BRW Digital Media Leaders Forum: The Case for Digital

The BRW Digital Media Leaders Forum is on in Sydney on 23 March, promising to be another excellent event in the Australian digital media space this year. The agenda includes pointed issues such as Web 2.0 and the social web, creating revenue streams and commercializing content, new content delivery methods and more.

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I will be chairing the panel on “The Case for Digital: Branding & Marketing Perspectives – Agency Perspectives”, joined by Leigh Terry, Managing Partner of OMD, Belinda Rowe, CEO of ZenithOptimedia, and Jonathan Noal, Managing Partner of BoilerRoom Communications. The panel will touch on some similar themes to The New Media Mix session I chaired at Ad:tech, in terms of making a case for digital channels relative to, and complementary to, traditional channels. However a key additional issue will be branding, which is a highly challenging domain in an increasingly cluttered, fickle, and diverse world. There is unquestionably less control in a world driven by social media. There are also far greater opportunities than previously to create powerful brands very quickly. Agencies are in the front line as clients become more demanding, yet remain risk averse, and often don’t understand the challenges of execution in a highly fragmented media world. It promises to be a great discussion – I’ll report back after the event. Hope to see you there!

The trend for trend maps

There seems to be a trend for trend maps! Back in late December Nowandnext.com and Future Exploration Network released a map of major trends for 2007 and beyond, as below. My original blog post described some of the background to the trend map.

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Click here for the full Trend Blend 2007+ map

The pdf version of the trend map has been downloaded over 20,000 times from the various sites at which it is hosted, with many times that number having seen the map. Along the way it has generated many, many comments – here is a small selection:

“The World’s Best Trend Map. Ever.” The Big Switch

“The mother of all trend maps” Cookthink

“A neat map of trends, words and made-up words in the form of a tube map. This is about as close to art as marketing strategy gets. Really usefu”’ Dead Insect

“I find these graphical depictions of trends fascinating. While no map can tell you everything, they are valuable for triggering ideas at a glance.” Free Rein

“The amazing Trend Map for 2007 and beyond” Madeforone.com

“If you’re interested in a global overview of next years trends, don’t miss out on Ross Dawson’s amazing Trendmap 2007” Information Architects

“Check out this off the hook trend map! Wow, cool.” The Caucus House

“I love visual stuff like this, and just spent half an hour redrawing all the coloured lines and connections after printing the map out on my b/w printer…” Yule Heibel

“I got shivers. A pattern to give us a way to talk about the future. I particularly appreciated the “river of conciousness” that runs through Ross Dawson’s map.” Nancy White

“Great piece of information architecture that shows how all the current trends out there come together and are shaped by the underlying motivators within society” Renaissance Chambara

“Visualisation of trends is amazing. It inspired me to think of the interaction of independent trends.” PSFK

“Perdu dans la jungle des buzz word, de la mondialisation, du hype, du Web 2.0 et du reste ? Heureusement Serial mapper est là et a trouvé pour vous cette magnifique carte “Trend Blend 2007+” Serial Mapper

“Las tendencias más bonitas. De todo lo que se está publicando sobre tendencias para el 2007, me quedo con este mapa del metro del 2007 de Ross Dawson.” The Mixer

“Un documento realmente interesante que con un diseño original y bastante creativo” The Orange Market

“Interessante visualização do conjunto, uma maneira mais inteligente de se entender e contextualizar o que vem por aí neste ano que está só começando.” Coolhunterbr

“Este tipo de trabajos para presentar la información están de moda, pero recomiendo su visualización porque ofrece una mirada comprensiva a las próximas mega-tendencias.” Javier Velilla

“Interessant sind vor allem wie sich Schnittstellen zwischen unterschiedlichen Trends ergeben.” AYRWeblog

(By the way, this is not only my work as some have assumed – Richard Watson conceived this project.)

A few days later after we released our map, Information Architects, seemingly inspired by our map, created a map of web trends, based on the Tokyo subway map.

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Click here for the A4 pdf

Their map seems to have got even more attention, helped by blog posts from some of the A-list bloggers featured. They even scored an article in Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese business newspaper with readership of 2.8 million, as well as other media uptake in Germany and Italy.

In the course of exploring the impact of these trends maps, I came across GreatMap, a fabulous site that has hundreds of links to fabulous visual representations. It’s well worth a browse through its links to see some of the work being done in visualization.

We are clearly rapidly shifting to an increasingly visual culture. As our world becomes increasingly complex, particularly when we consider the extraordinary possibilities of the future, words and linear structures fail us. We respond to visual representations that help us to make connections, even if they’re more fun than serious, as for our trend map. As a result, we’ll continue to produce more visual representations of interesting trends and the future – coming up soon!

