Monday, February 11, 2019

5 Factors That Make It Harder to Break Into National Business Media

Securing national business coverage has never been easy. In preparing to talk to a prospective client recently, we thought it would be helpful to explain why it's gotten tougher -- even before you get to the client.

Clients always want to know about relationships with the media but these days, even with a strong knowledge of the media and good relationships with reporters, there are other challenges to consider:
  1. Shrinking news rooms. Newsrooms have seen dramatic cutbacks and buyouts. Before Feb. 2019, there were more than 1,000 newsroom job cuts in 2019. There is real concern that some newsrooms are ghost newsrooms, with not enough reporters trying to fill up the newshole, and often relying on syndicated content. So it's harder to find reporters these days.
  2. Increased demands on reporters. Concurrent with job cutbacks, the demands on reporters to produce and generate views has increased tremendously. Reporters typically have to file more stories, across different formats (you can read a news story on a radio station's website or watch a video on a print newspaper's website) all while posting content across social media to drive traffic back to the news organizations' website. That means reporters have to think harder about whether they'll even take an interview because of everything else they have to do as part of their jobs.
  3. Some print outlets have reduced their publication schedule or size of their print editions. Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur and other prestige publications have reduced the number of issues they publish annually. Fortune used to 25 issues per year; in 2009, Fortune decreased the number of issues to 18. In 2019, it currently publishes 14 issues a year. Forbes published 22 issues in 2010 and current publishes 14 per year. Entrepreneur published 12 issues per year in 2016 but cut back to 10 in 2017 (sorry Feb. & Aug.). Meanwhile, some outlets have reduced their page size so there's less space per issue for news. (A client recently asked about taking out an ad in the Boston Globe business section and we had to tell them that there's rarely any advertising in that section.) Fewer issues and smaller space means it's harder to get ink. There is, of course, still opportunities for online coverage but we still have to deal with fewer reporters with more demands they have to handle.
  4. Reporters are harder to contact. We've already established that reporters are busier than ever, But they're also harder to reach than ever. There are more freelancers who regularly contribute to a specific news outlet without being an actual employee. That means you can't reach them by phone through the publication's main number. There might not only be no number to use to call those reporters, but increasingly some of the newer digital news sites themselves don't list their phone numbers -- other than for advertising. We used to be able to follow up by phone and by smiling and dialing but that's less possible these days. For a recent client project that targeted advertising/marketing reporters, we found that fewer than half our list included phone numbers; of the ones who had phone numbers listed, 90 percent were the organization's main number, and the dial-by-name directory did not include the name of the reporter (even if they were staff reporters). By the way, of the 10 percent who did have a phone number we could reach, their voicemails were full and did not take new messages. (This is without pointing out that reporters -- across the political spectrum -- are as distracted as the rest of us by the Washington, DC news.)
  5. Tech reporters at national business media are more interested in Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google (aka FAANG of the Big Five), Microsoft and Twitter but not as interested in B2B technology. The products they seem most interested are smartphones, virtual assistants (i.e., Alexa); the issues that interest them are privacy, security, crypto and blockchain but not the underlying business tech that supports those products or issues. We know that cloud computing is hot but that doesn't mean reporters at national business publications -- the Journal, Times, Wired, Bloomberg, etc. -- are able to cover a company doing well in cloud computing. The fact is that those reporters are more interested in business issues than in tech issues, and at the same time, it's hard to sell B2B tech via articles in those publications. (Partly that's because it can be much more complicated for businesses to adopt new technology, as Walt Mossberg, the legendary Wall St. Journal tech columnist, told me more than once.)
We know this list is something most clients won't like reading -- we didn't like it ourselves but we try to give clients realistic assessments -- so we  will tackle some ways to get into the national business media in a follow-up article.

In the meantime, let us what you think of these factors.

Monday, February 4, 2019

4 New Predictions + 17 Ongoing Trends for 2019

It may be a new year but some of the trends we expect to generate media coverage in 2019 are ones from prior years.

In this installment about 2019 trends, we list four new predictions plus 17 ongoing trends that will continue in 2019. That's 21 predictions in one article. In some cases, we will just mention the trend without much explanation because we've covered them a lot before. (If you have any questions, post a comment and we'll respond.)

