Barely a month seems to go by without us writing about ad-blocking – if we’re not discussing its rising popularity, or increased use on mobile phones, we’re examining the fear it engenders in digital publishers.
In fact, ad-blocking has been such a prevalent topic, I think Martin’s pretty bored of it! And I was prepared to leave the subject well alone, but then the issue was ratcheted up several notches last week when John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary, used his speech at the Oxford Media Convention to wade into the debate.
2016 marks twenty years since I became a headhunter. While that makes me feel incredibly old, it has been a fascinating time to be an observer of the media landscape across the UK and beyond.
When I first started, the internet existed, but was a hard-to-use and limited resource with dial-up access. Email also existed, but not in my office (we relied on faxes). Things were changing, yes; but no-one had really grasped the magnitude of what was about to happen.
If you really want to know how much the media world has changed in the intervening years, imagine saying this back in 1996:
Brands, publishers and media owners are increasingly focused on tailoring content to meet the specific needs of individuals; and fuelling this rush to ever-greater personalisation has been a reliance on access to data – every last search term, web view, and geo-tagged movement helping firms to build a profile against which advertising can be sold.
So what does a consumer get in return for handing over all this information?
Other than being fed messages that advertisers think are relevant, they usually get nothing; but all that could be about to change…
With just over a week to go before everyone downs tools and sets off for a well-earned break, it seems a good moment to review the last twelve months to see if any discernible pattern can be established from looking at the subjects we have covered on this blog.
By taking the wholly unscientific route of totting up the topics (essentially, counting repeated use of subject tags) covered in the last year it’s possible to see where our thoughts have been since January. So, which issue has dominated this executive recruitment blog? Of all the topics we have used in the last 12 months, which has been the most prevalent?
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
It is one of the most derided quotes of all time: simultaneously mocked both for its obviousness and its obscurity, Donald Rumsfeld was trying – ham-fistedly – to explain US foreign policy in Iraq. And we know how well that turned out.
Web users find online advertising annoying, intrusive, often irrelevant, and a drag on browser speed. For those that go online using a mobile, there are also concerns over stealth data consumption and privacy.
It’s for these reasons, according to a recent YouGov survey, that 15% of internet users currently use ad-blocking software and 22% have at one time or another downloaded
Bringing in new staff to run and, hopefully, improve the performance of a business means that payroll – alongside commercial rent – is often the biggest expense a company faces; but a typical business knows comparatively little about the real motivational factors that drive their workforce once they have got them through the door.
What if smart use of data could help firms understand their employees better? How would that change the criteria on which they base their hiring choices?
Big Data is usually talked about in terms of what it can do for consumers and customer relationships, but what happens when you apply its principles to staffing?
What happens when a firm starts to look scientifically at information about its employees? What happens when it starts to apply People Analytics?
Here’s a potentially concerning development all media owners would be advised to keep an eye on: this week, the Financial Times revealed ‘several’ mobile operators are proposing to lock advertising on their networks, with one European provider preparing to do so before the end of this year.
If you’re thinking of recruiting digital executives in the next 12-months, this could be a live issue with which they (and you) might have to deal.
Gamification is increasingly touted as a way for big firms to improve recruitment programmes, staff training and retention, but if the results of a recent survey are to be believed (and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t) wholesale uptake isn’t likely to happen any time soon.
The report – commissioned by people management firm Penna – found that far from rushing to bring gamification technologies in to their recruitment programmes, many companies have no interest in adopting its techniques.
In addition, the survey found, despite gamification currently being bang on-trend in the HR and recruitment sectors, 89 per cent of employees had never actually heard the term.
Gamification may be in vogue, but when Penna asked leading HR directors about its use in the workplace, and 70 per cent said it had never been used at their organisation.
Off the top of your head can you guess where Britain’s fastest growing technology hub is located?
East London? Manchester? Cambridge? Liverpool?
