Tuesday, December 19, 2006

So …. did one of my entries get edited?

I have to admit that yes, I recently took the unprecedented step of editing one of my blogs after it had been posted, but I think it was with good reason.

In my usual style, I tend to flavour my posts with a little bit of humour (some might say a very little bit) and added a post in which opened with some frivolous rants provided in a very light-hearted context. Reading the full blog, it would have been clear what my intended message was, however it seemed that one journalist in particular decided to paraphrase these frivolous comments and use them, out of context, as the basis for an article.

Despite a couple of phone calls and an email chain asking that the context and intent my blog be preserved, the article was printed this week, suggesting that I was “attacking” free to air TV stations.

I was not.

The intention of my blog was to communicate my support for the strategies of some of the visionary activities we are seeing in the market - including from free to air stations extending their reach via complementary delivery channels - which I am pleased to say, we are working very closely to support. Unfortunately, this message was not preserved and so I took the liberty of taking my humourous entrée out. Hopefully the blog as it stands now leaves no doubt.

If my opinions were taken out of context, I apologise.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Yuletide is rising ....

A quick note in what is already a crazy week (there are ALWAYS last minute things that our clients need done before Christmas) to reflect on the year.

In a "very unusual year full of very unusual things" we have seen some pretty significant, structural changes in the digital services and associated markets. It was the year that the online marketing budgets got serious (well, a little serious anyways - we still have a way to go). It was the year that the majority got connected and the connections got quicker. More people are using digital channels to become informed, to be entertained, to communicate, to consume, to connect and the range, depth and quality of services we offer is rising to meet these ever increasing demands.

This was the year of YouTube, MySpace and YourThis and OurThat - but importantly it was the year that the consumers got involved - and the Web 2.0 movement was born. (I am working on Web 4.0 - just you wait until you see that!!).

On a personal front, it was the year I got to see first hand the evolution of a good company into a GREAT company. I have watched some amazing, intelligent and motivated professionals create some outstanding and ingenious things for our clients. These are truly EXTRAORDINARY people. (and no - I won't limit this sort of praise to the company newsletter - I am loud and I am proud when it comes to my colleagues!).

Finally, it was a year in which I saw our investors and supporters get rewarded for their belief in what we have done and their faith that we can deliver what we we are setting out to do. Thank you.

Most of all ... it was the year in which we set out to change the world..... and dammit!! we are doing it!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Old habits die hard...

I have to admit that I am a little surprised that the traditional media has fallen into their usual "summer schedule" for 2006/07, raking very hard at the bottom of the content barrel for muck to fill the timeslots until "ratings season" starts again in the new year. To some extent these "old habits" are a function of the way the industry used to work - things were measured during the ratings periods and the content offerings were scheduled accordingly... and I guess that "Liposuction Live 2002 - Where Are They Now" and re-runs of re-runs 0f re-runs are going too keep the viewers committed to good old free to air TV for what, 13 or 14 weeks.....

There has to be some risk to this strategy, since we are now in a time and a market where consumers have a wider range of choices. Sure there is some great sport on the box this summer, but the filler around it is not providing too many "must watch" moments from what I can see. To my mind, this is going to provide consumers with a good chance to try some new sources of entertainment and I expect that the rich media content websites live Heavy.com, YouTube and MySpace can expect to see some extra traffic over the coming couple of months.

I don't necessarily think that this will mean that consumers will leave TV in droves, but rather that there will be a bigger chunk of the viewing audience who come out of this summer period with a different set of expectations about how they obtain and consume their entertainment. Over the last year consumers have shown us that they want greater choice and flexibility in the way they get their entertainment and digital channels are increasingly an integral part of that.

In my opinion the smart operators are already acknowledging this and are implementing strategies to take advantage of the best that digital channels have to offer. Well constructed websites and mobile content provide great ways to engage consumers outside of the timeslots in which this content is broadcast. We are already seeing the internet being used to engage consumers in the lead up to, and alongside FTA TV content, as well as providing a way to maintain engagement after a show has been broadcast. I very strongly believe that the quality of the content will be what allows it to draw and retain an audience and integrating digital channels to the broadcast schedule will allow broadcasters to leverage this quality to a greater extent and for longer periods of time. In my opinion, it is important to create distinct engagement around the content as well as the broadcaster to ensure that consumers engage in the way which best suits them.

So what of this summer and summers coming? I think that the future will show us that customers want content which entertains them when they want to consume it. I may have missed an episode of a show and want to catch up on a story, be involved in the development of the next installment of the series, or be entertained by supporting content and services between seasons. For me, now is the time to acknowledge that consumers connect as much with the content as they do with the organisation who delivers it, and to implement strategies accordingly.

The great and exciting thing is that all of this is happening at a time when the technology, the channels and the understanding of the business have evolved sufficiently to help to realise the potential of digital channels. We have reached an exciting time in the evolution of entertainment and the industry it supports and are witnessing the consequences of the work we have done as we set about changing the world.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

You Oughta be in Pictures......

This week I had the privilege of appearing on the cover of respected Australian advertising industry publication, Adnews in an article entitled "Lord's Digital Lair." They don't publish these features on the website, so the only place to read it is in the 17th November issue.

This article talks about Hyro and how we are in the process of bringing "geeks and creatives" together to create our Digital Services offering. I thought the journo, Paul McNamara did a great job of filtering the empassioned ramblings of a digital services zealot down into a concise summary of what it is that we are doing at Hyro and why we are in a great position to respond to the needs of our clients.

One of the points the article does pick up on, is one that you will be hearing more and more from me in coming months - the commercial risks of poorly executed digital services.

There is no denying that the effects of the structural changes going on in advertising and marketing are starting to bite. In the last week I have heard of two traditional ad agencies who have announced with a flurry that they have "made an important hire" who will "head up our new digital arm" and a terrifying chill ran down my spine.

My concerns come from two fronts; the first is that in a vain attempt to delay the effects of the shift to digital services, agencies will attempt to trivialise the digital channels by trying to convice their clients that shiny Flash animations and banner ads constitute a digital services strategy. Even scarier is that they will gain a sense of the commercial significance of the digital channels, and the need to integrate the commerce with the communciation, and will actually try to do it themselves.

This stuff is complex and should be left to the experts.

In building Hyro, we are treating each of ingredients required for successful digital services delivery with the respect they deserve. Each of the teams we bring together to service our clients (the "geeks and creatives" plus the consultants, project managers, identity specialists, security professionals, experience and usability professionals, campaign experts and more) are well established units, part of a team that has been building digital solutions for more than a decade.

We are dealing with significant business systems which have material commercial considerations. Yes - the creative execution is absolutely critical to the success of our clients' communication and marketing objectives, but so to is the ability to take the order, service the customer, bank the cash. Not getting it right - building solutions which do not perform consistently, are not fully secure, are not tightly integrated to the creative, are not robust - has very serious consequences. I don't think it will be too long before we see an agency sued for lost revenue or other damages because the system they delivered was hacked, or because the ordering system fell over, or because the privacy legislation was breached.....

