New Media Trends And Predictions 2009: What Independent Web Publishers Should Expect - Part 1
Here my new media predictions for 2009: what to expect when it comes to new media, professional web publishing and learning, collaboration and social media? Find out everything I see coming across these key areas in this two-part report opening today.
Photo credit: Giancarlo Mazzaro - 7th Floor
I have prepared this report, which gets published every year end (here my 2008 new media predictions Part1 and Part 2), by focusing on what I think you, my reader, are most interested in knowing: what a professional new media publisher needs to know.
The contents and topic areas I have decided to include are particularly interesting to those who are involved in media, communication, marketing or education and it is directed primarily at non-technical individuals who are passionate about communicating effectively with new media and who want to know ahead of time what awaits them next.
My look at future trends on these fronts is a personal one. I don't claim to be an expert in these fields, but I spend loads of time experimenting and working in them, and therefore I develop my own opinions about what is going to be happening next.
These below are the new media areas I will analyze for my 2009 predictions which I have divided into two parts:
- Part 1, the one you are reading now, which is devoted to online publishing, marketing and advertising, video and net television, digital imaging, visual communication and site design, and
- Part 2, tomorrow, dedicated instead to social networks and social media, identity, future events strategy, learning, education, online collaboration.
Here all the details... and have a great 2009!
2009 Media Predictions - Part 1
If you are an online web publisher, a pro, or a would-be one, what I am covering here below are the areas that I believe you should pay most attention to in the upcoming 12 months. I expect again all of these areas to show lots of activity, announcements and the release of new tools. Since there are over twenty web publishing publishing-related areas I personally follow, I am structuring these 2009 trends and predictions reports in two parts.
The first part today covers essentially web and video publishing, visual communication and site design, marketing and advertising trends, while Part 2, to be published tomorrow, January 1st, will cover social networks and social media, the future of events, learning, education, online collaboration.
As in most of the areas I analyze here, while I am not an insider in any, my position of online publisher and external observer allows me at times to notice things that may not be so obvious and evident to those working in my same direction.
These are the ones that I feel are going to be most interesting for online web publishers in 2009:
1) Average online ad prices will be falling. Here's why:
"The Internet advertising market, like all markets, responds to changes in supply and demand. In the current recession, demand for advertising is likely to decrease. At the same time, supply of online inventory, page views, is continuing to increase.
Social networks and other social media sites in particular are creating masses of new inventory.
As a result, the price of online advertising will continue to fall in 2009."
2) Advertising markets are expanding
"The US market represents about half of all online advertising, which is partly what makes monetizing international traffic so difficult.
Building up direct ad sales teams (and networks) internationally will partially help to bridge the gap, but this will not be enough.
....in Asia direct monetization models (i.e. selling things directly to users) have proven to be a better business model than advertising.
U.S. companies will need to understand and embrace the direct monetization models that have worked well overseas, principally mobile monetization, premium subscriptions models and digital goods models based on selling greater functionality, scarcity or status."
(Source: Consumer Internet Predictions 2009 - by Lightspeed Venture Partners)
Check out also this recent video in which Google's Vint Cerf explains how informational advertising meets the social network in 2009:
When writing about online advertising future it is a little harder for me to separate what I would want to see from what it's going to take place. As many others, I personally feel that traditional advertising is losing more and more ground in terms of effectiveness and that the winning new front is the one of highly targeted, contextual advertising both via established media venues, but more and more via smaller and highly targeted content outlets (blogs) and via communities, forums and social media venues.
If online advertising prices keep going down like they have in the last few months, a few good things are likely going to happen:
1) Those that will keep spending will try to target their marketing messages in the most effective way possible.
2) Banner-like CPM advertising will be increasingly ineffective and albeit inexpensive it will not provide tangible benefits to neither advertisers nor publishers.
Monetization via Google AdSense
I know you will think I am crazy, but I really think that in 2009, AdSense will become a superperforming money making machine for a good number of online web publishers.