Here are four new predictions based on continuing trends.
  • Lawmakers will act against robocalls. Here’s an issue everyone can support. We all get too many robocalls, whether on our cell phones or land lines. What’s gotten worse is not just how many of the calls we each get but that most of these have spoofed caller IDs so you think it might be a neighbor or someone you know. We expect lawmakers to pass bills to reducing spoofing and robocalls. Already some of the phone companies are expanding their offerings. One problem: you need a different solution to combat the robocall problem on cell phones from the solution for landlines.
  • More colleges will fail and college debt levels will continue to be a significant issue for millennials. Some colleges can’t afford to keep their doors open and many students can’t afford to pay for a college education. The former is an issue and the latter is huge problem for society. We expect to see think pieces in 2019 (and beyond) about the plight of higher education in America.
  • The implications of the (possible) end of Moore’s Law will generate think pieces. In 1965, Gordon Moore, a semiconductor pioneer, wrote a paper that observed that that the number of transistors on a chip would double every year while the costs are halved. We’ve now reached a point where that no longer may be true. There are significant implications if Moore’s prediction slows down so that instead of doubling every year or two, the number of transistors increases every three to five years. We’re not going to go into the implications here except to say we expect there to be some coverage/debate about this in 2019.
  • Cashless-only retail will gain momentum. This is a generational issue but millennials don’t seem to use cash. They use Apple Pay, Venmo and other e-cash solutions but not cash. We expect to see more stores open that are cashless-only – that won’t accept cash. It won’t happen to supermarkets or hardware stores but it will be more prevalent in neighborhoods and retailers catering to a younger, cooler demographic. You might not even notice it happen if you, yourself, rarely use cash at the register. But it will be a problem for older people and people with lower income, including the 14.1 million unbanked adults, according to the Wall St. Journal; what’s disturbing is that the same article reported that, “Despite consumers’ expanded access to banking, one in five households, or 22.7 million, didn’t use mainstream credit such as credit cards and mortgages in the prior year.” That’s a lot of people who will be further cut off from many parts of the economy. 
Here’s our updated list of ongoing trends:

