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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Online Publishing Hot Trends: The 2007 Business Outlook For Online Media Publishers

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As the pace of change continues to increase, new small online publishers as well as established content media giants will both need to understand where and how to invest extra time and resources to keep their companies growing while providing more of what online audiences are expecting: quality content, engagement, context focus.

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Photo credit: Gra├ža Victoria

Business media content expert John Blossom, takes a great stab at making this analysis for you, by outlining both the traits of the recent past as well as defining with accuracy and wisdom its likely future outcomes.

The hot online publishing trends presented in this article, apply from bloggers with an itch for creating a sustainable income out of their part-time passion all the way to serious independent publishers, news outlets and large established media companies.

No-one is exempted from these future transformations, and understanding their relevance while researching their viability within your publishing field, will separate those that can keep riding the change from those that will start loosing ground.... and money.

With the confetti from New Year's celebrations barely in the dumpster the hangover from a heady 2006 weighs heavily on the minds of many content services providers.

The pace of change for content producers in 2007 doesn't promise to slow down a whit - and in fact is likely to gain steam as a stalling economy promises to push slow-to-change publishers off the stage altogether and to accelerate the shift to electronic revenues.

Our preview of our full-blown Outlook 2007 focuses on six key "A"s for the new year:

  1. Audience

  2. Aggregation

  3. APIs

  4. Alternatives

  5. Acceleration and

  6. Asia.

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The fireworks for our town's New Year's celebration were splendid this year, a joyous celebration of new beginnings to fuel our hopes for a great 2007. But although the stroke of midnight can hold out hopes for unlimited possibilities in a newly minted year, the dawn comes and reminds us that we still need to take out yesterday's garbage and to make our plans a day at a time.

For the content industry the dawn of 2007 seems to be ringing in its own reality checks in the wake of a tempestuous year of massive shifts:

  • Our Outlook 2006 theme of "Investing in Users" proved to be a spot-on forecast of the enormous surge in user-generated content services dominating the growth story for 2006. From MySpace to YouTube to Wikipedia to major weblogs and a host of other media and enterprise outlets content's story in 2006 was about users in control of content production, aggregation and distribution.
  • Online advertising boomed as never before, creating healthy sources of revenues for many media companies and strength that is powering growth for an ever-expanding Google empire. New advertising networks and a boom in custom printing underscored the rising importance of monetizing context with content that thrives outside of traditional publishing venues.
  • Private equity fueled both major acquisitions of established publishing portfolios and a boom in financing for acquiring and starting online content plays. This helped to focus a great deal of capital on improved publishing productivity - and began to wring real profits from online publishing in more venues than ever before.
  • Enterprises benefited from their own boom in social media services, embracing weblogs, wikis, feeds and online services that allow professionals to keep in touch with one another through their own publishing efforts - and to rise above the disintegration of email as a trusted service. Peer-driven publishing also helped to fuel a broadening acceptance of open access scholarly publications for scientific researchers.

While Google seemed to cement its role as the dominant source for global search and online advertising in 2006 the rise of social media and vertical search services as places to start a quest for knowledge began to shift the balance of power in online content services.

General search services are still an important resource but with an explosion in available content sources the ability to focus on the most relevant content is swinging more users towards trusted human filters as much as new technologies to help them make sense of it all. While this should be good news for traditional editorial sources today's audiences are swinging towards services that can look at all sources of content with a neutral eye.

Quality content still matters, but as major newspapers, magazines and media portals struggle to gain market share from monetizing finite sets of content, those who can point to the world's content and put it in context are gaining the loyalty of today's audiences.

The broadest result of these changes is that traditional media outlets are waning rapidly as a true medium for getting at news and information as well as entertainment and marketing messages.

From YouTube postings to corporate weblogs to weblog coverage of elections to a cell phone video of Saddam Hussein's hanging the messages that changed the world in 2006 were oftentimes from individuals and institutions communicating directly with the world.

2006 was the dawn of an uneasy recognition amongst publishers that enabling the social media revolution will be a core element of their future successes.

It won't be an easy transition - nor will many of today's social media solutions prove to be long-term winners for audiences expecting more sophistication from social media services.

But there will be reality checks on both sides of the publishing equation in 2007 as social media becomes just another aspect of expression through a multitude of channels.

One key factor in 2007's reality check will be a Western economy that is reasonably healthy but showing signs of heading towards a slowdown. Infinite content inventory facing a shrinking demand for advertising will not necessarily kill off every marginal online player but it may spell the end of wishful thinking for many traditional outlets that had underinvested in online and specialty print publishing.

Moreover, as more marketing money heads down the "long tail" to reach highly focused audiences the impact of an economic slowdown is likely to be felt more at the top of the media food chain than at the bottom.

Enterprise content budgets will not be impacted severely for most of 2007 but as the 2008 planning season unfolds a "make do with less" cycle will be encouraging enterprise content users to consider more ad-supported and open access sources of content and to look at how to leverage their own portal infrastructures more effectively to access and publish content.

Consider six key "A"s that will require your attention throughout the new year:



  • Audience


    audience_people.jpg

    In the heady days of 2006 the concept of "clicks" regained popularity as content sites exploded across the board and tried to gain a significant share of a seemingly endless online audience.

