Tuesday, 21 June 2011

I don't blog here much any more because the lovely people at The Media Briefing have given me another platform AND an editor! If you feel the need to read the complete tosh insightful stuff I produce then look here: http://www.themediabriefing.com/author/graham-ruddick

Monday, 20 June 2011

I was asked to look at the fraught relationship between Journalism and monetising content in the light of new tools that enable publishers to measure the performance of articles at a granular level. For non-journalists it seems intuitively obvious that employees should be measured in this way. There are, however, bigger questions: more here

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

21st Century Dinosaurs

It’s a well known fact that recessions breed disruption and change. Complacent businesses are suddenly undermined and new aggressive competitors enter the market. Hard economic times are the forge of new ideas. Businesses started in the deep freeze of economic stagnation can flourish when the sun shines.

The recruitment industry is facing a double hit. The cyclical challenges of the last few years have made many businesses re-think their processes and expectations, but there’s also undoubtedly a long- term structural change whose effects are becoming obvious. The established businesses in recruitment should be looking over their shoulders. Senior management should be asking how their business is reacting to these changes.

There’s an assumption that people wish to be secretive about their job hunt and that the recruitment industry earns its money by winkling good candidates out of dark unseen corners. This attitude was changing even before the recession. When GAAPweb launched its CV database in 2008 over 40% of the candidates were happy to have public profiles and this willingness to be seen was not age sensitive. In fact, across the age demographic, there was no significant difference in the percentage of public profiles: Finance directors were just as happy to be seen as junior part-qualifieds.

The rise of social media has undoubtedly changed candidates attitudes towards privacy. The ubiquity of LinkedIn and a permanently visible CV means that we’re all on view all the time. The recession has enhanced the effect – especially as the UK moves towards growth again. Candidates are now more confident about moving, but are still chasing relatively fewer roles. They are becoming more naturally promiscuous and overt in their job hunt.

Employers are asking the obvious question: “ if candidates are so visible, why am I being charged a premium  for a 3rd party to make contact with them?” In a world where up to 85% of candidates offered by recruitment consultancies are originally sourced through online channels, those consultancies are going to have to work harder and harder to justify what value they add.

Over the last ten years there have been numerous claims about the ‘next wonder tech’ that will transform the recruitment industry. Many of these claims have been hyperbole, proven to be wildly optimistic when confronted with the detailed needs of a selection process. This may still be true, but the work being done around semantic matching engines (and not just in relation to recruitment) is hugely impressive.

There’s a host of semantic tools and platforms that do an excellent job in automatically understanding content and generating automated taxonomies and meaning from that content. Understanding CVs and profiles is not being ignored in these developments. Perhaps more importantly, these engines are picking up content from other sources. The best of them can now go to LinkedIn, twitter and even facebook to build a deeper profile of a potential candidate.  When this is overlaid upon a structured view of job responsibilities and requirements (which can be generated by human hand or automatically) the accuracy of the match is very good. It’s easy to ignore the technology factor,  but expensive humans will not be the best tool to undertake,  even quite deep, resourcing tasks for ever.

The advantage these tools have is that they will always be watching. They will pick up profile changes and job moves faster and more consistently than the best human researchers will ever manage. And they will work. If not now then soon, but the best of them are very accurate now –especially in well defined disciplines.

The key consideration is that by automatically converting unstructured data (e.g. CVs) to structured data (databases) it’s possible to run matching algorithms and to use machines to understand content. Those that doubt this should look at the dating industry and its growing sophistication. Agencies will have to ask whether they’re prepared to bet against tools that provide 95% of the accuracy for 2% of the cost.

Social Media
Social media and social recruiting has become something of a hot topic recently. Its rise has been met by - quite frankly - baffling denial. It seems that large chunks of the recruiting industry are unconvinced that social recruiting can be effective.

The fact is that social recruiting was the only way of finding a job for the vast majority of job-seekers before the rise of the jobsboards and online job advertising. Print advertising could only ever carry a fraction of the roles in the marketplace and for everybody else it was a question of working through who you knew, who they knew and mass broadcast of begging letters and speculative CVs. Social media reproduces these workflows exactly. It will work because it represents a natural way of societal operation.  It will be made to work because employers are catching on that fact.

In truth employers don’t have to struggle to make social recruiting work. In the same way that it matches candidate workflows it allows employers to formalise what’s always happened and ask  “Does anybody know someone who could....?”

