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When ‘digital’ becomes commonplace – where do we take the industry?

Digital media

The interesting thing about digital convergence for those that have worked professionally to develop and foster it is that it becomes harder and harder to define what you do, when the lines between different parts of the industry are blurred.

For example, what does it really mean these days to say to someone that you work ‘in the digital industry’? A few years ago, this was a coveted thing to claim, but in 2013, being a digital person could mean you know something about how to use a computer, which might make you thoroughly outdated, or it might mean you know something about social media – which would make put you on the same level as 1.1 billion other people. The list goes on.

Similarly, User Experience (UX) practitioners were once a fabled entity that were craftsmen far beyond the skill of any designer – but look up any decent online designer’s LinkedIn profile these days and you’ll inevitably see that they’re also a UX person too (whether you believe it or not).

So with convergence a thing of the past – and not something still to come – it leaves people like myself, who led the original charge into the digital era – to find new ways to continue to guide people, brands, and other organisations (Government and non-government) smartly into the next wave of ubiquitous media consumption.

That becomes tricky – we now see waves of experts in mobile, people who know analytics, people who know responsive design, and whatever else the buzzwords are of the day. The continuous proliferation of expertise in various areas of the digital economy still leave the most important question unanswered:

Where are we headed?


I saw some interesting work at Nielsen’s recent Consumer 360 conference which we hosted up in the Blue Mountains recently which took a broad look at the impact of convergence on advertiser brands (particularly retail). One of the key takeaways was something that those of us at the forefront of the industry know all too well:

Australian Consumers are far ahead of Australian organisations when it comes to consumption of digital media devices and platforms.

Ross McDonald, Media Industry lead for Google Australia, pointed out their estimates that only 1 in 3 Australian companies has a mobile-ready website. His advice to advertisers and other organisations with respect to digital? “Do more, and do it faster”

The challenge remains for industry leaders to find ways to nurture and accelerate this development.


Pre-tail: consumer demand for products before they launch

It’s no secret that people are becoming more savvy to ways of seeing what lies ahead in technology and product development. Platforms like Kickstarter and a host of copycats have now made it possible for everyday consumers to be able to get in on the ground level of a great idea, and in some cases, even have some ownership of that idea as an early stage investor.

That concept extends far beyond technology, and even reaches as far as fashion these days. Consumers using that age-old concept of people power can vote for, invest in or give feedback on any product concept before it goes to market, helping shape and refine the product while also giving those same consumer first-rights access to the product.

The infographic below is from the guys at trend-watching which showcases some of their views on Pretailing.


The darkside of the digital era on news reporting: Boston hysteria

Media Hysteria



As an enormous advocate of ubiquitous, real-time information, the Boston terrorist attack has for me highlighted the light and shade of the digitally converged era.

The light: like never before, people are seeing photos of evidence collected from the scene within hours of it being found, stories of real people, graphics, video footage, and breaking updates by the minute. The police willingly overshare evidence because they know – 1) collectively we have a better chance to find the bad guys if everyone has the evidence, and 2) if they didn’t show it to people right away, the digital natives and conspiracy theorists among us would protest to no end that the government was hiding something from the people it sought to protect. I’ve never actually seen this kind of detailed sharing of evidence so quickly before – I mean, I knew what the bomb looked like 24 hours after it happened, and I live 16,000 kilometres away!

What I’ve witnessed over the last couple of days goes one step beyond the recent popular coverage of how Twitter and Facebook have become the source of real-time news. What we’ve seen happen since the Boston terrorist attack is the media trying to stay one step  ahead of the digital era by reporting everything, as quickly as possible lest they get beaten to the chase by some 14 year old kid with an iphone, a twitter handle, and a quest for 10 seconds of fame. And unfortunately that’s where we’ve learnt some hard lessons about breaking news journalism in 2013.

So convoluted have been the messages and ‘facts’ reported by different media outlets that this morning I heard several hundred media turned up at the courthouse to see the suspect Boston Police and the FBI had arrested overnight. The only problem was – there apparently wasn’t even a suspect yet. This only came to light when the attorney general Eric Holder himself put a stop to the misinformation being spread.