Corporate blogging becomes Enterprise 2.0

Today BRW launched its flagship Australia Online issue (which is only available online at a hefty subscription price!), covering an interesting range of topics including the rise of online advertising (over $A1 billion annually now), e-commerce, online classifieds, travel, internet TV and music downloads. There is a truly atrocious full page picture of me facing their article “Business blogs on” (Don’t look – please!). This was intended to be a follow-up to their Blogging Power article of December 2005. In my interview for today’s piece, I tried to stress that the issue for corporates was no longer just blogging per se, but how activities across the enterprise are aggregated to enable more efficient working. The writer seemed to base the entire article on what we covered in our discussion, though only used a few anodyne comments from me. Certainly there is a real issue in getting corporates to use blogs for their external communication. Inside the organization, the game is now not about getting people to blog. It’s about creating an infrastructure whereby comments and activities by individuals have value across the enterprise. I’m hoping that Australian corporates will be able to leapfrog the phase of experimenting with blogs to start implementing enterprise-wide systems to tap collective behaviors, including document creation and viewing, bookmarking, annotating and more. A lot more on this later – I am currently developing a Web 2.0 framework (including enterprise and consumer), which I’ll launch sometime in the next few months.

Another article in the same issue was on internet TV and movie downloading, looking at competition among the online video platforms in Australia. I was quoted in the article (somewhat accurately) as saying:

Future Exploration Network chairman Ross Dawson says: “It surprises me how slow free-to-air TV channels have been to stream programs on the internet, especially as they can get a better idea of their audience on the net, and tailor advertising to suit them.”

Dawson says device convergence – such as Microsoft’s Xbox initiative – is also critical in how the market evolves.

“Manufacturers know convergence [will happen] and are desperately seeking to be at the centre of it,” he says. “ It happened with Apple. The sold people a physical device, an iPod, which led them to an internet site to make music purchases. Now this encompasses podcasts and video. They have moved from selling a single device to having a strong relationship with consumers selling content.”

Have a look at what I’ve written on how European telcos are positioning themselves to get some more insights into the foundations of this strategic positioning game.

A second Second Life – new competition in virtual worlds

Hey, how come I read about this on Scobleizer first? Randal Leeb-du-Toit and I are due to catch up for lunch when he’s back from Silicon Valley, so he can tell me about Outback Online, a new 3D virtual world his company Yoick is creating. Robert Scoble has just had lunch with Randal and executive producer John Wolpert (who when he was with IBM was mentioned to me with great reverence by his colleagues). Robert has now told the world about the new product, and he seems to think it’s possible that the new service could indeed offer real competition for Second Life, based on graphics quality, scalability, and age-based segmentation. I very much look forward to seeing the alpha. Certainly for the meantime there’s been some very good buzz generated, suggesting that people are open to an alternative to Second Life.

There are definitely some rather hefty network effects at play in this kind of virtual world, not least because the worlds are created from scratch, and thus require substantial personal investment from many people before they start to become interesting. However there have been many complaints about Second Life, not least on performance, as well as on some of it policies. Second Life has established itself as the de facto leader in user-created free-form virtual worlds. Yet it is more than possible that in 5-10 years from now others will have taken the lead. TD Goodcliffe believes that the space is open for the taking. Duncan Riley has doubts about the name (“the outback sucks”). Justin Thorp wonders whether virtual worlds are ready for mainstream acceptance. I certainly believe that virtual worlds will play a major role in our future, both socially and in business, though that may take quite a while to pass. I’m not prepared to punt on whether Second Life will be transcended by others, as this partly depends on how good a job Second Life does at defending what is absolutely a very solid incumbency. It’s definitely going to take significant capital to take it on. However I’m all in favor of competition, so I certainly hope that Outback Online has what it takes to put the field into play.

Everyone’s data streams for everything visible everywhere

Emily Chang has written about a project to aggregate all the information that flows through her life.

“As the calendar rolled to 2007, I kept wishing I could look at all my social activity from 2006 in context: time, date, type of activity, location, memory, information interest, and so on. What was I bookmarking, blogging about, listening to, going to, and thinking about? I still had the urge to have an information and online activity mash-up that would allow me to discover my own patterns and to share my activity across the web in one chronological stream of data (to start with anyway).”

She has now created a data stream that aggregates her blogs and websites, and usage of stylehive, del.icio.us, twitter, plazes, flickr, last.fm, and upcoming. There has been substantial interesting commentary on this initiative already, notably from Grant Robertson, Chris Saad, Daniela Barbosa (including what an enterprise data stream may look like), and Stowe Boyd, who says he’s working on a similar initiative. Stowe writes:

“This traffic flow — made more liquid by RSS and instant messaging style real-time messaging — is the primary dynamic that I believe we will see in all future social apps. Yes, we will want to have our traffic cached — for search and analysis purposes — but we will increasingly move toward a flow model: where the various bits that we craft and throw into the ether — blog posts, calendar entries, photos, presence updates, whatever — will be picked up by other apps, either to display them to us, or to make sense of them. We want to consolidate all into one flow — a single time-stamped thread — that all apps can dip into.

