Data is subscription gold

Lars K. Jensen from Willmore does an excellent newsletter on innovation within digital media called ‘Products in Publishing’.

If you haven’t signed up for it yet, I suggest that you go and do it – even if you’re not in media. Because the way that he uses data and analysis to inform his thinking is inspirational.

His latest take is on digital news subscriptions, and why it’s probably not the news that are driving conversions from freeloaders to subscribers. You can argue that it’s quite obvious, since very few if any have had real success with digital news subscriptions. But that’s not the point.

The point is how he uses data. Because analyzing different use cases for content, how much content is published in each of them and how they convert, he’s able to do a pretty spot on analysis of what it is that drives value for digital news media subscribers.

And here’s the kicker:

Even though Lars is good, he hasn’t done anything that any media company with a decent analytics department – and yes, they all have one – couldn’t and shouldn’t have done a long, long time ago.

The data has been there for everybody who cared to see it and get to the same conclusions.

Why haven’t they made this analysis years ago? There’s obviously subscription gold in the data.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The ‘naked’ online presence

More than 10 years ago when I was dating, I made it a habit to always Google my date ahead of our first meeting in person. Given what I was doing on an everyday basis at work it just felt natural to try to get a bit of insight beforehand and satisfy part of my curiosity.

It was fun.

Until they started doing the same with me.

Then all of a sudden I learned what it actually means to be visible online and to never have shied away from putting your ideas and comments out there in this vast digital space.

Because there were a ton of things you could find out back then with very little effort. And there’s exponentially more today.

Which to some extend makes it such an intriguing opportunity to organize.

I was reminded about this when I encountered SpoonBill; a service that allows you to get insights on the updates, your Twitter contacts have been making to fx their bio over the years.

Digging into those is a fascinating thing, and if you allow yourself a bit of time to do it, it is actually quite revealing about peoples personalities.

Some may call this snooping, and to some extend it is. But it’s still information people have put out there themselves. Actively. It is there own words. How they like to see themselves at any given moment in time. It is not something that is collected behind the scenes.

The ability to get an overview of how people change their self-image or perhaps even identity over time is a perfect complement to the long-seen practice of trying to perfect the image, you convey using various social media platforms.

And Twitter is a great tool to start the forensic analysis with given that it is a platform where professional and personal interests collide in one big hodge-podge of things.

For that reason I also think that SpoonBill is at the aventgarde of a plethora of tools and services, we’re going to see going forward that tried to address the same issue; getting a sense of who people really are behind the smoke and mirrors of SoMe and personal branding.

Getting behind the scenes and to the core of people is a fundamental human need on which all kinds of trust and enduring relationships are built.

Thus, my best guess is that getting this right is going to be a huge business opportunity for those, who want to engage.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Understand the root cause

Sometimes you can be so blinded by a specific solution to a problem that you completely forget what the root cause of the problem was.

When people are facing challenges of some sort, they seldom jump straight to very specific solutions to the problem.

Instead they dwell at the problem for a while – short or longer depending on problem, person and context – and then they start looking for A solution.

Now, the ‘A’ here is important. Because it implies that most times there are more than one potential solution to any given problem, someone might have. And every possible solution is an opportunity for you to be relevant.

It may very well be that you don’t have the most fancy solution. That your technology is not the most unique. That your solution is not the cheapest.

But does it ultimately matter if you’re the one of the options who have understood the root problem best? Are best at showing empathy? Best at using that empathy to lead people in the direction of your particular solution, when the search for a solution kicks off?

Maybe? Maybe not?

The point here is not to be too fixated and even fall in love with a particular solution. Chances are that before you’re able to get that fabled solution out in the market something will happen that makes it less relevant, non-happening or it just gets overtaken by someone else.

Someone who just understood the root problem better.

The above is not to say that you shouldn’t be focused and bold on bringing new solutions to market that can change how big problems get solved for real people. Of course you should.

But it is to say that you should never forget to make sure you understand the root cause of the problem, and by doing that keep your options for viable solutions open and pursue them as you see fit.

