Archive | August 2016

One ring to rule them all…or at least buy coffee.

There is a new wearable technology, and I am not completely negative on it. Don’t get me wrong: NFC payment rings (that you wear on your finger) are NOT going to be the Next Big Thing, and will not be more popular than smartphones or tablets. But I think that we may see millions of these on people’s hands by 2018, maybe even 25 million. Why might smart rings be more popular than smart watches such as the Apple watch or smart glasses such as Google Glass?

It is true that smart rings don’t do very much compared to smart watches or glasses. In my view, that’s not a bug, that’s a feature! While it is technologically possible to make a head wearable or wrist wearable show notifications and make calls and have a screen, the device ends up being big, bulky, noticeable and expensive.

On the other hand (as it were) a ring containing an NFC chip is only good for authentication. You could use it to make a payment, unlock your phone or front door or car door…and that’s about it. But since it does only one thing, it costs about $50, not $500. No battery. No reliance on a smartphone or Wi-Fi network. And almost no one would ever notice that you are wearing it.

Next, wrist wearables like fitness bands are kind of nags. They bug us to get off our butts and walk or run or exercise. Which is great, of course…but it is like pushing water uphill! Most people are lazy, and don’t want to move around more than necessary. Getting people to exercise is (sadly) harder than getting them to buy more stuff with an easier payment technology.

Speaking of uphill battles? Over the past 30 years tens of millions of people have stopped wearing things on their face. Over the last 10 years tens of millions of people have stopped wearing things on their wrists. Contact lenses and laser eye surgery have let many people get rid of glasses, and ubiquitous smartphones have let many people get rid of wristwatches.

Getting people to go back to wearing something they thought they had gotten rid of is hard; I think that is part of why sales of other wearable technologies have been so disappointing. But there has been no significant move away from wearing rings.

Finally, most of you won’t remember this, but finger-worn technology is not a new thing. In the 1970s, there was something called Mood Rings. They didn’t work well, were pretty unattractive, and were ruined if you got them wet. But they sold MILLIONS, and at a price that is equivalent to about $250 in today’s money.

I haven’t got a lot of data on this, since NFC ring tech is so new. But I have a hunch this wearable might actually surprise on the upside.


Why digital may not take all of the ad dollars: that darned Pareto Principle

Digital advertising spending has grown over the last decade by stealing a lot of share from print magazines and newspapers and some other categories. But the odd thing is that ad spending in North America for both TV and radio advertising is NOT collapsing in the same way as print. In fact, depending on the year, both are still rising! I have a theory as to why.

This gets a little tricky, so bear with me! You may remember something called the Pareto Principle, also known at the 80/20 rule? It says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This isn’t true in every industry, but it IS true a lot of the time. Many companies get about 4/5 of their revenues from one fifth of their customers, for instance.

It is also true of many digital behaviors, according to Nielsen. The top 20% of users are responsible for 76% of in home Internet usage on a PC, 83% of smartphone video, and a shocking 87% of streaming on a PC. (Is hyper-Pareto a thing?) On the other hand, the 80/20 rule does NOT apply to traditional TV and AM/FM radio. The top fifth of viewers/listeners still account for more than their share, of course…but they represent ‘only’ 52% (TV) and 48% (radio) of all usage. Much less than Pareto would suggest. Why is this important?

If you are an advertiser, and you want to sell a product with a very precise and targeted market in mind, digital is awesome! You can spend only what you need to, and ‘waste’ very little of your ad dollars. (It doesn’t mean they always buy, but at least you aren’t paying for ads to be seen by people who would never purchase your product.)

But what if you are selling a product that EVERYBODY might want to buy? In that case, if you buy (for example) display ads on video streaming on a PC, 87% of your ads will be seen by 20% of the market, and the rest of your market will see very few of your ads.

That suggests that some products are better for digital, but others are better for traditional broadcast media like radio and TV. If true, that would suggest that the spending gains seen by digital in the past few years may start slowing, TV and radio will stay resilient or even grow, and that their relative shares will stabilise for the next few years.

