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Is 2018 the year when words fail us?
Written by Simpatico PR
Posted on 5th January 2018

It’s January, which means it’s time to consider everything the next 12 months has in store – a task made all the more easy by the plentiful supply of trends and prediction pieces currently in circulation.

Among them is a concise list of ten insights from BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan, who immediately struck a chord on one of the biggest issues the day for media companies: the duopoly.

Rajan argues that beneath the debates raging around Facebook and Google there is a more fundamental problem at play – and that problem is largely down to language.

In recent years, questions have continually circled the big tech co’s around whether they are a publisher or platform but Rajan says that is becoming an “exhausted debate” – and it’s difficult to disagree. Regulatory issues aside for one second, do we need to categorise them in this binary way? Aren’t they both? Aren’t they much more than both?

In fact, given the vast and rapidly diverging variances in the business models and mechanics of the tech giants, it appears the only factors drawing them together are their scale and the fact they are built on digital foundations.

Amazon, once an online book shop, is now also a $1bn advertising business, the owner of Whole Foods and is opening up a market in voice recognition predicted to generate an additional $10bn in sales by in 2020.

Alibaba, loosely defined as a Chinese e-commerce company, is also the owner of the UC Browser, which is more popular than Google Chrome in the high-growth markets of India and Indonesia.

With the speed of change, existing terminology is increasingly struggling to do justice not only to these companies, but the services they provide, and even the sectors in which they operate. Where once there were clearly-defined boundaries and universally accepted definitions, today there are more grey areas and, as a result, less of a sense of collectivism.

And tech firms are not the only ones “trapped in a conversation that hasn’t kept pace with the times”, as Rajan puts it. There are plenty of sectors and businesses caught between existing knowns and emerging unknowns.

The question is, if 2018 is the year where we reach a tipping point of accepting the failings of legacy language, are businesses ready and willing to define who they are in an ever-changing Brave New World?

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