Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dim Sum Dollies at National Museum

Catch the amazing and adorable Dim Sum Dollies, Singapore's most animated cabaret trio, this Saturday at the National Museum of Singapore! Held as part of the Explore Singapore! programme, this unique musical performance draws inspiration from Singapore's history as well as the exhibits at the museum itself. All you need to gain entry is the price of museum ticket...

Wait, there is more!

Apparently, for one day only, you can also visit 2 exhibitions at the special exhibition gallery at the National Museum of Singapore with that same ticket. You can catch Brad Pitt and other stars at the Voom Portraits show by Robert Wilson, as well as another photography special by Chang Chien Chi called "Doubleness".

Don't just hear it from me, hear it from them! See you there!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Do Celebrities, Chefs, Cars & Charities Have in Common?



We've been extremely busy with Explore Singapore! 2008, NHB's award winning programme (we won the Singapore Media Award's Grand Prix and Best Value Media prizes in 2007) aimed at getting ordinary folks to enjoy museums. Our focus this year is on the family, and our theme is simply this - "Let's Have Fun!"

What's so special about this year's event?

First, this year's celebration offers something for everyone. There will be more than 80 activities happening over 27 museums in Singapore from 20 November to 7 December. Centred around lifestyle themes of Food, Love, Fun for Kids, Adventure, Shopping & Entertainment, and Health, Explore Singapore! caters to everybody in the family - from grandpa and grandma to dad, mum, teenagers, kids and even swinging singles!

Second, you get to meet lots of celebrities instead of just one! They include the Dim Sum Dollies, bodacious hunk Vincent Ng, charming radio personality and wedding planner Vernetta Lopez, celebrity chef Khaled (featured below. He is a huge a hit on Suria), Peranakan diva cooks Violet Oon and Sylvia Tan, Phua Chu Kang's "Rosie" Irene Ang, Jack and Rai, plus a mystery Cartoon personality from Nickelodeon. Oh yes and of course Mark Lee, who will reprise his role as the laugh-a-minute museum guide!

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Third, we are making museum going and heritage as affordable as possible for everybody. Seniors (60 and above) can enjoy FREE entry from 23rd to 30th November at all NHB museums. Many of the activities are free for museum patrons, or pegged at a very affordable rate. For example, a dinner talk by Vernetta Lopez is only $40 for a couple, and that includes a meal!

Fourth, you can win this brand new Subaru Forester! Yes, I am not kidding! Every $5 spent at Explore Singapore! activities entitles you a chance to win. The more you participate, the better your chances.

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Highlights of Explore Singapore! include three core weekend activities:

HungryGoWhere's Big Eat Out (The Peranakan Museum on 22 November 2008)
HungryGoWhere.com's Big Eat Out - Featuring renowned food blogger Dr Leslie Tay (ieatishootipost.com), this huge makan bazaar features heritage hawkers of old. Happening on 22 November from 12 nn to 5 pm (that's this Saturday), all profits from this venture will go towards the Andrew and Grace Home, Jamiyah Daru Ma'wa (home for the children), and Operation Smile! Stomp wannabes the AG Flames from Andrew and Grace Home will be performing their rousing piece too (that's the girls below).

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That's not all. Celebrity comedian Mark Lee (yes we are bringing him back for an encore performance) will be leading a special tour of The Peranakan Museum. Plus, all museum entries to The Peranakan Museum is only $2 each!



Dim Sum Dollies Day Out (National Museum of Singapore on 29 November 2008)
Singapore's most well loved musical trio - The Dim Sum Dollies - will cavort and charm you with their dazzling and ditzy performances! All it takes to catch this performance is the price of a museum ticket! See how Serena, Pam and Emma interpret Singapore's unique history through the lenses of the museum and its various exhibits and artefacts.

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You can even catch the special exhibition Voom Portraits by Robert Voom (featuring that famous half-naked picture of Brad Pitt) with your same museum ticket. Yes, that's three shows for the price of one!

Wrap! Festival (Asian Civilisation Museum on 7 December 2008)
Join us in a fitting finale to the heritage festivities as world famous Nanta from Korea entertains with their energetic percussion performance. Swing along to the feel-good tunes of Jack and Rai from EIC (I've heard these guys sing and they are great! Plus they are very humourous and charming too).

