I’m writing this article at 35,000ft above sea-level, on a flight from London Heathrow to Atlanta. Before taking off, I sat in the marvel of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 building watching MotoGP on my smartphone, in what looked like an immaculate resolution.
At the start of the summer, I took most of the family and some friends to Fort William to climb Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak. Whilst the 2001 census reported that Fort William has only 10,000 people living in the town, I suspect there is regularly the same number again in tourists and visitors. Whilst in Fort William, my phone hardly had any reception. In fact, my mobile hardly worked north of Glasgow. Other members of the journey were on different networks, and coverage was also patchy across the group. Continue reading The digital divide in the UK→
Whilst doing some research at work on innovation within the Publishing industry, a colleague of mine found a leaked report from the New York Times from March this year (the full article is at the end of this page).
At 94 pages, it’s a must-read for anyone within Publishing. I took 11 key points from the document:
(page 16) Hallmarks of disruptors… number 4: “Initially inferior to existing products.” This is so true. Almost every time we work on a new innovative project, there will always be someone criticising that product A does things better, or product B is more comprehensive. The answer is twofold – firstly, you can have something more superior, but it will take a lot longer and cost a lost more money; and secondly, it’s part and parcel of developing something new. Remember Twitter’s outages? Remember how basic Facebook looked?
Imagine you were the CEO of Twitter before it made any money. You have several million users all posting content all day long, and several more million users consuming this content without posting.
You have a few options at this stage – you can make the website look the same as all other websites and sprinkle some ad placements over the page, but this won’t work on mobile and it may devalue your proposition of keeping a vertical conversational timeline simple.
I like reading autobiographies to understand what makes people tick and how they meet their aims. (Incidentally I have ‘Drive’ on my reading pile at home at the moment). The Guardian website has a great article on the daily routines of history’s most creative minds. It’s very interesting, and in itself it’s a summary of the book Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a skill that everyone in Digital Media should understand. I try to brush up on my SEO skills every couple of years, so I’m halfway through SEO: An Hour a Day. I’ve read a few SEO articles and wanted a book which I could concentrate on without distractions. It’s comprehensive and approaches SEO correctly – i.e. from a business goal point of view and not ‘I just want to appear higher in Google results’.
The Tao of Twitter is the best resource I’ve read about how to use Twitter. It was easy to read in a couple of days. I then went back through the book with a highlighter pen over all the simple hints and tips. Thoroughly recommended.
If you have any interest in content publishing – digital or traditional, you’ll like this paper. Some of the biggest names on the Internet and business contributed to the white paper, include Sir Martin Sorrell, Eric Schmidt, Arianna Huffington, Tim Berners-Lee, Dick Costolo, and the list goes on. The paper was produced in September 2013, so it also covers Jeff Bezos purchasing The Washington Post.
A highly recommended read, full of nostalgia and incredible business deals.
My view of the future of the Internet is that many free apps and sites we currently take for granted will soon charge small amounts (nanopayments). I was discussing Facebook with a friend recently who said they won’t join Facebook until Facebook pay people to join. His point of view is that Facebook make their revenue from user generated content (UGC), so they should pay users for that content. It’s an interesting point.
One of my favourite user generated content websites is TripAdvisor. In fact, when I go away from home both with the family and on business travel, I almost always review the place I’ve just been to. And just as importantly, I usually review the place I’m going to on TripAdvisor before I book.
Financially, TripAdvisor is doing well – in revenue growth, profitability and cash flow. According to Yahoo!, the financial highlights are as follows:
Fiscal Year Ends:
Most Recent Quarter (mrq):
31 Mar 2013
Profit Margin (ttm):
Operating Margin (ttm):
Return on Assets (ttm):
Return on Equity (ttm):
Revenue Per Share (ttm):
Qtrly Revenue Growth (yoy):
Gross Profit (ttm):
Net Income Avl to Common (ttm):
Diluted EPS (ttm):
Qtrly Earnings Growth (yoy):
Total Cash (mrq):
Total Cash Per Share (mrq):
Total Debt (mrq):
Total Debt/Equity (mrq):
Current Ratio (mrq):
Book Value Per Share (mrq):
Cash Flow Statement
Operating Cash Flow (ttm):
Levered Free Cash Flow (ttm):
TripAdvisor’s business model, which should be called UGBM (User Generate Business Model – I just made this up), demonstrates what my friend was describing – users such as me, providing reviews of where to stay, and earning TripAdvisor literally a couple of million dollars per day.
We need a Single Sign On across the web, from a truly trusted brand
Sellers need to know who customers are, just as much as we need to identify real retailers
Web sites that build a reputation score will need to transfer their data
To give you an idea of how ridiculous passwords have become, let’s look at my bank. My bank is one of the most technically advanced banks, and has created some great innovations.
I use their website banking, which uses a log in process that has been designed to deter users from using the service. It takes two screens, a physical device to generate a random number, and various other forms of identity.
