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Tech City? More like Silicon Jungle!

My column on LondonLovesBusiness.com – First published 21/08
monkey computer

 

Our returning columnist Gregory Kris dissects tech’s animal kingdom

Welcoming back Gregory Kris, long-time tech CEO and original LondonlovesBusiness.com columnist, writing about all things data and tech. In his comeback piece he explores the tech types roaming the changing economic jungle.

People who work in the digital sectors are an interesting breed of animal – a veritable menagerie of exotic visionaries and colourless functionaries, inhabiting the digital jungle and striving for success, which is a common part of the food chain for all techies alike.

I’ve been a member of London’s digital scene for 15 years now, and so I’ve seen the origin of species by means of natural selection a number of times, as both people and business models have been forced to adapt or die in the rapidly-changing environment.

I’ve seen the advent of e-tailing, instant messaging, social networking, big data and m-tailing. And when you’ve been to as many parties, networking sessions, coffee Thursdays, wine Wednesdays and drink-a-tanks as I have, you’ll start to spot the same types of digital animal emerging from the primordial ooze:

The developer ant

The developer ant is frequently seen in dark spots underground, burrowing away. Although deeply social and always present at parties, when in its natural state the ant does most of the work in the shadows. This can leave the little fellow missing out on the credit, but luckily its natural exoskeleton means it has a tough skin. This comes in useful because it allows this creature to carry many times its own weight on its back.

Weaknesses: Gets easily squished and eaten by the larger animals.

The first-time entrepreneur platypus

In its native habitat, the first-time entrepreneur platypus can be seen creating nests of bean-bags, in a vague attempt to make their nests more Google-like and welcoming to attract a mate.

This strange creature is a hybrid; half-duck, half-beaver, with a bit of an identity problem. Not quite sure which way is up, but very cute and interesting to all the other animals.

Special skill: The only mammal that can lay eggs – very, very occasionally golden ones.

The serial entrepreneur hummingbird

The entrepreneurial hummingbird is a flirtatious creature, buzzing around from project to project, and from investor to investor – all at dizzyingly high speed. It is best known in the tech kingdom for doing everything a high speed, but in no particular direction whatsoever.

It pauses only to take a quick drink of amber nectar, but even then it never stops flapping its wings.

Evolutionary trick: The serial entrepreneur hummingbird is the only animal that can fly backwards. (Says it all really.) 

The one-man sloth

The one-man sloth can often be seen quietly hanging in the corners of noisy rooms with a tired hangdog expression on its face. The tech sloth, generally works on the same project for 12 years and will only ever leave the tree if its branch happens to snaps away beneath its ever-accumulating weight.

Tell-tale trademark: Talks slowly but with great weight about things it saw years ago.

The designer fly

The designer fly’s favourite treats include rainforest-grown super foods like acai berry and guarana-banana to keep its energy levels up as it often has problems with Windows (note the capital ‘W’). It tends to flit about from project to project, never stopping to do anything more significant than rub its his hands together, sniff about, and fly off to the next more fragrant project.

Happiest: When hovering above a huge number of fragrant projects.

The business development rhino

This beast knows how to plough into situations horn first. It always charges and has very thick skin, but inevitably ends up leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

WARNING! Not compatible for keeping in small spaces with other animals which mainly prefer to keep their distance.

The CEO parrot

The CEO parrot is a special kind of bird. It stands near the tree tops and constantly shows off its bright plumage to attract attention. Best known for making a lot of unintelligible noises and using words that synergistically create functionalistic ideation, it has a tendency to repeat words that it’s heard the ants say in order to sound clever, but often misses the mark.

Eyesight issues: In its mind’s eye, the CEO parrot sees itself as most beautiful creature in the jungle. The other animals, however, see it as a noisemaker.

The angel giraffe

An idealistic creature that believes its long neck gives it extraordinary long-range vision. Unfortunately, its elongated spine means that it has trouble pumping blood all the way up to its brain.

Weakness: Poor blood flow leaves the giraffe thinking it can cherry-pick the tastiest start-up leaves from the top of the trees, but leaves it vulnerable to not spotting attacks from preying animals with sharp teeth lurking below.

The fat cat

There is always an apex predator in the jungle. The king. The roaring lion, with a passion for making a racket that can be heard from Mayfair to Whitechapel, is known to march around others’ territory like it owns the place. The fat cat sleeps in the shade, stealing fresh kills from weaker specimens and frequently urinating on smaller animals.