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You can also be wowed by a magic performance at the galleries by Jeremy Pei (first time in a museum!), and swing to the Dikir Barat beat. Bringing the event to a climax will be the lucky draw for the brand new Subaru Forester car (COE included)! Oh, and entry to ACM is also at a flat rate of only $2!

For more details of Explore Singapore!, do check out this post by Kim on our media preview yesterday.

If you need photographs, do feel free to pick from my own rather amateurish efforts on Flickr here.

Do also Join our Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=81381490726j

For more information on Explore Singapore!, visit our official website at

http://exploresingapore.com.sg

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Whats and Hows of Global Brands


Courtesy of woodleywonderworks

I was invited to a sharing session yesterday afternoon by David Shaw, Director at Effective Brands and a former marketing stalwart at both Lenovo and HP. Founded by Marc De Swaan Arons, the company embarked on a worldwide global brand study seven-years ago which now includes close to 100 global brands with a database of about 40,000 marketers. In the study, the branding consultancy focused on global marketing challenges and possible solutions to overcome them.

Here are some of the key highlights which I picked up.

Challenges in Global Marketing

So what are some of the challenges faced by global marketers?

1) Lack of alignment. This seems to be a common point, when HQ and local offices do not see eye-to-eye.

2) Internal focus. Internal politics and turf wars are a major sapper of time and energy, leading to inward looking corporate cultures that are damaging.

3) Lack of quality. This is a problem more prevalent in developing countries which may have different notions of high standards vis-a-vis HQ.

4) Lack of roll-out speed. I am sure you all heard of time-to-market, and this sometimes becomes awkward in a behemoth-sized global organisation.

5) Personal friction. This can be caused by cultural differences, attitudes, and styles of working.

6) Pockets of excellence. What this means is learning tends to be concentrated locally without valuable lessons being shared globally.

The WHATs of a Brand

Many organisations pay attention to the Whats of the brand, which include the following:
- Insight
- Vision
- Strategy
- Innovation
- Communication
- Activation

Unfortunately, this isn't enough most of the time, because of failures in implementation. Just having an exciting and far sighted goal for the future won't get you to global branding nirvana.

The Solution? Getting the HOWs Right

Effective Brands suggests that the real drivers of global marketing effectiveness comes from applying the HOWs to the WHATs. For this, they developed a global brand mix which encompasses the following:

1) Connect. Building understanding and interdependance between global, regional and local operating units. Alignment could be achieved perhaps with a "buddy country" concept.

2) Inspire. Creating an energising passion and culture around the brand vision. Everybody should become a brand evangelist and have a sense of brand stewardship.

3) Focus. The alignment of strategy, targets and rewards to clear deliverables in marketing. One needs to look at the KPIs, which are often top-line, bottom-line and market share indicators.

4) Organise. Developing the right structures, systems, processes and roles to align behaviours in the right manner. These should encompass looking and leveraging of commonalities, and positioning them appropriately depending on whether they are at the global, regional or local levels.

5) Build. Harvesting, learning and leveraging skills across the globe. This is critical in the net-enabled world, and should include research on best practices within the organisation that can be shared across. They should cover meetings, tools and behaviours that work, as well as the right recruitment strategy.

You can find out more about the approach taken for this model at their website here.

Tips for Global & Regional Marketers

Towards the end of the session, we broke out into different groups to brainstorm over some possible ideas to tackle the challenges of global marketing. It was pretty interesting and enlightening for me to hear different practical tips on what can be done. Some of the key ones include the following:

1) Rotating key personnel around to ensure that the right person is in the right job. Postings can help one to understand what one's counterpart faces on a daily basis, and improve mutual understanding.

2) Having a sparring partner from another team in a different market.

3) Staying true to the core values of one's brand and not being distracted. This also relates to brand consistency and focus.

4) Being driven by facts rather than stories and hearsay. This is especially relevant in the age of social media, where rumours and gossips abound.

5) Creating opportunities for global teams of marketers to meet - probably more virtually nowadays in light of the economic crisis - and using them to clarify roles and responsibilities while cultivating relationships.

6) Learning from organisational elements which lead to either successes or failures.

7) Listening, learning and building trust. Sometimes, this may include "stealing ideas with pride" so long as they are customised in the right manner without infringing IP rules.

8) Communicating the brand's touchpoints to one's local peers. This pertains to internal brand marketing and is critically important as your most important market is probably your own colleagues in regional and local offices.

