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We are also seeing the impact of new technology on the media in the guise of the iPad and its rival tablets, as well as the growing importance of brands as content providers. So what then are the key content trends for 2010?
1. Paywalls for online newspaper sites - For over ten years now media companies have been placing content behind paywalls. The Financial Times initiated a pay wall several years ago, while there are several business to business titles in the UK, like New Media Age, that only let subscribers access all of their content. The paywall is back on the agenda is 2010 largely due to one man - Rupert Murdoch. Adamant in his belief that users should pay for quality content online, Murdoch has slowly been placing the content on his flagship newspaper sites - The Times and The New York Times - behind paywalls. The move heralds a complete change of emphasis for online media. The new Times site looks and feels more like its print editions and is largely written by print journalists - many of the Times' online team were let go earlier in 2010.
No matter whether or not the paywalls are a success - and many industry observers are sceptical - Murdoch has thrown down the gauntlet to other publishers who must all now be seriously considering a paywall as a potential solution to the problem of making serious money out of online content. Several rival groups have already nailed their colours to the mast and are championing free to customer, advertising based solutions. None more so that The Guardian, which is one of the ten most read newspaper sites in the World. Its editor Alan Rusbridger recently said, ‘Charging might be right for some bits of the Murdoch stable of media properties, but is it right for all bits of his empire, or for everyone else? Isn't there, in any case, more to be learned at this stage of the revolution, by different people trying different models - maybe different models within their own businesses - than all stampeding to one model?.
It isn't just newspapers who are considering paywalls. Business to business titles are increasingly looking at a paywall as an option and even some consumer magazine companies are experimenting with subscription models.
It as if the whole industry is watching and waiting. If paywalls prove to be successful, then a general introduction could transform UK online media. If they fail it could be back to drawing board and some dark comments about a publically funded hugely popular news website that is never likely to be subscription based - the BBC.
2. SEO driven content - As if mainstream newspaper media companies don't have enough to be worried about in monetising online content, they now face new and aggressive rivals who are using innovative techniques to deliver sites with enormous readerships. Chief among these is Demand Media, a US company whose portfolio of sites which includes eHow Livestrong, Cracked, Trails.com and many others. The company adds content to the sites using not human judgement but an algorithm. This decides which stories are most likely to fulfil user's search requirements and then offers the creation of those stories to a pool of freelancers.
Demand has kept costs very low and has clearly developed an online content business model that actually makes money. Demand's model has clearly influenced other content publishers most notably Associated Content, which was recently bought by Yahoo, and even AOL.
The danger for mainstream media companies is that more of these content farms will start springing up and start to eat into their search engine traffic. So far content farms haven't made their mark in the UK - but it can only be a matter of time.
3. Brands as content owners - It's clear that mainstream media companies are starting now to contract. Many newspapers have closed in the United States and there is some speculation as to how many daily national newspapers in the UK will survive the decade. Meanwhile magazine publishers have been looking at their portfolios. The biggest company of them all IPC, recently announced a review of a large number of its titles.
It is however clear that the scaling back of mainstream media provides an opportunity for brands. In customer publishing brands have traditionally paid companies to publish printed content for them. Now they have an opportunity to extend their activities online. The theory runs that brands can produce content not just about their brand, but also about issues surrounding their brand and their industry. This then draws consumers to the website to read the content, which is then softly branded by the company. The classic example of this is BabyCentre, a social networking site for mums which is owned by Johnson & Johnson. Savvy brands are also realising that they can produce content which captures key words that then drives search engine traffic to their sites.
4. The renaissance of blogging - For a time it appeared that the popularity of blogging was on the wane as erstwhile bloggers shifted towards micro blogging sites like Twitter. There are however signs that blogging is having something of a mini renaissance fuelled by new blogging platforms like Tumblr and Posterous and by new features in older models like WordPress.
Tumblr and Posterous have made it very simple for people to create blog posts by adding features like posting by email and via web bookmarks that automatically grab images and video on a page. Their ease of use and strong sense of community has even been acknowledged by mainstream media titles with The New York Times and The New Yorker both sporting blogs on Tumblr.
Meanwhile the most successful blogging platform WordPress continues to go from strength to strength. A recent innovation saw the introduction of a feature that enables bloggers to capture and automatically post content from the Guardian website. WordPress too has also added posting by email.