Last year was the year of the iPad, the News International paywalls and the moment Facebook and Twitter became culture-defining phenomena. The writing is surely on the wall for email when Clarence House eschews the traditional emailed press release to break the news of the Royal engagement via a 140-character tweet.
Yesterday’s pioneers - stand up, MySpace - are old news as internet chatter turns to upstarts such as Groupon and Quora, and with things moving so fast, prediction is no longer a luxury but an urgently required science for media companies.
Are paywalls actually working? Will 2011 really be the long-predicted ‘year of mobile’? And will TV and social media become one?
Media Week presents the ten trends that will give media owners and agencies sleepless nights over the next twelve months - and how the industry can, as Wired editor David Rowan puts it, "find the diamonds in the haystack".
1) What do I need to do about the iPad?
It’s only been available for nine months, but Apple’s tablet computer has been such a hit that advertisers have rushed in to take a piece of the action. But working out how to exploit that new technology will be a key challenge for 2011.
"Every client wants to do something on the iPad but they aren’t quite sure what," says Jon Slade, global online and strategic advertising sales director at the FT. "How are people accessing content on the iPad? Who are they? What’s the demographic and how are they using it?" Advertisers are learning how to deal with the new programming language of HTML 5 and how to exploit the device’s unique functions, but the commercial dynamics are still very much in their infancy.
2) What’s next for social media?
Social media, principally Facebook, is a growing force to be reckoned with for advertisers. "People used to say, ‘Facebook is big but there’s no money in it’," says Ian Maude, internet analyst at Enders Analysis. "Now I hear, ‘We have to have a Facebook strategy’."
Advertising spend is likely to follow that change in perception, Maude predicts. But how to make the most of Facebook, with its millions of members sharing information about themselves, is still uncertain. "Social media is becoming increasingly central to companies’ media strategies," says Maude. "The central question concerns finding the best way of harnessing the social media audience."
3) Who owns all that data?
Extraordinary amounts of data are being generated every day, and every advertising campaign produces a data trail of potentially great use to the advertiser, the media owner hosting the ads and the media agencies.
But who owns that data? "As a media owner, we would say that if the data is created by our users on our website it’s ours," says the FT’s Slade. "But advertisers and agencies would see it differently. There’s a lot at stake." And as yet there’s little clarity about the rights and wrongs of the matter - a space to watch in 2011.
4) How important is privacy?
Targeted advertising is increasingly sophisticated and can help consumers find what they want, but it can make for an eerie, Orwellian experience when your tastes are being second-guessed by the advertiser’s hidden hand.
"You can’t help but look at the opportunities that have arisen around the personalisation of advertising; that’s one of the great strengths of personal media," says Slade. But, he warns: "Advertisers have to ask themselves, ‘If I’m going to use it, how far am I going? Am I going over the line and upsetting people?’"
5) Will social media and TV become one?
The long-heralded convergence between the TV set and the computer screen is happening at last and is set to change the nature of the television viewing experience - although how quickly that will happen remains to be seen.
"The next billion televisions will be internet-connected," says David Rowan, editor of technology magazine Wired. "That will turn TV viewing into a much more social experience. Comments from friends’ tweets and Facebook updates will add instant feedback to real-time broadcasts, and will help program your set to record the shows it thinks you are most likely to enjoy, based on what your friends enjoy."
6) Are paywalls working?
It’s still too early to say if online charging will work for mainstream publications such as The Times, given how much free competition is out there.
But forecasters at advertising agency Leo Burnett are predicting that quality content will continue to go behind the paywall. "Low nutrition content will continue to explode across the web but quality journalism, business insight, financial advice and niche publications will be gradually siloed in walled corners of the web," the agency predicts, while general publications will be "forced to sharpen – and aggressively market – their specialisms". Rowan sees value in "curation" to help readers find the "diamonds in the haystacks".
7) Will this (finally) be the year of mobile?
Rowan predicts the mobile internet will leap ahead of desktop internet, pointing to a Morgan Stanley graph showing that mobile internet – through the iPhone, iPad and iPod platforms – is growing 12 times as fast as when AOL was rolling out its desktop-internet service. He also sees advertising money going mobile.
"Twitter’s Jack Dorsey is expected to launch his Square service in Europe this year, allowing all of us to send and receive credit-card cash through our smartphones. In Kenya, a quarter of the GDP now passes through a phone-based cash service called M-Pesa. People are spending on the move – and increasingly it’s not through conventional banks or card services."
8) Is there untapped potential in local media?
Will there be a new dawn of local advertising? As yet, the UK’s local market is dominated by traditional media groups such as the regional newspapers.
But the advent of deal-of-the-day website Groupon and the experience of the US, where local advertising markets are far more exploited, point to untapped potential here. Last month’s government-commissioned Shott report also suggested a new generation of local TV services could be viable. "We have some confidence that local advertising revenues could exceed £5m per annum," Shott concluded.
9) Can digital outdoor supplant press?
Advertising in the outside world will look different in 2011. The growth of digital outdoor advertising is likely to continue apace, with a greater number of those ever-changing video screens at railway stations and shopping malls.
Dave McEvoy, marketing director at JCDecaux, which is doubling its digital footprint in rail and malls, claims: "You can probably reach more people using digital outdoor than by using all the quality and mid-market newspapers."
Expect greater topicality, greater variety and greater sophistication in what advertisers can do with that space.
10) How big a deal will the Olympics be?
Media planners need to get thinking about their strategy for next year’s London Olympic and Paralympic Games. The online auction for the outdoor advertising contracts begins as early as April, with the official Olympic sponsors given first option on the available space.
Outdoor space in Greater London and at all the Olympic venues has been given over for a 12-week period and advertisers have three months to snap it up. For all media companies, how to get the most out of this huge global marketing opportunity will loom larger as the year progresses.
See also Ivan Clark’s blog on the trends that will dominate the year ahead.