9) Finally, one should make time for inspiration. Do not be too caught in firefighting to forget about the matters.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don't Listen to Me. Listen to Them!


Marketers need to hear better! (courtesy of OrientalAsylum)


Once in a while, you come across a gem of a post that you have to highlight. This one comes from Branding Strategy Insider, one of my more thought provoking regular reads on marketing.

As highlighted in the post, we marketers have a bad habit. We like to assume that we are marketing gurus understanding what makes an ad great, or how a website or brochure should look like. We heap praises upon creative concepts that WOW us, but seldom leave a second thought on what consumers will think about it (if they even bother that is).

In the words of Mark Ritson who wrote the post:

"Too many times assumptions about the market become accepted fact within a firm and then form the basis for multi-million-dollar investments. Talking to customers is often painful and difficult, but it is the only voice that any true marketer will listen to or speak with."

Definitely well said. I suppose it is time for us marketers to start paying attention to the ones we want to reach rather than ourselves. Stroking one's ego doesn't do any good for one's bottomline, especially when the economy has turned sour.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Regional Marketing Budgets Sliced in 2009

Enough have been said about the impact of the global subprime crisis on the financial markets, economy, and jobs. The axing of 900 staff recently from DBS is just the tip of the iceberg.

Against such a backdrop, how will marketers in Asia fare? Are the roaring years of record marketing budgets well and truly over?

R3, a regional marketing consultancy, recently published a study on Regional Marketing Budget Allocations in 2009. The study was conducted through phone, email and face-to-face meetings with 50 senior marketers in Asia, covering 100 of Asia's top 500 brands. They include Unilever, DHL, Samsung, VISA, Maybank, Pepsi, Tiger Beer, and Haier.

With the kind permission of Shu Fen (principal of R3), I thought I should the slides here. They do have lots of other quality insights and analyses here so do check them out.


Courtesy of R3

What are the key findings from the survey?

1) More than 40% of marketers in the study are moving into digital and below-the-line media rather than above-the-line channels.

2) Regional and Local marketers behave similarly when it comes to dividing their budgets between Above the Line (paid media) and Below the Line (Digital, Activation and Events). The proportion is roughtly 51/49 in favour of ATL, although trends show that the BTL pie is growing.

3) Budgets in 2008 have already been slashed for more than half of surveyees, with 15% enduring a greater than 20% cut.

4) The economic crisis changes sentiments drastically. Initial forecasts for 2009 in September 2008 were bright and cheery, with 62% projecting increases. However, the same assessment done in October 2008 showed a whopping 94% predicting that marketing funds will be the same or slashed, with a quarter of respondents projecting that this will decline by more than 20%.

Against such a pessimistic forecast, is there light at the end of the tunnel? Definitely. Four areas immediately come to mind:

The first is to strengthen existing customer relationships. Firms should invest more in their existing pool of customers and improving the value that loyal fans can derive from them. Focus on long-term profitability from repeat customers as opposed to short-term gain.

The next area is to build and expand communities. Organisations should not just focus their energies on selling but on organising activities that bond customers to your brand. Start a club or a membership programme, and make your customers feel like part of a larger group. Find out where your customers hang out, and be a street evangelist going out there, talking to them, and finding out what makes them tick.

Companies should be more bold in their forays in social media. Just creating a nice and fancy website (or even blog and Facebook page) isn't enough. Companies need to be out there as players and participants in the social media arena, cultivating relationships and offering useful content to netizens. The best thing is that most Web 2.o tools are free (or almost free).

Finally, and probably most importantly, firms need to generate ongoing buzz and Word-Of-Mouth. The days of me-too, ho-hum marketing will be over soon as consumers insulate themselves from the din of advertising messages and stare morosely at their fast emptying wallets. To succeed, one's products and services and marketing approach must be remarkable. Create an enduring consumer spectacle that wows not only hearts and minds, but wallets too.

In a downturn, one needs to do something divinely different. Be the talk of the town, because anything less may simply be an exercise in futility.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Make Your Blog Great

Are there ways to stand out from the 133 million blogs which are tracked by Technorati (and probably a gazillion more which are untracked)?

Can your blog be a favourite bookmark for the thousands of online surfers?

How can one distinguish and differentiate one's online real estate against the competition?

Yes, you can! (with apologies to Obama).

