Top 10 Predictions for 2008 for Bloggers and Niche Content Publishers

Top 10 Predictions for 2008 for Bloggers and Niche Content Publishers

Happy New Year!

I hope that 2008 proves to be your most prosperous year yet. Last year was the best year ever for online content publishers and bloggers, and this year is all set to be even better – much better.

Over the last few years the specialist content publishing market has blossomed.

In 2003 Google AdSense revolutionized online advertising so content publishers could easily generate money from their websites. Now Yahoo, Microsoft and many other players have entered the market, providing competition and choice for publishers.

The blogging phenomenon unleashed the latent demand for simple online publishing tools. Today more than 16 million blogs are active, with thousands more being created every week. Online publishing tools and services are getting simpler and cheaper every year.

The large brands recognized in 2007 that niche websites with loyal, well-targeted audiences are important channels for their advertising. Slowly more advertising spend is starting to migrate from the large portals to the smaller, high-quality niche sites.

Bearing these developments in mind, I predict that the biggest trend of 2008 will be bloggers and niche publishers recognizing the value of their content and audience and finding ways to generate multiple revenue streams from their websites. The money will flow from advertising, affiliate marketing, ecommerce, subscriptions and the promotion of off-line events. The best sites will do all five. This recognition of value will be matched by the desire of the bigger brands to reach the audiences of niche sites. The biggest challenge of 2008 will be finding simple and cost-effective ways to enable big brands and specialist website owners to get together.

The following 10 additional trends will impact online content publishers:

1)    Content Will (Finally) Go Mobile

I know you’ve heard it before … content on any device, anywhere … blah, blah, blah.

But wait before you move on to the next point. There have been some changes that will accelerate mobile web browsing and content consumption and that suggest this will not be another false dawn. These include:

•    The Apple iPhone interface. The iPhone’s fantastic user interface has set new standards to which all mobile device manufacturers will have to react. Expect to see excellent mobile web browsers in 2008.
•    Google Android. For those who don’t follow the web world in any detail, Google has launched some new open software that improves web browsing on mobile devices. The first devices will appear in mid-2008.
•    “Unlimited” mobile data plans that will encourage more mobile content consumption.
•    Greater WiFi availability for hybrid mobile devices such as the iTouch and Nokia 810.

Action: Make sure your website is easy to access on mobile devices.


2)    Tipping Point for Web Services

Tied closely to the improvements in mobile connectivity are greater acceptance and adoption of web services. Google’s free web services (including Calendar, Docs, Spreadsheets and Gmail), Flickr, Facebook and many other online applications have converted millions of people to the benefits of being able to run their lives via a web browser independent of any individual computer.

The new year will be a big one for web services. Just about every application you can imagine has an online version: word processing, spreadsheets, calendars, file storage, photo editing, website design and hosting, business planning and project management can all be done online. In 2008 new businesses will be built and run completely on the Internet using web services.

Action: Take a look at the online tools and services that could improve your Internet business. Here are some that we use to run our business:

Website design, build and management – SubHub (www.subhub.com)
Video clip management – YouTube (www.youtube.com)
Photo management – Flickr (www.flickr.com)
Research and news monitoring – Google Reader (www.google.com/reader) or Netvibes (www.netvibes.com)
Email newsletter management – Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com)
Email (with IMAP) – Gmail (www.gmail.com)
Online communications – Skype (www.skype.com)
Invoice management – FreshBooks (www.freshbooks.com)
Customer relationship management – Zoho (www.zoho.com)
 

3)    The eBook Will (Finally) Go Mainstream

Like mobile Internet access, the ebook has had many false starts, but 2008 could become the year it finally steps out of the shadows. The catalyst for the transformation of the ugly caterpillar into a butterfly is the launch of the Amazon Kindle. While the Kindle was met with mixed reviews, it is the most complete ebook reader ever launched, and with the backing of many of the world’s biggest publishers and the biggest online bookstore, ebooks are here to stay.

Action: Create books or premium articles to sell to ebook users via the Amazon store. This could be a compilation of articles from your website.


4)    Advertisers Focus on Niche Content Websites

I mentioned this above, but it is so important I wanted to include it in my top 10. Over the last 10 years advertising dollars have flowed to the biggest websites: over 90 percent of online ad revenue currently goes to fewer than 10 companies.

But this is changing.

Advertisers are becoming far more aware of the value of reaching highly targeted markets. This is placing successful specialist websites clearly in the sights of advertisers.


