After a whirlwind of economic adjustments in 2009, publishers and content technology companies are hoping that the belt-tightening that they have undertaken this year will set the stage for renewed health in 2010. While there are polls and forecasts that seem to bear out these expectations, there are many unknowns that may lead to unpleasant surprises and challenging environments next year.
On the media side, the rapid acceleration of online content consumption and the equally fast shift of advertising budgets to online venues spell good news for online revenues but also mean that dwindling traditional print revenues will be less likely to carry online publishing efforts that are not mature enough to manage their future on their own. Micropayments, subscriptions, and other premium access models will try to help fill the gap, but the success of premium mobile content-serving applications suggests that consumer spending on content may not all go to traditional publishers.
At the same time, steps to leverage social media as a marketing platform are not all resulting in increased ad budgets, with some companies investing more in direct-to-market communications efforts. 2010 is likely to be the year in which publishers begin to more soberly assess the ultimate effects of a broadened publishing marketplace on their long-term success and survival.
In enterprise markets, parallel trends challenge publishers, which are seeing librarians with budgets already cut to the quick having to adjust to reshaped enterprise priorities. The other shoe to drop for enterprises will be a continuing reprioritization of collection acquisitions and more emphasis on consortium purchases and project-oriented content acquisition and billing. At the same time, enterprises are focused more on integrating content from multiple disciplines into services that can drive their revenues from product and service innovations more effectively. Much of the excitement in enterprise publishing will be with content integration and visualization services that aggregate content from multiple sources into decision-making platforms, making advanced search, categorization, and collaboration tools particularly important enterprise investments.
The rapid rise of enterprise-ready cloud computing services underscores the importance publishers place on being able to curate a wider array of content to support decision making. Even as trading room services that integrated enterprise and external content and conversations revolutionized financial markets in previous years, similar objectives to reduce the time and cost of identifying and executing on opportunities in enterprise marketplaces will make winners of companies that are well-positioned at the center of these integration efforts.
The major technology that will shape content markets in 2010 is the mobile microchip processor, which is reaching the point of maturity that it can deliver web content, videos, and sophisticated applications on handheld devices with quality that can rival desktop and laptop computers. Apple's iPhone will begin to experience competition in earnest from a wide array of manufacturers and mobile carriers looking for alternatives to their proprietary platform, offering Google's Android operating system and other systems on top of these new, powerful chips to help people access high-power 3G and 4G communications networks. This will tend to push the content industry to the realization that it needs the web and other open standards more than ever to simplify its cross-platform deployment challenges.
Cross-platform challenges will tend to push the ebook marketplace into devices that will support more open deployment standards, making room for competitors more ready to embrace this open environment.
While Apple has gained a great deal of attention in 2009 from the success of its iPhone, expect 2010 to be a year in which Google becomes a more clear successor to Microsoft as a default global publishing platform. With its web-centric approach and long-term view of who needs to be served by content technologies, Google is well-positioned to challenge the world as a new kind of cloud-oriented content juggernaut in 2010. The advent of Google Wave will begin to beg the question of why we have bothered to put up with email and other legacy communication services for so long, while Google's efforts to penetrate markets in developing nations aggressively will begin to show the outlines of a global strategy that will put the power of publishing into more hands than ever before.
If you thought that the "Content Nation" activated by social media demonstrated impressive power in 2009, wait for a turbulent 2010 that will begin to expose just how much the center of power in publishing has shifted into the hands of audiences everywhere.