The best journalism is that which is well thought through, well researched, facts are verified and more often than not – it takes courage to find and tell that story. How the hell do you achieve that in an era of gratuitous need for real-time data? Real-time data means that each individual seeks to collect the data and do their own analysis of what is happening. We therefore end up with approximately 2 billions different points of view, all at once. We lose sight of the bigger picture and some of the factors that make good journalism and story-telling exactly that.

I’ll always continue to advocate technology that empowers people and connectivity, and delivers what we want when we want it. I sure hope for all of our sakes though that the editorial masterminds that are still out there somewhere find a way to do better in the converged era. For now, I’ll wait until next week’s edition of The Economist comes out to understand what’s really happening.

Deliriant Isti Romani – These Romans are Crazy!

An interview with Joe Pollard


A good session last night at Fourth Estate Domain (FED) as Tony Faure, Chairman of startup incubator Pollenizer interviewed Joe Pollard, CEO of Publicis Mojo.

Joe’s had a fantastic career in digital, spanning 10 years at Nike in the US, a few years at Nike Japan, was CEO of NineMSN (Now Mi9) and I believe she even mentioned she sits on the board of Nine Entertainment Company too.

They’re doing interesting things over at Publicis Mojo, specifically Joe referenced a client where not only have they done the creative, but to ensure they get results, they have also:

  • Negotiated a profit share of sales generated by the campaign (‘skin in the game’)
  • Operate the customer service call centre
  • Manage the sales team for product sales
  • Make daily decisions about digital marketing to ensure demand and conversion to sale are effective

Overall, a great session – thought it was worth jotting down few highlights here. I’ll try and post LaVolta’s video when they post it online.


1.       Australians don’t allow or learn from failure enough. In fact, we tend to openly criticise the success of others, which is unique to our culture.

  • We hear this over and over again in the Australian startup scene. The Australian business culture simply doesn’t tolerate failure. Joe actually recalled one of her workplaces (I think Nike) having had a regular event to celebrate failures, in a light hearted way, but to ensure that everyone learnt from them. In fact, no campaign from Nike was ever pre-tested – they simply learnt from experience and rapid deployment.

2.       Western cultures spend 1/3 of each project planning and forming strategy, while Asian (Japanese) culture spends at least 2/3 of the project planning. Execution is then quick and efficient.

  • I like this one as it aligns to the way I think about strategy – if you’ve done the hard work to know specifically what problem needs to be solved, and how to solve it, then you won’t spend as much time course-correcting your execution.

3.       Data is meaningless without someone who can translate it into meaningful insights that creative can understand. The demand for these types of people will only increase in the next 10 years.

4.       “Innovation only happens when you TRULY understand the problem you’re trying to solve.”

Well said!


UPDATED 18/04: Here’s a link to teh video posted on Lavolta’s site: 


Cutting corners on future technology: National Broadband Network


When work began on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1924, it wasn’t built for the 3 horsemen, 2 pigs and a donkey that would regularly use it upon completion. Like any good infrastructure built to last, the bridge was built sufficiently strong and wide enough to be the main artery across Sydney Harbour for many years to come.

In fact, from just under 11,000 vehicles per day that used the bridge in its first year, the very same bridge that recently celebrated its 80th birthday carried more than 160,000 vehicles per day in 2001, and closer to 250,000 vehicles per day now, with the inclusion of traffic through the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.

With Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott announcing yesterday their radical plan to save money on the National Broadband Network by relying on current technology such as copper wire instead of the optic cables to each household that provide the higher Internet speeds, they’ve basically made an assumption that the Internet and dependant technologies will not continue to grow in demand in coming years. In fact, by relying on current technology such as copper wire connections to the household, the cost-saving political assumption here is this: this country, one of the greatest adopters of Internet technology in the world, with the most to gain for low-populace regional connectivity of any place, will not increase its reliance on the Internet.

That’s an unfortunate assumption to make in an election year, unless of course you think that we should curb our continuing reliance on the world wide web?

After jotting these thoughts down, I found out that the copper wire network is 100 years old. Neat infrastructure to have lasted so long and ben able to carry the Internet into homes thus far, don’t you think? Nevertheless, a technology not designed to sustain the connected world we now live in.

