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8 digital media trends that are shaping 2010

A girl views a new iPad tablet computer at an Apple store during its UK launch in central London May 28, 2010. Diehard fans mobbed Apple Inc stores in Asia and Europe as the iPad tablet computer went on sale outside the United States for the first time on Friday. The device, a little smaller than a letter-size sheet and with a colour touchscreen, is designed for surfing the Web, watching movies and reading. It has been hailed by the publishing industry as a potential life-saver. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY SCI TECH)

User payment, the tablet revolution and more clever advertising solutions. Those are some of the digital media trends that are putting their mark on 2010.

In the beginning of the year I wrote the blog post “8 digital media trends to watch in 2010″.  It has been one of the most read articles on BetaTales this year and I decided it is time to update it. This is a new version of the post, in which I have included some of the developments that have proved to put a strong mark on the year.

Here are 8 of the ditigal media trends that I think are shaping 2010:

1. Searching for new business models: Lots of experiments with user payment are taking place

Many media houses have signalled that they will try to charge customers for content. “User payment” has become the new buzz word within the media industry, and a large number of experiments have been initiated.

The wave has been headed by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who just put the web site of The Times behind a paywall.

Most media houses probably will not dare to go as far as The Times. Rather many are trying to find solutions where the most loyal readers are paying. One example is The New York Times, which will introduce the socalled meter model in the beginning of next year.

The big challenge for media houses is of course to determine what of their offerings that really provide Unique Value. There is a good thing about these experiments, though. As 2010 draws to an end, the business model of news may have gone through some significant changes. We will know a lot more about which models may actually work and which will be doomed to fail.

One thing is for sure: Most media sites need to improve their business model. Unless you are a market leader, display ads alone normally is not sufficient to run a sustainable news business online. This is becoming even more evident as display ads have become under increasing price pressure in the market. Somehow news sites will need to find additional income sources.

2. Smart phones are revolutionizing mobile web use

We are in the middle of a revolution when it comes to connecting to the web through mobile services. The basic initiator is the iPhone, which revolutionized how people use the web through mobile devices.

This trend is now being accelerated by Google‘s open source operating system Android, which is gaining speed very quickly.

The result is a radical shift in how people use their mobile phones. The apps economy is exploding and a lot of people are now using their mobile phones for tasks previously taken care of by their laptops.

3. Media sites are connecting much more closely to popular social networks

Only a couple of years back many media sites thought they could develop huge social networks on their own. This approach has largely failed. Media sites soon discovered that developing their own social networks required consistant dedication and allocaton of resources. It proved to be very hard to compete on an every-day basis with the huge global players.

Look for instance at this Alexa graph of how the once huge popular Norwegian social network Nettby has lost visitors. Nettby is run by VG.no, the news site of Norway’s second largest newspaper.

Giving up the ambition to create their own social network, a lot of media sites now instead connect to the social networks people do indeed use:   FacebookYouTubeTwitter, etc.

One of many examples is Washington Post, which has introduced the concept Network News. Connecting to Facebook’s API, the news site lets its readers know of stories recommended by their friends.

We are now seeing a large number of media sites using Facebook Connect and similar tools in an effort to create engagement. The reason is simple: The the ability to create engagement and loyalty among users is a determining factor of which media sites will be the winners in the future. This is even more important as much general news have been commoditized.

The trend also forces media companies to realize that the age of one-way communication is a past. In today’s digital world media  need to be in continuous dialogue with their readers – or slowly die.

4. Geo location are becoming the basis of exciting new services

As mobile services explode, the location of users will be more important. Most new smart phones have a GPS included, and content providers will offer services which utilize where users are located at any specific time.

At the same time a number of new social networks are built around the location of its users, such as Foursquare and Gowalla.

Media sites are not necessarily prepared for this trend. Many media sites are accustomed to preparing their content primarily for print and secondarily for the web. Typically they have not added the meta data necessary to offer geo  located services. Now it is the time to do it!

5. Tablets are changing our media habits

A shopworker is reflected in the screen of an iPad tablet computer at an Apple store while demonstrating the device during its UK launch in central London May 28, 2010. Diehard fans mobbed Apple Inc stores in Asia and Europe as the iPad tablet computer went on sale outside the United States for the first time on Friday. The device, a little smaller than a letter-size sheet and with a colour touchscreen, is designed for surfing the Web, watching movies and reading. It has been hailed by the publishing industry as a potential life-saver. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS SOCIETY SCI TECH)

The launch of Apple’s iPad has put high speed on the e-reading market for media companies. Media companies are running as fast as they can to come up with them most exciting news apps for the new tablet.

Apple will soon face competition from lighter tablets with even better screens, many of them based on Google’s competing Android platform.

For media companies an interesting user pattern is emerging. iPad is proving itself to be a sofa device – as many users primarily reserve it for the late night time.