Thanks to the long-awaited marriage between AdSense and Analytics now web publishers can dip into the hard data they were looking for to understand what their readers click that makes them money. This is pretty revolutionary from my personal viewpoint and I would expect that for those who have enough skill or resources to study and analyze in depth the wealth of this data there will be an ocean of opportunities to improve their AdSense-based revenue stream.
Under these circumstances, the use of heavy A/B testing to find best placement and ad style as well as the optimization of targeted ad placement opportunities for advertisers interested in specific pages or sections of your site are likely the two most valuable strategic actions you can plan on taking during the coming year.
What to expect?
The world of search is under heavy transformation and 2009 will positively be bringing new surprises, features and new search tools. What appears as irreversible is the fact that search engines, Google first, are going to increasingly value your choices and clicks as a reference value to serve relevant results for your queries.
After links and PageRank, your actual attention and behaviour patterns are going to increasingly influence the results that Google and others are going to serve you. This is especially true for Google, who, by monitoring via Analytics, Adsense and AdWords can now see your site behaviour from all of the most critical viewpoints, and is therefore in the ideal position to decide whether and when your content is relevant as a reading and / or advertising destination.
What SEO strategies to put in place for 2009?
Video and conversational media marketing, via forums and social communities will be among the most effective ways to keep your content visible inside major search engine result pages.
That is: if you want to populate search results for your specific niche your presence must be solid and well spread across diverse media outlets.
The new interesting thing about link juice and PageRank, is that now you can be a lot more efficient about where and how you hand out PageRank to others even if, like me, you like to heavily promote other sites and news and offer plenty of reference links inside your articles. By utilizing tools like Apture, you can now provide valuable links and multimedia references, that keep your reader on your site and do not dilute your link juice across too many different sites. This by itself, especially if the Apture model catches on and other competitors move into this area, is a major shift for SEO and for delivery additional value while improving SEO benefits to any site.
Ad Management and Optimization
Ad optimization and ad management platforms will increase in number and featrures offered. This is a fast growing area for online independent publishers and the need to manage and coordinate in an easy and efficient way all of your advertising inventory, from AdSense to your personal direct advertisers is increasingly felt.
2009 may actually see the crowning of OpenX as one of the best solutions in this area for independent web publishers, with many other contenders, including YieldBuild, Pubmatic, Rubicon Project as well as Google own not so easy to use powerful Ad Manager fighting for a piece of this pie.
Internet marketing tactics get wide adoption.
2009, at least in my eyes, may be the year in which businesses of all kinds, not just how-to-make-money-on-the-internet guys, will start leveraging many online marketing tactics and strategies while extracting the best parts of these and making them less extreme and artificially hyped.
As a matter of fact, sales letters, squeeze pages, scarcity triggers, identification and social proof are all great marketing components that deserve to be popularized and put to use by a much larger number of online businesses. The key difference we will see is how effective these marketing techniques can be even when used in a more sober, credible and professional looking fashion, and how much more they can outperform their traditional counterparts when mixed in with the right doses of common sense web 2.0 and social media marketing savvy.
New Advertising Agencies?
I don't know whether 2009 will be the year that this happens, but I know it is about time that it does. Independent web publishers need a new kind of small advertising agency that leverages groups of high quality, tight focus, strong community building blogs to sell highly targeted advertising opportunities to small and medium sized advertisers that match their ideal audiences.
Outside of a very few and rare exceptions I am increasingly amazed at the size of the untapped market for direct advertisers that high quality small sites and independent blogs are leaving on the table for lack of resources and time. We have web-based self-service advertising outlets, we have auction-style ad clearinghouses, we have AdSense-AdWords and its many counterparts, but we do not have a group of small advertising agencies willing to sell marketing, branding and sponsorhsip to specific sectors.
The Google competition is too strong and it is very hard to go and convince traditional advertisers of the benefits of new media marketing.
