Very timely post Jordan…and a great read to boot! You’ve got to the heart of one the key issues today’s society faces in how it gets its news. As a ex-BBC employee with a passionate belief in media’s role to help shape and develop society, this is a topic close to my heart.
Despite not creating any content, Facebook is a media-powerhouse with vast power and influence over its users. This is power that has the potentially to be leveraged in such a way that can really help to democratize the information-sharing process and enable users to be exposed to new ways of thinking. However, the reality is that, despite its noble mission, Facebook is a commercial organisation not a public service. This means serving up content that users will like and share, not content that users will learn from or be challenged by. The end result turns the social media giant into a dangerous mirror, whereby users simply have their own views reflected back at them, with said views only being further entrenched.
We can fool ourselves that, in getting news from dozens of providers via Facebook, we are in fact more well-rounded and informed that ever before, but the reality is that Facebook’s algorithms act as editorial curators which pander to all our biases, prejudice and long-held opinions. If, via Facebook, we are reading 15 articles a day from 15 different news providers but they are all cementing what we each already believe, is that really contributing to society’s progression? The only way to change that is for Facebook to take a risk: serve up content that will provoke, challenge and open our minds…even if users don’t like it.
Interesting take on an player that is really having to re-imagine itself in the world of the online shopper.
I think you are absolutely spot on when you talk about Walmart’s drive to build customer relationships via their stores. However quick or convenient e-commerce is for shoppers, it does take an element of control out of the process for sellers. With stores, however, there is real opportunity for shopper engagement which, when done well, can increase a customer’s affinity with the brand exponentially. On top of this, by virtue of simply having a bricks and mortar presence, brands like Walmart ensure they are always top of mind with consumers; in effect, the stores serve as advertisement platforms.
To that end, I feel there will always be some space for the role of the physical store. However, this role is clearly coming under threat from the margin maximising rise of e-commerce. As such, it is key that Walmart continues to innovate to make its stores relevant and redefine them for the digital world.
More generally, I have been interested to read about Walmart’s push to have an online presence via social media. With 34,000,0000+ Facebook likes, 210,000+ Twitter followers, 33,000+ followers on Pinterest and 20 bloggers called “Walmart Moms”, they have a very well defined social media strategy that many old-world retail brands could learn from.
Interesting read. Worth sending to the NYT – who knows, maybe it will be a front-page splash 😉
There will always be appetite for premium journalism…the question is whether that appetite will involve paying customers. With the entrance into the market of some many new players who are serving up increasingly high-quality content for free (e.g. Buzzfeed, HuffPo etc.), I fear that old-world media houses such as the NYT will need to do more to justify their paywall. Perhaps this could be done through investing more in exclusive video content? They already do some of this with T Brand Studio as you mention, but I feel there could be more. VICE have seen significant success in this arena with their long-from documentary series.
Bringing in additional revenue streams through initiatives such as live events could also be an interesting option. It is something that the Guardian has been doing as they look to cultivate ‘brand love’ and foster deep customer loyalty – something that will only become more important as readers become less and less prepared to pay for their news.
Interesting take on a company that is blazing the trail in this brave new world: the sharing economy.
From a consumer perspective, Airbnb has been a resounding success to date: convenient, easy and good value.
I do worry, though, about the wider implications for the hospitality industry as a whole. Airbnb’s incredible ability to scale (due to their next to zero marginal cost per room added to the site) is something hotels simply cannot compete with. Whilst the obvious reaction to this is: “as long as the experience for the end-consumer is better with Airbnb, why does it matter if they replace hotels over time?”, this could have huge implications for many economies that are overly-reliant on, for instance, tourism. Airbnb – like other players in the sharing economy – cuts out many part of the value chain, which could leave countless jobs under threat from extinction. The knock-on impact on GDP of this could hit certain economies hard.
Great article on an organisation that I feel huge affinity for!
TED is a really interesting example of a player that is successfully combing the off and online worlds to create the best of both: best in-class physical experiences for the few that can be shared digitally with the many. I love the fact that their core product – key note talks – is something so ‘radically un-radical’ on the face of it. This simplicity is part of the reason it has the potential to be so powerful.
