Revisiting Last Year's Predictions

Just about a year ago, I wrote an article called "10 Media Trends to Watch in 2008." Given that hindsight is always 20-20, I'd like to discuss how well or poorly I did at foreseeing what actually transpired last year.

Last year, I wrote that "it appears that the online ad industry is poised to enter a new phase in which one big company controls the bulk of advertising revenues," and that "I'd expect the controversy over monopoly power in the online ad business to heat up to white-hot levels in the first months of 2008." While I was wrong on the timing, I was right on the money in predicting that the government (in the form of the DOJ, not the FTC) would draw a line in front of Google when it sought to partner with Yahoo.

I also wrote that the recession (which wasn't even formerly announced until about a month ago) would cause "a big impact on both the search and display market," although the bulk of the impact "will hit other channels harder, including offline and high CPM online media." So far, this prediction has been validated, although I've been pleasantly surprised to see that search spending has held its own -- at least so far. And while it's still too early to say whether I was right in claiming that "old media (may not) live out the decade," 2008 was the worst year for untargeted media seen yet, and all trends support the notion that we're just at the beginning of this bloodbath.

I also claimed a year ago that "you're going to hear more and more talk from lawmakers about what's wrong in this industry and how Uncle Sam can fix it," and this prediction was partially borne out by events, especially in relation to behavioral targeting. But the online ad industry still hasn't been the focus of a major investigative effort, although I think that we might well see this happen in 2009, now that a more consumer-friendly administration is in power. So my timing was off on this issue, as it was on my prediction that a national "Do Not Track" movement would gather major steam in 2008. On the other hand, both of these issues are still hot, and it's far from certain whether industry self-regulation can forestall government regulation much longer.

In terms of my predictions that Google's contextual partners would revolt, and that Microsoft would carry out a successful ambush on Google, I batted zero. I did even worse when I predicted that 2008 would be the year that Yahoo finally grew up and focused itself. Instead, Google's contextual partners simply held on as Google grew even bigger, Microsoft's initiatives (including CashBack) failed to gain much traction, and Yahoo fell into a self-destructive cycle after rebuffing Microsoft. So much for my future as a highly-paid psychic!

I did better with my last two predictions ("Online Ads Get Intrusive (Again)" and "The Carnage Continues"). Major Web sites are increasingly experimenting with all manner of awful ads that creep across your screen and throw roadblocks in your path. But these desperate tactics haven't helped publishers much, and a lot of good sites went dark in 2008, including (folded into Gawker media),,, and other marginal players. Unfortunately, I suppose that one should add,,,, and maybe even to this list, because the carnage caused by our current economic crisis will extend far into the next year and possibly beyond.



1 comment about "Revisiting Last Year's Predictions ".
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  1. Martin Edic from WTSsocial, January 5, 2009 at 10:48 a.m.

    I think it is a little disturbing that a leading authority on search could be so wrong about Microsoft and Yahoo but then again an awful lot of people predicted the same thing. Also, no predictions about social media? That really highlights how quickly this new layer emerged in 2008 to become a mainstream communications medium...

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