The policy decision is all the more disappointing as until now I have always viewed Malcolm Turnbull as one of the Australian politicians who has a better grasp of 21st century technology than others. I see him as a politician who actually understands innovation, rather than just using the word a lot. You don’t get to run Goldman Sachs without having some understanding of the need to invest for future gains and to meet future demands of customers.

I’m all for making sure the money we spend – taxpayer, business, or personal – is as effective and efficient as possible. Don’t waste money, food, or water I say. But when it comes to investing for the future – you’ve got to be able to cope with what lies ahead. When planning for retirement – plan for medical bills. When planning to win an Olympic medal – get the best coaching and training resources. When planning the infrastructure by which your country will become more connected than ever before – make sure you think ahead.

Deliriant Isti Romani – These Romans are Crazy!

Australia Post primes itself for disruption


It’s only been about a year since Australia Post announced it was going to spend an additional $2 billion to get its parcel delivery network up to scratch with the ecommerce economy. This was widely greeted positively by online retailers and consumers alike. Making it easier for consumers and businesses to connect was a common sense approach for the national postal service to follow.

Unfortunately, today’s 30%  price increases on parcel delivery kind of negate much of that goodwill. In fact, according to Sarah Whyte from the SMH, the cost of collecting a signature on delivery will triple, from $1 to $2.95, cutting into the margins of online retailers.

Not that I have a problem with Australia Post trying to recoup their $2B investment, but perhaps what they’ve failed to realise here is that they just made it easier for someone to disrupt their business model. I mean, seriously. They already attributed a $148 million loss last year due to the decline of regular mail volumes. Was this not a leading indicator enough that a behemoth with outright market power is ripe for disruption? Have they really demonstrated any innovation other than being the first in Australia to copy Amazon’s model of putting lockers into convenience stores?

By hiking up parcel delivery prices by 30%, Australia Post have unwittingly created the most lucrative of startup opportunities: consumer and retailer side demand for an alternative.

Enter the entrepreneur.

Is big data living in a bubble?




Just like a startup bubble, the investment hype on big data worries me. As investors and companies race  find ways to implement, manage and draw insight from big data, slowly but surely I’ve come to realise something: there’s  too much value being placed on the data and not enough on what you can do with it. And, I’m not just talking about business intelligence tools either – they can be part of the problem sometimes too.

To put it simply: data is only as valuable as the actions that one can take as a result of information they receive.

At an operational level, there are a finite number of decisions that we can make on a regular basis to adjust the ebb and flow of our business each day. I’m a firm believer in the old ‘I can remember 7 plus or minus 2 pieces of information at any one time’ concept. I tend to think the same applies to how many metrics we can effectively juggle at any one time, too.

Big data dashboards that show us dozens of leading indicators at a time are only helpful if it is of value to act on these on a regular basis.

Isolating customer segments or daily performance metrics to smaller and smaller chunks is only of value if you have the capacity and know-how to extract enough value that you can pay off your overwhelming technology and analytics costs.

And of course, the more detailed you want to go into isolating, understanding and knowing everything about every customer, past, present and future, the more resources you’ll need to be able to do all of that.

At a strategic level, having oodles of data is nice in theory, but how much of it is really going to form the guidelines for how you’ll operate your business and find a unique market position? Strategy is about doing just enough diagnosis to figure out that there’s something that customers want that no one else is delivering, and realising that you can do so at a reasonable return (or cost, for all the government folk out there who don’t need to make profit). There’s a lot of hard work in achieving good strategy that a data management tool, or decent analytics just won’t solve for you.

So in the end, big data is just data. You can invest heavily in understanding it, getting insight from it, putting technology around it, and generally speaking, overwhelming yourself with data. That situation hasn’t changed since we added the word ‘big’ to the concept of data. No doubt anyone who’s ever looked at a big data tool has had more than a few moments of utter confusion in trying to understand what they’re looking at and what to do with it.

For a digital native, I’m still a bit old school. Make sure you have the ability or resource to find meaningful, actionable insight from your data sources before investing too heavily in bringing more data in house!

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