Scientific name: the Venture Capitalist, this animal is admired by all, but is hard to cuddle up to without losing an arm and a leg. 

Gregory Kris is an original dot-com CEO, selling a social network in 2000. Since then he has run and sold three digital start-ups and consulted on digital strategy for the EU. A firm believer that ‘data is the oil of the digital economy’, Greg is CEO of the generously funded Norwegian mHealth company Your.MD, and has been called ‘Europe’s Digital Data Baron’. You can follow him on twitter at @gregkris, email him greg@your.md or find him in a bunker on the golf course.

Do You Have A Mobile First Strategy?

Do You Have A Mobile First Strategy? You Should! | LinkedIn.

We are currently in the midst of one the biggest software and hardware revolutions ever. With processing power, storage, and bandwidth increasing exponentially, smart phones and smart tablets are becoming our main personal computer. As a result, customers, employees, and other stakeholders are bringing and using their smart phones and tablets everywhere, and that definitely impacts how they see your company online and how they interact with you on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, many leaders continue to view smart phones, tablets, and the consumerization of IT as a threat. In reality, they are major, game-changing opportunities.

Never before have companies been able to interact with customers anywhere at any time and start a meaningful dialog with them. Rather than throw a bunch of advertising messages out and hope your customers not only see them but also act on them, you now have the opportunity, via their mobile devices, to engage your customers directly with the precise information they need at the moment they need it to make a buying decision. That alone is a big reason to develop a comprehensive mobile first strategy right away.

So let’s look at a few components that would help all organizations embrace a broader view of what a mobile first strategy really looks like.

1. Make your website adaptive. You probably have a mobile website and a main website for your organization. But chances are they don’t look good on all the various size smart phone and tablet screens because they aren’t adaptive. Therefore, make your site adaptive so it automatically adjusts to the size screen the user has. For an example, seehttp://calebogden.com/http://owltastic.com/http://thinkvitamin.com/, or www.burrus.com and give them a try. View them on your laptop first. Shrink the browser window and notice how the site changes to fit any size screen. Then try them on your tablet or smart phone. Regardless of screen size, they will all look and work great.

2. Design your website for mobile first. People are increasingly making decisions using their phones and tablets more so than on their laptops. We are well past the point where more tablets and smart phones are being sold than PCs. And for the past two years, the majority of phones sold globally were smart phones. One more interesting inflection point was reached late last year; the cost of making a smart phone was the same as making a dumb phone. The smart phone and tablet trend will only continue to grow, so think mobile first when you redo your website, not desktop or laptop.

3. Rethink how people pay. Credit cards are easy, but e-wallets are easier. Currently, Google has a mobile wallet that works with all major credit cards. It is secure and enables you to make payments with your smart phone. In the near future, as every financial service firm gets into mobile payments, we will move very quickly from a leather wallet to a smart phone wallet. One example of an enabling technology is NFC, near-field communications chips, which are being built into smart phones as you read this article. They allow for secure and easy payment, so be ready for it. Not ready for e-wallets? How about payments using smart phones and tablets by adding a Square or similar system. Starbucks and others are using this already with great success.

4. Look where technology is going, not where it’s been. Apple’s Siri is a natural language technology that allows you to ask a question in regular language and Siri answers in a human-like voice. The power of Siri is in the cloud, and other mobile platforms have already come up with their own version of this early stage ultra intelligent agent. The time for an organization-specific or retail-specific version of Siri is ripe. Think of it like a mobile concierge for your company. Yes, the technology is there. It just hasn’t been applied in this manner yet.

5. Make it easy to shop with you. Many stores are so large these days that it’s difficult for shoppers to find things. And to keep costs under control, stores keep staff lean. But when customers can’t find what they’re looking for and can’t find a salesperson to help them, they leave the store frustrated. Imagine how many more sales you’d make if you offered consumers an app that enabled them to find exactly what they want.Rather than work off of GPS, the location feature would work off of wireless local-navigation in the store so consumers can see the store layout and where the salespeople are in real time. Then they simply type in or ask, “Where are the digital cameras (or ladies jogging clothes or gluten-free potato chips or anything)?” and the app or Siri-like assistant tells the consumer exactly where to go in the store. But this isn’t just for retail. Service provider firms could also have a custom app that makes their clients’ life easier. For example, if you are a financial planning firm, you could give each client an app that lets them manage their portfolio and get daily updates and alerts from you, to name just a few.

