Hotwire Blog

18 May, 2007

The global media

I recently contributed to a webinar hosted by Hotwire's US banking and finance practice agency partner, William Mills. The seminar was an introduction to the European market for US companies, and delved into all the idiosyncrasies of the main European countries from a demographic, cultural, political, social and PR perspective. Admittedly it was more the latter than the former as we only had an hour! The seminar was predominantly focussed on the wide and diverse FS sector, however it never ceases to amaze me, that while the industry preaches the growth of the global economy, how this is seldom reflected by the media make-up.

In the banking space, for example, we have only one true global title - The Banker. The space is fortunate enough to have a lot of pan-European titles and a fair smattering of smaller global titles, especially within the online environment. Yet still regional boundaries really, really matter. Isn't that odd within this new digital, online age?

How many of you, I wonder, are head of PR/marketing EMEA? A sizeable chunk if our client base is anything to go by. Now answer me this, how many pan-EMEA publications can you mention? Yup, I'm struggling as well.

OK, so obviously there isn't an enormous demand to cater for such a wide and diverse media…or is there?

This might be a niche example, but let's take a brief look at the smart card industry. The humble smart card has rapidly grown into a fairly ubiquitous platform residing, as it does, within every mobile phone handset and an increasingly healthy proportion of your debit, credit, travel and ID cards (plus a whole host of other emerging and visionary applications). If we focus on the debit and credit card for a moment we will see it becoming fairly standard across the Continent within the next two or three years. Now the Middle East is in the midst of its own EMV (the standard that underpins the debit/credit chip and PIN card) migration although it looks set to be less a Big Bang rollout and more a steady drip-drip. In Africa the smart card is seen as a vehicle to provide banking to the un-banked, bringing the possibility of paying by card rather than cash to remote and poor communities for the first time.

From my experience of doing outreach into the Middle East and Africa over the past three years they are crying out to hear about the European experience. They want to know what is going on and just because they are 'behind' does not mean they are going to slavishly follow the European migration path step-by-step. Instead they are more likely to leapfrog directly to where we are today or beyond. So why does the media not reach internationally to share the same information to such a broad audience?

Yes, we can probably discount print publications through shear distribution cost - especially to Africa - but the on-lines are also peculiarly tied to their regional localities.

Let me give you another example of why I feel this is odd. Part of the SOA dream is the erosion of silos. These silos are not only inter-departmental but also cross-border. I appreciate that the number of examples of companies with cross-border IT implementations are few but the wave of M&A activity is going to make this increasingly commonplace - after all, one of the significant parts of the business case for the Santander/Abbey merger was supposed to be the IT rationalisations. Now name me a pan-European IT title? In fact, let me go one further, name me a European IT title that will accept a non-national case study. Other than the occasional rogue example that slips past the editorial controls it isn’t easy, is it?

It's nothing more than an observation at this stage but actually I think it is time that the publishing houses woke up and accepted that the world is globalising. Some aspect of globalisation creeps into virtually every edition. The majority of vendors are global or certainly have global aspirations. China is the next big market, not just for IT vendors but business as a whole. Basically, globalisation is not just coming, it's here. That's not a bold statement, it's a statement that simply underlines the fact that the media, not just the trades, but also many of the on-lines, are falling out of step with the evolution of the global economy and I think it is time they considered this a problem.