How To Thrive In The New Digital Economy

When Don Tapscott wrote The Digital Economy in 1994-95, The Digital Age was in its infancy. The pioneering Netscape Web browser 1.0 was in beta, websites didn’t do transactions, we all used dial-up modems, and smartphones didn’t exist. Google, YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter wouldn’t appear for many years.

Andy Thomas

Yet Tapscott’s analysis – raising issues such as networked business models, the impact of technology on privacy, the inevitable demand for corporate transparency, and the influence of new media on successive generations — deftly captured the many opportunities and challenges that lay in store for society. His pioneering term “digital economy” is now ubiquitous.

What is the status of today’s digital economy? What has actually occurred and where are we headed?

On Thursday February 26, join Tapscott as he reflects on the last 20 years and takes a reality check for the digital age, examining how networked intelligence destroys as it creates. Digital conglomerates like Google lead dozens of industries, doing a better job with a fraction of the employees. Networks like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb hold the power to wipe out jobs in industries ranging from taxis to hotels. Data frackers like Facebook are acquiring vast treasure troves of data that position them to dominate multiple sectors.

Gain an even deeper understanding of technology’s impact on society at these #SMWNYC events:

Check out the latest lineup of incredible events here.

Get your pass today, and join us and our partners for what will be an extraordinary week of exploring our upwardly mobile, connected world. Grab your pass to get full access to SMWNYC!

Measuring Attention And Intention, With The New York Times

Digital advertising was born on the promise of intention; an user action (usually a click) that is a proxy for intent to purchase. With the rise of video and native advertising, combined with social distribution, digital advertising has blossomed into a method to capture attention. Attention is to brand what intention is to commerce – and therefore the unquestionable ability of digital to capture attention heralds an unprecedented interest on the part of CMOs to invest in digital content.

This migration of digital advertising from the bottom of the purchase funnel to the top demands innovation in storytelling, social marketing and is giving rise to a rethinking of metrics that matter. The New York Times is innovating across all these dimensions and will share key learnings from one year’s worth of brand storytelling as well as a peek into emerging techniques designed to capture and measure attention.

On Tuesday February 24, hear Michael Zimbalist, SVP of R&D and Ad Tech products lead a discussion with a top marketer and innovator who is capturing attention leveraging these innovative techniques and tools.

Marketers who use content to win consumers’ attention will have a distinct advantage when the moment of intention arrives for those same consumers to take action. Your investment in content marketing is therefore is a long-term investment to move brand sentiment in the direction of purchase.

Listen To StartUp, A Podcast About Starting A Podcast Startup

Alex Blumberg in real life sounds just like Alex Blumberg on the radio.

If you’ve ever listened to This American Life, the massively popular weekly radio show, or Planet Money, NPR’s excellent economy-explaining podcast, you know Alex Blumberg’s voice. I certainly did. Today, as he stands in front of the laptop he’s perched on a wooden chair atop a long table (a brilliant hack of a standing desk), it’s hard not to close my eyes and just listen.

That is, of course, exactly what Blumberg is hoping for. As reported on The Verge, in the brand-new offices of Gimlet Media, on the fifth floor of a downtown Brooklyn co-working building, amid piles of old furniture and terrifying art, Blumberg and his colleagues are attempting to build a big business out of podcasts. They’ve been chronicling their adventures in — what else? — a podcast, called StartUp. It offers an intimate, funny, and occasionally deeply awkward look at what it takes to start a company. The podcast quickly became popular, and so did Gimlet: Blumberg and his co-founder Matt Lieber raised $1.5 million in venture capital, hired a team, and honed their pitch. That pitch, in a nutshell: we’re entering a golden age of audio, the first since we all sat around radio cabinets and listened to The War of the Worlds. The future of radio is here.