6. Make it easy to work for you too: Apps aren’t just for consumers; they can make your staff more productive too. Rather than have customer service reps tied to a computer at a counter, you can give them a tablet with key apps that enable them to help customers on the floor in real time. With these apps they can see if products are in stock or in the warehouse, give product arrival dates, process simple exchanges, and do almost everything that’s usually done at the customer service counter without the long lines. Already leading retailers are using smart phones and tablets as their point of sale (POS) device saving customers time.

7. Let your apps sell for you: All stores stock what they think is the best in class for their customers and market. But what if what you carry isn’t the brand the customer wants? With your app, the customer can type in a specific product’s brand name, and the app will show not only the equivalents that you carry, but also why the brands you stock are better than what the customer requested. Maybe there’s an additive in the other product or it’s been proven not to last as long. Now you’re helping customers make better and more informed buying decisions.

The Future of Mobile

Make no mistake: It’s a hard trend (a certainty) that tablets and smart phones are becoming people’s main personal computer. Therefore, you want to create a mobile first strategy that uses the power of these devices to your benefit. Are all these suggestions for a mobile first strategy possible? Most definitely! Remember, if it can be done, it will be done. The question is, when will you do it?

DANIEL BURRUS is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books including The New York Times best seller Flash Foresight.

Intelligent Content: Soon your media will know you better than you know yourself

Intelligent Content: Soon your media will know you better than you know yourself

With the introduction of analytics into the visual design of written content, we are on the cusp of an era of incredible evolution: one where the design of information changes in real time in response to data about the readers consuming it. New technologies from Amazon, Apple, Google, WordPress and Tumblr already provide a preview of Intelligent Content. In essence, it won’t be long before the media we consume knows us better than we know ourselves.

Content that reacts to being read

Around 1952, computer scientist Grace Hopper introduced new thinking about compilers –machine-independent software that would translate code written in human language into computer friendly binary ones. John Von Nuemann took Dr. Hopper’s work to a new level in his unfinished masterpiece “The Computer and the Brain,” which theorized that massive versions of compilers would eventually result in computers so intelligent that no human mind could keep up with them.

In a way, books and magazines of the future will act as sort of human compilers, translating your reading desires into pure machine language that tells the publisher how to present the material for faster and more pleasurable absorption. It’s difficult to comprehend what these experiences will be like once machines themselves begin creating material for humans. The content itself will be designed to gather information about the reader, mash it up with data about others interested in related subjects, authors, or publishers, then decide what content to present to you next. This is what we mean by Intelligent Content

Curation will guide content

Some argue that readers no longer want curated content, however we believe people always have and always will look to trusted sources for guidance, and that’s where books and magazines will continue to add value. In a world where people are already inundated with information, it’s only going to get worse as we get more and more smothered by everyone else’s stream of consciousness, courtesy of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and whatever is next.

So the short-term impact of the Intelligent Content movement will feel something like the music industry since 2000. MP3′s meant the end of curated CDs. Now, playlists are compiled and shared with the help of Pandora, Spotify or Songza. Thus magazines and books could soon become the Pandora of dynamic content, with artificial intelligence applets that choose and adapt content, then tailor it to the reader’s context and taste. We see the beginnings of this with Flipboard, but it will only get more advanced.

Experimenting outside the print paradigm

Massive waves of disruption always bring opportunity. Publishers like Hearst and Conde Nast continue to experiment with and push the boundaries of enhanced reading experiences on tablets, but many other publishers still obey the rules of printed media, requiring you to “flip” through virtual pages as the primary mode of navigation. WordPress and Tumblr appear to be closest to offering an always-on and continuously updated experience based on analytics about the reader. The flexibility and customization they offer provide a glimpse into how written and visual content will eventually be continuously reconfigured and redesigned by the moment to accommodate data gathered about what you like to read.

Our future might be filled with mash-ups of video, audio, real-time updates, new navigation interfaces and even content that interacts with a reader’s environment (such as augmented reality). Digital publishers can experiment with new hyper-responsive designs as well as back-end databases that mine your other web activities to determine what you’ll like. For example, Quartz (qz.com), a digital only news site launched in September last year, uses WordPress and responsive design to customize the reader’s experience on a device level. Companies such as Gravity, Contextly and Sailthru offer digital publishers new tools to create more personalized experiences based on a visitor’s profile and previous reading behavior.

