Every end of the year I stop to write down my thoughts about what's coming up next, when it comes to communication, collaboration, learning, marketing, media and technology, as this is the busy and fast-changing crossroad where I hang out most frequently. This time it has taken me a little more but here it is finally: what a professional new media publisher needs to know about what is coming what's coming up next, in 2010 and beyond.
Photo credit: Robin Good
As a matter of fact, I have now realized that I am not attempting to "predict" the future or to speculate specific industry announcements during the upcoming 12 months. What I am trying to do here is to stop and highlight the key trends and transformations happening around my above-listed focus areas (communication, marketing, media, learning and technology).
This end of the year writing celebration is for me just an opportunity to step down from my daily running train of technology-media-communication thinking and to look with a bit more perspective at the journey I am making spiced up by the curiosity of the passenger who wants to find out early what are the upcoming stops and "vista points".
In fact, if you want to look to the more speculative type of 2010 predictions and technology anticipations I think you would be better served by the likes of Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch and the many others out there who do a fantastic job of bringing you back the best and latest on new media technology breakthroughs. For this purpose I have also just published a two-part roundup of what I think are some of the most interesting 2010 anticipations that have surfaced from the web recently. Give it a look:
Top Internet Trends 2010: A Guide To The Best Predictions From The Web - Part 1 and Part 2
My look at future trends on these fronts is a personal one. I don't like to be called an "expert" in these fields, but rather an "explorer", a business researcher as I enjoy much experimenting and testing out new solutions until I find out which are the ones that really suck, and which are the ones that, at least in my case, do work.
Before you dive yourself into experimenting and investing more time in your next web design, content production, online class or upcoming social media marketing strategy, stop for a while and reset yourself around these key, revolutionary trends.
If you don't, someone else will before you.
Here the new media areas I am looking at, in this two-part 2010 trends and predictions report.
Part 1, the one you are reading now, is devoted to:
Part 2 will cover:
Which type of applications have great chances to become killer apps in 2010?
Those that will:
1. Mix real-time web, the social graph and geo-localization information to provide you with new and extremely useful applications (see Foursquare and Brightkite)
2. Make it easy for individuals to create, layout and manage effectively great, easily navigable, collections (guides / curated collections of information on specific themes) by leveraging also, in a legal and ethical way, all of the great resources and contents already available out there. Google Knol didn't make it, but someone else soon will.
3. Facilitate, beyond what Twitter or Facebook already do, the aggregation of social communities around specific interests, tasks and actions, like conferences or public events, in which the community moves from the role of the spectator and commentator to the one of partner, co-organizer, editor and producer.
4. Allow easy access to tools, technologies and virtual spaces that simplify and enhance the use of real-time meeting, presentation and collaboration facilities in multiple and highly personalized ways (can join in with phone, smartphone, netbook, or personal computer).
5. Make it easier to record, edit, enrich, format and share/distribute via VOD, downloadable or shareable and re-embeddable widgets, event recordings including video-conferences, video-interviews-at-a-distance, online workshops and seminars, screencasts and any relevant experience we have online.
If you market, sell, design, invent or develop new products and services, the key new thing to pay attention to, is that this "story" about now increasingly coming from the "bottom-up", from the customer himself, is not just a "trendy" story anymore. Understanding and leveraging such user-generated power is what today can make an average company suddenly jump ahead of its competition thanks to brands promoting their loyal and passionate customers to the roles of advisers, testers, critics, quality controllers, product development specialists and trusted marketing agents.
Before, the classic innovation model based itself on the development of products and services within a "closed" system while making heavy use of copyright, patents, DRM and other types of "protection" to prevent that potential competitors could take advantage from their economic investments and research efforts to develop similar competitive products and services.
In this business model, the only viable role for the customer is the one of having "needs" that need to be either created, or identified and satisfied via an infinite number of products and services.
But what is gradually emerging now is the growing awareness that are the customers themselves the ones developing the most interesting ideas for new products and services.
The growing popularity of social media, collaboration and participation applications and tools,
is further speeding up this process making it increasingly easy for brands to create spaces and services capable of taking advantage of this huge, untapped potential.