So my word of advice to the agencies - don't rush into this. We have been "getting ready" for more than a decade. The organistional knowledge and experience that comes from a long term team who have worked on more than 2,500 projects is NOT something you can recreate by throwing money and people into a room. Be aware that the risks that you are dealing with are not just yours - they are also your clients'. By asking them to commit to your "new digital arm" you will asking them to gamble on you getting it right......

When we set out actively market our Digital Services offering, we did it because we are ready. Ready to do everything required to deliver the communications, marketing, customer service and commercial requirements of our clients.... and ready to change the world.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

WOW .... Wireless which changes everything ....

We had the pleasure of spending a big chunk of the weekend in the company of our good friends G&S at their beach house across the bay from Adelaide. Outside of the fact that the beach house is just SENSATIONAL (one of the most beautiful homes I have had the pleasure of visiting) I also got a little taste of the future.

This beach house is located 50m from a gorgeous beach on the Great Southern Ocean and has great views all the ways to Adelaide. It is dirt roads in and out and there are maybe 25 buildings in the community - no shops, so schools, nothing.

My job requires me to work some unpredictable hours at the moment (some might say it is a little sad, being on the beach with a laptop, but we ARE building a world-class company here) so armed with my laptop and my new Telstra NextG Data Card I took a few minutes to send an email.

The screen shot to the right shows the reported data speed from this card, from this connection - a WHOPPING 1.8Mb/s down and 203kb/s up..... absolutely plenty of bandwidth for most of the things I need to be able to do when working on my laptop.

I haven't devoted very much of this blog to talking about specific products and services, but I have to say that I am very impressed with the NextG network. The mobile broadband is exceptional; stable, fast and very easy to use and I find it is a fabulous business tool. Well done Telstra and their partners!

(I have to confess that we do some great work for Telstra, specifically for the NextG mobile platform, but this does not bias my opinions here - this is a very good quality service!).

This does change everything. Areas which were previously "remote" in terms of decent, commercial grade bandwidth are becoming increasingly connected. Even more significantly, the constraint we have had on delivering rich media digital services off the "tethered network" are now VERY possible. Think animated billboards, mobile advertising, rich-media point of sale and more.

Hang on to your hats as we will now see the rate of change for communications, advertising and entertainment step up another notch .... the thing I really love about my job (and yes it is that we get to change the world) is that our team are the No.1 team in Australia to help our corporate and government clients to make the most of this exciting accelerated change.....

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

So .... where do YOU want to work today?

One of my esteemed colleagues pointed me to an article in Computerworld this week which gleefully describes that Microsoft is currently seeking to hire about 50 people in Australia and New Zealand (and then goes on to describe how they go about this, who they are looking for and at what stage in the process the chip is inserted into the brain…. ). On reading this I couldn’t help but draw comparisons with the work that we are doing at Hyro on team building and growth.

Right now at Hyro, we have about 25 positions available across our Australian operations in a wide variety of roles. All of these positions are there for reasons of growth, both current and future – as we have said a few times in the market announcements we have made, most of our clients are buying more of our digital services offerings and our reputation is bringing more clients. A great position to be in.

I do think that it is interesting that a little (albeit ASX Listed) company of 150 people in Australia and New Zealand and 250 people world wide, is recruiting half as many people in our market as the biggest software company in the world!

In looking at the comparisons between Hyro and Microsoft, there are many similarities – we are also pretty strict about “who gets in,” how we test for skills, etc – but there are some big differences (as far as I can tell from this article). I think the biggest of these differences is in the basis of the relationship between Hyro and the team, something which we are very focussed on and constantly work at to improve.

As I constantly point out, in order to attract, retain and develop the very best team we can (this is an important part of our promise to our clients) we can’t think of our relationship with our people in terms of the old “master/servant” relationship. Today, every single one of our team is a highly skilled, highly employable, capable professional and we MUST consider ourselves to be COMPETING for the privilege of having those people build their careers in our company.

So what will make them work for Hyro instead of working somewhere else? Well, here is my 5 minute checklist (in no particular order):

  • Quality of the Work – everybody wants to work on projects and with clients that are innovative, challenging and interesting. Hyro has worked hard to be at the forefront of the constantly evolving, exciting and (dare I say it) sexy world of the Digital Services industry (and we aren’t finished yet) and so the people who are in our team and join our team can be assured that they will to work on some interesting and transformational projects.
  • Quality of the Team – it is only natural that team members expect to work with others of equal or higher skill and experience as themselves. People want to know that when they take on complex, challenging tasks (which may have an impact on their professional reputation) that they are part of a crack team that will deliver the right results. You have to be strong in only taking on people who will add to the team and be equally strong in removing those people who don’t prove up to the standards required by the team. (Proof? This year we have increased our total headcount by 20, but have actually taken on 40 new employees)
  • Company Culture – where you work must have values that are in line with yours. We maintain some very strong values in our company – honesty, trust, teamwork, fun, commitment to be the best. If your people cannot see their values within your company, then the relationship will ultimately fracture. The team must be PROUD of where they work and the team they are a part of.
  • Reward – this is not just about salary. The people today all want to earn an income and build value and so expect to see that their relationship with their employer will provide a mechanism to create wealth. This is a huge advantage of being a listed company as we can offer equity participation schemes which are real – they are based on equity in a publicly listed company, so it can be delivered, valued, traded. (Proof? We have some people in the company who were invited into our Employee Performance Options Program when the share price was 6 cents and now, less than a year later, it is around 20 cents – a result of the hard work of the whole team. It is only right that those who were a part of building the success have an opportunity to share in it).
  • Flexibility – this is the toughest one for many big companies. In this day and age, many people do not live to work and you need to be able to accommodate the fact that priorities are different and may change from time to time. The differences required range from people with different work patterns (some people AREN’T “Morning People” and so want to work from 10.00 am) or need to work four days a week. The relationship between employer and employee must be a partnership and that implies a mutual obligation which must be respected. (Proof? We are implementing a new program called the Hyro Lifestyle Employment Scheme which, in part, provides a framework for this flexibility.)

I know that in writing this particular blog, I have started to chip at the tip of the iceberg (are there any of those left any more?) and it is hard to say in 600 words what has been, and will continue to be, one of the most complex areas of managing a business today – this is for those experienced and important HR professionals out there. What I can say (and here I am being repetitive again) is that you MUST think DIFFERENTLY about the relationship you have with your people .... particularly if you expect those people to go out there and change the world.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fried Frogs and Chunky Monkey Muggings....

I am currently making one of my Quarterly Review trips to Hyro Thailand and have had few experiences this trip which will I am sure I will remember. I don't usually get a lot of time on these trips and am usually in and out within a week, but this time I have had a couple of diversions from the usual business focus.

Last Thursday I had the arduous task of entertaining some important business contacts at the Thai Country Club, a VERY nice golf course about 45 minutes out of central Bangkok, soon to host the Volvo Masters (Tiger Woods has a permanent locker at the course .... I wonder what he keeps in there).

After a less than impressive round (I did manage to shoot three pars in street shoes with borrowed clubs about 2 inches too short for me) it was back to the club house for "refreshments" and discussion. While the talk soon turned to business opportunities in Thailand and near shore markets, some food was ordered and I enjoyed some of the nicest "quail" I have had for a long time .... apparently this was better described as "pond quail" and I found out after about my fourth mini-drumstick that I had just experienced my first fried frogs leg.... and it was pretty good.