Doing that will greatly increase your odds of succeeding and – most importantly – drastically reduce the risk of running into a dead end.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

B&O neutered

The Danish design icon, B&O, is in deep, deep trouble. The company was bleeding heavily before the crisis, and now they are looking to raise 400M DKK in new capital in order to weather the Covid-19 storm (or at least that’s the convenient excuse).

The problems at B&O run deep. Back in the day it was a luxury icon. You spent money on their nicely Jacob Jensen designed stereos, TVs and speakers just to show off to other people and send a message that you could afford it, and they – most likely – couldn’t.

Today Samsung, LG, Sonos and what have you is not only considered just as good but better. Because function and affordable cost has taken over from form and high cost (except pretty much for Apple, which I consider somewhat of an outlier that just proves the point).

After having taken professor Scott Galloways Strategy Sprint course on what characterizes companies that grows to be trillion dollar companies, I decided to do the reverse exercise:

Can the T-Algorithm help explain why some companies – in this case B&O – go in the opposite direction and is moving closer to bankruptcy than world domination?

Maybe. It is worth a try. So here goes:

Appeals to Human Instinct? Does B&O’s products appeal to the Brain, the Heart, the Gut and/or the Genitals?

You could argue that when it was a real ‘thing’, it appealed to the Genitals, ie “I’m a better off and more attractive and thus a better mate for you because I can afford spending an obscene amount of money on a stereo?”

But now? Not more. It has zero sex appeal left. Zero. It no longer sends a message of testosterone to own and display B&O. The brand has – so to say – been neutered. Ouch.

Mark? Failed.

Career Accelerant: Is B&O a place young talent goes to work to further their career?

Can they attract the best and brightest? B&O had a kind of a second coming with their Play spin-out brand for headphones on-the-go a couple of yours ago. The team behind was younger, bright, skilled and ambitious.

Success followed in a tough Red Ocean-market. And then for some inexplicable reason, B&O decided to ditch the Play brand and move it into the old brand fold to try to breathe new life into their comatose brand patient.

Guess what happened? Great people started to get new great opportunities. Elsewhere.

Mark? Narrow pass but trending towards Failed.

Growth & Margins: Has B&O been able to maintain a business with high growth and high margins?

On the face value of their last several earnings calls…eehhm…not so much. In fact quite the opposite. And that’s me being super generous.

Back in the day when their design appealed to mating (see Genitals above), they had a fighting chance. When customers figured out that the hardware was essentially the same as in much cheaper competitive products, and they didn’t want to overpay for a fancy wrapping, they kind of lost their mojo.

Mark? Failed, but more due to market circumstance than their own doing. Except for not really being able to keep up with the times in terms of great, valuable design.

Rundle: Does B&O have the opportunity to create an attractive bundle that can form the basis of a business relying on recurring revenues?

Absolutely. Not. In. A. Million. Years. Next question.

Mark? Failed due to No Show.

Vertical integration: Does B&O already have or are they able to create vertical integration through their supply chain?

Well, they have been sort of trying through their franchised brand stores. However, they have turned out to be more of an offloading dock for stock products sitting idle in warehouses, because no-one seemed really willing to buy them.

They were instead stashed away in stores and as a result the franchise owners ceremonially cried quarter after quarter about too much inventory in their stores leading to even more ceremonially write-downs by B&O.

Not exactly efficient, let alone profitable.

As for the supply chain backwards there is no room for vertical integration. Apart from a few inhouse components and technologies, the vast majority of components in B&O products are commodities you can source all over, and B&O has for a long time been way too little a player to really be able to exercise pressure on the supply chain.

Mark? Failed.

Benjamin Button Product: Does B&Os products become better with age and/or use?

Not really. It’s home electronics essentially, and they don’t age very well. Of course there is a secondary market for some of their design classics, but it would be a far, FAR cry to call that a Benjamin Button effect.

Mark? Failed.

Visionary Storytelling: Does B&O have a compelling story to tell?

Well, yes they actually do. They have a great story steeped in tradition, excellence in design and sound (primarily), and they are still pushing the exclusivity of the experience super hard.

