So the following seven predictions, generally made using a conservative crystal ball, apply to 2008:
Expect a slow year—definitely slow in the first half. GDP growth forecasts for the year range from 1.8% to 2.5%.
While estimates vary slightly about where U.S. advertising will end up this year—they generally range from 3.7% to 4% growth—there is a strong consensus that developing markets, such as Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, are where the action is. These markets are growing in the double digits.
This opportunity, coupled with a sluggish domestic economy, will spur international expansion among media companies this year. Media companies that are already engaging the rest of the world will step up this activity; those that haven't started will begin.
For the record, American Business Media forecasts print revenue will decline 2% to 7% this year. On the other hand, ABM projects digital media revenue for b-to-b companies will increase 18% to 22%.
As I was researching my new cell phone at the end of last year (more on that in a moment), I spent a great deal of time at Cnet.com. But I didn't read as many reviews as I watched videos of the reviewers demonstrating the latest devices. As other writers in this space have pointed out, video will require new skills and, likely, new personnel.
Video will emerge as a differentiating feature in 2008. There will be media companies that commit real resources and personnel to video (lots of video) and those that treat it as a minor adjunct to their Web sites. Moreover, I believe production values will increase rapidly, leaving the products of those who don't take this seriously looking like cable TV community access shows.
Media companies trying to play in the Web 2.0 world of blogs and networks will have vastly different degrees of success.
I predict media companies will have more success with their event businesses. Already, event revenues are growing in the double digits for many, yielding better margins than online and, more important, satisfying their audiences' hunger for expert opinion and peer-to-peer networking.
BtoB's exclusive annual "Marketing Plans and Priorities" survey, published in December, found 49.5% of marketers plan to increase their event budgets in 2008.
For several years, marketers have shifted increasing amounts of their budgets to online. I think 2008 will be remembered as the crossover year, when marketers in some segments began moving the bulk of their spending away from such traditional vehicles as print and broadcast to digital. Not surprising, tech marketers, companies like Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp., will be in the vanguard. Both are on record as saying they plan to push at least 50% of their spending online within the next few years.
Speaking of longer-range predictions, as BtoB reported in December, London-based ZenithOptimedia says Internet advertising will pass three milestones in the next three years: It will overtake radio advertising in 2008, attain a double-digital share of all global advertising in 2009 and overtake magazine advertising in 2010.
That new handheld I bought? An AT&T Tilt, a 3G smartphone that includes an integrated GPS and a nifty, sliding keyboard. Millions of new handsets able to access the wireless Internet at high speed—including, yes, access to streaming video—are already changing content consumption habits, spurred in no small part by Apple's brilliant marketing of its iPhone. Add to this the arrival of Google's long-rumored handset and the emergence of mobile computing tightly integrated with search, and 2008 shapes up to be the Year of the Handset.
Each of the above predictions suggests major investments in infrastructure and platforms. However, most media companies haven't fully restructured their operations around these changes. That restructuring will shape up to be the biggest event in 2008, and for many it is sure to be a wrenching process.
Ellis Booker is editor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at [email protected].