Fri, Jan 09, 2009 - Page 9 News List

If you want to survive on the Internet, it? all about sharing

From start-ups to big media, this year is set to be centered around sharing ?content, costs and platforms. And 2009 might finally be the big year for mobile

By Jemima Kiss  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

First, the doom and gloom. The Web has become flooded with ?e-too?businesses, hundreds of ?he next Facebook?and plenty of wobbly business ideas based on making money from large audiences with advertising. Now that funding is harder to find, investors want to see bootstrapped businesses focused on income.

The good news is the consensus, particularly among those who survived the 2001 dotcom crash, that a downturn can be an opportunity for the most agile, intelligent start-ups to prove themselves.

?here were lots of awful parties in 2000 that were really for the business development guys,?says Nigel Eccles, co-founder of the news start-up Hubdub. ?ut it? the technology that? cool, not the exits. There? always lots of innovation in downturns ?this is the time for geeks and for ideas.?

Added to that, smaller start-ups can hunker down until the economy picks up.

Bigger media have far bigger problems ?huge overheads and a dependency on traditional revenue sources, such as TV or print advertising, that are sliding steadily downhill. Even online spending ?which saw voracious growth of 38 percent in 2007, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau ?is predicted to remain flat next year. Tanking print sales haven? helped ?we?e already seen a slew of redundancies across publishing, and I? be surprised if innovation budgets hadn? been slashed before those jobs were cut. Surely if there were ever a time to prove a funding commitment to digital ?essential to the next generation of the media industry ?that time is now?

The Association of Online Publishers is putting on a brave face.

?e continue to be optimistic for next year,?says its co-chair Alison Reay, also digital media director at UK-based Telegraph Media Group. ?t is going to be difficult, but there will be more growth and it? an opportunity for all publishers to demonstrate their worth online.?br />

Companies must remain focused on how they get a return from investment in new technology, she says.

?he problem for major media companies is that they are still underweight on the Internet,?Eccles said. ?he opportunity I see is for media companies to work more closely with start-ups to bring engaging functionality to their community.?br />

There? huge potential to increase ?tickiness?of news sites by partnering with the great technology in relevant web start-ups, he added.

In terms of acquisitions this year, Yahoo remains a target, although as Microsoft insists it will not step back to the negotiating table, it remains unclear whether there is any company big enough to take it on in this market. Acquisitions of small teams by mid-size companies are more likely.

?here will be lots of consolidation, and lots of companies will fall by the wayside,?says Andy McLoughlin, co-founder of the start-up Huddle. The collaborative business tool benefited recently when a US competitor folded and recommended that their customers sign up with Huddle instead.

Mobile could perhaps finally claim to be gearing up for that elusive ?ear of mobile.?The sector was rudely awakened by not one but two intruders in the past 18 months: Apple, with the iPhone, and Google, with its open Android system.

?very year since 2000 is supposed to be the big year for mobile, but for the first time I? not skeptical about this year,?Eccles said.

The iPhone will continue to be massively influential, he believes, particularly its strategy of being a platform on which external companies and developers can build. With tighter budgets this year, we will see more focused apps building on the most successful trends so far ?the most popular gaming products and potentially lucrative location-based tools for mobile.

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