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Predictions 2009: How Did I Do?

By - December 29, 2009

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First of all, it’s either silly or sublime that when you type (or maybe, given Google now personalizes all results, when *I* type) “predictions 2009” into Google my predictions from a year ago are ranked first.  

Of course, when you say “predictions for 2009” it’s second.   

But I’ve already ranted about how the personalization of search is screwing up our collective cultural conscience (search was our social glue, but it’s dissolving). Is anyone out there agreeing with me? Anyone?

Anyway. Welcome to my review of how I did in my predictions for 2009. It’s been a fun year, because I made some seriously big predictions a year ago, so tracking them is a bit easier than in the past.

So let’s get to it.

1. Macro Economy. I predicted: We’ll see an end to the recession, taken literally, by Q4 09. In other words, the economy will begin to grow again by the end of the year, but it won’t feel like we’re out of the woods till next year at the earliest.

I think I got that one right. Not very hard to predict, in hindsight, but remember, this was Jan. 09, and things really, really, really sucked eggs at that moment.

2. The online media space. I predicted: ….will be hit hard by the economic downturn in the first half, but by year’s end, will have chalked up moderate gains over last year in terms of gross spend. I think it’s possible that Q1 09 will be lower than Q1 08, marking the first time that has happened since 01, if I recall correctly.

Right again. Spending in fact declined year over year in the online space overall. But it has rebounded in the second half.

3. Google. OK, here’s one of the biggies. I predicted: Google will see search share decline significantly for the first time ever.

Now, I know many of you will say that I whiffed this one, because Google’s search share is higher now than it was a year ago. But before you toss me in the dustbin, remember this: Google did lose share in the middle of the year, though it gained it back. And to my mind, any lose of share is significant. So … call this one a wash. It didn’t last, but it did happen, for a while. Now, watch for my predictions in 2010. Because a lot of deals are up for grabs, and Microsoft does NOT like to lose. AOL, Ask…there’s about ten points right there that are a jump ball.

#3 goes on to declare: The media business is more than a demand fulfillment business, and Google must learn to create demand if it’s going to diversify. That means playing the brand game – a game that has long been owned by what we call “traditional media companies.” Google has become a significant brand advertiser in 2009, in fact, it’s a client of FM’s in the brand space. And if an ad on the home page isn’t about creating demand for a new product, I dunno what is. I go on to prognosticate: Google has a unique opportunity to become a new kind of branded media company. It will fail to do so, mainly for cultural reasons. I think the jury is still out on this. Google is trying to be so many things to so many people, it’s hard to say where it’s going to land. OS provider? Check. Browser vendor? Check. iPhone competitor? Check. Office suite player? Check. But brand that means anything but search? No check. Yet.

4. In this one I predicted: Google stock will soar in by Q3-4 of 2009, mainly because demand will pick up, and when demand picks up, it’s like rain on a field of newly sown wheat.

Well, here’s the chart:

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I think this one is a big “check.”

5. Big one. I predicted: Tied to #3 above, Microsoft will gain at least five points of search share in 2009, perhaps as much as 10. This is a rather radical prediction, I know, but hear me out. I think Redmond is tired of losing in this game, and after trying nearly every trick in the book, Microsoft will start to spend real money to grow share (IE, buying distribution), while at the same time listening to the advice of thoughtful folks who want to help the company improve the product.

Well, it depends on how you do the math, but given the Yahoo deal, I think this one came true. Microsoft did indeed buy share, by doing the deal with Yahoo.

However…

6. I next predicted: Yahoo and AOL will merge.

Oops. I whiffed here. It was a stretch. There’s always next year. I could have predicted that AOL would spin out, but that was so damn obvious I decided against it…

7. This one was predicated on #6, so another whiff: in the second half of the year, Microsoft will buy its search monetization from the combined company.

Microsoft in fact is doing search monetization FOR Yahoo. It could have gone the other way, but it didn’t. Sometimes the river card doesn’t turn your way.

8. OK, my big Apple prediction: Apple will see a significant reversal of recent fortunes. Well, it sure didn’t happen in sales or the stock, but I think it’s happening with Apple’s arrogant attitude toward its app store and network choices. I’d say this one was a push, not wrong, but not entirely right….yet.