The algorithm will be the new editor

In the long term, the algorithm will likely replace the editor and curator. Quick and automatic branding and positioning of the book or magazine on a glowing electronic slab will become more important than the most sage human editor. For focused, long-form content, algorithms will sort out content discovery, delivery and presentation. Google already conquered discovery with algorithms, and now content aggregators such as Zite and Prismatic offer readers an elegant, gated magazine-like design using data from the reader’s social networking profiles, past reading habits and current location.

Using big data to create content on demand

Intelligent Content can also help publishers create content in a more cost-efficient way. One of the main challenges publishers face is predicting which content will be popular. Analyzing the big data that comes from reading and search behavior will help them predict which articles will bring in a much-needed audience.

Recently, researchers at MIT developed an algorithm that can predict topics that will be trending on Twitter hours in advance. Similarly, startups such as Content Fleet and Parse.ly use algorithms to identify emerging popular topics on search engines. This way, a publisher will be able to create content with almost a certain return on investment.

Publishers who recognize the design- and data-driven future of Intelligent Content will have a head start. They can experiment now with new ways to deliver content and measure how its readers engage with it. That data in turn can help them deliver even more engaging content experiences, ultimately preparing them for a future of Intelligent Content.

How small retailers are embracing the multi-channel challenge

How small retailers are embracing the multi-channel challenge

 

In today’s competitive and uncertain retail landscape, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for smaller retailers to compete against the scale and cost advantages of the larger players. For many smaller retailers, online commerce had become a secret weapon, allowing them to compete on a more equal footing and in a marketplace where their disadvantages are less pronounced.

However, bigger retailers are waking up to the possibilities multiple online channels play in multi-channel retail strategies. Just recently high-street giant Argos announced a “five-year transformation plan” to “reinvent” its brand, focusing on online sales and almost abandoning its heritage as a catalogue and high-street retailer. The questions is: how bad does the future look for smaller retailers now their competitive edge might be lost?

Smaller retailers leading from the front

For smaller retailers, adopting a multi-channel strategy is nothing new – they have been doing it for years and particularly well. Many understand how important multiple channels, particularly online ones, are to the success of their business and their survival in the current financial climate.

Larger retailers had previously been confident in their dominance over the smaller retailer – however, changes in consumer demand and shopping behaviours have changed that dramatically during the past few years. The popularity of smartphones and social media, for example, have played a big part in the evolution of retail and highlighted the need for multi-channel strategies regardless of size.

According to Ofcom’s recent Communications Market report, 74% of adults and teenagers now own a smartphone, while 60% of the population access the internet on a daily or nearly daily basis (Source:Experian Marketing Services).

“Large retailers love to compete on price but they cannot compete on expertise or customer experience,” says Dave Bell, managing director ofVesternet, a specialist energy and security retailer. “Smaller retailers will never be able to sell cheaper than Amazon, for example, and therefore it’s key to sell better. Smaller retailers must ask themselves: can I provide expertise, guidance and knowledge in a way that larger retailers cannot? If you can, then you can sell at a profitable margin and build a business online.”

“Online sales channels provide smaller retailers with the opportunity to look comparable to the big players,” he adds. “Done right, you can look as big as your competitors. For instance at Vesternet, we have a team of only seven people but you can’t tell that by looking at our website or our eBay storefront.

“Today there are some great online commerce platforms like Magento, which help smaller retailers to build attractive and completely professional commerce sites without huge cost, which in turn builds customer confidence because for them – there is no difference between you and the big guys in terms of credibility.”

Size does matter

The good news for smaller retailers is that they don’t need to be afraid of larger retailers adopting or expanding their multi-channel strategies as there are a number of ways they can remain competitive.

For example, customer service is often an area where the smaller retailer excels. Whether it’s greeting customers as they walk through the door or emailing them when you know there’s something new in stock, consumers know they won’t experience that type of genuine, personal care at a mass retailers.

Bell agrees: “We have the flexibility to go the extra distance for our customers. On our website we provide our customers with real insight through resources such as guides, how-tos and an interactive home planner. We give it all away for free, whether you buy from us or not because we want our customers to know they have come to the best place to learn about the items they want to buy.”

