As PR agency professionals and other pundits make up their “best” and “worst” lists for 2015, technology stories and the PR behind them will be ubiquitous. That’s because the publications and brands that used to be followed by geeks and technical experts are now mainstream. Mashable, for example, reports regularly on general news stories, and an entire industry of Apple-watchers is always poised to weigh in on its next move.
Here, then is my list of five top tech stories of 2016 – defined as those that had the greatest PR impact.
Apple Watch set trends for wearables. The much-anticipated launch of its latest product was also a media watch, as fans and critics followed breathless liveblogs of the introduction and the reviews of lucky first adopters. No, the Apple Watch wasn’t a home run launch for Apple, but that’s not the point. Apple’s entry made wearables a category to be reckoned with for 2016 and beyond.
Ashley Madison was beset by hackers. Woe to the PR person with a data security clients who didn’t jump on the bandwagon here! The data breach, in which hackers posted the personal information of Ashley Madison members, was a warning to any site promising user confidentiality. As Re/code described it in a story about the repercussions of the infamous Sony Pictures data hemorrhage of 2014, “hackers can and will take away your job.” And maybe your business.
Self-driving cars started up. Move over, Google! In 2015 Tesla upgraded the software for its Model S sedans, enabling smart autopilot functions that will maintain distance from other vehicles, change lanes, and park themselves. The self-driving car is more than just a hilarious segment on HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” It’s an innovation likely to change transportation forever.
Amazon gets ‘primed’ for higher-tech drone delivery. Drones were big again in 2015, but it may be Amazon’s investment in drone technology, particularly a slimmer, sleeker delivery bot, that grabbed the most media attention as customers and Amazon-watchers anticipate the launch of Amazon Prime Air.
Yahoo’s decline rolls on. This wasn’t a single story, but rather a steady, drip-drip of bad news and negative moves for the once-dominant company. Many are predicting that 2016 will be Marissa Mayer’s last year as CEO, as slow growth in its core advertising business persists and an exodus of talent continues. Ad tech giants like Google, Facebook, and AOL Platforms have surpassed Yahoo, which more and more seems like a symbol of an earlier technology era.