A pal of yours is having a party? He will create the event using some social application site, and the event will be cast into his traffic. Your flow-aware calendar app might snag the event from the traffic, and ask you if you’d like to confirm. You agree, and the agreement is thrown into your traffic, for your buddy and others to make sense of, downstream.”

For me, what this suggests is a world in which many people choose to expose all of their activities to the world. Del.icio.us is a great example. People used to favorite websites on their PC. Now many are happy to do it publicly, so other people can look at what they choose to make note of. Very importantly, this exposing of behaviors provides the foundation for Web 2.0, in that it provides input to allow collaborative filtering and the creation of “collective intelligence”. It seems that many people are thinking about and putting the mechanisms in place to expose all that we do, including our activities in socializing, entertainment, work, and more. Clearly not everyone will choose to expose their activities, yet many will – this has been proven over the last few years. From an enterprise perspective, implementing these kinds of exposing mechanisms inside organizations will allow far more effective knowledge work and business processes – but only after substantially new workflow and systems are put in place to synthesize this plethora of valuable information.

Developing knowledge-based client relationships: Chapter 1

The second edition of Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships was released 18 months ago now. The first edition, launched in January 2000, was on several Amazon.com bestseller lists, including ranking at #1 from Australia for the two months after its release, and on the top 20 sellers list for Deloitte & Touche for over two years, and sold through five printings. When the time finally came to update the book, it ended up as half new material, including a couple of entirely new chapters. I wanted to include what I’d seen in my work with major organizations, and what did and didn’t work in practice. The response to the second edition has also been very pleasing, with a good presence in the market, and getting named one of the Best Books of 2005 by BOSS magazine.

From the outset two of the book’s chapters have been available online for free download, but sometimes these kinds of things get overlooked. I thought it was worth pointing to the free chapters here.

Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships: Chapter 1: Leading Your Clients

To provide some context for the chapter and the changes I made, here’s a snippet from the preface to the second edition.

The first key lesson is that even if you are brilliant at engaging in knowledge-based relationships with your clients, that doesn’t help you if your clients don’t recognize the value you can create for them through this deeper level of engagement. Professionals must lead their clients into knowledge-based relationships by demonstrating the value of collaboration. On every front, the future success of professional services firms will depend absolutely on the leadership capabilities within the firm. They must lead their clients into new ways of working, they must lead their professionals into combining their expertise collaboratively, and they must lead their industries by showing that new business models and approaches to value creation are possible and desirable. Thus the new subtitle of this book: “Leadership in Professional Services.” The subtitle of the original edition, “The Future of Professional Services,” still applies, as knowledge-based relationships are indeed the future of the professions. However the essence of this second edition is how to develop the leadership that will brings these kinds of professional relationships to reality.

Here is an overview and link to Chapter 6, which is on implementing key client programs and enhancing client relationship capabilities.

New portable displays will transform mobile data and video

I’ve been interviewed a number of times recently about the future of mobile devices, both for media and also in financial services. I always emphasize the importance of the new generation of displays that are going to make viewing and interacting with mobile devices a great experience. People go on about how no-one wants to watch video on the screen on a mobile phone. In general, that’s true. But as soon as you can get larger screen experiences, everything changes. I’ve written before about the transformative power of video glasses, which I believe will become big over the next five years, and the role of e-paper. However the most likely candidates for broad mobile use are rollable and foldable screens, once they are in affordable commercial forms. Up until now most of these types of screens have been prototypes. One of the most exciting releases at the massive 3GSM conference in Barcelona was a rollable display from Readius, a spin-off from Philips. It gives a 127mm diagonal display that rolls out from a pocket-sized case. It has a high-quality screen and 10-day battery life. It won’t be commercially available until later this year, but we can expect competitors to come to market at a similar time, finally beginning to open up the doors to a rich mobile experience for all. As I’ve written before, one of the implications is an extraordinary surge in demand for content. This really will be transformative.

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Source: Crave CNET.co.uk

Dissatisfaction with mainstream media drives the rise of citizen journalism

Americans are unhappy with quality of journalism. That will be the key driver of the citizen journalism, or more broadly, new forms of media content creation and distribution. A survey performed in conjunction with the recently held We Media conference in Miami by John Zogby interviewed 5,384 adults nationwide, giving some pretty solid results. The figures below show that, not surprisingly, professionals (in this case the conference goers) are not quite as cynical as the population at large. However conservatives and older people are particularly contemptuous of the standards of journalism. As a result, a significant majority of Americans believe that blogging and citizen journalism will play a vital role in the future of journalism.

