The price of bad advice

by [me]

I came across three pieces of mind-numbingly bad advice today, all from experts in their respective fields, all to prominent organizations. Each of them have caused me to question:
A) the quality of expert advice
B) the lack of digital knowledge in the business world
C) how organizations can determine which advice they can trust.

But let’s start with the bad advice. These are clangers.

The first company, a prominent industry leader, wants to get more search traffic for a new service they offer. Whilst weighing up an organic search engine optimisation strategy they’ve received advice from an Adwords specialist. The response: spend the budget on an Adwords campaign because the clicks from the traffic will increase your organic search results.

WRONG. There is no relationship between paid results and organic search results. Organic search results come from a combination of inbound links (indicator of popularity) and on-page optimisation for targeted terms.

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Newcastle near back of queue for NBN. What should we do?

As expected, the National Broadband Network won’t be coming to Newcastle any time soon. Gosford gets it. Coffs Harbour gets it. Newcastle doesn’t for some time yet.

This was a topic of vigorous discussion at the last Lunaticks Society meeting, where it was suggested by people in regular contact with NBNCo and their suppliers that Newcastle wasn’t on the short term list.

Today the NBNCo announced their Three Year Roll-out Plan. The Prime Minister proudly trumpeted that areas like Campbelltown, Gosford and Coffs Harbour were next on the list but no mention of Newcastle and the Hunter.

The rather ambiguous roll-out plans on the NBNCo site suggests that work will “commence” in Newcastle and Charlestown areas some time before June 2015, with it being operational within 12 months of that. So maybe we will have NBN broadband by June 2016….over 4 years from now. And that commitment is only to 25% of the households in suburbs listed.

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4 years and 34000 tweets later….

by [me]

I joined Twitter 4 years ago today. At first it was mainly to help co-promote the launch of the Age of Conversation. Like many business owners I was skeptical about this new messaging system and didn’t use it much to begin with.

I remember going to a PubCamp in Sydney hosted by Jed White (who later became a good friend) and being somewhat bemused by a team of people from Happener led by Markus Hafner (who later became a friend) all furiously tweeting from their laptops while speakers did their presentations. It all seemed a bit silly.

But inevitably I began using Twitter more and more. I remember Gavin Heaton (who has become a good friend) telling Gordon and me that it won’t be until you have at least 50 followers and are following at least that many that we’ll see the value in Twitter.

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A perfect storm is changing retail forever

by [me]

We are experiencing a permanent shift in shopping habits from which many brick and mortar retailers will never recover.

After the initial hysteria and over-hyped promise of online shopping in the late ’90s dot-com boom, most retailers shrugged off the threat of online and continued with their traditional business models. The prosperity of the new millennium in Australia meant that retailers were profitable and the apparent need for change was unnecessary.

But as the decade continued online was becoming much more sophisticated. Social networks sprang up to increase connectivity and word-of-mouth, and e-commerce became an easier function to execute. Online giants like Amazon, e-Bay and Apple introduced millions of consumers to simple electronic transactions, steadily decreasing the fear of credit card fraud.

The storm clouds for retailers were on the horizon but only a few paid them any attention.

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How Austin – home to SXSW – stays vibrant with tech and innovation

A growing theme on this blog has been about how to grow a smart and innovative city. Its something we’ve been tackling here in Newcastle as we evolve from our old industrial base to something more vibrant and sustainable.

One model we’ve been looking at is Austin, Texas. Over the last decade Austin was the 3rd fastest growing city in the USA, booming to its current population of 790,000.

Its no coincidence that Austin is home to the famous SXSW festival, part of which is one of the biggest tech industry events in the world. This has led to Austin becoming home to around 3900 tech companies employing over 100,000 people.

Here is a 30 second video from Susan Davenport, senior vice president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce explaining how technology and innovation have helped build a great city.

Other posts on this topic:

My plan for creating an innovative city

How to build a smart city

The numbers behind the paywall: The Australian reveals digital subscription take-up

by [me]

In October 2011 the executives at News Ltd announced that “the ten year free trial is over” and they were launching digital subscriptions for some of their publications beginning with The Australian.

Naturally, they were plenty of cynics prepared to predict the pay wall gambit would fail, and I certainly had my doubts. Its still only very early days and long term success is far from assured but News Ltd have just released their first round of figures for digital subscription. They appear to be very encouraging.

Here’s the announcement:

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Must read report: Outlook for Australian Social Business 2012

by [me]

When it comes to social media in Australia there are plenty who talk the talk but only a handful who really know their stuff.

Gavin Heaton is one of the few who have respected experience and knowledge in this field. His long-running and very popular blog Servant of Chaos, his collaborative Age of Conversation books and his mentoring of numerous social marketers is testimony to Gavin’s standing in the online community.

Gavin has just released The Outloook for Australian Social Business 2012 as an e-book. It contains a tons of excellent information that every modern marketer should know.

I highly recommend visiting the website and downloading the report.

Are women more productive in Social Media than men?

Social media is quickly becoming extremely important when it comes to the success or failure of a business. Even so, the field is still very new, and a comprehensive understanding of how best to take advantage of social media has not yet been conclusively demonstrated.

