The Long and Winding Road by Patrick Reade

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Extrapolate what you have or engage what you don’t?

Well , my reservations about grey skies and shade bathing were scoffed at by the gods this week! Weather this side of the pond has been nothing short of stellar, so much so that many parts of the UK are in drought conditions with restrictions on the use of water for gardens and car washing type activities…..can you believe it? Perhaps if I make derogatory remarks about my cash-flow I might win the lottery!!

As I perused the media articles about all things digital, marketing, advertising and technological etc this week I could not help noticing the repeated mentions of high tech activity in parts of Europe we do not normally think of as ‘cutting edge’.

Now Europe , or the European Community as it is defined in the legal /economic entity that it is, has around 450,000,000 people living and working there. The USA has around 300,000,000 ( or 500,000,000 if you are Nancy Pelosi…poor dear!) all of which means that the EU is no mere ‘also ran’ in the marketplace for anything. While Nascar and NFL are humongous businesses with frighteningly powerful economic importance in the USA there are very few Europeans who have heard of them, let alone who are influenced by their advertisers and sponsors. Not to say that Nascar and NFL are small or insignificant, far from it, they have shown just how powerful it is to engage your customers and prospects to achieve a win-win situation where they are happy with what you offer and you are happy to provide it because the ROI is aggressive.

As the USA has traditionally been the powerhouse of economic activity and cutting edge business , it is reasonable to look there for inspiration and best practice, however as the pendulum has swung away from the USA towards the east we also should look a little further to the right on the map to see some pretty interesting stuff going on.

Perhaps some of these activities may not always be revolutionary but the big difference is that these moves in Europe and beyond are being deployed in far more refined ways than before amongst a largely untapped population. What does this mean? It means massive economic potential…thank you USA for showing us Europeans how to do it!!

What it also means is that for US companies and those of us who really understand how far reaching the Internet is , we can spread our efforts to cultivate the new territories . These new territories are not necessarily physical places but more the imaginations and minds of people who are relatively new to the technological advances we enjoy.

Take Slovakia and Slovenia for example…..Sloowho???? Slovakia is the other half of the former Czechoslovakia which was reclaimed in the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1989 lead by Vaclav Havel ( who sadly died in 2011).

Slovenia is the northern most part of the former Yugoslavia and is the richest per capita Slavic State.

Watch this video presentation from Piano Media telling of their pay per view/pay per browse/free content / cable TV model being used in Europe.

What is interesting here is that this far flung corner of South Central Europe with modest population at present is really being very adventurous and novel in how it grabs some market share…and none of the big boys have been consulted about it, let alone given permission!

Are we sure we are not thinking that these folk will naturally just lay down and let the more established providers and more powerful economic forces dictate the future? ‘Think again!’, these guys are already out there leading the way and I don’t see Dale Earnhardt Jr anywhere!!

If we look a little further to the right on the map we see that Russia is also quietly working away at a sector of the industry which many think is still just developing in the USA for example. In a report by Dezan Shira and Associates in the Russia Briefing on-line site they say:

“Russia’s US$2.2 million e-book market expects to double this year following key market players’ prospects to keep their remarkable growth in sales. Meanwhile, market players estimate that the legitimate segment accounts for only 10 percent of the Russian digital book market.

A December 2011 report by RosBusinessConsulting (RBC) Research says the domestic on-line retail industry is expected to grow considerably. In the market research company’s best-case scenario, e-books’ share of the Russian book market could hit 30 percent by 2015. For now, digital books account for less than 1 percent of the country’s total book sales.

For comparison, e-books now account for approximately 8 percent, or US$1 billion, of the U.S. book market (the WSJ says e-books command even more – 19 percent – of the U.S. market), 2 percent of the British market, 1.1 percent in Japan, and approximately 1 percent in Germany.”

More news from Russia recently shows that Capptain, the French app makers has teamed up with a Russian capital funder to develop and expand their worldwide footprint delivering apps ‘in the cloud’..what is significant here is that the platforms being used range from iOS, Android, Html5, Web OS, Blackberry/RIM and WP7 down through to Samsung’s Smart TV service, and the subsequent range of devices, from mobile handsets and tablets through to Internet-enabled TVs. Forward thinking? With other providers in the field the article suggests there might also be some consolidation looming and ‘hey presto’ there is a major player in the EU and Russia….hmmmmm!

” Le Siliconcloudgrad”?

So why all the Europe stuff? Are we supposed to feel like we are getting this wrong? No , not at all, but as content developers and deliverers of content we need to think about engaging across the board, getting as wide a platform of user a possible. Squeezing the last drop from your most comfortable market sector will not translate to long term growth. The added value of a ‘mosaic of users’ is that you quickly develop subsets of users who need and want specific content…they tell you what they need, you don’t have to guess if you converse with them effectively.

Do we sometimes try to lead our users down a path we like? Do we sometimes wonder where they went?

Haven’t we all seen good companies struggle to understand their customers so much they start to devalue their own products and effectively bribe the customer to buy it?

The Piano Media people and the French/ Russian efforts both have the understanding of their users behaviour as paramount in the further direction of their services…take note , they are in this for the long haul and not messing around!

Now if you are thinking that there is more to the world than Europe , you are correct. Perhaps you are thinking that the real new territories lay a little further to the right on the map, say in China with that staggering population of unsuspecting souls all desperate for the West to point them in the right direction. Well, not for the first time in this missive I say , ‘Think again!’

The Chinese have made huge inroads into developing their own digital world; look at some of these stats provided by Freddie Laker of SapientNitro only last week at the SXSW conference.

China has 355,000,000 MOBILE internet users in 2011, a seven fold increase since 2007, they have a social media segment with the likes of ‘renren’ claiming 95 million users being the least impressive of them all. ‘QQ’ has 711 million , BBS has 500 million users , two other sites have between 305 million and 370 million users respectively plus a host of other smaller sites going strong and all expecting substantial growth over the coming few years especially in the mobile market. Do they need Facebook or Twitter? I think not! Before too long the dominant language on the interent will be Chinese.

Impressive eh? Absolutely but not a reason to give up, just a reminder that, like the English Football Team (soccer to the uninitiated) being the originator of the modern game does not give you the God given right to be on top of the tree indefinately. Once we understand the opportunity and competition, accepting their strengths and perspectives we too can develop further, we can learn from China’s ability to innovate and refine existing methods. The internet is like a fire, nobody can tell you exactly how fast the fire will burn and how intense it will be however if we put our firewood, in the form of content and engagement in the path of the flames we can take part in some form of a controlled burn which does more good than bad.

I think the upshot of this is, that wherever we are physically situated and whatever our comfort zone is , we have to look farther afield and we have to stretch ourselves to reach out to everybody who is connected to the web in any way , shape or form.

Always remember and be true to your best attributes as a business but never rest on your laurels and look at a developing market as easy pickings whenever you can be organised enough to engage them. They may well have gone ahead and developed their own products and services and left you behind.

Let’s not extrapolate the figures we have to include a new , untapped population and then pat ourselves on the back at the expectant growth of business, NO! Go out as if you were a start-up company and meet , greet, converse with and learn about the people in your desired new market and talk to them in their language. Educate, inform and excite them with your passion for their lives….hey make a video of them and let the whole world see, after all ‘a picture says a thousand words!’

See you on the long and winding road


Patrick Reade lives in Liverpool and is an indispensable member of the 3rd Planet team. 

Blogs: Bibliothèque | Vidiothèque | Audio Prodcast

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