Nope, it’s none of those places. According to this year’s Tech Nation report, Bournemouth is by some distance the fastest-expanding tech cluster in the country. Between 2013 and 2014, it saw a 212% rise in new tech companies forming. It’s growing nearly twice as fast as Liverpool, its nearest rival.
Online publishing businesses in the UK expect to be at the heart of a 2015 recruitment boom driven by the adoption of programmatic advertising systems, according to research released this month.
Data from the annual Association of Online Publishers’ Organisation Census said 71% of online publishers in the UK expect to recruit additional staff in the coming year – the highest percentage seen since the survey began in 2003.
Recruitment and skills development is now a key investment area for online publishers, according to the AOP, as the industry begins, at speed, to adopt the use of programmatic trading.
The results of the AOP Census mark something of a turnaround from last summer when a separate survey found nearly a third of all publishers in the UK – online and offline – hadn’t even heard of programmatic advertising.
Workers rejoice! The days of firms barring employees from looking at social networking websites could be at an end. Why? ‘Cause Facebook is aiming to help everyone do their jobs just that little bit better…
In-house recruitment professionals should be especially excited by news that Facebook has launched a new social network specifically for office communications – it’s called Facebook At Work.
The speculative amongst you may care to think that sounds a bit like Facebook making inroads into LinkedIn’s territory, albeit in a different way – we’ll come to that…
So far just a handful of companies have be asked to join an extended trial of Facebook At Work, but the service is expected to be rolled out to the wider business community in the coming months of 2015.
Like its big sister site, Facebook At Work lets users create an account, post content, and interact. But instead of doing that with friends, it’s with co-workers.
The coming of the New Year brings with it an annual rush of predictions on the trends and technologies that will dominate the next twelve months for those businesses keen to use digital channels to expand and improve the way the talk to – and do business with – their customers.
In the latest of these predictions, Tech Radar said last month the key trend for retail technology in the next 12-months would be the rise of ‘hyper-personalisation’. Instead of looking at portfolios of individuals, customer management would instead be looking at customer persona as a way to drive innovation and keep shoppers engaged.
“Only by serving the changing needs, preferences and behaviour of the customer,” it said, ‘will retailers and brands be able to meet today’s hyper-connected consumers on their terms, across all channels of interaction.”
Mention Drudge Report to any web publisher and they’re likely to grow wistful and yearn for the days when a single link from the site could send their annual traffic sky-high.
With few referral sites, small audiences and less competition, things were simpler for web publishers in the not-so-distant past. What traffic a site drew was usually direct, or via a search engine, and the volume of pages published on any given day often determined the size of the audience.
Fast-forward to today and the situation couldn’t be more different: the competition for eyeballs is more fierce than ever and (thanks to social media) the number of high-volume referrers has gone through the roof.
Picture the situation: your firm is an airline, a customer enraged by the delay in getting back to him about lost baggage pays to promote a tweet about the ‘horrendous’ customer service. It gets seen by 76,000 people, what do you do?
Well, if you’re British Airways, you take eight hours to reply, enrage him all the more with your excuse, and carve out your own little corner of Internet infamy.
Customer Services may once have been the preserve of call centres but now, thanks to social media, it has become a high-stakes game. Not only do firms have to deal with a new channel, they also have to deal with a new culture. Now, customer grievances and the responses they bring are aired in public. If your firm gets it wrong it could end up like BA – with a black mark that (despite all recent improvements to social customer service) remains shareable and searchable.
Trying to set the year gone in some kind of context is always tough – and 2014 has proved no different. Often, the problem is trying to distinguish how the previous 12 months differed from those that preceded them. That’s not an issue this year; so much has happened, it’s hard to know where to start.
My partner in crime Albert Ng has already rounded-up his key themes of the recruitment sector in 2014, so I’ll limit my review to the topics that have dominated this blog in the last 12-months (Ye shall know them by their fruits, and all that). So, what exactly have we spent 2014 writing about?