Then it may very well be that this is the wrong way to look at things and that the future is all about small publishers rolling up their sleeves and setting up their own personal ad management system and small direct marketing team. Given the economic times, this may the very best way to go for independent publishers in the next 12 months, next to their already established revenue channels.
Professional Web Publishing
2009 will see the establishment of automatic web site builders that go, in terms of usability, features and cost of maintenance well beyond blogs and personal publishing tools we have seen so far. There have been a number that have already surfaced in 2008 but given the premises I think we are going to see a lot more interesting ones coming out this year.
Most of the existing solutions are fully hosted services and based on the past approach to publishing, this would normally appear as something reserved only for the novice and beginners. But as we move more and more to a cloud-based access to all of our services and data it makes sense that we may be looking at a lot more hosted professional solutions, than do away with the classical equation, professional site requires dedicated server and publishing software running on it. 2009 may likely bring the confirmation signs that this is indeed the road we are headed to.
At LeWeb08 I was truly impressed with the work of Czech automatic site builder webnode.com, one of the winners of the startup competition, and I can't wait to experiment using it as an affiliate partner in 2009 to give voice and a publishing platform to those people in my community network who are not geeks.
Content creation and syndication tools will keep increasing in variety and use and adding content of whatever kind to your blog page will become as easy as clicking and dragging stuff over your desired page destination.
Automatic website builders will give a hard time to WordPress and other traditional blog publishing platforms.
A serious quality service that will provide automatic WordPress site installation and customization will become available. This is the single most frequent request that would be pro web publishers have. Who can install and customize me my WordPress site.
New tools that will pull in different types of content from multiple sources, allowing you to create related stuff boxes or complementary info sections, will become more sophisticated and will allow even small individual bloggers to add lots of quality content to their articles.
External content gets to be visited in place. That's right, differently than what it used to be until now, you are not going to be sending as much people around the web by providing great links to content destinations not on your own pages, as new technologies provide increasingly the ability for that external content and resources to be displayed right within your content pages via pop-up windows and other effective on-the-page visual solutions.
(for some great examples please see MasterNewMedia review of Apture)
They key point to pay attention to on this front, is that the new content creation, aggregation and referencing tools that will have the most appeal will be the ones which will allow for the editor to play a strategic role in selecting, sorting, and cleverly juxtaposing and grouping content units contextually and according to the editorial focus of their site.
Therefore I am calling 2009 the year that will see the birth of content creation and publishing tools that will be at the intersection of where Apture, Splashcast, Iterasi and Mixwit/Muxtape are and have been.
It is not just the ability to aggregate, find and republish that interests online media publishers but specifically the ability to add editorial value to existing content out there, by acting as curators, compilation masters, news djs or content mash-uppers, something that has been too often dismissed in the past as having no value.
The opposite is becoming true. To create extreme value you need not create new content. Greatest value sits in having the ability to find great, unknown, disconnected, content pearls and to bring together in editorially effective ways.
Beyond the sheer quantity of content published, differences between popular independent sites and traditional media web outlets will sharply decrease, with each side increasingly borrowing ideas and solutions from the other part.
As a matter of fact I dare to say that some of the most successful blogs and independent sites will be those that will most effectively mix-in big online media solutions into their approach, while traditional media web sites who will integrate typical blog and social media solutions may also see a greater appreciation by those already fluent in the digital universe.
News Aggregation and Newsmastering
I was extremely happy to attend the Gillmor Gang session at LeWeb08, as it was rich of insightful exchanges. Among these, Gabe Rivera, the wizard of Oz behind technology news aggregator Techmeme, stated something I have been vouching for much before Techmeme even existed: newsmastering, that is the work of aggregating and republishing selected news according to a specific theme / focus or topic must be the fruit of human editor. Yes, you can definitely take advantage of automated news aggregation and filtering technologies but the last vote on which stories should go up on your newsradar should be reserved only to the newsmaster. Yes, crowdsourcing and bottom up network votes and suggestion can further help uncover gems, but to me, nothing beats the result one skilled one human editor can produce, when not delegating to algorithms or followers their ability to choose what is really worth looking at.
