Category Archives: Telecommunications

Online selling is here to stay

No doubt you have heard the mad ravings of big store retailers like Harvey Norman, Myers, and Borders complaining about unfair competition from online retailers.

Please note that much of their ranting fails to distinguish between online sellers in Australia and overseas, although the propaganda campaign really targets non-GST payments of overseas retailers. Mind you, Gerry Harvey has had a long-time spat with Australian online retailer Ruslan Kogan who sells televisions in direct competition to Harvey Norman. Perhaps Gerry Harvey has had it so good for so long he has forgotten what competition is all about.

The GST exemption is for goods under A$1000 in value purchased by Australian consumers overseas. At 10%, the maximum tax that could be applied is a pretty paltry A$100.

But of course most people who buy from online retail (about 2% of all retail sales)  don’t do it for tax reasons and don’t necessarily spend big. For example, I buy the odd book or CD from overseas when I cannot source the items in Australia. If  my purchases come to A$60, then the GST exemption saves A$6. I bet it would cost more than A$6 to manage the application of GST to such small individual purchases. But then, the big Australian retailers don’t have to fork out for the costs of administering the tax – the Australian taxpayer does.

The PR campaign from big Australian retail is a whinge that reflects more their lack of adaptability in the market than enything else. Business journalist Michael Pascoe sums it up here and Michael Fox here.

More fundamental to the attack by dinosaur retail in Australia on new methods of consumer shopping is the fact that consumers have far greater visibility on choice of product and price. Whereas before, Australian consumers pretty much had to take what retail offered in their stores. Nowadays Australian consumers can buy what they want and when they want from anywhere. Moreover, Australian consumers can see the different prices for the same goods from many, many different retail suppliers.

Along the same lines, but at least a dinosaur moving into the 21st century, is newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch with his proposed Ipad newspaper. The digital newspaper will be called the “The Daily”, but the launch has been delayed slightly. Murdoch has in the past vociferously complained about news media’s failure to generate income from news on the internet. This new venture is obviously something Murdoch is pinning his hopes on for the future.

The content will be important if it is to generate big sales.  Murdoch’s News Corporation has often been criticised for right-wing bias (Fox News in the US is a classic example). It will be interesting to read the tone of the content on the digital newspaper and what that means for online sales.  If Murdoch gets his content and pricing structure right, then this will be a huge success.

One of the myths about online is the belief that people want everything for free. The massive increase in online shopping over the past five years belies this myth. The fact is that people will pay for a service or a good online (like anywhere else) when they see it delivers what they want at a price they find acceptable.

It will be interesting to watch the digital newspaper take-off in the same way it will be interesting to watch loud-mouth big Australian retail adjust to the new shopping realities brought about through online shopping. (It seems that the Australian big retail bully boys will persist with their campaign – read here. A more sensible response can be found here).

All of this will have a huge impact on online marketing and communications; a trajectory that continues to advance online media over the traditional forms of media communication.

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On the media tsunami

Readers may recall a blog post I wrote last December called On sailing ships and dodos.  The post was about traditional media moguls trying to keep control of media publishing and content.  In the new distributed world of publishing and content generation, this traditional strategy of publisher control is breaking down.

Indeed, traditional media will face even greater competition as the media tsunami hits in 2010, according to media commentator Tom Foremski in this recent online article.  Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist who started a news blogging service in 2004, called Silicon Valley Watcher.

Foremski writes that “the many different forms of media will continue to flourish and splinter and to compete with each other in 2010, only at a far greater scale.  This is all made possible because of the availability of very powerful and inexpensive self-publishing tools and services”.  These new self-publishing tools includes blogs, Twitter, podcasting, Facebook, etc.  Whilst many of these tools for self-publishing have been around for a few years now, they are becoming easier to use, with improved functionality and integration.

Not only will all this self-publishing have an impact on tradtional media empires, but it will also impact on advertising and public relations.  Dilution of advertising and public relations messages within the media space will become a real problem as more self-publishing and user-generated content competes for eyeballs.

In my opinion, media and PR will need to be far more focused and targeted, using the right communication tool and content, to reach the right audience.  A one-size fits all publishing model won’t work.   Moreover, companies will need to better understand all the different types of media, communication tools and channels, to work out how best to integrate their media campaigns, and support (rather than compete) the different types of media channels.

In other words, a more networked publishing model needs to develop to take advantage of different forms of media publishing and content generation.  And more attention needs to be given to the re-creation of content in different forms in order to tailor information and content in ways more useful and specific to individual consumers.  The web 2.0 “mashup” approach is something to consider by making a range of information available to be reconfigured in different ways.

The times are a changing. Organisations, especially media companies, better get used to the idea.

Just had James Dellow from Headshift speaking at AusAID this afternoon on Government 2.0.  Among the audience were several representatives from other government agencies giving the seminar a real whole-of-government feel.  Government 2.0 is often considered in the light of open government, something I have blogged about before.

James spoke about the Federal Government sponsored Government 2.0 Taskforce final report published at the end of 2009. Key insights included some of the thinking behind the Online Engagement Guidelines and Web 2.0 Toolkit.

Much of the discussion focused, naturally enough for a government-centric audience, on risk.  There remains a considerable concern among some senior executive service that web 2.0 and open government are too risky. The fear largely is about the risk of negative publicity or political sensitivities, but also includes concerns about the technology and giving public servants more authority and responsibility in dealing with the community. In sum, the issues relate to risk, privacy, responsibility, responsiveness, and consistency (quality).

