Davidcard[Posted by David Card]

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Finishing up — a little late, natch — my Predictions 2009 report, so I’ll tease the ideas here for comment. It’s more about themes than outright predictions, so I’ll add a few obligatory ones at the end.

These are the five catalysts for near-term change, the forces that are driving the online media business for the next 12 to 24 months:

  • Recession plus Profitability demands. I’ve already posted on our ad forecast. We still expect 15% growth in US online spending in 2009, but that’s driven by search. Display will be half that rate. Online media will have to stay excrutiatingly close to marketers’ needs. On top of a crummy media economy, we’re hearing that a lot of organizations are demanding profitability from their online operations. So, ironically, it might be even tougher for cross-media media brands.
  • Social Media & Marketing. It’s still the new new thing. Social marketing will still be cheap, and still won’t scale. Think loyalty.
  • Portal Meltdown. The portal is dead; long live the network. The business model that dominated online media since its inception has run its course. Social networks haven’t replaced it, though. "Invisible" networks, that share services and audiences behind the scenes are more important than "visible" networks that drive audiences across related properties.
  • Platforms. Because of the above, platforms and syndication are the new power tools for online media. But some of the bigger platform players (e.g., Amazon, eBay) aren’t media. Or are they?
  • Emerging formats: mobile & video. No one will make money on either in 2009. But cautious investment in both will position the strong for the longer term.

These change agents have morphed a bit — but not totally changed character — from the ones we were living with for the last 24 months (see Figure 4).

Requisite Flippant Management/Merger Predictions

You might have seen my nutty prediction for resolving the Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL thing.

I still think Apple should buy TiVo. Or Netflix should.

I like a Washington Post-NY Times combo. But it won’t happen. And neither will NYT-News Corp.

Google still can’t do anything other than search. And nothing offline, unless you count mobile. That means online brand advertising in 2009 is still up to the "traditional" media companies and agencies.