Welcome to our latest edition of Top Conversations in Technology, where we break down which topics are leading, rising and falling to help technology marketers maximize relevance and adapt to changing market dynamics. In this analysis, we focus on variations in news and blog citation volumes over the past three years, comparing top conversations in 2021 to what 2020 and 2019.
Big Picture: We decided to step back from monthly snapshots for a beat to look at longer trend lines, now that we have three years of data since starting this project. Kind of interesting: Despite all that’s happened, the top three conversation topics are the same, though the order has changed. Smartphones were the #1 topic in 2019 (by a lot!), maintaining that by a waning margin in 2020. By 2021 it ranked a distant #3 and narrowly outpaced surging Supply Chain discussions.
Cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin took over the mantle in 2021, after holding the #2 and #3 spots in 2019, and steadily gaining ground over the past two years. Cryptocurrencies went from 2M citations in 2019 to more than 4.7M citations in 2021. Bitcoin showed similarly exponential growth, climbing from 1.9M stories in 2019 to 4.6M in 2021. For reference, both topics had around 2.2M in 2020. Related topics showed similar trends, with Blockchain up from 757K to 1.9M, and Non-fungible Token (NFT) going from nearly invisible in 2019 (3.7K stories) to #40 in 2021 with 295K stories. So, you are interested in crypto, you say? You and everybody else.
Compared to the Before Times: What was hot in the “before” times? Outside the top three,other lead topics in 2019 included (in order) Drones, Artificial Intelligence, Wi-Fi, 5G, E-commerce, Cybersecurity and Supply Chain. In 2020, Video Conferencing, Layoffs/Furloughs, and Contact Tracing/Tracking jumped into the top 10. Supply Chain and E-commerce remained central discussions, while Drones and 5G slid to #9 and #10, respectively.
The big shift in 2020 was the surge of pandemic topics. Thanks, Captain Obvious. But looking at those topics over the past two years also reveals how institutionalizing technologybrought cultural shifts. For instance, Video Conferencing ranked #28 in 2019. It existed, but it was not mainstream technology. In 2020 it ranked #4 as we all enjoyed Zoom Thanksgiving. In 2021, it fell to #12 because it was just something everyone did for everything: work, school, holidays, everything. It was no longer cutting edge or differentiating. As opposed to being there for us, it was just there.
Fast Forward to 2022: Now what? We have survived a presidential election and a pandemic. Vaccines increased in availability. But Misinformation surged, growing from #17 in 2019 to #12 in 2020 to #8 in 2021. Supply Chain ranked #4 in 2021, and while consistently in the top 10, it did not breach the top 5 until last year. Spoiler alert – it moved into the top 3 in 2022 and does not show any signs of losing ground.
Gains and Losses revisited: The three biggest gains year-over-year from 2020 to 2021 were NFT, Web3 and Metaverse, all of which gained more than 1,000 percent. Four more topics – Embedded Payments, Ransomware-as-a-Service, Voice Remote and Emotional AI – registered gains over 200%. In fact, 171 topics registered gains from 2020 to 2021, compared to just 31 topics that lost ground. Of the losses, Cognitive Computing showed the biggest drop (down 95%), followed by Contact Tracing/Tracking, Layoffs/Furloughs and Location Tracking/Privacy, all of which dropped 56%. All other losses were less than 50%.
Looking Ahead: Heading into 2022, we expect Crypto, Bitcoin and Supply Chain continue to drive significant conversation volume. Web3, Metaverse and NFTs are likely to continue significant growth, even as people strive to understand what the topics actually mean. COVID-adjacent topics will continue sliding out of favor; e.g. Contact Tracing was top 10 a year ago but fell to #43 in February 2022 (and only ranked #30 in January during the Omicron surge). Similarly, Video Conferencing has fallen from a solid #7 in early 2021 to #15 in early 2022. It’ll be so interesting to see how this all evolves as we transition to endemic and continue exploring life in the virtual realm.
Questions? Comments? See a topic we are not tracking? Please share below, and we will address in future installments.