I've always wanted one of those mainstream media blogs so I can jump on the yearly predictions bandwagon. Thanks, YourVoices! :)

For those of us who make a living in the digital media space, we're living in a strange yet exciting time. On the one hand, we must be sensitive to the woes of the market, including friends, clients, and colleagues who are experiencing significant economic challenges. We know those challenges become highly personal and downright emotionally pervasive.

On the other hand, the state of the economy is frankly playing right into the hands of digital media and marketing specialists. For three Internet generations (1992-1997 Formative Years; 1997-2001 Dot Com; 2002-Present Mainstreaming), we have watched the flow of consumers go from traditional forms of media to the Internet while investments in those new media have been woefully underfunded in comparison to consumer usage. A wide range of research has us all using the Internet around 30% of our "time spent with media." The Internet now outperforms newspapers and magazines. And yet, the Internet typically receives less than 10% of total marketing and advertising dollars.

I do not point this out as some sort of "woe is me meets sour grapes" gripe. Far from it. What I do hear all too often from brands is that they feel disconnected from their consumers. When we analyze where companies they spend their marketing and advertising dollars, we can correlate their disconnectedness to a disproportionate allocation of media against dwindling audiences. People simply aren't where the ads are. When we realign those increasingly limited number of dollars back to where consumers actually spend their media time that connection gap begins to close.

So where does 2009 head for savvy marketers?

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Can there be anything less sexy than SEO? I dare you. Yet, the ever-present darling of geekdom is more about content these days than technical prowess. That means that getting content to appear high within the search rankings is more in the camp of traditional content creators than the techno-wizards. This bodes well for search work since content creators are more often hardcore marketers who understand consumers and, frankly, are more seasoned professionals (in the sense that they've perhaps spent decades in the field of marketing and customer intelligence). In 2009, we will see more traditional PR shops become increasingly involved in creating compelling content for the sole purpose of achieving higher search rankings for their clients.

2. "Fact-based Decisionmaking" - This may seem like an oddly-termed prediction, but those of us in the marketing world know that a substantial portion of many marketing decisions are made using a healthy dose of speculation, anecdotes, and plain old informed guesswork. In 2009, we're going to see a significant shift towards using very data rich analytics to power decisionmaking and reduce the amount of uncertainty in the marketing process. There simply isn't enough time or risk toleration in this environment to make non-data derived decisions. And with all the incredible tools available, why would we do otherwise?

3. Practical Social Media - Here's where I may be going on a limb or two. For example, I believe that Twitter will become a more potent marketing and customer "intimacy" force than social networks like Facebook. To me, there is a clearer and more immediate connection that can be made through a thoughtful and authentic Twitter strategy than a Facebook one. The business case for Facebook is still pending in my opinion, while the case studies for successful Twittering are emerging more quickly. Regardless, the costs of incorporating these and other social media strategies into an overall marketing plan are so low in comparison to other media that we will continue to see "hockey stick" style growth across all social media destinations.

4. Online Video Takes Its Own Path - Unfortunately, from a mainstream advertising perspective, too many agencies are creating video for the Internet as though they are still producing spots for television. Web videos that truly go "viral" (an outdated and unfortunate term in its own right) are rarely created by advertising agencies. Good online videos follow their own unique narratives with often highly condensed or implied storylines. Online video will continue to explode in 2009, but I predict the most successful campaigns will come out of small independent producers or consumers themselves. We're blessed here in the Twin Cities with some real online video talent, from Chuck Olsen of MNStories to the coo-coo-pops at Three Volts (I say that with deep affection). I believe we'll see the Twin Cities emerge as a national force in online video.

Basically, we're at the timely convergence where digital creativity produces immediate business results. Put more simply, if it's got an ROI, it'll get funded. The Internet's time has come because of the strange times in which we live economically. The souring of the economy combined with the need for marketing objectivity and measurement has forced the Internet into the game for a no-huddle, two-minute drill.

Hey, and how was that for introducing a metaphor into the last paragraph of 2008!?!

Be well.