With Christmas round the corner you’d think weary journalists and bloggers would begin to relax, to picture mince pies and a warming fire. This isn’t the case. Around now, fear rises. The mouth gets dry, the head light. They know it’s inevitable: any minute now the editor will lumber over and ask the question they’ve spent most of December hoping to avoid:
“Old chap,” the editor says. “Fancy writing a few hundred on what’s going to be big next year?”
Dusting off the crystal ball is amongst the most loathed of journalistic tasks: when asked to make predictions on what will set a certain industry alight in the next 12 months, it’s usually a toss-up between making grand proclamations that immediately turn you into a hostage to fortune, or saying so little as to barely cast your imagination forward at all. In short, it’s an unenviable task. But that said, let’s give it a go anyway…
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal summed it up succinctly: some brands, it said, are increasingly using programmatic systems to buy digital ads themselves, rather than paying third parties to do so for them. A survey from Forrester Research and the Association of National Advertisers suggests a reason: it says 46% of marketers are concerned about the transparency of agencies tasked to buy online ads. Put simply, if the agency doesn’t tell you how much of your money its live buying desk spending on ads, and how much it’s taking as a fee, fears can spread.
(If you’re unsure of what programmatic ads are – might be an idea to pause here and read this…)
A few weeks ago, a disgruntled newspaper journalist said to me “the rationale seems to be ‘why bother doing your USP well, when you can do the ubiquitous badly?’” It’s a question many journalists of my acquaintance have been struggling with. I’m sure they would sympathise with Gareth Davies, Chief Reporter at the Croydon Advertiser, who publicly vented his fury on Twitter after fellow Local World website, the Maidstone & Medway News, ran a story on the celebrity nude photo hacking scandal.
I’m sure most people would agree this isn’t a story of immediate relevance to the Maidstone & Medway area, and many journalists of my acquaintance are queasy to say the least about the proliferation of ‘clickbait’. The website’s editor, Simon Finlay, defended the decision, saying “we’re trying to drive an audience to our site… [these stories] do get us thousands of hits and that’s a good thing.”
One of the knock-on effects of digital technology is that like never before business leaders can draw on enriched information when making critical choices – but do they really let data rule, or are experience, intuition and gut feeling still the keys to successful management?
In recent weeks we’ve looked at several ways data gathered through digital sources is changing business. We’ve examined how supermarkets are using technology to revolutionise retail, how knowledge of data can help you get a job in both the editorial and commercial departments of a newspaper, we’ve even looked at growing data use in education and how the difficulties of understanding Big Data are, in some instances, restricting the development of personalised, one-on-one marketing.
In short, what we’ve seen is that analysis and data skills will be key to an array of future jobs.
Tesco Labs, the supermarket’s digital innovation wing, is running a 48-hour ‘hackathon’ next month to spur the development of health-themed technologies for its customers.
The supermarket has made an open invitation to computer coders, designers, and those working in tech marketing and business development to attend the weekend event in London, starting on September 12.
The aim of the hackathon is to develop retail media ideas that can help Tesco’s customers make healthier food choices in store and online.
In addition, Tesco is keen to explore how it can share data to help customers understand their own behaviour, compare their food choices with others, share tips and advice, and track and find out more about what they’re buying and eating.
Nearly a third of publishers in the UK have not heard of programmatic advertising, according to a recent survey by tech firm AppNexus. For a technology that has been widely touted as the future of the publishing industry, this is faintly astonishing.
So what is programmatic advertising?
In a nutshell, it’s a form of online display advertising that relies on complex algorithms to set a series of criteria that when met trigger the deployment of ads. Campaigns are booked and optimised via a simple web interface.
Unless they’ve been on extended leave or in serious dereliction of their duties, senior executives across the country are likely to have heard little else about the future of marketing than how putting customer relationships at the heart of their businesses will be vital in the coming years.
The digital world has forced a series of new challenges on business, and high on that list of challenges is the shift in customer behaviour bought about by the adoption of new technologies and communication through social media.
Firms keen to embrace this behaviour shift – and understand how consumers want to connect digital channels – need to think about how to gather data and then what to do with it.
