The announcement last week that YouTube has signed a deal with the Indian Premier League (IPL) for live coverage of their cricket games is surely an unequivocal signal that this is about to change.
The ownership of sports broadcast rights has been the central motive force for the growth of Sky over the past 20 years, and the combination of YouTube’s reach and Google’s ability to monetise through advertising, must be blowing a very cold wind down the corridors of subscription-funded sports channels.
According to Joe Leahy in the FT, this deal has been largely driven by a brief to increase Google’s market share in India, but bandwidth issues mean that live streaming on any scale is still in the future.
However, industry commentators generally agree that this is a good deal if the price is right (Google is still looking for a headline sponsor). What do you think?
P.S. I nearly titled this post “Google bowls a Googly”, but thought better of it ;-)
There’s been a lot of discussion in the agency world about Peperami’s (Unilever) move into Crowd Sourcing for its next advertising campaign, an init
iative announced in August this year with a prize pot of $10,000.
The brief was issued and entries gathered via Idea Bounty, a site that’s well worth investigating if you’ve not yet done so.
Opinion of Peperami’s motives were varied, from adulation for an inspired and radical innovation, to sceptics muttering about headline-grabbing, award-hunting, cynical, pointlessness etc. etc.
Well today the winners have been revealed, and guess what, they are ‘seasoned’ advertising industry professionals. Marketing Week has the story.
More intriguingly, Peperami’s Marketing Manager, Noam Buchalter, says that a large proportion of the entries came from “experienced creative professionals”.
Peperami has been so “overwhelmed with the level of entries” that they have increased the price to $15,000. Is this generous? Well the individual winners will doubtless be pleased, but the real story here seems to be the exclusion of the agencies who would traditionally have sat in-between client and creative ideation. Sat collecting substantial fees… (for valuable services rendered, natch!)
A shot across the bows for the network agency super-tankers? It’s starting to look that way.
Two Blue chips wrestle the social media monster. One winner.
Interesting developments this week from Proctor & Gamble and Mothercare, both of whom have, in different ways, taken steps to address the question of how to have vibrant online communities around their brand(s).
The nub of the problem for marketers in the social media world lies at the junction between the brand owners commercial interests and messaging, and the community’s ‘s
ocial activities’ - forums, discussions, blog posts etc. No-one minds a supermarket’s brand on a high-street fascia, but the same brand in the classroom (for example) is much less acceptable (“What did you learn in Easyjet Geography today, kids?”). It’s a question of context.
On this measure, P&G’s supersavvyme.com s
ite looks like a big fat FAIL. Why? Well let’s take a look at the Home & Garden channel, and its ‘The latest Tips' (see right), where someone called Kate has posted five Tips on a range of topics such as herb growing made easy and the collection of rain water for your garden. So far so innocuous… but look at the Tip titled 'Clean the floor in one swipe': 'Don’t waste time lugging a bucket and mop upstairs – swipe floors clean in a hurry with hygienically disposable Flash Express Floor Wipes’. Crikey, hang on Kate, for a moment there I nearly thought you were a housewife, but let me guess, Flash… yes, it’s that same Flash that’s owned by… P&G.
Oh dear. Also, there’s very little content (i.e. no real community yet) but endless banners for P&G products. It’s hard to see how, other than through the relentless distribution of coupons, samples and special offers, P&G are going build the site to any significant scale. But being P&G, there will undoubtedly be both a plan and the funds to execute on it, so we’ll watch how the supersavvyme brand develops with interest. I suspect the underlying objective might well be datacapture for DM.
As for the Mothercare Gurgle acquisition, it’s much easier to see how the existing, vibrant, community on this site can be of value to the Mothercare mothership. And the commercial content and promotional offers on-site sit very comfortably alongside the forums, blogs etc. So if the price was right, then nice job!
We spend quite a lot of time at Harvest using and assessing monitoring tools such as Jodange, Radian6, SentimentMetrics, and other like them. Measuring ‘sentiment’ is a hot area for good reasons, as the ability to ‘listen’ to your consumers’ conversations can’t be ignored (is in fact more like a responsibility), and new applications to help us do this seem to be coming out with dizzying frequency.
