Top five New Year’s resolutions… for digital

Jan. 03, 2009 | by Philip Buxton

Inspired by a ‘recently compiled top ten list of New Year’s resolutions’ sent to me by local estate agent RA Bennett & Partners…

1.       Get into shape

For digital, that means redundancies. No digital media owner, agency or advertiser, particularly if they have US paymasters, is likely to end the year with more staff than it started. But, it’s an opportunity for those businesses to assess the parts of their business that deliver real value. The worry is that they’ll throw the baby out with the bath water. Creative talent, marketing and – particularly – investment in technology are not places to cut costs though it might look that way to the spreadsheet operatives. However, they should feel free instead to cut back on fancy offices, encourage remote working, and spend less on making their clients feel ‘special’. Good clients want good work, not good jollies.

2.       Get more organised

Thanks to its high-speed growth, digital businesses have evolved in very organic ways – so much so that too few people can answer the questions ‘what do you do?’ and ‘who do you report to?’ in any sensible terms. I’ve seen job titles like director of difference and always wondered what that person writes on their to-do list every morning. So company structures need to get simplified. Once everyone knows what their job is, actually doing is a lot easier.

3.       Give up smoking/drinking

What is digital’s drug? The thing it knows does it absolutely no good whatsoever, but it just can’t give up. For me, it’s ad banners. Of course, everything has its price and the price of ad banners is becoming so commoditised as to be approaching free. Some businesses can build profitable models on them i.e. ad networks (and sometime soon ad exchanges). But, traditional publishers, agencies and advertisers have fought for too long to support high-cost and high-talent businesses on the back of them, chiefly because they’re the closest thing we have to a traditional media model. Personally, I’m looking for online businesses this year that monetise what they do in other ways – in-text, subscriptions (yes, subscriptions!), directories, strategic sponsorships are four that spring to mind for media owners.

4.       Change your job

New Year is the time to ask oneself what it is one would actually like to be doing – and is good at doing – with their working life. At the core of that is taking a broader view of whatever value it is that a company delivers for its customers. Why, really, do customers come to you? Is that really what you are focused on doing for them? And have you worked out ways of getting them (or others) to pay for it? If it’s a struggle to answer those questions, then a good rethink is in order.

5.       Reduce debt

Obviously. Because who knows what the banks will demand from us personally, and as businesses, this year to keep their shareholders and the regulators happy.

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