John Battelle makes his predictions for 2009

Ben Shepherd writes: John Battelle has posted his 2009 predictions over on his own blog –

He has 13 predictions that make for interesting reading. Battelle has a history of being reasonably accurate with his predictions (although potentially does evaluate how accurate his predictions have been a little early in the piece) and is a sharp mind in the digital space and one that, in my opinion, should get a lot more attention than his peers.

The thing I like about Battelle is he is a doer, not a talker. His company, Federated Media, is doing some really interesting things around branded content and conversational media … and Battelle is rare in that he has a strong knowledge of both search and also display media. In short, he does more than just write about what everyone should be doing … he practices what he preaches.

Anyway – it’s worth a read. Here’s the predictions I found especially interesting …

2. The online media space will be hit hard by the economic downturn in the first half, but by year’s end, will have chalked up moderate gains over last year in terms of gross spend. I think it’s possible that Q1 09 will be lower than Q1 08, marking the first time that has happened since 01, if I recall correctly. This will cause all sorts of consternation and hand wringing, but in the end, it won’t matter. The web is where people are spending their time, the web will be where marketers spend their money

Personally I think Q1 09 might be lower than Q1 08 … but remember Q1 08 wasn’t that good anyway so 09 being higher isn’t really that interesting. I think the statement “The web is where people are spending their time, the web will be where marketers spend their money” is a bit too sweeping … all media does a good job of selling in its consumption by users but the key to marketing dollar allocation is how you use it to connect truly to customers.

3. Google will see search share decline significantly for the first time ever. It will also struggle to find an answer to the question of how it diversifies its revenue in 2009. Search is the ultimate harvester of demand, and Google has become search’s Archer Daniels Midland – wherever a seed of demand might pop its head through the web’s soil, Google is there to harvest it. The media business is more than a demand fulfillment business, and Google must learn to create demand if it’s going to diversify.

This is something we have touched on a bit over the past few months … Google is a great fulfillment business but it’s new challenge is becoming a media company and getting dollars beyond direct response. To date I don’t think this has been done very well and the sell jobs being done across the content network and YouTube are clunky and rigid. I think for Google to truly become a media company it needs to learn how to compromise. It also needs to learn how it can bring incremental business to its clients rather than just funnelling existing leads through a more efficient channel.

5. Tied to #3 above, Microsoft will gain at least five points of search share in 2009, perhaps as much as 10.

Could this happen in the next 12 months? Anything is possible but it seems ambitious unless they bought Yahoo! or at least Yahoo!s search business. (Battelle also predicts Yahoo and AOL will merge and will sell of their combined search asset)

9. Major brands will continue to struggle with the best way to interact with “social media.” They will take budget reserved for media spending (IE buying banners and building out branding campaigns) and start to become publishers in their own right. This is not a new tactic (many marketers, in particular technology companies, have published magazines, for example, and many consumer brands create or co-create television series), but given the plastic and social nature of online media, many marketers will see these efforts fail, in particular when the efforts are executed in partnership with major media companies. The reason has to do with putting the cart before the horse: in order to truly succeed in conversational media, the company must itself be fluent in that conversation. A partner with tons of traffic, but who is not fluent, will not be the “translator” major brands need.

I guess this is more a general statement than a prediction … but is a pretty accurate one. Major media companies in both the digital and non digital space aren’t really in the business of conversations … yet … and branded content doesn’t need to be conversational in nature … but there is a real space for someone (ie media companies) to help brands become publishers and offer value to their consumers.

10. Agencies will increasingly see their role as that of publishers. Publishers will increasingly see their role as that of agencies. Both can win at this, but only by understanding how to truly add value to real communities – not flash crowds driven by one time events. I don’t see a conflict here, long term. As opposed to simply being creators of media, media companies have realized (or will soon) that their job is to create platforms for communities to make media. Publishers are agents for communities, agencies are agents for brands. They need each other. It takes both agents to get good media made.

I really like how the above is expressed … neither can cut out the other, but are required for this model to truly work.


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