This year’s IAB Engage event featured a wealth of key players from the global Internet industry, offering their insights for the future of digital media. This report offers key highlights from the morning session.
A sell out IAB Engage 2010 kicked off yesterday with an inspiring opener from researcher and journalist Dr Aleks Krotoski who opined that the ethos of the web is being undermined and content creators are “breaking the internet”.
Krotoski, who presented the BBC’s Virtual Revolution series, talked about the evolution of online communities and how the web holds a mirror up to society. With so much content our navigation is determined by what we want to know and want to hear, contended Krotoski before going on to argue that our vision is narrowed and we coagulate into the community which best fits our attitudes and ideas.
A new form of social trust
The 650-strong audience of the UK’s digital glitterati heard from Krotoski how online users are now so used to joining groups and communities populated by people who we perceive to have common interests, we’re too easily influenced by people we think have similar attitudes to us. This is engendering a new form of “social trust”, she said.
Krotoski concluded by encouraging marketers to stop and think about serendipity when creating their next technology or content, saying: “Create services that enable people to bump into each other and find ways to create elements of randomness to intentionally bring people together who may never normally ‘bump’ into each other”.
Krotoski was followed by Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo!, who continued the social theme outlining Yahoo!’s approach of “Social Recommendation Optimisation” – the attempt to empower each other to influence each other. “The ability to do this no matter how or where they [consumers] are connected is key” she said.
Never waste a pixel
However, Bartz, believes that although the UK is a leader in online advertising “it could be doing better”. For her, “advertising is just another piece of content and brands are not doing enough”. Bartz recognised another issue across emerging platforms that needs to be addressed, saying: “Never waste a pixel and make the most of the canvas in order to give people the content they want wherever they are.”
The Yahoo! CEO continued by saying that advertisers need to inject some education into their advertising and while there is rightly a focus on emotion, Bartz believes “Emotion is great, but online can also educate in an easy on-demand fashion.”
Bartz ended with another call to action for advertisers who she believes are not doing enough to integrate search and display advertising. “advertisers think of these as disconnected, this needs to change. 49% of consumers respond to display ads and follow with a search.” While search and display are important, advertisers need to think about supporting each channel. “If doing search ensure there’s a display component”, she says.
A digital copy of the planet
Microsoft’s president online services division, Dr Qi Lu, focused on what is driving the evolution of the web and how the “velocity of the internet is getting more real time” thanks to Facebook and Twitter.
Lu believes that today’s consumer-facing internet is “Topical Internet” thanks to the “connective tissue of the web” being based around hyperlinks. Lu continued by saying that “keywords are nothing more than “a topical expression of what we want”.
Lu went on to point out how we are witnessing an “unfolding digital copy of the planet” and how everything is digitally available: words, places, people are all available online: “The web’s structure is to connect. Everything is tied together”, he said.
Lu went on to describe what he called the “applification of the world”, the dawn of a new era of connectivity and interaction. If today’s browers are a metaphor for a library system of documenting the world, tomorrow’s app-inspired connectivity will lend more to visual and emotional controls. “Tomorrow we will touch, swipe, point and voice activate to find what we want”.
This will lead to a new set of issues in documenting the world, argues Lu. If the future of the world is apps, “the big question is when you have many apps what’s the structure of the new web? How do we order the apps, what’s the connective tissue?”. What’s more, asked Lu, how will marketers realise the opportunities of these new “surface areas”.
Finally, Lu talked about the significance of the recent Facebook and Bing tie up. In a social context Lu believes that there is now a profound shift in how we trust what we see online. If popular opinion and expert opinion are what drive consumers actions, the collaboration between social network and search engine will enable “Trusted opinion” to influence our decision making.
“Trusted opinions matter more than popular or expert opinion”, said Lu, indicating that search results from Bing will include the opinions of our Facebook peers, which we will naturally take more note of. “Friends’ opinions are profoundly more important. We’re at the tip of theiceberg.”
Read part 2 of the IAB Engage 2010 report, including comments from Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify and comedian Jimmy Carr, here.