What will be... and what may be

From convergence to a social media bubble, a foretaste for web managers of the year to come, from David Bowen.

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It’s that prediction-making time of the year again, and who am I to go against the trend?

Things that will happen

‘Convergence’ between television and computers – a buzzword circa 1998 – is creeping back into the vocabulary and into reality. Television sets are increasingly coming equipped to show the web and media organisations are working to exploit the possibilities. For online managers, the TV is another delivery device to add interest/aggravation to their lives.
The web will continue to balkanise with the proliferation of brand/company pages: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are all setting themselves up as alternative channels. It’s like all those types of yoghourt in supermarkets – when does more choice stop meaning more choice, and just mean more irritation?
Corporate apps will discover their fate. Enough will have been launched for companies to see take-up figures and decide whether they are worth the candle. My bet: larger companies’ investor and media apps will find a limited niche, but otherwise apps will struggle unless they do something (that is, have some sort of functionality).
The launch of the new top-level gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains) – such as ‘dot bank’ and ‘dot BigCorp’ – will cause a stir. Applications open this week (from 12 January) and the list of organisations that have bought them will be published in the spring. Will that bring owners a huge advantage or just huge hassle? Wait and see.
Mobile websites will continue to proliferate. One day we will notice that they are commonplace. They may not be specially built – they could be clever reconfigurations of the main websites – but users will still get a better experience.

Things I would like to happen, and may

Another cliché from the old days, ‘content is king’, will come back. We may live in a world dominated by soundbites and video, but the written word has been the real star. Think how much you write now compared with 10 years ago. We need to treat the word with more respect. Bring in professional writers and editors for websites and other channels, learn to spell and punctuate (I can hope) and – not just for politicians – read tweets really really carefully before pressing the return button.
The big social media brands will also start to balkanise, with services such as Tumblr and Google + chipping away at Facebook. I would like more business-friendly versions of YouTube and Flickr to emerge – or maybe they will do a bit of digital cell-division on their own.
There will be a backlash against the all-encompassing ‘social’ thing. The different channels will be seen for what they are: different channels.
‘Social media gurus’, fleet-footed folk, will take the hint and leap nimbly onto the roof of the next passing bandwagon.
Large organisations will stop trying to join conversations where they aren’t wanted. They are, to use my teenage daughter’s jargon, ‘begs’. Instead, they should use the new channels in subtler ways – which rarely have anything to do with conversation. For example, using a blog as an informal alternative website, YouTube as a video library or Twitter as a complementary newsfeed.
Top managers will finally understand what the internet is about. That means both doing more – redirecting trivial amounts of resources to tiny online comms teams – and less: resisting the urge to press for every new development they have been told about at last night’s dinner party. This is a standing hope – in use for the past 15 years and likely to be for many more.
Emerging-market organisations will play catch-up on the web. But don’t assume they will follow the same path as the West or indeed each other. In Japan, hardly an emerging market, only 34 per cent of the population belongs to a social network, against 76 per cent in the US and 88 per cent in India, according to a new study, Social Media around the World, from InSites Consulting.

Things I would like to happen, and won’t

People will stop writing ‘Great post’ at the beginning of every comment.
My daughter will stop using Facebook.

Things I hope won’t happen, but may

Hype of social media will cause another investment bubble, which when it bursts will put all development in deep freeze for several years. There is enough gloom as it is – we don’t need that as well.
Happy New Year.

First published 11 January, 2012
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