  1. The Age of Anxiety continues. Chaos, uncertainty, anger, a sense of helplessness and the near-constant news notifications will continue to fuel our Age of Anxiety, especially since it seems to be hard to escape. Even broadcast journalists have commented on air that they’re overwhelmed in trying to stay on top of and to process all the news – and that’s their job. We expect many to experience news fatigue, take “news vacations” or (aka a technology cleanses or digital detox, where they shut off all notifications on their phones and take hiatuses from social media – even though that’s nearly impossible to do. As we’ve said previously, in 2019, we expect more coverage regarding stress, anxiety, mental health and ways to de-stress. But the implications for marketers is this: 1) If consumers are turning off news and social media, it will be harder to reach them via ads, media relations and social media; and 2) They might be interested consumer media that distracts them from their anxiety.
  2. Concerns about Retailpocalypse and Amazonification will continue to have an impact in 2019. More big brands will struggle, close locations or declare bankruptcy this year. One change: we expect some saber rattling about whether or not to clamp down on Amazon’s market power. The good news is there will be some innovations in the sector, and some retailers will do well despite Amazonification. The retail sector is important in a consumer-driven economy but there are implications for real estate (when locations go unrented for a long time), local unemployment (the job market is strong but it may be hard for retail staff to transition to another industry), local economies (what happens to cities when retailers abandon them), local media (which benefits from local ads, circulars, etc.) 
  3. The gig economy, robotics and automation and income inequality will continue to spark think pieces about the nature of work. Last year, we said think pieces about the nature of work would be sparked by the labor shortage and the gig economy. This year, we expect think pieces to be driven by those two factors plus concerns about jobs of the future as industrial robots, and automation begin to make inroads in factory settings. Also look for articles about rethinking income inequality, the social safety net and the future of unions for gig workers who don’t necessarily get minimum wage, unemployment benefits, vacation and sick days or employer-contributions for workers’ comp, Social Security and Medicare. We also expect that there will be calls to better measure the gig economy.
  4. The debate about how to regulate Facebook, Google and Twitter will continue. It’s clear that social media companies continue to not be able to stay ahead of their problems. Congress knows it needs to do something in 2019 to address data privacy, hate speech/bullying that isn’t being removed/policed fast enough and election interference/misinformation from Russia. The new goal of any new regulation should be to go into effect before 2020 but we are skeptical that this will be possible because we’d bet that Facebook, Twitter and Google would have addressed their problems if they could have, rather than be regulated by Congress. There will also be articles looking at technology’s role in a democracy. Part of the problem: social media makes it easy to share content before users vet it, and that’s something Congress can’t mandate.
  5. Fake news won’t fade in 2019. Part of the problem is that the term “fake news” can mean almost anything: from news you disagree with or don’t like (but are actually true) to stories that are part of misinformation campaigns (and are factually false). If we can’t agree on a definition of it, and if Facebook, Google and Twitter all have trouble dealing with the fake news scourge, how will regulations and Congress be able to solve what the social media giants can’t? There’s no light at the end of the tunnel since there are calls that even the fact-checking at Facebook must be checked. It’s harder than ever to trust our institutions, which adds to the anxiety so many are experiencing.   
  6. Cord cutting turns out to be complicated and expensive. Over the next 18 months, we’ll experience a glut as more streaming services get launched. It’s getting harder to find all the things you want to watch. Something available on Netflix last month may be found on Hulu next month and then some new service next year. So to watch everything you want, you’ll have to have subscriptions with Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, and dozens more. Cable might be simpler and less expensive.
  7. IoT will continue to be victim to cyberattacks. This hasn’t gotten a lot of attention but we think it will. As reported by a friend in a recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, recently a cruise line offered “a proprietary mobile app, which unlocks your cabin door and lets you book activities on and off the ship….(A passenger’s) roommate used it to prank her, remotely flashing the lights and opening the blinds in their cabin.” Seems like a harmless prank but it speaks to more nefarious possibilities. We’re worried that there will be more IoT cyberattacks, as IoT, Smart Homes and virtual assistants go mainstream. Perhaps the only advantage of having to get up and walk over to a light switch is that hackers can’t hack your home.
  8. There’s still not enough cybersecurity protection or privacy. They say millennials don’t care much about privacy but we think that will likely change as they get older. There’s certainly not enough of cybersecurity.
  9. Cloud computing will stay strong. This may be the one tech trend that has yet to experience a backlash. Cloud computing remains an important paradigm, and we don't see that changing in 2019, which means that it's a trend that may not get that much ink because editors are always looking for stories that answer "What's new?" and that move the story forward. That said, for business press, there's still interest in the horse race between Amazon's  AWS, Microsoft's Azure and Google Cloud Platform. We expect to see more about "cloud agnostic" or “Not Amazon” as a key message that will help lure customers that compete with Amazon to look beyond AWS. 
  10. Driverless cars will generate attention but still won’t appear at local dealership. Closer on the horizon is more electric cars, with China’s plans to eliminate all new combustion cars and trucks by 2030. There are lots of challenges to be addressed either way, like having are enough charging stations for electric cars and investing in the type of infrastructure – in urban, suburban and rural areas – that can enable driverless cars to operate including in bad weather. Oh, and there will continue to be a lot of coverage of Tesla.
  11. E-Scooters will become more of a thing in 2019. Some of us first heard about a vague problem of e-scooters like Bird that began cluttering up sidewalks in some cities. We expect them to gain more attention in 2019, becoming a full-fledged trends, much the way urban bike share and bike lanes did (it seems to us) in 2018. (They were around before 2018 but people began talking about bike lanes much more, we feel.)
  12. Corporate boycotts and consumer boycotts will continue. These are boycotts by companies in order to demonstrate distance from controversial programs and personalities. We also expect boycotts of companies that are boycotting those controversial people and programs.
  13. Drug pricing will continue to get a lot of attention. The problem: it’s expensive to develop new drugs – on average it costs $2.6 billion – and pharma companies need to use successful drugs to fund future development. There won’t be an easy solution so we don’t expect much from Congress except outrage.
  14. Wearable tech will still not be as mainstream as people in the industry were hoping. But wearable will make quiet inroads so that before you know it (probably not in 2019, though), lots of things will have built-in technology.
  15. The need for more Americans to pursue STEM education and careers continue to be important. With a looming labor shortage (in some fields), businesses are looking for employees with a firm grasp of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We think funding for STEM will continue to keep U.S. businesses competitive.
  16. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality still won’t be everywhere yet. VR and AR still aren't fully mainstream because people still don't yet have a strong-enough need for it. Watching a basketball game on Oculus is cool but not practical in how many people watch content these days, on their phones while in public spaces. (Can you imagine a subway car filled with people wearing heavy headsets?)
  17. 3-D content and 3-D printers will still not be as popular as they are cool.
Let us know if you disagree or agree with us selection. Did we miss something? Overstate things? We're happy to hear from you.