The second experience was that one of my colleagues celebrated her wedding on the weekend, a wonderful event held at the family home in the nearby town of Petchburi (about 120 Kms South West of Bangkok). Although the event started at 6.30 am with a parade to take the groom from the local temple to the family home (which meant a 4.00 am start from Bangkok!) it was a lovely day with a great combination of involvement of family and friends in the celebration and formal ceremonies to complete the marriage. It was a privilege and a pleasure to be invited.

On the drive back, we made a detour to the Khao Ban Dai It Temple just outside of Petchburi. This is the smaller of a couple of temples which have been built into limestone caves and they are just beautiful. The pinpoints of light coming through holes in the ceiling to strike gold covered Buddha statues have a very regal and stirring effect.. these are special places of very high importance to the people.

One of the more interesting features of this temple is that the resident Monks have taken to caring for the local monkeys. Visitors are "encouraged" to buy food for the monkeys from the temple nuns ... a little money spinner to keep the temple running no doubt. Trouble is that food for the monkeys is served in the same white plastic bags as any food for people and my friends Alice and Justin decided to grab a mid-morning snack of cooked bananas from the nuns. It only took about five minutes before Alice came under the watchful eye of the fattest, nastiest looking monkey in the temple - apparently he knew about fried banana and knew that it was good and in a move of which any action hero would be jealous, he staged a guerilla strike and tore the bag from Alice's hand .... a full blown Monkey Mugging which brought a smile to the faces of a couple of nearby monks and which, no doubt, has developed a new phobia for Alice.

So what are the "insights" from all of this .... well, the first is that the "coup" here in Thailand a little over a month ago has had little effect on the people and commerce of Thailand. All signs of business and day to day life are back to normal and some may say a little more positive.... Thailand is moving ahead.

The second is that when you get to Thailand, make an effort to get out of Bangkok ... there is so much to see. This is an old country with a lot of history and many things you won't see in other places From the pleasure of driving through the rice paddies on either side, to seeing some of the temples, beaches, mountains and more, to the sport and adventure of braving Bangkok traffic on the way back into town, you will really enjoy the experience.

Now .... more work to be done ... since we are still changing the world.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I love this digital services industry ….. in the time that it has taken for most major corporations to get through a “strategic planning cycle” we have seen a new company be born, one of the worlds top entertainment destinations created and the business then sold for US$1.65 billion (that’s A$2.215 billion at today’s exchange rate). Of course, I am talking about You Tube – a site which relies on mankind’s voyeuristic inclination – and clearly MILLIONS of people want to either view or be viewed.

This thing is a juggernaut of consumer generated (and sometimes consumer purloined) content. Everywhere I look for information about the growth, use and take up of You Tube, the story is the same. Our friends at Neilsen/Netratings have reported that traffic to You Tube grew by 297% in the first half of 2006. In the WEEK of 16th July 2006, more than 12,000,000 people visited the site and stayed on average 28 minutes (up from 17 minutes a visit six months prior) and page views are through the roof. These people (20% more likely to be men) are visiting more often, spending more time and viewing much more content. The ability to “build your own entertainment” is a very strong proposition for consumers and the You Tube story shows this to be the case.

So what doe this deal mean? It means that Google has pulled another coup (like MySpace). You can spend a lot of time analysing the complex valuation dynamics of the estimated net present value of the future income streams based on a wide range of variables… or you can just “get it” – GOOGLE GOES WHERE THE EYEBALLS ARE.

In simple terms, YouTube is one of the internet’s most visited sites, and so is MySpace and so is Google – I tried to quickly find some reliable stats for October, but the traffic to these three sites (including their mail services) now seems to be over 10% of all internet traffic. That is a LOT of eyeballs!

Even more interesting is the flow of traffic between these sites. MySpace is YouTube’s most important source for traffic, with internet traffic monitor Hitwise reporting that MySpace has accounted for 16.2% of YouTube’s upstream traffic. Given that Google has just prepaid US$900m for search advertising on MySpace, that is traffic that Google would have been happier to see stay on MySpace. Google has bought more of this “traffic loop” giving them more penetration into the flow of internet traffic.

Finally, You Tube has been killing Google Video in the video search stakes – the graph at left from our friends at Hitwise highlights by just how much. Given that we all expect to see some big increases in video search as bandwith increases and rich media devices become more prolific, this investment gives them an amazing head start in this race.

IMAGE SOURCE: Hitwise Pty Limited - http://weblogs.hitwise.com/leeann-prescott/2006/10/google_youtube_rumor_-_hitwise.html

I love this stuff... because we are changing the world!

Monday, October 09, 2006

More MMAgic......

WE WON!!!!!


Thanks to our clients for their support and the team for doing a great job.!!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Trend-surfing .... the great Digital Wave!

I picked up an article in the Australian Financial Review and AdNews (you need subscriptions to both to access these articles online) quoting research from the Commercial Economic Advisory Service of Australia ("CEASA") showing the current trends in Online Advertising. These statistics are expressed in terms of share of total advertising spend.

It is pretty easy to get carried away in detailed analysis of these statistics, but I see three very interesting trends.
  1. Despite media rhetoric to the contrary, the share of advertising spend represented by newspapers and TV is decreasing (the CEASA report as reported in the AFR goes on to say that spending in thse categories did increase in nominal terms, but the share of spend is increasing at a rate less than inflation).
  2. Clearly, the FASTEST growing category is Online Advertising (the think green line in this chart). Note in this case, the share of ad spend is increasing at an INCREASING rate.
  3. Online Advertising is now EQUAL in terms of total spend to radio advertising.

These statistics are, for me, one of the most telling indicators of the change we are experiencing in the Digital Services space. REAL money is moving into this category and it is coming at the expense of the traditional channels which have dominated marketing and advertising for the last half century and the century before that.

This presents interesting challenges for marketers... according to these trends, you now need to allocate AT LEAST 9% of your advertising expenditure to Digital Channels and, according to recent research done for eMitch by Roy Morgan Research, you will need to increase this to 21% over the coming twelve months.... and don't be scared to ask for help, there are some of us out there who have been doing this stuff long enough to help you be successful as you move your spend online.

This is why I love my job.... we ARE changing the world.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Hyro team.....MMAgic!!!

Another fleeting post, but a good one!

The Hyro Team have just been advised that we have become finalists in TWO categories in the 2006 Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) Mobile Marketing Awards ('MMAs'). This is outstanding!!

Hyro has been nominated alongside our clients Telstra for the work we did together to bring Australians the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games via their 3G mobiles and with RPM for the mobile CRM work we have together there. The team have done an outstanding job and produced a great result for our clients - well done and I am proud of you all.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thanks to B&T ....

I received an invitation to submit an opinion piece on the recent chain of events surrounding the News Corp, MySpace, Google transactions.

You can read this here.

Thanks to the B & T team for their offer and their support for this first contribution.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

There is no such thing as a free lunch....

I have been reminded over the last few weeks that one needs to be very careful of "experts" who are clearly out of their depth - these are dangerous people and they must be stopped!