This morning I have been tyre-kicking www.twitratr.com which looks at twitter data and categorises tweets using negative, neutral or positive keywords. Simple stuff - no-one could accuse Twitratr of over-complexity - providing a nice snapshot view for big brands (benchmarking territory this). However, dig into the detail, and holes start to appear… here’s a search for UK supermarket Sainsbury:
The top Positive mention has misinterpreted the word brave, and should really be Negative. In the Neutral column, the word horrid in the 4th tweet down clearly marks this as also Negative. Finally, looking at the Negative colum, the top tweet is nothing whatsoever to do with the supermarket…
Does this mean automated monitoring of this kind is inherently flawed? I don’t think so, just that you need a large enough data-set before forming theories or drawing conclusions. And you need to work to improve the rules / algorithms - changing the categorisation of horrid from neutral to negative is an easy fix…
It’s not just microblogging data streams that are being diced and sliced either. I discovered yesterday that online bank First Direct uses voice recognition to turn ALL the calls through their call centre into a data-stream that is anal
ysed by keyword. Their system then picks up on certain words to trigger responses (customer service measures of one kind or another). You can see how this data would also give First Direct early warning of problems with, for example, their website or mobile services. So if you’ve ever wondered what that recorded voice telling you that 'Your call might be recorded for training purposes' was really on about, you now know!
A few years ago voice recognition was widely talked about as life-changing technology, but for most of us this never happened. Even poster-child for the sector, wireless voice-to-text service Spinvox (Corporate tagline - ‘What we say and how we say it is a wonderful and powerful thing’. Quite.) is now embroiled in controversy after it emerged that some proportion of its ‘technogy’ is in fact a call centre in Pakistan.
A new two seater, hydrogen fuel cell powered city car was launched in central London today.
riversimple is the brain child -and love child too perhaps - of Hugo Spowers, who
has spent 10 years pursuing his inspiringly holistic vision for the future of personal transport. The riversimple team, whose first prototype we saw at the launch, has been supported for the past 3 years with funding and in other ways by the Piech family - the ‘other half’ of the Porche family dynasty. Sebastian Piech spoke at the launch, as did Hugo Spowers.
As Hugo says in the video I posted earlier today, “riversimple isn’t just about the technology”. Another ‘pillar’ of the company (and there are several) is non-Ownership - the cars will only ever be leased, not sold; “this is a business model that rewards longevity and low running costs, rather than obsolescence and high running costs”.
The riversimple website tells us that their purpose is nothing less than to 'work systematically towards the elimination of the environmental impact of personal mobility’.
Such a lofty aim might seem quixotic, and riversimple themselves ask the question ‘Are we doing too much?’ in their launch materials. Indeed it could seem impractically radical to launch a car company that aspires to have others build its product using designs published online under open source licences. On the other hand, who would try to launch a conventional car company now, or for that matter at any point in the last 10 or 20 years?
Surely now, as the motor industry crumbles under the combined pressure of oversupply and what seems like a systemic failure to provide any genuine innovation (I don’t count ‘dual engine’ hybrids!) is the right time for fresh thinking and new ways of doing things. riversimple can provide both of these in abundance. What they are trying to do is profoundly disruptive: it is nothing less than a comprehensive reinvention of the existing structures of the motor industry - technical, financial and cultural.
What about the car itself? Is it a hairy-shirt, brown bread eco-warrior’s public statement?
Definitely not. In fact, there are details everywhere you look that will appeal to enthusiasts as well as the current Prius demographic. And not just the details; the stance is sporty - the wheels (each with its own motor) are placed right out in the corners of the car; the exposed carbon-fibre monocoque will draw in motor-racing fans (though it is there for reasons of lightness and strength, not aesthetics), and especially the doors, which open like a beetle’s wing cases.
In the West such considerations will play a part in purchase decisions, but riversimple’s car is conceived as a true world car - a competitor to the Tata Nano that has sustainability built into its DNA…
From my point of view, the riversimple car, and everything that it manifests (the radical thinking, idealism, creativity, technology) is exciting and desirable in a way that the supposed ‘halo’ cars of the existing manufacturers completely fail to be. The Aston Martin One-77 for example; £1m worth of old ideas, in a packaging concept that was relevant(ish) in 1960…
riversimple is looking for funding to take it to the next stage of its development. Surely the UK government should be putting money towards this kind of venture (and retraining auto industry workers), rather than propping up existing manufacturers and dealers with £2,000 subsidies granted on the condition you scrap a perfectly usable 10 year-old car!