Monday, January 28, 2019

BuzzFeed, Gannett, HuffPo All (Unfortunately) Validate Our Prediction About Media Layoffs

In our blog from Dec. 19, 2018, "4 Additional Media Trends for 2019: including 'News Fatigue,'" we noted, "Digital media isn't the sure thing it was once thought to be, despite the lack of traditional media's baggage (like lack of printing presses)."

Specifically, we predicted:
The incredible shrinking newsroom. A decade ago, most newsrooms used to employ more reporters to cover the news, and the amount of pages that newspapers and magazines had to fill was larger. Today, news reporters have to cover more news with fewer resources and less space. Locally, at the Boston Business Journal, a terrific weekly, staff reporters typically file four or so stories a day, may have a weekly newsletter they produce and then must write a longer article for the weekly printed edition. Radio reporters now also have to write up a print story for the website in addition to producing their stories for the radio. All of this is to say that there are fewer reporters and they have to produce much more. This makes it challenging for them to take meetings, cultivate sources, uncover stories that need to be told. According to the UNC School of Media and Journalism's Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, the result of all this is that "Many newspapers have become ghosts of their former selves, both in terms of the quality and quantity of their editorial content and the reach of their readership."
Unfortunately, that prediction was validated by Axios in January: "More than 1,000 media jobs lost in one day." Many of those jobs cuts were handed down by BuzzFeed, which eliminated 250 jobs; Gannett, which cut more than 20 jobs; and Huffington Post, a division of Verizon. Overall, Verizon Media cut 800 jobs, approx. 7 percent of its global workforce. Axios also noted job losses at Vox and Refinery29, two digital-only media sites.

According to Axios, the shrinking newsroom "exists at the local, national and global levels, and across digital, print and television operations." For another article about the problems of newsrooms, check out AdWeek's "Layoffs Likely to Continue in This ‘Wrenching’ Period for Media Industry."

Axios also sees the impact on "the cheap sales of websites that had raised tons of money, like and Mashable.

Those two sites are still producing interesting, good journalism but their troubles may be self-fulfilling. In conversations this past week, we were asked about getting into Wired, the Times, Wall St. Journal and TechCrunch by several new and prospective clients. But no one asked about Mashable -- which would have been on that list two years ago.

We're not trying to throw shade at Mashable; again, we're fans just as we're fans of Re/code.

Our point is this: good, credible journalism is only one factor you need to have a successful news organization.

There are a number of variables news organizations need to have a profitable, sustaining business model. You need to figure out the costs and resources (editors, reporters, tech people and infrastructure to deliver the news) and how to pay for that (paywall, phased paywall or no paywall; subscriptions, advertising, native ads and clickbait, sponsorships and underwriters for nonprofit outlets.

Unfortunately, while there are many news sites and tech news sites, very few have made it work. Which means that we expect the newsroom to continue to shrink. And we wish we weren't right about this.

We certainly don't have an answer to the business problems plaguing the news sector. But do you? Let us know if you have any suggestions.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Problem of Our Social Media Avatars

We don't usually post anything political on this blog but we thought this "New Rule" by Bill Maher about avatars isn't really political. Mostly it points out an essential truth: much of what many of us post on social media isn't a true reflection of our lives. We've seen people who judge their chaotic lives and feel badly because of someone else's perfect spouse and children, their wonderful vacation, etc. -- when that may not be 100% accurate. It's one reason, some believe, that social media can depress you the longer you spend time on it.

The key segment starts at 1:58 in the video:

Monday, January 7, 2019

Enough of To Do's, Here's My To Don't List

Today I feel overwhelmed by my To-Do list. What I really need is a To-Don't list... The only problem: For a long time, I haven't had time to develop one.

