Commentary

The One Trend That Explains All Others

What do all of Google’s acquisitions, the proliferation of social media, the long tail of search, and other search engine marketing developments have in common? They all connect to Integrated Asset Digitization, an emerging trend that encompasses several of the most significant issues marketers, publishers, agencies, and consumers will face for years to come.

As Google CEO Eric Schmidt hinted during his conversation with John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Expo last week, Google aims to use its technology to optimize advertising across all media. Google’s Book Search, Docs & Spreadsheets, Picasa, Video/YouTube, and Base are just some of the services that empower consumers to either digitize assets or bring existing digital assets online. Media companies play a major role as well, digitizing TV, radio, out-of-home media, and print media -- both the content and the advertising. It’s the digitization coupled with Web-based access that makes integration possible.

In under 1,000 words it’s impossible to fully cover  just how Integrated Asset Digitization affects all of us, but here are five implications of the trend.

1) Exponentially greater competition poses new search engine optimization headaches. As more assets are digitized and most of them become searchable, every asset becomes a new competitor for search engine visibility. Most of those assets will only come up in long tail search queries, yet some will rise to the top, especially as major marketers and publishers reap the benefits of Integrated Asset Digitization and invest in it more.

2) Media buyers learn new tricks. Googling the phrase “media buyer” (with quotes) brings up 119,000 results, “online media buyer” brings up 32,500, and “integrated media buyer” brings up two. Those two results -- Serve & Volley Media of India and Mark Brookstein of Kansas City, Mo. -- don’t seem to appreciate it (Mark’s job is casually mentioned in a wedding announcement at JewishOmaha.org), but they’re at the start of a trend. Five years from now, how many online media buyers will only be buying media online when it’s just as easy for them to run ads across a range of channels? They’ll use their expertise in auction-based and keyword-based advertising to provide even more value for their clients. Mark, aren’t you glad you didn’t become a doctor?

3) Technology will make media strategists smarter. There’s no way a marketer spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising is going to trust technology to plan, buy, optimize, and report on all of its campaigns. However, the technology will allow those on the media side to make better-informed decisions. Someone mentioned to me that she was interviewing a candidate whose most recent role was measuring ad campaigns for an agency, and she asked him, “Do media buyers love or hate you?” We’ll soon be asking more of those questions about the technology.

4) The long tail gets longer. If you can search for anything in any medium and know you’ll find it, what would you search for? Sure, the queries at the head of the tail will rise further in volume, but the volume of the less frequently searched terms will grow much more significantly.

5) Everyone will want your assets. Storage is not only cheap but valuable, given how publishers can host content that can be monetized through search and contextual ads, and optimized for greater visibility in search engines. Before long, The New York Times, NBC, and eBay could find themselves in the hosting business (Amazon’s already there).  Jeremiah Owyang, who inspired a previous column on online data storage, predicts that instead of consumers paying for storage, companies will pay consumers. That day seems to be getting nearer. For a related example, check out Ziki, an online profile aggregator and personal portal (with the slogan “be visible”) that pays for search ads running on queries for its members’ names.

That’s just the start of what will unfold. IDC predicts that by 2008, the volume of information will surpass the volume of available storage. This information overload will lead consumers to place greater trust in the process of discovery, rather than just search, for finding content; this will also usher some of the more futuristic visions of the semantic web. Not all developments will be forward progress. More digital assets spanning all media will lead to more data and metrics, but also overanalysis and data fatigue. Concerns over privacy issues and respecting consumers will ultimately provide users with more security and control, but not before a number of gaffes heighten the need for such issues to be properly addressed.

All of this comes from a three-word phrase. What’s your Integrated Asset Digitization readiness plan?

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