Here is Gabe Rivera from LeWeb08 stating exactly this when asked if the perfect algorithm for a news aggregation service could ever be found.
Morale of the story: the art of newsmastering has yet to catch on with greater strength and 2009 will keep seeing growth of evangelism, tools and adoption of this content filtering and republication approach. By all means this will become integral part of news making for both mainstream media and small independent publishers everywhere.
Extend now the same concept to any other digital media format beyond news: video, social bookmarking, clippings, audio, presentations, social conversations and so on. The more content gets to be produced in any of these formats the larger the need for someone to search, aggregate and select the most relevant items. Obviously this can be done in an infinite number of ways depending on what is the community focus you are doing this for and the editorial style you want to maintain.
The role of the DD digital distiller, or CC content curator is a natural conseuqence of the above, and while these terms may not be the best ones to capture the idea they are for me now the simplest way to describe this new emergent media producer role.
There have been a few services bringing forward this idea (Splashcast.net and Magnify.net for video, Mixwit / Muxtape - now dead - for music) but they have either not yet provided users with the right tools and approach or have been crunched by legal pressures from traditional media who are yet coming to grasps with such unstoppable free flow of content. Without a shadow of doubt these early services show tremendous potential both in creating strong spontaneous communities of passionate fans as well as in generating loads of truly valuable content. This is why content licensing schemes limiting such approaches should rapidly fall and let more innovative monetization opportunities to fluorish "around" the content and not by selling it directly.
For everyone else with some geekiness inside her DNA, WordPress remains the reference platform especially for those who want to start their own blogs while feeling free to experiment and change with literally thousands of different design templates (themes) and plugins available. WordPress, which is an open-source product, has also on its side a powerful distributed community of fans and supporters who openly share great little tools and contribute to improve and refine the existing infrastructure. What may fall into place for the multitude of those who would want to use WordPress but are too busy or too little tech savvy to spend time installing and configuring, is the launch of a few services / tools that will provide seamless WordPress installation on your server, either by doing manually for you, or by offering pre-configured and easily upgradeable solutions. I, for one, would have a ton of customers to refer to it.
Live Blogging will increasingly be a growing trend of independent news publishing and 2009 will see further synergies between real-time reporting tools, such as real-time blogging, chat-IRC-IM, live mobile video streaming, multi-cam reporting, audio streaming, twittering and other social media. Providing a dashboard of such tools to leverage the potential reporting fire-power of a small team of distributed reporters at an event is the next frontier to be challenged by players in this field.
Web Video - Online Video Publishing
More web publishers will start using video in 2009.
Driving forces behind this are going to lower prices for high-quality camcorders which have become very simple to operate and much better video sharing services accomodating all kinds of original video formats, resolutions and even HD video at no cost to the video publisher.
At the end of the equation, there is more video content available on the Internet and therefore a greater need for effective video search engines as well as sites or blogs that make sense of all of these content by letting the most interesting content emerge through various means and approaches. Expect 2009 to see the announcement of new services and tools dedicated to video search as well as to aggregating, filtering and assembling topic and theme-specific video playlists.
In 2009 you will also see the first group of automatic video to text transcription services and tools. This is a very hot area because as soon as there is some reliable solution to automatically transcribe audio inside video clips into text format, a universe of new content becomes accessible to everyone via traditional search engines. So, video to text transcription and innovative video search engines go hand in hand.
Other video publishing features that will need to move to mainstream status in 2009 are:
- deep linking as well as
- captioning / annotating,
- direct linking from any video frame to any specific URL and
- personalized - user controlled ad overlay space
- hot video spots (a visual indicator of the hot / most viewed points in the video) which will have all to become part of the basic video publishing feature set for any video sharing site.
Strong competition from early adopters and power users will drive adoption by more mainstream publishers and bloggers as well.
On the live video streaming front Ustream and Mogulus will consolidate their leading position and may be likely acquisition targets by anyone of the large players being among the most popular and feature-rich video streaming services available.
