This seems to be the time of year for predictions. My past prognostications have not always been on target, otherwise we’d have President Kerry, the Super Bowl Champ Jets and Karl Rove indicted (well, that one’s still a possibility for 2006), so I’ll stick to themes that I think will play heavily in the content and technology space in 2006.
Some of these are themes I’ve written about in recent months, while others will be fodder for commentary in the weeks and months to come.
As always, feedback is enthusiastically welcomed.
Reviews & Ratings will continue to soar – established brands (Consumer Reports, JD Power) will blend their professional expertise with end-user feedback to create a balance that helps improve consumer decision making.
Lead Generation sites will continue to grow as the online world seeks ROI for their marketing dollars. The founder of Wanamaker Department Stores was famously quoted saying “I know that half my advertising works, I just don't know which half.” Web advertising has helped marketers be more effective in tracking their marketing campaigns. That will spill over into lead generation for sales operations and those companies that can deliver qualified leads will be richly rewarded.
Yahoo will continue to position itself as the media company of the future, with a few eyebrow-raising acquisitions of content-related companies in order to have more pages to serve up its ad inventory. I would expect them to have a large presence in digital media delivery. Where Microsoft is trying to ride XBox, perhaps Netflix or Tivo will be Yahoo's key acquisition. This will further delineate the lines of distinction between the technology-driven Google and media-driven Yahoo.
Personalization will become mainstream (yes, this has been projected since 1999). While users will not realize (nor care) that they are using RSS, its ubiquity will allow users to create custom views of news and other content and embed those into workflow applications. New web products will take this to a higher level than today’s my.yahoo or my.google.
We will see a rollup of blogging technologies. Today, I get a lot of questions from colleagues about how to syndicate a blog, how to get it listed on search engines, etc. My “best of breed” toolset today includes TypePad, Feedblitz, Feedburner, Ping-o-matic and more. It seems that companies like Six Apart will either acquire the other tools or develop their own, providing one-stop shopping for creating, maintaining, syndicating, promoting and measuring your blog. My hope is that this solution will be from someone other than Google.
The blend of structured and unstructured data, which holds great promise for many industries is still a few years away from being ready for most markets. Only early adopter markets, such as homeland security, will embrace these technologies in the next 12 months. We will see further consolidation in the unstructured data analytics market in 2006, as many of these companies are barely hanging on and the number of new deals can’t support all of them.
Nontraditional approaches to data collection (web scraping, web-based listee updates, etc.) will mature in 2006 with companies like ZoomInfo, Jigsaw and Ziggs reaping the benefits. In general open source content and technology tools will continue to grow. Publishers who believe that their traditional approach gives them a quality advantage will find that only a small part of their market will pay the premium for that quality, while others will continue to migrate to the free or low-priced alternative.
The federal government will continue to be over-reliant on contractors for IT expertise and we will see more newspaper articles about failed technology implementations. This should result in greater use of COTS software within the government, creating sales opportunities for software companies during the second half of the year. As with the post-9/11 period, most software providers who run after this market will fail, as the federal market is not something you can do half-heartedly.
The brains behind Flickr and Del.icio.us, combined with the resources of Yahoo, will come up with some new ideas to take tagging to another level. I’m not smart enough to anticipate what that will look like, but I can’t wait to see it.
To paraphrase John Wanamaker, I’m confident that half of these predictions will come true in 2006; I’m just not sure which half.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy and successful 2006.