New propositions
As we move out of the recession some of its legacy is starting to become obvious. Several large businesses are more enthusiastic than ever about reducing their recruitment costs and questioning the value added by their traditional suppliers. Diageo have cut their recruitment agency spend by 70% in the last 14 months and intend to go further. A major leisure company has just undertaken a huge growth programme (including upwards of 50 new hires) without going near an agency. Many corporates are reviewing how they hire and how much it should cost.

Start-ups are responding. All around the country businesses are being set-up that exploit some or all of the factors described above. Typically their charges fro placements made run at 2-4% of salary. There’s lots of different models with lots of different skills. Some of them won’t survive. Many will.

The dinosaurs died out because they failed to adapt.

At the very minimum, recruitment businesses must start to ask whether their value propositions are holding out and will continue to hold against the recessionary and structural furnace that surrounds the industry. Head-in-the-sand ignoring the situation is not an option. Whether you are a junior starter or senior management you must ask the questions of your business that will prove that it is adapting.

Good operators will survive. Those that add value, can justify that value and work to change their practices to produce something new will always survive.

But I’m not optimistic about the rest. In recent months I have heard the following statements from otherwise sensible (and successful) recruitment consultants:

 “Online will never work for roles over £50k” – The average salary on GAAPweb was £48.5k...in 2008!
“Senior people will never put their CV publically online” – theladders.co.uk now has 70,000 people in their databases, all filtered and earning more than £50k
“I will always be worth my 20% fee – even if I can’t actually explain my value add” – Mr Rex, T, I assume.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Four key Concepts in web 3.0 - Braided content

There's been a longer gap between this and the last Web 3.0 post than I would have liked. So to remind me where I was, let me recap the previous posts. The aim of this series is to try and define what the web will look like in its next incarnation. Web 1.0 allowed publishing and access to information on an unprecedented scale. Web 2.0 changed the relationship between author and reader and moved the balance of power from entities to the individual and from large to small.

So far I've suggested two elements that I believe will underwrite the next generation of web experience. Semantic content management will give richer and more useful streams - the critical point here is that content definition will no longer be a limiting factor in how our interests are aggregated. We will move from 'defining the boxes in which content is kept' to 'defining content based on its meaning and context'.

Seamlessness will allow us to move from device to device according to our preferences, location and needs. It will allow us to interact with the web in a linear way.

The next theme of the four that I'm writing about is braided content. This one is actually the least speculative, as it's possible to see the birth of braided content all over the place. By braiding I mean the intertwining of different types of content in one place, bringing together that which has traditionally been separated by source and platform.

The current need to go to one place for email, another for news content and a third for social media (and a fourth for social media, and a fifth for social media...repeat ad infinitum or at least ad nauseum) is clearly bonkers. in the first instance it's massively unfriendly to the user. The second is that it puts the less used at a grave risk of being ignored altogether and  inevitably makes for a poorer experience.

It also makes it hugely difficult to establish the genuinely new.  Any experienced web hand will tell you that a solution that takes a user outside their normal workflow starts with a massive disadvantage. The success of Facebook, Twitter etc has been driven their ability to get users to add new platforms to everyday usage.

Users need a world where the different strands are woven together in one place, according to rules and preferences set by that user. All content should will be braided together in a single flow - with semantic rules and seamlessness applied - that renders the need to change platform a thing of the past. What appears in that flow and when is down to personalisation and the subject of my next post in the series.

Over the last few weeks we've seen many of the big players take huge steps in this direction: Facebook has announced Messages which is "kind of like email in social media but kind of not.." (OK this is a bad parody of the Zuck's announcement but not so far off the meaning!). LinkedIn gets more and more sophisticated about what appears on their screens and are doing some really interesting things around jobs and company news. Even new names are getting into the act: Rockmelt are claiming "Your browser. Re-imagined" amongst a hoard of similar propositions.

We do seem to be very close to a browser that will pull in web, mobile, email, and various flavours of social media in one place. It's unlikely that this tool won't pull in TV, radio and music (if indeed they exist in any sense that's separate enough to make the distinction valid). BT have already worked on systems that can combine IP delivered content with TV channel content (including pulling advertising from both sources - TV quality ads with net quality response mechanisms anyone?).

The final battle looms. The battle ground will be the device through which we perceive the (digital) world. The winner will probably come from one of the current big names (these certainly now include Facebook). The prize will be greater than any since Bill Gates decided to strongarm the professional office market. The result will be fully braided content. everything in one place.