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Source: WE MEDIA-ZOGBY poll

While I’m a true believer in the power of media creation outside the establishment, I’m still a little surprised by the broad enthusiasm of the respondents for blogging and citizen journalism. What it comes down to is dissatisfaction with the status quo, and having seen the potential for something better. This is certainly not to say that blogging in its current form is a viable alternative to mainstream news media. New models that combine professional expertise with amateur participation will absolutely become alternatives, or at least strongly complementary to existing media. My favorite example is NewAssignment.Net. David Cohn from NewAssignment.Net reviews the idea of “crowdsourcing” in journalism, and points to techPresident, which will include input from contributors across the nation.

The relationship economy and vendor relationship management

This is great! Doc Searls of The Cluetrain Manifesto fame has written an extremely rich and interesting piece titled Building an Relationship Economy. He begins by describing a series of stimulating conversations, during which Eric S. Raymond, author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, one of the seminal pieces of the open source movement, suggested that there are three levels to markets: transactions, conversations, and relationships. Doc goes on to discuss several perspectives on the relational foundation to the economy, notably in open source projects, but also in public broadcasting.

Towards the end of the piece Doc alludes to ProjectVRM, which is a project to explore “VRM”:

VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management, is the reciprocal of CRM or Customer Relationship Management. It provides customers with tools for engaging with vendors in ways that work for both parties.

CRM systems until now have borne the full burden of relating with customers. VRM will provide customers with the means to bear some of that weight, and to help make markets work for both vendors and customers — in ways that don’t require the former to “lock in” the latter.

I will be following this very closely – there are already some very interesting resources on the site. I have to admit I’m guilty of writing a White Paper for Microsoft titled “How to Lock-in Your Clients,” though I think the spirit of what I write in the paper is in keeping with the project:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could lock-in your clients, make them yours forever more? It’s a nice idea, however the reality is we live in an increasingly open world. Today it’s almost impossible to get clients to buy closed systems that would mean substantial switching costs if they then chose to move to another supplier. Given a choice, clients will always go for the option that gives them more flexibility. The trick is to create lock-in in a business environment in which systems and standards are more and more open.

In this world, the only way to lock-in clients is by consistently being able to create more value for them than your competitors can. This is a positive form of lock-in, in contrast to the negative lock-in of trying to make it expensive for clients to leave you. There are three key foundations for how professional services firms can keep clients coming back through positive lock-in.

1 You know your client better.

It is nothing new for professionals to have to know their clients well. It is just that now doing this better is the primary field of competition. Today, it is important not just to know your client better, but also to apply it in customizing your communication and service delivery, as discussed above. If you do, this creates a very powerful form of lock-in through the unique value you can create.

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Breaking down silos and building networks in financial services

Yesterday I gave the keynote at a senior management offsite for a top-tier global financial services institution. One of the key issues for the organization – as for its peers – is building collaboration within and between a very diverse set of operations. Part of my presentation covered how effective organizational networks underpin the ability to create value. If an organization functions in deep silos, what is the value of being agglomerated into one company? Or more to the point, what are the lost opportunities in the missing connections and collaboration across divisions?

I showed the framework created by Harvard Business School’s Tiziana Casciaro in her excellent article from the June 2005 issue of Harvard Business Review, Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks. The key insight in Casciaro’s research is that while people claim that they go to competent jerks to get work done, the reality is that they gravitate more to lovable fools. The lovable fools are often the social glue that holds the organization together. Without them, communication can break down.

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Source: Competent Jerks, Lovable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks, Casciaro.

In my presentation I remarked that the high-level financial services industry was characterized by competent jerks. While most laughed in acknowledgement, a few seemed put out. But it’s true. Investment banking and corporate law in particular are full of people who are extremely talented, but not necessarily highly likeable. This has a strong impact on the effectiveness of collaboration and the structure of social networks in these organizations. There are no simple solutions, but recognizing these realities can help in designing ways to bring the right expertise to bear on problems and opportunities. I’ve written before about expertise location in financial service firms such as Morgan Stanley. While locating optimal expertise is a critical issue in large professional organizations, the harder part is getting connections between professionals to bear valuable fruit through a process of collaboration. The reality is that most major financial institutions are currently doing very well without being good at internal collaboration. It will be a gradual process, but over time the ability to collaborate effectively will start to be a key differentiator in market performance, partly driven by client perceptions. Clients are already getting tired of dealing with highly siloed banks, and are responding by allocating their business to different firms. There are major opportunities on the table for the large financial institutions. Enhancing organizational networks is at the heart of seizing these.