Smaller retailers can also enhance the customer experience by ensuring their back-office is in order. Simply being able to confidently answer a customer’s question in terms of product availability can be the difference between a sale and lost custom. Bell adds: “The most misunderstood aspect of selling online is what happens once the order is taken, and this matters more in terms of profit than anything else. Being able to automate the order, take it through to shipping, inventory management, accounts, and finally the customer communication in a seamless process is vital – and the difference between selling something at a profit or a loss in terms of the man hours we have to dedicate to packing and admin.”

A centralised system will offer smaller retailers a clearer, overall picture of their business performance and enable them to identify and resolve any issues swiftly. Typically this type of technology and insight has only been available to larger retailers with limitless budgets, but this is no longer the case. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has transformed the technology that is available to smaller retailers and as a result made it much more affordable.

Looking to the future

It’s vital that smaller retailers continue to lead the way in multi-channel, and by offering their customers choice while teaming it with great, personal customer service they will continue to remain competitive. Embracing new technologies such as a commerce acceleration platform will transform their working processes and heighten the customer experience even more, which can only be a good thing.

Chris Tanner is founder of Brightpearl – follow the company on Twitter@BrightpearlHQ

 

Join The 1% And Become A Content Creator

Join The 1% And Become A Content Creator | B2B Marketing Insider.

How does a company move from becoming a promoter of their stuff to a provider of business insights? How do brands become publishers without hiring entire newsrooms full of journalists?

Turns out, the answer is simple: take the knowledge, the expertise and the passion of your employees and focus that on answering your potential customers’ key questions.

As Marcus  Sheridan (aka @TheSalesLion) suggests: “They ask. You answer!” This means your company is no longer in the business of just making and selling products. Your company needs to become a supplier of education and insights to your industry!

The Content Challenge in B2B

Content and “becoming a publisher” is a huge challenge for businesses today. Especially in B2B, where many of our employees are stuck on the notion that our products are so complex and our sales cycles are so long that we have to spend a majority of our time and resources explaining why we are better. Most B2B Marketing folks continue to spend their time and money defining all the details of our solutions and imploring our prospects to chose us.

But today, we know that our buyers are educating themselves. They turn to the internet and their social networks to find answers to the questions they have and to find solutions to their biggest problems.

The 1% Rule of Participation Inequality

The first mention I could find of the “1% rule” comes from Bradley Horowitz who concluded while working at Yahoo that within Yahoo groups there were “creators, synthesizers and consumers.”

And he predicted that across the board in any large internet community, there would be a a similar mathematical content “distribution inequality” along the same segments:

  • 1% create all the content
  • 9% synthesize or share the content
  • 90% simply consumer the content
Wikipedia defines this as the 1% rule of internet culture or the 1-9-90 principle.
SEO expert Jakob Nielsen modified this concept a bit when he defined the same numbers but classified the 1% as “heavy contributors,” the 9% as “intermittent contributors” and the 90% as “lurkers.”
Many people have risen up to attack this principle based on the feeling that with micro-blogging and status updates on Facebook or Twitter, the barrier to content production is so low that the number would skew higher. But I couldn’t find a single study to refute this concept.
The conventional wisdom is now that the numbers probably line up to the Pareto Principle, more commonly know as the 80-20 rule where 80% of the content in any social network is created by only 20% of the users.

Check here for a great discussion on the 1-9-90- principle on Quora where my new friend Sam Decker (@SamDecker) ranks as the top answer on whether these stats are a myth. Sam states:

It’s an over-generalization, but the message it conveys is accurate. The minority will contribute, more will share, and majority will read. . . you should build strategies to bring those numbers up, and create participation where the content created is valuable to the 90% of readers.

The Message For B2B Marketers

Whatever the percentage is, you cannot be just a content consumer.  You cannot be a “lurker” in your industry. You must either become a content creator, or at least participate as a content curator and distributor.

Not only is this true for B2B Marketers, I believe it is the mission of every business to grow the number of employee ambassadors. I actually believe every employee should be part of the 1% or the 9%. Help to tell engaging stories. Or help to share them.  And then encourage your customers to join in.

I think the new role of the B2B Marketer is part content marketing, part brand ambassador and part personal branding evangelist. We need to tell our colleagues that now is the time to build their personal brands. Now is the time to grow your social connections, to learn how to tell stories. And when you do, you can grow as a person while helping your company to grow as well.

