The year began in the wake of Cablegate: In late November of last year, hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables were released to the public via WikiLeaks, transforming international relations and democratic journalism along with it.

Social Media helped organize resistance in the popular uprisings in the Middle East, image courtesy of voiceseducation.org

The WikiLeaks scandal may have helped provoke the Arab Spring, while mobile devices and social media sustained the popular uprisings. So if 2010 was the year that social media went mainstream, 2011 saw everyday people use digital platforms to change the offline world.

Emerging markets

Image courtesy of kevinschoenmakers, via Flickr

With democratization comes opportunity, but marketing to Muslims and other emerging consumers requires cultural respect and brand flexibility.

As western economies continued to sputter marketers looked to new markets for growth, learning that mobile adoption, status symbols and sexual norms differ from culture to culture.

Meanwhile, Facebook encroached on Orkut’s territory in an increasingly digital Brazil and China continued its high-speed development.

Branded entertainment

Branded entertainment has been around for a while but 2011 brought on some truly ambitious stuff. In May we reported from Cuba on Havana Club’s feature film and cultural projects, while the Muppets franchise took social media by storm with a series of viral videos leading up its fall movie release.

Speaking of viral, transmedia crossed the threshold from industry buzzword to just plain industry with this year’s StoryWorld conference, where we met multiplatform storytelling pioneers from Hollywood, Madison Avenue and around the world.

The great content debate

Media brands suffered some growing pains this year as they continued to search for new ways to fund, monetize and distribute their content.

Streaming video leader Netflix was chastised for planning to spin off its original DVD-by-mail service into a separate business called Qwikster  – then got panned even more for reversing course.

At the beginning of the year Sir Martin Sorrell predicted that the “free versus paid” content debate would come to a head as the New York Times, the Times of London and even The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper, introduced subscription models.

But the great content debate raged on at SXSW in March, with Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Bernard pushing for “anytime, anywhere” access to content, while Wenner Media’s Daniel Mendell argued that a freemium model gives readers the best of both worlds.

Platform abundance

With the launch of the iPad 2, the Kindle Fire and a variety of Google-powered smartphones, designers and developers scrambled to keep up with platform abundance.

As print publications struggle to translate their content to screens of all sizes, new web standards like responsive design are starting to inculcate a “digital first” mentality among forward-thinking publishers.

The good news for editors, creative directors and other content curators is that with the explosion of digital content, human filters are needed more than ever.


One of the ironies of the digital world is that the more connected we become, the more we crave face-to-face interactions.

Sparksheet covered a slew of events this year, from SXSW in Austin and CES in Las Vegas, to 140conf in New York City and the  International Content Summit in London.  The best part for us is that beyond the conversations and keynotes, conferences are a treasure trove of great content.

Steve Jobs

Last but not least, the untimely death of Apple visionary Steve Jobs reverberated around the tech world and (way) beyond this October.

A Steve Jobs memorial outside an Apple Store. Image courtesy of Jahn Steven, via Flickr

Despite his long battle with pancreatic cancer, Jobs stayed at the helm of Apple until the end, stepping down only months before succumbing to his illness. The public’s outpouring of grief signaled the end of an era in every media-related industry Jobs touched. Which is all of them, really.

Curating the curators

For some laughs (or winces) check out Mashable’s best 10 memes and Facebook’s 15 most-shared stories. Alternatively, head over to Twitter to find out who joined, what trended, and how many tweets can be crammed into a second.

And steel yourself for the onslaught of Top 10 lists, Best of the Year posts and other year-end roundups sure to be flooding the net as 2011 draws to a close. As for us, we look forward to reconnecting in the new year!