And then take their mobile app. With a simple 5 digit numerical passcode, I can do almost anything I can do via the website equivalent. Either the security department went on holiday when the mobile app was released, or they came to their senses to make it easier for customers to access their account. I hope it was the latter but it was probably the former.
Passwords are one of the biggest nuisances of the Internet. Another nuisance is multiple accounts. The number of accounts we have, and continue to keep creating, has got out of control. Not only is it out of control, but we then have security experts telling us not to use the same password on multiple sites. And personally I won’t use a password manager because I fear they are all run by some spotty (but clever) teenager from his bedroom, and one day he’ll have access to lots of people’s accounts and go on a spending spree at Amazon.
If I see a website offering to use my Facebook or Twitter credentials to register or login to a website, I’ll always take the offer. It’s so much easier.
The problem with websites offering Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter is that the social network gets to keep the customer data, not the website we’re registering with. And also, whilst I’m happy to use a social network to log me on to various websites, I’m not sure I would use Facebook connect for my healthcare or pension site.
We need a Single Sign On system across the internet from a trusted party. It needs to be trusted by both users and website owners – from my bank to the Inland Revenue (whose authentication system is extremely rigid).
Once we have the Single Sign On system, it needs to keep a track of our various reputation scores. I have an eBay account with 100% positive feedback amassed over a few years and over 500 ratings, both buying and selling. So when I join a site such as TripAdvisor, or AirBandB, that eBay should count for something.
As the Internet continues to become more complex, retailers need to know their customers are who they say they are, and can be trusted. We’ve been using SSL security certificates on the Internet for a long time now, and as a means of ensuring we are buying from a company who is who they say they are. It’s now time for the other way round – for customers to prove who they are.
This type of system is called VRM (Vendor Relationship Management). It’s all about making the Internet a level playing ground, establishing trust that we take for granted in the real world, and migrate it to the virtual one. All with the aim of being treated as a real human being rather than an IP address and cookie jar.
There was a great article in the Sunday Times last week about fake reviews on the Internet. Some senior figures at well-known book publishers have been writing positive reviews on Amazon and other sites using false names, and were uncovered by a Sunday Times investigation.
I don’t have a problem with the fake reviews – we’ve had product packaging for several years that hasn’t been entirely honest. And how many times have you been to see a film that received fantastic press reviews that you thought was a waste of time? I do have a problem with using a fake name, especially on Amazon where you can use a nickname instead.
Walk along any market and listen to the traders explain how their products, whether it’s fruit, clothing or pretty much anything else, are the best on the market.
It’s natural human instinct to promote one’s own work, especially where sales are involved. If I wrote a book, I’d definitely ask friends and family to review the product online, and I would hope that those closest to me would be more favourable.
This is one of the issues I have with LinkedIn recommendations. The only people who write the recommendations are friends and colleagues who will always give a highly biased view of an individual. People who recommend others on LinkedIn don’t include any of the negative aspects of the person they’re reviewing, so I don’t see why we expect any difference from a publisher who is trying to sell a book.
Another month, another new social network. But this time there’s a difference – the new latest best thing is British. Menshn caught my attention on the BBC News website last Wednesday. It’s been launched by Conservative MP Louise Mensch who is actively participating on the new network (I can vouch for this because we had a quick digital exchange over the weekend).
Menshn is a combination between Twitter, mainly because of the 180 character limit on content updates, and classic discussion forums.
At the moment the forums are fixed – in fact there are only 5 ‘topics’ – uselection, women, tech, ukpolitics and euro2012. I suspect that the latter topic will close down soon.
In fact, that’s the point – if a topic doesn’t have any updates for a period of time, the plan is that it will automatically close.
Menshn has all the feeling of being created on a tight budget. There are several bugs in the platform, but I’m guessing that most early adopters almost embrace the 75% finished platform. More traffic will attract more funding, and more funding will iron out those bugs and provide more features (such as user generated topics).
Menshn was launched in the US apparently to help support the US election campaign. The original plan was to launch in the UK in the next few weeks, however I received an invite on Sunday morning and registered straight away. The first surprise is the amount of publicity and traffic (Menshn has had almost 200k uniques in a few days) and that each of the five topics only have a couple of hundred members.
It’s nice having the topics rather than the complete lack of structure that Twitter has survived with. I can’t quite put my finger on what Menshn provides over traditional forums and discussion boards, except to say it provides more of a real-time conversation ‘atmosphere’ than forums which feel like they happen more slowly.
Because of the conversation/ group style of Menshn, it means that if you provide a legible update, chances are someone will respond, rather than Twitter which can seems like a whoever-shouts-loudest approach, or sometimes like a mass-announcement platform rather than conversational.
Menshn appears to be moderated at the moment, and I’m not sure how much longer this will continue, or whether topic owners will be able to moderate their own areas.
In the meantime, I wish Louise and the rest of the team at Menshn the very best of luck with this British adventure, and hope it grows into a success story for them all. Contact me at @bradbox on Twitter or //bradbox on Menshn at any time!