Augmented Reality; a marketing tool, or just for tools?
I’ve had an entertaining half-hour this morning playing around with the Augmented Reality (awful term, but it kind of does what the tin says) experience offered by GE of all people, marketing their Ecological credentials.
Here I am moving my sheet of paper around while GE’s windmills turn, and the sun shines on the screen and also seems (worryingly, given that it’s a hologram) to be reflecting off my head;
There’s no doubt that as a toy, there’s a good deal of ‘wow-factor’ around this technology - which as far as I can see consists of overlaying some flash animation onto a webcam stream, and ‘keying’ the animation to a visual reference which can be moved around by the user (in this case the key is a pdf downloadable from the GE site).
It’s interesting to see that the GE webpage for this project has a link to the open source code that’s been used to build the AR experience. Not what I would have expected from GE, but definitely a positive in my eyes, so their marketing programme is working to that extent.
Wikipedia’s entry on AR (I guess if it really takes off we’ll all move to the acronym) has a long list of applications, but only one under the heading ‘Advertising’ : "promoting a new product by providing impressive and interactive AR application on Internet".
Hmm, very enlightening that. But seriously, there must be a huge number of potential applications for AR in creating engaging experiences in many different ways.
Will AR in some form become an everyday part of people’s online usage? In various forms it’s been around for a long time, but wider ownership of webcams and mobile phones with camera and video capability will allow much greater reach than previously. So perhaps 2010 will be the year of AR. Gaming and Porn seem the industries most likely to be able to monetise the business potential (am I allowed to say that?).
Update 11th June:
News on Brand Republic today of an AR campaign from Glasses Direct; nice idea, and appropriate to the product. Clearly I was wrong in my prediction for which business sectors would be next to market with AR apps…
Here’s a link to the Glasses Direct AR page. I tried downloading the app, but sadly could get no further than the error message below, so I can’t report on how well it works. A shame to launch the PR coverage in the circumstances; frankly, FAIL.
Abbey, Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley are all going, and their branches will be rebranded Santander.
The overall tone of the article strikes me as both a bit jingoistic - Spanish banking group scraps historic British banks - and also essentially conservative; it’s change, it must be bad.
The most interesting section of page for those who read the piece online is, to my way of thinking, the comments. So the readers of the Times’ print edition will miss out on the additional balance these bring to the story. A cross-section of these shows the range and tone;
…stop getting so hung up on all this “british”…what difference does it make? nationalism is horrible
…they should change their customer service not the name !!!
That’s another bit of national history that crumbles away
No problems. Vodafone has done the same with numerous phone companies all around the world, including Spain’s Airtel, and the world hasn’t stopped.
Doesn’t matter how old a name is it’s still got to mean something good or of value to a consumer. Abbey like County and Midland doesn’t have a value proposition for consumers and consumers will not miss the name/brand.
That will mean four branches of Santander in my local town centre. Guess what will happen next.
And so on… A few hours after the article was published online, there were nearly 30 comments, representing a broad spectrum of common sense views as well as a couple of shouty monomaniacs.
I don’t see social media commentators going on about the vibrant communities that have formed around the traditional newspapers’ online content, and a quick search of Twitter for the Santander / Bradford & Bingley story shows that there was little or no ‘trending’ other than media owners (Telegraph / Guardian etc.) distributing their articles, and a few retweets of these links.
For all the noise around Twitter, it’s still a minority game in the UK compared to online newspaper readership (leading newspapers - Guardian, Telegraph etc. have c. 25m unique visitors a month; Twitter has c. 1m UK users), and that’s something that those who are trying to integrate traditional PR and the emerging discipline of social media marketing need to take account of.
I have had a quick play with TweetDeck v0.24b, and I think I like having the FB status updates alongside my various Twitter groups. My time on FB (already much reduced by the rise of Twitter) will probably take another downward step…
People who are displaying their Twitter stream directly into Facebook (like Roberto Hortal (@rhortal) from MORE TH>N, whom I’m connected to on both Twitter and Facebook, might well reconsider how their updates are displayed to avoid duplication as below (the subject of Robert’s tweet/status update is quite appropriate).
When the going gets… Well things are more than tough for many, and the business re-engineering that the inexorable rise of digital has brought to many or most business sectors is often being hastened by the recession.