 

Debunking the Myths of Digital Transformation

Some common sense myth-busting by Capgemini

Senior executives in every industry – from media to electronics to paint manufacturing – face a bewildering array of new digital opportunities.

They are paying attention, but they have few signposts to guide them. Moreover, they are also faced with a barrage of advice – sometimes conflicting and often wrong – about moving their business into the digital world. In our three years researching digital transformation with the MIT Center for Digital Business, we discovered that many commonly held perceptions about digital transformation are actually myths.  These myths can be dangerously misleading and lead to expensive mistakes for organizations as they plot their course in the new digital economy. It is time to debunk them!

Myth 1: Digital concerns technology or B2C companies only.

Not so. Our research shows that big traditional companies, those that power the world economies, spend billions on digital technologies. Those companies that are using technology better than their competitors are gaining huge benefits. Although, digital transformation is moving more rapidly in some industries than others, all industries are concerned. From Burberry in the fast moving B2C fashion industry to Codelco in the B2B mining industry or even public sector departments. No firm is immune from digital transformation.

Myth 2: Digital is primarily about customer experience and marketing.

Wrong. Huge opportunities exist also in efficiency, productivity and employee leverage. And those can provide as big, if not bigger, business cases as digital applications at the front end of the business. P&G’s successful digital transformation journey builds well beyond brands and customer interactions. Digital technologies have been used in how P&G creates molecules in their R&D labs, to using data modeling and simulation mechanisms to improve product development and manufacturing. Digitally transforming operations matter.

Myth 3: There is no business case for digital transformation.

Really? Our research shows that digital leaders, those companies that have mastered digital transformation, are 26% more profitable than their average industry competitors. They enjoy a 12% higher market valuation and generate 9% more revenue with their existing physical assets. The digital advantage is real!

Myth 4: Digital transformation happens bottom-up.

Not. Digital transformation must be led from the top of the organization. Companies that adopt the “let a thousand flower bloom” approach to digital transformation usually end up with just that – a thousand flowers. A Pfizer senior executive points out: “we have many different brands in many markets, so when it comes to digital opportunities, we can have one thousand flowers blooming – and that’s not really scalable to any of our stakeholders”. Leadership matters.

Myth 5: Digital transformation will happen despite my IT.

Unlikely. Many executives in our research claimed that their IT was a hindrance in their transformation and some chose to drive transformation without the help of their IT leaders. And they were wrong. Digital leaders like Caesars, Burberry, and Nike recognize the power of a strong IT foundation – both people and technology. Digital leaders have the essential foundation of well-structured systems, unified data, and a strong IT/business partnership. Other companies must work hard to get there.

Myth 6: We have time to digitally transform in our industry, let’s wait and see.

Dangerous. In our research we found that digital leaders exist in all industries with no exceptions. These leaders are outperforming their peers already and seizing a 26% profitability advantage year on year.  Becoming a digital leader does not happen overnight. Burberry started its journey in 2006 and spent the next 4-5 years implementing its transformation. You need to think now about how to address this challenge?

 

Digital transformation is causing a tectonic shift in how companies are structured and led, and how they perform and compete. The data are clear: digitization is increasing the pace of change throughout the economy, even in sleepy mainstream industries. Competitive advantage is becoming more fleeting, leaders are pulling away from laggards, and “winner takes all” dynamics are becoming more common. These shifts are broad and deep and they’re just getting under way. Now is the time for executives to debunk the myths of digital transformation and get their organizations on the right path.

Author: Pierre-Yves Cros, Capgemini Chief Developemnt Officer

Why data is the gold rush of the 21st century

What Google has in common with Yoda, Bond and politicians

“Data is the new oil”.

“Data is the oil of the digital economy”.

We hear these mantras repeatedly, from IBM commercials to social networking businesses. But what do they really mean?

Every time you click online, every phone call you make, every tweet, comment, photo or “check-in”, results in your data being captured and analysed by corporations, whether you like it or not.

There was a time, not so long ago, where the search market was saturated with Yahoo, Alta Vista, Hotbot, Lycos, and others.

Google (and to a lesser extent, Yahoo) is the only company to emerge from the pack. Partly because of great technology and management, but mostly because the people behind Google have long understood the value of data.

Google was never ‘just a search engine’. It’s always been a data-centered company that offers free services (like search, mail, analytics, maps and *cough* Google wave) in exchange for the generation, capture and analysis of user data. And that’s where its strength and longevity has come from.