    In a more sober 2007 marketers are going to be asking far more questions about online audience measurement and looking far more carefully at how they are reaching their target audiences through media services and through their own direct communications efforts.

    While this promises to be great news for publishers with highly focused content services the other side of this sword is that marketers aren't necessarily going to favor narrow publishing solutions that cannot reach, engage and track audiences on multiple levels.

    2007 promises to be a year in which required proficiency in delivering and measuring video, audio and page-based content from both professional and user-generated sources to sophisticated audiences will challenge traditional publishers to revamp their operations more than ever before.



  • Aggregation


    aggregate_net.jpg

    If 2006 was the year of the weblog, 2007 is shaping up to be the year of the Wiki. Wikis, along with other content technologies that enable quick content aggregation from a multitude of sources, are allowing both individuals and institutions to collaborate on custom content collections more easily than ever before.

    Content plays that based their strength on aggregating captive general-purpose editorial sources will be more challenged than ever in 2007 by tools that allow purpose-driven content to shine in highly contextual venues.

    While in online circles this may mean more content circulating through peer-to-peer distribution and self-syndicating feeds for text, video and audio it also means a movement in 2007 towards custom print publications that pull together content from a multitude of sources for elite audiences.

    Major media companies will try to play larger roles in this aggregation push but today's aggregation is a highly movable feast that may make any headway in aggregation gained from acquisitions rather short-lived.



  • APIs


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    Application Programming Interfaces - APIs for short - are tools that allow tech-savvy users to develop their own content tools using their own content and services from content providers. "Tech-savvy" is a relative term with many of today's APIs, many of which come packaged as easily configured "widgets" that can be plugged in to an existing page of content to deliver sophisticated information or tailored search results with minimal or no technical expertise.

    Expect 2007 to be a year in which APIs and widgets from many sources pop up in a wide variety of contexts to make it easier than ever to tailor content services to very narrow audiences in a wealth of media, enterprise and personal content applications. If you thought the word "mashups" was a bit overused in 2006, be ready for far more aggregation via API-supported mashups in 2007.



  • Alternatives


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    While there is still plenty of ground to be gained by content pioneers, a more competitive market for media, enterprise and personal content services is going to make 2007 much less of a year to favor first movers in a given content sector. Instead the landscape is beginning to favor content services providers who can offer better "second generation" alternative solutions that extend their marketing plans to solve more problems from more angles.

    We'll hear much less about specific solutions in 2007 such as search engines, analytics, video, weblogs and wikis and more about services that combine these and other types of content capabilities to focus on a broader range of user needs. The search for alternatives will also begin to tug at some of the basic infrastructure that has underpinned electronic content services over the past twenty years.

    Are we ready to pack up Windows PCs and email and commit to alternatives that are more in line with today's content users? Many individual and enterprise users are ready to say "yes" in a more serious way in 2007.



  • Acceleration


    acceleration_counter.jpg

    As we had predicted in our Outlook 2006 it was a wild year of wheeling and dealing as major realignments took hold across many publishing and content services sectors. 2007 promises to be another active year for deal-making but the emphasis will be on yet another "A" - acceleration.

    The closing of Tower Records music stores and the selloff of dozens of major newspapers stores signaled one of the key reality checks of 2006 for the content industry: cannibalization is only a concern when there's still something left to eat. Remember that spreadsheet that you put together showing how your content revenues will be shifting over the next few years?

    Better go back and redo it - 2007's pace of change and weakening economy will accelerate the pace towards new forms of publishing far faster than even many futurists would have predicted. We'll see many surprising and sobering foldings and fold-ins throughout the year that will make us wonder when the shift to a new user-driven publishing economy will ever end. Getting "how fast" right will be a major preoccupation in 2007.



  • Asia


    asia_globe.jpg

    While the U.S. and European economies are slowing down, Asian economies continue to boom - and content services are booming right along with them. There is sure to be some fallout from Western slowdowns in Asia during 2007 but in large part the boom in electronic content services in these markets is progressing independent of outside influences.

    Hot online markets in China and India will be joined by expansion in Vietnam and the Near East as countries seeking a global stage turn to online content markets. The pervasiveness of advanced electronic media in countries such as South Korea and Singapore is providing Asian economies powerful communications infrastructure that is likely to accelerate their overall economic growth - and return more fuel for investment in electronic content services.

    As Western publishers wring their hands over intellectual property rights and protecting existing services expect Asia to push past these limitations and to challenge the West in 2007 with expanded scholarly publishing and business media and information services.



So here we go again. The fireworks for the year's first night have dimmed quickly, leaving the cold light of a new dawn to greet a Content Nation faced with challenging times and sober realities. But sobriety can be a good thing if you're equipped to deal with the aftermath of a content party that promised never to end. Hello, 2007 - we're looking forward to you rewarding those ready for your challenges.




Originally published by John Blossom as "Outlook 2007 Preview: Reality Checks for New and Old Forms of Publishing" on January 2, 2007.

Find out more about John Blossom and the management consulting services of Shore Communications Inc., covering the business of enterprise, media and personal publishing at Shore.com.




Photo Credits
Audience: Rob Marmion
Aggregation: Ilin Sergey
Alternatives: Adam Radosavljevic
Acceleration: Michael McCloskey
Asia: sgame

John Blossom -
Reference: Shore [ Read more ]
 
 
 
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posted by on Tuesday, January 16 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015


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