The problem is that the size of the audience who is listening – and who even find the story interesting at all – is diminishing.

Every time a senior citizen dies, one more of those who remembered what B&O once was and think they still are goes away. Brutal but true.

It doesn’t help B&O that a lot of the narrative the past 10-20 years has been about the constant crisis of the company, the eternal struggle to survive and stay relevant, which brings me to the last point…

(Mark? Passed but with a mediocre grade).

Likeability: Does B&O have a management team that customers, partners and employees have confidence in?

In short: No! Why? Because it is super, f****** hard to be likeable, when you change your CEO once every year (OK, maybe not exactly that often but very often).

B&O have burned through several CEOs over the last 20 years, and the story has been anything but consistent; one minut it is a branding guy with no real message in charge, the next minute it is an engineer, who then gets replaced by someone who nobody knows who is, because – yes – he is THAT anonymous.

I mean, really?

B&O has essentially been left rudderless. There has been nobody to truly rally around, who could articulate that the company may be akin to a plane in flames flying on the last fumes, but we will all eventually get down safely and live to take another flight – with no flames.

The man at the helm has essentially been AVOL for years.

Mark? Utterly Failed. In an abysmal way.

Which ultimately reflects back on the parents of this particular student; the board.

Having said all that and the above using the T-Algorithm, it should thus come as no surprise, why it is that B&O is closer to being a Zero Dollar Company soon than ever a Trillion Dollar Company in the future.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Facts matter

Yesterday I got wrapped up in a Twitter-fight. I know, you should never allow yourself to be in that position, but in this case ‘the arsonist tweet’ was so profoundly…don’t know what to call it…I couldn’t help myself.

Basically, the discussion was around what or who killed Danish the Danish chain of bookstores, Arnold Busck, which has gone belly up. The argument – without any supporting data, analysis and/or argument – was that it was…wait for it…the public libraries.

Because people have access to public libraries and can borrow books for free, Arnold Busck died an unfair death.

WTF?!

Never mind that liberalisation of the Danish market for books years ago allowed supermarkets to sell books at a discount with predictable results. Never mind online book stores discounting books and providing free shipping, if you’re a paying member. Never mind the huge positive socioeconomic effects of libraries on education among other things. Never mind that fewer people actually use libraries to borrow books – because they buy them instead (!!)

The cause of death of Arnold Busck can most likely be found in the mix of cheap crime litterature (that Danes read A LOT) in super markets and a better and cheaper inventory online. And then I haven’t even mentioned A-M-A-Z-O-N…

Etcetera ad nauseam.

But let us close down the libraries so a super challenged chain of bookstores with premium book prices, limited stock of titles, expensive prime real estate, a f***** IT system with an inept implementation gone haywire and what have you can be put on life support for a few more months.

(*SIGH*)

The point here is not to show how misguided the original ‘argument’ is – although it is and it took me roughly 3 minutes of basic online research and insertion of relevant links above to make a far more nuanced analysis of the real problem.

No, the point here is to show for all what kind of problems we create for ourselves when we can’t be bothered getting our facts straight before we come out with totally unsubstantiated conclusions.

It can be ok when it only happens on Twitter (except it gets you all worked up and leads to wasted time arguing and posts like this). But when business decisions are based on the same kind of deeply flawed logic and approach – and trust me: it happens multiple times every second all over the place – we’re not making ourselves better off. We’re making ourselves worse off.

We can and should do better.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The greatest learning opportunity

There is no way around it: The greatest learning opportunity is when things don’t go according to plan. When you envisioned X and Y or Z happens, and you have very little idea about why that is.

When that happens – and it will happen – it is an open invitation to learn. It is an invitation to go back, investigate and walk through everything you have done in order to try and find the spot(s), where you missed something important.

It is by no means certain that you will be able to find it at the first time of asking. But if you adapt an experimental approach and try to adjust here and there in a controlled way, chances are that you will finally understand what happened, and what you could have done and should be doing forward to make it right. And voilá; you will actually have learned something.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)