Running a small business in the digital age isn’t always easy. The inherent problems associated with battling a large rival offline have the unpleasant habit of transferring neatly to the online world.
Websites of firms with big marketing budgets are chocked with content; they command great authority from search engines; their inbound links are often of a high quality; and when search engines make big algorithmic changes, they respond quickly.
For small businesses that can’t compete on organic search, digital platforms offering flexible self-service ads and promotions can be a godsend.
Through its Adwords platform, Google allows creation of specific, targeted ‘pay per click’ (PPC) campaigns that can be tweaked easily through a self-service interface and provide smaller firms the exposure they need.
In fact, one small business owner told Tripp Associates his self-service Adwords had proved so easily manageable – and such a reliable source of revenue – he’d jettisoned his digital consultant and added £2 income to every £1 spent by closely managing campaigns himself.
And where Google has successfully enabled the small business owner, other digital platforms have followed.
If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve been spending the last few months talking to senior management figures across the newspaper industry – national and regional. The aim of these conversations has been to found out how they see their industry changing, how their specific business is changing, and to understand the recruitment challenges they face.
In all three areas, one word comes up time and time again – data.
“The challenge for me”, said the Head of Digital at one big newspaper publisher, “has been to convince senior management that it’s no longer just about the number of uniques [web and mobile site readers] you can get. That’s in many ways a vanity number.”
If web traffic alone isn’t enough, he went on to say – digital commercial people working at newspapers need to understand much more about their readers in order to sell appropriate ads.
Last month, I had a surprising conversation with a regular media client. He’s used Martin Tripp Associates extensively over the years, but only to help headhunt content roles. I was amazed that he was unaware we also recruit in other areas – heads of digital, marketers, general management, commercial roles, strategy directors, and so on…
So, being a statistics geek, I thought I would share the following infographics with you. They help visualise what it is we do here. Based on last year’s activity, the first chart shows a breakdown of our assignments for media clients according to the disciplines we recruited.
While ‘General Management’ was the largest single category we worked on, the big rise was for ‘Product/Insight’ roles and this reflects a trend toward better-informed product development and customer-led innovation.
We have also seen rapid growth in demand for digital-savvy commercial leaders. They are in short supply, and highly prized by their employers; like the Product/Insight people, the best are only found and recruited by a thorough search process.
Until recently, Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) were seen as one of – if not, the – key mechanism through which future higher eduction schemes would be delivered.
From their first use in 2008, educators, entrepreneurs, and reformers had been queuing up to talk about the virtues of a learning model that offered the prospect of an education system where thousands of people could learn together.
Throughout 2012, and even up until last year, the idea that MOOCs would represent a fundamental part of the future of higher eduction was still common – but then something changed.
What does Tesco do?
It’s just a supermarket, right?
According to Angela Maurer, it’s Head of Innovation, Tesco is also a technology company set on developing the future of retail – and that includes experimenting with grocery shopping via a Google Glass concept app.
Even the most superficial reader of newspaper websites can’t fail to notice the abundance of new technology that is now regularly incorporated into the storytelling process – and as the demand for new ways of telling stories evolves, the range of editorial skills required is evolving almost as quickly as the technology used to publish.
But it isn’t just in editorial that new digital skills are required. As publishers, both local and national, struggle to work out how to make money from digital, the roles of advertising salespeople are changing even more rapidly.
Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been immersed in the newspaper sector; talking to senior decision-makers about the kind of posts they find hardest to recruit. By some margin, the most common answer has been ‘good salespeople who really understand digital’.
In the last two years we have worked closely with several key firms producing successful workflow tools for the professional services sector. In that time we’ve had many wonderful conversations with our partners, but again and again these discussions seem to orbit one central concern – in a digital age, how do our partners build products that are indispensable to their professional service clients?
The message that comes from these discussions is that at the heart of every process to product and content development should be an acute understanding of the user, the intricacies of their day-to-day work, and a fundamental grasp of their pain points.