Mar 182015
 
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A few days ago we covered the Great Transition research paper by Colonial First State Funds Management’s James White and Stephen Halmarick and followed up with a piece in Business Spectator looking at the ramifications for the Australian economy.

One of Halmarick and White’s assertions is that brands are dead as consumers in emerging economies don’t care about corporate names and in developed nations people have better information about local businesses.

The former argument seems flawed from the beginning; Apple for example is making huge inroads in China while local manufacturers like Lenovo, Huawei, Great Wall and Haier are all working hard to establish their names in international markets.

In developed markets, White and Halmarick’s views have more basis with brand names not having the cachet they once did now consumers have a global platform to voice complaints and find alternatives.

A good example of brands that are struggling are companies like Microsoft and McDonalds, although in the case of both companies this could be more because of a shift in the marketplace rather than better informed consumers.

However brands are surviving as they lift their game and adapt to changed marketplaces, in fact its possible to argue that today’s consumers are more responsive to brand names than ever in the past.

A good example of this is again Apple which has more fans than ever before. Apple are also a good example of how big corporations can invest huge amounts into new technologies and products to give them an advantage over upstarts.

We should also remember that brands as we currently know them are largely a Twentieth Century phenomenon born out of the development of mass media communications and many of today’s household names came into the culture thanks to television in the 1950s and 60s.

So as creatures of last century’s media it’s not surprising that brands are having to evolve to a changed world, some of them will thrive and grow while others will shrivel away.

It’s safe to say though that the concept of brands isn’t dead, although many of the names we know today may not exist by the end of the decade.

Mar 112015
 
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Since the beginning of industry technology has changed occupations in unexpected ways the demise of the sports TV cameraman is a good modern example of a highly skilled, specialised trade that may soon be redundant.

Years ago television studios largely replaced cameramen with remote controlled cameras but sports grounds needed skilled operators with excellent attention spans to video action at sports grounds.

At a lunch today in Sydney Michael Tomkins, Chief Technology Office of Fox Sports Australia, explained how a combination of high definition cameras and advanced software is changing the way sports are broadcast and recorded.

“Last year we put two 4k cameras in to cover the length of the ground,” Tomkins said. “Two 4k cameras can see the length of the whole ground so I get rid of four cameramen and replace them with one joystick bunny.”

“He moves a box around the screen and those become a virtual camera. The resolution of a 4k camera is four times that of our HD broadcasts. It’s quite cost effective and I don’t have to roll a crew out.”

A demonstration of how the technology works is in a YouTube clip of an Australian Rules football match from last year. While the ‘joystick bunny’ and the software is somewhat clumsy in the segment, the clip shows the power of the technology.

With abolishing most of the camera, the opportunity to rationalise the production suite also becomes possible; at present most sports events have a producer instructing a group of assistants to cut between cameras, prepare replays and all the other effects expected by viewers. With a software based system most of that labor and its skills become redundant.

Over time as higher resolution cameras become available this application is going to become common, in fact most junior and amateur sports will be able to afford static hi-res cameras for their ground that allows them to record their games.

While the demise of the sports cameraman and producers is a shame in the same way loom weavers and hansom cab drivers disappeared, it is a reflection of  changing technologies creating then destroying occupations.

TV camera image through wikipedia

Feb 012015
 
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Last week Google and Facebook announced their quarterly results with the search engine giant continuing its worrying slowing of advertising revenue. The respective changes of the two online services show how online advertising is changing.

While Google slows, Facebook is showing accelerating growth for its advertising, driven mainly by mobile users, illustrating the shift in internet usage from desktops to smartphones.

In its 2014 New Digital Consumer report, market research company Nielsen observed that US consumers in 2013 were spending more time accessing the internet on their smartphones than on personal computers; PC use had fallen seven percent to 27 hours a week while mobile use had surged 40% in 2013 to 34 hours.

Television still remained dominant with the combination of live and time shifted TV viewing making up 144 hours of the average American’s week, although it did fall slightly.

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Those figures are a year out of date and there’s no doubt the numbers have accelerated since then. One of Tim Cook’s triumphs at Apple has been the release of the iPhone 6 and the larger form factors in the current generation of smartphones is a response to consumers’ demand to watch video on their devices.

Bigger Android, Windows and Apple smartphones will only seen even more people using their mobiles to watch video and surf the web.

Which puts Google’s predicament in sharp focus; we are definitely in the post-PC world yet their revenue still overwhelmingly comes in from desktop users while Facebook’s is increasingly coming from mobile consumers.

A strength Google has is that its revenues still dwarf the social media upstart’s – Google’s income is currently six times greater and its gross profit margin doubles that of Facebook’s – giving it plenty of leeway to change.

The question is where do the new revenues come from? Probably the biggest opportunity Google missed was in replacing the Yellow Pages franchises with their own local small business listings with Google Your Business (aka Google Place and Google Plus for Business) being lost in a confused and bureaucratic corporate strategy.

