The most popular NEXT Insights of 2023

What themes caught people’s eyes in 2023? And what digital insights are they seeking?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a site called NEXT Insights seems to be always writing for the future — but that’s the message we see every year. It’s always worth sitting down and looking at which ideas really resonated with our readers over the year just gone, and there are always a few surprises in there. Not least of those is the fact that some of the pieces getting the most reads are over a decade old at this point.

Before we dive into this year’s top 10, here are some key observations:

Interesting facts:

  • Only three pieces in the top 10 are from 2023
  • The oldest is 12 years old — written by me in 2012
  • The newest is from May 2023 — and was Martin’s exploration of the NEXT23 theme, Let’s Get Physical.
  • Martin dominates the top 10, with seven of the posts

Key themes:

  • People are still interested in understanding emerging digital ideas, from how service design applies to digital, to what digital humanism might be.
  • In particular, the idea of vertical and horizontal integration is really important to many readers.
  • People seem keen to escape the “doomscrolling” approach to digital services, and find more compelling ways of delivering experiences.
  • They’re also worried about both the depth of the tech winter — and what will come next? Will it be AI? Or will that be another false dawn like we’ve seen with Web3 and the Metaverse?

Here’s the attention war winners for 2023:

10. What is Digital Service Design?

(Adam Tinworth, 2012)

The me of a decade ago is still doing sterling work, it appears. This was a post designed to complement the two NEXT Service Design conferences we did a decade ago in Berlin. But this primer on the ideas underlying service design is still proving popular.

9. The next phase of the digital revolution

(Martin Recke, 2022)

Martin’s post summing up and exploring the key ideas underlying the Accenture Life Trends Report 2023 has had consistent traffic all year — as you might expect, given these were the key issues for 2023! (You can check out our coverage of the 2024 Life Trends, too.)

8. Ludic Loops: what you need to know

(Adam Tinworth, 2017)

Once again, past me is putting in the work. This piece from six years ago explores the most damaging mechanism underlying some addictive digital services, like social media. Of course, like many digital “innovations” they have their roots in something older: can you say “one-armed bandit”?

7. The Dopamine Loop is Dead. Long Live the Experience Loop!

(Martin Recke, 2018)

Staying on the topic of loops, Martin explores how we can move beyond the dopamine fix of ludic loops (probably better known as ‘doom-scrolling’ these days), into creating compelling services via better experiences. Less hack, more human-centred design.

(Christian Barth, 2023)

The first piece from 2023 to make the top 10 is from our Accenture colleague Christian, who pulled out some key trends from last year’s SXSW in Austin. From the end of the internet as we know it to the rise of purposeful profitability, he spotted some key insights that are still building into major trends a year on. Well worth giving another read.

5. What is digital humanism?

(Martin Recke, 2017)

Six years ago, Martin explored the idea of digital humanism based on a couple of pieces of prior work. He also noted that it didn’t register as a term in Google Trends. Over the last few years, that’s beginning to change, with steadily increasing search volumes, albeit from a low base. People are finally coming around to the idea, and starting to explore what it could mean for their products and businesses.

See what I mean about us often writing for five years in the future?

4. NEXT23 theme: Let’s Get Physical

(Martin Recke, 2023)

Our big theme of 2023! After years of pandemic isolation and decades of focus on the digital, we’re all suddenly much more interested in exploring how emerging technology reshapes the world around us, and our embodied physical selves, too. Martin raised the curtain on that discussion with this piece — and paved the way for more discussion on hybrid physical/digital systems.

3. How long and how deep will tech winter be?

(Martin Recke, 2023)

Even this time last year, it was clear that 2023 was going to be a rough year for the tech industry, and so it’s proved. The layoffs we’ve seen have probably been the biggest since the crash in the late 90s. Martin made some predictions about the conditions needed for a short winter. Some have been met — like a fall in inflation, and a general avoidance of recession — but others, most notably an end to the war in Ukraine, have not. And so, we find ourselves still wondering exactly when the tech spring will arrive, for all fields bar AI, which is still looking very summery…

2. The dual strategy of horizontal and vertical integration

(Martin Recke, 2021)

In what’s mostly a teaser for the number one spot, nearly three years ago Martin set out to explore the implication of vertical and horizontal integration on a global scale, driven by the internet. Three years on, his ideas and suggested solutions are proving compelling to thousands of readers. But you know what many of those readers really want? A case study. And, luckily, guess what he also wrote…?

1. Amazon, the pioneer of horizontal and vertical integration

(Martin Recke, 2021)

That case study people were after? It’s right here, and people read it. And read it. And read it some more.

While Amazon hasn’t proved immune to the tech winter of 2023, many of those layoffs were in peripheral, experimental parts of the company — hardware and Amazon Fresh, for example — after the initial big layoffs at the start of the year. While not all is rosy at the company, it’s still the company that people look to so they can understand how fundamentally the internet has transformed how we do business.

And it’s interesting to note that the most read insight from last year was two years old. As I said above, we really are writing for the future here, as the version of Martin from two years ago has proved. The Martin Recke of 2021 proved to be the MVP, the most valuable player, of NEXT Insights last year (or, perhaps, the GOAT as the kids say…). Which of the insight we wrote last year will be topping the traffic charts in the late 2020s?