Phil Sim

Web, media, PR and… footy

Where’s the money?

I’m participating in a panel tomorrow at the Future of Media Summit being held simultaneously in Sydney and San Francisco and run by Ross Dawson and the crew at Future Exploration Network.

As its a panel discussion I won’t have a presentation as such, but I thought I should pre-prepare some observations on the topic of the panel, Where will the money be? and what better way to do that than with a bit of stream-of-consciousness blogging. So if this doesn’t make sense, forgive me, hopefully it will help me make some sense tomorrow.

Where will the money be? I wrote a news story for MediaConnect last week on the acquisition of a Sydney PR company called MarketingFX, which last year reinvented itself to base its business on, with the idea being that it would log all of the work that it did for the customer into the system, thereby better delivering leads to the salesteam and making its campaigns more measurable or accountable. The news last week was that it was acquired by the biggest integrator in Australia, Swqare Peg.

It’s another piece of anecdotal evidence that marketing will only get more accountable, more measurable and more results driven and to me that’s where the money is going to be for all media companies and marketing services firm.

That is, after all, the basis of Google’s success. Traditional media companies offer marketers eyeballs who may or may not be interested in one’s product or service. If the campaign doesn’t work, the media company blames the campaign and says try again. It was a nice model while it lasted.

Google on the other hand, says you only pay me if I deliver you a real lead; ie a click through. It shares the responsibility, both literally and financially, for the campaigns success.

The ultimate end point here, is paying per sale. What marketer wouldn’t spend money on guaranteed sales? Or even if we don’t get to that point, we’re going to get a lot closer to it.

Naturally, both media and marketing models are going to get there and they already are. Marketing companies are all going the integrated marketing route, and media companies are increasingly all about total media solutions. That has to be the way of the future because when you’re being paid on results, you need to have solutions.

Most media companies I report on or talk to, have research arms if not consulting arms, events and conferences divisions, database and direct marketing offerings. As such, it’s not good enough now for a media company to say, the success of that campaign isn’t my problem, they need to be a stakeholder in the client’s success.

In shifting this way, I also increasingly see marketing services companies and media companies butting heads. Events is the obvious clash here – do you team up with a media partner who can probably best guarantee you an audience, or use your marketing company who probably have a better idea of your company strategy and don’t have editorial/advertiser conflict issues.

The only way media companies are going to succeed on this front is to by building the most loyal, community of readers/users who enjoy and benefit with their interaction with you. A media company can do this better than most marketing services companies, who don’t usually have subject specific expertise comparable to that of a marketing company. Authority, knowledge and expertise remain as somethign thats very difficult to commoditise, in a world where almost everything can be replicated, copied or stolen.

The response of the marketing companies is likely to be to build that expertise on an account basis and build their own communities for individual clients. At present, the butting heads point here is custom publishing. Does your agency create their own branded magazine or do you use a media company’s custom publishing offerings.

When it gets to this point, it comes down to economics, and marketers are going to demand that those pitching for its marketing dollars can prove their delivering the results. Which returns me to that central point.

For too long, media companies and marketing services companies have hidden behind fuzzy concepts such as branding, awareness, goodwill – none of which are acutely measurable and therefore make for easy shying away of blame. But that’s not the game of the future, the game of the future is about creating solutions and taking the credit or flack for the success of marketing campaigns.

For media companies, this is perhaps the biggest challenge of all. It’s a totally differnet mindset and media companies are going to struggle with it, and that’s assuming they do eventually come to recognise the need for such a change in attitude. I know. All of the people who were instrumental in setting up MediaConnect came from publishig backgrounds. We all had set and forget attitudes. If a client wasn’t getting results, we blamed them for not using our service properly, suggested they try again and if not, we just moved onto the next lead. Upon recognising our re-sign rate among smaller, poorer resourced companies was unsatisfactory it was pretty obvious this attitude was killing us and as this represented our next growth phase, we needed to change that quick smart. So we made the decision to adopt a more service-like approach to our clients, to take more responsibility for the results they were getting.

