Some universal comments being thrown around indicate we are not content… ‘life is going too fast’… ‘where did the year go?’… and ‘why am I so much older than I feel?’
No doubt the answer lies in the speed of information transfer; the capacity of people + technology to achieve so much more on a daily (even hourly!) basis; and the growing demands placed on ordinary employees to ‘keep delivering’.
It’s tempting to drop out altogether and go cold on the whole tech world. But is that really a viable option?
If you want to go and live on an island then no one is stopping you, but the trouble is, your decision will have a ripple effect…
Ageing parents at the turn of the century – and to this day! – who refused to learn email or texting have been left out in the cold. Not only have they missed an opportunity to expand their mind, they’ve also missed out on so many potential messages from friends and loved ones, creating greater social isolation.
Parents face the massive dilemma of too much screen time vs limiting kids’ early tech skill building vs the threat from tweens that they’ll become a social outcast for not being on Kik or the next big thing in social tech. But how can you protect them if you don’t even know what they’re talking about? And if their future career hasn’t even been invented yet, you don’t want to limit their options by being ‘stuck in your ways’, do you?
“But keeping up with it all is exhausting – it’s impossible!”
Yes, modern life can be exhausting and yes, it’s impossible to keep up to date with every single tech advancement.
So what should you do? Simplify and specialise. Admit you’re not going to know everything about everything and choose a few areas that interest you, then subscribe to sites that can do the work for you and keep you up to date.
7 reasons to keep up with the tech race:
- Keep your mind open – you’re never too old to be proven wrong! Being open minded to new ways of doing things makes you a better person
- Learn new things – like learning a new language, tech developments keep your mind ‘bendy’
- Stay current – keep up with the ‘kids’! If they say “just drag it to your desktop” and you think they’re talking about moving a piece of furniture then they’re not going to hang around long!
- For your kids – to protect them from cyber-bullying and malicious content, you need to know what you’re up against. Plus, if you want the next Mark Zuckerberg in the family then you’d better get onto those coding tutorials!
- For your own security – cyber crime is on the rise and they’re not just targeting big corporates – ma and pa scams are all the rage with the evil coders who develop malware
- For your business – you won’t stay afloat long if you ignore the latest developments. Keeping up with industry trends and digital best practice is super important
- For the environment – new technology will ultimately make us more efficient, save trees, water and electricity. As long as we’re all on board with the latest in sustainable tech then we have half a chance of saving our planet for the next generation.
When I was about 10 years old my step dad shaved off his beard.
The entire time I’d known him – since I was 3 – he’d had a huge, wiry brown beard. It had occasionally been trimmed, or left to grow ‘Ned Kelly style’, but the beard was him.
My memory is not clear on why he decided to shave it off after all that time, but suffice to say, in my mind, he’d made a huge mistake.
I actually ran from the room in terror at seeing this ‘strange man’ with a clean face. He was NOT the same person. He was no longer warm and cuddly and entirely trustworthy. He was a clean-shaven stranger masquerading as a trusted figure in our family home.
It sounds ridiculous, but it took me a long time to get over that. I stared and stared at his clean-shaven face for days, unable to process the change that had occurred.
The point was, for me, his identity was inextricably tied to his beard. I trusted that guy with the big beard. Without the beard, how was I to know he could be trusted?
When Google changed its logo recently, it also, shaved off its beard.
As a young, rule-breaking start-up, we grew to love our new friend Google the search engine. It seemed honest, transparent – a start-up for the people. It made things easier, made more things possible.
It kept ‘the big guys’ on their toes – dictating web content priority based on its own magic, secret algorithm, which changed suddenly and without much warning.
But yet, it stayed humble.
For nearly 20 years Google has led the digital transformation – literally stamped out a path for how the internet should function; what people should be able find, on what devices.
And was it even selling anything? Not that we noticed.
Obviously, Google was making a ton of money, but in our eyes, it made it off the backs of rich companies that could afford to advertise. And it even declared the listings that were paid for (See! Still on our ‘side’).
And did it have an ego-maniac at the helm, claiming he was a visionary genius? No, just two PhD students wanting “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
Democratising information – how could you not love that?
As Google grew, the organisation itself seemed like an oasis – Googleplex was the Disneyland of workplaces – interns tripped over themselves to work there. It became the stuff of career mythology.
We grew to love and trust Google so much, we couldn’t help incorporating it into our everyday language – brands don’t turn into verbs overnight!
And with that trust came an assurance that we knew every inch of that humble serif logo. It looked like a semi-broke start-up that a couple of uni students started in a friend’s garage.
It looked like it remembered where it came from.
In contrast, the new logo, to me immediately said ‘multinational faceless corporate brand’ and with that, the trust factor plummeted.
How can a font make that much difference, I hear you ask? Surely it’s just a logo.
As illogical as it might seem, as consumers, we connect with brands emotionally – just like family members – so an unexpected change in appearance can trigger all sorts of seemingly irrational responses.
