Posts Tagged 'Next Big Thing'

Online magazines, content and big things

I have every admiration for a media publisher that is pioneering its ‘engagement formats’, fully rounded on print, events, online… Perhaps this is an ‘of course’ moment to say that they track the film industry… and therefore are first-hand witness to the transformation of media into digital.

C-21 Media aren’t just innovative with their format, they are absolutely first class with their news angles and content. This is a ‘no mean feat’ thing. So much of blogging tools or self-publishing of music is shockingly bad and just gives the masses the capacity to bore and bug us. Not C-21.

I’ve just been blown away by the line-up of their latest conference on marketing. It ain’t a line-up that is purely film focused, though there’s a slant. It looks like a must-attend event for anyone in digital and media.

Check out the agenda here –

Dynamite. Well, and here I must declare an interest, it was until I got asked to be a compere to help host the event. But, that aside, the speakers speak for themselves.


Next big thing: paying for content

Rupert Murdoch is encouraging newspaper proprietors to charge for content. Chinwag has held a debate on Freeconomics. It stands to reason that, with the death of easy money, people will have to start making their own money when they deliver ‘stuff’ on the web. Digital isn’t a no-cost business… it has scaleability, but with scale comes marginal cost too.

The argument is very well put by blogger Benjamin Ellis here:

You’d do well to click thru to the fella, but in case not:

Three Reasons Free Will Eat Itself

Chinwag Live Freeconomics PanelIt’s the meme that wouldn’t die, but die it should… Last week I attended the Chinwag Live ‘Freeconomics’ session in London, and not long before that I listened to Guy Kawasaki interviewing Chris Anderson at South by South West. While Chris dodged Guy’s low-ball questions out at SXSWi, and focussed on promoting his new book (which may or may not be free), the Chinwag Live panel got a bit more stuck in.

The whole ‘free’ thing is worth wrapping your head around. It is probably worth starting with Chris Anderson’s article from last year, but then reversing out a bit with Alan Patricks two great posts on Freeconomics: FREECONOMICS PART I and FREECONOMICS PART II. (and Alan’s notes from the panel: CHINWAGGING ABOUT FREECONOMICS). You can read a journal of the panel session on the Bluedoor blog, where Abigail has blogged her tweetage, as it were, and there is a full write up at Brandrepublic

guykawasakichrislongYou see, ‘free’ isn’t really free at all. It’s been funded by the VCs and selling data, and the VCs aren’t playing anymore. The concept of Anderson’s free is that transactional costs (the price of ‘doing things’) tends to zero on-line and at scale. However, transactional costs tending to zero is very different then them being zero see… Someone’s got to pick up the tab, see Nic Brisbourne’s post, and I quote:


The other takeaway that I hadn’t considered fully is that for many services in reality the marginal cost of delivery is not zero.  This was made most forcefully by panelist Alan Patrick, but also by panelist Bruce Daisely of YouTube who made the point that the worlds favourite video service now accounts for 10% of total bandwidth consumption – which I’m sure costs Google a lot of money.  This point knocks a sizeable whole in the ‘free’ argument, although ‘free’ fans would argue that these costs are going down all the time.


So, I threw in a question at the end, on the basis of these three forces “Won’t free end up eating itself?”

1. Free Attracts The Freeloaders.

If you advertise your service as free, hoping to up sell people to a paying service later (the freemium model), you may well be attracting the wrong crowd. I don’t mean in the sense of bad people, but rather the people that want something for free. That leaves those who want to pay as potential customers for a competitor. More importantly, you have probably attracted ‘customers’ that choose on price (free), rather than features. I put the word customers in quotes there very deliberately. Since they aren’t paying you anything, they aren’t really customers. They are prospects. And that is where ‘free’ is interesting: As a marketing ploy. It is a good one. But wait up…

2. Free Drives Value Out of the Market.

Imagine there’s a nice bar. A really nice bar. They charge £10 per drink, but it’s nice and you like it there, so you pay your £10. Now, someone opens up a bar next door. The drinks are free. I mean £0 free. You’re going to check it out aren’t you? Seriously. At least once? The £10 bar is going to loose at least some revenue, if not customers. You’re running the £10 bar. What will you do? Drop prices? A buy-one-get-one-free offer?