With the start of a new year, I decided to identify some resolutions for things I need either to not do or to stop doing.
  1. Don't multitask. There may be some tasks when multitasking is fine -- like folding laundry while listening to a podcast -- but it often seems that multitasking takes longer to finish each of the tasks than if I handled them separately. So I'm going to try to monotask (as that a word?) -- focus on one task as time. And I will try to reduce distractions. (For more, check out "This chart will show you when you can multitask and when you can’t" from Fast Company. For some tips to reduce multitasking, check out the productivity hacks: 1) Banish desk chaos. 2) Ask for deadlines. 3) Make a night-before plan. 8 Plan for the unexpected (so let's explain that the numbers are from the article, which you should check out.)
  2. Don't spend too much time on Twitter, Facebook, BuzzFeed. This will be a bit tricky since we help clients with social media. That said, it's one thing to be engaged on social media when working for a client and another because I'm bored or finding it hard to focus. I may have caught up with what friends are doing but I probably should pick up the phone and talk to some of those people. One strategy: to set strict limits on personal use to avoid the somewhat empty feeling I get -- the same as when I binge on junk food or crappy TV shows. 
  3. Don’t put off the work that’s tough to do or is important but less interesting. No one likes doing the hard work, the heavy lifting, the sometimes-joyless tasks. But if you put off those tasks, you’ll never get them done, and they’ll weight heavier on you. So I’m going to try to start the day doing the least appealing but important tasks first, and then reward myself by handling the things I enjoy doing. I’m hoping knowing there’s something else I look forward to as soon as I finish the unpleasant task will serve as an incentive to more efficiently get through the dreaded work.
  4. Don't break my schedule into tiny bite-size units. I have a tendency to overschedule but I've found that when I give myself permission to block out an hour or two to do a project (rather than trying to squeeze time into any available free moment), the project is better, and completed more efficiently. The challenge is that work can expands to fill the time you have allocated -- like a meeting that should take only 30 minutes but expands to an hour because that's the amount of time we all agreed to. If we get everything done in a meeting in 40 minutes, I'm going to try to end the meeting and move on to something else on my list.  
  5. Don't try to squeeze too much in. Overscheduling is a problem. The solution to back-to-back-to-back meetings and tasks isn't always to squeeze more things into less time or to multitask our way through meetings where we're paying half-attention. It gets worse if we let ourselves get distracted by emails, texts or notifications.
  6. Don't go to a meeting unprepared or without an agenda. I learned this lesson a long time ago and it's still important. You don't have to stick to the agenda but the process of thinking about an agenda and the goals for a meeting make it more productive than going in and trying to "wing it."
  7. Don’t rely on PowerPoint. When you have to give a presentation, you have to give a presentation. Sometime people feel they have to get through the presentation – so much so that they don’t interact with the others in the room. It's important to be flexible and make sure you answer when clients ask a question, even if you haven’t reached the section later in the presentation that addresses that question. It looks like you’re dismissing their concerns when you say, “I’ll get to that on slide 23.” We want sessions to be conversations rather than a droning presentation, and when clients ask questions, they’re telling you their priorities, concerns and interests, and it’s important to pay attention.
  8. Don't get caught up in crossing off everything on my to-do list. We all put a lot of pressure to get everything done but that's not always possible. Sometimes things come up that need to immediate attention. It's okay to carry some things over to another day. Especially because I should not let myself be ruled by my to-do list; for example, while I feel better keeping my desk organized, that's not a priority over more important, more immediate deadlines. So I will try to give myself permission to not cross off everything everyday -- of course, I still have to meet deadlines. 
  9. Don't get upset that most things take more time than I estimate them. Sometimes things do take longer. The information I thought I had may not be as accurate or solid as it needs to be. Or it takes more back-and-forth with a reporter to schedule an interview. Not over-scheduling may help with this.
  10. Don't continue to do the same things the same way every day -- and expect that things will turn out different. That's Einstein's definition of insanity. Some routine is okay but you can't expect things to be different if you don't try alter your routines.
  11. Don't let evaluating things delay making decisions to seize opportunities. By that I mean, make sure to think about trying new things. Look at the pros and the cons, and then don't belabor things too long. Make a decision and jump.
  12. Don't forget to check in with the team and with clients. Don't assume everyone knows the status of projects or has all the information they have to get their jobs done. Sometimes emails get overlooked or forgotten. It's important to check in to make sure everyone has current info and expectations.
  13. Don't be so busy that I can't stop and look at the bigger picture for a client, team member or myself. Sometimes it doesn't take as much time as I think to consider the big picture. I was once at a strategy workshop when the leader asked, "How much time do you think it takes to make a strategic plan for a client?" The consensus seemed to be that it would take a couple of hours. Instead, the workshop led us through an exercise that got us developing a strategic plan within the hour.
  14. Don’t hope that bad news will disappear. No one likes confrontations but it’s better to address bad news as early as possible rather than hiding your head in the sand. You need to figure a solution and address it early because otherwise it can become a bigger issue.
  15. Don't feel the solution involves more of me. I've seen this with other small businesses. The boss thinks the only solution is for him or her to spend more time on a problem. Long-term, that doesn't work but the demands on the CEO are such that we need to be able to shift gears. My business is team oriented, and I need to keep the team engaged; another way of saying this is: don't overlook the talent and insight on the team -- make sure they're empowered to offer recommendations.
  16. Don't check email, various news sites constantly. In fact, during vacations, I've turned off all notices and alerts. They're too much of a distraction. But I'm also turning off the sound for text messages and emails when I need a solid block of time.
  17. Don't watch TV or Netflix when I have other things to do. That goes with the not wasting time on social media (number 2, above) but warrants, alas, it's own bullet even if I'm just entering time sheets for client billing. 
  18. Don't forget to keep in touch with people I enjoyed working with. We all get so busy that we forget the personal -- the people we like working with. We do too much by text or by checking out their posts on social media but forget that that's not a substitute for actual conversations. Staying in touch with friends and colleagues is important even if it's not work-related.
  19. Don’t get too busy that I feel I can’t organize my desk. When you’ve got lots of deadlines, it’s easy to let things pile up on my desk. But eventually, the piles get overwhelming. When I started out, I used to joke that cleaning off my desk was basically my job: it meant that I had completed all my assignments. To an extent, that’s still true. Once I’ve filed (and throwing out or recycling is filing) things off my desk, I feel better and more organized. And I know I don’t have to clean the entire mass of piles at the end of the day; a little bit at a time is perfectly ok. So that’s what I’m going to do after posting this article.
  20. Don't try to get by with too little sleep. I will try to get more regular sleep. (Let's see how that goes.)
That's a big list, with some overlapping items. I will likely add more over time.

