In Today’s Global Recession, Flat Is The New Up

A bunch of us SES conference speakers happen to be in Washington, D.C., this week speaking at the Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA) conference. This includes Matt Bailey, President of SiteLogic, Bill Barnes, Co-founder and Executive Vice President of Enquiro Search Solutions Inc., Nan Dawkins, Founder and CEO of Serengeti Communications, and me.

SIPA conference.jpg It’s not hard to figure out how this happened. The chair of the Online Marketing Track is Rory Brown, chair of SIPA UK, who is the former chairman of Incisive Media. Yes, it’s a small, small world.

During the cocktail reception last night, our group gathered to compare notes — and one of the observations that bubbled up was this: “In today’s global recession, flat is the new up.”

In other words, we all overheard specialized information publishers asking their colleagues, “How’s business?” If one of those colleagues said, “Flat,” then the other specialized information publishers were impressed.

Nevertheless, as they gathered for their 33rd annual international conference, even those who had remained flat during the steepest US recession in 50 years are more than ready for the economic recovery.

This hope that the worse is behind us was reinforced by the luncheon speaker: Andrew Madden of Google. His address was entitled, “How Google Can Support Specialized Publishers in 2009.”

Madden talked about the different ways Google has been working with publishers to support their business models — whether they be ad-supported or premium content. With the current economic downturn depressing even online advertising, more and more specialized publishers are looking at pay-per-view mechanisms or ways they can charge for online content.

Madden discussed how Google is expanding into areas like content digitization in partnereships with publishers and how that can result in a new source of online revenue and brand awareness. He also pointed out that using Google’s free Webmaster Tools could help publishers improve their visibility on Google.

No, the audience didn’t burst out singing, “Happy Days Are Here Again.” But, for a group that has been saying, “Flat is the new up” for the past 12 months, I could sense that they were ready for the time when “Flat is so last year.”

My, that will sound good.

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