This was a fascinating event and Liveryman Doug Wills reports as follows:

THE DIGITAL MEDIA GROUP FORUM ON: How mobile technology is affecting the trades of the Company

Monday, 15 February 2016

There is no better measurement for a successful forum than seeing the audience queuing up to talk to the panel… especially as this was an hour after the formal discussions had ended.

The Digital Media Group evening was about how mobile technology was changing our trades. Many of us came to the forum believing we knew. All of us left knowing we had barely scratched the surface of the phenomenal growth and impact of mobile technology.

Four panel members from very different professional disciplines, chaired by Stationer Tony Mash, had the audience in the Stationers’ Court Room captivated and entertained with rare insights into both technology and human behaviour.

 We heard how:

  • More than half of us in the UK use our mobiles for three hours a day;
  • How millions of apps are built every month but most are never used by anyone;
  • More and more people are using mobiles for everything except telephone calls and you will soon be able to get contracts for data use only;
  • A take-away restaurant now operates with customers ordering by text and collecting their food without talking to a single person;
  • Some professions have more than a 90 per cent chance of being replaced by technology.

Dave Fletcher, founder and Managing Director of White October digital agency that creates web and

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mobile products, told how 60 per cent of revenue from mobile phone apps was earned by less than one per cent of those in the business. He had one word of advice for those who embarked on new apps to make their fortune: don’t.

Dave told how his agency always advised clients to establish with research whether there was a need for something before embarking on expensive programming. They did this with Foyles book store putting up signs asking those in a story to use an app which would take them direct to a shelf where the book they wanted would be. And this was BEFORE the app was built. The reward for the frustrated customers when they found the app did not exist was a discount. The reward for Foyles was to know that enough disappointed customers was the sign that there was a need for a GPS-type app in bookstores! The app was then created.

Dave told the forum: “Saying No to an idea can save a fortune and months of aborted work.”

Dominic Graham, an executive with Deloitte, told the forum of the “restaurant” where not a word had to

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be uttered by those selecting, ordering and collecting their food. “We expect to see the rise of data only mobiles which of course is a contradiction of terms,” he said.

His colleague Debapratrim De, also from Deloitte, said there was a fear among technologists that

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robots would “steal all our jobs”. He said that speaking as an accountant he was worried at a recent research paper that said there was a 94 per cent chance of accountants being replaced by technology. Accountants had to change their role and become strategists, he said.

Printers were also highly at risk whereas journalists had only an eight per cent chance of their work being replaced by technology and graphic artists five per cent. He said that technology rid society of drudgery and labour intensive work.

The worry was that cognitive skills might be eroded, but he said optimistically: “Job creating effects of technology outweighs the job destruction. The stats actually now show an increase in accountants for example. They have reinvented themselves as strategists.” 

Christian Broughton, digital editor of the Independent, told the forum that it was announced just days before the forum that the Independent would no longer be printed but would be available online only.

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He said that the growth of readers getting their news on mobile phones was a major part of independent.co.uk’s growth. He said 49 million people, that was 71 per cent of the Independent’s digital audience, read their news and comment on their mobile phones.

“We have to go where the audience wants to find you,” he said.

Christian Broughton said it was heartening to know that the public did still want news. This was demonstrated by Apple putting their own newslink on their new phones.

He said that social media had created many millions of readers for the Independent. It now had 15 million readers in the US thanks to Facebook.  Mobiles and social media meant that those writing and publishing the news were closer to their audience than ever before. “Twitter and Facebook allows you to instantly fiind out what people want to read. It’s like being a reporter in a local newspaper all over again.”

The Master Helen Esmonde told the forum: “As we all know, there is a fundamental shift in the newspaper and publishing industry towards digital which of course impacts on paper and print. Increasingly, news and entertainment are being distributed on social networks and consumed on mobile devices.

“Christian has said the move to digital was to “safeguard the future of The Independent” and was a “seminal” moment in the history of Fleet Street”. The Master said of the Stationers Company: “We fared very well during the print revolution and we are now embracing the digital revolution. The pen is still mighty and the value of content still lies at the core of what we are about even if the vehicle of presentation and delivery is constantly shifting.”

Helen thanked Stationers Gordon Christiansen who conceived the theme and organisation of the event and Tony Mash  for chairing the forum, along with the panel members for “an incredible memorable evening”. She added: “We will give the robots a run for their money in creative thinking.”

The Master has given her impressions in her blog here.

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