Next year?

Next year? This interview with Esther Dyson, one of technology’s deepest thinkers, includes this ironic (for me, at least) look into the crystal ball:

iMediaConnection: …Tell us something we don’t know yet but we’ll find out in the next year.

Dyson: The thing I’m writing my next issue about is kind of interesting. Two or three years ago, there was this wonderful Wall Street Journal article about the secret phenomenon of small women buying their clothes in the kids’ department. And there’s another secret phenomenon going on right now — it’s small businesses buying their software and their services in the consumer department. And that the really big business places right now, I think, are Yahoo! and Google and eBay.

They’re the providers to small businesses. Yahoo! is something like 10 percent of the small business Web hosting market. They’re the largest player. eBay is 430,000 small businesses — which is again about 5 percent of the total number of small businesses determined by the Small Business Administration.

Google with all its local marketing, its ad words. You know, suddenly, small businesses can get online and market, because every small business person in his or her secret life is also a consumer. And so they get marketed to online, they get email campaigns, they buy things off the Internet, they see ads — and suddenly all these tools are accessible to them, not through some big business vendor like SAP but through all the same old things. Through Google, through Yahoo!.

The irony? I guess I’ve been harping on this topic for quite a while (scroll to bottom) and in my day job, publish a magazine for 600,000 small business owners. Exactly four years ago, we ran this interview with Chris Locke about some of the topics I guess we’ll be learning about next year, as well.

As I often explain to our magazine’s advertisers, small businesses are not minature big businesses. Think of them as consumers on steroids who often use consumer supply channels and tools like a Visa card, but who make $10,000 (or more) in purchases each month instead of $1,000.