Podcasts aren’t new, of course. Even the term has been around for a decade or so, and now feels hilariously dated. (What is a pod anymore? Or, for that matter, a cast?) They have traditionally been thought of as two people sitting at a table with microphones, chatting aimlessly about… whatever. ESPN, for one, has built a huge podcast network on the shoulders of Bill Simmons chatting with his friends on The BS Report and its many other shows focused deeply on a single topic or a single host. Yet Gimlet Media and others are betting that there’s room for more. More production, more storytelling, more narrative. So far, it seems like they’re right.

Podcast app screenshot

Hi my name is David and I am addicted to podcasts

Serial, the remarkable murder mystery told by Sarah Koenig (another This American Lifealum), is the fastest-growing podcast in history. It’s spawned discussion boards, truthers, deniers, other podcasts, and a level of fanaticism rarely seen this side of Lost.Radiotopia, a new network of shows anchored by the popular 99% Invisible, raised more than $600,000 on Kickstarter in an effort to create essentially an indie label for podcasters. The audience is growing larger and more dedicated, spending hours per day listening to shows about everything from fantasy football to terraforming.

As the shows and audience expand, the technology and infrastructure for podcasts is picking up as well. iTunes remains the behemoth of the podcasting industry, the place where most people find things to listen to. Apple now bakes a podcast app — and a decent one at that — into the iPhone, which has gone a long way toward making people aware of the fact that podcasts even exist in the first place. There are other great apps, too, like Overcast and Pocket Casts.

Top Shelf podcasts

Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX and Radiotopia

TuneIn and Deezer have both made commitments to podcasts, placing them among their more traditional radio offerings. Spotify, Pandora, and others are rumored to be doing the same. SoundCloud has done wonders for the podcast industry; more than one person told me that uploading and sharing audio online was an awful experience before SoundCloud made something universally embeddable. Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are poised to finally teach us how to connect our phones to our cars, meaning the hours a day we spend driving can be spent listening to what we want, not aimlessly scanning through FM frequencies.


The opportunity for audio, at least according to Alex Blumberg, is huge. There’s far more room for audio in our lives than even video; we can listen to podcasts while we do dishes, mow the lawn, ride the subway, even while we work. The tech is there, in our pockets. All we need now is something to listen to.

So Blumberg clears his throat and starts talking. He reads his part of the script he’s written, then hits space on his computer and plays audio. Sometimes it’s Blumberg’s wife who begins to talk, other times it’s Matt Lieber, who sits in the room taking notes while his voice comes from Blumberg’s laptop. Blumberg soon stops the audio and speaks again, occasionally stopping and typing, editing his script on the fly. He apologizes every time he stumbles in his reading, which isn’t often. He says things like “establishing sound here that I haven’t pulled yet,” and sneaks bites of his lunch while others’ sound bites play.

Top Shelf podcasts

After 20 minutes or so, he’s gone through a rough cut of episode seven of StartUp, which the whole of Gimlet Media is nervous about. In it, Blumberg asks listeners for money. Money to make up the last $200,000 of the $1.5 million. He’s offering a few lucky listeners a stake in the company, while warning them of the risks and the many, many regulatory hurdles to investing. (After the episode aired, Gimlet raised the money in less than an hour.) He finishes reading, makes a face at his team, and says, “Well, there you go.” Everyone else furiously shares their Google docs with each other, and edits begin.

Making a podcast, even one about making a podcast, is hard work. But more than ever before, this is the right time to try. Podcasts won’t kill AM and FM as we know it, at least not anytime soon, but they’re on the precipice of becoming totally and utterly mainstream. They offer what we want, when we want, wherever we want. They’re our own personalized radio, with every topic, every show, and every host you love on exactly your own schedule.

Everything podcasts were named for might now be dead, but podcasts are just starting to come alive. The future of radio is here, and it’s awesome.

New York’s Gets Ahead Of The Curve

What’s in a name? If your name is Pilot Inspektor, hopefully not much. But for, it means a lot of media attention.

As reported on Uncubed, New York’s Selfie is an iOS app that allows users to have asynchronous video conversations with anyone – complete strangers, close friends, experts, or celebrities – posting 24-second video clips and replying to those clips with new videos.

