Publishing, Social Media and Web Predictions for 2010

Since predictions for the New Year seem to be the rage right now, I thought I’d chime in with what might, could, should or I’d like to see happen in 2010 as it relates to writing, the Web, social media and publishing.

Death of Massive SME Websites

SMEs use massive, bloated website to look bigger than they are: corporate profile, exec bios, endless product info, press releases, corporate philosophy, etc. But there are two things wrong with this:

  1. Most of it is useless content no one will read or use, meaning it has zero ROI
  2. There is a cost for someone to maintain it or have a content management system set up

2010 will be the year SMEs realize sites like WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc. are:

  1. Free
  2. Targeted to specific, valuable communications purposes
  3. Increase the chances of every bit of text having an impact on an audience

Money and effort that had been used for the site will move to communications people blogging, tweeting or using SM tools to interact directly with clients (or potential clients), resulting in better ROI. Look at what Jetblue is doing on Twitter.

For new SMEs, we’ll likely see smaller sites focused on product/service information and aggregating SM content: latest tweets, blog posts, etc.

In other words, online communications and marketing will move from one central, massive, online communications channel to varied, focused and coordinated channels.

IE9 Will Not Support HTML 5 (Neither Will IE10)

Do I need to say anymore?

How about this:

  • Firefox and (especially) Chrome will penetrate the Early Majority, chipping away at IE dominance. This will be caused by:
    • Despite IE’s lagging behind, developers will use HTML 5. Instead of the old days where sites were built for IE (since it dominated), sites will show a “Sorry, this feature is not available in IE” message. This trend already started with IE6 and will spread to all versions.
    • Despite neutrality and “Do no evil,” Chrome will allow you to do stuff in Gmail, YouTube, Wave and GoogleDocs you can’t do in other browsers.
    • Boomers, who probably worked in MS-dominated offices, are retiring. Without Help Desk to call, they’ll rely on their children (or grandchildren) for computer advice. These kids might install Firefox or Chrome.
  • Opera will continue to be a virtual unknown to most of the world.
  • IE6 will continue to be used by a surprising percentage of people.

Twitter Will Be Everywhere and Used Incorrectly

“Twitter campaigns” will be the new banner ads or email blitzes. Expect a lot of big names to get on Twitter, but not understand how it works. In 2010, the Twittersphere will be (over)loaded with all kinds of crap. Get used to the Fail Whale.

E-Mail Marketing Will Make a Comeback

Someone will invent a model where you can opt into sharing data from all your social media presences to receive personalized marketing e-mails from across a number of retailers. This is more than the ones from Amazon based on an aggregate ( “People who bought X also bought Y, so because you bought X do you want to buy Y?”), this will be based on what you actually talk about.

Did you blog about a ski trip where your bindings broke? Expect an e-mail on nearby stores that can get you new ones at competitive prices. Tweet about how much you love the new Stephen King book? Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Chapters will offer discounts on his backlist. Go from “Single” to “In a Relationship”? Here come coupons for flowers, dinners out, movies, condoms, and more.

Why e-mail? Because:

  • The mass mailing infrastructure is still there
  • We’re used to getting offers like this in our inbox
  • E-mail is not a proprietary network
  • It offers rich text layout (SMS cannot)
  • You don’t need to Friend someone to communicate

Publishing – Rise of the Small Press

If the economic downturn continues, small niche publishers will thrive while mass markets will continue to suffer for two reasons:

Identity vs. Passing the Time

Niche markets are tied to identity. Steampunk, for example, is not a mainstream genre. The people who read it love it and see themselves as part of a subculture. They don’t pick up the latest book in a series on a whim, but because it’s part of who they are. These people will continue to buy.

Compare this to mainstream thrillers or romance. These books are used to pass the time. When times are tough, someone might re-read something rather than shell out another $10 for a paperback.

Innovation & eBooks

While large publishers live in fear of eBooks, small publishers have the flexibility and risk tolerance to embrace them. This model will bear fruit and hopefully by this time next year the latest blockbuster will be released simultaneously in hardcover and as an (affordable) eBook.

Fewer Magazines, More Anthos

Print on demand (POD) technology is increase in quality while decreasing in cost. Consider the costs of producing and shipping a monthly (or bi-monthly) magazine in the age of online ‘zines you can read on your cellphone. Compare POD’s affordability and the business model where risk is spread across the publisher and book retailers. In the end, expect to see more magazines go the route of Talebones and switch to an anthology.

Less Print, More Digital for Midlist Writers

This is for down the road when eBook readers gain a much wider adoption, but I see midlist writers’ work moving to digital formats with much smaller print runs. (This assumes sanity reigns in eBooks pricing, not pricing it the same as the hardcover.)

Midlist writers are cash cows. They generally have a small but loyal following who faithfully buy each book as it comes out. While those books will probably never be bestsellers, each can expect to sell a certain number.

Now consider that the profit margins on eBooks are should be higher than a mass market paperback. (Since it’s electronic, you create the file once and you’re done; each physical book has its unit cost.) Why print all those copies and use that very expensive shelf space if fans know when the new book is coming out and will probably save a trip to the store by downloading it? Though less revenue, eBooks provide greater per unit profit.

But shelf space is both availability and marketing. If someone in a bookstore can’t see a book, it’s impossible to buy it. Therefore, it should be used for top name author to encourage impulse buys (“Hey, the new Stephen King!”) and to give exposure to new authors who don’t have a following (“Matt Moore… yeah, I’ve heard of him. I’m gonna check this out.”).

What Do You Think?

Have something to add? Something I missed? Leave me a comment.

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