Martha Lane Fox – Digital Champion

Lastminute.com.  One of the big dotcom success stories of the late nineties.  Founded by digital entrepreneurs Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman.

Seizing the opportunity to see Martha Lane Fox deliver a keynote in London last night in her capacity as the Governments Digital Champion,  I wasn’t entirely sure what my opinion of her was, pre-lecture. 

I’d seen her picture a lot in the media.  I’ve heard of the highs and lows of lastminute.com from foundation to flotation.  I was impressed that she replied within a few minutes of my mentioning her on Twitter.  Like anything, you really get to see more of a person – in person - so was keen to form my own opinion of her.  Immaculately turned out, she looked every inch the ambassador/stateswoman.

Background

I hadn’t known (until I did a bit of desk research on here), that she’d survived a horrifying car crash in Morocco in 2004 which nearly left her dead (breaking 26 bones in the process), that she sits on the boards of M&S and Channel 4 aswell as having numerous other business interests in the charity sector.  She is Chair of a Karaoke business she founded called Lucky Voice (must pay them a visit) and graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford where she read ancient and modern history.  More details on Wikipedia here.

Last nights keynote was governed by Chatham House rules, so I won’t detail anything here that doesn’t already exist in the public domain that she may have repeated last night.  I will comment however on her speaking style, which I found relaxed, articulate, engaging and informative.  A masterclass in holding an audience.

Backing Digital

She passionately backs all things digital and is the brains behind the Race Online 2012 initiative whose aim is to address the 10m people who don’t have internet access and get them online. 

Urging businesses and government to take more risk in this area, both financial and non-financial in the name of competitiveness, Lane Fox seeks efficiency improvement and to reach out to all areas of society.  Privileged and underprivileged. 

My thoughts – I agree.  If the UK is to compete on a global stage then we have to turn the heat up here, reduce our costs, make services accessible and transcend through the process of high-touch to low-touch public service transactions.

Crossing the Divide

Whatever the future holds, we have to accept that the web will continue to dominate working practices, divide and unite societies, countries and social groups.  A passionate advocate myself, what I liked most about Martha Lane Fox is the realisation that these tools are operated by humans, for humans to ultimately give us more opportunity to do the things that matter.  Here here. 

Wandering back to the hotel after the lecture, my reflections were that the Government needs people like Martha within it, around it, advising it and keeping the mandate going about lower transactional costs to serve, simplification and accessibility, to us, the taxpayer.  She’s a credible voice, with a “been there, done it”  t-shirt to boot. 

Post-lecture, she’d more than convinced me of her ability to energise, question and create momentum in the projects she is running.  To come back from such a serious accident, shows guts and a steely determination.  If you get a chance to hear her speak, turn up.

Convenience

“That was Easy.” This red button was the physical manifestation of an advertising slogan that office superstore giant Staples ran.  They ended up giving away millions of these little red buttons, which said the words when pressed.  Great, simple campaign.

Later this week, I’ll be delivering a keynote to a marketing conference in Manchester.  I’m focussing on convenience as one of the features of something I call the “expectation economy”.  That is, the changing face of why people buy from key platforms.  At home, Amazon, eBay, i-Tunes, Google and Facebook consume the bulk of our face time and are becoming our de-facto on-line shopping malls/social/search platforms.

They are shaking the on-line world down as they continue to consolidate, throw their net wider, provide new and additional services which makes life easier for people.  As an example, in September last year, Facebook started to sell credits in stores in the USA, in the same way you could buy mobile phone credit.  A potential game changing moment. Right now, they can only be used to buy apps or other in-game stuff, however it’s only a matter of time before Facebook becomes a fully blown trading platform in its own right, then what’s going to happen?

Inevitably, they’ll scoop up a process that is currently being transacted somewhere else. They’ll find a way to integrate into their social sphere.  They’ll make it easier for buyers with one-click.  They’ll make it mobile.  They’ll make it easy.  They realise that people are busy, moments are being maximised, the more folk can do on the move or with a mobile in their hand, the better.  Upgrades, last minute stuff, gift certificates, movement of money, you name it, I bet you’re going to see it at some point in the near future.  Perhaps Facebook credits may become a new global currency?

A word to the webwise….

The internet is changing the very world in which we live. Good or bad, it’s here to stay. I’m staggered by the number of companies I come across that think a web strategy is just having a site. I’m fed up with the promises of businesses that think they can get you to the top of Google’s natural searches by link farming and posting syndicated content. GET REAL. The web is a dynamic tool, Google are moving the goalposts every day, their algorithms are evolving. GET SMART. Read up, use google to search for the latest thinking, spot trends, evolve your thinking. UNDERSTAND.
Here’s a great example. This is the blog from the team that develop features in googlemail, right from the horses mouth. http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/new-in-labs-stop-sending-mail-you-later.html In it, they talk about one of their new ideas “Google Goggles”, not that I have this problem, but you can see what they mean…..