In the past 24 hours, we’ve seen the latest bout in the long-running feud between
the aged (but beautifully preserved) L’Orea
l (in the Euro corner, representing the old guard, nee 1909) squaring up to the fresh-faced preppy (in the US corner, born 1995) that is eBay, in London’s High Court.
These two spats, though different in the way they are being fought out, have a lot in common. In both instances, the ‘traditional’ owners of IP see their brands or content being monetised by others to build huge businesses, with little of none of the commercial benefits coming to the rights owner.
L’Oreal has won a couple of cases against eBay in the French courts, and there’s little doubt these skirmishes will continue to flare up around the world for years to come. But the eBay / Google / YouTube etc. genii are out of their bottles now, and there’s no way of putting them back in.
There are implications for private individuals’ use of copyrighted material swimming around here also, so perh
aps I shouldn’t have ‘borrowed’ the logos that add a dash of colour (though not legitimacy…) to this post.
I’m not an IP lawyer (did you spot that?), but I predict there will be some shifts in the law to take account of the new digital landscape - some liberalisations (borrow my brand if you want, but respect it, and if you make some money, make a contribution); but perhaps, conversely, some increased controls (making it harder for producers of counterfeit luxury goods brands to operate).
The devil has the best tunes, and the satirist is more entertaining (or should be, if they want to keep working) than the politicians and public figures whose excesses and inadaquecies they expose.
For brands, the same rules apply, and there are in reality few big brands who can afford to be consistently incisive, witty, scabrous or entertaining, without running foul of their customers, own internal legal department or ‘brand police’.
I was reminded of this theme - a constant challenge for marketing people everywhere - while scanning my Twittter feed this morning.
UK celebrity chef, and all-round good egg (organic natch!) Jamie Oliver has got up on this Monday morning and taken time to talk to his 21,141 followers thus:
"Okay. One. More. Time!!! ‘Aga-doo-doo-doo, I’ve got three nipples on my chest. Aga-doo-doo-doo, they poke many holes in my vest.’”
The difference in output couldn’t be more stark! The underlying reason is of course that one is satire (I wonder if the real Richard Madeley reads ‘Uncle Dick’, I bet he does), the other a real ‘brand’ with all that implies.
Enough from me, I must go back to dreaming up edgy viral campaigns for insurance companies.
Value propositions; what can a cup of coffee teach us?
I bought two cups of coffee on
my way to work this morning. The first at a stall in a provincial railway station. My usual black Americano (why is it called that, Wikipedia doesn’t know?) cost me £1.50, and the brew served-up was watery and insipid. English coffee of the old school. I didn’t finish it.
Matters improved though, as an hour later I was cycling away from the Monmouth Coffee Company in Covent Garden, my hand tightly clasped around a wonderfully flavoursome and punchy cup of coffee made from beans sourced (since the 1970s) “from single farms, estates and cooperatives around the coffee growing world”, with my pocket lighter to the tune of a more than reasonable £1.00p.
Not far from Monmouth Street, across Cambridge Circus and down Old Compton Street is long-established Soho institution, a glorious remnant of
the ‘little Italy’ history of Soho, I. Camisa. This family-run delicatessen will sell you the very best Parma ham you’ll find in England (let me know if you think I’m wrong about this, please). And guess what? It’s cheaper then you’ll find anywhere in the provinces or in fact in a supermarket or deli in the rest of London.
What do these two retailers have in common, that allows them to keep quality up and price down so outstandingly?
Product turnover : a lot of coffee and Parma Ham is sold every day. Volume of sales allows prices to be kept down, and a ham that’s used quickly will taste better…
Independence : institutional investors are not demanding their pounds of flesh (ham or whatever).
Expertise : walk into either shop and you know you’re dealing with real experts, who (literally!) live and breath their work.
They are in it for the long term.
OK, that’s enough about food, but I do have a parallell to draw with what we do at Harvest Digital and for agency services in general.
At a meeting yesterday with an agency bigwig, we were told to get our “outsource value proposition” sorted out. To translate, he meant we should look at using cheap executional resource from overseas (for design /coding / whatever), packaged and sold-on to our clients as a way of saving them money.
He might well be right. We have looked at this area periodically, have worked this way on a few projects; but so far, we’re not convinced that quality of service can be maintained at the same time as reducing costs.
