It’s that time of year: time to reflect on the past year, time to get wasted and watch a glass ball smash into the ground, time for people like me who foolishly offered predictions for the past year to face the music. So here’s how I did on my 2012 predictions:
* Facebook goes public, but won’t start an IPO landslide: Bingo! Indeed, Facebook’s ill-received IPO led to a months-long drought in IPOs as investors realized they were not a sure route to riches. The situation may be improving, but mostly for enterprise more than consumer companies.
* Facebook’s ad business booms–but not at Google’s expense: Bingo! While Facebook’s revenues slowed even before its IPO as it continued to experiment with new ad formats and scrambled to provide mobile ad units, ad revenues have since accelerated, up 36% in the third quarter over last year. At the same time, while Google’s revenue growth disappointed investors in the third quarter, it was mostly thanks to the impact of its Motorola acquisition, not a shortfall in its core ad business.
* Image ads finally find a home on the Web: Half-right. YouTube proved there’s a real market for TV-like video ads if you give viewers the choice to view them or not, as its revenues were expected to hit $3.6 billion in 2012, according to Citibank. But Facebook’s struggles to attract brand advertising despite a TV-scale audience, while partially successful, show that no one has yet come up with brand ad formats that work consistently and at large scale online. Or at least brands, which still spend most of their money on TV ads, don’t believe it yet. And they write the checks.
* Data-driven advertising accelerates: Bingo! OK, so that was a gimme. Real-time bidding has entered the ad world as a mainstream term, even if traditional ad folks grumble about how the science of online ads is crowding out the creativity. The reality is that online advertising depends on both.
* Web-native ad formats will remain MIA: Wrong! What was I thinking? Not only are native ad formats here, they’re starting to take off, particularly on mobile devices, where the tiny screen makes it all the more crucial for ads to mesh with what people are already doing. Facebook and Twitter in particular are finding surprising success with ads such as Sponsored Stories and Promoted Tweets that, at least so far, attract more attention precisely because they don’t look like ads. Honestly, I think the jury’s still out on whether more than a very few native ad formats will turn out to be anywhere as successful as the 30-second TV spot or search ads, if only because marketers can’t afford to do a dozen different sets of ads for each format. But so far, so good.
* Twitter (almost) becomes a real business: Bingo! Well, not just almost, but with revenues at an estimated $134 million in 2012, Twitter is indeed a real business–just not a Google- or Facebook-scale one yet.
* Mobile ads finally get moving: Bingo! According to eMarketer, mobile revenues nearly tripled in 2012, to $4 billion, mostly thanks to those native mobile ads from Facebook and Twitter, as well as Google’s mobile search ads.
* Amazon.com becomes a major online advertising player: Half-right. The online retailer’s ad revenues are still just a blip on the overall market, but by many accounts, Amazon set the stage for a bonafide ad business to blossom in 2013.
* App overload sets in: Wrong! Mostly, anyway. I already had found myself getting more picky about app installations, not just on mobile devices but on websites such as Facebook. And some developers have found app ecosystems wanting. But there’s little indication beyond the reality that the top 25 apps make almost all the money that the mobile public is as weary as I am–come to think of it, that probably is a sign of impending overload. Nor are most people as worried as some about the threat apps present to the open Internet. And for many technical and behavioral reasons, it seems that apps will rule the mobile roost for awhile to come.
* Tabzines debut: Wrong! Indeed, the most prominent among them, Fox’s The Daily, folded. And I can’t think of any others that have risen to fill what is apparently not so much a void as a black hole. An old magazine writer can still hope, and I still see great potential for well-done tabzines curated by talented editors or at least smart algorithsm–and the success of aggregation apps such as Flipboard indicates there’s a potential market. But individual magazine apps haven’t caught on yet, and at the very least, they will have to await better ad formats to support them.
* This revolution will be televised: Wrong! Or at least still early. Like many people, I figured that incipient signs of cable cord-cutting presaged a bigger change in how people watch TV. And you could make an argument that the rise of tablets as a prime place to watch TV content–even if it’s not live TV in most cases–is a real behavioral change. But with show producers and cable operators alike still thriving even in a moribund economy, the revolution still hasn’t hit the tube. And even as rumors of an Apple television and Intel’s secret settop box heating up, it seems likely even it will have to play by the TV industry’s rules for now.
* The Web startup bubble will start to deflate: Bingo! Did it ever, starting with the Facebook IPO, or maybe even before that with the travails of Groupon and Zynga. Suddenly, the route to riches didn’t look so sure for hundreds or thousands of wannabes.
So, I got seven out of 10, if you count the half-rights as, you know, half a right. Not too bad, but hardly perfect. Fine with me. In fact, I wish I had gotten more wrong, since that might have meant I was thinking even further ahead. Why bother making predictions if they’re all dead obvious already?
Filed under: advertising, Amazon, Android, Apple, apps, data, display, entrepreneurs, Facebook, Google, iPad, marketing, mobile, social, startups, tablets, targeting, TV, Zynga Tagged: | advertising, Amazon.com, Android, Apple, display, Facebook, Google, Initial public offering, IPad, IPO, mobile, social, social networking, startups, tablets, targeting, television, Twitter, venture capital, YouTube, Zynga