Kyte, Qik, Stickam, Flyxwagon and many of the more recent entries in the mobile live video streaming arena, like Finnish startup Floobs which I recenty discovered at LeWeb08, will see several new entries with some quite innovative features. Multicam / multi-view reporting of events will take off in 2009.
Conversational social video platforms like Seesmic have a more uncertain future due to their tendency of trying be too many things to too many different audiences. Seesmic as a video commenting and Twitter-like conversational platform is not bad at all, and as I have suggested to Loic in the past, having the opportunity to de-centralize its deployment, by having the opportunity to create Seesmic-enabled communities (what I called MySeesmic) would be great motivators for wider adoption.
I see such tools having a much easier business life if they were targeted to specific uses and markets rather than as a final destinations a-la Facebook, Myspace or Twitter are. 2009 will likely tell, before it is over, whether I am right or wrong on this one.
In 2009 we'll also witness a growing number of video sharing and publishing services going the Pro route. That is: either you have a professional, commercial use for publishing your videos, and therefore appreciate having specific advanced features like video analytics and ad management, or you can go to any of the free and open video sharing sites.
Brightcove has been among the first to make a distinct move in this direction, but I think you will see more soon.
YouTube itself may actually be the one that will surprise everyone by releasing a number of truly powerful tools to empower new and more effective ways to create highly distributable video playlists on specific topics and themes.
HD video is the new wave to ride.
If you are already into video publishing online this is definitely the year to step into HD. The new high definition format is increasingly supported by major video sharing sites and the prices for a decent HD camcorder have dropped down to $150 or less.
2009 will see all video sharing sites embracing the new standard with the best ones integrating encoding and distribution of your video at the most appropriate bitrate for each viewer.
Video, like any other content, wants to be as findable as possible.
Until now there have been a handful of web services and software tools that have taken your video to as many video sharing sites as you desired. End result your video is duplicated across 10 or 20 video sharing sites and supposedly this gives you some extra exposure and visibility. In reality what you want to achieve to get greater findability via the search engines is diversification of keywords by which your title and key meta-data are found. By having multiple video destinations you are in the ideal position to diversify your title, description and tags multiple times to serve different but complementary target audiences. In 2009 you should see video distribution services like Tubemogul and Heyspread add these new features alongside lots of new and highly detailed metrics.
More and more traditional television channels will be broadcasting also to the web. The sooner they will do so, the better.
P2P distribution offers extreme cost advantages to any media publisher interested in international distribution (read live sports) and the ability to gain orders of magnitude of more data about who is watching what and where. Isn't that what advertisers and sponsors are looking for?
In 2009 you should not expect any major moves by traditional media channels on this front as it will take them longer to resolve the licensing issues involved in distributing content across such new unexplored channels. In the meanwhile a small army of minuscule companies and small borderline publishers are generating millions of extended video views daily via the use of mostly unathourized P2P television sharing platforms.
As a matter of fact I would expect some harsher rules and restrictions to be implemented against users in 2009 when it comes to P2P TV in some Western countries. Asian companies manufacturing such tools and users in those regions will likely increase their mastery of the technology and business opportunities and will likely be among the emerging new players in this sector in a year or more.
One thing stands clear in my mind: whichever mainstream TV channels will embrace soonest open P2P distribution will have tremendous audience and business oppurtunities advantages relative to their over-the-air- and cable-only counterparts.
Video Related Services
In 2009 a tremendous market opportunity will present itself to those able to organize and deliver good quality video stock footage for the typical web video publisher. There is a total scarcity of this kind of resources and the few out there charge outrageous prices for 5 to 10 seconds video clips.
Also in the realm of visual effects for creating video titles and other opening sequences are in very high demand with very little available on the market. It will not take but a few months before you should see some really interesting services pop-up on this front.
