Any event that sets out to discuss the opportunities and challenges that creatives face in digital production and distribution is guaranteed to do two things – attract my attention and court disaster by attempting to cover a subject so vast that a week-long conference might struggle to do it justice.
Yet I’m happy to say that Thursday’s event organised by Creative Edinburgh, ‘The Making and Breaking Of The Creative Industries’ managed to achieve exactly what it set out to do. By balancing a fascinating range of speakers, each holding significant sector experience, the event successfully provided the attendees with a broad overview of how ‘digital’ is currently affecting the creative industries, a summary of the key themes and a glimpse into what the near future might just look like.
Whilst each speaker focused mainly on his or her different area of expertise (including gaming, publishing, music production, film distribution, advertising and product design amongst others), common themes emerged throughout many of the talks. So, rather than breaking the record for the world’s longest blog post in detailing each talk in great detail (which I’ll happily do if anyone really wants me to), here are my takeaways from the event:-
COLLABORATE TO SUCCEED
Whether it’s with your colleagues, customers or, in some cases, even your competition, continue to look for ways to collaborate. Or, in the words of Andy Payne (@PercyBlakeney63), 1 plus 1 always equals more than one – just ensure that you collaborate with the right people.
IDENTIFY YOUR COMMUNITY FIRST
Don’t resort to simply cold-selling to customers. As Seth Godin says, “The idea that someone can program our consumption is becoming obsolete, and fast“. The driving force behind the explosive growth in social business has been the simple fact that a business that understands – accurately – what its potential customers need will (all things being equal) always be better placed than its competitors to deliver something of value that people are willing to pay for. There are very few business ideas that are truly unique – it’s often the delivery of that idea alone that makes the difference between success and failure.
My view is that there’s nothing wrong whatsoever with simply producing what you feel driven to create for artistic purposes. However, if you’re looking to monetise that into a viable business model, then you still need to understand where the demand lies – in other words, track down and delight those 1,000 true fans.
In the pre-digital era, most of your time and money would be spent in preparing the perfect product or service for launch. Nowadays, driven in part by the developments from the Lean Startup Movement, the luxury of front-loading that expense on the basis of assumed demand is increasingly unsustainable in a competitive environment. The digital world provides you with analytics as to what works and what doesn’t – if you want to be successful, the onus is on you to use them and effectively.
Regardless of the nature of your content, get it out into the marketplace, seek immediate feedback and be prepared to put the majority of your efforts into analysing and reacting to the response – whether this is in gaming, advertising or product design.
BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED
An oxymoron perhaps but ‘closet anthropologist’ Stephanie Rieger’s (@stephanierieger) point about the speed of technological advancement in society was well-made. Change is occurring so quickly today that a ‘generation gap’ no longer refers to the relationship between parent and child, but in many cases to the relationship between siblings within the same family. In other words, devices are advancing so quickly that people two, three or four years apart in age are having completely different experiences with technology.
The power of the crowd is now so great that you can’t assume that you know how people will use your products. The way that you intended your product to be used might simply be ignored by the consumer – from the comical example of one mother using her Kindle as a bookmark to the slightly-more innovative ideas for enhancement, such as the camera button for the iPhone .
I didn’t catch who the quote was by but it was mentioned that “the best product designs should merely set the stage whilst always falling short of fully setting the experience for the user”. The age in which a business could set the agenda for its customer has long since passed. That privilege now belongs to the ultimate consumer who has in many cases the ultimate power in the digital world – the power to simply delete your content whilst instantly moving on to a better (or more convenient) alternative.
Aside: I feel compelled to mention Larry Lessig’s ‘Remix’ book here for anyone who wants to get into this subject more deeply – a fascinating examination of how the law is struggling to keep up with the speed of technological advancement (and a topic for another post – or series – here in the future, I suspect).
THE CRITICAL (AND GROWING) IMPORTANCE OF DATA
This can’t be overemphasised enough. Unsurprisingly, every single talk focused to some extent on just how important data is becoming to the modern business, regardless of sector. The digital world has afforded us all with an unparalleled opportunity to research, monitor, analyse and improve every aspect of our businesses. As a result, the businesses that will succeed are those which are able to maintain high quality and relevant data and use this vital information as the foundation for designing the content of the business.
TRENDS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Jim Wolff (@jimwolffman) of the Leith Agency wound up the day with a hugely entertaining talk about further themes for all creatives to be aware of in the future, including the growth in visual content, the demand for personalised content, the development of the Internet of Things (see Evrythng which lets you tag real items to make them smart by being able to ‘talk’ to each other) and – surprise surprise – the growth of social business.
I understand that the talks will be going online soon (I’ll add the links just as soon as they’re available) and I’d encourage you to take a look at that stage. Hopefully however the summary above has given you a flavour of the sort of discussions that took place. Of course, the conference couldn’t answer questions about what the future might bring in great detail. But, then again, the one thing that is certain is that that accurate predictions are for the most part impossible – and I guess that’s exactly what makes it all so much fun…!
The key instead is to:
- Adopt an agile approach
- Be passionate about discovering developments (wherever they occur in the world)
- Connect and engage with the growing online social community in which your customers are active
- Equip your business (creative or otherwise) with the tools and capacity to become as responsive as possible to your potential customers
All in all, a fantastic event and a list of brilliant speakers – well done to Creative Edinburgh for bringing it all together. If you were there, or have any thoughts on any of the points raised above, please do let me know in the comments below.
Andy Payne – AppyNation
Stephanie Rieger – Yiibu
Brendan Miles – The List
Hannah Rudman – AmbITion Scotland
Peter Gerard – Distrify
Devon Walshe – The Journal
Dougal Perman – Inner Ear
Jim Wolff – The Leith Agency
Murray Buchanan – Cargo Publishing
PS A different presentation but I’m a sucker for a good show – and Yiibu’s ‘Everything Old Is New Again’ is exactly that, well worth a look