Sonia Simone of Copyblogger shares with us some brilliant tips on how you can do so, and I have reproduced the key points below (and added some inputs) for your reading pleasure.

1) Don’t write in a tired space. The world doesn't need yet another money making online blog, video game review blog or socio-political analysis blog. That is unless you are confident of triumphing the incumbents.

2) Don’t write in a space no one cares about. Yeah, and this includes rare Siberian silkworms.

3) Share a unique voice (and pay attention to your writing). Not every mummy blogger can be a Dooce (or an Eastcoastlife).

4) Be genuinely useful. People will love your blog for it and come back often (plus recommend their friends). Usefulness can also come in the form of entertainment or destressing you know....

5) Have real authority. Of course, if you know nuts about fixing Harleys, don't try to be too clever and expound about the art of motorcycle maintenance.

6) Focus on your community. People like to know what's happening amongst other folks whom they know. Like attracts like and birds of a feather flock together.

7) The key to creating a memorable web presence is to uniquely communicate as opposed to uniquely do. So what if you are the greatest lover in bed, if you don't share what your secrets are...

Obviously Sonia says it a lot better here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Four New Careers in Marketing

Seth Godin, the world's most recognised internet marketer, has identified three new positions that would be vital in the new age of Word Of Mouth (WOM) and digitally enabled marketing. These are as follows:
  1. COMMUNITY ORGANIZER. Find and connect and lead a tribe of dedicated users that contribute to and benefit from the work you do.
  2. STATS FIEND. Measure everything that can be measured. Do it efficiently and consistently. Find out what metrics are important and cycle until they improve.
  3. MANAGER OF FREELANCERS. Find and hire and manage the best outside talent in the world. If it can be defined as a project, and if great work defeats good, seriously consider having the MOF get it done.
Other than these positions, perhaps I should also add in a fourth position that is vital in the age of social media as follows:
    4. STORYTELLER. Create, produce, write, and record compelling and fascinating content that excites, entertains and interests. Be able to spin a great yarn in words, pictures, videos, or sound.
Are there any other positions that we should take note of? This is exciting stuff and is in fact how I intend to organise my team in the future. Loosely that is.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Are We Living in a Flat, Spiky or Curved World?


Boston - one of the centres of the Information Economy (courtesy of Shutterscript)

In the age of networks and social media, it seems that there are more and more gurus of globalisation emerging. Just look at the bookshops and see the number of titles touting one worldwide effect after another. Naturally, some ideas are more worthy of consideration than others.

At the recent Public Service Staff Conference organised by Singapore's Public Service Division and Civil Service College, I was introduced to three emerging megatrends about the world. It was quite intellectually inspiring, and I followed the discussions closely.

The World is Flat. This is probably the most famous of the three, and was first declared by New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman in his book. Altogether, 10 trends were cited as reasons for the "flattening" of the world. They include the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the Internet, workflow software that allowed interoperability, open sourcing (or crowdsourcing), outsourcing (particularly to another foreign land), supply chain integration and the democratisation of information amongst others.

Other than the 10 trends, there are triple convergences which act on them. They are the integration between various hardware and software functions (eg email, internet, faxing, copying, scanning from one machine), horizontal linkages between companies and their partners (supply chain integration), and the opening of former closed economies to the world. According to Friedman, these trends will level the playing field and make Earth a more equitable planet.

The World is Spiky.
Created by Richard Florida, who authored the "The Rise of the Creative Class" and "Who's Your City?", the world isn't equal spread around. In fact, greater concentrations of economic, scientific and creative activities are focused on 40 mega-regions in the world. These account for only 18% of the world's population, but generates about 66% of global economic output and 85% of scientific developments and achievements.

Mega-regions include the New York-Boston-Washington corridor in the US, which is home to some 54.3 million (more than 18% of Americans), and Amsterdam-Rotterdam, Ruhr-Cologne, Brussels-Antwerp, and Lille in Europe, which produces more economic output than Canada, China or Italy.

The World is Curved
. This is the latest of the various global postulations, and is based on a book authored by financial market strategist David Smick. Focusing largely on the financial markets, Smick proclaimed that "The world is curved. We can't see over the horizon. … We are always being surprised, and that is why the world has become such a dangerous place."