Not only. A great number of companies are now creating true partnerships with their own customers, distributors, resellers and even with those who would have traditionally been categorized as their "competitors".
In a fast, dynamic and rapidly changing scenario like the one we are in now, a competitive advantage is very difficult if not impossible to maintain. New technologies can revolutionize the marketplace in a matter of months now, and Twitter is the latest example.
What can really make a difference in the near future is thus to partner up with your customers.
To gradually transform your customers into company partners and allies instead of squeezing them like juice lemons to be squeezed till their last drop.
To ally with your customers, to make them become your brand true raving fans and enlist them to become your best advisers in identifying each and every way to satisfy both their interest and yours in a sustainable business way, is the way forward.
All this new openness and desire to reach and collaborate stems from one key realization most fail to make.
The marketplace is not made of isolated chambers and customers do move from brand to brand, buying and trying different products and services. Without any shadow of doubt, most any customer of any brand is or has been likely been the customer of one or more of its competing brands.
Key new trend: With this realization in mind it is much more sensible to ally with competitors rather than compete against them. The rational is the one of firstly tapping into a much broader but highly-qualified potential customer base and secondly to effectively better serve the customer with more high-quality and personalized services rather than spending those same resources and energies in "warding off" the competitors.
For these reasons I strongly suggest to new web start-ups and tech-media innovators five very simple things:
1. Focus initially on "simple" projects which do not require, at least initially, external investments to show their true potential and value
2. Target a powerful "use-case", a really useful service, one that offers true value to the user
3. Involve a small but growing group of true interested fans from the beginning and get as much criticism and feedback from them while developing your first product version
4. Avoid making too many calculations about your future revenues, and place all of your energies and resources into n.2
5. Invest in learning how to build a community of fans. It's, in my humble opinion, the greatest and most durable asset your small company can cultivate.
Traditional advertising loses more value
Interruptive advertising plays less and less of an important role.
"The classic interruption/disruption model of advertising, whereby marketers insert unwanted, usually irrelevant ads as a price the consumer must pay to view desired content, will erode, if not fade away."
Traditional banner ads will keep losing market value and effectiveness.
Not only people block interruptive ads out of their vision and avoid them like the plague, but the cost effectiveness of spending the same budgets on community-building on or very targeted contextual ad campaigns is increasingly more attractive.
With the amount of control people now have over how they spend their time online, why would they ever want to click on something they didn't ask for?
Advertising moves gradually away from being a message that attracts for its promises or looks to one that communicates and directly provides a useful service / benefit to the prospective customer.
"This raises the bar for marketers and their agencies to develop new forms of messages that are not even perceived as ads, but rather as welcome content." (Source: eMarketer)
The evolution is from "promoting" something to offering some real-value upfront, to those truly interested, with the goal of building a trusted and long-term business relationship.
We move gradually away from traditional, classic, interruptive ads, to new marketing communication formats based on high-value, viral, engaging and participatory - relationship-building components.
"To create communications that are so compelling, entertaining, informative or useful that the consumer is not only happy to receive them, but also motivated to share them with others." (Source: eMarketer)
The key changes in this direction are the gradual appearance of new "communication" formats in the guise of shareable and re-embeddable widgets which provide not only useful services, applications or content, but engage the user in enhancing and expanding their value and use virally.
Tomorrow blockbuster ad format is not the typical 380x250 animated rectangle but likely a shareable and re-embeddable widget which carries valuable info, access to unique data or multimedia content, and which is capable of releasing different layers of content depending on the interaction and engagement level the user has with it. Every such blockbuster new ad format integrates some form of viral component: integration with other social media and with the user social graph, ability to remix and personalize, and add to, making the very widget itself a living entity which grows virally in value and reach with the amount of people that pass it on.
Online Marketing Becomes Social
Overall 2010 and beyond will positively see a gradual and long-lasting massive move of ad dollars from traditional display and banner advertising, both in real-life and online, to social marketing campaigns and initiatives.
"Eventually, online social activities and connections will be baked into every form of digital content on the Web, from brand Websites and shopping sites to search engines, traditional media sites and entertainment portals."
