Wednesday, November 12, 2008
My Five (Early) Predictions for 2009
By Cory Treffiletti
"As I look forward, I'm very optimistic about the things I see ahead."
That quote, believe it or not, was originally attributed to Bill Gates, but I want to use it to summarize my outlook on 2009. While I sat down to pontificate about the coming year, I realized I have a hint of optimism flowing through my veins right next to a healthy dose of reality. While the economy is still in flux, with a number of issues still facing the average consumer, I think we may see some stability, not growth, in the coming year. A year of stability is just what the doctor ordered because stability allows us the time to examine where we are, create efficiencies and increase our productivity.
With that, I'd like to preview my five (early) predictions for 2009!
1. Q1 revenue is going to be bad, but Q2 and Q3 will be stronger--with not more than 9% to 10% growth.
If you're in ad sales, you know that Q4 2008 is grim and Q1 of 2009 ain't looking much better, but there is hope indeed. My prediction is that consumers will be tight-fisted for the holidays and will build stricter budgets going into next year. Come spring and summer, assuming that oil prices have stayed stable and housing prices have not dropped more, then consumers may live a little once again. Q2 and Q3 will be better than they look, probably coming in line with the 9% to 10% growth that many online analysts are predicting, certainly not much more than that. Q4 of 2009 is the real question in my eyes, as that is just too far away to predict accurately.
2. The record industry is finally going to "get it"--start embracing the scattershot online music model.
2008 saw lots of innovation and expansion in the digital music category: MySpace Music, iMeem, iLike and Playlist, among others, have launched or continued their growth, and the labels have begun to jump on board. The labels are still doomed inasmuch as they'll never be the monolithic companies they used to be, controlling all aspects of the artist and their music. They will, however, become adept at understanding that the silver bullet is that there is no silver bullet. There is no centralized model for creating and distributing music anymore. You need to be multifaceted and respond to the "wisdom of the crowds"--or in this case, the "wisdom of the fans." Where the audience plays is where the music goes, and that's the only rule that will survive.
3. Mobile growth will far outpace that of online display and search--and standard models will start to take hold.
Yes, I know that mobile has always promised growth year-over-year, but 2008 saw the reality in some cases--and in 2009 we will see the standardization that arrives before massive growth. Touch-screen interfaces are the wave of the future, and they open up the world of mobile to much richer, more dynamic experiences. The various models for marketing in a mobile environment are stabilizing as a result of the application space and the broadening video space, so advertisers will start having an easier time understanding the model. In addition, the audience is already here, and expanding. That means more eyeballs and an easier time getting a mobile campaign launched, which translates to higher growth. My prediction is that mobile ad spending will expand in the 30% range, at least.
4. There will be a shakeup in search based on visual results; some companies are already going there.
Search is in need of a shakeup, and this year I see visual search results leading that pack. Companies like SearchMe and Cooliris (iPhone app) are extremely interesting, and I think Google will test out some component of visual search results in 2009. This model is just too attractive to the eye to be overlooked--as well as being extremely powerful in a mobile environment.
5. Ad Network consolidation will occur, with 1/3 of current ad networks out of business by year's end.
In this prediction I am no different from anyone else. There are simply too many networks competing for the same inventory and not telling a new story. I think there is room for innovation in the model, for certain, but if you walk the floor of Ad:Tech or you take the inbound calls at any ad agency, it becomes apparent there are just too many networks. Some call them bottom-feeders; some don't call them at all. Whether it's consolidation or just plain old lack of business, these numbers will go down in 2009.
That's it for me and my predictions for next year, at least the first five. I'm working on five more, and will be happy to share them in the weeks ahead (if you want to hear them, of course). This first round are the safest bets. Maybe the next round will be a bit more "crazy." Do you agree, or am I way off base here? Visit the blog and let me know what you think!
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Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.
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