Online predictions for 2006

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The resurgence of online media has been one of the highlights of 2005, with b-to-b media revenues on pace to grow by 20% or more in the coming year, according to a recent estimate by American Business Media's president-CEO Gordon Hughes II.

Looking ahead to 2006, what will be hot? What will not? Media Business recently collected answers to both questions from an assortment of b-to-b online media executives.

Topping the hot list: Internet video.

"Spending for online video advertising will triple in 2006," predicted Kevin Normandeau, exec VP-general manager, online, at International Data Group's Network World. "Research by the Online Publishers' Association indicates that the appetite for online video content is growing faster than other Internet media, such as podcasts and blogs."

Internet research firm eMarketer was similarly optimistic, projecting that online video ad spending in the U.S. will reach $640 million in 2007, approaching triple this year's online video ad spending of $225 million.

"Video will become the real deal in 2006," said Jim Spanfeller, president-CEO at "About 40% to 50% of Internet users will be looking at video on a weekly basis next year. It's scaling up very quickly."

Another hot button for many of the online media executives was RSS (really simple syndication).

"Business users need lots of information in a short period of time," said Stacey Artandi, VP-online publishing at ALM Media. "RSS is ideal for the power b-to-b user because it aggregates information sources into one convenient reader." ALM's has 10 RSS feeds today, and Artandi soon plans to offer a free downloadable newsreader on the site so the feeds can reach a wider audience.

Steve Sutton, VP-audience development at Ziff Davis, called RSS "a lot bigger, more flexible and more measurable than, say, podcasts." He added that RSS will become more feature-rich as the technology develops.

Sutton also chose vertical search among his hot picks for 2006, as did Scott Falzone, VP of Reed Business Information's ReedLink. Falzone said most of his Web sites will have specialist b-to-b vertical search as a core component, with product or vendor collateral as a complementary element.

But other media executives put RSS on their not-so-hot list, along with two other syndication technologies, blogs and podcasting.

"RSS-based advertising and, specifically, podcast advertising were pushed too hard, too fast," said Ted Smith, senior VP at CNet Networks. "At the end of the day, one needs to ask common-sense questions about how much penetration there really is and how the measurement works."

Thomas Flynn, advertising director at VNU's Sales & Marketing Management, said, "Podcasts have limited appeal because they still have a very small user base." Although he expects blogs to continue building content on the Web, Flynn isn't enthusiastic about their business potential. "Blogs have a limited appeal to advertisers because the content is very subjective and unregulated," he said.

But Artandi took a contrary stance on blogs. "Blogs will continue to grow, not just in numbers, but in significance," she said. "In many cases in the legal field, bloggers are becoming as trusted as traditional media sources. In 2006, I believe, blogs will also make significant headway in figuring out business models."

CNet's Smith had a slightly different take on the matter, noting that blogs are not the only way Internet users are interacting with media brands and one another.

"The area of user-engagement and user-generated content is a real wave of transformation," Smith said. "Successful interactive content strategies acknowledge the role of user voice, choice and control. For example, our users of TechRepublic are programming their content experience themselves, and they are building social networks to solve real business problems."

When asked which strong and profitable technology was most often overlooked, the media executives often pointed to e-mail and e-mail newsletters. 

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