A midyear look at where the industry's been in the last six months.
As we race through 2006, I thought I'd take a pit stop and review the predictions we made at the beginning of the year.
When I opened that column to refresh my memory, I almost didn't recognize my own predictions. Six months is an eternity in this world. The thing about predictions is when you're right, people say, "Well, that was pretty obvious." And when you're wrong, you feel stupid. It's a no-win situation. But it's a good mental exercise anyway and one that's important if you want to stay on top of industry trends. When things move as quickly as they do today, pursuing a fast-follower strategy means you're a has-been before you've even crossed the starting line. So, with the help of my team, I'm providing an update on our 2006 predictions.
Video Explodes Online
Update: Video explodes everywhere. We did pretty well with this one. As of today, Apple offers over 150 network and cable shows and has sold 35 million video downloads. The major studios are all making deals to distribute their content online. YouTube has amassed an astounding video collection and has attracted a huge audience. The top 10 videos have garnered nearly 100 million views since the site launched, and this is a long-tail play!
Revver has launched a new advertising model in which individual content creators share ad revenue with the company based on the viewership they create. Most major sites are rushing to develop a video offering, and some have already sold out their entire ad inventory. Video is definitely hot.
Trend 2: Opt-In Feeds Take Over
Update: RSS feeds take over. OK, maybe that was a bit of an overstatement. Nevertheless, most sites are doing whatever they can to syndicate their content and feed it to users. As RSS matures, we're finding it in interesting places. According to our executive director of media, Rick Corteville, "Interpolls has a two-way ad-server rich media technology that allows advertisers to switch out creative video executions without having to develop new static ads. This form of video RSS not only saves production dollars, it also allows for faster optimization."
Trend 3: Wi-Fi Is Free
Update: Free Wi-Fi spreads rapidly to major urban areas. Six months ago, this might have been wishful thinking on my part, but free Wi-Fi is finally taking hold. Earlier this year, New Orleans and Austin were pioneers in free Wi-Fi. Now others are following. Paris just announced it will have 400 free Wi-Fi hot spots by 2007. This is in addition to San Francisco (sponsored by Google) and the Silicon Valley, where seven corporate sponsors are in a heated bidding war. New York, London, and Chicago are also following suit.
For advertisers and Wi-Fi sponsors, this represents a huge captive audience and a tremendous local marketing opportunity for an underserved market. As I write this in the United terminal at JFK, I can't believe there are still airports (more than just a few) and major urban areas that don't have Wi-Fi (free or not). It's almost criminal in such a connected world.
Trend 4: The Battle of the Titans Moves to New Ground
Update: Titans trumped by MySpace. We've all been watching Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and AOL battle for portal dominance. But MySpace, which a few saw coming a year ago, just became the single most visited U.S. site, according to HitWise. Even six months ago, it was being discounted as a fad, particularly by advertisers. Now, major brands are joining.. I think we did pretty well calling this one.
Trend 5: A Blogger Wins a Pulitzer Prize
Update: A blogger may still win a Pulitzer Prize. OK, maybe this won't happen. But the blogosphere is buzzing right along. At the beginning of the year, there were around 20 million blogs. Now, BlogPulse has identified over 31 million. It's certainly growing.
Our company's blog highlights interesting developments in digital marketing, and we are about to add a second one to give prospective clients, partners, and employees an unfiltered peek inside the company. In almost no time, our blog established a viewer base larger than that of our company site. I think most corporate sites will move from their current static platforms to blog platforms. The attitude is more casual and the content fresher, topical, and, more important, real and believable. Plus, a blogging platform, by design, invites user participation.
Trend 6: Ad Servers Go Offline
Update: Ad servers go virtual. In early 2006, I imagined ads would be found in more retail and public spaces via kiosks and the like. Certainly, we're seeing digital ads in elevators and buses. That's interesting, but what I'm excited about is the advertising opportunities in virtual worlds such as Second Life. American Apparel recently opened a store in Second Life where avatars can buy branded American Apparel clothing for their avatars -- with real money. I'll go into more depth on this topic in future columns, but mark my words -- this is a very smart opportunity to reach a particular niche gaming target.
I think we did pretty well with our predictions. But what does it mean for advertisers?
People like moving images; they attract the eye. Make rich content the centerpiece of your campaigns. Where it makes sense, engage users to create the content for you. You have just seen the beginning of the video revolution. It will be as big as search.
Social networks are the ultimate "Back to the Future" story. The Internet originally developed as a community focused on connection. When it became commercial in the mid-1990s, advertisers thought it was a new broadcast medium where they could tell people what to believe about their brands. Now, happily, community and connection are back at the forefront of the Internet. The continued rise of email, photo-sharing sites, and social networks has proven this. Check out the profiles on MySpace, and you'll see people are who they know, what they consume, own, watch, and listen to. This is pure gold for marketers. Go get your share!
Put these two mega trends together if you want to win in Web Marketing 2.0. Make your brand an open-source brand. Open up your brand; put rich content out there; and make it searchable and free to travel. Empower users to remix, mash-up, and broadcast your brand.
Have a fun ride along the long tail!
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