"One thing to rule them all, One thing to find them,One thing to bring them all and in the darkness bind them"

OK so that was getting a little carried away. But only a little.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Start with a mobile strategy not an app

Following on from my post earlier this year I'm heartened to read Colin Mccaffery writing on themediabriefing.com . He takes my view further and much more articulately by saying that people don't need apps, they need a mobile strategy. A strategy allows them to choose whether they only need an app, or whether they wish to make use of the much wider opportunities offered by mobile sites and the greater platform integration possible from their deployment.

The feeding frenzy on apps is widespread but it will be short-lived. Don't get caught up - or certainly don't bet your business on them. However large your business is.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Recruitment propositions can enhance your business

Data is a dominant theme at the moment. There is no doubt that businesses that are obsessive about collecting and using data about their customers are far more likely to be able to engage in useful conversations, to provide what their customers want and, most importantly, keep the engagement of those customers.

Collecting data is, and probably always has been, a difficult task. It should be seen as part of a value exchange. If you don't give the value you don't get the data in return. This has always been the case but I think we're all more sensitive to giving our data away to organisations. This means is that we have to be better at giving explicit value for people's data. This will be as part of a conversation - a proper dialogue - that shows our transparency.

In recruitment, however, the value is much easier to show. "If you give us high quality data about you we will be able to match jobs to you more accurately. If we're not broadcasting jobs, rather marketing them to appropriate targets it may mean that we can say: "give us high quality data about yourself and it will mean that you see jobs that you would otherwise miss" - that starts to be a real value in exchange for that data.

The great thing about recruitment is that both parties, employers and candidates, really want to meet and are therefore prepared to enter into a much deeper conversation with media from the outset.

By the way data is the heart of everything:

The geek shall inherit the earth

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Four key concepts in web 3.0 - 2. Seamlessness

2003 was the year of the mobile. As was 2005. At #JUMP yesterday I heard several people say that 2011 is going to be the year of the mobile.

Actually 2011 might be: a recent New Media Age report suggested that 61% of phones are smart phones. I know that quite a lot of them really aren’t that smart and the online experience is rubbish, but the trend is there. It's not just phones. Televisions, phones, computers are all becoming less well defined. So the second theme that defines Web 3.0 is seamlessness – our experience of the web will be properly platform agnostic.

Again this is an old dream. Just like the semantic web, people have been talking about freedom and portability of data for years. But this time round it looks like it might be true. Nearly 10% of the (admittedly relatively few) readers of this blog do so from smart phones.  IPhone has transformed our expectation of what the mobile browsing experience should be and the other manufacturers have rapidly followed that lead.

The more important feature of Web 3.0 will be the fact that our data and information will be organised so that we get seamless access from multiple access points. Spotify premium is a good example of this. My choices and lists are automatically synched between devices and platforms. Tweetdeck picks up searches in one place and delivers them elsewhere on demand.

It looks like Internet Television is now (finally) upon us and many other traditional boundaries are being blurred or completely eroded. There was, for a while in the mid-noughties something of a reaction to the C word. So I shall only whisper about platform Convergence – but it’s happening.

Outbound telephone calls are now very unlikely to be carried by analogue signal over copper wire. (Actually it’s pretty sad how many still go by digital over copper wire, but that is a whole different conversation.) The rise of VoIP has been extraordinary and tools like Skype are delivering services that were inconceivable 10 years ago and we access them through a variety of different platforms.

So Web 3.0 will be underwritten by the ability to move seamlessly through the semantic web across a variety of platforms. Content will be delivered through linked pipes that allow multi-format information to be delivered to consumers through channels of their choice.

In some ways this might be the most profound change of all the Web 3.0 elements that I’m suggesting. Should this an accurate prediction, it will have a huge impact on the nature of the Media and traditional models of content creation. We’re already seeing content businesses breaking out of their traditional silos. (Well some of them. There are others that are enforcing platform apartheid).  Content owners will have to look for partnerships and diversification in order to supply their promiscuous consumers.

So in Web 3.0 all your devices will track what stories you’ve read and pass this information on to the next in device you wish to use. They’ll know what tunes you’ve downloaded (and know that you are entitled to listen to them on other devices) – they'll actually know what you were listening to in the office, train, car and allow you to continue that when you change environment. When you watch a television programme (that may or may not be delivered through an RF signal and receiver) you’ll be able to pause it whenever and pick it up the next day on your smartphone. Seamlessness may not be a particularly elegant word, but as a concept it rocks.

This is what platform agnostic means, this is coming and will be a fundemental part of Web 3.0

Next time: personalisation