It is already quite clear that ideas which spread rapidly through the social media can be used in order to promote a business or a particular organization. At the same time, it is not as easy to identify which ideas will spread rapidly through a group, and to what extent it is possible to facilitate this process. Nevertheless, it is certainly worth asking these questions.

One question that certainly bears asking is the question of how gender relates to the social media. Are women more productive with social media than men are?

A straightforward, cut and dry answer to this question is probably impossible. Nevertheless, there is certainly some evidence to suggest that this might be the case. More than half of adult women participate in the social media on a regular basis. A study conducted by RescueTime found that women spend about 6.43% of their time on social networks, while men spend about 3.96%. This would tend to indicate that women would, if nothing else, have more experience with the social networking interface.

Additionally, while men tend to outnumber women in some of the more obscure social  media sites, and are tied with YouTube, they outnumber men on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. The fact that women tend to frequent the more commonly used social networking sites while men tend to use the more obscure ones might  say something about how men and women interact. Men might be more likely to specialize and obsess over specific fields of interest, where women are more interested in general human discussion.

Young women can be expected to be especially fluent in the “language” of social media. Seventy-three percent of women in the “millennial” generation (currently aged 18 to 26), frequent social media at least twice a week. Only 62% of women in “Generation X” can say the same. Only 46% of baby boomers and 30% of the elderly visit social media over twice a week.

The top three topics that women use social media for are entertainment, food, and health and wellness. The vast majority of them use it to stay in touch with friends and family (75%). More than half also use it for fun or to get in touch with people sharing similar interests. What all of this says about productivity is hard to identify.

Businesses hoping to spread awareness about a product related to entertainment, health, or food would probably do better working with more women than men. It might be fair to say that while men may be more likely to be able to identify the best website host, email hosting provider, or even by easily signing up for free Facebook ad placements like different social media marketing tools on the web, women are far more likely to understand how to spread the news.

The evidence seems to suggest that women are generally more skilled at contacting people, communicating with them, and spreading messages than men. It should go without saying, of course, that the skills any given individual has should be evaluated on a person by person basis, rather than on the basis of the performance of the group.

What do you think?

How to build a smart city

by [me]

Last year in the wake of a vigorous debate about how to turn Newcastle into a center of innovation I posted my thoughts on how to create an innovative city. It certainly generated some discussion and the wheels have actually started turning.

Central to my plan were the need for high-speed broadband and the idea of holding a prominent tech and innovative event in the city. I can confirm that progress is being made on both fronts but eventual success still relies on the support of the city’s leaders, both government and business.

When you consider that the nascent app economy spurred on by iOS, Android and Facebook apps has generated 466,000 jobs in the U.S. economy since 2007, there is a lot to gain from encouraging innovation.

Meanwhile I have been researching what other innovative cities around the world have been done to get ahead.

What has been consistently repeated is the importance of cities in creating an enabling environment for emerging technology companies.

This was a key topic of discussion at at the first-ever Cities Summit held in Vancouver recently. Mayors of 35 cities around the world joined with executives and consultants to discuss open cities, digital cities, urban laboratories, smart-city financing, and startup cities.

For example, San Jose (California) has created a “Framework for Establishing Demonstration Partnerships” which allows the city to work towards a more sustainable future–including the creation of 25,000 new green jobs–by enabling local companies to use municipal facilities as urban laboratories to test out new clean tech, sustainability, and mobility technologies. Rather than having to jump through the typical bureaucratic hoops, the demonstration allows the fast-tracking of pilot projects from local companies.

The Summit made it clear that smart cities of the future will find ways to incentivise and enable private sector innovation and local economic growth via innovative use of demand-side tools, as opposed to supply-side solutions like tech parks and tax breaks. For example, the feedback was that the emerging companies wanted to find a way to get their pre-commercial technologies tested by the city. This allows startups to get the kinks out as well as increase their ability to sell technology to other markets.

Cities can also use things like new standards or regulations, such as green building standards, to stimulate demand for new clean solutions and innovation.

Talent is another obvious challenge. Attracting and retaining young, educated people to study, live, and work in smart cities is a crucial. The Summit identified that cities first need to increase their livability and grow their enabling infrastructure to support emerging companies, then embark on a city branding campaign that will help attract and retain new talent, startups, services, and the arts.

Seems to me Newcastle has done this back-to-front. Last year the city launched an attractive new branding initiative but we haven’t addressed the key issues of transport, new business support or broadband. We have an incredibly good lifestyle in Newcastle but much of the basic infrastructure that will encourage innovation and growth is still wanting.

If our leaders can address these key issues and then establish programs to support and encourage innovation we can truly become a smart city.

Vale Warwick Teece

Newcastle media and advertising stalwart Warwick Teece passed away last Friday night. Warwick had been a successful radio broadcaster on both 2NX and 2HD where his open line talk-back show became highly influential in the region.

Warwick moved onto a long and respected career in advertising with wife Lyn Thurnham and their agency Thurnham Teece.

He’ll be sorely missed.

Our thoughts go out to Lyn and Warwick’s family.