And anyway, is out of town necessarily cheaper? Not if you’re buying coffee it isn’t.
I’m slightly sorry to be adding to the tsunami of comments and articles concerning Twitter’s onward march, but I cannot contain myself, so great is my excitement about what’s going on out there.
An article by David Pogue (@pogue) in the New York Times this week headlined “Twitter? It’s What You Make It" tells us that a large number of the features that define Twitter have been created by its users. ‘Tweeps’ (don’t know
about you but I’m starting to find the cute’n’cuddly Twitter language rather cringe-making) invented RT (re-tweet), they invented the #hashtag to flag search terms and they even invented the term ‘tweets’. So Twitter really IS what the user ‘community’ have made it, and will continue to evolve and mutate according to some pretty Darwinian principles (as supported by 26% of US citizens).
But what really got me going this week was the conjunction of Pogue’s insight with a brilliant post by Tiphereth Gloria (@tiphereth) about the AMC TV show Mad Men (a drama set in the advertising agency heyday of ‘60’s Madison Avenue). I had seen some coverage of Mad Men’s promotion via Twitter, but what Tiphereth has uncovered is much more intereresting. It seems that what the marketing community thought was clever ‘social media optimisation’ was in fact nothing more
or less than fans of the show Doing it for Themselves. So what was AMC’s reaction? They contacted Twitter and had the accounts closed down. A traditional brand-owner’s natural reaction I guess. But pretty soon they realised the error of this course of action, and retracted. Read the full and fascinating story here.
What’s going on here: what do these events tell us? It seems obvious to me - more obvious than ever - that the ground between ‘corporation’ and ‘consumer’ is undergoing a profound shift. Not all businesses will be revolutionised by these changes, but a significant number will, and many new companies are already prospering within the new paradigm. All in all, I have a fluttery excited feeling in the pit of my stomach, and a sense of “holy cow, it’s really happening’.
What a time it is to be working in a communications business. Lucky us!
Ian has removed names to protect the innocent, but I’m not going to be so polite with my own recent example of shoddy, should-know-better grammatical standards. Here’s an email I received a few days ago from Waitrose, of all people…
Attended a meeting yesterday at the Guardian’s knockout new offices, ‘Kings Place’, in up-
and-coming north King’s Cross: a flagship for regeneration, and a quite stunning piece of working architecture. The centre of the building is a soaring public atrium, with a cafe and tables, and this bringing the outside in seemed to me to have a significantly beneficial effect on the space, bringing life to the corporate office atmosphere.
After the meeting we were shown round the building, and one particular meeting room - which had an arrangement of low sofas in a continuous large square – reminded me of the sort of North African cafe where men sit around to smoke and talk.
So I remarked: “This room looks as if it should have some hookahs in the middle”. Which harmless aside was greeted with a stunned silence.
It took me a little while to realise what I’d done, but I think the shock and embarassement passed off OK in the end. In all honesty I couldn’t have picked a more inappropriate newspaper office for a howler like that if I’d tried (well perhaps Spare Rib in its heyday): if I’d been at the Telegraph someone would probably have agreed with me.
Techie’s house catches fire, so naturally he tweets about it. Twitter world is alight (sorry) with excitement. http://twurl.nl/d20i7k
Initially I was in two minds as to whether there’s any significance in this story; it seemed like a case of “Wow! Something real actually happened!”.
On reflection, I’m going to put my natural scepticism outside with the frost and the remains of Monday’s snow to cool off, while I consider whether Twitter really does have lessons to teach us about how technology can re-engineer society and communities. (Proper WOW!, that.)
Here’s today’s weekly email from Car Magazine (probably the most respected of the ‘serious’ monthly automotive titles in the UK).
You can’t miss the Facebook and Twitter logos; hell, they’re bigger than the editor!
The promotion of a Twitter channel in this way is a significant step, and one that is probably ready to be called a twend (ha!). The ‘kerb appeal’ of Facebook is much more obvious than Twitter whose brilliance only becomes apparent through use. So it might be that 2009 will be the ‘twyear’ (geddit), as those driven to twial Twitter (sorry, I’ll stop now) by Obama, motoring videos and whatever other bait politicians and publishers are dangling at the time, become regular users and advocates.