I was an interested bystander to a conversation between one of my clients at their very swisho. shiny ad-agency. Both regular readers will know that one of my pet hates is the way some of these agencies are rushing to create "online teams" to respond to the changes that are happening in that industry (see various other rants on this front). As I keep saying, this stuff is complex and you cannot merely create a capacity overnight by sticking a bunch of people in a barn and adding an 'i' or an 'e' to your agency name.

In this case, the agency told our client that loading an online version of a TVC onto YouTube was a great, "free" way to kick off a viral campaign. When challenged that the perception that "YouTube was free" might not be the way things really were, the agency whiz-kid became quite agitated and suggested that we didn't really know what we were talking about. Please, my friend - defer to the Terms and Conditions and read the words carefully (they are in English and the sentences aren't too long, so you should be OK). The site is free for personal use.

In response to this, Whiz-kid rebutted that "Nike and Audi did it" and that "we do it for lots of our clients." Sorry to rattle your reality my wonderful whiz-kid friend - these companies PAID to put their ads up.

So what is the issue? The issue here is twofold - the first is that this agency representative was blindly and naively instructing his client to use a website in fairly obvious breach of the terms and conditions. He even went as far as to suggest that there could be ways to "beat the system" by "having a friend load the content" and "not including any links to the client websites." Bush lawyering at best - professional negligence at worst.

The second issue is that this guys is holding himself out to be an EXPERT and no doubt is charging accordingly, yet basic principles of business, commercial risk management and contracts appear to evade him. It is time for these fringe pretenders jumping a bit too late onto the digital services industry bandwagon to wake up to themselves. If commercial considerations don't drive you to make sure that you actually know how to do what it is that you offer your clients, then maybe respect for your clients will.

Finally - and a genuine question - do these agencies carry decent professional indemity insurance? Who is going to foot the bill when a client unwittingly follows this flawed advice, loads their content onto a site like YouTube, has it downloaded by 50,000,000 people around the world (most of whom probably aren't in their serviceable market) and then receives an invoice (or letter of demand) from the site owner for 10 cent (or even one cent) per view? THIS IS HOW THESE SITES ARE GOING TO MAKE MONEY - understand this.

At Hyro, we think about this stuff. This digital services business is not just about the creative and technical elements - it is about the business of the digital economy (and that include the contracts, deals and business of the digital world). You have to understand this stuff and have systems and processes in place to consider it all ........ especially if you are going to change the world.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Good people are great to find ....

We have a great four or five weeks on the recruitment front. We implemented a new recruitment process within Australia and New Zealand, and created some internal service levels; resumes must be reviewed within 24 hours of receipt and suitable candidates interviewed within 3 business days. And what an impact this has had.

In July, we hired 21 new people in Australia and New Zealand, right across the business. On seeing some of the resumes, these are outstanding people, with great experience and a lot to add to our business. When I think about the existing team and what these new people can bring ... WOW!! Hyro is really hitting its straps!!

I think some of the success in attracting good quality resumes can be attributed to the progress the whole Hyro team is making. We are getting a reputation in our market for good quality work and a strong commitment to our clients and I think this helps to attract the right people.

The process is continuing, so if either of you dear readers thinks you have something to add to Hyro, please give us a call! Who knows, you could find yourself helping to change the world....

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Emergence of Convergence....

Looking at the Microsoft web site and I noticed that Microsoft has launched a range of webcams and are marketing them as digital communication devices. This has come hot on the heels of the lanch of the new Windows Live Messenger - the replacement for MSN Messenger which to my mind is Microsoft's response to Skype (we'll see how that goes, but the theory seems right).

This observation comes in the same week that I took delivery of a new XBox360 - the Microsoft second generation games console and media device. It was this second reason that drove me to acquire one as I am in the throws of setting up a home media network (the XBox360 will act as a terminal to access any digital content stream on either a Media Centre PC or a WindowsXP machine - apparently). It is an impressive piece of technology.... the integration of the networking technology and the fact that the profile links to my MSN ID is impressive. It is fine to talk about this concept of multi-channel access to consumers, but this is the concept in action.

The link between a webcam for Windows Live Messenger and my XBox360 comes from my sense that we are watching a gradual piecing together of a generational shift in communications, media and entertainment -and the true convergence of the three. Behind the scenes, companies like Microsoft, Sony and others are working hard to build an internet based "backbone" of profile services and information designed to facilitate this convergence. My MSN profile powers the preferences for my XBox Live account. My communications - now voice, video and email - are now linked to an account through which I can consume content and entertainment. I can currently buy games online through XBox Live and I am sure that movies, music and other content is not far away (especially given the announcement of the Microsoft ZUNE over the last couple of weeks - their much vaunted "iPod Killer") and the fact that Windows Vista is purporting to even better support for rich-media content. This is one vendors take on how to bring all of these things together, but it is a vendor who has started to deliver some real, workking products to the market.

So ... what's the point? The point is that the notion of convergence is very quickly becoming a reality. By integrating all of these functions, applications and content at the "software" layer, the vendors are changing the playing field. A telco no longer provides the capacity to make phone calls (let alone video calls), I no longer need to visit a retailer to buy a game, I don't need to go to a video store to get a movie and I buy my music by the song, not by the album. The usual gumpf about the "shift in the balance of power" would fit here, but for me, it is the signficance of all of this coming together into a ubiquitously accessible "user profile" which is the real story. The digital channels are narrowing their focus - it is all about ME (well all the "MEs connected to the internet)!

For marketers and providers of content and services to consumers, it is time for a wake up call - get your head around the "real convergence" - the convergence of content, services, profiling, marketing, information, resources, entertainment - EVERYTHING in a user-centric model. Clever marketers are not jumping onto the YouTube bandwagon now and hoping to be cool (that is Soooooooo last month), nor are they racing to generate podcasts of mediocre, self-indulgent, low-value promotional waffle. They are working hard to understand what consumers want from a converged model and how to reach them in this environment.

Our team are working on some very cool ideas in this space, albeit that getting the clients to be brave enough to reach into the new market opportunity. We are learning (and applying) the important principles of "shared value" and "user defined services" and a whole bunch more. Some of these things are very clever abd I am sure will deliver some significant innovation to our clients... but then, the team are working pretty hard to change the world!!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Not alone out there......

I just saw Dave Clutterbuck's latest opinion column for AdNews and I have to say that I AGREE!!

From what I can see the Big Idea is like the flash of light from a magician’s wand – Divert the attention away from what is really going on while you work furiously to pull a rabbit out of the hat (which NO ONE was expecting)...... sure.....

Is the industry pursuit of the Big Idea really a tacit admission that given the volatile and variable state of the advertising industry these days that the veneer of “value” that some of the agencies used to provide in a structured, oligopolised “old world adland” is starting to wear through. Is it that some of those agencies that have always held themselves out to be “oh so creative” have actually been found wanting in a market where the old rules no longer apply and you actually have to be…. dare I say it…. creative?

I sit in amazement as the industry reacts to change, as Dave rightly says, with a rush to becoming Experts In Everything ("EiE" - I've created a new TLA!!!) – the perspective I see is that the integrated agency of the future is going to be switched on, plugged in, juiced up and able to deal with all the marketing needs of the cyber-generation*. Trouble is, it is a little harder than that and the industry had better wake up.

