Todd's 2010 Predictions

As promised, however late, here are my predictions for 2010:

  • Twitter still won't show that it can make money. Twitter doesn't want to show that it can make money: all the better for valuation, according to many. Sure, there will be more deals, including some form of Twitter Pro account I would guess, but I predict you'll find Twitter (and Facebook for that matter, although they've monetized quite nicely) with its ear to the ground for technology and competitive developments in 2010, waiting for sunnier pastures before exiting. What will that exit look like, and when? Ain't nobody saying.
  • It's all about the RT. No, I'm not talking about Twitter's "re-tweets" here: I'm talking about the real-time web. The money that Twitter did get in 2009 came because it has its finger on the Zeitgeist of the web: the day-to-day, minute-by-minute trends and interests that content producers and attention whores alike want to get their hands on. Any technology that can help companies (or governments) put their fingers on the pulse of the public will be a prime target for money in 2010, both from private as well as semi-private and public coffers.

  • The PDA will be reborn alongside the intention web. The "personal digital assistant" was a really cool idea, but nobody wants to carry around even two devices, let alone three, four or five (e.g., phone, PDA, camera, iPod, ebook reader, etc.). The next generation of the PDA is being incubated inside your smart phone, with umbilical ties to all of your online services, from calendaring to movie preferences to shopping lists. Jeremiah Owyang calls this "beyond real-time" wave of innovation the "intention web" (see graphic below), and your smart phone will be the nexus for it:
"When Real Time is NOT Fast Enough"

"When Real Time is NOT Fast Enough"

  • The newspaper industry deathwatch will lose steam. Speaking of death, the newspaper industry will also stay afloat, thanks to technological and business innovation. Dan Kennedy put it best:

    At a moment when the newspaper business is hanging by a thread, it seems strange to suggest that maybe things aren't that bad. After all, as the Newsosaur, Alan Mutter, points out, 142 American newspapers shut their doors in 2009, and nearly 15,000 jobs at US newspapers have disappeared during the past year.

    Yet if you had believed the headlines, you would have expected the mediascape to look a lot worse for print.

    Paul Gillin puts it similarly:

    Most daily newspapers, in fact, operate in the black but massive debt accumulated during multiple rounds of consolidation earlier this decade were threatening their existence. The threat is still there, but it looks like there was more fat in newspaper operating budgets than many observers had believed. Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth has pointed out that her paper employs twice as many journalists as it did during the Watergate years, even after multiple rounds of cutbacks.

  • Augmented reality will be a reality, sans the cool shades or half-blind pedestrians. Yes, we'll get a few pedestrian accidents as people try out phone-based augmented reality apps like Layar (below). But the real usefulness of AR aren't quite AR apps yet, but transitional steps toward AR. These include apps like Google Goggles, which does photo-based mobile searches (although it's far from ready for prime time); and the many barcode scanning apps that are starting to tie into price check databases and shopping apps.

  • The PR lines will continue to blur. Speaking of PR, it's clear that the lines between paid and unpaid media are rapidly blurring, and the consequences are disturbing. While some pros are optimistic about this trend, I share Mark Story's and Shel Holtz's concerns about the trend, as exemplified most recently by the Huffington Post's decision to offer sponsored posts and tweets. As Shel points out, will this prevent companies from participating in conversations about their company online, simply because they don't want to pay to play?

  • [LATE ADD] We'll find something more interesting to measure. With all the talk about measurement and ROI this year, I couldn't resist adding one more prediction: we'll finally find something both interesting and useful to measure when it comes to PR and social media success. It certainly won't be ad equivalency or followers, and it probably won't even be ROI. Will it be engagement? No, that's just a fancy way of describing followers. I'd like to hear your thoughts...

  • [LATE ADD (29 DEC 2009)]: Amazon will have much more to worry about than the Nook. Rumors abound that Apple will take a stab at a portable tablet device taking aim at eReaders and netbooks both. Will Apple try to get into the book business like it's done with the music business? They'll have a much tougher go at it, but it seems like a logical step.

Okay, that's all I have for you. Let's see how I do. Have a very happy new year, everyone!