According to Smick, complex financial instruments like Collateralised Debt Obligations have resulted in effects that could be felt in far flung corners of the globe. Just look how the subprime mortgage crisis in the US have affected Minibond investors in Singapore. Nobody could see what is happening, and this is similar to the concept of Black Swans by Nicholas Nassim Taleb (which I'll blog about another day).

All three authors do have their points. The world is more connected and integrated than ever before, and this will continue to grow. However, there is also a disproportionate distribution of wealth and talent, something which is very evident whenever I go on trips to the region. One must also be careful about becoming too complacent - while Google and Wikipedia can connect us to vast reservoirs of information, there is a lot more than we do not know (the unknown unknowns cited by Taleb) which can screw us up real bad.

So What Should We Do?

Here's my two cents worth of what we could do to ride these trends.

First, we should focus on developing and improving our skills, capabilities and knowledge. Whichever way you look at it, talent is going to become more critical than ever before. Seek to be employable and strengthen your usefulness not just in this present age but the future. If you can, inject learning into your every day life, and read widely.

Second, we should learn to hedge our bets as much as possible and protect ourselves. This does not mean that we should live like frogs in a well. Rather, we should ask questions and read the fine print before going into any venture, while still retaining an element of calculated risk taking. Don't just take people's words for granted, but do your own background research.

Third, we should seek to be aggregators and concentrators. Whichever world we are looking at, networks and hubs are going to rise in greater importance. Find ways to connect as widely as possible with friends, associates, and business partners. Its not only who you know, but how many.

Finally, we should exploit new opportunities and micro-niches that aren't already filled. What is our Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and point of differentiation? Is there something that you as an individual can do to make yourself different from the rest? If you are an entrepreneur (or an intrapreneur in an organisation), look for something new and innovative that hasn't already been done.

In the new flat, spiky and curved world order, the same-old me-too approaches isn't enough. One needs to be focused, talented, concentrated and original to survive.

Are there other perspectives that we are unaware of? Comments and criticisms welcome!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Branding Your Blog - A Necessary Evil


Courtesy of Be Playful

Came across this great post from Write To Done through a link from Steve Rubel about how one should brand it like Barack in order to achieve social media stardom. Or at least to create, nurture and grow your own online reputation and profile in a respectable, sustainable manner.

The long and short of it is that you can't escape from the evils of Branding or Advertising 101. Your blog is your brand. How you treat and manage it will determine how others view you. 24 by 7.

Here's a summary of the key points.

The Core Message — What It’s All About

Before you do anything — name your blog (or other product/service), write a single post, work on the design, anything — you need to figure out your core message. This is the message you want to send out to your readers/customers in everything you do. This message needs to be communicated in your title, design, content, promotions, and actions.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Figure out who your target audience is.

2. Decide what desires you’re going to be tapping into.

3. Figure out what message you’re going to send to them that will tap into specific desires.

4. Be consistent about your message in everything you do.

5. Finally, repeat your message as much as possible to your target audience.

Sending Out a Consistent Message

Consider an example from the world of politics … with the flap about vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe (paid for by Republican donors). The problem wasn’t that there was anything ethically wrong with buying such expensive clothes … the problem was that these purchases conflicted with Palin’s message of “I’m just a regular American gal”, and as such, it hurt her message to the public.

Conflicting messages weaken your branding efforts. If you are trying to send a message of peace and love, don’t start attacking your readers in the comments. Don’t write posts about how much you hate John McCain.

Stick to your core message in everything you do. That includes:

  • Title and subtitle of your blog.
  • Design.
  • Content.
  • Comments.
  • Off-blog comments.
  • Guest posts.
  • Emails etc.

Repeating Your Message Often

You want to be everywhere your target audience is … so think about what other blogs they read, and what social media/bookmarking sites they might use. This is where you can reach them with your brand and your message. Some strategies to look at:

  • Guest posts.
  • Comments on other blogs.
  • Links from other blogs.
  • Other Social media sites.

You can get the full post here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama's Win a Victory for Social Media?


Courtesy of transplanted mountaineer

"Yes we can! Yes we can......." goes the deafening din in Grant Park, Chicago as history was made yesterday. America and the world is now celebrating the decisive win of Democract Barack Hussein Obama over Republican John McCain in the 2008 US elections.

Was Obama's win a Web 2.0 Windfall?

