Predict That – Reviewing my 2008 Precitions

Monday, December 22, 2008
Posted by Jim Hedger @ 2:58 pm

Taking a step away from reviewing the major news stories of the year, I thought I would take a look at the predictions I made for 2008 at this time last year. I didn’t do too badly by my loose scorecard though I was way off on the prospects of banner advertising in 2008. Here’s a look at what I thought would happen and what actually did happen in 2008…

1/ As we are starting to realize about Global Warming, the pace of change is accelerating exponentially. In 2008 what we have known to be solid ground is going to get rather swampy, much like the permafrost around Hudson’s Bay.

This prediction was easy and correct. The search and digital marketing environment is feeling as solid as ice right now. Ice is extremely solid as long as conditions are right but rapidly melts when conditions change. Dozens of well known search marketers changed jobs or found their positions eliminated this year, mostly due to the economy. The state of conventions and conferences is in question as well as the economy takes its toll on extra expenses and travel budgets.

2/ Advertising is the last thing to be cut when hard times hit. That’s an important thing to keep in mind as we move into 2008. The online marketing world will actually benefit from the coming economic chaos though the longevity of that benefit and the breadth of it is subject for debate.

Again, I was correct but this was a rather easy prediction to make. 2008 saw a sharp increase in online ad-spend but 2009 will be a breakthrough year for digital advertising as cost conscious advertisers move even greater amounts away from print and television towards digital marketing channels.

3/ 2008 is an election year in the United States. Things always get strange in election years and this one promises to be extremely intense. America is sorting itself out in this election and the effects of their choices will cast a long shadow over the evolution of the Internet.

This one was correct though it won’t come true until after January 20th when the pro-net neutrality Obama administration takes control of the White House. The election of an Internet savvy president does not guarantee helpful Internet policies but it goes a long way in assuaging fears of poor Internet and Ecommerce policies.

4/ In the present Internet economy, everything evolves around the state of the States. Politically, economically and socially, America is working through some of its darkest and nastiest days in decades. Virtually bankrupting itself in an intractable conflict and massively in debt to China, America is teetering on the edge of an economic recession.

Correct though corrected… Economists now admit America has been in recession since December 2007 though the day most people will mark is September 15, 2008 when investment house Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail and filed for bankruptcy protection. Lehman’s failure promoted a cascade effect and will be remembered as the trigger event for the most spectacular financial crash since the Great Depression of 1929 – 1938.

5/ A large number of American citizens are on the verge of losing their homes in the sub-prime financing debacle, the fallout of which is being bourn by financial institutions around the world.

Correct. The fallout from the mortgage crisis continues though a holiday amnesty on foreclosures has been announced. Because of the sub-prime crisis, the banking and financial systems of several countries have been damaged and in some cases, destroyed.

6/ Retail sales are down as debt-ridden consumers find themselves with less disposable income from month to month due to rising refinancing rates.

Happily incorrect! Retail sales are actually up from last year though the rate of growth has declined for the first time in over a decade. Sales figures for Black Friday and CyberMonday show decelerated growth but growth nevertheless.

7/ Many of us who have not yet been affected by the economic volatility watch as our neighbors and friends find getting by more difficult and it worries us enough that we spend a little less money. These things have a way of gathering their own momentum.

Correct. Consumer confidence is the most important barometer of how the overall economy is doing and confidence is plummeting as the realities of a global recession takes hold in the US and Canada. Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to say the economy is safe from slipping into a depression. Things are gaining momentum and there are still two major milestones our economy has to pass (January auto-shutdown and Feb. credit card bills) before the worst of the “what we know’s” is over.

8/ The influence of Chinese government policy is going to be felt outside of China as that market expands and China assumes a role as a global leader. We already see this happening politically and economically. Digital marketers will soon see the clients we work with demand deference to the sensibilities of the Chinese government as their operations become further intertwined with the Chinese market.

Again, happily wrong. The Chinese became more insular in 2008 in part due to the government’s focus on producing a memorable Olympic games and in part due to the Chinese government’s new obsession in expanding domestic consumer markets to compensate for declining exports to the US and Canada. The weight and dominance of their economy is expected to exert heavy influence in 2009.

9/ 2008 looks like it could be a year in which the habits of Internet users shift on a number of fronts. As developers create a greater number of applications which make the Web more interesting for users that transcend the typical web-site, the Internet will be a remarkably different place to work and recreate in.

Totally correct. There has been tremendous energy put into making the Web a more interesting place. Social applications like Twitter spread the useful concept of micro-messaging throughout Web culture. Social networking applications like Facebook and Linked-In became more popular and more useful in 2008. Perhaps the greatest indicator of how important communication applications like Twitter and Facebook have become is the rapid rise of social media marketing services and techniques offered by search marketers and adopted by mainstream brand advertisers.

10/ Facebook is going to make at least one more attempt at introducing its own contextual advertising program, likely in concert with one of the major networks whose name does not begin with a G.

Half correct. Facebook did introduce a new contextual advertising program towards the end of 2008. Known by the simple yet memorable name Facebook Advertising, ads are delivered to consumers based on friends lists, individual user profiles and user interests. Facebook did not involve other search networks in the development of their new system however US based Facebook users are now invited to use Microsoft Live Search to perform web searches from their Facebook profiles.

11/ One thing that is a virtual certainty in the coming year is the rise of ubiquitous Internet access anywhere in North America for an increasing number of access devices. As users in Canada and the United States are presented with rational cell phone plans, the mobile web will become a well used noun and an adverb (no puns intended). This anytime/anywhere access will include those times we find ourselves at 35,000 feet above the ground.

Absolutely and totally correct. With the introduction of 3G system mobile devices, increased WiFi access points around our communities and airlines offering in-flight Internet services, one can reach the Web from virtually any place on the continent.

12/ Combining virtually unlimited storage space with powerful Web based applications, Cloud Computing (server-side software) will allow users to log-in to their storage and work-space accounts from any where in the world and work collaboratively with others in their task-groups.

Close but not quite correct. Cloud computing did not take off in 2008 BUT the introduction and adoption of 3G mobile devices makes it a likely candidate for hot trend item in 2009

12.5/ Expect to see numerous new advertising opportunities spring up around what are everyday office-work activities. (Cloud computing)

Not yet so not correct.

13/ Banner advertising is going to make an enormous comeback in 2008.

So very wrong. The display and banner market actually shrank in 2008.

14/ Lastly, everything that is sold in the new world of digital advertising must be measured with the most versatile yardsticks possible. Digital marketers will be deluged with various analytic programs, most of which give only a segment of the story. Look for a few of the established analytic firms such as Enquisite or Click Tracks to introduce new features and improved coverage in the coming year (note: both are extraordinary in their coverage right now).

Absolutely correct. 2008 was called the year of analytics by many observers watching the search marketing space. As personalization takes over what used to be general SERPs and PPC budgets continue to soak up transitional ad-spends from the traditional media, expect analytics to be even more important in 2009.

9 of 14.5 = 62% correct. Not bad, given the weirdness that was 2008. Next week I’ll dust off a crystal ball and try another round of speculation on the coming year.

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