There is a potential credibility storm brewing as agencies race to enter the digital services markets Рpurporting to their clients that they can handle all things online. This naivet̩ is fostered by the assumption that the internet (and increasingly mobiles) is a creative medium and so surely must be the domain of the ad agency, but the real concern is that this is a genuine collision of marketing and technology and it is all a little harder than that.

You can integrate the offer / message with the ability to act on the offer / message which means that commerce is going on – and commerce means money is changing hands and money changing hands means that there is real business risk, first hand. Campaigns are connected to business systems and this creates an opportunity for the bad guys out there… and agencies aren’t generally equipped to deal with this.

There are stories out there even today; the agency who launched a campaign for a FINANCIAL INSTITUTION earlier this year which was hacked in under an hour. No money was stolen but surely such a compromise cuts to the very core of the FI’s value proposition – security, safety and trust. (by the way, the creative was spectacular….) We see tonnes of executions which don’t comply with the privacy laws (those pesky laws), aren’t accessible and are just badly designed. I have first hand experience of an agency supplying creative for an online campaign which was 76MB (please upload this for us), designed for an Apple Mac super screen (over 1900 pixels wide) and with no navigation in or out…. Just amateur really. It takes years to develop the skills and capability in this space and throwing money at a room full of geeks won’t achieve any shortcuts.

So the purpose of this rant – in these times of change, PLEASE Agency Colleagues, divert your attentions to understanding the science and structure of marketing in the new world and avoid the rush to EiE … there are plenty of very clever SPECIALIST companies out there… get to know and love them!!

* Cyber everything is a term which must be due for re-propogation.
PS> I am thinking that to take on this trend I should start an agency called CyberEiE.com ... see if I can capture EVERY buzz-word....

Sunday, July 23, 2006

You ROCK my world!! (Ode to a great team)

A busy week this week with a round of investor presentations in Melbourne and Sydney and the announcement of our interim half yearly results (audited results will come out in a couple of weeks) and it has been a real pleasure.

The company (Hyro) has been working through a plan we set out a little over a year ago. As I explained in our presentations, there were three things we had to do; clear the decks of the history we inherited when we joined Hyro, set the company onto a commercial footing (which means operating profitably) and then pt everything into place to make the most of the opportunity ahead of us.

I am pleased to say (and it is in the announcements) that the team have achieved everything we set out to do - on time and a little ahead of expectations. The company has posted an operating profit for the second quarter (which has taken us into an operating profit for the half) and all of the tactical and strategic things we have had to do have been done, on time.

There aren't any great secrets to this; we have a wonderful team of people who have kept their heads down, their minds on the task and have not, at any stage done anything other than concentrate on doing the very best they can for our clients - these people are amazing!

It is a little humbling - when you can see what this team has been able to do from a starting position well behind where you would like to be and with one hand tied behind their backs thanks to the history they inherited, I can only imagine what they can do now that all the ingredients for success are in place.

And the great thing? At the same time as building the momentum for success, the Hyro team will be changing the world.....

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Interesting times ahead.....

It has been a while since the last post - I'll put it down to a very busy end of financial year, but truth be known, I think the "busy-ness" of the business is only linked in part to the time of year.

I have picked up some publications from a couple of different sectors (advertising, IT, marketing, government and even the magazine which comes in the weekend newspapers) and the news all round is the same - the internet is important, growing and taking corporate and government marketing expenditure and investment funds away from traditional activities.

I saw a statistic in AdNews this week which stated that in the UK, internet advertising will pass MAINSTREAM NEWSPAPERS for the first time this year; 13.3% of marketing spend compared to 13.2% for newspapers - a very significant milestone for our industry.

For us, this is manifesting itself in the increasing demand and increasing "quality of opportunities" we are seeing. Not only are we being asked to respond to more proposals, but the projects are better funded, better developed and more significant than they have been at any time in our recent past. This is getting serious.

The time of year is significant in one respect - the change-over of budget years. In 2005/06, most corporations and governments in our markets were "caught by surprise" and underestimated the significance that online channels would achieve over the last 12 months - most projects were funded from "borrowed funds" from other projects or budget fund. With the passing of th 1st of July, corporate budgets have now been reset and most corporations have allocated explicit funds to digital projects, specifically in the areas on mobile and internet activities.

So... the gun has gone off .... we have spent nearly a dozen years building capability to respond to the opportunity we have in front of us right now. .... now we get to enjoy the challenge, effort and reward of getting to change the world ....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Brief observation ....

One of the Hyro Team, Chris, was presenting at the MobileTV Forum held in Sydney yesterday and is chairing a range of sessions today. As interesting as the range of topics covered by Chris and by others (including the impact of "Shift-TV" and the growing importance of mobile devices in servicing this trend) was the range of people attending.

Representatives from a diverse set of organisations including the free-to-air networks, the telcos, the content companies, the production companies, services companies, technology companies.... you name it, they were there.

This is a game which is really starting to capture the attentions and imaginations of the market in this region .... interest and investment in the space is ramping up and it is an area of the market to keep an eye on ...... so "stay tuned."

Monday, May 29, 2006

I want my MMTV*......

Interesting news today that Microsoft is apparently in negotiations to buy a mobile marketing company in Boston, making this second major new channel marketing acquisition by Microsoft in a little under a month.

One has to think about the strategic and commercial thinking behind these acquisitions (which is pretty obviously about moving up and down the value chain for digital services) but even more importantly, one has to think about why now….. and why are Microsoft buying new-world companies and not bothering with the traditional advertising agencies?

The “why now” question is a fairly significant one since Microsoft has been in the internet space for about 75% of the time that the internet has been mainstream (who out there is old enough to remember the exciting and visionary times of On Australia and the Microsoft Network!!) and certainly has the cash to have acted at any time. My view (DELETED) is that (DELETED) we have arrived at one of those pivotal points in the evolution of the online market; the point at which the various factors which will create a sustainable new market for digital content and services have converged. These factors are:

  • The network works – and to make it even better, there are a couple of variations of networks which work. The internet is fast, reliable, easy and very widely spread and mobile networks are catching up
  • The technology works – the things that used to be complex about using the internet have mostly gone away – the experience has gone from being one for technologists and enthusiasts to being one for the mainstream consumer and that has brought a lot more users!
  • More devices and more digital channels – the internet is no longer restricted to a computer. You can access the internet through more and more devices such as media centre PCs, mobile phones, PDAs, games consoles and devices (like Xbox, PSP and Nintentdo Wii), and new ultraportable computing devices like those produced through the Origami Project. The internet is going to be EVERYWHERE.
  • And the people (and the ad budgets) are coming ….. there are now supposed to be more than a billion internet users worldwide!!

These changes are affecting the way we source, consume and now distribute entertainment (and therefore advertising) and Microsoft has identified that the time is right, very right, to gain a strategic foothold in this space.