Google has long known what Bond villains, politicians and Yoda have always known: that data leads to knowledge; knowledge leads to power; power leads to money; money leads to fear and fear leads to the dark side.

At the present time, Google is at the ‘power leads to money’ phase, and we just have to hope that it continues to resist the temptations of joining the evil empire (NB Facebook et al. – be vigilant!).

We instinctively know that data can lead to money, but just why do people call data the new oil?

Well, for one, oil provides lubrication, and like oil, data greases the wheels of the digital economy. Without the grease that data provides, social marketers would not be able to apportion a dollar value to a ‘like’ on a brand’s Facebook page, and traditional marketers would not be able to effectively monetise a good, clean mailing list.

Data has inherent value, is effectively currency, but in its raw form that value is minimal.

Like crude oil, data has to be refined first, in order for it to have value.

Raw, crude oil is just slippery, smelly brown sludge, pumped out of the ground with limited few applications. Valuable, yes, but only for the potential uses that it has. It’s when you begin to refine it (does anyone remember the Oil Refinery Cracker diagrams in GCSE chemistry?) that oil turns into bitumen, kerosene, plastic and gasoline.

Likewise, it’s only when you start to refine data, that you produce metrics, business intelligence, analytics, and statistics. And that’s when data become more than just grease. That’s when it becomes a currency to be traded.

But what of the future of digital data?

Respected Media Futurist, Gerd Leonhard, asks (and answers) the question: “If data is the new oil, how do we avoid wars and global conflicts fought over it?” His presentations and blogs give an excellent insight into how data transparency will benefit mankind and stop that from happening.

The central principle is sound. Wars have been fought over ‘Black Gold’. Will similar wars be fought over the ‘Binary Gold’ that is digital data, and if so, how do we prepare and protect ourselves?

I still feel that we’re maybe not quite there yet. There’s enough data to go round, and we’re pumping it out of the ground at a startling rate. We’re generating more and more of it every millisecond with every click or status update.

So right now we’re at the gold rush phase, and it’s the companies with the virtual picks and pans that are prospecting now that will be the winners in years to come.

Those than can collect (and most importantly ‘refine’) data – participants in the so-called ‘big data’ sector – are the ones that will have the ideal weapons to fight the digital and commercial wars over binary gold in the future.

And we hope that when they do, that they resist joining the dark side and rather use their power for the collective good, to advance transparency, knowledge, technology and understanding.

Gregory Kris will be chairing the Data is Sexy seminar at the Digital Music Conference this Wednesday. 

Gregory Kris is an original dot-com CEO, selling his first digital business, a social network, in 2000. Since then he has run and sold two start-ups, advised on numerous others, and invested in a couple more, with varying results. A firm believer that ‘data is the oil of the digital economy’, Greg is currently CEO of Decibel, the music metadata specialists, and has been called ‘Europe’s first Digital Data Baron’. You can follow him on twitter at @gregkris or email him greg.kris@decibel.net

Gregory: Featured in the French publication “ici Londres”

The November 2012 issue of French magazine ici Londres features an article about Decibel co-founder Gregory Kris. Entitled “Decibel, provider of data for the music industry”the piece begins with the mention of some key points in Gregory Kris’ career as a successful entrepreneur, including the encounter with Evan Stein, which led to the creation of Decibel.

The article goes on with explaining the concept behind Decibel: to provide the necessary data for the music industry players, and to help the music industry move into the digital age. Decibel currently has data about more than 2 million songs, 1.1 million albums, 300.000 artists and an impressive level of metadata detail that keeps on getting better and better.

As metadata is gradually becoming omnipresent in the devices and programs surrounding us, Gregory Kris and Evan Stein wish to consolidate Decibel as a cross-media discovery platform.

Here is the original article featured in ici Londres:

http://www.readoz.com/publication/read?i=1052645#page30

Board Level Changes at Decibel

Mandate Accomplished: Gregory Kris resigns as CEO as Decibel welcomes new investors.

Gregory Kris, CEO of Decibel Music Systems, has resigned from the Board of Directors and as an employee of the company. His resignation as a director is effective immediately and he will leave as an employee on 31 January 2013. In conjunction with this change, Decibel Music Systems have received a further round of funding from private investors who have purchased shares from Mr. Kris.

