Along with 10,000 other tech fanatics, we recently attended the Web Summit, Europe's answer to SXSW, during its 2-day run at the RDS in Dublin.

A variety of leading digital brands and tech titans shared their insights on where the industry was heading, while those hoping to be discovered as the next big start up took advantage of the opportunities on offer to pitch their multi-million-making ideas to potential investors.

It was a fantastic event and atmosphere that gave everyone in attendance a sense of where things are heading. From our own perspective, we noticed some consistent topics being discussed (mobile first, conference, content marketing, utility apps to name but a few) which strongly resonate with insights of our own that we’ve already shared with you over the last year.

We’ve grouped these key Web Summit findings below into three distinct categories:

1. DISRUPTION THROUGH MOBILE

The most exciting opportunities exist in the places (that) you might not feel are terribly exciting, but (which) are the most open for disruption. The real disruption will take place in things like education and medical.

Naveen Jain (CEO, Inome)

As Jain’s quote indicates, a key topic during the weekend regarded the disruption of industries which one mightn’t regard as particularly ‘sexy’, but which nonetheless offer fertile ground for the next big global start-up. 

And in instances like these, mobile will be a key player. CEO of AOL Tim Armstrong pointed out the shift from 10 years ago (where there were 700 million internet users, albeit all on desktop) to today (where there are more than 700 million smartphone users) and professed his excitement at the opportunities that mobile offers for us all.

Another area that was deemed ripe for disruption was money and personal banking, with particular focus on the role mobile will play in this. A few speakers were indicating that money is going to change for the first time in around 100 years. Where once people used to keep money under their bed; then they changed to putting money into their bank accounts. Now mobile will be the next progression and it will change everything again."

Many speakers remarked how digital currencies such as Bitcoin provide exciting opportunities for new ways to think about money, but it's the mobile utilities for these currencies that will truly unlock the potential of this area. The real value with Bitcoin is the utility value, in that you can send and pay with it as easily as you can send email.

Netlfix's House of Cards

2.CREATE ENGAGING CONTENT

A very interesting discussion took place on the Digital Marketing stage between Daniel Heaf (CDO, BBC) and Tanya Cordrey (CDO, The Guardian). Thanks largely to the reach of digital marketing, both these speakers work for what are now global media platforms, and their conversation reflected this. 

The main focus was on the need to ensure that the quality of content created for online maintains certain standards that have been set by TV. 

Simply put, Heaf and Cordrey’s common point was that, as audiences are increasingly expecting high quality content wherever and however they consume it, brands should not regard digital content as “a cheap option”; instead, the aspiration should always be to create the best content possible.

Using Netflix’s “House of Cards” as just one example, Heaf remarked that investment in bespoke online content is only going one way, and that’s up. 

He also noted that, while there’s still a need for sites that create cheap content simply by aggregating (e.g. Buzzfeed), one has to consider their ultimate value, given that virtually anyone can do it. For him (and for us), the real power is in the hands of the people who create original content.

For Cordrey’s part, she shared some insights regarding the way that the industry has changed since she started out as a journalist. She claimed that "a journalist’s role has now changed dramatically from what it was" and that this was due to the impact digital has made.

She also added that, in more and more cases, The Guardian is seeing brands looking to do more than just have banners up on their site; instead, they’re coming to them with requests for content partnerships and co-creation. 

In cases like these, the three main attributes that brands ask of The Guardian are:

- Influential journalists / contributors with a strong social audience
- People who understand what content is in a digital space
- People who are digitally and tech savvy

In our opinion, as it is for them, so it should be for all of us! 

Shane Smith from Vice being interviewed by David Carr 

3. PEOPLE MAKE CONTENT FOR PEOPLE

One of the most inspiring speakers was Shane Smith (Founder, Vice) who shared his insights regarding the way that Vice produces content for online platforms. 

He was keen to point out that, regardless of all the fantastic technology that is available with which to make and share content, the initial inspiration for said content still has to come from somewhere.

There are now more screens than ever (but) you've still got to fill them with great content. There are loads of aggregators but people make content for people." Shane Smith (Founder, Vice)

We took great interest from his opinions on content production and the difficulties he first encountered when searching for the talent to produce what he needed. 

He recalled that, when his senior investors advised him to use the cream of Hollywood and TV creatives to create the requisite cutting-edge content that Vice required, his immediate reaction was: "How can someone who's used to being paid large sums of money for creating 30 seconds or an hour of content now go and produce 3,000 hours for Vice for a fraction of that budget?" 

His solution was both brave and simple: use up-and-coming directors who were of the generation they were filming for. According to Smith, it brought a different energy to the content and also allowed Vice to create the volume of high quality content they needed.

When one thinks of the growing wave of talented yet unheralded creative minds and eyes here in Ireland, we found Smith’s strategy for creating great content to be a pertinent one.


(Header image courtesy of the Web Summit, House Cards image via Netflix)

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