Interestingly, that is exactly what seems to be happening when we look at ad spending trends for the first half of 2016: TV and radio are doing better than expected, and digital is still growing, but a little less than expected.

The implications for the future of TV and radio advertising are intriguing. Yes, audiences are dropping a little, but ad spend may be more robust.


Advice to a 25 year old: so we had coffee, talked about your job hunt, and I made some introductions?

I have “coffee meetings” with people looking to make a career change or start a new career dozens of times per year. I am always happy to do it, of course…but my time is valuable. So they owe me and so do you! 🙂

What do I want in return? Saying thanks is great, and you already did that, with a prompt, fulsome, and heartfelt email the next day. Well done, you were raised right!

But what else might you owe me? I don’t want money, no flowers needed, and I have no interest in your first born child. What I would like is brief but meaningful information sharing, preferably via email or Messenger. Two kinds please:

1) If I introduced you to persons A, B and C…let me know how it is going after a week or two? “Hi Duncan: I have a meeting with A on Friday, B next week, but C hasn’t been replying to my emails.” Why do I want to know this? Because I take our conversation seriously, and my commitment to help you equally seriously. If I made the offer to have you meet the right people, there is a little flag in my mental “to do” list until those meetings take place. If C isn’t getting back to you, let me know, and I will gently assist; you will get your coffee chat, and I will sleep better at night knowing my job is over!

2) Please send me brief follow-ups after each meeting? Why? Because I want to know how useful my process of making introductions is. If I am sending you (and others) to meet people who are rude and unhelpful, then I need to cross them off my list. Equally, if the meeting outcome is “They said it was a waste of time, and they not only hate me, they won’t even talk to you any more” then that is an important thing for me to know about too! If they hire you to be CEO of their company, then I will be happy for you, and not worry about coming up with any more names for you to meet. Finally, if they liked you well enough and referred you to other people or firms, I might be able to help you there too.

To be clear, you’re only 25! I am not criticizing you for not knowing all of the above. I didn’t know it when I was your age, and most of your peers don’t communicate well in this way either. I also know that it isn’t laziness on your part: you worry that you’ve taken up a lot of my time already, and don’t want to “bug me” with a bunch of follow up emails. This note is let you know that you are NOT bothering me, and that I would rather get more information from you than less. If you start spamming me…don’t worry, I will be sure to let you know. Immediately. 🙂

And maybe not everyone my age who makes introductions has the same preferences I do. But I think most do want to hear back about whether the meeting has been set up, and how it went. I hope you don’t mind me sharing my preferences.

Bringing the best and the brightest together, one speech at a time.

Another nice thing happened to me this week. I was shooting a video for Deloitte in our new offices on Monday, and the nice lady who had set the whole thing up was unfamiliar to me. After we finished the shoot, I asked if we had ever met before?

“Not exactly,” she said, “but in the fall of 2013 I was looking for work, and had a couple of possible jobs in line. I was at an IABC event in Toronto where you gave your Predictions talk, and some part of why I decided to pick Deloitte was that speech. You made Deloitte seem like a cool, interesting and fun company to work at.”

I was (briefly) speechless. As a speaker, I have never received a better compliment. My role at Deloitte is to get prospective clients to talk to us, keep existing clients happy by giving them fresh insights, and (as often as possible) to have them give us money-making projects and engagements.

But none of that works unless we have the best and brightest and most diverse group of employees possible. Finding out that I helped, at least in some small way, has sent my personal job satisfaction through the roof. 🙂

The best predictions never get published!

I had something nice happen yesterday! A reporter who covered the tech beat back in 2001 took the time to write me:

“Yahoo’s sale to Verizon had me laughing as I recalled a January 2001 interview where you predicted Yahoo would one day be sold for nickels on the dollar.

My editor at the time said I had to remove that from my copy.”

Given that Yahoo’s peak market cap was about $120B, and they just sold the core property for under $5B, it is nice to have my prediction more-or-less come exactly true! Nickels on the dollar indeed.

I guess the other thing to note is that many of the best and most accurate predictions tend to get edited, modified or vetoed outright. The truly bold and useful predictions almost always look unpublishable when they are first made! So don’t censor yourself when thinking about the future.