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7 comments to Todd’s 2010 Predictions

  • Tim

    Hey Todd,

    I used to work with Chuck. Nice post.

    I agree strongly with the pay-for-play perspective. The worst part about this trend is that regular readers aren’t as cynical as PR pros. If a product name or company is embedded in an editorial-looking piece, the reader automatically assumes that the reporter found merit in the product and mentioned it on his/her own accord. Only after careful inspection can you find small print at the bottom of the article, something like, “Sponsored by X Company” (if that’s there at all).

    Some have said that this trend will pass, as did trying to charge readers for online content. However, I think outlets will find significant revenue in this practice and it will only increase. In the tech industry, this practice has been rampant in the analyst community for quite some time. By becoming an analyst’s client, sometimes you are guaranteed a certain number of “mentions” in analyst articles and blog posts – even if the post is on Network Computing or InformationWeek.

    For PR pros, this practice of selling the media outlet’s soul to the advertising devil will dilute true PR placements and eventually cause readers to be cynical of ANY organization mentioned in ANY article – even if what they’re doing is cool and newsworthy.


  • @chipgriffin says: @vanhoosear you may be interested in my real-world pay for play story from earlier this month

  • Tim,

    You’re right that it’s a scary trend, but I think ultimately it will be the readers who will make this live or die. If they find value in the content, then they’ll come back. If they don’t, they won’t. Those who do it “right” by listening to their readers and delivering what they want will be rewarded. Those that don’t, will die.

    No, the regular reader may not be as savvy as us jaded PR folks, but they also have some pretty good BS detectors.

  • From @mdurwin: @vanhoosear to your point on the Apple tablet as a all-purpose media browser:

  • Frymaster

    HuffPo isn’t the only outlet that’s jumping over the line. Dallas Morning News is reorganizing to get editorial and ad sales on the same page, and there was some kerfuffle in Detroit about an article that was ‘suggested’ by an advertiser.

    All of that said, let’s be a little realistic and recognize that, with a few exceptions, most people’s morning newspapers are about 70% press release.

  • Todd,

    Thanks for sharing your 2010 predictions. Always appreciate your thoughts on the industry.

    To clarify, my point about PR and advertising lines blurring wasn’t about pay-for-play, editorial-in-disguise tactics. That’s another conversation entirely from where I was heading. My apologies if that wasn’t clear.

    My point was that PR pros will need to start thinking more holistically about the opportunities available to connect with consumers and drive their client’s business, beyond the traditional pillars like media relations. For example, recommending mobile text alerts to supplement upcoming in-store events. Or recommending the client talk to their ad/media agency about placing online banner ads in the message boards where you’re focusing some of your social media efforts. Or recommending a direct mail postcard to a segment of the client’s database to tease an upcoming experiential event in the local park.

    Regarding pay-for-play, I’m generally not a fan of it. I’ve only recommended it a few times in the past, specifically leveraging a service like NAPS to boost visibility in smaller/rural markets while focusing your media relations time and efforts on landing earned media in larger media markets.

    Again, thanks for the predictions and for sharing your thoughts. Hope 2010 has incredible things in store for you.

  • Thanks for the clarification David. This reminds me of @shelisrael‘s recent post on “When PR folks are more influential than the editors they pitch”, where he points out that

    PR people need to realize that the people relevant to their clients can be found, not behind a newspaper or magazine, but in social media venues. These people may be professional journalists, they may be industry enthusiasts or they may just be wandering through a topic.

    The way a PR person finds them today is not by wandering down a purchased media list, but by reading the right social media content for their clients and reading it on a very regular basis. They are found by using topical search tools with some skill and imagination.

    And then PR people are welcome to join the conversation and build a relationship before they try pitching a client for coverage. This does not take so long, because relationships form quite fast in social media. And if you are good at it, like Brian, Todd and Steve, the taint of PR hucksterism disappears.

    You’re right: PR people do need to think FAR beyond media relations (or blogger relations for that matter). It’s about relations[hips], not media or blogger relations as they’re often construed. And you build relationships a lot of different ways.