Markets are elastic. If someone enters the market with a lower priced offer, it drags prices down. It’s called competition, and it’s generally a good thing. As customers, we like it. However, when someone enters the market at ‘free’ it isn’t the usual ‘more efficient competitor’ entering. No, it’s a value destroying monster. Value will disappear from the market. That inevitably means that companies will too, which will reduce competition in the long run – and that isn’t good. And the competition that’s left? Oh, it’s bad…

3. Free Spreads Across Markets.

Traditional competition focusses on price. As marketers, we try and combat price competition by introducing features that (in our minds at least) create value and preserve the price. Some choose to build more efficient businesses, so that they can compete on price, but maintain margins. In the world of ‘free’ you can’t compete on price. You have to compete on features (or quality, which I’d argue is a feature anyway). That means wherever two players are in the same market with a ‘free’ offer, the temptation, if not the action, will be to gradually add more and more features. Think about the value for the market. More and more of what was revenue, ends up as ‘free’. Remember those ‘freemium’ businesses, giving you free stuff, hoping to upgrade you? There is less and less to upgrade you to that isn’t free.

Free is a Short-Term Win and a Long-Term Lose

‘Free’ feels good, but it is really an inevitable race to the bottom, ensuring that markets are destroyed by low price expectations and poor (service) quality. Watch the providers of ‘free’ – as advertising revenues (and tolerance for advertising) falls, and VC money dries up, expect them to come asking for money or to start selling your data to the highest bidder. The end of ‘free’ might well come from the strangest of places: mobile e-commerce. The latest iPhone software let’s you make payments within iPhone apps themselves. That’s iPhone apps that you probably paid for in the first place too! Nokia, Microsoft and a host of others are planning similar offers.

The Way out of Free is Utility

As much as product marketers bang on about the latest much have feature, one thing that we do pay for is utility. I can make a local phone call very cheaply, if not for free – depending on where I am. That same phone call costs significantly more on a mobile/cell phone, and yet the technology took off. People were paying for utility: being able to make calls from anywhere, not just when they were stuck in the house or the office. It made great sense as people became more and more mobile. And, as the technology took off, people got more and more mobile in their work and social lives, driving the technology even faster.

So far, the Internet is just catching up with the whole mobility thing. Web browsers are improving in leaps and bounds, as is the provision of mobile-friendly websites and improved screens on phones. Mobile Internet is taking off. And do you know what? It probably isn’t going to be ‘free’.

2008 review – Contagious Mag hits all the spots

For a decent canter through all things designer-style-media-digital. You can do no better than look at the Contagious Magazine review of the year:

Click here

Very London. Very Olympics. Games. Cool stuff. Splash of Eco… not alot of credit crunch.

Next Big Thing – Reinvent yourself

Everyone’s got to do it. The Credit Crunch has changed all the rules. You need to reinvent yourself, because those old Pre-Crunch formulas just aren’t adding up.

Ask an Estate Agent. He got hit by the Tsunami first.

Tips from me below?

– Hold hands: As always in life, things seem alot rosier if you have someone who will hold your hand. This is a thread you can input to. I’ll feel less lonely if you can add your own comments. 

– Get a blog and all the cyber-tools (Delicious? LinkedIn? Feedburner? Twitter?). Don’t be slave to them, but realise that all the tools are gaining profile for a reason. Know your reason.

– Get out more: meet people you respect most, tell them your truths and ask them to recommend other people that you should speak to (cf Theory of the Strength of Weak Ties)

– Don’t worry about money, worry about being digital. Dubai, Russia, Brazil, India, China… the talk is that these markets (and what Martin Sorrell called ‘The Next Eleven’ on Radio 4 this morn)… they are emerging markets. But, the new big superpower is the digital continent. You don’t have to upsticks to stake your claim. (I’m blogging this wirelessly from The Diner

– Don’t get too clever. Stick to what you know. With the world’s foundations shaking, you need to get onto safe ground. There’s no better moment in a conversation, for me, than watching someone hit their sweet spot. The thing they feel passionate about. The topic where they lose their inhibitions and self-consciousness – and just spout their expertise. They don’t need your input and won’t be knocked off the track. Because they know they know best. Go there. And take it online. (or to Dubai – whichever you think is least extreme).

– Be a mongrel. Cross pollinate the things you are passionate about. Don’t start in anything that isn’t your comfort zone. Port in a storm. Better the devil you know. Cliches in a recession.

– Be happy. Downshift your expectations of yourself. Look for ways to pat yourself on the back. One pat and you can treat yourself to chocolates or downtime. Two pats and you take the rest of the afternoon off. Happiness is contagious. More contagious than money or love.

