Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Digital disruption: A personal journey to cutting the cable

May 17, 2015 1 comment

We cut the cable recently. After consuming cable TV since the 1990s suddenly the scrolling acres of EPG content are no more – and guess what? We’re saving money and lives are slightly better for it.


The issue had been bubbling away for some time. Over the past three years out of the 90+ channels Vodafone provided us via the T-Box, I had progressively found my viewing being whittled down to a core of Sky Sports rugby; the occasional movie; news and oddly, the terrestrial TV fodder based around news time.

What had changed over that period? The first crack in our relationship with cable TV was the purchase of Apple TV. I bought the little black box without really having any idea of how we would use it – but encouraged by the enthusiastic comments by a  work colleague.

Our broadband plan of the time wasn’t huge so there was a disincentive to streaming lots of movies but we had fun sharing You Tube clips from our other devices on the big screen. At the time United Video were still receiving Friday and Saturday night visits from us to choose a movie we’d all like. This was a long-standing behaviour that had begun decades earlier with video stores in the towns and cities I lived in in NZ or the UK. Using DVD stores also involved racking up a fair amount in overdue fines when the discs weren’t returned on time. But this was a familiar and well-worn end-of-week ritual for us all.

The second crack in the cable relationship was two poor decisions by our providers. One was Sky TV’s decision not to secure at any cost the rights to screen English Premier League football on Sky Sports in New Zealand, allowing Coliseum Sports to step into the gap adn offer the matches streaming over the internet. Recently Spark entered a joint venture with Coliseum to create Lightbox Sport.

The third issue was the obvious lack of investment by our provider in updating the usability of the dated EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) or any move to provide viewing on demand, rather than via a set schedule or by recording. An issue that was exacerbated when the recording option so often failed by CUTTING OFF THE LAST FIVE MINUTES of the programme (my screaming caps indicate the scars have still not healed).

As a content provider, not delivering the finale of a gripping drama or thriller is pretty much the highest order of epic failure. It was happening too often and from conversations with friends and colleagues – it was happening to everyone, not just us.

However, while Vodafone and Sky were losing us on the content side – Apple TV and Premier League Pass were demanding more data and it was right now that our relationship with Vodafone actually peaked as we doubled our data plan – but the critical point for Vodafone was that it wasn’t solely their content driving our consumption any more.

Fast forward a year from that time and our use of the “DVD store” was practically zero. Tellingly the DVD store was now diversifying about one-third of its floorspace into selling confectionary alongside DVD rentals. It didn’t solve the underlying problem however.


The agonies of choosing a movie we all like had now moved from the DVD store shelves to the Apple TV movie selector.

The next step change was that our two youngest children were now near teenagers and also accessing and consuming video content – mostly videos about their favourite game at the time, Mindcraft or Pokemon. After a period of constantly exceeding our monthly broadband limit I realised we were at a crossroads. I could attempt to continue with a campaign of curbing video access that had limited success or… Or I could look at the behaviour of my millennial offspring and truly understand what David Bowie meant when he said that one day music would be like running water or electricity. I chose to be swept along in this deluge and cranked up our broadband package to an unlimited usage.

Enter Netflix. Not the emasculated NZ version, which has one-eighth of the content of the US version, but the teeming ocean of more than 1100 content titles of movies, TV series and documentaries all without adverts and all available in HD for $NZ15 a month. Unlimited. On demand. Available on any screen in our house any time we want it. No fixed term contract. BAM!

Our relationship with Vodafone and Sky was over before we knew it. One month into Netflix (plus Lightbox for Vikings) we realised we hadn’t watched cable that much at all. Certainly not enough to justify the $90-odd per month we were playing. The only hook cable had in us (well me) was sport outside of the EPL. For me that means the Crusaders and the All Blacks. But, in the interests of experimentation, I reckoned I could survive until the World Cup in September.

In retrospect we pulled the plug 7 days too soon. We gave back the T Box two days before Cricket World Cup semi final. Our contract still had some time to run and luckily I found I still had access to Sky Go – enabling my sporty son and I to watch the most thrilling game of cricket we’ve ever seen – in between Sky Go’s technical problems that required the equivalent of  a reboot every 20-30 minutes. After I tweeted my displeasure I found my access to SkyGo had gone completely (no doubt coincidence – I don’t think my tweets carry that much punch) and went out and purchased a Freeview box for $89 to watch the final via Prime, and also to add in access to “old style” TV just in case the need arises.