Social Media is the New Advertising Playground.
There is no escape from it.
And this is why, advertisers, now turned into smart online marketers will be increasingly willing to give up reach in exchange for deeper engagement.
Instead of trying to reach as many potential customers as possible, online marketers will be increasingly using tools, strategies and techniques which will allow them to attract and engage much more deeply people interested in their specific offerings.
The time of interruptive advertising is increasingly over and 2010 will give us further confirmations of this trend.
"Marketers are more interested in genuine engagement with consumers on social platforms, and less in opportunities to flood them with banner ads."
1. The first sign of this will be in the increased use of social media for customer support, tech assistance, and PR by many companies.
2. The second one will be the increasing development of personalized social and community related platforms for two-way, real-time and asynchronous communications with customers.
3. Thirdly, an interesting new trend for companies investing in social media will be directed at developing excellence-centers and communities of practice on social media marketing and community building inside the organization.
We are gradually but inexorably moving away from mass-style communication approaches, such advertising is, and into very targeted and personalized ways to get into trusted relationships with our future customers and stakeholders.
"The analogy here is to search. The search advertising market has been so successful precisely because it captures consumers’ intentions. When a user types “hotels in Bermuda” into a Google search box, you can be pretty sure they have an intention to reserve a hotel at that destination, and they are therefore likely to click and convert.Geoff Ramsey - eMarketer>)
Marketers wanting to capture intentions higher up the purchase funnel will want to identify people who demonstrate a likely desire to interact with the marketer’s brand, possibly leading to a purchase.
If a marketer is successful at the above—zeroing in on a narrow group of likely prospects—then there is a much better opportunity to engage with those consumers on a deeper, more meaningful basis.
In effect, less is more."
A spontaneous word-of-mouth suggestion from someone you know can be worth many times a display advertising campaign, which may get as well your attention, but would hardly provide the trust and motivation that a well-known friend recommendation carries.
"It’s a matter of leveraging the inherent trust consumers have in each other."
From a B2B standpoint integrating social media marketing into the sales funnel will become a top priority for many.
Obviously, advertising will not disappear, but, at least for what concerns classic banner-type, "display advertising", it will indeed play gradually a lesser important role, until it becomes just another marketing tool among several others that can be used effectively in a marketing campaign.
The Real Challenge for Publishers in 2010 is Being Social Without Looking Fake
The greatest challenge for most of these companies though, will be in understanding HOW to effectively ride the new social marketing horse, as the transformation required to adopt it is not just a formality, but it is much more profound and encompassing than what companies normally imagine.
As soon as a company realizes what needs to be done to be effective on social media, the problem becomes much larger and difficult to handle, as the changes that would need to implemented affect most of the existing communication paradigm and marketing approach in use inside the company.
Transforming a company's business attitude and way of marketing from the roots is much harder and risky than what such companies are normally challenged with (develop new models, change prices, adopt new marketing incentives, etc.).
This is heavy stuff for a big company to accept, as it requires moving massive amounts of money and resources dedicated from "inventing and promoting as many new needs-products as possible" to listening, supporting, and refining/creating the products and services that the customers expect from them.
For example: As more customers start making decisions based on what they find online, companies will need to devote all of the time they can (not a day a week) to review, respond and engage with their fans and critics who talk, write and comment about their brands.
As the new social media marketing approach promotes open sharing of useful information and resources vs. the self-promotional, ego-centric, hyped approach most companies have had in the past, a company cannot just "pose" as being "open", or "social" if its internal practices and policies still reflect a different mentality.
Being present on all major social media platforms is not a sign of being social. Spamming existing and potential customers via social media tools by repeatedly promoting unrequested products or paddling your latest PR announcement, bother and distance customers more than traditional ads did.
For however challenging it may be, becoming social involves taking a true, sincere interest for your customer interests and needs as much as for the untapped ideas and conversations that could be made to surface from within the many talented individuals inside your company.
For this and many of the reasons listed above I see 2010 as the year in which companies start to massively put serious efforts in developing strong, passionate, loyal communities of fans and supporters.
