If 2012 was the year of social, then 2013 will be the year of video. It certainly started last year with the first Digital Content Newfronts led by AOL, Hulu, MSN, Yahoo, and YouTube. But 2013 will be the year the money actually starts to move, given innovation in measurement like Nielsen OCR. To win, publishers will have to focus on a combination of scale, programming excellence, and innovation. Video is a powerful way to tell the stories of brands and, with the right distribution strategy, the story can engage consumers where it matters most.
2. "Organic" consumers.
Organic consumers are those who come to you because they want to - search and social referrals to brand experiences are key. Consumers who come from search are dramatically more valuable to brands because they are on a mission – it's a directed behavior that brings a lean-forward consumer. Social referrals are valuable for a different reason – consumers from this source arrive at content because it's personally relevant. As it's harder to control consumer behavior in a fragmented world, publishers will aim to create more content that drives social "shares" and social "finds,” and keep SEO a priority.
3. Branded content.
Expect to see more integrations that go beyond the "advertorial" to truly integrate brand content with a uniquely social slant. Brands have been working closely with top media and production partners for some time to create high-impact digital content that speaks to core consumer insights. The twist in 2013 will be to truly embrace social as part of those experiences – not just as a distribution channel but as an integral component.
4. Content fueling the social web.
As brands have cultivated and acquired real followership and mass in social media, the channel is largely disconnected from their other digital activities and used solely for distribution and promotion. In 2013, brands will accelerate their efforts to connect their social channels to their best content. It's time for brands to move beyond solely using promotional tactics like discounts and contests to drive engagement in social - content truly fuels the social web. And, content that is truly current or real-time will thrive given the pace of the Twitter economy of information.
5. Distributed strategies.
With the advent of technologies like the IAB Portrait, the idea of distributed storytelling for brands is not new. 2013 will hopefully be the year when brands move even further in this direction to truly appreciate that they should not be single-venue destinations online and instead embrace more nimble, distributed branding strategies. As these strategies start to take hold, measurement will need to evolve to focus less on driving traffic to a specific place and more on overall brand impact.
Janet Balis is publisher of The Huffington Post.