Ten Reasons to Be Optimistic About Online in 2009

While these are trying economic times and many people fear for their jobs and livelihoods, all the doom and gloom coverage in the media exacerbates the problem. In fact, the negative coverage overshadows the positive news stories that might help alleviate our concerns.

Not everything is bad, particularly in our online industry. In fact, as a 10-year online veteran, I’m pretty darn excited about the year ahead. As a general rule, we marketers like to refer to challenges as “opportunities,” and I don’t see the economic times any differently. Plenty of opportunities abound, so let me give you my list and hopefully foster a little bit more optimism out there.

  • Online advertising is still trending upwards. Though analysts are rushing to downgrade earlier forecasts, the updated estimates still show online advertising in a growth mode. Personally, I’m seeing interest that never existed before in online advertising from clients and prospects. While these advertisers may be bailing on other mediums, they’re transferring dollars online — which is perfectly fine by me!

  • Lower prices. Since publishers aren’t seeing ad revenue like they thought they would, they’ve lowered CPMs (define). Those of us buying online media will be in a better negotiating position.
  • Twitter and social media. When people in my parent’s generation have gotten excited about Facebook and Twitter, you know that social media has hit the mainstream. Though social media advertising has been slower to catch on, just the mere fact that social media now attracts so many eyeballs means that marketing innovations in the space will continue. Next year, Twitter promises to reveal its monetization plans, which it apparently believes to be big enough to have led to its turning down an acquisition offer by Facebook. For selfish reasons, I’d like to see some kind of killer advertising solution, but with Twitter addicts abounding, I can’t help but wonder if Twitter will go the route of usage plans a la cell phone text messaging.
  • Online video consumption. Growing as an alternative to TiVo, consumers can turn to their PCs to watch their favorite television broadcasts along with unique content. This gives advertisers new opportunities to reach their audience and in a more captured way than on television.
  • Search. With tighter dollars, advertisers want better ROI (define) and search marketing is still the clear winner in this category. Experienced, proven search engine marketers who not only provide service but also the much needed strategic thinking and analysis behind it, will succeed.
  • Niche advertising. The Web provides the perfect storm for niche advertising: reach users with very specific subject matter when they’re highly engaged with that subject matter — and do so in a way that fairly easy and highly flexible to produce. Time and again, niche Web site advertising has proven it can out-perform general online advertising. The trickiest thing for the media planner is to find that these sites even exist.
  • Mobile. Every year the pundits predict it will be the “year for mobile.” I don’t know if 2009 will be “it” either, but certainly newer, more interactive phones like the iPhone, Blackberry Storm, and the promise of Google’s Android have kept consumers spending and application developers busy developing. Ads already appear on these devices and, unlike SMS ads, don’t cost the user anything additional. Get ready for more to come.
  • Collaboration. When times get tough, people pull together to get through it. In industry speak, this is known as collaboration, something I’m a huge proponent of. Whether that’s working more closely with clients to generate ideas, or bringing together synergistic strategic partners to create a more complete solution, I hope to see more collaboration in 2009.
  • Weeding out the riffraff. When times are good, every Johnny-come-lately wants a piece of the pie. Shops get set up overnight and suddenly everybody seems to be an expert. Problem is, that when the champagne stops flowing and the scrutiny begins, those that are all talk and no delivery won’t last long in the market. I, for one, won’t be sorry to see such charlatans fail.
  • The Obama factor. We’re about to inaugurate the most technologically-savvy president of all time, and hopefully what his team learned as it leveraged the Internet to his gain will carry forward into Barack Obama’s policies. The potency of the Internet has been solidified, despite whatever’s going on in the economy.

I’ll close with this thought: The only thing that’s predictable is unpredictability. Five months ago did we ever think our gas prices would be as low as they are now? The longer we all want to dwell on the negative instead of helping to create the positive, the longer that will be our fate. Chin up, people! It’s time to rock and roll!

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