For sure, Obama employed social media to the hilt when he triumphed over both the Democratic Primaries and the main Elections itself. His associates deployed a staggering array of new media tools and channels to get the message out to anybody who is online in the US. These include a very Web 2.0 friendly campaign website, Facebook account, Twitter, Myspace account, and tonnes of embedded videos, widgets, applicaitons and so on.

The Obama campaign also appeared in practically all online advertising platforms that are relevant, like Google ads, online banners, and so on. I suppose one of his biggest coup is to get the guru of the online world, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt to endorse him.

He even developed a cool iPhone application (kudos to Kevin for pointing this out) to encourage folks to vote for him and pass the message on, and has advertised on video games to reach the youths! Friends, this guy knows all about word of mouth marketing on the Internet!

You can get more detailed analyses of Obama's new media advantage here, here and here.

Is he the world's first and truly Internet president? Well, let us look at the other facts which tipped the balance in his favour.

First, we need to know that his background and story alone provides substantial fuel for both mainstream and new media sensationalism. Mr Obama is the first black candidate (technically, he is actually half black and half white, which actually makes his story even stronger) to gain such a major advantage in history. He is also a junior senator who completed his first term, and comes from an unconventional background of academic and community activism (as opposed to corporate life).

Next, we need to know that Obama also employed a lot of advertising in mainstream media. This includes the historic 30 minute superbowl television commercial (seen below). Banners, posters, newspaper advertisements, leaflets, magazine advertisements, radio advertisements and the full works was employed during his campaign.



Obama also hired a truckload of publicists to garner mainstream media coverage. This is evident in the positive coverage which he garnered over numerous newspapers, broadcast channels, cable TV, radio, magazines and others.

There is also no doubt that his strong charismatic presence, amazing speech making ability, and immense relationship skills have helped. The world hasn't seen such power and persuasion in election speeches for a long time. The man also embodies the traits of what many in America and around the world have always rooted for - fairness, equality, can-do spirit, resilience, magnanimity, and a love for humanity.

Don't forget too that Howard Dean, another social media savvy Presidential candidate, failed miserably against a more traditional foe - John Kerry - at the last Democratic primaries. The fact that John Kerry failed to win against an even more traditional and less tech-savvy president George W Bush is another thing altogether.

Does that mean that social media alone isn't quite what its hyped up to be? Well it certainly does help. Without the barrage of social media tools and channels at his disposal, Barack Obama is unlikely to gain such phenomenal traction as he did.

However, just depending on social media alone isn't enough. You need to get your fundamentals right. In this game, Obama had an entire election strategy mapped out which stood him in good ground over all 21 months of it.

Social media certainly helps in generating word of mouth, buzz and positive network effects. However, you still need to be rooted in more traditional disciplines like marketing strategy, business acumen, PR savvy, and plain old emotional intelligence (EQ) to get there.

Obama isn't just a social media phenomenon, but a total phenomenon.

Update: Siva just informed me that Obama also had armies of folks doing cold calls, visits and other related activities too.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Podcamp 2.0 and The Story of Yesterday.sg

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Giving my two cents worth on Yesterday.sg

At the kind invitation of Yi Xuan from SMU, I had the privilege of attending Podcamp 2.0 - an unconference of sorts organised by SMU, where doyens of the digital space proferred their views and insights on social media. Together with me were several bloggers and podcasters like Claudia, Melvin Yuan, Priscilla Tan, Daniel Tsou and Farinelli (of Tech 65), DK, Coleman, Preetam, Michael Netzley, Amelia Wong and others.

Sharing the story of how the National Heritage Board (NHB) - probably Singapore's most ancient organisation - could leverage on social media, I hoped that I inspired some of the corporate representatives to venture forth. As an interest-based blog, Yesterday.sg took the slow and steady growth approach and the blog is still going strong after being around for two-and-a-half years (or 31 months to be exact). Social media outreach is a team effort driven by my great colleagues from team CCIP (especially Kim, Wei Chong, Kenny and Roy), as well as our dear Friends of Yesterday who have stuck with us through thick and thin.

