Web leaders debate the use of paywalls, Twitter and internet TV in 2011

The success of The Times paywall has shown it is possible to achieve greater revenue with quality content than via advertising, but raises questions about the influence of such titles in the future, according to Suranga Chandratillake, chief executive and founder of Blinkx.

Suranga Chandratillake: chief executive and founder of Blinkx
Suranga Chandratillake: chief executive and founder of Blinkx

The leader of the world's largest video search engine makes the observation in his key digital predictions for 2011.

He said: "Naturally, paywalls lead to higher returns from fewer users, so if that trend continues titles will exert less political influence over mass market audiences. We may have seen the end for the ego-driven media mogul if this becomes widely adopted.

"When paywalls become more prevalent there will be significant implications for the media consumption habits.

"People will no longer be able to dip into different newspapers, and as a result are likely to gravitate towards the media titles that most closely reflect, and reinforce, their own views. In turn this means the majority of people will not be as widely read as they are today."

However, Mark Redgrave, chief executive of semantic web service, OpenAmplify, disagrees, and believes the smart money is on the open API platform in 2011.

He said: "Those publishers who embrace technology to more effectively target and place ads alongside relevant content will be able to generate more revenue from ads and remain free to view."

"The more forward thinking publishers will be able to stay free, retain readership and ultimately see off metered models. With the rapid growth in sophistication and scalability of semantic technology, it is only a matter of time before publishers invest in solutions that provide brands with greater and more measurable value from the ads hosted on their sites."

Redgrave also believes 2011 will be the year marketers lose faith in Twitter. He expects the continued rise of Facebook to dominate the social side of things for marketers.

He said: "People are starting to realise that while the Twitter platform serves as a fantastic medium for broadcasting information, the actual consumer insights it offers are very limited.

"In contrast, Facebook offers brands and marketers an incredible depth of information to tap into, and we’ve only just started to scratch the surface of its potential. 500 million people actually talking to each other about things that they feel matter."

Chandratillake also believes internet TV will come of age next year. He said the problem for companies like Google and Apple is that they have tried to replicate the computer experience on the television and, as a result, the experience has not been intuitive for users.

He said: "In 2011, we will see the TV industry drive the market. Europe is going to lead the way ahead of the United States with projects like YouView, which comes with the backing and blessing of major broadcasters and content that will drive mass consumer uptake.

"But while YouView is a compelling proposition for consumers, one of its main challenges will be ensuring that the broadcasters, who naturally compete, are supportive of the project and ensuring its success going forward."

Developments in the internet TV space are also expected to open up a compelling proposition for advertisers who will benefit from an unprecedented level of targeted TV.

Chandratillake said: "The mass market reach of advertising today will be replaced by targeting at an individual level. The insights that can be gleaned from the set-top boxes will enable this, and the result will be an increase in the cost per advert, but with greater returns."

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