Now a couple of months into internet TV there has been more of a change than just access to a universe of amazing content. We have become very discriminating viewers. Instead of opting for the easy family viewing option of reality TV documentaries (cops; sharks; city dwellers on desert islands…) we watch science documentaries like Cosmos; even venturing into Ted talks on robotics with the boys. There are no adverts to divert our attention so we focus solidly on a good documentary. Sometimes we split off into individual screens for watching, gaming, reading, interacting and we also gather together to watch a shared movie or TV. But our screen time is now active rather than passive. And there’s been one other big change.

For the first time in a long time I have come home to a silent house where people are reading, drawing or playing. Our TV consumption has moved from the hypnotic cycle of programmes and ads to watching specific movies, TV shows and documentaries. Admittedly with compelling series like House of Cards or The Fall my wife and I will binge on two or three episodes at a time. But it is a very different viewing experience from the passive viewing of broadcast TV. A straw poll of family members was unanimous – we feel in control.

For the broadcasters this is a real challenge. Apart from product placement we are immune from TV advertising. In fact we just can’t take the barrage of yelling and flashing images when we take a peak back into broadcast TV via the Freeview box. And “TV events” now come to me only via social media, filtered – just like how I get my news.

Yes I am in the early adopter/early majority camp but this is the first light airs of massive disruption – because there’s a growing movement away from the broadcast nature of TV. And how are the large NZ media companies dealing with this right now? In what has been likened to emulating King Canute they are lawyering up and making fighting noises to maintain the status quo.

But as NBR writer Chris Keall writes: “Global mode services let you skirt old-school exclusive distribution monopolies, not bust copyright. You still pay your money, and content makers still get their slice.

As he reflects, the old model is now fundamentally broken. Which will make for interesting viewing from the consumers’ perspective.


Banks, big data and doing the right thing

July 21, 2013 Leave a comment

How comfortable are we about our banks mining personal data?

Banks around the world are wrestling with the complexity and the opportunity around big data as a way to deepen their relationship with customers online.

According to a study earlier this month by Infosys nine out of 10 people would be happy sharing some data with their bank if they received more customisable offers or experiences.

The study compared consumers attitudes to sharing data with retailers, banks and doctors and, probably predictably, banks came out as slightly behind the other two sectors when it came to data trades.

However, despite the finding above the study clearly shows consumers are in some conflict over the benefits and drawbacks of banks using big data.

Almost half  (49%) also say they do not want their purchase and transaction data used to offer new services based on their habits but, almost in the same breath, 48% of bank customers would be happy for the bank to use email or social media to provide them with updates or insights.

The study also finds consumers are more concerned with their account security. Around four fifths (82%) want their banks and financial providers to mine their data to detect anomalies from identity thieves, with the same amount (82%) expecting their banks to already be doing this.”

It is such an important issue that just over three quarters (76%) agree that they would consider changing banks if one offered assurances that their data and money would be safer in their systems.

Financial services futurist – and co-founder of MovenScott Bales has an interesting theory that following Edward Snowden’s revelations the strength of feeling around how our data is used could create a new social and political movement around transparency.

Digital natives will come to demand complete transparency on how their data is being used not just by governments, but by corporates as well.

He says: “The reality of the modern world is that if your doing something wrong behind closed doors. The Facebook Generation will find out,  they will share what your doing, and you will be held accountable.”

The Infosys study shows consumers expect better deals from retailers in return for sharing personal information and better attention from their doctor’s office for a similar trade. But banks don’t have a great track record in utilising what they know about the customer: e.g. “Would you like insurance with that?”

Post-GFC, trust in banks generally is going to take some time to recover – particularly in Europe and the US where bank failures have destroyed consumer confidence. One UK survey predicts it will take a generation before banks are trusted again.

How banks use big data to interact with their customers online (and by online I really mean mobile) in the next few years is going to be critical to the relevance of banking and the securing of trust in the minds of a new generation of customers.

There is an amazing opportunity for banks to use the data opportunity to transform their customers online experiences for the better. Instead of going down the retail route of using the data just to flog more products what if banks decided their focus would be purely on using insight to create ways to make customers richer; safer and happier?

But above all there is an incredible opportunity for banking to use big data in a way that embraces openness. That combination of deep insight and transparency could be the difference between banks continuing to be relevant to a new generation of consumers. Or not.

Why our social media strategy is just wrong

June 6, 2011 2 comments
Role of social media

Why businesses do social media

The chart above articulates, for me, the reasons why businesses, particularly financial institutions, are involved in social media. Right now we are primarily there for customer service reasons. And that’s because our customers are already there – they beat us to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter a long time ago, and we followed because we had to. We can’t not be where our customers are, and we’re reacting to their needs as best we can.

We try to gauge sentiment but, as I discussed in my previous post, the tools aren’t around at the moment to meaningfully allow us to really gauge sentiment  based on social media activity. The data is there, for sure, but it’s so vast and unstructured we struggle to make sense of it.