As companies realize how much better spent is their marketing money when invested in building relationships rather than going only after the sale, they'll flock to embrace this new business paradigm.
"Social marketing works best when it’s earned, not paid for." (Source: Geoff Ramsey - eMarketer)
A new emerging key trend in 2010 will be small brands becoming formidable community creators.
(A great niche is available for someone to report and chronicle such stories, as they provide huge learning value to those entertaining the same path.)
When it comes to the tools that will help you build, support, engage and interact with your future communities of fans, this is were I think you may see the most interesting and disruptive new tools and services to appear in 2010.
I really think that you will see a lot of new, great, fascinating tools designed specifically to gather, engage, and nurture highly passionate communities of fans.
Unfortunately, Ning and similar community building platforms just don't cut it anymore.
The new upcoming community building tools are a full generation ahead of what a typical forum, Ning or the typical social networking platform used to offer.
They are sexy, easy to access and use, they are visually attractive, and finally "usable".
These new social platforms, which hook up on to Twitter and Facebook as extensions do to a common switchboard, are now more specific, vertical and dedicated to specific audiences and applications.
They are also portable, re-embeddable and ubiquitous, they are join-able in one-click and they exist wherever users find them appropriate, not in one centralized location only.
The new social platforms bring together the best forms of micro-publishing, social sharing and real-time/asynchronous collaboration and presentation (including the use of video) to the table in one new very powerful mix.
For some, limited inspiration (to be further remixed) please look at:
and please suggest ME, in the comments section, what do you see as the upcoming interesting players in this space.
In 2010 calculating Social Media ROI becomes increasingly a necessity for companies investing heavily in social media marketing as a way to measure and justify their new costs.
More web analytics tools will become available to a much greater number of people. But as the value of the equation "traffic=money" will continue to lose value in favor of attention and engagement, everyone will need more tools to measure these other metrics.
There is in fact already a growing number of social buzz monitoring and tracking tools available out there, but few of these measure anything more than basic, traditional static traffic and referral numbers.
The new social analytics monitoring tools I anticipate will combine some of the existing web traffic measurement metrics alongside a whole new set of social performance indicators such as:
Here is a light taste of what's to come:
What will people pay for?
"For every big-dollar, high-overhead asset like FOX News, there's a thicket of Little Green Footballs. For every 20th Century FOX, there's some 16-year-old kid pulling down a couple million views on YouTube with a video produced on a camera phone. For every Wall Street Journal, there are thousands of financial bloggers plugging away for glory or whatever small fortune they may find.
In short, pretty much any content that can be sold on the web is being offered for free."(Source: Chris Baskind - ConversationAgent)
How do you survive economically under such circumstances?
The answer is in understanding that:
a. content is a marketing vehicle - it's a commodity and there's tons of it around
b. You can't charge for content that I can find elsewhere for free
c. You can charge premium prices though for the same content as long as bundled in unique ways which save me time and bring more more value than what I can typically find by myself with a Google search.
d. Finding and bringing together great content in new and meaningful ways is the new ultimate content value challenge.
e. You can charge premium prices for the same content as long as the "experience" is unique, memorable and customizable to my very own needs.
f. The "earning" of trust, reputation and the ability to do community-building are the next frontiers for anyone doing business online.
CwF + RtB = $$$
If you haven't seen it yet I strongly suggest you give a good look to the presentation that Mike Masnick of Techdirt, delivered at least twice this year on the alternative business model used by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, to move business for million of dollars while giving away his music online completely for free.
His formula, CwF + RtB = $$$ has a lot of common sense, in fact, for what I see, the formula could actually do without the RtB ("give them reason to buy") part, as by having created a following of fans Trent Rezor has already given plenty reason to them to buy something unique, premium or special from him.
Once you are a fan, "anything" unique that you can have of your "star" is worth investing on... and that's the formula. Create a following of raving fans, and then give them special / premium and really cool stuff (possibly in limited quantity) that they can buy from you.
Morale of the story: no matter whether you are in music or car selling, building a true community of fans, by giving out lots of real, heavy-value stuff before asking anything in return, has a lot of sense and it is one damn good direction to follow.
