The one thing that makes the Web exciting is the same thing that makes it completely maddening – constant change.  The velocity of Web innovation is rather extreme in comparison with most industries.  There is significant ‘technoise’ that makes it very difficult to filter our millions of posts, search results, press release and other messages all trying to interpret, promote, collaborate and sell things in this digital space.  There ARE a lot of great ideas and a lot of people doing a lot of really constructive things.  There is even more garbage being produced in the attempt to get attention, engage, sell in what might be a misguided or questionable effort.

With all the noise out there, there is one trend I have seen over my 15 years – since the first Web sites were created in 16 color using 9600 baud modems (a recent upgrade at the time).  The Web seems to trend into a new major form every 18 to 24 months.  Looking back at the post dot-bomb bubble, the major trends were as follows:

  • 2003 – Google Paid Search – businesses figured out that they could use search to drive e-commerce.
  • 2005 – MySpace – Companies saw that the 18-34 year old demographic had found a place to ‘hang-out’ online.
  • 2007 – YouTube – With broadband being pervasive, everyone started watching (and creating) video.

These trends start off very small, competing within the technoise of the market. Like many situations, it is not always the best product but the company who is able to get through the

As is the case in all markets, there are a lot of competing ideas and products.  There real challenge is in finding “why” something will be successful tracking its rate of velocity based upon those reasons.  Those that have a hockey stick trajectory in their presentations should be disregarded.  Seriously, anyone who forcasts a “black swan” is not someone who is planning responsibly. Establishing a solid business model that is self-sustaining and shows reasonable growth is much more important.  A business needs to be able to demonstrate its ability to remain within a so-called standard deviation from its mean and not vary wildy – either as a black swan or an abject failure.

Looking at 2009, there are a few areas that are getting talked up.  However, the real surge will be focused on items that clearly demonstrate a capcity to generate revenue.

  • Mobile Marketing – Too early.  The telecomm carriers are a huge barrier to entry with lead times for campaigns in months not weeks.  With ad dollars being cut back, advertisers are not testing mediums, they are looking for tried and true options.
  • Widgets – While widgets are surely a much more scalable solution to building big product sites.  However, they appear to be a band aid to retrofit social networks with a commercial solution.  They are more like the emergence of Instant Messenger as a popular tool in the 90’s versus the emergence of free e-mail sites such as Hotmail and Yahoo mail.
  • Behavioral Targeting – This is a contender for sure.  However, time and place of the battle is yet to truly be determined.  Puiblishers intend to try and take back part of the advertising revenue that ad networks skim , but media buyers have no interest in developing a relationship with every publisher, negotiating pricing and vollume as well as measure performance when they can simply go to a one-stop ad network to get it done at the same rate.  Publishers will have to find a way to add value – and possibly sell it for a premium off the hugely discounted ad rates projected for 2009.  First, they must figure out what they really have – something they are terrified in discovering.

This leads to the one horse in the race that might be really worth following – Social Commerce.  The issue here is the “Why”.  Social networks have yet to identify a clear path to revenue.  They are looking at widgets to bring in commerce in a somewhat passive way.  However, members of a social network are there to socialize.  It is not centered around the shopping experience.  Just like publishers with their concentration on content, social networks focus on people, not products.  Commerce and advertising becomes just another interruption to the member trying to perform a task and therefore depreciates its value over time as members learn to disregard the messages and locations of the promotions.

Social commerce is still in the process of finding the perfect model and a clearly distinguishable leader in the category.  Once this occurs, there is a significant possiblity of seeing the groundswell of interest in similar fashion as the other major trends.  Time will tell.  My next post will identify some of these contenders as well as discuss the issues currently still unresolved within this social marketplace.


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