Today, I went to the AIMIA conference on “The Future of Digital 2009”. It was pretty interesting. My company, Next Digital was the main sponsor and my general manager Stephen Lord was one of the key speakers.
There were a lot of companies represented like Microsoft, BBC, Communicator, News Ltd, ABC etc…. I figured if I was going to make it in this industry, I had to attend events like this, meet people and hear what people had to say.
John Butterworth, the CEO of AIMIA (Australian Interactive Media Industry Association for you noobs) gave a quick overview of the digital future. In 2008, digital spend was $17.9 BILLION (yes BILLION!) and 25% of business revenue was generated through digital. After that, he said “Look around you at the 100 faces here in this room – this is the future of digital”. It was exciting and also a bit scary at the same time! And hey, I was a part of the 100!!
The Agency – Stephen Lord, Next Digital
The next speaker was Stephen, who spoke about the agency perspective. He gave a brief overview of the major digital events that happened in 2008 such as:
- the iphone and the apps store (converging mobile and web)
- online viewing overtaking tv spend for the first time
- twitter coming of age and how the events of Mumbai were microblogged. At work we use yammer and its great! Its like a corporate twitter
- political parties using digital channels – Obama’s heavy use of digital (YES WE CAN!!!!!)
- cloud computing – one of my favourite topics
If 2008 was the year that digital spend increased, then 2009 will be about measurement and ROI. It’s true. People are spending an increasing amount of time online and in front of the computer. In fact people even do two of the activities simultaneously – engaging in multiple media channels. Look at me now – I’m blogging as I watch House in the background! Digital spend will only increase as marketers direct more of their budget into digital as it is more accountable that TV, radio, print, etc… (did someone mention a recession?). But most importantly, this is where the audience is, hence marketing dollars will follow.
Digital will reach a tipping point – a point where more dollars spent won’t equal more results. Hence the search for accountabiliy and better measures. What are we measuring now as digital marketers, bloggers and media planners? Page views, bounce rates, CTR’s (click through rates)? Puh-lease!!!!!! That is so old school. None of these really tell you anything. So what if your page achieved 1,000 unique views, CTR of 18%. It doesn’t mean jack. We have to find new measures to determine engagement, influence, involvement, and stickiness. The metrics we use have not kept up pace with a constantly evolving digital world.
The thing about digital is that every user leaves a digital footprint. It is a captive and active audience and we need to understand how to better measure that. In the past, we were hunters / seekers of information (early to mid 90’s). Then we become do-ers, and now we are in a stage of feedback 3.0, where people are having true conversation in the digital sphere.
The Evangelist – Michael Jordahi, Microsoft
The next speaker was Delic8 Genius, aka Michael Jordahi, a developer Evangelist for Microsoft. So what exactly is an evangelist? I had a discussion with Peter about this on the way down since he knows a few. In fact, I met another Microsoft one from the UK, a pretty cool guy. An evangelist is someone that encourages people to adopt new technology, that engages with people about it, explains how it works, gets people to sign up for licenses and so on.
He actually was a really good speaker, like he had drank 3 redbulls before he got up. Pretty funny guy, and very passionate about Microsoft Surface, bordering on a sales pitch. I didn’t mind, because of the energy he brought and I really like the concept of Microsoft surface. FYI When you go to a lot of marketing presentations/industry events they tend to end up like sales pitches.
He gave us an overview of how we had from old school user interface (UI) to GUI to NUI (natural user interface). He compared them to reading a book vs watching a movie vs playing an interactive computer game.
He had a lot of interesting stuff to say, such as how we are no longer restricted to computers, keyboards, and mouses. Examples like Microsoft surface, Toncidot – this little cube you can move around to replicate real world movement, this sphere type device, holograms, etc… He even brought out October’s Esquire magazine cover which had a digital cover. His view of the future was technolgy and social interaction (real not like facebook or myspace) becoming one. His opinion was the natural surface and augmented reality was the future (I actually have no idea what he meant by augmented reality) but half the crowd was nodding.
The client – Paula Bray, Powerhouse Museum
I can’t believe she got up and held a deck full of powerpoint slides in one hand and navigated the actual preso with the other slides. I just thought it was going be dead boring and she did didnt do anything to prove me wrong. She was representing the Powerhouse Museum and started going through their website, some of their interactive display thingys. I rolled my eyes (and I suspect half the audience did too). HOWEVER, the next part of the presentation started to get real interesting.
She spoke about how the Musuem developed glassplate negatives of historic shots of Tyrrell. I don’t think anyone actually understood what Tyrrell was about but that wasn’t the point. They had all these old historic shots and so did the National Library. So they put them on FLICKR, the photo sharing website. They were generating some pretty impressive stats re number of views. Then they decided to put their collection on the creative commons license, which allows anyone to use the image and it kinda of exploded. They let go their collection and people were helping them out by providing meta tagging, geo tagging (locating them on google maps), people started to mashup the pics with Google street view and so on. The craziest thing was that they started to upload pics of how Sydney looked in the past and how it looked now. Then it snowballed because people started contributing their current pics, and even going to the trouble of finding the exact same shot.
In fact, the best thing was when they were searching for Mosman Water falls and wanted to find out exactly where this thing was. They posted a query on FLICKR, and someone answered the query in 30 mins and directed them to a real estate website. Paula, went out to the property, discovered the waterfalls in someone’s backyard and took pics to compare and share. It was pretty amazing, the find and the altrustic of this John Doe contributor on FLICKR. So they got in contact with him and tried to find out more about him, got him to come to the musuem (he hadn’t been in a decade), so now he takes his family regularly there and writes about the musuem on his blog.
To think that a government institution, a public musuem was prepared to do that was pretty amazing. The philosophy was to create a musuem without walls. They let their collection go out on a commons license (IP lawyers hide yourself!).
The futurist – Jen Wilson, Lean Forward
Let’s just say she was interesting. Every speaker had an agenda, and her’s was mobile. If I could describe her in a few words it would be “mobile evangelist”. Accordingly, the future for her was “mobile”. Not phone, but mobile, a point she distinguished. About a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought so either. She gave a view of the world as everything going mobile – your camera, your car, your kitchen sink, etc…
In fact, she was probably the most interesting speaker because she really was talking about the future and was saying things I hadn’t really heard before. Of how mobile was breaking down the digital divide. For example, fishermen in Kerala using mobiles to arbitrage in the local fish market by calling into the port and finding out which fish markets were low and then supplying those markets.
I think she could have spoken all day and night about mobile. Then she had a little rant about the “evil empires” ala how Google and Microsoft want to control everything…..Oh and did I mention that during the entire conference she was texting on her iphone? I only discovered later when I googled the conference and her twitter account came up, she was updating her twitter account every few mins!!!
That’s been one long recap of the AIMIA conference.
I’m out like the future of digital,