It’s been wryly observed that people are tuning in more to comedy shows for news. Well, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is a great example and this segment on “Sponsored Content” is especially pertinent for us communications and media professionals (Video NSFW – language).
Let’s call Sponsored Content what it truly is: monetizing one’s integrity and credibility. It especially becomes a problem when it is deceptive, pervasive and wantonly permissive.
In the words of John Oliver:
“The integrity of local news is crucially important, and there is real harm for everyone if that integrity is damaged.”
The news that the world’s last manufacturer of Videocassette Recorders (“VCR”) will manufacture its last VCR has gone around the world. 40 years after the first VHS video cassette recorder was manufactured, Japanese consumer electronics company Funai Electric – the last known company making the devices – is ceasing production of its VCR products. The company cited declining sales and difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts as reasons to cease production. At its peak, the company sold 15 million VCRs per year, which has since dwindled down to 750,000 units in 2015 (Frankly, still an astonishing number! Who knew that three-quarters of a million people still bought brand new VCRs?!).
The news caught my attention for a couple of reasons.
First of all, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. When I was growing up, we had limited screen time (television, not tablet). My mother would record our TV shows during the week and we’d watch them during the weekend; after homework and revision, of course. Or that time when my friends discussed the first time they saw what was on the tapes dad had hidden away. 😉
I also remembered the “accessories” industry that sprouted around the VCR and VHS tapes. Who didn’t have some sort of VHS tape rewinder placed near their TV stand?
Fast Forward To The End
Secondly, I was impacted by the fact that obsolescence has claimed yet another victim. Very specifically, it reminded me about the following clip from the movie, Other People’s Money, starring Danny Devito.
The bit when “Larry the Liquidator”, talked about obsolescence with the example of “the last company around […] that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw” is especially powerful for me.
This company is dead.
I didn’t kill it. Don’t blame me.
It was dead when I got here. […]
You know why?
Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence.
We’re dead, all right. We’re just not broke.
And do you know the surest way to go broke?
Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.
You know, at one time there must have been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw.
I was on Facebook when I came across a video billed as “Jack Ma’s Top 10 Rules For Success“. Jack Ma (马云), of course, is the founder of Alibaba.com. While the video had some good pointers, what really caught my attention was the last one spliced in: Ma’s original sales pitch in 1999.
Listen to the passion, conviction and hunger! Speaking to 17 friends in his apartment to introduce Alibaba, Ma was already laying out plans to take on the global internet players of the day back then:
Swim for the bigger pond:
“I’ve always said our competitors are not domestic websites, but overseas websites. Our competitors are not in China, but in America’s Silicon Valley.”
Believe in yourself:
“Chinese brains are just as good as [Americans]. All of our brains are just as good as theirs… If we are a good team and know what we want to do, one of us can defeat ten of them. We can beat government agencies and big famous companies because of our innovative spirit.”
Commit to paying the price of hard work:
“We need to learn the hard working spirit of Silicon Valley. If we go to work at 8am and go home at 5pm… Alibaba will never succeed… We will have to pay a painful price in the next 3 to 5 years. It is the only we way can succeed.”
All this was way before the worldwide fame; becoming the first mainland Chinese entrepreneur to appear on the cover of Forbes; becoming the richest man in China and 18th richest person in the world (with an estimated net worth of $24.1 billion); or the world’s biggest IPO.
My friend Gabey recently wrote a helpful article in PR Week featuring the kind of validation every communications professional seeks after: No matter the economic outlook, there will always be a place for the communications function in an organisation.
This was according to Wendy Heng, associate director for sales & marketing at Robert Walters Singapore, a specialist recruitment firm. She said, “In good times or bad, you’re still going to need a communications practitioner in-house,” adding, “It is a necessary and stable function in most companies and I’ve never seen a huge rise or fall in the number of positions.”
She observed that comms staff tend to escape restructuring or cost-cutting measures because they are viewed as a necessity. She added that if a company does undergo cost-cutting measures, communications roles are typically shielded, as it is one of those functions recognised as a necessity rather than a luxury.
“There is always going to be need for it because how you could not have someone look after external outreach or crisis communications?” she said.
However, while the comms sector is quite stable, it is also a double-edged sword as in-house teams are not big to begin with. “They’re always stretched too thin with a limit to how much external agencies can do. So while its stable, it is also not seen as revenue-generating function so it’s hard to justify additions to the head count – In contrast, the sales function is easier to justify.”
In the same article, Robert Walters’ also shared the findings from their latest annual Global Salary Survey last week. Data published suggested that salaries are expected to remain relatively flat in 2016, though candidates with in-demand skills can anticipate an average salary increment of 10 to 20 percent when switching jobs.
The following are some excerpted salaries from around Asia, from the Robert Walters Global Salary Survey. Salaries are listed in USD per annum, converted from local currencies.