Web and New Media Predictions 2007 - Future Trends and Opportunities
Here, the key new media trends and major web changes I envision in the coming 12 months. There is positively plenty being left out, and you are very welcome to add your comments and notes to it, but this, what all of its limitations, is what I do see now:
As if 2006 hadn't seen enough of it, the online video publishing and sharing space will see further innovation and growth. Better and easier tools will facilitate small and large publishers abilities to post, edit and aggregate quality content online. In this scenario the greatest opportunity it still represented by those companies that will be providing the tool and means to facilitate the filtering, selection and distribution of quality video content out of the ocean of low-quality stuff being dumped out there. Video search engine and directories are in particularly favorable position to provide breakthrough tools and facilities to let quality content finally surface. One of my most wanted tools, the online video interview recorder, will also likely become a reality next year for the benefit of many online reporters and video producers.
2) Online Advertising
Online advertising will keep growing unabated and together with it the approaches, methods and tools that will further enable its fruition. Contextuality, unobtrusiveness, relevance and in-place service (the ability to explore ad-related product information, including pricing without ever leaving the page were the ad was first clicked) are going to remain in my opinion the key competitive factors driving effective online advertising. I expect new types of intermediaries to further expand publishers opportunities by providing technologies and means to select in real-time the most profitable and appropriate ads to display according to criteria set up by the publishers themselves. Publisher-driven ad-selection remains one key area open for take-over as publishers will increasingly want to go beyond software-based ad-relevance and into direct ad selection and custom brand-picking. Last but not least 2007 will see the effective dawn of bottom-up, user-driven ad networks, in which small and medium-sized publishers self-select and aggregate relevant and highly related groups of web sites to augment marketing potential, enhance targeting and focus, and boost cost-effectiveness for ad buyers: Network advertising, which has been moving its first baby steps during 2006, will have significant growth in 2007.
3) Online Music Listening
As forecast at the end of 2005, online music listening has really taken a major step forward with the advent of a number of web-based custom music radio stations providing access to great music at free or "next-to-free" prices. Among these are to be noted Pandora, Mercora, LastFM, SomaFM and Musicovery. But the best is yet to come during 2007 new online services will provide yet more innovative and effective ways for you and me to discover and listen to the music we like at free or "next-to-free" prices.
4) Content Aggregation
Content aggregation is positively one of the major opportunities I see ahead, and one that is available to both those developing new tools and services as well as to those like me who will use them for publishing increasingly interesting and valuable content for my audiences. From video and news aggregation to the exploding universe of content widgetry every blogger and small publisher is going soon to be involved in doing content aggregation in one way or another. And to do this effectively you need new tools and facilities designed just for that. For those who will understand early how to intelligently leverage the potential behind it, content aggregation will literally provide a golden mine of opportunities. You may get some taste of how much is boiling in this pan by looking at the notable work Google has recently done with its Custom Search facility, as well as with its Search API. For small and large online publishers 2007 will bring better and more sophisticated news and content aggregation / publishing tools, such as major upgrades in tools like MySyndicaat which will further facilitate access and use of this very powerful tools as for open-source Blogbridge which plans to provide a direct publishing feature allowing power-users of its RSS aggregator to make the leap into becoming effective micro-publishers and news aggregators in no time at all. Last but not least will be the ability to create, assemble and update, thematic, topic-specific custom Web views, something you can already start experimenting with any of the popular Personalized Home Page services already out there, but which will take on a different aspect and value once individuals will start to publicly share some of these.
5) Personal and Independent Publishing
While Gartner has recently reported that blogging will peak in 2007, there is good reason to believe we are still at the very beginning in terms of seeing tools and technologies that will further enable the individual to publish more and with less complexity, and in the increase of individuals and small groups that will want to devote serious time to create their online publishing business. For these, small indpendent online publishers, the people who I essentially write for, 2007 is a year of golden opportunities. After years of experimentation and self-assembled solutions, small (and medium-sized) online publishers will find an increasingly wide array of monetization opportunities awaiting them. Provided by third-party suppliers, online advertising agencies and ad distribution auction services, all these solutions will make it increasingly easy and effective for serious online publishers of any size to monetize in multiple ways their quality content offerings. Merchandising, micro-payments, on-demand printing of custom requested content will also be complementary venues that will gain further usage and exposure in 2007. These and others will synergize with new content aggregation and search tools to give online publishers the greatest opportunity for growth they have seen since Amazon Associates commissions and AdSense came around.
6) Web Conferencing and Online Collaboration
VoIP and screen-sharing will be the key feature drivers for this area which is going to see tremendous growth, especially for smaller companies and for some of the more innovative bigger ones (namely Adobe for now). Key market advantages will be realized by companies in these industries by focusing on very specific market segments and applications. Competitive areas open for take-over remain very much live annotation, recording, and the provision of a highly modular, user-customizable user interface. With Adobe's entry into real-time collaboration and conferencing via the ubiquitous Acrobat door, there is no doubt that we are going to witness lots of increased adoption and usage, as well as greater demand for custom and more performing solutions. One good thing, from my very personal viewpoint is that Adobe has now strongly established itself as the market reference and given the good quality of its technology (formerly Macromedia Breeze) and their smart pricing offered to the SOHO market to enter it, everyone else will have to play at least as good, if not better. To keep under close attention also two other areas tightly related to online collaboration: a) persistent group workspaces (these are real-time meeting venues that are permanently accessible and where you can leave and store important information or presentation materials without needing to re-load such items each time), and b) off-line web applications (these are web-based applications that, just-like SocialText recently announced, can now give you the opportunity to work also when you are offline).