So …. Why aren’t they buying the advertising agencies? Well, this isn’t an advertising problem – it is more of a channels / content / services / engagement problem. The challenge now is about finding ways to entice consumers to engage with your brand / company / service and then giving them the channels and tools to be able to use it. It is a new way of thinking about the whole marketing / communications / engagement process and in the main, the mainstream ad agencies aren’t positioned to take advantage of this (but thankfully dedicated Digital Services Companies are#).

Time for some new thinking folks …. The ground is shifting under the feet of the large agencies and from our experience, many of them just aren’t adapting, changing and evolving fast enough.

And back to the MMTV – why do I want it? Because it makes sense. The future of advertising is individual, customised, targeted, available and digital and that’s an exciting world for all marketers, brand owners and for those of us who support them.

As I keep saying …. I really love what we do because we get to change the world.

* Microsoft Mobile TV
# Another blatant Hyro plug but hey, I work there and I am really excited about what we are doing!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A distant rumble becomes a LOUD ROAR....

I have written a couple of times about some of the fundamental changes going on in the advertising market, some of which are quite structural - they affect the foundations of how marketing messages are going to be distributed from this day hence.

An article today, picked up as a snippet in the Australian Financial Review and covered in more detail in some US news publications such as the LA Times Business Section tells of the announcement of video advertising from Google.

It seems like a small announcement, but this is a VERY BIG THING. Google have created a "utility grade infrastructure" which will allow brand marketers to distribute rich media, video and animation advertising content for targeted distribution via popular internet sites. BIG BRAND MARKETERS TAKE HEED - you can now DIRECTLY TARGET your TVCs to the consumers you want to reach by placing your ads on others' websites..... but it gets even better.

This is the internet folks, we can enhance the content you present with highly functional, effective capability to ensure that consumers not only SEE the offer they are presented, but they will also have the capacity ACT ON THE OFFER... it is like a TVC but one that actually works!! It's time to stop talking to old fashioned advertising agencies and to start talking to the specialist Digital Services Companies like Hyro.... (sorry for the blatant plug, but this is what we have been building for more than a dozen years!)

I really do love this stuff that we do - because we are changing the world!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Where oh where has my little blog gone???

A brief hiatus on the blogging front as I took a couple of weeks of leave to enjoy the sun and sand of Koh Samui after a week of work in Thailand (great team there doing great things for the company!). So apologies to both readers for the weeks of absence but I can assure you that the infusion of sun, sand and Singha should ensure even more fruitful postings.....

The trip to Thailand was a great reminder of the way the internet is changing the world - sitting in an internet cafe about 50m from the beach in Koh Samui lodging my footytips over a 1Mb connection shows just how far this has come. The world is very small and your competitors are everywhere.... some of the lucky ones are sitting on sun-drenched beaches while competing in your market!

Back to work and things are busy.... got to get the nose to the grindstone ....

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

People are great .... they do great things.....

It is a few weeks since the last post, weeks which have been consumed by a whole pile of work on a number of fronts. Our company is very busy right now; we have a lot going on in terms of proposals, projects and the work of running a public company.

While I have had a bit to do myself, I have had a chance to witness pretty closely the great things a motivated and capable team of people can achieve. Over the last few weeks, I have seen our team produce some amazing things - from accountants working through the night to deal with the vagueries of new accounting standards through to some of clever creative, technical and consulting people producing some really world-class things. Our sales people have been producing winning pitches and proposals and our operations people have been working hard to keep the wheels turning and getting things done.

Sometimes it is important to lift our heads out of our own little burrows of focus and look around at the things going on around you..... you will quickly appreciate that people are great - they do GREAT things.....

Monday, March 13, 2006

How to Grapple with "Gapple"

I had a couple of interesting conversations last week with clients around coming to grips with what's going on in the Digital Services Space. The last couple of weeks have seen some very interesting activities around the world and a little closer to home. We have seen Google come under some pressure to "grow up," the Apple "innovation factory" continue to turn up the heat on music / video publishing and locally we've seen a major Newspaper publisher pay 3/4 of a billion dollars for a Kiwi auction site, just to name a few of the events of the last week or two.

In one of these discussions we were joking around and I suggested that the big challenge for our clients for the next couple of years was working out how to "grapple with the Gapple" - learning to achieve their corporate objectives in a world where major players have caused structural shifts in the way advertising, media and publishing are done. The Gapple (Google - Apple and others like them) world is one where new players, or non-traditional players are either creating new niches for themselves or "eating the lunch" of traditional players in existing markets.

In thinking about this, it has become clear to me what successful businesses will need to do in order to survive and thrive in this new environment. The simplest message for me is that brand owners have REALLY got to start behaving like just that - start behaving like you OWN THE BRAND!

What does this mean? It means that brand owners have had a pretty formulaic run to date - leveraging a brand in traditional media markets has pretty much been about money (with some exceptions of course). With limited distribution channels and a fairly ologopolistic market, the guy with the most bucks buys the most air-time and gets the greatest attention. Essentially brand owners got to "lease the creativity" of the content providers (and in some cases this term is VERY generous) and then hang on for the ride. The brand owners looked for content and channels which were likely to attract their target customers..... a sort of "one step removed" relationship between the brand and the medium....

But what happens in a world of infinite distribution channels and of infinite choice for consumers? Despite network rhetoric to the contrary, consumers with discretionary income (the ones ALL brand owners want) are switching to the new channels - you ARE going to reach them through search strategies and integration to downloaded content and all of the other opportunities the new Digital Services world brings.

So the first step in winning in this environment? Take OWNERSHIP of your brand - it is time for brand owners to start thinking about greater control of the content, services and messages that you associate with your brands and to look for strategies which get out of being that "one step removed" from your customers. You can now publish, broadcast and distribute your own content - the concept of Brand Owners as Broadcasters is an important strategy for 2006 and beyond. You can create direct, ongoing and high-value relationships with individual customers as the foundation of your marketing strategies....as my colleague Megan Hales say, you can "entertain to engage" and create multi-iteration points of commuication with your customers. You can take CONTROL!

This isn't about the technology any more (but good technology well implemented is at the core of success in this new age) - it is about integrated strategies which continue to evolve and develop as you learn more and determine how to get more out of the channels....

Our company is right in the middle of all this change. Our extraordinary team is really getting some momentum and we are seeing the results of our innovation for our clients. Rich media content, mobile video (for the Commonwealth Games for Telstra - VERY COOL!), adver-gaming and other integrated strategies using Digital Services are proving up for us a lot of the theory, and providing opportunities to learn and evolve those theories even more...... it is very exciting times ....

I really do love this stuff, because we ARE changing the world.... so it is time to Grapple with the Gapple and embrace this outstanding opportunity!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mobiles, Mobiles Everywhere and not a drop to drink ....

A quick post again today as things at work are pretty busy - lots of time being spent working with the team on client proposals and sales activities as the market continues to show the momentum we've enjoyed over the last six months.... some sleep would be good!

One of the things I did get to do in the last couple of days was to attend the AIMIA Lunchtime Forum on Mobile TV in Sydney. This was moderated by one of my colleagues, Chris Flintoft (recent father and all round mobile & broadcast guru) and so it was a chance to get some market context around some of the things we are doing for our clients in the Mobile & Broadcast space.

