Monday, January 14, 2008

Last Year’s Six Very Big Things…

Last year I had the audacity to offer up my list of six Very Big Things for the digital world – themes I thought we would see start to bubble up over the coming year. You can read these HERE and I am pretty happy with how I went. Internet use has continued to reach new heights both in terms of the number of people using it and the quality of access they have. The advertising budgets and the use of the internet by the big brands has increased significantly and with it comes the rise of digital services; the serious, commercial, business transforming use of digital channels to reach, engage and do business with customers. User-centricity is on the rise, through the rise of social networking (who got a Facebook / LinkedIn / Myspace / Bebo / [insert new aspiring social networking site here] page last year?) and more use of user generated content, while the use of the internet amongst non-English speakers continues to grow apace. Finally, digital connections continued to become more embedded in the fabric of our lives as out TVs, GPS systems, mobile phones and music devices all became a bit savvier this past year.


A couple of things didn't make it to my list, as they came on a little faster than I expected and I thought they would be themes for this year and maybe next. The rise of user generated video came much fast than I thought and shows us that people have a deep desire to contribute, communicate and create. I really thought this would take a couple of years to get as far as it has in one, but with video capture everywhere (from video cameras with hard disks to cheap webcams and mobile phones) there are masses of content looking to be broadcast and people are doing lots of it.


I was surprised by some of the big deals done last year and the prices paid for businesses like DoubleClick, Realtime 24/7 and Aquantive. These businesses provide the systems and the services to aggregate advertising planning, buying and management for advertisers and their acquirers (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft respectively) have seen the enormous opportunity for vertical integration amongst their online advertising inventory and their technology offerings. This for me is a sign of the increasing momentum of the digital services industry and the great opportunities for those who service it. Exciting times.


There is one thing I have learned in my now 15 years in this game (it is THAT long since I first stumbled across this crazy emerging thing called the Mosiac 0.89b web browser – about 1.6 million 'internet years' as my more youthful colleagues are quick to remind me) is that you cannot ever assume that you can see everything that is coming. This technology is truly transformational and that creates opportunities for innovators, renegades and the creative to do things which shift or nudge the evolutionary path we are on. In my experience, the best thing to do is to act on the things you can see with confidence and react quickly to those things you don't expect. As we have proven in our business, having a sense of the opportunity the future holds is one thing, but being able to turn that perception into a working, dynamic business is another.


It is going to be another great year for digital services and I look forward as we continue to change the world.


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