Everyone likes to think about the future. The Mayans sure did. By now you all know that the world may end in 2012 -- but if it doesn't, what will the media business look like eight years later? It's a hard question to answer, especially as we live in fear of said impending apocalypse, but why not give it a shot.
If the world still exists after 2012 and into ten years from now, I think it'll look something like this...
Google and Apple will be duking it out for world domination. Apple will be making TV sets that connect directly to the Internet and Google will be powering the interface for your cable and satellite television systems (sorry Comcast Xfinity, but you just don't stand a chance when Google buys you).
The publishing business will be making a last gasp to stay relevant with the printed word, knowing that Amazon and Apple have paved the way for their future revenues to be driven through digital distribution. The next stage in the Robert Langdon series of books from Dan Brown will have ads in the hard cover version, as well as integrated into the digital copy. Just before the mad taxi driver drives our fearless hero off a cliff, an ad will pop up for Virgin America promoting its new non-stop service to Miami from San Francisco. In the iPad version, you'll be able to click and buy right now.
Facebook will own your inbox, with email clients embedded OEM-style in all new Lenovo netbooks and tablets. All email will begin to be run through Facebook as it opens the doors on its corporate email system, rivaling Gmail and Google Apps as a corporate service.
All online media will be self-service, except for the integrated, customized units that Google offers on its homepage. Those will take million-dollar deals to execute, with creative requiring a combination of video and community-oriented components that enable you to load the information directly into your Nexus 10 phone. Of course, someone will build a hack that allows you to sync the information with your iPhone 7G-S3-4D (the seventh generation, speedily "cubed," four-dimensional phone). The hack will be available in the Pirate-Apps Store.
Ad networks will still be here and profitable, but the ad exchanges will be under a new name altogether (probably something like demand-side platforms). Sales reps will take your orders and spit back the CPMs (all under $1), and all pages will already be tagged with the universal Google tag that marries together all tags under one container (a few companies fought out the space in 2010-2019, but Google bought them all).
Excite will be back, recreating the simple portal of the early 1990s, and it will be a huge hit! Generation X will be in their late 40s and early 50's and will pine for a day when their digital lives were simpler and easier. Excite will provide a special service called the "Cool Site Of The Day," which will be generated using social graph data targeting and behavioral profiling engines that show what the general audience is looking at -- but delivered based on your specific demographic breakdown. Of course, the site will change every time you log in, so it should really be called the "Cool Site Of The Last 30 Seconds."
And of course, regardless of the fact that 10 years have passed, it will still take a media planner three days to get back to a salesperson, and the salesperson will still be unhappy with the lack of feedback provided.
Ahhh... some thing just never change!