The app officially launched in September, but the startup’s first coup was in securing the domain long before the term had burrowed its way into the English language or onto ABC’s primetime lineup.

“We saw a hole in the social media space where all the cool stuff that goes along with face-to-face communication was missing,” CEO and cofounder Alex Lasky told us. “As we were iterating on the project, we were out one night and some girls were taking a picture and they used the term ‘selfie’ and that really resonated for us.”

That was in 2012. Within a year the word “selfie” had become ubiquitous, and people wanted to know who was behind the mysterious splash page at

“In early investor meetings we had to explain what selfies were,” CTO and technical cofounder T.C. Meggs said. “So when the media started wondering who’s behind this, it was really exciting.”

8 ‘Back To The Future II’ Technologies That Could Become A Reality

The future is upon us—but if you asked Marty McFly, he’d tell you we’re already behind schedule.

When Back to the Future II’s time-traveling DeLorean blasted Marty McFly and Doc Brown to the future, they arrived on October 21, 2015. While the sci-fi comedy has already predicted some things about the future correctly (playing video games without hands, for example), other elements were rather off-track (phone booths and newspapers aren’t quite as prominent today as they were in the 1989 movie).

Director-producer Robert Zemeckis and writer-producer Bob Gale knew that much of their vision of the future would not become reality by 2015—they did not believe mass-produced flying cars were just around the corner, nor did they think Jaws would get its 18th sequel. Even though comedic tone was often prioritized over plausibility, Back to the Future II’s creative team did extensive research about developing technologies for the film. Gale tells us he wanted to avoid the dark, dystopian world depicted in films like Blade Runner and make the future look like a nice place to live. “We wanted people to look forward to the future because, when we were kids,” he says, “we always looked forward to the future.”

Consider Zemeckis and Gale successful on that account: Hoverboards captured the imaginations of movie-goers in 1989, and they still do today. So, should we put the soaring skateboard on our Christmas list for 2015? Mental Floss investigate the likelihood of some of Back to the Future Part II‘s technologies making an appearance in the near future.


This could be the most on-schedule of Back to the Future‘s predictions. A year from now, you’ll be able to pay an inflated cab fee with the touch of a finger or unlock your front door without digging through a mess of keys. Today, just a handful of airports have biometric scanners to speed up your trip through security, but there’s a good chance this tech will be near-ubiquitous by October 2015, “especially with an organization like Apple getting momentum behind it,” says Jim Carroll, an Ontario-based futurist.


Gale recalls that, after Back to the Future Part II’s release, “we got so many letters from kids saying, ‘Please send me a hoverboard, but don’t send me a pink one.’” Sad news, hoverboard fans: The Pitbull won’t be on the market by 2015. Anti-gravity technology isn’t there yet, no matter what a Tony Hawk-starring viral hoax says. (Magnetic levitation is the next-best thing now.)

Even if the developers at Mattel had a breakthrough and got the hoverboard ready for stores, there would be another force to overcome: lawmakers who choose what’s street-legal. Remember the Segway and how revolutionary it was supposed to be? New York-based futurist Michael Rogers says the hoverboard would probably be in for the same fate as the failed personal transporter.


Doc Brown’s visit to a rejuvenation clinic saved the film’s makeup department from doing old-age makeup on actor Christopher Lloyd throughout the production, but modern viewers can also see Doc’s de-wrinkling as a reality-based nod to the growing popularity of plastic surgery—and Doc’s replacement spleen and colon could be a near-future trend, too. Rogers says that in 2015 there will be some synthetic organ replacement, but it will still be in the experimental stage. According to Seattle-based futurist Glen Hiemstra, by 2030 or 2040 we will be able to clone our own organs and grow ourselves a new spleen or liver.


Marty’s power-lacing Nike shoes and automatically adjusting jacket seemed like too good an idea not to exist. Nike has hinted at upcoming power-lacing shoes, but don’t expect electronically size-altering clothing to be all the rage a year or two from now.