– Read history books. In good times, fortunes are made. In bad times, empires. Remember, the hard times are the making of people. Austerity measures are good for the soul. The journey is the reward. (And, there’s nothing new under the sun – so work out what history book to rip off for the ‘next phase’).

– Ignore as much as possible. Sit in your comfort zone and say ‘F*** it‘ to everyone’s silly alternative ideas or the host of bad news out there. In fact, there’s a book on the subject to go along with it. See here. Sent to me by my friend’s yoga teacher, the author. Now sitting on a hill in Italy with two fingers up at his old London adland life.

– Surf the web. In my first attempt to find ‘F*** it’, the book. I found Opens your mind. A bit.

– Back winners. The cream will rise to the top. Because it takes a devil-may-care attitude to troubles. It doesn’t feel risky to be jumping into things that you know well. Go with your gut feel. Take that leap.

Spanish Armada

So, the Spanish are finally conquering Britain. Through banking prudence. Abbey National, Bradford & Bingley, Alliance & Leicester… the Santander Group has picked them all up so that it holds the purse strings of middle England.

Check out this piece on the inspiration for their corporate HQ, housing 6700 employees on a campus 45 mins from Madrid. Impressive, scary and perhaps the shape of things to come..

The next big thing after trust… timing

We seem to be at the point of maximum fear. We have casualties aplenty. We have finger pointing. We have governments breaking ranks with each other. We have freakish optimism from vultures, which says that things aren’t hurting enough… when it feels like they are hurting like they never hurt before.

We have tremors, then major aftershocks.

And we have Anthony Bolton, President of Fidelity Fund Managers, saying in the FT Money section (things are so bad that people are reading the Money sections – see below!), that he’s not been more optimistic in years. See ‘We’ve seen the bottom of the abyss‘.

We might be riding through mental hell, but there seems to be a sense that we are getting settled with the uncertainty, that there can’t possibly be any more uncertainty, that 2009 is already written off, that the Bank of England, Feds and Governments are in the process of taking extraordinary, bedazzling steps. But, at least, action is underway.

So, it’s right to call the bottom. And, while the whole system seems to be creaking. The statistics of BIG start to look very attractive. Because you can start small, start low, start from the minus-zone. And, any move in the positive direction will register big percentage hikes up.

You start when the tide has gone out, the waves have sucked out all the water… and a sense that there must be some swishing, gushing jet to ride back up the beach of capitalism. So, timing is key to the Next Big Thing.

There are many articles about winners and losers. I’m mentally preparing for pain a-plenty all round, because it only seems fair that the pain is widespread. But, as with other water analogies… Archimedes Principle holds true: displacement. If people aren’t using cars, they are getting their bike repaired. If they aren’t buying Champagne, they will still treat themselves to Cava. Look on the bright side. Turnip sales are up 75% at Tesco!

And, as Bolton points out, there are sectors that are oversold. He points to Media and Marketing Services. To Reed Elsevier. Buy buy buy… into the world of B2B communities…

So… to my earlier point…

In times of massive uncertainty, people devour news. And, Barry Diller has tried to show impeccable timing with the launch of The Daily Beast, headed by editorial doyen (or is that dinosaur?) Tina Brown, who described the internet as Terra Incognita before she was hired to Da Beast. She looks to me to be trying to do ‘The Week’ online before Felix Dennis has got there. (Only, I love The Week because it’s print!!!)

As earlier on Opencast, I say that Barry Diller has spotted that the web is turning into TV channels… and he’s packaging up demographics… so The Daily Beast is staking out an audience space in the Baby Boomer age group (my mum, I think that means… particularly if they have elderly Andrew Neil blogging!). I’m not betting against it, but it all looks a bit pre-RSS and post-Huffington Post if you ask me…

Timing… yes, timing…

Next big thing is a small bank

Yes. I have found the next big thing. 

It’s a bank.
Or, should I say, it’s something to replace trust that people have lost in all banks. Every single one.
So, what’s the brand that could launch a bank – where folk would trust that it hasn’t derivatived-up the whole thing? Thames Water or Tesco?
Yer, but, also… it’s gotta be in there with the whole internet thing. You trust YOUR community. Because you don’t leg over your mates… which brings banking, for me, back to its roots (or the Building Society roots of mutual support)… with a new digital twist.
Can anyone help me with a banking licence?

Charlie’s Twitter status

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