Battelle Talks Future Of Search At SMX West

    February 12, 2009

It’s not easy to predict changes in the search industry on even a month-to-month basis; divisions get closed, new products are launched, and market shares waver constantly.  But at SMX West, John Battelle discussed the much more distant future and made some interesting forecasts.

(Coverage of SMX West continues at WebProNews Videos.  Keep an eye on WebProNews for more notes and videos from the event this week.)

John Battelle
 John Battelle

Battelle is, of course, a well-known tech journalist and author of The Search.  He’s the founder, chairman, and CEO of Federated Media, too.  Short of people like Eric Schmidt and Steve Ballmer – who would be rather less objective – Battelle’s probably about as qualified as anybody to make predictions.  So with introductions out of the way, we’ll move on to the meat of his keynote.

Battelle started by talking about some Google-related issues.  He does, for example, believe the search giant has benefited from all the content newspapers put online, but doesn’t see the for-profit corporation buying any paper companies.  Instead, if a transaction occurs at all, its arm might instead be the one to step in and make an acquisition.

Then there’s the matter of market dominance.  Battelle doesn’t think Google will lose its lead any time in the near future.  He made the interesting prediction that Microsoft will "buy" search just as it bought distribution for Windows, though, which could result in an exchange of five or ten percentage points.

As for a more general industry outlook, Battelle said, "We’re still really early in the search game."  He compared the average searcher’s current situation to being stuck in a foreign country where they have to communicate by pointing and poking.  Leaps in natural language processing should fix this.

Finally, for the marketers out there, Battelle added, "If you’re making media online, you need to be making that kind [engaging] of media that’s called conversational marketing."  He pointed to the presence of Dell and Comcast on Twitter as examples, and has a book called The Conversation Economy on the way with more details.

WebProNews anchor Abby Johnson contributed to this report.