We spoke with consultant, writer, startup entrepreneur and PR Warrior, Trevor Young, about the key issues surrounding Media and IT industries in Australia. Young comments on the findings of our Future of Business report, which notes the sector is suffering as a result of resistance to digitisation, and he emphasises the importance of trust in online communication and transactions.
Robbie Kruger (RK): Tell us what you think are the key issues facing media and IT companies in Australia right now.
Trevor Young (TY): I think the key issue facing not just these two sectors but business generally is the sheer velocity of change; just keeping up with the tsunami of information that hits us on a day-to-day basis, the rate of change in consumer behaviour and the constant new developments in the digital world is more than a full-time job!
Recruiting and retaining talent - finding smart professional people with the right skills and experience and who are ahead of the game - is increasingly a pretty tough task. From what I hear, there are some great emerging specialists out there but what's in short supply is the creative but pragmatic 'big picture' strategic thinker who can join the dots of what's going on and make sense of it all for the powers-that-be.
In terms of the media, fragmentation is a huge issue; the fact an individual can establish a platform and over time not only build an audience but also grow their influence is a game-changer and something traditional media people are going to have to get their heads around. How can they start working with these individuals, bloggers and the like, rather than necessarily compete with them?
And finally, an emerging issue is the increasing amount of data now becoming available to companies - rather than drown in all this data, how companies can use it to gain useful and actionable insights that will help them serve their customers better and off the back of that, potentially increase revenues.
RK: How will media consumption change, and what IT devices do you see as being most useful in 5 years' time?
TY: Coming from the marketing and PR world, at the end of every year the industry pundits publish their trends for the following 12 months, and without fail I reckon for the past seven or so years the big trends have included "The year of mobile!" Thus, it's gratifying to finally see this prediction come true! I think we're only seeing the tip of the digital iceberg as far as mobile is concerned.
The deeper and smarter use of smartphone and tablet devices is only going to increase as consumers - including the laggards - start to up their use in this department.
And of course, the use of cloud services are also going to explode (a) as customers become more sophisticated and start demanding such services, (b) as companies - whether established or newly-minted - increasingly start effectively servicing the demands of the marketplace. But it won't be all smooth sailing: Customers will be quick to gravitate to those companies that manage to get the 'human' elements right, notably intuitive user experience and respectful and responsive social interaction with real people behind the business.
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RK: In our Media and IT insights report we found that the sector trails many other industries in adopting digital technologies. Why might this be the case?
TY: I'm staggered the research found that "Overall, the media and IT sector's level of digital adoption is around average compared to all industries in the Future of Business Report, but it looks set to fall behind."
If there are two sectors that should be at the forefront of where technology's going, its media and IT. Media companies, because their very survival is at stake given the seismic change in that sector; IT businesses - while it's an incredibly broad sector, intuitively you'd think they would be all over the need to keep pace with technological change.
Why is this the case? It's probably going to come down to a couple of reasons. This is certainly across business generally, not just the media and IT sectors.
* CONSERVATISM - Business in Australia by and large is incredibly conservative. It's a trait that perhaps served us reasonably well in decades preceding the turn of the century but in today's fast-moving hyper-connected environment, it's a millstone around our necks.
* FEAR - Probably goes hand in hand with conservatism to a degree; way too many business leaders are fearful of change; they're scared to make bold decisions, worried about the consequences of marching into the unknown. Yet as we all know, the cost of inactionis generally the riskier option.
RK: What are some new revenue creation models you've seen that might apply to the media and IT sector?
TY: I'm not sure you'd classify them as 'new' necessarily, but every day I'm seeing (and participating in as a customer) revenue models that didn't exist all that long ago; these include purchase on-demand, freemium, micro-payment and subscription, and to a lesser degree mobile payments, which is an area that's only going to get bigger in coming years.
Here's a perfect example of a new revenue model I recently experienced: I recently attended a Bruce Springsteen concert in Melbourne in which he played for over three hours. A week or so later, you're able to purchase the audio of the concert in its entirety for ten bucks. That's a revenue stream not readily available to Bruce not that long ago, and for the consumer, it provides awesome value. A win-win on both accounts!
RK: Any last thoughts?
TY: In a digital age, a company's brand and reputation is more crucial than ever. Now, given I come more from the marketing and PR side of things of course I'm going to say that, but think about it. We do business with people and companies we know, like and trust, thus we need to use social networking and new media technologies to get more people to know us, like us and trust our brand.
With online, you're often buying goods and services sight unseen. Trust plays a massive role, so the companies that can increase the level of human connection they have with consumers, who can enhance the degree of trust the marketplace has in their brand, will be the real winners ultimately.
This is another edition in the series of Q&A sessions with business leaders and experts. If you'd like to be involved in a Q&A session with Optus Business, get in touch with us at @optusbusiness on twitter or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Robbie Kruger, Optus Business Industry Manager. More from Robbie on Twitter: @robbiekruger
All views expressed are the author's own.