9. I predicted: Major brands will continue to struggle with the best way to interact with “social media.” They will take budget reserved for media spending (IE buying banners and building out branding campaigns) and start to become publishers in their own right. This was kind of a gimme, in that my company (FM) is doing this for scores of brands, and 2009 was certainly a banner year (no pun intended) for brands as publishers. Open Forum, Starbucks, Microsoft Exectweets, Intel’s Lifescoop, P&G’s Petside, Asus WePC, and on and on….I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of examples. But I am quite certain this is a major trend and one that is only gaining steam.

10. An agency/publisher prediction: Agencies will increasingly see their role as that of publishers. Publishers will increasingly see their role as that of agencies. ….. It takes both agents to get good media made. A very subjective prediction which again, I think is truly happening. Of course, I can only state that as anecdotal fact. But if you’re in the agency or publishing business, I’d love your thoughts in the comments….

11. OK, the Twitter prediction. Now remember, on Jan 1 2009 it was not a slam dunk to say this: Twitter will continue its meteoric rise. This is a very hard prediction to make, because so much depends on the company’s ability to execute two crucial – and exceedingly difficult – new features: The integration of search into the service, and the monetization of that integration.

Now, Twitter did have its year of years, growing extraordinarily, but traditional measure of growth flattened and petered out by the second half of the year. Why? Well, third party clients, for the most part, and a failure of the company to convert its media darling status into long term usage. But Twitter has rolled out a cavalcade of new features in the past few months, most aimed at fixing the initial use case problem I’ve pointed out time and time again.

In this prediction I also said: By the middle of 2009, the integration of Twitter’s community and content will become commonplace in well-executed marketing on third party sites. Again, I think this one has occurred, many times over.

12. This is one of my favorites, the Facebook prediction: Facebook will do something entirely shocking and unpredictable. I am not certain what, but it won’t have a “status quo” year. It might be a merger with a traditional media company, a major alliance with Google, hiring a head scratcher as CEO, or something else at that level of “WTF!?” As I think about it, it might be as simple as making Facebook Connect truly open, and changing its policies to make it drop dead easy to get data out of the service.

Ummm….check.

However, I also predicted: Facebook will “friend” Twitter and the two companies will become strong partners. Well, you can now updated Twitter from Facebook, so that’s a start. But they’re not pals yet, so this one is not exactly a hit.

13. My mobile prediction: Lucky #13 is reserved for my eternal mobile prediction: 2009 will see the year mobility becomes presumptive in every aspect of the web. I’m not even going to try to defend this one. I think 2009 was the year mobile eclipsed the PC web in terms of what matters to our industry. If you disagree, I’ll see ya in the comments.

14. OK. My last one, well, I whiffed on it – mostly. It was my book prediction. I said: “Lastly, I promise, I will have sold my book and will be hard at work on it. And yes, still running FM too. I think I have a way to do both.” Well, I didn’t sell the new book to anyone, mainly because once I do, I have to write it. And I can’t do that till I feel like FM is really, really in great hands. And guess what…it is. I am still running it as CEO, but now I have a wonderful President/COO, Deanna Brown. And she is a true partner and pro, and I am feeling very, very good about 2010. So give me half a point there…

So, adding it all up, I’d say I did a 10.5 out of 14. What do you think? Did I do alright? And do you agree with my interpretations?

Happy Holidays and New Year to all of you. I can’t wait for the next year. I really think it’s going to be a big one for all of us.



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16 thoughts on “Predictions 2009: How Did I Do?

  1. Саша says:

    Your blog is 6th in results when i search for that on Google.

    Btw, there is some problem with capcha here, so i can’t leave a message w/o FB connect.

  2. David says:

    Your post comes up 6th on my personalized results, behind a bunch of psychics’. So I’d say that—since I am totally uninterested of what a psychic might try to predict—you are still first, and it is the Google algorithm that is misfiring for me.

    The shared experiences are fundamental of course. There must be a way to reconcile the superior value that personalization provides, with the cohesiveness of the similarity in the search results…

  3. Alex says:

    I really love these every year and I think yes you did a good job on 2009 and I think you were better on microsoft than you give yourself credit for above.

    I am really looking forward to 2010 predictions.

    (yes I am a total fan boy)

  4. It is great to see many of your predictions for 2009 turned out to be true. I’ll be waiting for your insights for the year 2010. Wish you a Happy New Year !