In the case of Google, nothing about their business model or company history had changed, but the moment they ‘modernised’ their brand mark, I felt they’d forgotten me – forgotten the humble little human who helped Google them to the top of the world.
It’s a familiar argument amongst the marketing team – whether to purchase stock photos for the new corporate brochure/ annual report/website or pay a photographer for a set of custom images.
You might think this all comes down to budget, but let me give you a few reasons why custom photography is the way to go:
- Exclusivity: Anyone can download the same stock photos as you: competitors; ranty bloggers; an extremist cult! If you want to be sure this won’t happen, you need images that are exclusively yours.
- Plastic people: So many stock photos have that ‘All-American’ ‘oops I’ve taken one too many valiums’ look, which is great if you’re an Abercrombie store, or a dentist promoting teeth whitening, but not so great for everyone else.
- Brand control: If you want a consistent look across your organisation, the best way to achieve this is by having your own custom photo library. Otherwise, you’ll be giving free reign to all those anarchists across the business who love downloading random stock photos for their reports and presentations! (By the way, these are the same people who use Comic Sans for every PowerPoint because they think its cool – the correlation is high, believe me!)
- Authenticity: It only takes one stock photo to blow the credibility of a brand wide open. If customers spot an obvious stock photo it makes them suspicious that you’re really who you say you are.
- Creative genuis: When you brief a photographer and attend the photo shoot, you actually get to be part of shaping the creative process. You get to sit in the Director’s chair and say, “let’s try that again with a red ball instead of a green one” or modify whatever part of the shot you think isn’t working.
- Cost: Don’t be ridiculous I hear you say… stock photos are sooo cheap and photographers are sooo expensive! Well that all depends on how you calculate it. If you spend $5-$10 each time you download a high res stock photo, then you might be interested to note you could hire a professional photographer for $1200 and potentially get 400 shots for your image library. That’s only $3 per image!
- Support local talent: In an era crowded with ‘citizen photographers’; when even mainstream news media no longer employs local photographers – talented, experienced photographers are a dying breed. If you can afford to support local creative talent then you’ll be contributing to the creative economy and helping at least one hardworking photographer pursue their passion for a little while longer…
Just like spring-cleaning your house, your website needs regular attention to keep it looking its best and working effectively, so we’ve come up with 10 tips to help you spring clean your website.
A commercial website is obviously one of the most valuable assets a business can build, and can be critical to the make or break of a new brand, or a business that’s under threat from new competition.
Here are some tips for your Site Spring Clean:
- Be consistent
Set a date to clean at least once a quarter – allocate several hours in your schedule for that day, ideally somewhere quiet and away from distractions. This activity is separate from your regular content creation, which should be done at least weekly.
- First impressions
Try and view your site with fresh eyes, notice what your first impressions are, track where your eyes go and what they focus on first. Is the balance of text and images right? Does anything look out of place? If you’re having trouble focusing on any one thing, then you might need to simplify your homepage design. Note down the top three elements that stood out – do these match up with the top three items you want users to notice? If not, then you know something about the design hierarchy needs to change.
- Be your customer
Pick two customer profiles and step into their shoes. View the site exactly as they would, using all your knowledge of how they behave and think – is the information logically arranged? Can they get to what they need quickly and simply? If you don’t trust yourself to be impartial, consider asking a friend or a new team member unfamiliar with the site to do a navigation test and time how long it takes to find a particular piece if information.
- Take a new view
Look at your site on other devices, in other environments. See how your site looks on a Samsung Galaxy; from a library computer; on a friend’s laptop; a brand new iPad Air; a Microsoft Surface; an iPhone; and spot the differences. Is the site responsive to the device? Can you read the navigation items without zooming in? Does it lose something in the transition?
- Broken bits
Check for broken links with a link checker like: validator.w3.org/checklink
- Spell check
It sounds obvious, but almost every website has a typo of some description. Check your spelling and grammar across the site – in headings, body copy and banner images.
- Looking tired
Is your colour palette looking dated? Do your images need updating? Stock photos are often overused, so think about investing in some custom photography to keep your site looking unique.
- Keep an eye out
Check your competitors. Are there design elements or functionalities they are using that your customers are missing out on? Cherry pick the best ideas from other sites and integrate them into your own.
- Are you social?
Don’t just focus on the main content, but check your links to social media are best placed and well integrated. Are you using all your chosen platforms to their full potential? If not, it might be good to rethink where your energies will be best spent.
- Pick patterns
Review your analytics for the quarter and see if any long-term usage patterns have emerged. Are users bouncing off the homepage immediately because they can’t find what they need? Are they giving you clues about the content they find most appealing?
As per every major shift in media technology before it, the ‘arrival’ of digital media spawned a glut of public assertions that would see print media in the grave before sunset.
