As we wind down 2009 and get ready to don our 2010 New Year’s Eve party glasses, I thought I’d make a few useless predictions about what we’ll see online in the next twelve months.
- The Breakthrough of the Self-Published Transmedia Author – Someone out there will come up with a story living on multiple platforms and media, and they’ll become incredibly successful without the support of a major publisher or film studio. This transmedia text will gather revenue indirectly, via advertising or limited edition physical products, which will in turn be more money than any author could hope to get as an advance. If you think media execs are losing their minds now, just wait.
- Problematized Ethics in Citizen Journalism – YouTube Direct’s new channel for citizen journalists will undoubtedly spark plenty of high-value, on-the-ground content. Maybe we’ll see the new Anderson Cooper rise this way, outside of traditional means. I fear that we’ll also see amateurs injured or captured in disaster areas as they pursue stories. See “For Novice Journalists, Rising Risks in Conflict Zones” for a recent instance.
- An Indie Bookstore Success Story Will Emerge – Forced to experiment and adapt, independent bookstores in 2010 will try everything under the sun to retain customer loyalty and foster community. Some store in the U.S. or Britain will hit upon something revelatory, just by statistical probability. This will not be anything replicable, I’m guessing, but it will get a lot of ink from the press. Maybe a breakthrough ecommerce solution from Indiebound or somewhere like St. Mark’s Bookshop – doing for books what The Auteurs has so brilliantly done for arthouse cinema? Or maybe a small-town bookstore with an Espresso Book Machine emerging as its own small press for local writers? There will be some inspiring stories, to be sure.
- Smartphones Will Create Tension Between Content Providers – This year, we’ve seen movie studios produce comic books for the iPhone App Store (G.I. Joe, Transformers), which have been very successful. (IDW is one to watch here.) Next year will determine whether publishers have positioned themselves well enough to act as middlemen. I’m pessimistic. We’ll see studios produce and publish directly as they increase vertical integration. This in turn will lead to…
- Publishers Will Become Editors – I think we’ll see this start up at the edgier small presses and genre presses (think Harlequin), with maybe a major or two joining in. What happens when content is ubiquitous? I’d be naïve to think the best content will magically rise to the top after being hand-picked by editors. No, 2010 will be the start of “in a storm, any port will do.” Readers will have more immediate access to free, good content than they could ever read. The smart publishers will position themselves as tastemakers, transparently sifting the slush pile to find the gold. The transparency here is key, and hasn’t been discussed much. I’m aware this will entail a ridiculous amount of disruption in the major publishing houses. I’m also aware that they don’t get much choice in the matter. Think about Pitchfork and their position: they’re kingmakers for bands, which comes back to the site in the form of advertising (eh), books (mmhmm), and concerts (bingo).
I can’t wait for 2011, to see how right (and wrong) I was. A part of me expects things to devolve into Mad Max territory around springtime, in which case… buy hardcovers! They make great pillows and can be bartered for ramen.