PRWeek asked a number of leading new-media thinkers to discuss which trends they feel will have a major impact in the latter half of 2006. Below, you will find predictions about YouTube, Second Life, "hubs," mobile content, "democratic editorial control," and more.
Jenny Abelson, CEO, Abelson Group
Most important trend: Social networking and productivity applications going mobile
This is My Space and LinkedIn going mobile, search going mobile, and essentially, all desktop and Internet content going mobile so it is usable by cell phone or smartphone device. The market for bringing brands mobile is spectacularly fragmented, offering tremendous innovation and confusion.
We will continue to see a lot of social networking, community messaging, and increased multimedia communication and content on mobile devices as a continued trend in 2006. Social networking is hot as is any type of participation using mobile devices.
Second hottest trend: Participation TV
The way TV networks like FOX or ABC are engaging their viewers in new and exciting ways is their top priority. TV networks are losing ground on advertising and losing viewers to other types of entertainment found on iPods and other gaming devices. Extending their brand via interactive technology and engaging consumers in a meaningful, valuable participation technique, like voting, polling, sweepstakes, contests, and more is a trend that is sweeping the nation. This is a multibillion-dollar market in Europe and quickly [becoming an] emerging market this year in the United States.
Other trends: MVNOs
This year may be known as the year of the MVNO, as more mobile virtual network operators will fail than not. Those that survive will be particularly adept at marketing well to a specific audience, whether its families, teens, low-income, or sports-enthusiasts, and be able to offer them the value they need at the appropriate price point. Music and TV on mobile phones (but these may fizzle again).
Adam Brown, Director of eKetchum
Most important trend: Democratic editorial control
We're seeing this on sites like Digg.com and Newsvine.com. We've seen (and are seeing) the impact of consumer-generated content (CGM) on public relations. The next phase of this is the empowerment of the consumer as the editor, arbitrator, and gatekeeper; where we see the "wisdom of crowds" determining what is and is not relevant. This is great when your opinion or article is in line with the majority, bad when it isn't - unless you can energize your "passionates" to help "dig" up your story.
Most Important Service: Online community measurement
This is any service that can help PR professionals (as well as other marketers) understand the next level of what is being said about them in the online communities. Tools that a) tell us what is being said and who is saying it, and b) take us to the next step (do these speakers have influence/amplification and who is listening?) will be crucial. I bet these services will be online by the end of 2006.
Annie Heckenberger, VP, MMC CoNEXTions
I've been watching Paypal (not a client) very closely. I think where it is going with PayPal Mobile has a strong future for consumer buying.
We live in a fast-paced world that doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. I'm heavily reliant on my mobile devices, as are many consumers - from the high powered executive to the junior high student to the grandparent. Mobile phones connect many of us; they've become a global common denominator that spans generations, continents, cultures, and languages.
In the US, services like VCast have made it possible for us to digest our broadcast news on the go, via phone. We can even catch up on the sports and entertainment, MTV and ESPN. Even the US government is getting in on the mobile game - last week announcing that Emergency Alerts will be coming soon to mobile phones and other portable devices. Watch out Tony Soprano, smartmobs are growing and now, thanks to emerging services like PayPal Mobile, we have the power to demonstrate our purchasing power, right from our phones. The premise of PayPal Mobile, is that like using PayPal online for purchases, you can use this on your phone to securely make a payment to someone.
I think the idea of being able to make an impulsive or planned purchase from a mobile phone/portable device will become more and more appealing as the concept goes wide and people continue seeking conveniences that preserve and conserve personal time that continues to be a precious commodity. I also think that the results of this application for nonprofit fundraising, in particular, could be extraordinary. And when barcoding reaches via text reaches mobile phones - watch out! But that's a bit further down the road.
Peter Himler, principal, Flatiron Communications
In the second half of 2006, the industry will continue to be smitten with the many new tools now (and soon-to-be) at its disposal. These tools will enable digitally savvy PR pros to capture an increasingly fragmented (niche) audience with their clients' news and information - at least those online audiences intent on finding it. The use of digital video will grow and consume even more Internet bandwidth - and eyeballs - across multiple delivery channels, but the advertising industry will further encroach on what was once the exclusive domain of PR pros. Finally, with all the talk of the digital PR revolution, agencies specializing in generating good, old-fashioned publicity – ink and airtime – will continue to have banner years profiting from their myriad long-tailed clients.
Max Kalehoff, VP of marketing for Nielsen BuzzMetrics
Marketers have struggled to understand and manage the mushrooming body of written commentary by consumers about all aspects of brands in so-called social media platforms, from message boards and forums to blogs and social networking sites. In a world where consumers trust consumers more than advertisers, what's written publicly about brands can significantly impact the awareness, trial, and sustained purchase behavior of products and services.
Now, consumer expression is dialing up to a more impactful, emotional, and viral level through social multimedia platforms, including image, audio, and video. This trend is evident in the skyrocketing growth of audio podcasts, photo-sharing sites as well as portals like YouTube.com, Google Video and others. The sustained attention that video especially introduces is not only blurring the lines with television, but also inspiring original programming and advertising content. Importantly, whether intended or not, brands are heavily implicated in such video content, presenting marketers with opportunities, challenges, and liabilities.
Georg Kolb, Text 100 EVP
My impression is that 2006 might be the year when the hype on blogs finally ends and the bigger picture on peer-to-peer media emerges.
Andy Lark, CMO, LogLogic
Trend: Communities and their citizen editors reassembling the fragmented media and conversation space creating powerful micro channels to which millions flock.
