News: what WON’T change in the next 10 years?

Jeff Bezos says the most important question is, what WON’T change in the next 10 years?(As opposed to the more commonly asked, “what WILL change in the next 10 years”).

What won’t change for news in the next 10 years?

  1. People will still want fresh content on demand
  2. People will still want content that resonates with them
  3. People will still respond to simplicity, unexpectedness, credibility, “concreteness” (not abstractness), emotion and stories. (Made To Stick).
  4. People will still want to feel part of something bigger. (Start With Why).

The most important question you should be asking

From Jeff Bezos via TechCrunch

I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’

How quickly does the news industry change?

The landscape shifts every two weeks. Here are some of the recent changes…

What have i missed?

The potential of personalisation

How much could personalisation increase engagement?

Here is my best guess at engagement for 100 stories on a typical news homepage. (I estimate that relevant stories have a CTR of 15% as opposed to 10%).

  • 30 stories relevant tag/category. 4.5 interesting
  • 70 stories not relevant. 7 interesting
  • TOTAL: 11.5 interesting

With a mix of personalisation and curated:

  • 60 stories relevant tag/category. 9 interesting
  • 40 stories not relevant. 4 interesting
  • TOTAL: 13 interesting

That’s an increase of 13%. I’ll update the numbers as i continue to gather data.


Smaller Beats Bigger

An excerpt from Exponential Organisations

“Size Does Matter, Just not the Way You Think…

Ronald Coase won the 1991 Nobel Prize in Economics for his theory that larger companies do better because they aggregate assets under one roof and, as a result, enjoy lower transaction costs. Two decades later, the reach delivered by the information revolution has negated the need to aggregate assets in the first place.

For decades, scale and size have been desirable traits in an enterprise. A bigger company could do more, the argument went, because it could leverage economies of scale and negotiate from strength. That’s one reason why, for generations, business schools and consulting firms have focused on the management and organization of extremely large companies. And Wall Street has gotten rich trading the stock of giant companies, which often merge to create even more gigantic organizations.

All that is changing. In The Start-up of You, Reid Hoffman shows that transaction costs are no longer an advantage and that each individual can (and should) manage himself or herself as a business. Why? One reason is the unparalleled and unprecedented ability of a small team today to do big things—an ability that grows ever greater if the exponential technologies described in Chapter One are put to use. Both now and in the coming years, adaptability and agility will increasingly eclipse size and scale.

A telling example is how Netflix, with its centralized DVD rentals and small footprint, easily outmaneuvered and eventually destroyed Blockbuster, despite its 9,000 stores and distributed geographical assets. In the software world,, which operates 100 percent in the cloud, can adapt to changing market conditions much faster than can competitor SAP, given that the latter requires customized installations onsite.

We’ve already discussed Airbnb, which by leveraging its users’ existing assets, is now valued at more than the Hyatt Hotels chain worldwide. While Hyatt has 45,000 employees spread out across its 549 properties, Airbnb has just 1,324, all located in a single office. Similarly, Lending Club, Bitcoin, Clinkle and Kickstarter are forcing a radical rethinking of the banking and venture capital industries, respectively. (No retail outlets are involved in these new financial tech startups.)

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is structured to maximize the benefits of a small-form factor. Its global research center is home to the company’s R&D department and a unit that spins out new businesses under the umbrella brand. The Branson group now consists of more than four hundred companies, all operating independently. Collectively, they are worth $24 billion.

As Peter Diamandis has often noted, one key advantage of a small team is that it can take on much bigger risks than a large one can. This can be seen clearly in the graph below—courtesy of Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab—which shows how startups are characterized by high upside potential and low downside, while large organizations are characterized by just the opposite.”

Excerpt from “Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it)” by Salim Ismail, Michael S. Malone, Yuri van Geest, Peter H. Diamandis)

The problem with experts

An excerpt from Exponential Organisations

The reason “Disruption is the New Norm” is that democratized, accelerating technologies, combined with the power of community, can now extend Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma to an unstoppable force.

The old saw that an expert is “somebody who tells you why something cannot be done” is truer than ever before. History has shown that the best inventions or solutions rarely come from experts; they almost always come from outsiders. That is, from people who aren’t domain experts but who offer a fresh perspective.

When Kaggle runs a competition, it has found that the first responders are experts in a particular domain who say, “We know this industry, we’ve done this before and we’ll figure it out.” And just as inevitably, within two weeks, complete newcomers to the field trounce their best results. For example, the Hewlett Foundation sponsored a 2012 competition to develop an automated scoring algorithm for student-written essays. Of the 155 teams competing, three were awarded a total of $100,000 in prize money. What was particularly interesting was the fact that none of the winners had prior experience with natural language processing (NLP). Nonetheless, they beat the experts, many of them with decades of experience in NLP under their belts.

This can’t help but impact the current status quo. Raymond McCauley, Biotechnology & Bioinformatics Chair at Singularity University, has noticed that “When people want a biotech job in Silicon Valley, they hide their PhDs to avoid being seen as a narrow specialist.”

So, if experts are suspect, where should we turn instead? As we’ve already noted, everything is measurable. And the newest profession making those measurements is the data scientist. Andrew McAfee calls this new breed of data experts “geeks.” He also sees the HiPPO, or “highest paid person’s opinion” as the natural enemy of geeks because HiPPOs still base their opinions largely on intuition or gut feeling. We don’t believe that this is a contest that should be won completely by one side or the other. Instead, we think that when it comes to ExOs, both groups will co-exist—but with a proviso: the role of HiPPOs (or experts) will change. They will continue as the best people to answer questions and identify key challenges, but the geeks will then mine the data to provide the solutions for those challenges.

Excerpt from “Exponential Organizations: Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it)” by Salim Ismail, Michael S. Malone, Yuri van Geest, Peter H. Diamandis)

Why growing products is so complex – part 2

My last post talked about the complexity we face. This post gives 7 ways we can turn that complexity to our advantage.

1. Audiences are complex. We can gain an advantage if we can get feedback from real users faster than our competitors do.


2. Our product faces tough competition. We can outflank our competitors if we prioritize more ruthlessly than them.

3. Technology is complex. Don’t think, “we’ll figure out the requirements and then throw it over to the tech team”.

We can beat our competitors by being more collaborative than them. We need deep collaboration from kickoff to launch and beyond.

How do the most successful company in the world grow their products?

Because he [Jobs] believed that Apple’s great advantage was its integration of the whole widget—from design to hardware to software to content—he wanted all departments at the company to work together in parallel. The phrases he used were “deep collaboration” and “concurrent engineering.”

Instead of a development process in which a product would be passed sequentially from… design to manufacturing to marketing and distribution, these various departments collaborated simultaneously. “Our method was to develop integrated products, and that meant our process had to be integrated and collaborative,” Jobs said.

4. People are complicated. Think in terms of “smart creatives“, not org charts. It’s how Google out-innovate their competitors.

5. The platforms we rely on are constantly changing. That’s why we need to start thinking like a platform – how can we turn our readers from passive consumers to active co-creators?

6. Resources are scarce. It’s possible to get a degree in the allocation of scarce resources. It’s called economics. Google, Airbnb and others hire economists (detail here).

You don’t need to hire an economist, but you need someone on the team with an economics mindset.

7. Change is the only constant. This works to your advantage if you’re more adaptable than your competitors.

As Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

The six pointers above will all help your team be more adaptable. They feed into each other, something like this…

More adaptable

Beware of applying linear thinking to complex challenges.