Compounding the problem for Google in the small business space is Apple’s entry and while Apple Maps is no contender against Google’s far superior product, an integration with Apple Pay would give Apple far more rich data to enhance listings with – not to mention more of an incentive for merchants to sign up.

With the changing web, Google are going to have to change as well. If advertising is going to remain the mainstay of their business then the company needs to find a way to capture smartphone users.

It could be worse however, a report from consulting firm Strategy Analytics estimates print media’s share of advertising revenue fell another seven percent this year. Time is running out for newspapers.

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While print is ailing, the advertising battleground is mobile digital although TV still dwarfs the market. How this evolves in the next five years will define the next generation of media tycoons.

Jan 312015
 
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The one factor that saw Microsoft become the biggest computer software company was the rise of the personal computer, similarly the decline of the PC has seen Microsoft stagnate.

One of the companies that benefited from the forces that pushed Microsoft into stagnation was Google and now it appears they could be suffering the same fate.

Yesterday Google released their quarterly results which showed the rate of growth in online advertising is slowing, which is a worry for the company as internet marketing accounts for 90% of the firm’s income.

Like Microsoft, Google has to diversify. Whether it’s the internet of things, smartphones, apps, driverless cars or something else remains to be seen but the pressure is building. Should the shift to mobile or other advertising mediums accelerate, Google could be looking at a declining market and the same problems as Microsoft.

Jan 142015
 
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Links today have a bit of a social media theme with Twitter co-founder Ev Williams explaining his view that Instagram’s numbers don’t really matter to his business while researcher Danah Boyd explains the complexities of teenagers’ social media use.

Apple’s patents and why the tech industry is firing, not hiring, round out today’s stories.

Feel the width, not the quality

Twitter co-founder Ev Williams attracted attention last month with his comment that he couldn’t care about Instagram’s user numbers, in A Mile Wide, An Inch Deep he explains exactly what he meant at the time and why online companies need to focus more on content and value.

Apple gets patent, GoPro shares drop

One of the frustrations with following the modern tech industry is how patents are used to stifle innovation. How an Apple patent for something that seems obvious caused camera vendor GoPro’s shares to fall is a good example.

Why is the tech industry shedding jobs?

Despite the tech industry’s growth, the industry’s giants are shedding jobs. This Bloomberg article describes some of the struggles facing the tech industry’s old dinosaurs.

An old fogey’s view of teenagers’ social media use

Researcher Danah Boyd provides a rebuttal of the story about young peoples’ use of social media. “Teens’ use of social media is significantly shaped by race and class, geography and cultural background,” she says. Sometimes it’s necessary to state the obvious.

Dec 262014
 
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One of the ongoing tensions in the new media landscape is that between the demands of advertisers and content creators.

This isn’t a new thing as a 1959 interview between Mike Wallace and TV pioneer Rod Stering shows.

Sterling describes how pressures from networks and advertisers created often weird compromises along with a fair degree of self censorship among TV writers and producers.

Little that Sterling describes would surprise today’s online journalists, bloggers and social media influencers who find themselves subject to identical pressures today.

Sep 082014
 
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This post is the final of a series of four sponsored stories brought to you by Nuffnang.

Boring is the comment often used about business websites, however smart companies are using blogs to spice up their sites and boost marketing, customer retention and employee engagement.

A blog can make a company’s website more dynamic and a destination for visitors, it’s an opportunity for an organisation to demonstrate its depth of expertise and the qualification of its staff.

Best at this are the big global companies like GE, Cisco and IBM that have large pools of experts who can contribute to the company blog. These enterprise blogs are sprawling sites that cover multiple markets and industries which the companies operate across.

More than a marketing tool

For smaller tech companies, particularly Silicon Valley startups, their blogs have become vital marketing platforms where they often describe the company’s journey and new features being added.

Some companies, like Uber and Nest, use the company blog as their press channels with entries acting as media releases. This is particularly useful for smaller businesses without a PR agency or in house communications people.

At a more tactical level, blogs can be used as a weapon in a fight for marketshare. One of the toughest battles on the internet at the moment is going on between accounting software companies MYOB and Xero and their blogs are at the forefront of this fight.

In this battle MYOB are the incumbent with over a million users in the Australian business accounting market and a small army of Certified Consultants to help clients with using the software while Xero is the well funded cloud computing service that grew its Australian customer base by nearly 50% to 147,000 so far this year.

Small business thought leadership

So the battle is intense with both companies using their blogs to show their thought leadership in the small business space. Both of the blogs illustrate each company’s strengths and weaknesses.

MYOB’s blog is the longest standing and is more of a generalist overview of small business and accounting issues while Xero’s focuses on the new features being added to the product, both have fiercely passionate followers which shows in the comments fields of their blogs.

Blogs though need not be about pure marketing or advertising functions, in fact the best small business ones are those that just tell their customers what’s on. These are particularly good for the hospitality and retail industries.

One plus with business blogs is they help employees understand their business better, particularly when staff are invited to contribute.

Blogging isn’t just about lonely geeks or bored mums sitting in their spare rooms. A well thought out business blog can be a great tool for engaging existing customers, motivating staff and building new markets.