How many UK Twitter users are there? Well it seems there are approx. 4 million globally, and that 10% of these are UK based. So about 400,000 compared to 12 million Facebookers in the UK. A minnow a present, but undoubedly already a dream audience if you’re interested in early adopters and influencers.
Car has been one of the most adventurous titles in the UK in its attempts to reinvent content distribution and business models for the digital news age.
A couple of years ago they took the step of turning the print publication into a long article only, comment, analysis and ‘home of good writing’ in a distinctive size format: meanwhile the news, data tables and other types of content that is rendered out-of-date too quickly now by the print lead-times of a monthly, was migrated online.
It was a brave step that I really admired at the time (though there was a bit too much advertorial in the magazine itself), but which, presumably, didn’t work that well, as the approach now seems to be a hybrid strategy, where some content is online only (video, obviously!), and some print only, with a certain amount in common to the two main channels.
"NEW YORK - Google has denied that it is working on a plan to speed up the delivery of its own content, which could end the way that all traffic on the internet is treated the same.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal Google has approached cable and phone companies in the US with a proposal to create a fast lane — for its own content.”
The subject of ‘net neutrality’ (as far as I understand it, the principle that all the lanes of the information superhighway travel at the same speed, without a class system) is complex, and potentially a very big issue indeed for the future online landscape.
But as for the general principle of Google’s ‘neutrality’ as far as the services it delivers to consumers, excuse me while I utter a hollow laugh of epic proportions.
I’m old and ugly enough to remember the prognoses for the internet in 1995, when search engines like Alta Vista and Lycos were the new stars (alongside AOL). The soothsayers and prophesy merchants were keen to tell us all that the search engines would inherit the earth (and, for once, the seers were right).
The burning question was this: how can you monetize the traffic on your search engine without losing objectivity; because surely the traffic and the objectivity of search results were inextricably geared to each other. With hindsight it seems that these qualms were overestimating the intelligence of the US (and perhaps global) public…
So, a few years later, in the late ‘90s, GoTo/Overture invented key-phrase driven paid search, Google ‘borrowed’ the idea a year or so after that, and the rest is corporate history.
Did the masses desert Google once a commercial auction started to determine the content of the results pages? Did they hell! Quality Score be damned, the reality is that – for a lot of key vertical sectors like finance in particular - the paid results often delivered (thanks to the realities of the digitally-enabled open market) more relevant results than the affiliate dominated ‘natural’ search results on the left hand site of the page.
So, would Google ‘ditching neutrality’ be a worthy news story? Do me a favour, the concept of neutrality being the life blood of a search engine died in about 2000.
And as a footnote: I’m struggling to marry up the word “Google” and the phrase “its own content”… Not last time I looked it isn’t. Any of it.
The death a few days ago of Oliver Postgate (obits) has prompted an
outpouring of middle-aged nostalgia that I am unable to prevent myself from adding to.
For me, it is not just the TV programmes that have stayed with me from childhood (my favourite is the surreal genius of the Clangers, whose fluty sing-song voices still echo in my memory), I aso loved the books, in particular Noggin the Nog, before the sing-song of Postgate’s own voice became familiar to me (you can hear him here, and enjoy some Noggin while you’re at it).
After the TV industry had cast Postgate and Firmin aside (cry Scandal!), OP ventilated his opinions and creativity on his website.
Reading an article on his site written by Postgate in 2003, where he compares the way he and Firmin worked with contemporary production methods, it struck me that P&F had a lot in common with the homebuilt, low-budget approach of some of today’s YouTube stars like Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat (several of whose delightful animations have already had over 5 million views).
Postgate, writing about his heyday in the ’60s and ’70s: “…we were thrown back on the real staple of television: telling and showing a good story, carefully thought out and delivered in the right order for stacking in the viewer’s mind”. And also from the same article, another passage which must surely be largely true for Simon Tofield… “we were lucky enough not to have time or money for lengthy conceptual meetings. All we could do was try to turn out two minutes a day of film that was fun to watch and hope to pay the bills. It was a happy time.”
Oliver (sorry; Mr Postgate), for those of us who love your work, it still is a happy time, and always will be when we visit the Clanger planet, or Noggin’s kingdom. Thank you.