Personal branding becomes an important part of the equation.
You can't connect with fans if you don't know what personal branding is all about.
One of the key ingredients needed to grow a strong and loyal community of fans is the one of developing a strong personal branding strategy.
Personal branding or the art of leaving an "indelible impression that is uniquely distinguishable" is going to increase its importance and strategic value to those who have understood how valuable it is to place their name, face and personal story at the center of their communication and marketing strategy.
To create a successful personal brand in 2010 and beyond you will need to listen a lot more to what customers really say and want while leveraging to the max the endless supply of content and the Internet as the most efficient free distribution system to reach them.
In 2010 your company will need to stop treating customers as consumers and start actively to listen to their requests and needs.
Personal branding is a communication approach by which you stop placing your company name and the "we" in front of everything you discuss about your company and you start to use the "I" and "you" as much as possible.
Personal branding is about placing your name and face behind your content, products and offers not to show how cool you are but to engage on a more direct level with your customers.
Personal branding is about reputation inside and outside of your circle of friends.
Personal branding is about being as upfront, direct and honest as you can be while giving your readers and customers the information and the insight only you have.
Personal branding is about building reputation and trust. 2010 is all about learning seriously how different it is to go from traffic building and link scouting to reputation and trust creation.
"The game is the same, and it's the quality of your name.
Whatever product or service you must say grace over, there's somebody out there with the same thing -- only cheaper.
But they can't discount the trust you develop with your potential customers.
In a real sense, trust is the currency of the next media economy."
(Source: Chris Baskina - Conversationagent.com)
Lots of things happening on the web publishing front. Bloggers and small web publishers are strongly divided between those who see a gradually deteriorating marketplace for their skills, to those who are in difficulty choosing which of the many opportunities they see in front of them to take.
Who is right?
Those who see things a little gray, see well. The decade is over and many things have definitely changed for small independent publishers and bloggers.
An increasingly smaller amount of web publishers will be able to sustain itself via advertising revenue.
While many could gather enough commissions and ad revenues to make some money out of their tech or writing interest, the number of the smaller guys doing this keeps increasing but the revenue averages and therefore the number of those who can survive with this type of activity seems to be falling off pretty rapidly.
a. Too much low-quality, undifferentiated content offerings. The content that is produced by most of these small or micro-publishers is more often than not of low quality, has little or no originality or unique value, is often badly laid out and made hard to read by too many advertising calls all around it.
b. The huge content growth you have witnessed in the last 12 months is not stopping. It is actually growing and accelerating. At this pace, how much advertising do you need to support all of the content out there now?
c. Bad business culture. The space is crowded by too many people wanting to make a quick buck, fast and easy. And with more and more low-quality supply becoming available, it becomes harder to be visible on major search engines, less and less people can find it, and those few that do hit the ads out of despair, not out of true interest.
The early years of AdSense Bonanza are over and young web publishers rushing to build their little self-sustainable niche sites will not find the audience and revenue they expect or have read about unless they:
a. invest solid time in creating unique high-value quality content that is radically different than what you find on most blogs and web sites out there.
b. carve themselves a true niche: the more specific the better. Selecting a niche does not mean not selecting a vertical that has the highest paying advertising rates. Choosing a niche means identifying a very specific topic for which people have interest in, you have strong competence for (or you have qualified resources that do), and for which there is little or no competition providing high-value content, services and products.
c. stop thinking how to make money first, when they have created no unique value yet.
I have seen many complain about the meager AdSense revenue they collect, but the fault in my view, is only theirs, as they insist in creating sites which again are not vertical enough and do not provide great content.
Hordes of small web publishers build blogs for the sheer goal of making money with it either via AdSense or by bringing in multiple advertising networks, affiliate products promotions and whatever else can pay the extra buck. All of these, are doomed to small earnings and an average lifetime of not more than 15 to 18 months.
Many others spend time and content around a topic they are truly interested and passionate about but they fail to be creative and daring enough, and so they end up posting short articles and news stories like there are a million others out there. Little character, no personality, just a lot of average quality content. This approach doesn't break it either.