  5. Glenn says:

    John, honestly, “a significant reversal of recent fortunes” is “with Apple’s arrogant attitude toward its app store and network choices.”

    C’mon. Fortunes is not equal to a vague statement about its attitudes.

    Stock is up. Sales were remarkable in year with highly contracted consumer and business spending.

    Criticism is way up–and rightly so–as the firm is critiqued constantly over its smallest and largest decisions.

    But that hasn’t reversed its fortunes. C’mon, already.

    If someone else had written that, I’d expect to hear you skewering it.

  6. Ken says:

    JB,
    Your self-scoring is an indicator as to why you’re a successful entrepreneur in an evolving space… ‘you’re right and you know it, even if you’re wrong!’ Nice job, look forward to 2010.

  7. Justin Wehr says:

    Impressive! You certainly beat the odds of these events happening by random chance. Looking forward to this year’s.

  8. Matt says:

    I’m sorry, I have to take issue with “Google will see search share decline significantly for the first time ever.”

    Both you and Google OS made that prediction for 2009, and I don’t think that you legitimately can call this prediction a wash. :)

  9. Braver than I’ll ever be with the annual predictions, John. My hat’s off to you each time for going out on those limbs.

    Agree about the loss of search as a social glue. You’re number five when I do that search.

    Disagree on the decline in Google’s search share. It was really so minor (I mean so minor) and depending on the numbers, the share might have dropped by the volume might have gone up. I think you have to look at the long term trend over the year. And over the year, Google saw no significant decline.

    As for those deals, yep, worth watching. But noteworthy that Microsoft’s deal with Verizon didn’t keep Google off the Droid phone that Verizon is pushing plus you had today reports about how Verizon BlackBerry people complaining about Bing being on their phones — and Verizon having to issue instructions on how to find Google. Deals were more important when people didn’t have a Google habit. Now, less so.

    As for Apple, I think you are right. The reversal? Google! In the space of a year, Apple has gone from buddy buddy with Google and Eric on their board to Google launching a rival phone and operating system in the wings. What’s Apple going to do to retaliate. Go to Microsoft to be a search partner? Seriously, I was just thinking how odd things are now, for those who might not want to deal with big, scary companies. Um, you’ve got a choice between Apple, Microsoft and Google. I think the reversal of fortune happened this year; how it plays out, we’ll see more next year.

    As for Facebook, how about shocking being the recent privacy changes? Though some might argue those were predictable. Certainly it’s been a bit of a WTF watching it spin on its heels to try and out Twitter Twitter and open its formerly walled garden to Google.

  10. Roshan Joshi says:

    Don’t expect Twitter & Facebook to be pals any soon. i find both very good at what they do, & separately. expect a twitter like lit version from Facebook though.

  11. Paul Durman says:

    Congratulations – you did well, although I think you were a little generous in your scoring. The controversy over Apple’s app store approval process does NOT represent a significant reversal of fortunes.Two metrics that matter much, much more are the two you note – sales and the stock price. And on those, Apple remains on a tear.

  12. Perrbo says:

    You pretty much nailed it JB, amazing. I disagree about the Apple prediction being a push however. I’ve talked to more people this year who now more than ever are ready to ditch Windows and move to Apple… despite the arrogance which may temporarily trip up any momentum, I think they’re just getting started.

    The biggest surprise to me this year is how well Amazon has performed. I thought they had over reached long ago and would be paying for it sooner or later. And something about ecommerce seems so web 1.0. But lordie they have made some incredibly savvy bets, innovate like crazy and are flat out kicking arse as a result.

  13. Tom Nocera says:

    Not too shabby, John. Now to learn what you predict for 2010. (No fair going to my website to preview the elements that have combined to facilitate the development of console-based 3D video games.)

    The prediction I’d like to have you make is: Which company will take the lead on participatory time travel games? Will it be Sony Computer Entertainment, Microsoft or Nintendo?

  14. Rick says:

    re #10

    I read a piece by some agency schmuck that spoke about agencies having to learn to create “publishing assets” for their clients.

    And I thought of ths 09 prediction.

  15. Ed Daniel says:

    Yes, I’m agreeing with you on the collective cultural conscience point.

    Please keep banging on about it and we may yet see a new concept emerge that respects the personal, the collective(s) and the unknown… enabling a way to interact with these foci as throttles to tweak when executing searches, still… early days yet.

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