When I heard a report about Sark’s first democratic election on BBC Rad
io 3 news yesterday morning (the move away from feudalism, a single ballot box serving the entire island etc.), the story sounded to me like the scenario for an Ealing comedy, or at least one of those locally based dramas that seem such a integral part of British cinema culture (Local Hero, Whisky Galore!, Calendar Girls etc. etc.).
In dramatic terms, it’s got the lot. The quaint old-fashioned local lingo - elected representative are called ‘Conseillers of the Chief Pleas’, dramatic scenery (of course) and to top it off a pair of business tycoon brothers (twins, media barons but reclusive, it gets better and better) who have been riding roughshod over local opinion (allegedly)…
Now today the drama is moving into the final reel as the Barclays withdraw their business interests on Sark, putting 140 people out of work; a almost unreal number for a community of 600. The brothers B had warned they would do this if they lost out in the election, an un-democratic approach surely calculated to infuriate the voter. A BBC TWO report is here (video). which includes an interview with the Barclays’ candidate and representative on the island.
Back in November, when BBC News reported on the upcoming election, an academic political analyst from Plymouth University, Adrian Lee, commented “Moving away from a previously essentially feudal structure to a fully democratically elected Chief Pleas, there’s bound to be a great deal of interest. In particular I suspect that [any potential] questions about undue influence, lack of fairness or lack of transparency, will get a very significant publi
Sounds like he knew what was coming.
No doubt there will be many more twists and turns in this story, but for now at least, it seems that as far as the Barclay brothers are concerned it’s a case of goodbye and good luck.
I tweeted yesterday about Kosmix : Taking a look at http://www.kosmix.com/ - the new Google? Purleeesss. Describes itself as “beta-ish”, which is quite charming.
First result of this was a polite tweet back from a Kosmix staffer; the second time in a day that this has happened to me (the other instance was Yuuguu). Clearly monitoring and responding to Twitter references is now becoming standard for forward-looking companies, as it should be.
Anyway, I’ve had a bit more of a play with Kosmix now, and searching (sorry, browsing!) within topics where I’m familiar with Google results and other methods of search did deliver a few unexpected and useful results. As Iain Simons says in his review for NS, the execution is elegant, and it does feel mature already in a way that Cuil didn’t when it hit the market a few months ago.
In a recent tweet I was wondering where it was I had read news of a site that connects runners with the elderly and needy on their running routes.
@markrocky helped me out; the good gym, a brilliantly simple idea that could really work.
Oh, and where I read about it was in a blog post by Andy Hobsbawm of Green Thing, about Social Innovation Camp (‘social technology for social change’), which sounds like it was a fabulous event. Andy’s post explains the Good Gym concept rather better than their current website does; perhaps he should help out.
The last two or three weeks have seen a flurry of news stories about redundancies in the digital agency world. After years of 30-40% growth this is undoubtedly a chill wind in the industry.
When the going gets tough… the recruitment ‘consultants’ get on the phone, and email, and phone, and etc.
So the volume of email and phone calls from ‘placement’ ‘experts’ (sorry if my quotation marks make me sound a bit jaded, but I am) has leapt upwards with each piece of grim news. And judging from the agents’ approaches, it seems - unsurprisingly - as if trade press coverage is lagging the tough reality.
As far as Harvest Digital Ltd is concerned, we are (in the general atmosphere of uncertainty) more than a little reluctant to pay recruitment fees of ~20% to get people through the door.
So here’s some advice to all you newly out-of-work digital specialist looking for employment (and Harvest IS still hiring); go after the companies you want to work for, and go DIRECT. The commercial argument for the employer is a big part of this of course, but any candidate who shows some initiative, by tracking down her or his next employer of choice (or at least by pretending they are the chosen employer) will have a double advantage.
Last night I went to an event put on by Tomorrow’s Company at the East India Club in St James’ Square, a Victorian palazzo built as a club for officers of the East India Company in 1849.
The do was held in the Smoking Room, but of course there was no smoke and no East India Company officers for that matter, so Tomorrow was under discussion surrounded by a host of yesterdays.
The incongruousness of the venue’s history (and dress code - ties please - for that matter) was nicely referenced in an opening address by Tony Manwaring of T’s Co.
