In the last 10 years this ink-stained wretch has broadened his horizons into a variety of digital companies.
Some have prospered. Some have died. A couple remain potential home runs. A couple remain on life support. I love each one of them.
They are full of hardworking, passionate young people determined to succeed. Each one brings innovation to a community of interest.
One of the life-support babies needs a major investment in development to survive. It is a big risk and involves considerable dollars. The question is whether to take any development overseas or not. The cost overseas is less than half price.
The business case is a no-brainer. We must do it if we are to survive. The community case (this company is not in Northern Ontario) is also compelling. We can’t build communities by outsourcing work. I’ve spent the better part of my working life trying to understand and support local economic development.
The decision is complex. For me it is the “canary in the coal mine” on work and the speed of change in this digital age. What most of us haven’t done is observe more than the immediately obvious change in the landscape which would include the adoption of Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Foursquare, Amazon, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Netflix, YouTube, Twitter and now the video equivalent of Twitter (Vine), that is a six-second video app which you can share instantly with everyone, and if you are particularly skilled, will allow you to share making a salad with others instantly on tablets, phones, and occasionally computers. Your friends can immediately send out a six-second video about how they like it.
In the states the most shared newsfeeds are from sites called Cracked, Onion and Buzzfeed where you can learn about “Thirteen things you didn’t know about roller derby,” which I just checked to confirm my world view.
Daily newspapers are falling off a cliff. They just don’t work in this new digital world no matter how hard they try. It’s over except for the crying and the few compelling brands that will endure. The impact on work is not yet fully appreciated. If what you do is somewhat repetitive, like, say, being a paralegal looking for legal precedents or being a language translator, artificial intelligence is already doing some of it cheaply and often effectively.
If you are a plumber or a nurse you are probably OK. What we are all becoming are data points, whether that is checking out of a food store or showing our preferences on the Internet. The problem is we don’t get paid for it. The real money is gravitating to those who deploy computer power (read big data) and not everyone can write code. The impact on the public space and what we think about is stunning. The only really thinking media in the country of any scale that could survive this onslaught is the CBC.
It is being eviscerated by the federal government. Ninety per cent of the television stations in the country are owned by cable or phone companies because the government refused to seriously share cable revenue with the content producers. Our leaders apparently felt the people who wired neighbourhoods for cable were uniquely suited to run media properties. These telecoms now control content, cell phone pricing and cable costs. Good thinking.
Major consumer brands are moving money from advertising with media to finding ways to get you to recommend their product on Facebook or some other social media platform. They call this earned media (ugh!). Why is this important? Well, the most persuasive marketing campaign in the world now is not just getting you to love Kraft Dinner but getting you to sell it to your friends on Facebook with a “like,” a video or picture. This takes product placement in movies to a new level: life.
Yes, social media can be galvanized to protest anything from land development in Istanbul to rigged elections in Egypt, but much of the time it is enfeebling. Human beings are unable to ignore technology. We adopt whatever we invent. The problem is that we are now moving so fast we don’t have a clue where we are going. We are between a digital rock and a hard place.