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2010 is here. Plenty have made specific predictions about what you can expect this year. Predictions are fun, but sometimes knowing which markets to look at is a better approach.

With that in mind, here are five of the markets you might want to track in 2010.

Virtual goods

Virtual goods are already a billion-dollar a year business and despite the controversy over some parts of the market, make no doubt about it: this is one train that shows no signs of slowing down. What's on tap in 2010 besides more rapid growth? One or more large acquisitions or even an IPO or two aren't outside the realm of possibility.

Private sale services

2009 was a banner year for private sale services like Vente-privee.com, Gilt Groupe and RueLaLa.com. Thanks to consumers' revitalized thirst for deals and a recession that forced retailers and luxury brands to lower their inventories, private sale services found themselves in the right place at the right time. In 2010 expect more M&A, and more entrants into the market, including those who bring the private sale model to niche verticals.

But don't be surprised if 2010 also delivers some bad news. As private sale services become ubiquitous, the market could become oversaturated. And economics could conspire against the market. While bargains are always in-season, they may not be as fashionable -- or plentiful -- as the global economy recovers. Conversely, if an economic recovery falters, inventories will inevitably reach a point at which supply and demand are better aligned. Hence less inventory to be sold off on the cheap.

Social media

Social media isn't going anywhere in 2010, but 2010 is an important year nonetheless. Companies like Facebook and Twitter aren't exactly young anymore. Developing sustainable business models and dealing appropriately with the clouds on the horizon, such as user attrition and possible growth plateaus, will be important for them. For social media-based marketing, expect more scrutiny of measurement and ROI.

Mobile

2010 isn't a week old and we've already seen some big developments in the mobile space, namely Google's launch of its own mobile phone and Apple's acquisition of a mobile ad firm. While the mobile market is mature in many ways, there's still plenty of opportunity and room for innovation. Don't be surprised if 2010 delivers a lot of it.

Online news

2010 is expected to be the year that many dead tree publications currently offering their content on the web for free transition to paid content business models. Keep a close eye this year on Who follows through and who succeeds. One possible success factor to watch: whether or not the use of e-readers and new tablet devices helps print publications convert free readers into paying subscribers.

Patricio Robles

Published 6 January, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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