A new year wouldn’t be a new year without a vast number of websites making predictions about the future of the web, and 2008 proves to be no different. From a number of different sources, we have rounded up 10 key trends that we think are the ones to watch out for in 2008. 

 1. Social networks advertising becomes scalable

2007 was arguably the year of the social network, but advertising was partly held back due to the lack of standards recognised across the plethora of different social networking sites. In 2008, marketers will place greater emphasis on how to monetise such sites. Facebook’s recent launch of its Beacon platform will set the standard for social network advertising and allow it to become scalable.

According to eMarketer, US social networking ad-spending next year is set to grow by 70% to $1.6 billion. However, social networks advertising presents potential risks for traditional media portals, including AOL, MSN and Yahoo!. 

We will also see growth in social media advertising coming from niche markets targeted at users with specific demographics or lifestyles. Keyword: ‘targeted’.

 2. Privacy will continue to be a sensitive issue

2008 kicked off with controversy surrounding Plaxo, after blogger Robert Scoble was banned from Facebook for exporting his “friends’” data without their permission. Whilst Facebook may have forgiven Scoble for the gaffe, the incident raises questions about who owns the data that users freely display on their profiles.

Issues such as identity theft as well as better targeting technology and individualised communication mean that marketers need to be increasingly sensitive to the balance between consumer privacy and information access.

 3. Internet advertising will overtake radio advertising in the US

According to ZenithOptimedia, spending on online advertising in the US during 2008 will surpass that of radio advertising, as global online spending rises by 24% to $44.6 billion. This is partly fuelled by US Presidential elections, as Merrill Lynch predicts that extensive political spend will direct non-political ad –spending to online display markets.

In fact, eMarketer predicts that not only will the US elections boost online spend, but also that Youtube may actually determine the fate of one of the US Presidential candidates.

 4. Open Source will continue to dominate

We are moving towards an increasingly open web and this trend will continue in 2008. In 2007, Mozilla gained significant ground over Internet Explorer with its open source browser, Firefox, and Google’s OpenSocial provides a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites.

Analysts predict that an open platform allowing for use across several different social networks. It surely has to become less cumbersome to manage and share your identity and profile across sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Spock and Naymz!

In terms of online advertising, open ad networks could potentially threaten Google AdSense’s position in the market, as OpenAds is predicted to make strides in 2008. (Those interested in OpenAds and the ad serving market more generally should consult E-consultancy’s just-published Ad Serving Buyer’s Guide).

 5. The rise of the semantic web

Semantic web tools have long been predicted to shape the next wave of online innovation but many are predicting that 2008 will be the year that they finally take off. Whilst such tools have traditionally been confined to research purposes, mainstream applications such as StumbleUpon and del.icio.us are allowing marketers to leverage a wealth of user data. 

In addition, companies such as TrueKnowledge, Twine, and Spock will allow semantic web to continue to make progress in 2008.

 6. Mobile web expected to explode in 2008

It’s the year of mobile marketing … again! Wow! The mobile web is already hugely popular in Asia and there is at least now good reason to believe that this could catch on here too.

The release of Apple’s iPhone in 2007 helped mobile to gain ground in the US and gives users an interface that looks like the internet. Mobile web allows for location-specific, highly personalised advertising campaigns, and recent technology improvements have made it easier for marketers to provide relevant information. That said, we remain bearish on the prospects for mobile advertising (as opposed to marketing).

Apple’s partnership with Google and Yahoo to enable ad-supported programming indicates that these companies are likely to become major mobile portals in 2008, alongside the traditional mobile operators.

 7. Video gains ground as a popular advertising medium

Video advertising is expected to show significant growth in 2008, but marketers will face challenges with regards to targeting the right consumers.

In terms of ad formats, Google’s overlay InVideo ad format in expected to dominate, as it offers marketers better click-through rates through a greater consumer engagement. Overlay video formats are also less intrusive for consumers than other formats, such as pre-roll.

 8. Local search marketing and advertising platforms can expect growth

In 2008, local search platforms will cross over to the mainstream, with US companies such as Yelp and Outside.in becoming increasingly popular.

Local search platforms will become more niche with vertical search playing an important role. Additionally, companies who focus on enhancing user experience and gaining repeat users will succeed in this space.

Watch out for new players such as Welovelocal and Tipped, and the recently revamped Yell.com. And let’s not forget Google, which has the power to crush search startups that are reliant on Google referrals for the majority of their traffic. 

This is a very competitive space and we should also expect some kind of shakeout / consolidation in 2008.

 9. Behavioural targeting will become more widespread
– and something which is expected

Behavioural targeting is expected to increase ten-fold over the next five years, according to eMarketer. Behavioural targeting allows marketers to offer more personalised customer experiences, whilst consumers gain from more relevant advertising and content as they have been targeted based on their online footprint (e.g. what sites they have visited). 

Last year saw the formation of an alliance enabling large publishers to share behavioural information on their users, facilitated by Revenue Science. There was also the launch of Wunderloop Connect, a self-service ad exchange for behavioural-based online advertising. This should be the year that it becomes something that advertisers and publishers want to embrace automatically, or expect as part of their ad serving technology, rather than still needing to be convinced that this is a no-brainer.

We will be looking out for more case studies and research to show how effectively behavioural targeting works.

 10. Fear of recession will shift advertising budgets to online media

Opinion is divided over the outlook for a US recession in 2008, with some economists claiming that the US already undergoing recession (although the crucial two-consecutive-quarters-of-negative-growth criterion has not yet been met). Analysts predict that overall, we will see slower spending in advertising using traditional media and a shift towards the online space.

Others predict that the fear of recession will weaken business models based on consumer advertising. If a serious downturn or recession really starts to bite hard, ROI from online marketing may insulate it from reduced spending at a macro level.

We believe that efficient web businesses are less likely to suffer in such an environment, though talk of a recession remains ‘talk’, at this stage, and is by no means a certainty.


Are there any important trends that you think we have forgotten? Please let us know what you think is going to be big in 2008 by posting in the comments section. Thanks!