in Uncategorized

The Influence of Online Media – Stars 2011 in Stein am Rhein

Over the past 4 days Stars 2011 in Stein am Rhein took place, an event for the ‘global leaders of tomorrow’ to discuss the challenges and opportunities that we will see over the next 10-20 year. Among others speakers like Bertelsmann CEO Harmut Ostrowski and politicians-turned-corporates like Lord Hastings from KPMG and Mona Sutphen from UBS shared their insights with the group of top managers.

I was invited to talk about the future of online media, discussing how online media changed the world over the past 18 years since I first started using the Internet. I actually wanted to say ‘since I first fired up a web browser’, but browsers didn’t exist yet at that time. Netscape was only founded a year after and I was using the Gopher protocol to make my first small steps into cyberspace. Hard to believe how difficult it was to go online in those days, my kids will probably never be able to understand that – good for them!

The Internet has literally become a second brain to me. Wherever I am I always carry my iPhone, iPad and laptop with me so I can instantly look up what I need. I think finding the right information online is one of the most important skills that kids should learn in school. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know anything anymore, however. I think people will always judge others by how much those persons know and if they can put that knowledge to use, instead of how fast they can find the right information. But being able to instantly find additional information makes life a lot easier and fun.

In my presentation I also touched upon how fast news spreads and how social media are changing politics. Not all politicians may embrace social media yet, but it is a fact that the Arab Spring was only possible because of Twitter and Facebook. I argued that this could not have happened even one or two years earlier, simply because there were not enough people online yet in social networks to get the required snowball effect. And this is not only happening in developing countries: also the riots in England this summer were coordinated through social media.

Don’t underestimate what this could mean for businesses – whether good or bad, fact is that the management is no longer in charge of the conversation. If top management does not embrace social media they may be in for an unpleasant surprise. But don’t see it as a threat, if management is entrepreneurial (which should be the case, right?) they should see it as an opportunity that their business can profit from.

New very profitable businesses suddenly emerged (social games anyone?) because of the changing role of online media. It’s forcing many traditional companies to quickly adapt their business models. I discussed the book, music, newspaper and TV industry in more detail with my ideas about what they did right and wrong and what their future will look like. In my opinion this is just the beginning – we ain’t seen nothing yet.

I enjoy giving talks like this, especially to groups that are not as focused on the web as I am, or to peers that like to challenge me on my purposely rather bold statements (“I don’t believe in privacy”, “If you don’t want to see others what you put on the web, you probably shouldn’t have put it there in the first place”). Above I embedded the slides that I used as guideline for my talk.

If you have a conference or corporate event where you would like me to speak feel free to get in touch with me directly or through the China Speakers Bureau.

Write a Comment


  1. One question I have to ask. Do you think your audience got the message? All to often people in Europe have no clue what you are talking about when you talk about these things. I’m not talking about the average conference of geeks, but this seemed more an ‘average’ audience.

  2. You’re right, this was a very different audience from those at tech conferences, so I adjusted my presentation. I kept the talk quite basic and gave a lot of easy-to-understand examples to make sure they would get the points I was trying to make. Based on the (excellent) questions that were asked I think the audience got the message.