Meanwhile, here are a few To Do's that I want to incorporate:
  1. Set aside specific time to respond to email. Right now, I tend to let the sound of arriving emails distract me from whatever task is at hand. It can take minutes to recover from a distraction so I’m going to set aside time to answer emails. There will be exceptions such as if I’m expecting an important, time-critical email or on days when we have an important client news.
  2. Define what results look like. In other words, don’t assume everyone understands what the results should be. It’s important to spend time setting expectations in advance. At the same time, make sure the deliverables are relevant to the client so that it’s not like opening a pack of socks for your birthday when you expected an Xbox.  
  3. Keep upgrading and changing skill sets and talents to fit the needs of an ever-changing marketplace. It’s easy to be so busy that you feel you don’t have time to learn or that you’re so good, you have nothing else to learn. You can’t succeed or continue to succeed by being complacent. You’ve got to continue to learn new approaches, look for new insights and understandings as the business world evolves. Sticking to what you used to do, and doing only the things that used to work, won’t get you very far. We have a client who pivoted his business three times, moving to where the market was heading, buying new equipment and either retraining current employees to get new skills or hiring new employees who had those skills. The results: the company made the Inc. 5000 of the Fastest Growing Private Companies for three years as a 20-year-old company, when many companies’ growth starts to slow down.
  4. Make my emails more actionable. Advice from Fast Company profile of the president of Land o' Lakes: Write in the subject line what the email is about. Tell the person up-front: is a decision needed or do you I need the recipient to look at something or is it a "When you have time, take a look at this?" -- so they can prioritize effectively.  
  5. Stop saying this. "Five things you should stop saying to yourself" from Fast Company. 
Need more motivation or insight? Here's what author Jim Collins said in a Bloomberg interview, "Good to Great Expectations: Jim Collins on getting to the next level":
"The imperative is to manage our time, not our work. This is why the whole question of balance and finishing our work is insane. There are only 24 hours in a day, so what difference does it really make if you work 10 hours or 14, given that there are a thousand potential hours of work? The real question is the incredible rigor of what goes into the hours you allocate.

