Glocal and the complexity of social interactions

‘Think global, act local’ used to be a mantra for international marketers, but in a world of social media this springs up a myriad of complexities. Some of them good, some of them bad.

For years internet users pirating content have acted as a bridgehead for Japanese anime content, often much to the bemusement of the Japanese themselves. Just this week Japaneses netizens were puzzled by foreign praise heaped up a Japanese remake of My Little Pony.

But this diffusion of local content to an international stage also has a darker side to it. Singapore Tourism Board has been embroiled in a firestorm of criticism at home when a promotional video that was made to encourage visitors from the Philippines came to the attention of Singaporean netizens.

The reaction was so harsh that it the video was covered in The Straits Times and marketing press across the region.

The Singapore Tourism Board took it down from YouTube and the video was reposted by netizens under the title ‘Singapore Tourism Board’s Horrid Promo Vid’. At the time of writing the reposted version has enjoyed almost 140,000 views with 230 comments and 577 dislikes.

What would have been considered sweet and romantic for the intended audience was considered excessively syrup in its nature by Singapore netizens and I can see their point. Some of the comments include:

Live From Asia videos: WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST SAW??? hahaha
MegaSmilee1: STB is never gonna live this down xD
Terence Yang: Honey, look! Its so lame…
Jennifer Kingston: STB needs srsly needs new talent… Is this made by foreign talent too? -_-
sporeKAfan: OMG this is such a fucking cheesy promo video! Such an embarrassment compared to our neighbouring countries’ tourism videos. What the hell is STB thinking of?
Anurag Shivach: Was this supposed to be one of those so bad it’s good videos. I laughed all throughout, well done guys.
Yibin Teo: My money!!!!!!! My hard earned money!!!!!God why do I pay tax?????

The video spawned at least two parodies by Singaporeans:

Glocal came about because doing everything from headquarters usually lacks brand resonance in local markets. In the age of worldwide social reach organisations need to move beyond the glocal model of ‘think global, act local’ to ‘think global, act local, review global’ in terms of sense and sensibility – if you come up with a sufficiently snappy acronym for it, put it in the comments and you could get to win a book by our CEO Larry Weber.

From a purely selfish agency point-of-view, it is a lot easier to get teams to work on work that they can feel proud of. But poor-quality content and trying to get along with insufficient resources in some markets runs the risk of embarrassing the brand and tainting its reputation in the same way that a conventional PR crisis can.
More information
Overseas reaction to Japanese My Little Pony dub is a little odd to Japanese people | RocketNews 24
STB defends promotional video for Filipinos | Marketing Interactive
‘Baby surprise’ tourism promo video could have been done better: STB | Straits Times

100 years of tech invention


Today The Times published a short article taking a look at 100 years of invention – giving us a rundown on the most important inventions,  mostly different types of technology, year by year. It’s an interesting read…  and some PR is obviously doing a great job (Beats by Dr. Dre, best invention of 2008? Hadn’t headphones already been invented by then…) but there is some genuinely interesting inclusions on the list. 

Some truly great inventions have been included – the ones we take for granted and forget were ever inventions at all; the zip in 1913, the electric kettle in 1921, the can opener  in 1925, the colour television in 1940.  Then there are the inventions that are less every day – but have changed everything – Kidney dialysis  in 1944, the SAGE modem in 1952, and perhaps most relevant for 21st century peoples, the internet 1969.  These are the inventions that have helped transform the modern world and the way we think.

Journalist Murad Ahmed has thrown a few more frivolous items in for good measure; the hairdryer (1920) – who can argue with the importance of this item? The slinky (1943) – the world might have been a bit busy for ground breaking consuming inventions in the early 1940s and the iPod (2001), maybe missing out a few obvious everyday items such as dishwaters and washing machines.

Interestingly Twitter is listed as the most important invention in 2009. Whether or not it should be on this list is hardly debatable – it has changed the way people communicate with like minded friends and peers, with brands, with celebrities, with businesses.  Twitter has changed how brands advertise and promote what they are doing in a way that means no going back. It has certainly had a massive impact on the PR industry and the way communications professionals work.  Can you imagine campaign planning without Twitter or indeed other social media elements?

In a relatively short space of time Twitter has quickly established itself as part of our every day professional lives as communications professionals.  We’ve seen massive global events unfold in real time via twitter and other social networks – the Arab Spring, the London Riots, and the riots in Taksim Square all unfolded minute by minute on twitter and other social networks such as Instagram.  No brand worth its salt would neglect Twitter as a major channel for communicating with its various audiences and customers.