I guess my first impression was of the number of people there... I'm not much good at crowd estimation but if you told me there were 200 people there, I wouldn't have trouble believing it. The spread of the crowd was interesting as well; from shiny new start-ups to the big media /searchportal / telco players and all the hangers on (I think recruiters provide a REALLY valuable service..... no, really, I do.....) - the crowd was pretty diverse.

My second impression was of the "buzz." I haven't seen this sort of energy in a market segment since about 1998 when all things internet were possible and the world was your oyster. This time around the talk was of "content plays" and "licensing deals" and "subscription models".... stuff I'd heard before but this time it is "personalised and profiled" straight to the hands of the user. I must admit that a couple of people I spoke to said that this sounded a little bit like history repeating itself, but I think that to make that association is to ignore some fundamental truisms of the time we are in right now.

Ten years on since the start of the dot.com boom we know a lot more and things are different.

We now know that not every business case is going to stack up and therefore not every business plan deserves investment. Businesses that aren't in their "natural place" in the market aren't going to survive and trying to "change the paradigm" isn't enough to ensure success. I don't want to dampen the enthusiam of the start-ups there yesterday, but I strongly suggest that they take the time to think about this in the context of their vision for their company - if what you are doing is not in its "natural place in the market" then act now and avoid the pain and cost of finding out the hard way.

We now know that anything that happens in the mobile space needs to be a part of a diverse, multi-channel strategy. The internet needs to link to the mobile to the call centre to the shop counter to the operations of the business - Mobiles are a part of the overall Digital Services Strategy for any company - they aren't the whole strategy, so to the brand owners, content owners and investors, ignore offers which don't present this comprehensive view.

We know that we've come a long way in terms of monetising and commercialising digital services, but also that business models tend to be driven by the market and no one player. The business models for mobile services, mobile TV, content and licensing have a few more rounds to go, but this time around we actually do have the systems, platforms and capability to support the business models which will survive - there IS money in mobiles provided you understand the capacity for sustainable commercialisation for your particular business and implement your programs accordingly.

Finally, I think that this time around we are all a little more seasoned and a little more commercial. Funky content and a great idea are great, as long as they earn more than they cost.... today. What IS exciting and deserves attention though is an integrated, multi-channel digital services play which leverages the very best that mobile content and services can provide... get it right and this stuff can deliver some outstanding results.... and of course you can call the team at Hyro to help!!

It was good to spend some time at this forum ... it reminds me how far we have come and how much potential there is in what we do...... It also reminds me that we have already changed the world.... and we have really only just begun.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Creating a truly global company.....

I tend not to be too much of a business "fad-ist" and tend to think that managers who latch onto the latest business buzzwords and trends in lieu of well constructed strategy are taking amateurish short-cuts and owe a little more to their teams, their customers and their shareholders.

A manager in this day and age is, of course inundated with a torrent of management writings, data and analytical tools, so the challenge is to filter through these things to find the materials that provide value and learning. The truth is that the world is changing so quickly (and has infact changed so much already) that as managers we have an obligation to keep learning, keep adapting and keep responding to opportunity in this new market.

One of the consequences of the modern business environment is that like it or not, we are ALL operating as global companies - it is just that some of us are yet to fully understand what that means and few are in a position to adapt to the realities of modern global business. I cannot profess to know all the answers here, but recent experiences have highlighted some of this new reality.

As I mentioned in my last blog, a week a go I returned from the Hyro office in Thailand, a now regular trip as we build on the capability and achievements of the business there and seek to leverage this for additional benefit for the company as a whole. One of the tasks I enjoyed while I was there was to attend a signing ceremony for the final documentation on an assignment we were awarded (and announced) late in 2005. Now that we have got down to the business of delivery, I got an insight into the global nature of this project, and how our company is adapting to respond to this need.

The project shows a great global collaboration. The client is a Japanese company, setting up a consumer finance business in Thailand. The Program Director is French, but his last assignment was in Latin America. The Systems Architect is Indian, our project manager a Kiwi, the developers are mostly Thais. The technology we are implementing is from Mexico, the client CIO is located in the US (LA), the application team includes people from Mexico, Columbia and Australia - all of these people working mostly out of their home locations and only to descend onto Bangkok when they are needed. This is a truly global project and Hyro is working as a global company to make this all work.

But HOW does it all work? Why is this possible in this day and age? How can we bring all of these resources together from around the world and remain competitive and commercial?

The answer comes from some of the BIG changes that have already happened. The biggest of them all if the arrival of low cost, high speed internet access. In addition to the obvious benefits of allowing us to shift files and things around the world, this technology enables us to leverage a whole raft of real-time collaboration tools - Many of them for free. Voice Over IP ('VOIP') allows real-time voice and video calls for free between all these locations. Messaging and chat applications allow us to keep in constant touch, share files, share workspaces and collaborate. It is not the same as being in the same room, but it is pretty close. The reality is this stuff works! We have a global team delivering a high quality solution for a global client made possible only by the flexibility that these new technologies bring.

There are other factors which make all of this possible (cheap travel, a more mobile workforce and so on) but for me the capability of the technology is the "pebble in the pond" which has kicked off a range of "ripple effects." When you sit and think these things through a little, the consequences are significant. As a company we have greater market reach than the immediate geographic market - we can work for any client anywhere, where ever our reputation reaches, or where ever our clients want to take us. We now have access to a global market for talented people - we can construct teams which allow us to access the best people in the world (luckily we already have a few of these) and bring these people together to create high-impact teams. We can leverage the very best quality, the very best availability and the very best experience and often without it costing any more than it does right now..... some times it is even cheaper......

These concepts, opportunities and challenges are occupying a fair bit of my time right now. Our business is at the stage where we have a good team of people able to commercially adapt to the opportunities ahead, but there is a lot of thinking and planning yet to be done.... and certainly a lot of reading. We can realise a lot of value by operating as a New Global Company - a company based on bringing together the best inputs for our business from anywhere in the world and looking for ways to constantly increase shareholder value by leveraging this global opportunity. The New Global Company will not be made up of many "offices" located in a variety of cities and countries. It will be a flexible, adaptable, technology enabled provider of value for customers, for partners, for our people and for our shareholders.

A good source of insight for me at the moment is The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman (referred to me by a friend - thanks Kate!). This thought provoking book provides some insights into the sorts of changes I have only begun to touch on above. You have two choices when you read this book; to see the potential and opportunity of the "flattening world" or to prefer to see a more negative view. Read it and come to your own conclusions....

Some links to find the book:

I cop a lot of ribbing for believing this, but I remain resolute in my position - I DO love what we do, because we DO get to change the world!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Brilliant Bangkok.....

One of the things which came with the merger with Hyro Limited was a business in Bangkok, Thailand and as a part of my role as COO of Hyro, I have management responsibility for this business. Over the last eight months (yes it is only eight months since we assumed full management control of Hyro) I have now had need to visit Bangkok three times and I have to say that every time I go, I come away more impressed and more excited about the Asian market and specifically about Thailand.

Bangkok didn't fare too well in the "Asian Meltdown" of the late 90s and over the last few years has slowly been rebuilding and now the signs of economic activity are everywhere. Stand in any high-rise office tower and look in any direction and there are building sites everywhere. The public infrastructure is constantly improving and now the SkyTrain and MRT systems have really eased the traffic pressure (still pretty bad, but a lot better than before). There is a new international airport on the way and there is a lot of work being done on the highway / freeway systems. Bangkok is moving ahead .... fast!

