2008 Predict-a-thon

The relative peace of these first three days back in the office has given me far too many opportunities to procrastinate on the rather impressive email mountain that's appeared in my inbox over the holidays. In a further, and I'd like to think, rather productive attempt to put off tackling this I cast an email out to the sages of the uk-netmarketing list hunting for 2008 predictions for digital media, either those they'd found online or, if brave enough, any of their own.

I'd already found the rather dry 'official' and somewhat uninspiring list from the BBC News website and Rory Clellan-Jones' much funnier version from the quietly launched dot.life blog. I did wonder whether it's wise to make any forecasts at all, especially in public. Then I came across these 1998 predictions from NetworkWorld's BuzzBlog with an alarmingly good hit rate. As they put it,

"Don't knock 20-20 hindsight until you've tried it."

And from the microcosm of bloggy extroverts that orbits around Robert Scoble, Techcrunch, et al, Loren Feldman's ranty video predictions are worth a watch:

And by the time I'd rifled through these, the fine folks of uk-netmarketing had responded with some further suggestions.

Ben Mitchell from Glue London pointed to this uber-list of predictive bloggage from Darren Herman. Juls Barnes' Google Reader revealed offerings from Mashable's Adam Ostrow and ReadWriteWeb's take on Web and Business Networking predictions. The latter suggesting a merger of Plaxo and LinkedIn. That'd certainly save me some grief and lots of time.

To be on the safe-side I also made a quick trawl of the UK trade press to see what they'd come up with. NMA have stuck their coverage behind the registration wall(!), but I hope they won't mind me pulling some precised quotes (any errors or mis-interpretations are most definitely mine):

  • Ashley Highfield, BBC - long-form content on the rise
  • Bob Ivins, ComScore - social networks find the right balance between word of mouth and advertising
  • Richard Firminger, Yahoo! - focus on quality of traffic from search and rise of mobile search ads
  • Rob Gay, MD, eType - video advertising and behavioural targeting
  • Al Russell, Vodafone UK - flat-rate data pricing, mobile advertising growth and user-interface innovation

Brand Republic featured details from Media Week with a round-up of predictions from medjia experts. One last call for entries went out to the Twitter massive, resulting in the following from @ade,

"One for 2008: Facebook Platform vs. OpenSocial becomes the new VHS/Betamax (or should that be Blu-ray/HD-DVD?). Facebook win."

After reading all these words of, erm, wisdom/optimism/pessimism/realism, I was encouraged. From having a head full of New Year fug, the mists cleared and I came up with some thoughts of my own. These are decidedly ill-thought through and if I ever revisit this post, I'll probably claim a caffeine-related moment of madness. Still, here goes...

New Year's Eve in London - courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/adrianclarkmbbs/2153489482/Facebook only mentioned in every other conversation. Its valuation collapses to something that's still astronomical, but closer, slightly, to reality.

Apps, widgets and web services will emerge that manage identity, contacts and content across many social networks. None of these will gain traction until one of them gets bought by Google and integrated into Gmail/Greader, etc. The importance of being able to use multiple social networks with ease will become critical as people use more specialist sites and services. Pretty please.

Recession or fear of recession in the US combined with a slow-down in the UK, benefits digital sector. The biggest beneficiaries are metrics suppliers and consultants as companies want to know exactly where their marketing bucks are going.

The recruitment headache from 2007 persists in 2008. If anything, it gets worse rather than better, even with people fleeing traditional businesses for 'digital'. Industry focus on training and career development begins to emerge.

Carnage amongst the web2 start-ups - many of the neat ideas find themselves without money to pay the bills. The talent, knowledge and newly experienced staff are hoovered up in short order by eager corporates, agencies and tech companies.

Focus on business models and a dawning realisation that relying on advertising is not a revenue nirvana. Companies who believe they can rely on critical mass alone, are mostly wrong.

Privacy and identification become hot potatoes as consumers realise how much info is online and how much they put there themselves. The government helps by periodically losing large slices of the public's personal data. The data from one of these incidents falls into the handy of identity fraudsters. Information Commissioner does nothing. Again.

Adobe starts hoovering up web/mobile based applications in readiness to take on MS Office. Both Adobe and Microsoft play the services game with a steer towards online services that’s adopted more rapidly than expected. PC World in big trouble.

Everyone goes crazy for web services, with bells on and including the kitchen sink. UMPCs accelerate this trend.

Google's dominance of search and Adwords remains unchallenged. Almost. Vertical search, specialist networks and behavour-driven niche buys start to eat into the gargantuan amounts spent on Adwords. Paid search gets harder as ROI's get squeeze and campaign management is more sophisticated than ever.

US writers strike, will lead to US director's strike, will lead to US (insert
content creation role here) leading to a focus on the real value of content at large media companies.

Consumer sites relying on UGC have to start delivering value back to their users beyond novelty. The free ride of advertising based on consumer’s doing the work starts to close. Consumers demand quid pro quo from publishers, especially those owned by media conglomerates – yes, you Mr Murdosh –desperate to drive serious ad spend.

Value of ad buys next to UGC media plummets in B2C space. Technology comes to the rescue, but brings with it major privacy issues. Scales fall from consumer's eyes as they realise true level of behavioural tracking.

Value of UGC B2B media rockets - well, I would say that, wouldn't I? - true value of networks and groups becomes more apparent, especially as general economy tightens.

Mobile. Widgets. Mobile Widgets. I like putting these two together, especially as most widgets fit and, in theory, could work on most mobile phones. This year...it'll start happening. But the real focus will be on basic mapping, messaging and photo/video applications to boost data usage. The operators will lag horribly behind the industry trying to figure out how to move forward without destroying their current business.

Ok, so don't shoot me ;-) These were written on the hoof. If you've got any to add, I'd love to hear them, or feel free to contribute to the thread on the uk-netmarketing email discussion list.

To round things off and with everyone, quite rightly, paying proper attention to the environment, here's a recycled and disturbingly accurate list of predictions for 2007 from Adrian Cockle at WWF.