Let's compare this year's trends with our 2005 projections:
'05: The soul of the Internet is up for grabs.
'06: Passion fuels the soul of the Internet. The August 2005 edition of Wired magazine reported that only 40 percent of the Web is commercial. The rest runs on duty or passion. There was a time when analysts believed the Web would be ruled by mass media; in truth, our communication infrastructure is shifting to messy media, where the audience actively participates in developing content.
Spam is still an issue, but tolerances vary widely across cultures. Americans see it as a fact of Internet Life; other cultures increasingly ignore their Inboxes because of spam -- which means you need to have a multi-media approach to communicating with prospective students, parents, counselors and anyone else within your defined spheres of influence.
'05: Creativity makes a comeback.
'06: Creativity continues its comeback, en force. People are used to thinking about computers as ways of making things more efficient or lower in cost (through automation). And it's good for that. But the potential for computers to support creative processes is far from fully realized. Think: Creation of MP3 Audio Files, Short Films, Video Games... Source: The Broadband Explosion
We're also witnessing more creative forms of print media -- namely smaller, more cleverly-designed pieces solely intended to drive more traffic online. Think: Business cards embedded with information wheels. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for samples.
'05: Increase in non-English-speaking populations online.
'06: We expect deeper penetration, throughout China in particular. Worldwide, about one billion people (or one-sixth of the world's population, or about 16 percent) have regular Internet access. The most exciting opportunities lie in serving the 84 percent of the world's population without Internet access. The National Science Foundation, HP, UC-Berkeley, MIT Media Labs and others are developing low-cost, hand-cranked or solar-powered laptops. Stay tuned!
'05: More collaboration across the board.
'06: The collaborative open-source approach rules. It's increasingly futile to try to create barriers to protect your turf from competitors, some of whom don't even exist yet. Think: Progressive Insurance and usjournal.com's cross-promotions with fair organizers.
Third-party service providers -- such as fair organizers, commission-based agents, magazine and web publishers -- need to provide more and better value-added services, as the Internet evaporates barriers of direct contact between both the supply and demand sides of the equation. Students are likely to follow paths of least resistance, i.e., articulation agreements, dual-degree programs, guaranteed transfer of academic credit, or even opting to view sites only in their own language.
There's much more to discuss in this dynamic industry of eRecruitment: wireless protocols (WAP), pay-per-call promotions, precision marketing... Most trends stem from the fact that we can now gleen richer data sets from the Internet to create more robust marketing strategies, based on the true strengths of your particular campus. Stay tuned.