"As I look at the most effective people we've studied, a 'stop-doing' list or not-to-do list is more important than a to-do list, because the to-do list is infinite. For every big, annual priority you put on the to-do list, you need a corresponding item on the stop-doing list. It's like an accounting balance.

"I’ve found that real change comes from genuine displeasure with oneself.  Anything less -- including the usual 'I really need to...lose weight/get organized/exercise more often...' won’t survive the inevitable periods of stress we all experience at one point or another."  
For other tips to be productive, check out the following:
I'm not a productivity expert and this list is more for me than trying to preach about some system to others, which is why I'm posting it on my blog (as opposed to trying to publish it somewhere). 

I will try to check back at the end of the year to see how I did. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

9 Political Trends (Without Getting Political About Them)

Happy New Year (we hope). We don’t usually make predictions about politics, and we’re not about to change that now. 

That said, there are some issues that touch on politics that will get attention. We mention them below (but not the partisan issues) because these are topics reporters will cover in 2019. (We also broke out some of these trends under our finance sector trends.)

1.   The state of the economy, including a volatile stock market, trade wars, trade deals and tariffs, taxes, deficits and unemployment will get a lot of attention in 2019. We’re not taking sides, merely pointing out what to expect will be top of mind. Recession watch will increase, after 37 quarters of the longest expansion. China will be a big part of the story. (Please note: when we wrote this, in early December, we didn't think there would actually be a partial government shutdown due to a lack of funding for the border wall -- so we got that part wrong -- but there has been growing attention paid to the financial impact of the shutdown on the economy, the furloughed federal employees and others hurt by the shutdown, and we feel the financial impact of the shutdown will be trending.)

2.  Brexit, if it happens, will be big news. It will happen but we think it won’t deliver on the promised benefits. London's role as a finance capital will also be evaluated and discussed in the media. (It is an important issue because as much as many feel that employees can operate remotely, location still matters to finance companies.)

3.  Student debt levels and Millennial’s financial habits. Expect to see articles about how student loans will impact down-the-road growth since millennials, who may be underemployed or working a part-time with a couple of side gigs, may not be able to afford to purchase homes.

4.  The state of healthcare will get attention. Again, not taking sides (although it seems important to maintain coverage of pre-existing conditions) but in the buildup to 2020, there’s going to be a lot of discussion about what healthcare should look like. Expect continued concerns about drug prices with not enough understanding of the costs of drug development, which can take a decade and investments exceeding $2 billion.

5.  Election reforms will get discussed on op-ed pages. Still not taking sides (although it seems important not to suppress votes in a democracy) but poorly designed ballots, early voting, absentee ballots, machines that don’t breakdown while offering a paper trail, and enough polling places in poor neighborhoods are issues certain to be reported on in 2019.

6.  Climate control and extreme weather will be a big story. After a record hot year a more wildfires, hurricanes, floods, heat waves, etc., 2019 will see more debate and coverage about rising sea levels and how to protect people and property, manage Federal and state lands and what we can do or should do and the Paris Agreement. We don’t necessarily expect progress or solutions (in 2020, that will depend on who’s elected president) but the topic will be get a lot of media attention.

7.  Gun control and the state of the NRA. In 2018, the NRA reported a $55 million drop in revenues. We don’t think the NRA is on the ropes, financially, nor politically, despite some 39 new Democrats in the House of Representative. But at a time when schools routinely schedule lockdown practices and people aren’t safe in temples and churches from gun violence, we do believe there will be discussion/coverage in the media in 2019 about what can be done.

8.  The 2020 campaign will unofficially begin in 2019. This is obvious but we feel there will be a lot more coverage of presidential politics in 2019 than during any year prior to the actual presidential election. We’re not going to make any other predictions.

