Year in Review: 5 trends that actually lived up to the hype

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One in a series of posts examining the best (and worst) of 2010. 

You might be sick of hearing about social-hyperlocal-geolocated curation, but some of those digital media buzzwords might not be so overhyped after all. The following five trends established themselves this year as legitimate options for publishers exploring new revenue and content delivery models. 
 

Curation

Pairing automated aggregation with human curation has been hailed as a future model for journalism, in which publishers cover what they do best and link to the rest. Though many media companies are still trying to figure out exactly how outside content fits into their strategy, 2010 has been a breakthrough year for creative models and platforms for curation. Publishers like the San Francisco Chronicle, for example, are experimenting with both aggregation and curation aided by semantic tools. Curation is also blending with new syndication models. Startups like Publish2 and Ebyline have emerged to enable more content-sharing.
 
SFGate uses semantic tools to aggregate content.
 

Facebook publishing

Yes, we can state the obvious: Facebook is more than a fad for publishing. Many media brands are now using  Facebook Connect to bring Facebook fans into their communities. For example, the enthusiast publisher Guideposts dumped its in-house community and now uses Facebook instead.
 
Get ready for more: Facebook is ramping up plans to court media companies more aggressively in 2011. It's not clear how the Facebook-publisher relationship will pan out (should media companies trust Facebook?), but it is clear that “fans” and “likes” are significant stats to media brands.
 
Guideposts uses Facebook for community-building.
 

Hyperlocal

“Going hyperlocal” has been a steady trend that erupted into a hyperlocal renaissance in 2010. Rob O'Regan predicted last year that hyperlocal would be a legitimate growth area, and 2010 did not disappoint. This year has seen countless emerging hyperlocal business and content models. 
 
AOL's Patch surpassed its goal to launch 500 sites by rolling out 600 ― at one point launching 100 sites in one week. Media brands like SB Nation and Examiner.com are turning enthusiasts into content producers, proving there just might be scale to the community-as-content model. A variety of other brands also joined the fray ― even Starbucks, whose Starbucks Digital Network became a new hub for hyperlocal content.
 
While competing with new crops of hyperlocal companies, big media is using the same strategies. Gannett's MomsLikeMe.com is a national network of local websites for moms. The Journal Register Co. is experimenting with community journalism (making it one of the best digital makeovers of the year). Other big brands keep going hyperlocal, with launches like NPR's Project Argo. Some models will fail and some will thrive; but the concept is here to stay.
 
AOL's Patch launched 600 sites this year.
 

Vendor-as-publisher 

Ready or not, editorial and advertising are colliding and permanently reshaping the land mass of the media industry. Brands are publishers and publishers are brands. For example, Kraft created content with the Big Fork Little Fork iPad app and F+W Media beefed up its commerce arm. 
 
Publishers are responding to brands' thirst for content with more robust custom publishing and marketing services; some are even buying digital agencies. UBM TechWeb is the latest publisher to expand its focus on marketing. The merging world of brands and publishers doesn't have to be threatening. 
 
Kraft's iPad app demonstrates the vendor-as-publisher model.
 

Geolocation

Geolocation is still in its relative infancy, but the technology deserves a nod for a quick ramp-up this year fueled by the explosion of location-aware mobile apps. Playboy began experimenting with geolocation push notifications, which could be the next wave in mobile. Time Out New York paired augmented reality and geolocation for an app showcasing summer drink specials. Publishers are also partnering with geolocation services like Foursquare to distribute content. 
 
As mobile devices become more sophisticated, expect geolocation to become an innate part of content delivery. Even before mobile, publishers were serving up content via location; the Las Vegas Sun customizes news down to a ZIP code. Will location and game-like attributes advance to the point where we really have Foursquare for news? In this case, the hype is just beginning. 
 
Las Vegas Sun customizes news based on geolocation.

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