You can recognize most of these doomed sites by looking at the percentage of advertising on their pages versus the amount of actual content displayed. When this ratio is too slanted in favor of the interruptive, not-relevant ads then you know that's a blog that will not last long in the future.
When your only interest is in producing enough content to be plastered with ads, affiliate promotions and "paid for" reviews your effectively trying to squeeze revenue from the system without ever adding true value to it. You are a parasite.
But there's more.
The key, one most critical problem you as an entrepreneurial small web publisher fail to realize, is that by having a strategy based on squeezing out advertising revenue from near-zero-value content for the sake of "monetizing" traffic in the most cost-effective way, you are selling out, dispersing, diluting and squandering the one strategic asset that could serve you most in the near future: your reputation and the trust that we will place in it.
And once you lose that reputation, that trust, that comes both from individuals but also from Google, Facebook and Twitter and from the people that know you for what you do online, it is much harder, if at all possible, to regain your partners and customers' trust.
Think Google penalization or ban, think Facebook or Twitter account closure, think people dropping your feed and unsubscribing from your newsletter. Anyone of these misadventures could cost you orders of magnitude more than the meager amount of time you have invested in trying to squeeze money out of polluting the web with nothing.
2010 is the time to come to reason and start seeing the myriad of sustainable opportunities that the web offers not as a an old enemy town to loot but as a public, beautiful and vast community-owned park in which everyone can build or create a corner of "value": whether it be a fountain, a green on which to play or a coffee shop under some luscious trees, you can extract real sustainability when you start providing true value.
The same is online.
But beware. If you focus only on letting "others" make business on your part of the park, like when you let ad networks or Google place their ads on your high-value content pages, you are letting those advertisers build relationships with new customers while you get only a little revenue and you build no customer base for yourself.
In 2010, it's time for many web publishers to start leveraging their own brands, and their own products and services, while gradually building strong and loyal communities of fans. It is in this direction that talented independent web publishers can find reward for their skills and talent while creating a sustainable revenue channel that they can directly control, avoiding the risk of depending too much on other middlemen for their survival.
Blogs are here to stay. They are the most immediate and powerful form of publishing that has become available to humankind in history.
But blogs will not be anymore the only new content publishing format to make the headlines.
While until now most any individual deciding to launch a new personal publishing project online didn't even consider anything else but opening a blog, my feeling is that we are moving into a new phase into more specialized resource and information sites will emerge, in which a blog, is just but one of the components. Often, not the most critical one.
Therefore if you are about launching yourself in your first or next online adventure, by opening just another blog, my advice is: think again.
There are a trillion blogs out there and spitting out content that can make yours stand out at the pace of a post at as time is a really ambitious challenge nowadays.
It's not impossible, but it's very tough.
The key limitation of most new sites and blogs that are not extensions of a company communication infrastructure is the lack of focus and of unique, high-value, quality content.
Posting a few times a week, short articles on a number of topics that interest you, can certainly be a great writing and communication playground but is positively not a way to create a sustainable communication project on the web.
Value and unique character are what is missing most from many of the new blogs being published out there.
In essence: in 2010 and beyond, those few that will succeed will be characterized by three essential traits:
1) passion - true competence
2) verticality - hyper niche focus
3) community of fans
Let me read your comments and thoughts!
End of Part 1 -- Part 2
Originally written by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia and first published on January 5th, 2010 as "MasterNewMedia Trends And Predictions For 2010 And Beyond - Part 1".
General Trends - Terrance Emerson
Innovation Trends - Kheng Guan Toh
Online Advertising - Dmitriy Shironosov
Social Media - Kheng Ho Toh
The Real Challenge for Publishers in 2010 is Being Social Without Looking Fake - Monika Wisniewska
Community Building Platforms: Ning doesn't cut it anymore - Jiri Kabele
The Emergence of Social Analytics - Andrey Burmakin
Online Business Models - Free or Paid in 2010? - Xiao Fang Hu
Personal Branding - IreneK
Blogging - Web Publishing - franckito
Communication Formats: Beyond Blogs - juliengron
Originally written by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia.Robin Good -