That’s been hard, it is a very different mindset and it requires different priorities and a great level of focus in significantly different areas of the business. We’re definitely not there yet and we still need to re-resource and allocate people and attention to developing new processes and systems that will help us do this.

So where is the money? It’s in advertising, it’s in events, it’s in consulting, it’s in research, it’s in subscriptions, it’s in blogs, it’s in podcasting, it’s in video; so it’s good business sense for media companies to set themselves up to be able to get a slice of each. Be the authority, the expert, on whatever market your serving (and the smaller the nice the better your chance of pulling that off) and then cover it off from every possible angle. And then focus your efforts on providing solutions that guarantee results and you can’t go wrong. All of which, of course, is much easier said than done!

And if you happen to be attending Future of Media do say hello!

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Online storage sucks but…

Online storage sucks but synchronised storage, now that’s what we’re all waiting for…

So blogger Corsin Carmichel found evidence of Google’s much anticipated GDrive project, which apparently is codenamed Platypus (go Aussie!). You can check out the screen shot he stumbled across here.

People are calling GDrive an online file system. I don’t think it is. Let’s take a look at what the page says:

Backup. If you lose your computer, grab a new one and reinstall Platypus. Your files will be on your new machine in minutes.
Sync. Keep all your machines synchronized, even if they run different operating systems.

Local IO speeds. Open and save as quickly as you could if you were accessing them from your C: drive.

If this were online storage it would say, your files would be accessible on your machine. It doesn’t, it says, your files are ON your machine. It says your machines are SYNCHRONISED and open and save as quickly as your C:Drive

GDrive, I believe, will be an online mirror of your files, that replicate a virtual drive on your hard disk. This is the online/offline future I’ve talked about a number of times before.

If this is what GDrive is, IT WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING.

As Squash readers will know I’ve put just about every online application through a test drive at one time or another because I fundamentally believe in an online, thin client future. My Ajax Challenge was to see how long I could go without loading a single piece of desktop software onto my computer. After a while, it wore me down and I relented downloaded Open Office because too often I couldn’t get an internet connection or it was too slow.

I believe Google recognise this limitation. Hence their partnerships with the Open Office group and also the Firefox developers. It doesn’t make sense to throw the baby out with the bathwater and abandon desktop applications all together.

I’ve tried a good number of online storage systems too and the problem is I don’t have the discipline to do it, and I don’t want to have to go onto the internet to drag files that I could more quickly and easily access from my hard drive.

What I really want is to mirror the files that I have on my hard drive, onto an online file system. I then have the option to either download files straight from the server if I’m at a public terminal or to synchronise to a second or third machine I might commonly use.

Ironically, I think it will be this form of offline file system that will make online applications work.

I’ve posted before on the wonders of Google Spreadsheet. It’s THE best collaborative tool I’ve EVER used for ad hoc collaborative projects (and let’s face it thats the nature of these things). But it kills me when I’m using my laptop and I don’t have internet access and I can’t get to the files.

However, if my Google Spreadsheet documents save to my GDrive, which then synchronises itself with my laptop, so that I can then open the files in Open Office, save then and then when I reconnect the spreadsheet on GDrive updates, then that’s where this gets very interesting.

Synchronisation is gold, people. I hope thats what GDrive is going to deliver.

Oh, and I thought I might mention. I had pretty much given up on both Writely and Zoho Writer because of the above limitations and because unlike Google Spreadsheet, they weren’t truly collaborative because two people weren’t able to edit the document at the same time.

Zoho Writer now has fixed that issue. Two or more users can colloborate on a document, which it does by locking off a paragraph someone else is working on, rather than the file itself. Like Google Spreadsheet’s collaborative capabilities it makes a world of difference.

Simultaneous collaboration + Online/Offline = Squash in computing heaven

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