If you want to learn more about our journey and where we are at, do check out our slides below:
Old Stories New Media
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

I found some of the sessions pretty interesting, like the honest to heart sharing by the Tech 65 guys on their passion for podcasting and what kept them going. Preetam also gave a good overview on the influencers and sneezers in the Asian blogging spaces and showcased his wide knowledge of the regional social media scene. Sharing the stage with me in the morning was Melvin Yuan, who is always eloquent, entertaining and polished.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay for all the sessions as I had to spend some time with my family, but I learn from Priscilla's report that the rest by Michael, Amelia and Charlie were pretty good too.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Debates, Discussions and Dilemmas at DMFest 2008

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Panel discussion on Web 2.0 and Building Online Communities moderated by Mark Laudi

At the invitation of Text 100 and the Singapore IT Federation, I had the privilege of attending the recent Singapore Digital Media Festival 2008 Television 2.0: Internet Services & New Media Mashup. Together with me were other bloggers and podcasters like Shunjie, Pat Law, Claudia, Bernard, Darryl, Daniel, Coleman, Clapping Trees, Preetam, Howie (from The Digital Movement), Andrew Peters, Shalabh, the Tech65 crew, and a few others.

The two day programme started with Festival Film Screenings at the Gallery Theatre of the National Museum of Singapore on 30 October, which featured User Generated Content (UGC) and movies created by different approaches. These include open source, machinima, live broadcast, indie, and "Sanctuary" films. A special screening of the famous Star Wreck and Iron Sky films were also done.

Held at the Legends Fort Canning Park, the second day of the programme (31 Oct) was a conference cum exhibitor showcase focused on the latest industry developments in digital media production, hardware and technology. It featured prominent industry leaders in the field of digital media production like Iolo Jones, founder of Narrowstep, Hugh Hancock, founder of Strange Company and the creator of Machinima.com, and Timo Vuorensola, director of the Star Wreck and Iron Sky movies.

Due to time constraints and an overactive schedule, I wasn't able to attend all the sessions. However, I did gain some insights on the digital media production scene as follows:

UGC - More a Hobby Than a Job?

Unless you are as talented as the the thought leaders of internet movie making above, the likelihood of making any income from short online films is slim. The business model appears to be more advertising (google ads, banners, sponsored content) as opposed to a pay-per-view or subscription-based model. Even then, only the very best in the business will stand a chance to be commissioned, which is why only mrbrown seem to be the only full-time podcaster who is commercially viable in our social media spaces.

Utility and Interactivity May be the Answer

People do not want to pay for comedies that they can view for free on Youtube, but they are willing to pay a buck or two for music or movies that they can use on their iPods. This is why AppleTV and iTunes are still turning in decent profits year after year despite the plethora of free content on the net. It is also another reason why folks are willing to pay money for online gaming where both interactivity and entertainment abound.

Youths are Highly Net Savvy but Hardly Profitable

As a segment, youths probably reflect the greatest potential for social media content providers as they spend many waking hours online. However, their lack of funds and credit cards makes them poor paymasters and this could present a problem. One solution is to offer micropayments like the case of China's QQ (which incidentally look like a web designer's nightmare but yet attract hordes of visitors).

Singapore's Dilemma - Hardware Rich, Content Poor

We had a good debate on this issue together with Iolo, Hugh and Timo just before lunch. While Singapore does have some of the latest state-of-the-art digital production equipment, hardware, software, and pipes (both terrestrial and mobile broadband), we have hardly any award winning productions. While there are amateur producers here creating their own short movies, music, or video games, most do not have the wherewithal to garner a global audience. The irony is that we are probably one of the greatest consumers (by proportion) of online movies and content in this part of the world.

Mainstream Media Participation

Both MediaCorp and SPH have muscled their way into the digital production and social networking space, by offering content that can be downloaded and shared online as well as social media platforms. These come in the form of numerous web properties like Blogtv, Omy.sg, STOMP, RazorTV, podcast.sg, mocca, and others. While the net channels employed are pretty comprehensive and far reaching, the substance of their content seems pretty much similar to what they are already doing. You can still experience the same production values, scripting, presentation styles, acting and animation.

Mentorship for Local Media Wannabes?

One suggestion that was floated to solve the dearth of digital media talent is to introduce a mentorship programme. Geek gods in the animation and movie universe could offer a guiding hand to our young talents and students, teaching them the basics of scripting, camera angles, production values, editing, effects, and other disciplines in broadcast production. They could also help to bridge the gap between the techies (folks who are into gadgets and gizmos) and the creatives (folks who thrive in the world of art, imagination and dreams). Perhaps by inspiring folks from both sides to work together, a better future could be forged for our growing digital media universe?