7) Web and Visual Presentation Tools
During 2006 you have been witness to an explosion in web-based presentation tools, PowerPoint alternatives and replacements and a growing number of other tools facilitating the effective delivery of visual presentations through the Web. 2007 will bring more tools to this fast growing group as well as web-based services that will further complement and extend PowerPoint own basic abilities. Before PowerPoint value on the market is eroded by the many new alternatives that will be available, Microsoft would be best positioned to utilize PowerPoint popularity and "authority" in its space to leverage it as a distribution and marketing platform for a whole new set of complementary products and services.
8) Mobile Group Text Messaging
Smart mobs are coming. Though the US has been lagging behind due to a number of industry idiosyncrasies and standard issues, the lure of many commercial opportunities along with the examples brought by the first early entrants, has pushed many to look more seriously into the monetization opportunities to be tapped. Mobile group messaging is hot and though the market isn't yet ready for the many useful applications it will soon allow, you can be sure that in 2007 too we will see a lot of innovation and new announcements in this space.
2006 has tried to criminalize, ignore, and deride (just like in 2005) the idea that P2P networks will soon become the very best and most effective delivery content channel for most rich media. 2007 will show the stabilization off some early entrants in this new space, while a there will be a number of interesting new entries that will further define and broaden the huge potential connected to P2P media delivery. Broadcast television in particular is the one that could reap the greatest benefits the earliest if it only understood the opportunity awaiting it. I guess this will be topic I will be talking quite a bit next year.
10) Visual Search Engines
Visual search engines are long due as wading through the increasingly larger and less relevant streams of search results, news and video clips, wastes valuable time, frustrates the user and ultimately makes both publishers and audiences unsuccessful. Visual search promises to solve many of these problems, though it needs to challenge and resolve some of its won before it can become fully useful. Early entrants of visually navigating information spaces have been the pioneering Visual Thesaurus (now a commercial product), search tools Kartoo and Grokker and music search engine MusicPlasma (now LivePlasma). During 2006 a growing number of visual search tools and web services have been released or upgraded showcasing a strong comeback of development interest in this direction. In 2007 you can expect to see a number of announcement and new releases that will further help establish visual search as one of the key growth areas for the near future. Don't forget above all, that search is going to drive great business and traffic in areas such as product selection, database publishing, and in music and video search too name the key ones. Though not properly a visual search engine, Musicovery is one of the very latest entries in this space and a great example of things to come.
11) Web Metrics
Though 2006 has seen, as I had anticipated, a good number of new services (Crazyegg, Mapsurface, Quantacast, Google's own Analytics) dedicated to this very task, I do expect further new entries in this space, as the competition for the small and medium-sized customers starts to heat up. Nonetheless there are a number of well-established players in this industry, they have been mostly addressing the enterprise market, leaving quality, pricing and service for smaller customers as secondary interests. Furthermore a number of existing small providers have long lagged behind in terms of usability, features, and ease of use. Such motives coupled with the increasing number of online small publishers vying for monetizing their content by showing the true numbers behind their pages make the traffic monitoring, web stats and metrics space highly dynamic and ripe of opportunities. Technorati, Google and Alexa (an Amazon company) in particular, have great opportunities to leverage the data already sitting on their servers and to provide more in-depth information, greater transparency about how data is collected and some kind of "certified" option allowing any site to publicly display its own certified traffic data. What I know for a fact is that small and independent online publishers do crave for this data as it is a vital marketing and sales tool for them and one of the ways to effectively measure their own growth.
12) Mobile Content Delivery and Distribution
Mobile devices, PDAs, smartphones and mobile cellular phones of the latest generation are increasingly around me. Their prices are converging to near-zero as telecom operators choose to subsidize their initial cost in favour of acquiring a new customers and usage-rates and fees are leveled down by the intense competition in this field. This marketplace, made up for now by businessmen and executives-on-the-go, a very rich market segment by definition, is ripe to start talking to us small independent publishers, in the effort to create and invent new effective ways to deliver valuable content, news and information to these individuals just when they need it. RSS news aggregation, video and audio access services are going to think up the best and most profitable ways to bring these two components together. I don't know exactly what, but I do expect to see some interesting announcements in this space very soon.
13) Data analysis - Web 3.0
Data analysis and engines capable of creating in-depth profiles of persons or topics are on the horizon now. Given a few simple references these new engines will be able to collect and cross-reference data from multiple sources in a few seconds, generating thereafter a comprehensive profile of a person, topic or article out there. I also expect significant progress in the area of data visualization tools though as media content business John Blossom recently wrote "It's great that analysis tools are getting recognized by the mainstream media as an important factor in electronic publishing, but don't mistake the foothills of their development for soaring peaks. The payoffs for analytics require very long-term missions and patient investors - not the quick "crank out a portal and flip it" game plan that many have in mind with Web content."
14) Immersive Virtual Worlds
Apparently more real than the fascinating scenarios that Web 3.0 promises, the advent of immersive virtual worlds in which to learn, meet, collaborate and run business is making some significant steps forward. Though some truly innovative and talented pioneering products in this area have not found enough business oxygen to survive the hardship of evangelizing their own initial qualities (SmartMeeting), its own competitors (Tixeo, I-maginer) have make great progress while the success of Second Life fully immersive virtual world has been consecrated by the ranks of over a million individuals (and big companies, too) already using it.
My cherry on the pie for you is this prediction from DemoLetter author Keith Shaw. He writes:
"....a friend suggested to me that "Web 3.0" will be similar to Web 2.0, but in 3-D.. ...".
The funniest part is that he isn't joking when he writes about it!
(Source: DEMOLetter - Predictions 2007)
If you want to check out how well I did last year with these new media related technology predictions check out what I wrote a year ago and see how close I came to what really happened:
Robin Good Predictions for 2006
December 12, 2005
Why 2006 Will Be The Year of Video
December 21, 2005