Predictions for 2009, Plus How to Survive and Maybe Thrive

2008. (Deep breath.) That was an interesting year.

The belief that the phrase “May you live in interesting times” comes from an ancient Chinese curse is suspect according to Wikipedia.

Many people would counter that Wikipedia itself is suspect, but Wikipedia has become ubiquitous for a reason. It’s useful and the price is right. And that reason is plays a roll in this obligatory predictions-for-the-new-year post.

There is certainly an air of gloom across the all the prediction articles and blog posts I’ve read so far this year, but I think there’s a strategy to get through the mess we’re in and I’ll wrap up with that and go into 2009 with some optimism.

On with the predictions in no particular order.

Prediction #1

I started nearly every morning of 2008 with an hour of reading the Wall Street Journal on my Kindle. 2008 was the first year I read the WSJ with that kind of regularity. I chose to adopt that routine in part because I was starting my own business and I felt I needed to be more attuned to the happenings of business world. That daily chore turned out to be very fascinating reading. The US elections, the sprawling financial crisis, the Olympics, and many other world events produced so many tense, high drama stories I actually woke up early just to read the WSJ some mornings because I wanted to know what happened next. Fiction wishes it could be this good.

The news is not going to suddenly look better in 2009. More of the same roller coaster ride of events simply because this thing isn’t over. I wish otherwise, but I think the common wisdom is right; this financial mess is not over.

Prediction #2

You will want, but may not buy, a Kindle. E-books will gain more footing. Why do I think so? I think Kindle version 2 will come out in the next month or so and it will be a little cheaper. Kindle v1 was an amazing device, but version 2 will be a little sexier than the Commodore-64-inspired-design of first generation version. Also, e-books and e-newspapers just make sense in the digital world we’re in. They cut back on production cost, physical materials and can be sold for a lower price.

Kindle design inspired by the C64

Prediction #3

Ad agencies will continue to “streamline.” Regardless of the business you work in, I’m sure there have been layoffs. It’s been happening in the ad industry as well. At most holiday parties I’ve been at this year, it’s a common topic of discussion. Who got laid off last month. Who is probably getting laid off next month. But not all hope it lost….

Prediction #4

There will still be advertising and someone will need to think of it and make it. Digital marketing will be the least affected of the channels companies use to reach their customers. From what I’ve read, we can expect up to a 10% decline in overall ad spending from this recession. That’s severe especially when compared to a 1%-2% decline from the 2001 recession. The best news in this scenario is that digital is where spending will be least changed. It may even go up.

Prediction #5

Since budgets will be under a microscope, small operations will benefit. Yes, this sounds like I’m giving myself and my company a pep talk, but I think it’s the case. The lower your overhead, the better your chance of winning jobs. I think many agencies know this and that’s where prediction #3 came from.

Prediction #6

You won’t get a new laptop. The one you’ve got already is good enough.

Ok, enough of the doom and gloom. I think there will be good things happening in 2009 as well.

Prediction #7

Your mobile phone will get better, even if you don’t get a new one. This is primarily for those of you who spent money on a new phone in 2008, especially iPhone owners or any phone that can have applications downloaded to it. Mobile applications keep surprising me with how good they are getting. I find more useful applications that I ever expected for my iPhone and this will continue. Good news for users and mobile app developers.

Prediction #8

More of your extended family and people from your distant past will “friend” you on Facebook. Facebook seems to have found a good formula for connecting people and keeping them engaged. (Did you read the most visited post on SuperGeekery this year about keeping your boss from seeing your status updates? Read it here.)

Prediction #9

Too bad Facebook (and the various social media sites) probably will never live up to the revenue expectations the advertising world has placed on them, at least not in 2009 or even 2010. Marketing to people within their inner social sphere is not the same as marketing to them through traditional media. To do it right will require more attention and thus cost more. Doing this right is not simply buying ad placement or keywords. (Ok, maybe I snuck one more gloomy prediction in there but it’s not if you understand how to reach people in the social media space.)

Prediction #10

Someone will figure out a runaway success in Facebook and/or social media marketing. Who? I don’t know. But there will be some big success and a bunch of other companies will try to mimic that success and fail because they didn’t understand that that success was based on a unique understanding of the audience the brand was trying to reach.

How to survive or thrive.

Enough with the predictions. I’ve hinted at it already, but I think the path to success in the coming year, really, in any situation, is to be useful.

Look at prediction #10. The reason that I think there will be some runaway success in Facebook marketing is because some company will make an extremely useful “thing” that lives on Facebook and everyone will adopt it because it is fundamentally useful to a large number of people. It may be that “useful” is entertaining you, or saving you money, or telling you that best friend is only one block from where you are right now, all facilitated by ACME brand.

What I see for mobile applications in prediction #7 is the same thing, being useful. The longer this development area is around, the more people are figuring out how to make useful applications for it. It sounds so basic, but I would hate to give up Tip, probably most used iPhone application. (Check it out on the iTunes Store here. It’s 99¢ and worth it.)

How can you personally benefit from this? If you make your ideas for your clients, the thing you create, the value you bring to your company or your customers useful, or better yet, invaluably useful, I think this is the path to success even in this coming tough year.

Well, that’s it from me. Happy New Year!

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