iStock 000000863840Small

In its August issue, Wired magazine proclaimed that the web is on the wane, but for the business world, the web seems to be only growing more important. For the first time this year, web content management (WCM) software may generate more than $1 billion in revenue for its vendors, up from $890 million during the recession-laden 2009, analyst firm Gartner stated in a report, "Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management," released this month.

Overall, the market for WCM tools will grow at a compound annual rate of 14 percent from 2009 to 2014, Gartner estimated. "The growth of the online channel for businesses is growing exponentially," said Gartner research vice president Toby Bell, who co-authored the report. "I think we're just beginning to understand the potential of the web, both for commerce and for community."

While most organisations have historically viewed their websites as places to post static content about their business, such organisations are increasingly considering their online presence as the chief conduit to potential customers and investors. As a result WCM vendors, which can range from large enterprise software firms, such as Oracle and IBM, to smaller dedicated vendors such as Open Text, are adding more features to their web-oriented content management software in order to accommodate this greater desired intimacy.

Today's off-the-shelf WCM product may include the ability to deliver content to mobile devices, or to catalogue and serve digital assets such as video, or provide spaces for social networking. "Buying decisions around WCM have expanded beyond the original focus of publishing content. Today's online strategies require that website owners, designers and developers consider the overall experience delivered to users and not just the content," the report states.

Darren Guarnaccia, a vice president of product marketing at WCM vendor Sitecore, agrees that the overall purview of the software has expanded in the past few years. The company now offers the ability to serve content through mobile devices, as well as the ability to analyse web traffic.

Guarnaccia also noted that when the company salespeople first started making sales calls, more than 10 years ago, they frequently met with system administrators. Now, they make their pitch to executives from marketing departments and other largely non-technical business units.

WCM products will also increasingly work in conjunction with other business software, in order to give organisations a more sophisticated understanding of what users are seeking, Bell said. Over time, such systems will be able to better personalise the content that is delivered and measure the success rate that this personalisation has had.

Organisations will "understand why they are targeting content, and, as users, we will be able to turn on or off this context to either deflect or attract the right kind of content," Bell said.

In a survey of 1,000 of its business partners, IBM found that 45 percent are experimenting with social media to investigate ways it can be used to generate new revenue streams. The company recently unveiled a set of tools and consulting services to help organizations get more web 2.0 savvy.