The first speaker was Bill Becker, the Exec Director of Obama’s eco planning team (PCAP - Presidential Climate Action Project). Bill gave us a crisp and compelling whistle-stop tour of the arguments for immediate and long-term investment in the Green Economy. On this occasion, there was a strong sense that he was preaching to the converted, but I still found it fascinating and quite impressive to experience ‘close-up’ a member of the Democrat central team which will finally get to implement their policies next year.
Also, I hadn’t properly understood before just how central ecologically driven planning is to Obama’s policy platform.
The second speaker, equally on top of his game, and another high-level operator well used to the international conference scene, was Pavan Sukhdev, research leader of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Green Economy Initiative (as well as, by way of diversity, holding down a job as Head of Deutsche Bank’s Global Markets business in India), who had an immensely engaging and persuasive way of making the case for a wholesale re-engineering of the world’s view of economics, using concepts like ’Natural Capital’.
Under the gaze of a battledress-suited Sir Winston, Pavan welcomed Obama’s USA into the eco-fold, reminding the room that, in Churchill’s words, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing… after they have exhausted all other possibilities." To remove any chance of smugness among non-Americans present, we were reminded that the UK’s usage of renewable energy is still less than 2% (well behind most of the rest of Europe).
All in all a great event; sadly I couldn’t stay for the music, food, drink and general festivities which looked set to run on for some time. And on a more serious note, it is enormously reassuring that such able people as Bill and Pavan are devoting themselves to all of our future.
News from Marketing magazine today that UK retail giant ASDA has opened a digital download magazine store, powered by John Menzies Digital.
Sounds interesting, so what’s going on in the digital magazine distribution space?
A bit of a dig around yields some slightly surprising (to me) observations…
Digital versions of magazines are sold for the same price as they are off the news-stand. You would have thought this would severely limit the market potential for the digital distribution channel. Clearly some people will enjoy the freedom of being able to access their favourite mag’s content from the comfort of their laptop, but most consumers will surely expect publishers to pass on savings in print and distribution costs.
The Asda site is as basic a re-skin of the John Menzies site as you could possibly get. In what way does this add value to Asda’s proposition? Why bother?
All in all, I’d say that while it’s great to see traditional businesses trying to get to grips with the digital re-engineering of their markets, they should be a bit braver in their attempts to grasp the future. Protecting the cover price of the print magazine is understandable, but is not the way to create new revenue streams or markets; or (in all probability) to protect existing ones.
There are plenty of examples of how to transition magazine publishing business models more or less successfully (from the likes of NME / Smash Hits etc.), but while publishers have been forced to get to grips with shifting revenue models, it seems that retail/distribution businesses have not yet felt the full force of digital pain.
These visualisation techniques seem to develop at dizzying speed. Will the recession throttle investment in innovations of this kind? A lot of the significant stuff that’s changed the digital landscape over the past 3-4 years was born in the dot-com crash aftermath, so perhaps not.
Common sense and my marketing training both encourage my natural instinct to Zag while others Zig; so having failed to get blogging for the past several years, it’s fitting that this first posting from me should follow a piece on Wired trumpeting the death of blogging. Let’s hope I can squeeze through the door of the bloggatorium without being crushed by the crowds rushing for the exit.
And then just as I was chewing over my content for this piece, Mark Adams from the Conversation Group was kind enough to contribute a splendid piece of copy, to help me on my way. Over to Mark:
"Hello World, this is my first blog…I’m having a coffee at Starbricks and wondering how amazing the world is today from my perspective and thinking you’ll be really interested in it, ho my word, the waiter’s got a lovely hat on, and Obama should be outlawing them v McCain and the credit crunch end of the world coffee amazing Huffington Robert Peston nicky nack noo Facebook flickr" repeat 365 times at 9am each day and you’re a blogger!!!! Easy"
I suppose as a Twitter user who’s not blogged before, I’m coming at the longer form from a bit of a digital native viewpoint, which could help. I’ll just need to expand and expound.
But why take the blog step? A couple of reasons:
1. My job is to understand the digital media landscape for clients, and I do believe you ‘get’ how things work better for having got your hands properly dirty.
2. As a marketing agency, we’re advising clients to open up their organisations and teams to connect with their customers and other audiences; so this is a simple practise what you preach thing.
Reservations? A couple of fairly major ones: I’m not a journalist or professional writer, so why bother to ventilate to the world when others, and so many of them, can do a better job of it; and also, will anyone bother to read my stuff even supposing it is any good.