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Five fearless technology forecasts for 2008

With 2008 having arrived, it's time to project some of the developments that will drive e-business and marketing this year. To get to these projections, it is useful to look back at some of the topics that were covered in last year's Buzz Networks column. Among the topics and developments we reviewed were the following: podcasting, mobile marketing, e-mail, online retailing, online advertising, social networks, and brand protection. In looking these over and reading and hearing from others, I've identified five trends for 2008.

2008 will see:

• Niches: Continued growth of narrowly-focused niche sites and service offerings as consumers seek to engage with their interests and connect with like-minded individuals.

• Multi-channel content delivery expansion: Pure play social networking sites, podcasters, news sites, video sharing sites, etc., blend into hybrid delivery systems focused on delivering content and engaging with consumers as to how they want content.

• High design and hybrid technology enhancements: Consumers have adopted well designed products and are shifting to newer hybrid technologies, trends that will continue to shift the landscape for e-business and marketing.
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• Web 2.0 implementation: Organizations that have been hesitant to implement Web 2.0 features for internal or external audiences will find that these features are becoming the de facto standard, and they will find they need them to survive.

• Changing consumer behavior: Consumers are continuing to want greater control, whether through management of their identities and concerns about privacy, or through their use and participation in user-generated content. In addition, the economic uncertainty being faced along with a change in administration could make consumers hesitant to buy.

Let's take a look at each of these trends in a bit more depth.

Niches

The growth of niches is one that we are seeing throughout our economy. Niche marketing is what Philip Kotler calls “targeting of a more narrowly defined customer group seeking a distinctive mix of benefits.” We've seen this narrow targeting grow as technology and public policy has enabled the de-massification of media with consumers able to select from a large number of television stations, news sites, social networking sites, video sites, magazines, etc. The long tail is coming to life with entrepreneurs identifying value in niche markets where they can fill needs and out-maneuver lumbering giants.

This trend is continuing in a range of Web 2.0 areas, including user-generated video sites. Among the video-sharing niche sites that have launched are those targeting a range of demographic niches, including evangelicals (GodTube) and scientists (DNATube), to name a couple. Most of these target audiences also have options both in video-sharing sites and social networks to fulfill their information and entertainment needs.

In other demographic niche targeting, entrepreneur Samir Arora has seized on the niche trend by aggregating a number of sites, bloggers and advertisers targeting women with his Glam Media family of sites, now in the top 10 of women-targeted sites according to ComScore Media Metrix.

Multi-channel content delivery

Astute content developers are recognizing that their pure play print, audio, video or other delivery mechanism won't cut it any more. Consumers expect to be able to interact with content providers in a wide range of fashions including through their current delivery modes, but also through blogs, social networks, online video, and other new delivery techniques. For example, The New York Times has signed an agreement that will allow them to work closely with CNBC for sharing video, printed content and discussion forums on their respective sites and through their “standard” delivery systems of print and television respectively.

Not to be left behind, site developers are integrating in social networking, blogging, podcasting, and video-sharing capabilities at a range of new and existing sites. For example, BigThink, an example of a niche site, is being created to blend YouTube and Facebook characteristics for intellectuals, according to the National Ledger. Another example can be seen with eBay and their launch of a social networking capability in their Neighborhoods section, where vendors and buyers can share and explore their interests.

High design and hybrid technology

2008 will be an interesting year for technology. We've seen greater interest in design due to the immense success of Apple's elegant i-products. Sleek and engaging design and user interfaces will play a bigger role among the many companies targeting consumer and business electronics. Along with design, we've seen some trends towards technical convergence that are complemented by those towards simplification. 2008 will continue to be a big year for GPS, high definition televisions, mobile internet devices (MIDs), Ultra Mobile PCs and mobile web browsing on cell phones. It also will be a good year for the Chinese, with both Haier and Lenovo speeding ahead with new designs and technologies. Haier has introduced the iBiza Rhapsody, a potential iPod competitor, while Lenovo has introduced fashion forward ideaPad portable computers.

In other technology trends, we are seeing the arrival of tools to facilitate consumer-generated media, including early generation voice blogging technologies that allow for voice recognition to replace typed messaging for accelerated blog posting.

Web 2.0 implementation

Content and commerce sites are waking up to the fact that they'll need to adopt some web 2.0 capabilities to serve their customers. 2008 should be a year when we see more and more of these capabilities adopted and integrated into new or existing platforms. Among the tools that will continue to gain mindshare and investment will be online video, blogging, widgets. and podcasts.

Consumer behavior trends

There are a couple of clouds on the horizon that you'll need to keep abreast of when it comes to your organization's success and the fulfillment of the trends reviewed in this article. The first of these, of course, is economic uncertainty. Economic uncertainty could significantly diminish consumer investment in new technologies and willingness to take a risk on the new and untested. Another trend that we are seeing is a real concern about privacy. Consumers are waking up to existing and potential abuses in the use of their private information. From MySpace's faux pas with sharing of user's purchases, to Sears' tracking of consumer buying, consumers are mad and are trying to gain control of the information that companies capture, share, and use to serve them.

Another consumer trend that we are continuing to see is the popularity of user-generated content. Wikipedia continues to hold a leading role in this area with large numbers of consumers willingly participating in generating new content. Google has decided to fight back and is testing and working on Knol, a Wikipedia competitor that will offer a significant difference - the identification of writers contributing content to the site. Not to be left behind, Wikipedia launched an open source search engine, Wikia Search, early this year that will include user editing along with natural search results.

Interested in some other projections for 2008? Take a look at the following articles and sites:

• B2B Marketing - Outlook 2008.

• eMarketer - 10 Key Predictions for 2008.

Internet Evolution - the macrosite for news, analysis and inight on the future of the internet

• J. Walter Thompson - 80 Things to Watch in 2008 .

• The Web Chef's e-Bytes - What's in Store for 2008?

• Trendwatching - 8 important consumer trends for 2008.

2008 will be another interesting year in the e-business environment, and I'm looking forward to continuing to share my perspectives in the Buzz Networks column and through speaking and consulting engagements on e-business and marketing topics. If you have any ideas for topics you'd like to see me cover, please drop me a line.

Previous articles by Paul Gibler

Paul Gibler: Widgets - Web components for plug, play, and pay

Paul Gibler: The expanding world of social networking

Paul Gibler: Business would be wise to note the resurrection of online ads

Paul Gibler: 583 reasons to wonder: Is e-mail dead or alive?

Paul Gibler: Online retailing "tango" is adding some steps

Outflanking the Google, Yahoo, MSN juggernaut

Paul Gibler: On the case: Web lessons for connecting with customers

Paul Gibler: Brand protection in the age of customer engagement

Wireless wizardry coming to the small screen

Paul Gibler: Podcasts - time, place, and player shifted media

Paul Gibler: Virtual communities make online connections

Paul Gibler: Lights, cameras, action: The state of online video

Paul Gibler: Joining the wiki wacki world

Paul Gibler: Would you like your music (and data) mashed?

Paul Gibler: Cutting through the blog fog

Paul Gibler: No RSS feed? You're fired!

Paul Gibler: Social computing in the Web 2.0 era

Paul J. Gibler, “the Web Chef” is principal consultant for ConnectingDots (http://www.connectingdots.com), an e-business and marketing strategic consulting and training company. Paul speaks on e-marketing and writes two blogs - e-Bytes and PPT - Powerful Presentation Techniques. He can be reached at pgibler@connectingdots.com.

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.

WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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