Sunday, February 11, 2007

Seven content trends

At last the 2007 annual report and forecast for the content industry by Shore Communications is out. And again it is very interesting. In less than 20 pages the consultants of Shore Communications look back at the developments of the year 2006, comparing what they wrote last year and what became of the industry that year. But they also looked ahead and condensed the trends for 2007 in seven keywords. So the consultants do not just look ahead without any refernce framework looking back. This makes their outlook for 2007 more trustworthy.

Last year their main theme was about investing in users. And what a forecast that was. At the end of the year Time Magazine awarded the Person Of The Year award to the user. The user content generation, the citizens’ journalism, the community created content they all began to be taken seriously by websites as Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace and Second Life. The year 2006 was about users in control of content production and aggregation. But it was also the year in which online advertisement grew again with big jumps; in which video made its entry after so many years in the waiting room; in which social media became reality; in which private equity started investing again.

The report signals six important developments in 2006. The institutional markets request insertion of third party content in their systems. Scholarly publishing got competition from Google Scholar and PLoS. In the business media the sell-off of VNU might sound a consolidation. In general media an array of new hardware, software and social media came about serving the iPOD and Zune, satellite radio and the LCD screens. Book publishers were confronted with Sony’s e-book and other e-Readers based on e-Ink technology, but did not get frightened yet. In content technologies there is still room enough to develop analytical tools for the read/write web.

But the consultants of Shore Communications are not shouting Hosanna for 2007. In fact they point to a toughening economy towards the end of 2007, telling new and traditional publishers to set achievable goals. Many people are still in a very optimistic state, having just left difficult times. But as in the media treesome: the hype is always followed by the backlash after which reality sets in. As the report says: As in previous boom aftermaths, too much money chasing too few good ideas with too little knowledge about how to turn technology ideas into content services will make the “dead pool” a popular stopover for many startups. That’s a real sharp observation.

But for the year 2007, Shore Communication consultants have seven keywords all starting with an A: Answers, Audience, Aggregation, APIs, Alternatives, Acceleration and Asia. I like the observation that Google will no longer be good enough with collections of potentially interesting content. People want answers and have a dashboard to find answers fast. The general audience will change to targeted audiences for GPS and location based services. Aggregating content will move to a new area sailing between DRM and creative commons. Publishers will need APIs in order to sell content to companies, who want this information in their workflow. Content services will be come real time not just serving financial markets, but also other content markets. And last, but not least, Asia becomes a content consumption market, but for Western publishers this will need adaptation and a multi-cultural attitude, which is something different from just translations.

From that point the consultants dive into the major trends in their market model and close with conclusions and recommendations. It is worthwhile spending time reading it, discussing it with colleagues and draw actions from it for your content service. The conclusions of 2006 underwent reality checks and passed, so why doubt about the conclusions and recommendations of 2007.

BTW. There is a strange thing about the report’s copyright notice. The notice is most likely standard for all the company’s client reports. But as this report can be seen as an advertisement for the company, I wonder whether such a strict copyright notice is needed. This blog is perhaps trespassing as no part of the report should be disclosed to any party without the express written consent of Shore Communications Inc. Of course Shore Communications should guard the copyright, but it could also do this with creative commons copyright.

Blog Posting Number: 661

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