Commentary

One Prediction for 2005 - Divergence

Okay, so I thought I was smart last year, making my 2004 predictions in September of 2003. And I may have even promised to make that a habit. So shoot me.

Here are my predictions for 2005. Actually, I have only one - divergence.

As the Web and all disciplines that fall under the rubric of digital marketing become more mature, with more money entering the space and established models being replicated, divergence will become a term of art in our field even more than it is already.

What is divergence?

If the joining of telephony and broadcast, of news and entertainment, and of cable and telephony again all have had the term convergence ascribed to them, I offer divergence for what is the most compelling trend in our industry today. Just as the Web provided disparate means for communications media and actual content to be distributed, today we have a growing number of means for marketers to reach their audiences in a more targeted fashion via sub-segments within rich media, e-mail, and search, and we have the mother of all examples of divergence in the actual content distribution models out there today.

Of course, I'm talking about blogs.

As my esteemed colleague Jim Meskauskas wrote on Thursday, blogs are little more than Web pages of yore, but with far more frequent updating and little monetization structure. This is one reason why I have sort of snubbed them in this space, asking what the big deal was as recently as this past summer.

But, a conversation this morning with an old friend has me thinking that I need to rethink this, and maybe some more of us should as well.

Ed Cone is a 20-year journalist who has become one of the more noted bloggers and something of a leader in the Greensboro, N.C. Web community. This isn't just because he writes for Ziff Davis and the Greensboro News and Record, or that he wrote for Forbes and Wired magazines. Ed would differ with that view of blogs, as have others such as Tom Hespos and John Patrick, in an interview with Ziff Davis's CIO:

"In fact, a lot of people said that about the Web back in 1994 and 1995-that it's a document-publishing phenomenon and that now, everybody can publish. In theory, that was true-but only if you knew HTML and if you knew how to set up a Web server and a lot of other ifs. What's new with blogging is that anybody can do it."

In the coming weeks, I'll be featuring some of Ed's views on blogs as well as the views of others who have not only asserted themselves and their views, but have built sustainable commercial models with their blogs, some of whom garner hundreds of thousands of unique viewers a day.

More on that next week. For the purposes of this prediction, divergence isn't just about new ways of marketing and about blogs. It's also about new ways for Web publishers to monetize their assets, with an increasing number of premium sites moving to subscription models and new means of monetizing their most valuable media assets - their users. Each major segment of digital marketing will spawn a new sub segment in the coming months. It's already happening all around us, and the disparate ways it will create opportunity will be the major story in our industry in 2005 - it says so right here.

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