Most of us use social media to support our brands. Some do this really well – but most of the time we’re so pre-occupied with trying to service customers in social media we don’t step out of the reactive space and move into the leadership space. And to really support your brand well you need to be leading, not reacting.

Some of us try sales and marketing but in social media channels we generally end up giving our recipients blunt-force trauma. Standard CRM or, even worse, DM marketing techniques don’t go down overly well in social media. It’s all just too obvious and crude – like a desperate pick-up line before the slow finale at the school dance.

Current to future state Social Media

Our social media strategies need to evolve

The vast majority of business activity in social media currently is supporting customer service. And this is an unsustainable strategy based on reactivity which needs to change, fast. We need to start leading.

Businesses (and banks in particular) operate social media channels like an online drop-in centre where unauthenticated people raise issues publicly that we move to a voice channel after authentication. It’s like a front-desk where you ring a bell and get your issue rapidly dealt with as they get a not too dissimilar priority as escalations to the CEO office.

But because most of us need to authenticate customers to be able to solve their problems, dealing with a customer in Facebook or Twitter is very hard for businesses. We need to move them into an authenticated channel – “e.g. DM me your number” where we can better meet their needs.

Someone who knows this only too well is Esteban Kolsky . In this video interview (10 minutes of pretty spot on commentary) Kolsky makes some incisive statements around the conundrum of dealing with customers in social media channels.

He cites that less than 4% of complaints are resolved via Twitter.  

I paraphrase him, but his argument is: “(In Twitter) You find customers who want to complain, they would do it anyway, they just get better escalation by doing it in Twitter. I never met a customer in my life that could explain the situation in 140 characters, let alone have the problem resolved in 140 characters.”

This resonates with me and it’s a situation where a lot of us find ourselves. And I don’t believe it’s sustainable at all.

Banks, in particular,  should be leveraging the golden opportunity of social media around data and shifting the focus from 1-2-1 customer support to brand and sales supporting and gauging customer sentiment. We should be putting our business information and knowledge management teams onto this right now.

Because the biggest issue today with social media strategy is that organisations either don’t get it (admittedly less and less of them) or are managing it in a completely unsustainable way – and I think that’s most of us.

Lost without a map in the world of Social Media

June 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The trouble with Social Media for business is that there’s a lot of noise – and currently we don’t have the tools to filter this noise.


The Prosumer

This noise is being created by The Prosumer – the consumer who produces as much (in some cases more) than they consume. While the term Prosumer originates with Toffler in the 1970s, it’s really been the advent of web 2.0 that has given this consumer segment the ability to give full flight to their insatiable creativity.

You can only marvel at what the prosumer is accomplishing. I’ve been trawling stats for a presentation and some of them are just astounding. In fact, they’re probably more astounding now as the daily rate of increase for sites like Twitter and Facebook mean the figures below are probably already understating the case. Nevertheless it’s breathtaking:

  • Every minute: 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube
  • Every hour: 10.5 million songs illegally downloaded
  • 175 million registered on Twitter and 50 billion tweets in March
  • Facebook has 600 million visits a month – which translates into 300 million visits a day
  • Facebook’s total user base is equal to the 3rd biggest country in the world after China and India.
  • In New Zealand, a country of 4.4m people,  1.9m Kiwis have Facebook pages. To put that into context, here are only 2.8 million New Zealanders between the ages of 18 and 65.

I find this is the most extraordinary example of the impact of Prosumerism: In 2002 human beings created 5 Exabytes of unique information. If you want to write that it looks like this:


That’s 50 with 18 zeros. Not being a numbers guy I had to look up what to call such a large number and it turns out the term for something with that many zeroes is Quintillion. So, in 2002, 50 Quintillion bytes of data were created and what’s astounding is that this is more than was collectively generated by humans in the preceding 5,000 years. So in one year human beings created more data than in the previous 5,000 years.

We’re now doubling this every two years. This is the new reality and it’s Moore’s Law on anabolic steroids.

What it means for businesses trying to manage Social Media engagement is that the vast amount of data to filter is unfathomable. We are pioneers on a new frontier that’s as daunting and thrilling as any faced by humans before. Does that sound too cheesy? Well, as it may, but I truly believe that this unprecedented social interaction which has been enabled by Web 2.0 will transform our society. But only when we can actually make sense of the storm of digital noise that’s doubling every two years.

Dalrymple's early map of New Zealand

Chart of the South Pacifick Ocean Pointing out the Discoveries made therein Previous to 1764

And that’s the rub. The tools we have now to chart social media are equivalent to the maps carried by Cook in his voyages of discovery. They show us the tantalising outlines of potentially exciting and exotic continents that make us look at our world anew. But for the moment they are only tantalising outlines.