Our team in Bangkok are really kicking some goals. The business there faced a few challenges in 2005 as the former Hyro management has made some decisions which de-focused the team and created a bit of chaos (as well as cost a lot of money). It was really pleasing to see the team there winning some great projects and enthusiastically going about completing them. There is a bit of a buzz in the Bangkok office and I am keen to see where we go from here.....

On the down-side, I have made a commitment to myself that I am going to stop flying "third-world airlines." The flight on the way up we bought an economy Qantas ticket but flew a code-share flight with British Airways. My colleague's seat was broken (it was missing a cushion!) and before we took off, he had the pleasure of having about a litre of orange juice poured all over his head. The cabin crew were tired, indifferent and frankly offensive..... I firmly believe that when you get to the stage in your career that the work isn't enjoyable any more, then you should give it up, no matter how over-paid you might be........

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What happened at Google?

A brief post.... Google's stock price dropped 8.3% on Friday in the US and already some of the press are preaching "gloom and doom" about Google's business model. From what I can gather, the sell-off was triggered by news that the US Government has issued a subpoena for certain internet search data logs for reasons of "national security" (give me a break... but that is another topic for another time) and concerns about Google's "reliance on advertising as a business model." It seems that the drop wiped something like US$11 BILLION off the value of Google.

My 2 cents worth - I think that this noise around Google reflects the unfortunate habit of governments and markets seeking to "gain control" of businesses which challenge the establishment and propose to change the way things are done. The Google team are brilliant business people (as are the teams at Yahoo, MSN, AOL and others like them). They understand the way the internet is transforming business and they are making money from it. Furthermore, the close to $10 BILLION that Google expects to earn from online advertising revenues this year has to come from somewhere - and it is the traditional media who are feeling the crunch. These businesses are rolling ... quickly and those established players under threat are now not responding from a position of strength - It might be time to look for other ways to slow the juggernaut and spreading a bit of FUD just might help.

The "reliance on advertising concern" is a real tilt at a windmill - ALL media businesses rely primarliy on advertising and they have done OK... and the "security concerns" that are supposed to "push online users away from search" are also a bit of a stretch.... Face it folks, the game has changed and the traditional media players just have to respond..... buy just getting BETTER at what they do and by adapting to this new competitive terrain.

[end rant]

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Everything old is new again.....

I have to make a small confession ...... I am not as young as I used to be (and some of my friends would say as I think I am). I have been in this commercial internet business for about as long as it has been "mainstream" (since 1994 and am proud to say have worked with a team of great people responsible for many *firsts* on the internet in this part of the world) and have seen a lot of things come and go. Surprisingly though, I am now starting to see a lot of things come back.

The early internet was mostly about the potential of a loosely formed concept .... a persistent network of millions of connected computers sharing, linking and transmitting information. As we go into 2006, the internet today is now more about the fact - this stuff REALLY works and there have already been big changes in the way we work, recreate, communicate and socialise as a result.

When I started my internet services business in 1994, we thought is was going to be "just like TV" and before the first commercial Australian websites started to emerge, we had a vision of a million channels running through the network - in fact before there were HTML editors and while the decisions were being made to support BOTH the JPG and GIF image formats, there was a lot of discussion about how this content would look (and behave).

Our first foray into internet content was to use a couple of VERY expensive Silicon Graphics workstations. These were the ones which were used to "make dinosaurs" on Jurassic Park and since we thought that the internet would be made up of interactive "TV-like" content, these things seemed to be just the tools we needed..... I believe one of them now runs as a mail server of some sort and have to confess that I don't think we ever used the computers for much more than a bit of graphics rendering.

It seems though, that this early vision of the internet including lots of rich media content is now starting to come true. As I have mentioned in the past, we are doing a lot more work with embedded video these days as the content and the functionality integrate..... and about time. I had a chance to read up on some of the releases from Microsoft and Intel (and others) about their innovations for 2006 announced at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the whole message this is year is about two things; the convergence of the content and more leverage from the network.

Some of these concepts aren't so new (if you read the Microsoft announcements about Microsoft Live you'll see old favourites such as customisable web portals and peer to peer web based communication reprised). So what's changed?

A lot!

The big changes are across the board; the internet is faster, the hardware and the OSes are purpose built for it, the applications work, the content is ready made, the security is MUCH better (with still a ways to go) and the commerce is starting to work as well. A lot of the building blocks we fudged around, made up or just went without a decade ago are now commercial grade and ready for business.

Most importantly though, I think WE have changed . Coming back to work for 2006, the team are already off and running on a range of interesting and innovative projects and many of them are about the things mentioned above. We are already doing some cool stuff with media-rich content, some AMAZING work for the mobile space (some stuff which is VERY high profile) and a lot of work on integrating commerce to this next wave of the internet.

I guess this sort of brings me to the end of this post, part of the benefit of being a bit of an "old man of the internet" (and it is all about the frame of reference right) I have the benefit of having seen some of whatis happening before. There are some real "gotchas" out there but if you work with the right team (and I do) then I think the opportunities are amazing .... and our clients are starting to see this too.

I love my job ...... 'cause we get to change the world.

Monday, January 02, 2006

If you can't stand the heat .....

For me, every New Year starts with a New Year's Resolution (or more than one usually) and this year is the same. Once again I find myself promising that I will eat better, exercise more, focus on work / life balance and spend more time with friends and family. I have to balance these with the demands of a business which keeps getting busier and busier and the demands of living in a modern city (anyone else notice just how long it takes to get stuff done in Sydney?), but I am getting to an age now when these things have more meaning than they used to and maybe this year I will actually mean it .....

The New Year has certainly started with a BANG here in Australia and we celebrated(?) the start of the year with the HOTTEST January 1st on record for Sydney. The official temperature (recorded at Observatory Hill) was apparently 43.4 degrees celcius, but this only tells part of the story.

To the right I have included two photos (taken with my Sony Ericsson K750i - a generally average phone but with a pretty good camera) taken on the two occasions I bothered to venture out of the house. As you can see from the outside thermometer of the trusty low-speed cruise banana, not only was it HOT, but it was HOT ALL DAY. I can't remember a time when it was over 40 degrees at almost eight o'clock at night!

Thankfully, the weather returned to more sane levels today, following a very strong southerly which brought a dump of rain and took the sting out of the heat - today was 24 degrees - abnormally low for this time of the year. Pretty unusual weather patterns, and having seen that scientific masterpiece, The Day After Tomorrow, maybe it is time to pack my mukluks and suntan lotion and move to a cave somewhere........

So enough of the holiday banter .... after a very busy run up to the end of 2005, and an outstanding two day planning session with our Executive Management Team (what an impressive group of professionals they are!) we are ready to leap into 2006 and the exciting times ahead. I have high hopes for this year as the momentum in Online Services continues. Stay tuned for exciting activities from the Hyro team!

Happy New Year to all of our friends, their families and may your 2006 be marked with health, happiness and prosperity!