Company: The one with the biggest community: think Nike, Apple, VW, and Lego. Apple, if it can fully integrate the iPod, video, and phone. Microsoft - the degree to which key technologies such as RSS are implemented in IE7, Vista, and Office 2007.
Technology: The wiki and community-creation platform (like FiveAcross).
Service: SixApart, (TypePad, Vox). And, Dabble database: Finally we can build our own applications in real-time. And iTunes: what AP/PR Newswire was to the press release, iTunes is to the podcast.
Other thoughts on what might happen:
Fortune 500 corporations hire their first "conversationalists" - staffers dedicated not to transmitting information (PR) but rather, igniting conversations.
Media continues to fragment and reassemble around citizen editors.
PR continues its rapid evolution from transmission of content to igniting conversations.
Measurement takes a backseat to monitoring as communicators efforts to keep track of the blogosphere and citizen media kick into overdrive. In background mode, measurement practioners start working on new metrics that track participation. (There is an absolute difference between monitoring and measurement).
Major agencies launch new press release formats, following hot on the heels of tech boutique Shift. BusinessWire and PRNewswire wake from their slumber and assemble these fragmented efforts into a compelling Web 2.0 offering. View more here.
Mike Manuel, online strategist for Voce
Most important trend: Video
I think a lot of companies and firms will be experimenting with video the back half of this year. Experimentation will range from the mundane, like repurposing canned corporate video on distribution hubs like YouTube, Google/Yahoo! Video, and iTunes, to video projects that are co-created with customers, video postings on corporate blogs, and high-dollar video creations designed for buzz and viral marketing purposes.
Most important tool/service: For the reasons mentioned above, the video portal players will continue to be hot. YouTube, in my opinion, stands out from the pack, but I think we'll see/hear more from Brightcove and Guba, too.
Other things to keep an eye on
Second Life: It's still really early, but I expect we'll see more corporate participation by year's end.
Microformats: This is land of the nerds right now, but microformats like hrelease, hcontact and hevent have the potential to rock, if used appropriately. I think the social media press release will probably be the first good example of a microformat in action.
Jeremy Pepper, Weber Shandwick group manager
Important trend: Second Life
As someone that is actually in the community, the environment itself is amazing and the demographics are astounding. The ages, income, and sex of the participants are the sweet spots that companies look to target. While there might be detractors, the truly interactive community is an example of people with similar interests working together and building an online community. I see more companies opening stores – people like Aimee Weber (www.aimeeweber.com) are already quite busy – and I see companies holding events in places like the Hipcast Expo, a full convention center in Second Life.
Other trend: Video podcasts and podcasts
With the addition of Robert Scoble to Podtech.net, and then signing Geek Entertainment TV's producer, Eddie Codel, and hostess (with a journalism background) Irina Slutsky, Podtech.net is moving beyond audio to video. And, they were already doing well with corporate podcast series, but now they can do more with video. Plus, you take a look at shows like 88SLIDE - where they are replicating the game show format, including prize giveaways and sponsors - it is a good place to get early adopters, and get in early as the field continues to grow.
Andy Plesser, president and founder of Plesser Holland Associates, and Beet.TV creator
Searchable video is the most exciting, powerful new tools to emerge this year. As we know, we get most of our information through keyword search on Google, Yahoo, and other search engines, and on Technorati in the blogosphere. Now, video can now be easily published and tagged for search by virtually anyone.
YouTube has established this "democratic" platform for video publishing and search. Now there is the opportunity for communications professionals to be video publishers. We all know the power of video for our clients, yet television appearances are ephemeral – the spot is on then it's gone. Searchable video means that a clip can exist "on demand". With Beet.TV, we have found that most of the viewers of our video clips come to the site through searches not by visiting the home page or by RSS.
To be successful, we need to create video segments ourselves. This means working with in-house production teams, hiring outside producers, or creating a departmental video production capability. Also, maximizing video through search is time-consumer process. Blogs can be good platform for searchable video – as are online video portals like Yahoo! and Google. But, simply put, as video is now permeating the Web – and consumer and business people are finding video through search – there is a pressing imperative for communications professionals to get on the online video train, now. Plesser Holland Associates is PRWeek's PR agency
Giovanni Rodriguez, partner, Eastwick Communications
A: Strategic investment in "hubs"
After a year or so of tinkering and experimenting, many businesses are finally ready to make a strategic investment in social media. The big trend is to invest in social media hubs – i.e., online portals that enable businesses to connect with multiple audiences using multiple tools (blogs, wikis, audio podcasts, video podcasts, etc.). The goal for these companies is to match the right tool for the right audience.
B: The "Inside Out" approach
There are an increasing number of businesses that are approaching social media from the inside out. Many businesses I speak with today are looking to see if they can follow the lead of IBM by providing the workforce with an internal hub that enables anyone to engage in new media. The goal for these companies is to expand the PR function by developing a community of communicators.
C: The triumph of PR
Perhaps the most remarkable trend is the ascendance of PR. With direct channels for communicating with customers, partners, and influencers – and with multiple tools and channels for reaching all of these folks – PR is poised to challenge other marketing disciplines: advertising, direct marketing, word of mouth, just to name a few. And it makes sense. PR has always been about social marketing – connecting content with people, without paying the people to spread that content. And with the availability of tools that enable direct and transparent communication with many different kinds of audiences – including those that have been traditionally hard to reach through media relations – the PR industry has an opportunity to emerge as a one-stop shop for all things marketing. That's why "hubs" are hot and why so many businesses will be investing in them. My prediction: PR agencies will get most of the work.