Twitter has changed how we network, how and where we identify opportunities for our clients and it is in no way an understatement to say that it has revolutionised the way news spreads around the world and how people gather information.  Whether or not we will be using the Twitter platform in 20 years time remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure, right here, right now, Twitter has been a massive game changer, transforming our industry.

How Google Could Help Attract Paywall Subscribers (it’s a bit of a leap)

Micropayments and digital media haven’t exactly enjoyed a happy relationship so far, and this is a bit of a travesty according to Greg Golebiewski.

Who is Golebiewski? You might not be surprised to learn he is the CEO of a micropayment provider, Znak It. So his argument is a little self-serving, but still valuable. In the age of newspaper paywalls, Golebiewski  tells Paid Content newspaper publishers are missing a trick with not using micropayments to, say, offer a single article for a few pence to entice new readers. One of the schools of thought around paywalls is they’re not half bad for monetising online readers, but sub-par when it comes to growing a reader/subscriber base.

Says Golebiewski, “it’s extremely difficult to break that notion, the theory that micropayments don’t sell. [Critics] don’t have any data… it’s very difficult to go to them and say we have a flexible system for payments and then when they figure out it’s micropayments, they stop listening.”

Speaking of data, Znak It has some to back-up the CEO’s enthusiasm for micropayments. The company ran five pilot projects to see how many participants would buy a range of digital content; videos, music and written. Some 1,281 “buyers” emerged from a total of 43,000 unique users. According to Paid Content, “as many as 5 percent of the unique users wound up becoming buyers (paywalls usually get about one percent conversion).”

Znak It whitepaper

So what’s going to get micropayments into the mainstream? Google/YouTube might be the answer. Stick with me.

Google’s online video behemoth has been linked to the idea of a subscription model service, supplementing the traditional ad-revenues, for quite some time. Fresh rumours emerged in this weekend’s FT, with a report declaring “Google is on the verge of unveiling an à la carte subscription service for some of YouTube’s specialist video channels” (alternative info here for those sans an FT sub).


“A la carte subscription service” is a little vague, as rumours tend to be, but the article goes on to say users could subscribe to channels “as little as $1.99 a month”. I guess that’s a la carte in the sense you pick a channel to subscribe to, rather than ‘subscribing to YouTube’. Whatever the specifics, this isn’t a million miles away from a micropayments system. True you’ll be subscribing to an entire channel rather than a single video, but chances are it’s a single video that will be the trigger to purchase in the first place – so not so far from buying one newspaper article through micropayment. The relatively low cost is another similarity.

The new system, combined with the prevalence of YouTube, could bring the concept of micropayments to a mass user base. It’s simplistic thinking, but it’s a start – and not the first time a big technology company has kick-started a digital content payment trend. How many people would have spent a few quid on a small software program for their mobile in 2006?

It could happen. Bit ironic potentially too – if Google ends up helping newspaper publishers develop a revenue stream from micropayments, after the ‘evil’ Internet got them into this fine mess in the first place.

FT Digital Media Conference discussions on the sounds of innovation

***Note:this post was originally written by a Racepoint client 7digital, and first appeared on the 7digital blog.***

Last month our own head honcho Ben Drury was at the Financial Times’ annual Digital Media Conference, speaking on the Sound of Innovation panel. It was an interesting debate, and the panel discussed everything from the growth in mobile and digital music to the revenue streams that were kicking around some 2,000 years ago.

7digital FT conference

Geoff Taylor, CEO of the BPI, started the discussion on a positive note. While it’s been a tough decade for the music industry, the BPI is seeing positive growth in digital music globally – as shown in their latest report. And the good news for British artists is digital is growing faster in the UK than the majority of global markets.

Ian Hogarth, Co-founder and CEO of Songkick, made some interesting observations of the trends in music over the last 10 years compared to the last 2,000 years (which raised a few eyebrows and smiles). His point was, until relatively recently, the music industry had made the majority of its revenue from live music. This changed for a, relatively, short period as the ability to record and distribute music on records, tapes, and ultimately CDs became possible. The decline in physical, he noted, led to live music revenues overtaking recorded revenue 3-4 years ago in the UK.

Also on the history side, Ben thought back to 2004 when he founded 7digital. Back then, everyone thought he “was crazy” to get into the music business, and no one would pay for music again. Today, the digital business is worth $6bn globally, and the average music fan can access the world’s music catalogue through their smartphone. Our own technology platform is helping partners like Samsung and HTC tap into this world of opportunity.

