2008: Embracing the (Real) Web

Here’s my annual state of things and predictions essay, 2008: Embracing the (Real) Web.

I like to stick with broad themes in forecasting media movement, because nobody really knows, with specificity, where things are going. We’re in the middle of profound change, and if I had all the answers, I’d be rich. I’m not (of course), but my track record has been pretty good, and it goes back a number of years. Here’s one sentence I wrote a year ago: “The most visible and obvious online media story of 2007 will be the shift of the internet’s center away from text and towards video.” Anybody want to argue with that?

My boss, Jerry Gumbert, says “2008 will be all about getting ready for 2009,” and I agree with him. ’09 sends chills down the spines of every media company executive, but I think the fear is healthy, especially if it moves us to action. And that action must be in areas beyond our ad-supported content business models. The (Real) Web makes that possible. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

May the new year bring you joy and prosperity.


  1. Actually, I DO want to argue the point of the Internet’s “center” shifting toward video — define “center.” I think if we move too far away from text, too fast, it’s at our own risk. On our hyperlocal news site, for example, we use video as flavoring, but text and photos are still what our visitors/users/readers/whatever-you-want-to-call-them rely on to get information quickly and to be able to scan it and process it efficiently. Two lines about “there’s a fire at 9000 20th SW and nearby intersections are blocked” were far more valuable in a breaking-news situation, for example, than the :25 of video we rushed over and shot, showing firefighters on the roof and people huddling outside the building. Text is also what our community members use to communicate with us and each other, at least as the first line of response, with UGC video and photos the next layer down. I just left a Major Media Company which had decided that most of its local-news sites would center on video players, while dramatically downplaying headline collections and moving them below the fold; I think this is a mistake. Embrace video, tell stories with video, but don’t forget that viewing video is not the most efficient or quick way to process information, nor the easiest way to refer back to it — that’s why so many of us have abandoned TV as a primary news source, in the first place — let’s not morph the Net completely into TV, The Next Generation.

  2. sorry to my friend at west seattle blog, but “the Internet’s center” leaves alot of space for audio AND text.

    the internet will not be “TV, the next generation”, tv will be tv, the next generation. it’ll have to be or risk becoming even more irrelevant.

    in the meantime, the internet will continue to morph into part tv, part newspaper, part radio, part cell phone, part microwave oven, blender, blowdryer, etc.

    the best part is, as terry says, “nobody really knows”. we are so young in this that all we can think in terms of is what we know from the past.

    btw- happy new year to all!

  3. Tracy,
    Thank you for your comment. Your point is well-taken, and I don’t disagree. In fact, my advice to clients who are essentially serving an audience at work is to not make video or audio center stage.

    But here’s what I wrote a year ago:

    Finally, the most visible and obvious online media story of 2007 will be the shift of the internet’s center away from text and towards video. The Web is extremely efficient at delivering text, so it will always be a core component. But it will increasingly be sharing the stage with video, and I think this will become even moreso in 2007. A lot of seemingly disparate events are coming together to provide genuine video convergence, and this will greatly impact local broadcasters. Again, we will have a choice: bury ourselves in the value of high definition or explore the reality that the quality play has limited potential.

    YouTube is offering a new service now that allows people to upload directly from a web camera. This seems insignificant to those of us who value production and presentation, but the concept will be a new driver of the Personal Media Revolution. The company has to work out a lot of kinks in the system, but when they do (and they will), youTube’s value as the conduit for unbundled video items will skyrocket. The applications for local news and information aggregation are staggering, and once again, we find an internet pure play company out-thinking and out-maneuvering the mainstream.

    There are and will always be bandwidth issues when it comes to streaming audio or video, but those are technical limitations only. I’ve heard engineers dismiss new thinking based on the belief that the video compression of today will be the same tomorrow, and it keeps us from exploring possibilities. 2006 saw a dramatic rise in the use of Flash for video, and that will continue.

    A more video-centric web ought to help us, because that’s our medium. However, we need to shift our language on the web to that which is also video-centric. We don’t make “pages;” we make channels. YouTube has figured this out. Why can’t we?

    One of the inherent problems in writing about this stuff is the incessant need to define terms. I hope this helps you understand what I meant a little better.


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