“The newspaper is dead”
“No one will ever read a magazine again”
“There will only be eBooks” (this may yet happen if we run out of trees!)
They were partly right – traditional news consumption has undergone a seismic shift.
Free content is delivered immediately online, there’s no need to wait for the morning paper; citizen journalism has created a ‘democracy of information’ but simultaneously, a huge grey cloud over the credibility of news; international tabloid news gathering tactics have made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Before newspapers even had the chance to respond to the ‘digital attack’ – or in some cases, even believe it was happening – sales certainly plummeted.
But now, something of a retroversion seems to be happening – last month’s statistics show that some titles may have ridden the wave successfully – at least for the moment.
“News Corp Australia has bucked the trend of declining newspaper print readership to post a 2 per cent increase across its national, metropolitan and regional titles over the past year, well above the 4 per cent decline across all major newspaper print mastheads.”
Now this is news in itself. That it even was possible to buck this trend seems unthinkable. News Corp’s diversified holdings surely must account for some of this – but ultimately, their content strategy must be spot on.
“The Sydney Morning Herald retained the No 1 spot across print and digital…
The West Australian was the only major paper to post a significant drop in total audience, down 8.3 per cent to 1.863 million”. (source)
So SMH has successfully balanced the books by combining up-to-the-minute digital content and relevant print news… but The West Australian is obviously doing something wrong… despite having the most captive audience in the nation, they seem to be slipping behind in a two-horse race.
And glossy magazines too – despite their enormous production price tag – have failed to fall off the map. Clever cross promotion on tv, digital and retail platforms (helped by cross media ownership I’m sure) seems to be the key to holding market share.
According to News Life Media’s website, their collective digital and print assets reach an audience of 7.7 million – representing 45% of Australians aged over 14. (source)
This is an incredible statistic – but not surprising when you consider the content reach – and clever commercial partnering – on some of their titles:
- Australian Good Taste (with Woolworths)
- Australian Parents (with Woolworths)
- Country Style
- delicious. (with the ABC)
- donna hay
- Gardening Australia (with the ABC)
- GQ Australia
- Inside Out
- MasterChef Magazine
- Vogue Australia
Australians are firmly on the foodie wagon – even when you might think we’ve reached saturation point – nope, we’re just swallowing the entrée.
The contrived scenes of tension created using reasonable people with excellent culinary skills must ring true with a huge whack of domesticated adults.
Either that or they’re just hungry.
Following it up with a magazine purchase to recreate the very emotional food experience they’ve just bought into is clearly a no-brainer. And lets face it… it’s way harder to follow a recipe when the screen keeps going to sleep every 60 seconds.
Being eaten up with the same amount of ravenous enthusiasm is the topic of home renovations. People can’t get enough of watching other people pull down rooms and redecorate them.
Preferably with the occasional hot-couple-argument thrown in for good measure.
So it makes sense that some hard copy ‘inspiration’ should feed those creative decorating demons.
By why not just surf Pinterest til the cows come home?
That’s definitely happening, but that’s not where it ends.
Pinterest and other image-heavy platforms are great for the immediate binge. But maybe they don’t hold fast for the long, slow ponder. Maybe a magazine is less invasive with its lack of flashing gifs and targeted banner ads; more timeless and durable, within its natural habitat of the private or public coffee table; and therefore more suited to a contemplative decision-making mood.
So for hot-headed impulsive purchases, the click-bait has it covered. But for a larger or more involved purchase – one that might require having to – gasp – ‘discuss’ the decision, then it makes sense that a magazine provides a solid selection of concepts in print.
So its good news that print is not dead. Keeping the quality of journalism high while adding in-depth, thought-provoking analysis to current issues is worth holding in your hands.
Adaptability is a wonderful thing.
And you would think a person crazy if they told you they were about to launch a magazine, right? But, niche magazines – new titles! – have sprung up all over the place, like Flow Magazine from the Netherlands.
Take Frankie and add a layer of uber-cool Dutch aesthetic; an extra dollop of designer-maker-look-its-another-doily-but-cooler; and a limited run of only 4 editions annually and all of a sudden you have a top quality printed mag in high demand by 20 and 30-something craft-obsessed neo hipsters.
Of course, Flow comes with its own neat little app, bringing you 365 Days of Flow… cute illustrations combined with pick-me-up quotes and homemaker tips deliver a daily brand reminder. So obvious I can’t bare to call it clever, yet it works a treat.
Even local marketing agencies have reverted to print to make their point.
Out for dinner during the week at the tasty Wine Store & Kitchen in East Fremantle, I spotted a stack of stylish looking newspapers. Simply titled ‘George’ the 24 page paper beautifully promotes selected businesses on George Street, with high quality photos and carefully written copy. I notice in the fine print it has distribution of 16,000 to a handful of high-end suburbs.
Targeted, tangible and perfectly placed.
Next week… Print is not dead, Part 2 – So much to print, so little time…