Responding to a comment that a lot of younger music fans access music for free and this is a ‘hard habit to kick’, Ben noted 7digital is actually seeing a lot fans using free services, like YouTube and SoundCloud, to discover music which they go on to purchase  – either through downloads or subscription services. He also noted people are becoming more and more happy to pay for subscription services, but the “sweet spot” for a monthly fee is still elusive. £10 a month, or £120 a year, is more than the average music fan spent at the height of the CD market.

The entire panel agreed the digital and Internet revolution has changed the way the music industry operates, making it easier for artists and acts to develop a fan base and sell music internationally. In particular some British artists, such as One Direction, have managed to break the US by initially developing a fan base on social media – instead of focusing on the US radio scene, as many have tried and failed to do in years past.

Talking on mobile, Ben observed how music has gone from being one item on a long tick list of smartphone specs to being a top priority and necessity for the likes of Samsung, HTC, BlackBerry and more. So much so, over 70% of 7digital’s revenue is now coming through mobile.

Finally, an audience member asked a question on the important interoperability for music services – that is, the ability to move your music, playlists and collection from one device to another. This particular conference attendee noted he has a large amount of music on his iTunes account and it was making him think twice about buying a new Samsung Galaxy S4. This was the most important point raised in the discussion. Music must be accessible wherever and whenever a fan wants it, and on any device they’re using. In today’s innovative, multi platform digital music world, having your collection locked to platform makes no sense whatsoever.

You can watch the panel discussion in full on the FT’s website.

7digital FT conference video

FT vs Guardian: The Ongoing Paywall Debate

The Financial Times has been held up as something of a pioneering newspaper, but its latest digital expansion comes at cost to the print.

The paper has done a good job of adapting to the digital world, attracting large numbers of paying subscribers to both print and online. It’s usually the default pro-paywall example; although with the note its content has the advantage of being unique enough to attract paying readers.

FT guardian paywall

Long standing editor Lionel Barber announced on Monday a renewed focus on digital, and is hiring 10 new employees specifically under a digital remit. The knock-on effect is 35 current FT staffers face the chop – or more accurately being offered a ‘buyout’ according to Paid Content. 35 of these buyouts will save the paper £1.6m this year, according to an internal email sent yesterday.

Barber says “The intention is to reduce the cost of producing the newspaper and give us the flexibility to invest more online”. There’s also a mandate to focus more on “priority stories”, an streamlined international presence and new products in the coming year.

Interestingly, Barber sees less competition with rival papers and more with social media channels, “Our common cause is to secure the FT’s future in an increasingly competitive market, where old titles are being routinely disrupted by new entrants such as Google and LinkedIn and Twitter.”

On the surface it may look like hard number crunching (+10 -35 isn’t tough maths), but these are the hard calls publishers and editors are being forced to make in the digital world. Ultimately is does mean we’re looking at smaller editorial teams, but it also means more focused teams delivering the content readers want to consume and pay for. What Mr Spock might have called ‘the needs of the many’. Although there’s no way around the fact it’s tough times for the 35 potential buyouters.

At the sometime Barber was tapping out his email, Andrew Miller, CEO of Guardian Media, has reaffirmed the group’s commitment to “open journalism” and shunning of the paywall model. Miller is one who has argued the FT’s paywall works because subscribers were always willing to pay for the premium business and financial content – something his paper can’t match. In an article with The Economist last week, he wrote:

“The overriding business task is to monetize the online audience…when we talk of ‘audience’ we still mean our readers…newspapers have always used a blend of different funding mechanisms to extract revenues for their ‘product’. That’s why I am unconvinced by those who say that the only model that works is to build paywalls. This is not an area where one size fits all.

“In some news organisations where growth in readership may not be so important and in particular where there is a strong existing print subscriber base to build on, a pure paywall may make excellent business sense. The Economist and perhaps the Times spring to mind here. It also makes sense in other publications which feature business-critical information – for example, the Financial Times and, in the Australian context, the AFR.”

In short, the FT et al can afford to monetise content and focus on digital because they don’t have to worry about growing their readership – but The Guardian does.

So where The Guardian is competing with paid-for titles and grabbing readers wherever it can, even in Australia now, the FT is more concerned about monitising content and developing a profitable digital business. The idea of “open journalism” is a noble one, and one I hope works out in the long term. But for now, it seems making the tough calls is the better option for newspapers looking for a firm foothold in digital.