Video Shooting Equipment
When it comes to video hardware for online video publishing work, my basic advice remains the same: go for good brands that provide you with recording on solid state memory cards (hard disk is second choice), a microphone input jack and a wide lens adapter. These are the three things that can make a huge difference in the quality of your video.
Camcorders with such characteristics are available from several brands and start from prices as low as $150 (Kodak Z6). My favorite ones remain the Canon models of the series FS and HF (Vixia) which start at around $350. If you buy a camcorder in 2009 make sure it is an HD (high definition) model.
In 2009 it will be a must for any serious web publisher to have a mobile version of their site. While there are already a number of services providing free mobilization of your site, they mostly rely on creating a portable device compatible version of your RSS feed while integrating some kind of advertising into it.
Since I hate being bombarded by ads when looking at my mobile phone I am not yet sold on any of these early solutions, but I am pretty sure that in 2009 I will find a new service, maybe from Google or maybe from my blog publishing platform provider, that will allow me to easily publish a mobile phone optimized version of my site contents automatically.
Web Site Design Trends
Web site design will keep evolving in 2009 as well. My personal preferences in the coming year are for:
- three or four column designs that has a fixed body width,
- footer area to provide additional information and resources,
- clear separation of traditional display advertising from content, as well as
- greater integration of highly contextual and relevant ads (a-la AdSense) with the content,
- mean and lean mastheads saving lots of vertical space for above the fold content and premium ad
- larger-sized font size inside body text to provide less coolness factor and more legibility
- use of tabbed interfaces for main navigation as well as for information boxes
- better integration of video and other multimedia links inside text content
In January 2009 MasterNewMedia will launch a new design characterized by all of these traits. Stay tuned. Here is a small preview of what we are working on.
Design credit: Matteo Wikimaki - Metaline
Visual Communication and Presentation Tools
This is a time of profound progress in the area of visual communication. In no more than two or three years we will look back at PowerPoint presentations with the contempt we reserve today for those old, static, institutional web sites.
The tools that will make this possible are all to be invented and the innovative web presentation tools we have seen emerge in these last two years are good indication that 2009 will bring more of these tools and with greater innovative metaphors for their use.
If you take as an example the area of live annotation and whiteboarding, most of tools available out there still reflect the original paradigm developed by Microsoft Netmeeting and its original basic toolset. End result is that when we attend live web seminars, the artwork created with the existing whiteboarding tools looks always something like a first grader first attempts at drawing. Instead of making us look more professional these annotation tools make us look more amateurish than we really are.
Very few companies so far have ventured in studying and analyzing which would be the tools and features users really need when it comes to communicate clearly and in a visual way a specific idea, and given the fast increasing need for tools that help us communicate more clearly our ideas, I really see plenty of opportunities in this area.
Online Digital Image Editing
The coming change here is: Your complete digital imaging workflow will soon be all online.
Capturing offline, editing, uploading, redownloading, editing, re-uploading is time consuming and inefficient from many standpoints. If our digital cameras started to capture directly in the cloud, and if stock and image sharing libraries started to integrate more image editing tools in their basic feture-set we would be moving in the right direction.
In 2009 you will see exactly some of these innovations and improvements materialize, while making the use of Photoshop and other complex and sophisticated image editing tools obsolete for most web publishers.
Legal issues - bureaucracy -censorship
2009 will likely bring new rules and restrictions independent publishers will have to comply with. This will vary from country to country but it is apparent that the trend is clearly headed in this direction.
As I see it, such issues may actually be a great medicine for independent publishers as it will require for all of them to get more involved in lobbying for their rights and to start getting involved in the debating of new legislation that will impact the publishing universe they operate in.
Those proposing and introducing conservative, restrictive legislation seem more concerned with extending the commercial lifetime of existing media rather than providing the fertile grounds in which new media can truly flourish. Providing research, examples and data that proves how suicidal this can be is really a responsibility for all web publishers to take on.
End of Part 1
Originally written by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia and first published on December 31, 2008 as "New Media Trends And Predictions 2009: What Independent Web Publishers Should Expect - Part 1".
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