Personally, I don’t see the risks as being too different from that facing the private sector – just replace the government Minister with a company CEO and you get the same sort of concerns.  The challenge is how to mitigate risk and yet get the benefits from using web 2.0 applications and thinking to provide a better public service; one more in tune with the community and what the community needs from government agencies.

In addition, the challenge is also in asking where does the leadership for Government 2.0 come from?  Is it from the politicians, the senior executive service, the communications unit, or IT?

I will get the Slideshare link of James soon and post for the presentation slides to be available.

All in all, a very good seminar and thank you, James!

 As part of the Taskforce’s consultation process, they commissioned the creation of Online Engagement Guidelines and a Web 2.0 Toolkit. This was designed to provide guidance to government agencies using web 2.0 tools and provided a recommendation for a toolkit of web 2.0 technologies that agencies can use based on principles of shared services and re-use.

On new ways to connect – the three minute soap

I was reading today’s Sydney Morning Herald online when this article caught my attention. The article is about a new web-based soap that will launch on Bebo next month. Mind you, this is not the first time I’ve commented on this type of thing – see a previous post on snack drama.

The really interesting thing is the genre and the communication channel – both particularly suitable for the mobile world. To date, much of the production of the three minute soap (or snack drama) is by amateurs and budding film producers experimenting through sites like YouTube. The real deal will come when advertisers and professional media production professionals start to invest in a big way in the three minute soap.

The appeal for the three minute soap has so far been on the production side of things. Grab a video camera and start shooting, hopefully with a reasonable storyline that will attract some regular attention. Much of what is produced today and channelled through YouTube is from amateurs and low-budget film-makers wanting to get product out into the world wide web.

The market is being driven by supply. However, demand will grow as more of these soap videocasts become known and gain sufficient following. As the market and consumer awareness develops, the supply will include more sophisticated production elements that will enhance the viewer experience, either through quality of production and/or quality of story and characterisation. Digital word-of-mouth through social networking will be a significant driver of demand. New production and editing techniques may develop that become unique to this type of media presentation and distribution channel.

Commercialisation will come about in a number of ways. Firstly, the three minute soap can be used to promote upcoming television series, movies, or games – almost like a set of pilot shows. Secondly, advertisers will use these digital videocasts for product placement and digital advertising. Thirdly, as the technology allowing for videocasts to mobile telephones improves sufficiently, a new and ubiquitous market platform emerges; just the thing for time-poor and attention-poor viewers to engage in habitual soap alone and with friends. And, there is the ability to leverage characterisation and the soap brand via other digital platforms – social media, blogs and other interactive fora.

Pricing structure needs to be considered. So long as access to the content remains nominally free, demand will accelerate. However, if commercial hunger overshoots demand by charging video subscription charges, then growth will be stymied. My tip is to grow the market first and see what happens before even contemplating pay-for-videocast soap!

But that’s not all. It will be possible for magazines to have sections of the printed product linked to videocasts as part of the magazine subscription or purchased as a stand-alone item. Imagine the gossip magazines with their grainy video shots of celebrities juggling groceries at the supermarket being available via videocast on a mobile phone or laptop? Videocasting using mobile telephony is exceptionally well suited for segmenting magazine news stories, either as stand alone content or as an extra to the print version.

I believe the genre will develop and really take off in the next 12-18 months.  The three minute “soap” is just the beginning of course. The genre can take different forms – news, profiles, and education being examples. My personal interest is in learning and development. Imagine a training manual with links to selected relevant videocasts viewable via your mobile phone for instance.

I will therefore be following the videocast soap (and any permutations) to see how the market grows in the coming year and where those learning and development opportunities might be be. And I’ll be watching mobile telephony technologies just as keenly over the same period.

Stay tuned….mobile digital video on your laptop and mobile telephone is coming your way.

On ABC’s iview full screen television streaming

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has recently launched full screen internet television via their iview web site.

I tried out iview last night on my computer with the episode of The Gruen Transfer from last week, before watching last night’s final episode on TV. The Gruen Transfer is a great programme about television advertising; informative and funny at the same time.

One of the highlights of The Gruen Factor is the segment, “selling the unsellable”. This segment involves two advertising agencies who are each asked to create a television advertisement to sell what might ordinarily be, “unsellable”. Last week the challenge was why climate change is good for us, and last night the campaign was to tell tourists NOT to visit Australia. Great stuff!

Anyway, my experience with iview on my computer was less than perfect. Australia’s abominably slow internet speeds and bandwidth constraints, when compared to Europe and North America, doesn’t help the iview experience at all! Frequently, the audio and vision stuttered away, usually at critical points in the dialogue. The quality of the show on iview certainly suffered, and I have supposedly good quality broadband!

Until iview can be viewed without interruption on my computer, I will stay with the smaller screen option (Youtube size) on the ABC programme sites to view my selected ABC shows, especially the shows with quick wit and intelligence. The Hollowmen is one such show worth a good look without interruption – a great Australian political comedy.

Iview is certainly where the future of television is heading but our telecommunications infrastructure is not up to the task, and certainly not value for money! The ABC is on the right track with iview but we need better bandwidth and internet line speeds. Yes.