Reported on TechCrunch this morning, Lehman Brothers is forecasting a rosy future for web advertising: $20 billion in growth by 2012. Here's the graph, which is best viewed to the tune of "We're In the Money":
Of course, there's a bit of a catch -- Lehman's expects the hottest advertising category to be online video -- but even with that proviso, it's a welcome forecast for online content in general. I remember ten years ago, when we were all building content-rich sites in the confident expectation that ad revenues would grow quickly enough to justify what we were spending to do so. That didn't happen, of course, and a lot of us ended up on unemployment when the long-overdue market correction finally arrived. But advertising remains the great hope of web content, and growth along the lines of Lehman's forecast would go a long way towards justifying certain business plans.
My greatest fear is that, as the market expands, any advertising windfall will be so unequally distributed as to leave most Internet properties out in the cold. If online ad spend gushes into YouTube's, Hulio's, and Facebook's coffers, while the rest of us are left doing what we can with Google AdSense, then the overall market picture isn't going to be much better than it already is. And, somewhat pessimistically, I have to assume that will be the case, at least initially. Ultimately, of course, a rising tide lifts all boats; the question is whether that will happen quickly enough for your business and mine.