapt to changing market dynamics. In this month’s analysis, we focus on variations in news and blog citation volumes month-over-month (versus November 2020) and year-over-year (versus December 2019).
E-commerce and Supply Chain weren’t the top trends throughout 2020, but both had a big year and closed strong – ranking as the #1 and #2 topics in December. Both were fueled by media coverage of holiday shopping trends and shipment concerns, amplified by the growth in online shipping due to COVID-19 restrictions. Supply Chain was also spiked by two additional major news events: COVID-19 vaccine distribution preparation and challenges, and the SolarWinds security breach (which was classified as a “supply chain” attack).
Video Conferencing was a dominant trend for the year, finishing at #3 in December. Citation volume was level with the previous month, but grew 6X versus December 2019 (from 21K to 124K stories). Contract Tracing slipped to #4 and registered its lowest mention count since March. Cybersecurity climbed from #7 to #5, reaching its highest rank since January and its highest story count over the past two years.
Other gains in the top 10 included 5G (moving up from #8 to #6 on a 5% increase in citation volume) and Drones (up from #11 to #10 on a 4% increase in citations). Rank and volume drops occurred for Layoffs, which fell from #5 to #7 on a 19% decrease in story volume; Misinformation, down from #6 to #8 on a 15% decrease; and Wi-Fi, down from #10 to #11 on a marginal 0.3% decrease.
Beyond the top 10, the biggest mover of the month was AI Ethics, which spiked 721% due to the “mounting rebellion” Google faced after the dismissal of AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru. While it’s unlikely the spike will sustain, the topic will stay active as Dr. Alondra Nelson, who is known to be “passionate about AI ethics,” takes on her position as deputy director for science and society in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Also of note, nine of the 10 biggest gainers spiked more than 50% over November. Many are lower-volume terms, which tend to show more volatility driven by individual news events. They included #65 Storage Attached Network (+109%), #76 Identity Management (+72%), #120 Encryption Keys (+121%) and #123 Supply Chain Security (+75%). Other topics with strong gains in December (but not top rankings) included Voice Interface (#167, +83%), Serverless Platform (#169, +122%) and Utility Computing (#175, +110%).
The biggest loser of the month was somewhat predictable, as Election Security mentions were down 62% and slid from #28 to #50. (Note: We did not track “election fraud” or related topics that picked up the slack.) Other topics with notable losses (but not top rankings) included #151 Computer Aided Engineering (-61%), #137 Voice Remote (-51%) and #144 IT Service Management (-47%). Higher-ranked topics that shed more than 15% of coverage volume included #38 Smart Homes (-17%), #55 Gig Economy (-32%), #64 Workplace Safety (-20%), #87 Data Mining (-15%) and #93 Industrial IoT (-34%).
Wrapping up 2020 with a bow, we see how much conversations shifted from year to year – driven largely by the various impacts of COVID-19. In December 2019, the hottest topics were Drones (#1, now #10) and AI (#2, now #9). Fast forward one year and it’s E-commerce (up from #3), Supply Chain (up from #7), Video Conferencing (up from #24) and Contract Tracing (up from #162).
As 2021 settles in, we will look deeper at the full-year 2020 trends, while looking for clues about what comes next in 2021. But if 2020 taught us anything, what comes next might surprise you.
Questions? Comments? See a topic we are not tracking? Please share below, and we will address in future installments.