It is critical to not only identify trends, but to execute an effective global strategy that works in any economic environment. It's just as important to avoid certain destructive behavior. Bernie Madoff's $50 billion investment scandal has riveting applications to the viral world of digital interactivity on at least one level.
Remember, building on friendships, information and links that are considered fundamental in a viral marketplace can be problematic. So much of the Internet vortex--especially on news aggregation sites and authoritative blogs--feeds on itself. A single crack in a Ponzi scheme can lead to collapse. Beware the trend in building aggregated, integrated, recommendation-based Web sites and services that depends on the credibility of everyone's everything else. Here are 11 other notable trends:
Disney does this type of media branding best. But it is all about what is relevant to the individual consumer. Metrics must become more refined, focused on the revenues and the value of the connections generated by each user. It's not just about measurable traffic or even the potentially more valuable unmeasured pass-along and shared traffic. Puppy Cam's most popular live streaming video is good for only one thing: selling more dog food.
Brands are vulnerable
ESPN is responding to its flat traffic from a year ago by improving customization as well as refining choice and search. Other media and consumer brands will be confronted by the same phenomenon. Their influence is being diluted in an increasingly fragmented marketplace. Even the most powerful brands must redefine and reestablish their importance to consumers.
The only way for advertisers to break the social network code is to completely change their approach and mindset. That means sustaining an interactive relationship with target consumers rather than just making a sale. Some blue-chip marketers, such as P&G and Kellogg's, have waded into the social-networking waters with good results that will pay off in future as more dollars shift from traditional to new media and the economy rebounds. Social networking will be one of the few platforms where e-commerce continues double-digit growth. Bottom line: advertisers and media may as well experiment with engaging their target consumers, since conventional revenues and spending will be grim in 2009.
All the video fit to stream
Internet video will continue to make great strides with incremental returns helping to offset a fraction of traditional losses. It can be as simple as customized application such as YouTube's personal video holiday greetings card or as complex as Hulu's streaming video extravaganza. Consumers shifting from DVD sales and rentals are setting the pace for a prevailing universal digital distribution platform.
Putting the ME in media
Everything local, personal and special-interest rules. Local TV broadcasters and newspapers are at ground zero and will make or break themselves in 2009 by constructing new business models around their grassroots connections. Craigslist succeeds because it got in the game early; everyone else is running hard. If traditional newspapers, TV, radio and magazines are the initial source of information that spurs related online search and digital action (as recent surveys contend), then they best figure out how to monetize that power. It's not about reducing newspaper delivery days or job cuts.
Wrestling with legacy demons
Infrastructure redo will fuel the next tech boom. The February analog-to-digital switch gives traditional broadcasters the interactive infrastructure they need to survive as long as it doesn't sit on top of outmoded and costly union practices, processes and economics. Newspapers and other businesses face the same issue. It's time to purge and surge.
The new face of social networking emerges even in a recession
LinkedIn, one of the Web's few profitable social ventures, is on to the right formula. But social networking is not just about collecting friends and recommendations--it's knowing what to do with those connections. Solutions are sure to involve such elements as Twitter, virtualization, enterprise mashups and collective intelligence.
Net neutrality as an economic issue
All access, all the time is required for a ubiquitous connected world. Paying gatekeeper fees at every turn will impede digital economic growth and innovation. It will be an insurmountable road block for companies banking on an infinite Web to grow their business.
Search, findability and discovery refined
Even Google doesn't quite get this. The ability of consumers to find and discover more of what they want in an intuitive rather than an overt, laborious manner will be key to the next phase of Internet development. The recommendation of friends (not always reliable) as well as current search engine science and features such as widgets and RSS feeds only go only so far to meeting consumers' intensifying needs. The Semantic Web will provide new enabling technologies and elements for more innate, automatic fulfillment of consumer requests.
Mobile connectivity is the end goal
It is not as far off as some think. Consumers are demanding mobile connectivity even as the economy is kaput. Whether content and service providers are ready or not, the media and advertising industries will be anchored there within 18 months, or by the time an economic recovery is in full swing.
Lack of visibility leads to paralysis and death
Even a global giant like General Electric continues to lower its industrial profit outlook while declining to forecast corporate-wide earnings for 2009. You can't predict what you can't see. However, smaller players should take a cue from GE's willingness to retrench core businesses and refocus revenue streams with immediate action. Maintaining faltering old business models out of fear is the same as deciding to take a pass on the upside, and giving up. Don't.
The third part of our trend series for Friday: 2009 predictions