It’s that time of year. Everyone is at it. As any reader of the Black Swan knows, predictions are a fools game. The real interest is in showing what we think now, not really saying “told you so” in 2012.
But there are two tipping points coming in 2011-12, which will have huge ramifications for media and technology.
The first is when mobiles overtake desktop as the main access point to the Internet. This is due in the next 18 months or so. The second is when most content online goes from being free to paid-for, and the “link” economy starts to die. They are related – the app-culture of the iPad and forthcoming competitors will make it easier for publishers to charge for content, but these apps are increasingly going to be walled gardens.
The wake-up call in media will be startling. Newspapers are only just getting the difference between regular readers / subscribers, and people who just glance at your content in passing online. As the web splinters into a smaller and smaller set of content aggregators who try to circumvent paywalls and content publishers who move to a mixture of paid-for delivery methods, linking and search will become more and more passé (with implications for Google). Expect more law suits over copyright online.
The tech market changes will be profound too. As Google’s desktop search becomes less important, Facebook and other network-based recommendations fill the gap. This isn’t a new idea, but the next 1-2 years will see it happen. As the mobile internet overtakes desktop, the devices become more crucial. Nokia will lose more ground in smartphones, and will either have to squeeze every last drop out of the emerging markets, or come up with a new idea. Someone will push hard at the basic phone market, attracting tech-phobic people who want a simple, cheap, non-Internet phone that does calls and text and little else. Nokia will miss a trick and won’t do it. Apple and Google will continue to dominate mobiles.
Google is by no means finished, but its main business of desktop search advertising will start to decline. Its services (gmail etc) will still be hugely popular, but the replacing the revenue from web searches with mobile search and other services will be tricky.
So, key years for content providers, Google and Nokia. But obviously something else will come along utterly unexpected.