And then there are Kindle and other e-ink deviced, designed to offer a very good user experience when reading books and other forms of text.

The number of e-reader devices in the market will grow significantly in 2010 – and so will also the buzz around this technology.

We are bound to see a large number of tablets and other e-reading devices launched in the market within the next year. So far iPad has taken a lead, but the landscape is still in the storm and huge changes will happen.

6. Much greater emphasis on new advertisement models

As space for display ads is abundant and prices drop, media sites are forced to spend a lot of time and money to develop more sophisticated ad models for their customers.  Advertisers demand documentation that ads actually work – and media sites are under increasing pressure to prove the effect of ads on their sites. We will probably see a lot more innovation in this area as the sites try to develop premium ad models which can offer high value both to the advertiser and the users.

7. Real-time

Delaying publishing is yesterday’s method – news and other content today is published as it happens. We are now experiencing the real-time web, driven forward by news feeds of services like Facebook and Twitter.

Users increasingly demand immediacy, a way of presenting news which is both compelling and addictive. At major news events users have increasingly sophisticated ways of following the aggregated real-time news streams from numerous eye witnesses.

This of course poses great challenges for traditional media companies as they face competition from observant amateurs at the scene of the news.

I am convinced news sites increasingly will take advantage of this real-time web and find creative ways of making their coverage evolve live and continuously as new information is being gathered. This includes making efficient use of social media and user content in the daily journalism.

8. News content continue to disaggregate

It seems to me that most editors underestimate how news content is disaggregated. Yet this trend somewhat undermines the very business model of traditional media companies with their emphasis on broad edited packages as their main product.

As a journalist it hurts me to point this out. Yet I am convinced that the content focus slowly moves from one-size-fits-all packages to the single piece of news content and associated meta data.  For many news sites today a significant portion of their users don’t even visit the front page, but go directly to a specific news article from a Google search og aggregator service.

I think there is a clear parallell to the music industry. Their basic product used to be the album, an edited package of an appropriate collection of songs. This made sense when you had to make a physical product – like a record or CD.  But as music was digitalized, the individual song took over as the popular product.

I am not saying there will not be a market for edited packages.  Certainly people will still appreciate qualified editors making a choice for them.  But content pieces will no longer only live within a broader package, but also take on a life of its own being distributed wherever users want to consume it. And media sites will be forced to make their packages much more unique and focus on specific user needs.

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About the author: Experienced media manager and journalist. Enthusiastic about digital media – and eager amateur photographer. Currently Chief Communications Officer at Schibsted Tech Polska in Krakow, Poland.

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  • http://www.xstream.dk Frank Thorup

    The 10 dot list of media trends looks exciting and the trends is for me obvious to look at for media companies as long as the businessmodel is obvious.

    But I’m missing TV-widget as a trend, the TV-widget market is moving, and has lots of business possibilities to offer online media companies that want to move into the livingroom and distribute their content on a TV-platform.

  • http://www.ringrevenue.com Jason Spievak

    You are right about the trends and about the way smart phones are changing the way mobile users are accessing the web – and that’s having a major impact on user expectations: first, how quickly and easily we should be able to get to and navigate the web from our phones (and it is never fast enough) and second, what we expect to be able to do when we get there (for example, use our handsets to “click to call” from the web if we choose to). And just as geo-location enables exciting new forms of mobile news delivery, it also empowers merchants with performance based advertising opportunities that lets them track and measure the effectiveness of their advertising investment. This speaks to your point about new ad models becoming increasingly important. Right now, online ad dollars are pouring into the performance model, which works extremely well with mobile as click-to-call and pay-per-call services allow customers to connect directly with merchants, and merchants can easily track and pay for that highly qualified traffic. These are people who want to get in touch with a business perhaps to buy something, visit the store or learn more about a product, and they may well be right around the corner.

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  • ialveberg

    Lets discuss this further, but I would prefer to understand first what the underlying consumer trends are, and then as you point out how techonogy and mediacompanies are following these trends.

    I believe the consumer trend we are seeing is the dissolving of the web as we know is. The Internet is very much alive, but the closed and aggregated web sites are just losing momentum. Consumers are no longer in awe of all they can find on the web, but rather want instant gratification – what they want, when they want it and where they want it. This is what tech and media comapnies are trying to figure out.

    • http://www.betatales.com John Einar Sandvand

      I guess you are thinking about the transformation from web to apps. In many ways apps are attempts to try to concentrate one one task at the time.

      I agree that the web as such may go through huge changes. At least we can say that Internet is taking many more forms than before. The web – as viewed through browsers- will no longer be as dominant. Instead we will connect through Internet in many more ways, including Internet being embedded in a number of physical products in different ways.

      However, I think we are still pretty far away from the “dissolving of the web as we know it”. Am I wrong?

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