We've tried not to take sides, and hopefully we succeeded. These eight trends will eat up airtime and ink so we feel it's important to at least acknowledge them because it means that the media may not have the resources to cover your story.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

9 Finance & FinTech Trends for 2019

Each year we look at trends that will be relevant to our client base. Since a significant portion of experience has been with financial software companies, financial services and FinTech, here are 9 trends we think will be important in 2019:
  1. Trade wars, tariffs trade deals, globalization, deficits and the state of the economy will be a big story. China will be a big part of the story. And recession watch will be a significant angle, after 37 quarters of the longest expansion in U.S. history. For example, we expect a lot of how- to-prepare-for-the-coming-recession articles. We're not going to predict how the economy goes -- though an uncertain economy combined with a volatile stock market doesn't look good -- just that it will clearly a big story in 2019. 
  2. Brexit matters but not from a political perspective but for what it means for London. Our interest here isn't in the political implications. We feel that there will be a lot of coverage regarding the impact on London as an important finance center. Finance firms and those that provide services to them may find they need to shift their European offices from London to some other EU city. We would have bet that Germany would be the most logical successor to London, but with uncertainty around what happens after Merkle, we will want to hedge that bet. (Though compared to the unrest in France, Germany still looks like a better choice.) 
  3. A big year in iPOs? Some high profile unicorns -- including Uber (currently valued at $72B) & Lyft ($15B), Slack ($10B) and maybe Airbnb ($31B) are looking like they'll go public in 2019. There will be a lot of attention paid to how they do with the idea that their IPOs serve as a market indicator. That may not be accurate. Moderna went public this month and raised $604M, valuing the company at approx. $7.5B. But the stock immediately fell below its initial asking price. So hard to read the tea leaves on that. If they delay their IPO, that, too, will generate coverage -- and tell us something about the market.
  4. FAANG stocks will continue to generate ink. FAANG stocks are: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, and they will continue to dominate media coverage because a significant majority of Americans rely on them for information and entertainment. That's not going to change in 2019. (Keep in mind at least one of those companies isn’t profitable.) That said, Microsoft has almost stealthily become one of the most valuable companies but adding M to the acronym makes it unpronounceable. 
  5. The Cannabis market is growing strong. One issue that really hasn’t gotten attention: Because under federal law, pot is still illegal, the cannabis market remains a cash business – even in states that have legalized it. We expect three topics to get coverage: 1) Will banking laws change to allow legal cannabis retailers to accept credit card payments? 2) How much taxes is legal cannabis sales generating for each state? 3) How does HR handle employees who are work while high?
  6. Student debt is a big issue and will continue to get coverage. This is an ongoing story that we include in our list because, while obvious, if we did not mention it, someone might gleefully knock us for not mentioning such an important issue.
  7. The allure of the heartland for business and investment. The Midwest and other parts of the country that are not on the coasts have been slowly but steadily getting coverage over the past two years as being great, overlooked alternatives to expensive, overheating markets like San Francisco/Silicon Valley, New York City, etc. We think those articles will continue to hit in 2019. We also think economics of the heartland will take on additional importance as the 2020 elections approach, and voters, reporters and politicians realize there's still a strong feeling of have-notism among residents in rural communities. 
  8. The evolution of FinTech. Consumer-focused financial tech startups, known as FinTech, began as concepts to disrupt traditional banks by offering digital-first financial services. But because of the complexity, the initial wave of FinTechs focused on banking function at a time. We've reached a point when Fintechs are in a position to combine more offerings that are smarter, more dynamic and interactive than traditional banks' website or app functionality, offering new ways to bank, invest, pay and manage mortgages, track spending, etc. In 2019, we expect more FinTechs to be acquired by traditional banks but not just because of the FinTech's technology but because they provide access to millennials who may not be thrilled with traditional banks. There's also B2B FinTechs, which provide services to banks. We expect those to grow in importance but will be hard for them to get coverage outside of when they're acquired because they play a very behind-the-scenes role.
  9. The state of bitcoin. Bitcoin and blockchain went mainstream in media coverage in 2018 (as we predicted) and will continue to generate coverage in 2019. In a time of daily political chaos, we think more people will be interested, there will more skeptical coverage trying to make sense of the bitcoin market. We think it will continue to defy logic but that won't stop people from investing in bitcoins or the market reducing its volatility. 
Let us know if you think. We will publish another set of predictions in early January so stay tuned.