“After successfully overseeing the acquisition of a third round of funding for Decibel, and the development of a revenue-positive business from scratch, my job here is done. Starting 3 years, ago, we took a robust core technology, and created a suite of market-leading products and services for the management of metadata for digital media,” said Mr. Kris.

“Although leaving my role as an executive in the company, I will remain a shareholder and advisor to the management team and the board, and leave the company in the hands of my co-founder, Evan Stein, who will be leading the company through its next phase of development.”

“Evan has earned a well founded reputation for creativity and delivery, spanning two decades of innovation in intelligence gathering and data processing. The company will continue from strength to strength under his guidance while I look forward to continuing with complimentary projects in the digital media sector in Europe and the USA.”

“We will certainly miss Greg,’ said Stein, President of Decibel. “He’s been a valuable friend and partner and his presence, reputation and drive have been a huge factor in our success to date. We look forward to continuing to work with him in the future, and want to thank him for his leadership, vision and selfless commitment to the company for the past few years.”

The company said it did ‘not expect the departure of Mr. Gregory Kris to have any material impact on its ongoing operations,’ and that the ‘funding received will enable the company to continue its product development and expansion as planned’.

Decibel handles the digital metadata needs for over 500 companies in digital media, retail and broadcasting.

How pornography could save the digital media industry

A view through Soho's red light district

 In 2002, DVD sales surpassed VHS as the predominant home video format. On the 10-year anniversary of that milestone, media companies are still having a hard time adjusting to the digital world.

Publishers are still having trouble finding the right business model to get people to pay for access to content – should it be subscription or micro-payments?

The record labels, game developers, and movie makers are failing to tackle piracy adequately – should all content be free? Or should we litigate aggressively?

Most media companies are finding it hard to compete with the new distribution eco-systems and licensing frameworks in the digital age.

Even the consumer-rich pornography industry, as evidenced by Louis Theroux’s latest documentary on the BBC recently “Twilight of the Porn Stars”, is changing beyond recognition.

However, although the way businesses operate in the peculiar pornography industry may have changed unrecognisably in such a short period of time, people are still consuming more pornography online and paying more than ever before (apparently).

I have nothing but circumstantial evidence that points to this as user research is notoriously hard to come by, (I wonder why?) although the fact that some 12 per cent of the world’s bandwidth is used for these nefarious purposes is a key indicator of interest in the sector.

“Porn was a major driving force in establishing the Internet”

The fact of the matter is that the pornography industry has often had the dual role of driving future developments in technology and distribution, as well as being a pointer to the next generation of consumer consumption patterns.

Pornography companies (let’s call them ‘suppliers’) have always been innovating.  Porn was a major driving force in establishing the Internet (‘we want to see naked ladies in our own home’), in improving digital technologies (‘we want to see naked ladies in HD’) and speeding up broadband (‘we want to see naked ladies now’)

And the same suppliers are constantly creating innovative new distribution models, embracing new devices, developing new payment services…

So what’s the secret to their success?

Well, for one, their audience has not declined. There are more teen-aged boys logging on with every passing minute, and a preponderance of hand-held devices is making it easier to access and enjoy those services.

However, exactly the same set of circumstances is true of the gaming, music and film sectors, (more teenagers, more online time, more devices) and those media companies have not been able to leverage that to the same extent.

Where pornography suppliers have innovated is that they have concentrated on monetising their audience, not their content.

They have not decided to create the best, filmic quality content, or the best set of DVD extras and director’s commentary to improve the quality of the product and then push it out.  Nor have they increased their emphasis on copyright and licensing.

Rather they have looked objectively, whether by design or by accident, and thought “Who is my audience? How do I reach them? How do I get them to pay easily”? Other media sectors should take note.

If the media companies follow their lead, in 12 months we will see:

  • People paying to converse directly to movie stars in their own home via webcam
  • Music lovers no longer paying to own a track or album, but rather paying for music by the listen
  • Homemade films competing on an equal footing on home devices with mainstream releases
  • Mainstream Movies being distributed for free on YouTube and social networks in order to grow audience engagement for long term gain
  • Newspapers increasingly reducing their staff of journalists, instead, concentrating on aggregating news from bloggers and twitter feeds
  • Time-centric micro-payments based on how long you watch a movie for
  • More artists making a living from distributing their music directly to their audience

And my personal favourite:

  • In order to make search and discovery easier; a significant increase in the quality and accuracy of metadata across all digital media (the metadata for porn is comprehensive and clear –or so I hear)