On Thursday 3rd September, a few of the Stripes journeyed to the 36OD digital conference at the SECC in Glasgow. Hosted by some of the biggest thought leaders in the digital and tech landscape, the all-day event promised to make our heads hurt with information overload. From learning about the BBC’s commitment to facilitating a coding education for the next generation to the insights and advice from some of Scotland’s newest and most ambitious digital start-ups, the day did not disappoint.
Kicking off with a Buzz
The morning started with the Director for Brand Strategy Europe at Buzzfeed, David Pugh-Jones talking about what great content looks like and what it should achieve. Given that 75% of Buzzfeed’s content is found via social media, it’s clear that while great content is paramount for the content publishers, distribution is also at the forefront of the business success. One of the key differentiations David made was the distinction between creating content that is to be consumed versus content that they want to communicate and start a conversation with. Does this fit in to his approach of content being optimised for the share rather than the like? Well, it’s certainly demonstrating where he feels his priorities are which is in getting people talking and engaging with their content, not just resonating with it and hitting “like”.
One key aspect Buzzfeed is building upon is the move to talking about and creating content on a more serious tone e.g. breaking news. We have probably begun to see content from Buzzfeed in the wake of tragedies such as the recent Virginia journalist shootings. The question was asked, can Buzzfeed really have an authoritative voice on serious breaking news when its rise to fame is associated with posts about the 10 cutest cats? Interestingly, David claimed that it is easier for someone like Buzzfeed to go from funny to serious than it is for other well established news publications to do it the other way round.
Making it digital with the BBC
Jessica Cecil from the BBC gave an insight into the changes in digital behaviour for the next generation. The BBC is working to ensure children in the UK are receiving the support they need to take on a digital role in future employment. One way they’re hoping to achieve this is by gifting first year pupils across the country with a micro:bit – which is in short, a pocket-sized code-able computer. More children are not just playing games but they are also creating them, showcasing the intuitive learning behaviours young people are demonstrating today. The hope is to create a lasting impact on the future of digital in the UK and really ensure that we are at the forefront of the industry worldwide. With the BBC committed to helping children become efficient in coding, I would anticipate the future digital talent pool to get bigger and better – something all organisations should be excited about.
Money on the mind with Visa Europe Collab
On to the world of finance, Steve Perry, founder of Visa Europe Collab, spoke about the new international innovation hub that he is leading. Visa Europe Collab has been built in order to find the most promising ideas in financial technology and to make them a reality. Steve is passionate about working with promising start ups who offer valuable and innovative payment solutions. The way he sees it, making a payment should be as easy as breathing, so if don’t notice payment technology or a solution from Visa in the checkout process, Perry doesn’t care that you don’t notice it’s Visa that made your life easier. In his view, Visa are doing their job well if you don’t know you are using one of their solutions or technology.
But that’s not all…
The afternoon saw us treated to a pitch/advice session from some of Scotland’s emerging digital entrepreneurs, including Cally Russell, the 27 year old founder of “tinder for fashion” app Mallzee who also featured on Dragon’s Den. What all these innovators have in common, is an opportunity to disrupt the current digital landscape, dictate the direction and lead from their point of view. Whether it be changing the way people shop or utilising online returns data to provide actionable insights for businesses, the panel provided great insight into their individual journeys’ towards success.
The conference demonstrated just how ambitious Scotland is in shaping and disrupting the digital landscape. One key comment from the Jon Bradford of Techstars was his belief that it is companies and start-ups who look to “what’s next” that will flourish ahead of copying what’s trending in the digital world. With well-established digital powerhouses such as Sky Scanner and Fan Duel headquartered here in Edinburgh, and the entrepreneurial spirit coming to fruition in the form of emerging and innovative tech start-ups, Scotland’s role in defining what’s next in digital looks promising.