Forget 3-D movies—in Back to the Future‘s 2015, holograms are the newest trend at the multiplex. When Marty steps into Hill Valley’s Clock Tower Square, he sees a Holomax Theater marquee advertising Jaws 19, directed by Max Spielberg (oldest son of Back to the Future producer Steven). Hiemstra explains that holographic projections are still “fairly crude,” but the giant holographic shark that appears to eat Marty outside of the theater is not too far off from reality: As Rogers notes, interactive digital ads already interact with pedestrians in the real world.


What was once Lou’s Café has become Café ’80s in 2015. Back to the Future Part II was on-target about the current 1980s nostalgia, but the film was off when it placed workout bikes in that café. Hill Valley of the future is also notably devoid of obese people—not quite an accurate depiction of modern America—but a turnaround for Fast Food Nation may be less far-fetched than some think. The economics of obesity could be in for a change. “By the end of this decade, your insurance premiums will be very dependent on how healthy your lifestyle is,” Rogers says. Miniature wireless devices will track calorie intake and calorie output, so “the idea of working out will not just be a healthy thing, but it will save you a lot of money.”


When Doc blasts back to 1985 at the end of the first Back to the Future film, the DeLorean is sporting a new license plate—one that features no easily visible numbers or letters. Instead, it bears a metallic barcode. It’s unlikely that cars will ever have license plates exactly like that one, since drivers will still need to read them, but a scannable code that police can grab from long distances is a possibility. Rogers says that kind of license plate could use the same technology as tags on cars that automatically pay for tolls. Still, a more likely change for car identification will come with vehicle connection to the Internet. “By 2020, possibly sooner, every new car will be connected to the Internet all the time. That is completely inevitable,” he says, pointing to the development of Vehicle-to-Vehicle (a.k.a. V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (a.k.a. V2I) technology. “Every new car will have an identification and be logged on all the time.”


A long line of sci-fi movies would have you believe flying cars are just on the horizon. After watching a TV special in 1960 about what the world would look like in 1985, an 8-year-old Gale “was sure looking forward to flying cars,” he says. “I didn’t think I’d ever have to get a driver’s license—I’d only have to get a pilot’s license.” Alas, the real-world 2015 won’t have the prevalence of flying cars that future Hill Valley did. But futurists do have their eye on promising prototypes from companies like Moller International and Terrafugia. The biggest roadblocks now are the noise level of these prototypes and the Federal Aviation Administration. “There’s going to be a lot of lawyers between here and flying cars,” Rogers says. Hiemstra, however, is hopeful that affluent buyers will be able to purchase a self-navigating, personal flying vehicle by 2030.

New Events Added to Social Media Week New York Schedule & Full Registration Now Available

We are now less than two weeks away from Social Media Week February 2011–powered by global headline sponsor Nokia–and things are shaping up fantastically well.

Two weeks ago, the global announcement was made that Social Media Week February 2011 was opening up registration to its nine cities worldwide and then last week we announced that we were adding more events and opening up more tickets to cope with demand.

Today we are excited to announce that we are adding more sessions to the program and that we have released all remaining tickets for those events listed on the site.  As we continue to respond to demand we will be adding additional events leading up to February 7, so please check back once in a while to see what’s new and ensure you follow @smwnyc for real-time alerts.

There are over one hundred events scheduled to take place during Social Media Week New York with fifty or more taking place at our five Content Hubs.  Last week we launched the Hub landing page, which gives a breakdown of each Hub and everything we’ve got in store there. For those of you who are new to the Hub concept, here’s a breakdown of what’s on offer:

We can’t stress enough how thrilled we are with the content of Social Media Week New York this February, thanks to our incredible advisory board and host committee and the numerous event partners and content curators we have been collaborating with. Many exciting events were covered in last week’s post, but below is a smattering of some events we’ve added since then. Follow the links to each to learn more!

For the full schedule and to sign up for these and many more free-to-attend events, check out the rest of the Social Media Week New York Schedule.