Similar to some of the thoughts above, I wonder if they can go even more ‘radically un-radical’ by pushing harder on good old-fashioned community engagement programmes. TedX is a start, but is there an angle to be pursued around going into schools and community centres to get young people in engaged in the learning process, for instance? They have the brand to pull people in and the sponsors to fund it. It could be a great way to get people from disadvantaged backgrounds exposure to new ways of thinking, catalyse information-sharing and democratize the learning process.
Interesting take. I love the almost existential (!) question you pose about the fundamental tension between fast-fashion and sustainable fashion existing as one.
This strikes me as something that is as much the customer’s responsibility as the retailers themselves. In a commercial market, there will always be businesses that look to exploit certain situations in order to maximise shareholder returns. If the customers continue to exist (as they do with H&M) then businesses will continue to serve them. Thus, it is difficult to envisage H&M voluntarily moving towards more responsible, sustainable businesses practices if those changes weaken the customer proposition (e.g. increasing prices, reducing choice).
Instead, customers need to vote with the shopping choices they make. That is, refrain from the toxic fast-fashion proposition that H&M represents, in favour of more ethically sourced offerings. Short of government legislation, this is the only way to really make brands like H&M sit up and take notice.
Great article that gets to the heart of the challenges policy-makers face.
You clearly highlight the rationale and benefits of implementing green-focused policies in Detroit – a city that is evidently being impacted significantly by climate change. The difficulty is that policy-makers are under undue pressure, both from voters, individual parties and from influencers within the public arena in general, to deliver results quickly. This translates into short-term policies winner over long-term ones – regardless of the strength of the underlying drivers behind those policies.
To get climate change on the top of the political priority list in Detroit, individual voters need to start caring about it. This means educating voters on how climate change impacts them and how the new initiatives you mention can directly benefit them in terms of job-creation, job security and economic sustainability.
Great read – well articulated and original.
The Catholic Church exists to unite. As such, it has historically attempted (with mixed success!) to avoid controversy, which by its nature divides. This makes the Pope’s actions in June 2015 – which stepped away from this pattern – all the more fascinating.
I would echo some of the above comments in observing that there seems to be a fundamental tension here between voicing a progressive, modern view when you are representing what is fundamentally a conservative, ancient institution. Though to many of us the issue of climate change is unarguably something we need to shout about in order to lobby for legislative change, it is difficult for the Catholic Church – a body that represents many old-fashioned and illiberal views – to be a fore-running voice in the debate.
That said, I absolutely applaud the Pope’s intentions to risk division for the greater good. There is no reason why religion and science cannot exist without contradicting each other.
Very interesting article.
Whilst many industries and companies are faced with severe challenges as climate change takes its hold, it’s fascinating to understand in more depth how others are spotting the opportunity in these challenges and new, innovative business are emerging as a result.
In particular, it’s interesting to read about how DAS is attacking some of the challenges around extreme weather with genetically modified seeds. What strikes me here is the challenge in getting the end-consumer to adopt these GM products. Whilst it appears adoption is increasingly necessary if we are to be sustainable in a world of rapid climate change, many consumers are still hesitant to consume GM products, with many stigmatising the industry as unnatural and unhealthy.
Solving this comes down to (a) ensuring the GM seeds are as close to naturally farmed seeds as possible; (b) educating of the benefits of GM crops; and (c) reassuring the consumer of the safety of GM crops.
What strikes me is that it is clear the Maldives are a victim of climate change, rather than a root cause. There situation is as such tragic. However, tragic as it may be, the country’s situation serves as a powerful lesson to other countries around the globe and could be used as a catalysed for lobbying for legislative change.
It is with this context that I consider the initiatives you mention (e.g. the Climate Change Trust Fund) to be – whilst noble – short-termist and reactionary, serving only to slow-down the Maldives’ inevitable demise, rather than have any wider impact beyond those islands. As such, I would re-pivot these efforts into showing the rest of the globe what can happen if changes are not implemented and lobbying for that global change.
It is perhaps too late for the Maldives to save themselves, but it is not too late for positive change to be implemented around the rest of the globe.