Like other media companies around the world, Australia’s Fairfax Media Limited is under pressure due to the fast-changing dynamics in publishing. But Fairfax isn’t taking those challenges lying down. The company, which is a leading media outfit in Australia and New Zealand, owns two of the most popular news Web sites in Australia. “We now have a business based around journalism that creates a large audience, and we hit that audience in print, online, tablet, smartphone and smart TV,” says Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood.
Fairfax is a prime example of a company that has aggressively adopted technology to transform the way it does business and interacts with customers. Hywood was a featured speaker today at IBM’s CMO+CIO Leadership Symposium in Sydney, where IBM executives and clients interacted with nearly 100 chief marketing and chief information officers from Australia’s leading companies.
In a keynote address, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty told the audience that the explosion of data makes it possible for companies to address customers as individuals. “I think this will change the relationship you have with your customers fundamentally, no matter what industry,” she said. “And it will change the relationship between the CMO and CIO.”
Like many companies around the world, businesses in Australia and New Zealand are waking up to the opportunity to use data not just from transactions but from insights gleaned from social media and other new sources to understand their customers better and market to them more successfully. This means chief marketing officers are in an unaccustomed position. It is they, rather than the chief information officers, who can see clearest the need for leveraging information technology in new ways. That situation argues strongly for CMOs and CIOs to join forces and lead in the transformations of their companies in this era of big data. Each can bring their own expertise to the partnership.
Working together, CMOs and CIOs can take advantage of four technology shifts that are revolutionising the world of business: mobile, cloud, social business and analytics. Each of these shifts is a revolution in itself, but, taken together, they are helping to rewrite the business leadership agenda. Many companies, including IBM, are exploring a “mobile first” marketing strategy–designing applications, messages, owned content and advertising that fits the dimensions and use scenarios of smartphones and tablets. Cloud computing is often the fastest route to launching a new marketing program and offering new products and services to customers. Social business software enables deeper collaboration between employees and beyond corporate boundaries. And analytics software mines insights from all of the new sources in near real time, making it possible to anticipate and take advantage of sudden shifts in the market .
One of the reasons Fairfax has weathered the digital media storm relatively well is the company’s willingness to see what’s coming and adapt. Surprisingly, soon after the emergence of the Internet in the 1990s, it was two Fairfax librarians who alerted editors to the potential of the Net as a powerful information source. Ever since, the company has vowed to lead the digital transition. Now they have dozens of mobile applications and Web sites targeting everything from news to lifestyles. “It’s an iterative process. We need to stay ahead of the customer,” said Hywood.
In the past, many companies felt comfortable by adopting the “fast follower” approach. They could survey what their most nimble competitors were doing and monitor shifts in customer demand and feel confident that they wouldn’t be left too far behind. No more. Markets change so quickly. Look how fast Apple has lost the feature edge in the smartphone category. So it’s incumbent on corporate executives–and CMOs and CIOs in particular–to map a course and adopt technology that puts their organizations out front and keeps them there.