5)    Traditional Publishers Will Come to Terms with Online Copy Protection

The music industry’s fight against copyright fraud has done more to damage the music industry than any other event in its history. The industry’s complete focus on pursuing legal solutions to the problem of illegal file sharing has meant it has missed the one chance in its history to build a relationship directly with its customers. This prize has been taken from under the industry’s nose by a computer manufacturer, Apple!

There is a big danger that traditional publishers could do the same. Their focus still remains so much on the negatives of putting content on the web, such as copyright protection, that they could lose their place in the online marketplace altogether. 

This will be the year that determines which traditional publishers will make a successful transition and which will stay transfixed in the headlights, waiting for the truck to hit them.

Action: Specialist information publishers should focus on becoming the best websites in their sectors so they can fight off the threat if the big boys get their acts together. Great websites will become acquisition targets for the big boys.


6)    The Rise of Conversational Marketing

Conversational marketing is when brands, such as Apple, BT or Dell, deliberately interact with their audiences online to get honest (and unedited) feedback about their products, strategy and activities. For a much more detailed description of conversational marketing, take a look at John Battelle’s article (http://battellemedia.com/archives/003432.php).

This may not seem revolutionary, but it is. Brands have traditionally been very, very nervous about engaging with their customers in an open and transparent way. They have been terrified of customers making negative comments and highlighting product problems that the company was perhaps trying to sweep under the rug. The closest most brands have come to an online conversation is responding to negative forum posts about their products and service, and the response often takes the form of legal threats.

In 2008 many more brands will be tracking down their customers and asking for their opinions, help and advice.

Action: Niche website owners should think about how they can help big companies interact with their audiences, for example via sponsored questionnaires and surveys. This can be sold to brands at a premium rate.
 

7)    Recession Will Push More Businesses Online

A downturn in the major economies will create a massive surge in online commerce and content publishing.

The first phase in any recession is to strip out costs. The second phase is to look at how a company can maintain or grow its sales with fewer resources. The answer to Phase 2 for most businesses will be to increase their Internet activity.

The traditional newspaper and magazine world will be hit hardest by recession as it sees already-falling off-line ad sales take another significant tumble. Advertisers will turn to the Internet, where they get more bang for their buck and their results are measurable.

Action: Think about how your online and off-line competitors will react to an economic downturn. Think about what opportunities and threats this will create for your website.


8)    Google Search Will Continue to Improve Its Indexing and Promotion of Specialist Information Websites

There is a quiet revolution going on in the search engines. I have just done a search for “Predictions for 2008” on Google. A few years ago it would have listed articles from CNN,  New York Times, Economist, Telegraph, Guardian, etc. Today only two of the results on the first page are from the big publishing names. The rest are from well-established, high-quality niche sites, many of which are run by individuals.

Google has long since recognized the importance and value of highly focused niche sites. Google has now improved its search technology to reward these sites with better listings and more traffic. In 2008 the best niche sites in every category will rise up the search rankings.

Action: Stay focused on creating articles and content that contain the most important keywords for your subject area. Google will do the rest!


9)    Social Networking Will Go Niche

First let me say I’m not predicting the demise of MySpace, Facebook or any of the other leading social networks. I’m predicting the rapid growth in complimentary social networks that focus on specific subjects such as gardening, fishing, entrepreneurship, etc. The reason people join social networks is to interact with like-minded people to discuss their favorite subjects in greater detail. These niche communities already exist in the form of forums and specialist websites, but 2008 will see much of the functionality found on such sites as Facebook appear on niche sites to create specialist social networks.

Action: Could your website become the leading social network for your subject?


10)    Multimedia Becomes the Norm

I know: video and audio on websites is an old story for many readers. But yet the great majority of niche websites and blogs don’t do video. Some link to clips on YouTube, but they still don’t create their own. This will change in 2008.

Applications, software and hardware are easy and cheap to use. Once the majority of technophobe online publishers realize how simple it is, multimedia will appear on many more sites. A lot of it will be amateur rubbish, but those who persevere will reap the rewards.

Action: Give multimedia content a try. Places to instantly getting going include MyPodcast for podcasts (www.mypodcast.com ), GoldMail for slide shows with audio (www.goldmail.com) and YouTube (www.youtube.com) to embed a video on your website.

***********

This year, 2008, will be a great one for bloggers and specialist information publishers who rise to the challenge of being the best they can be. Make it your New Year’s resolution to be one of them! Good luck!