Interview with Robert Tercek: how do we face the dematerialisation of our society?

Par : HUB Institute
30 décembre 2015
Temps de lecture : 8 min

During the HUBFORUM Paris 2015, Robert Tercek (President & Founder, General Creativity Consulting) gave the HUB Institute an exclusive interview on what trends to follow in the coming months and his advice to face the “vaporisation” process that is affecting more and more business sectors. How can we react and adapt internally when faced with the rise of dematerialisation? How do we manage digitalisation and the externalisation of information? 

HUB Institute : Hi Robert, you are one of the top digital and media experts and launching your new book: Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World. What led you to write this book?


Sure, yes, I’m here to talk about my book Vaporized. I’m very excited to have it published – it’s my first book. You know, I work with clients all over the world. Most of my clients are companies that are not that smart about digital media. They are newcomers to digital media. They may have a digital team or a marketing team that understands digital but several CEOs said “I need a book to give to my entire company”. And that’s really smart, I think, for them because digital is starting to permeate every part of our business, starting to transform the entire company and so it’s not a job that you can just give to one department, maybe the marketing department or the web department… Now it’s a job for everybody in the business to understand it and to integrate that into their workflow. And so I wrote the book to help my customers out, to help them understand it and to give their teams something to understand.

HUB Institute: What big trends do you anticipate in the next few years?

Robert Tercek: Well the biggest trend that I see happening is dematerialization, and that is where we are substituting information for physical things. It sounds like a crazy idea, it sounds like science fiction, but in fact we do it every day. Every person with a smartphone now is in the habit of downloading apps to their phone, and those apps stand for something that you used to purchase as a physical product – a notebook, or maybe a book or a magazine, photographs from a camera… We don’t buy those things any more so the sales figures for all of those things has dropped dramatically as people have moved to mobile phones and particularly to the modern smartphones. There are almost 3 billion people on the planet who are using smartphones. They predict that by the end of the decade, there will be somewhere between 5 and 7 billion people, almost everyone on the planet will have a smartphone. And when that happens, entire industries are going to be laid waste. Companies are going to have to find a way to reinvent themselves and become relevant. The way they’re going to do that is that they are going to have to start thinking of themselves as software companies and they are going ot have to stop thinking of physical products and start thinking of digital services that can be delivered to anybody in the world over the air as a mobile app. That’s a tremendous transformation! It isn’t limited to media companies, like books and magazines and newspapers… Of course those businesses are changing, that’s obvious, but it’s also happening to car makers, it’s also happening to schools, our education system and so we are going to see a wave of transformation that eventually will touch government as well and, frankly, I look forward to that!

HUB Institute: How do you see the future of media?

Robert Tercek: The first companies that were transformed by this process of dematerialization were the media businesses, most famously the music industry, but also print and actually the transformation of print started much earlier with desktop publishing so that typesetting processes was dematerialized, that was one of the first things to change. Of course, right now, what’s changing is the television industry and I think the whole TV industry hasn’t quite woken up to the fact that the customers have migrated out to smartphones and to tablets and to other digital devices and they prefer watching video there. But when they watch it on a digital device, they watch it in a completely different way than they do when they sit on a couch and watch television. They feel like they have more control, they can watch it on their terms, they can watch it wherever they want to watch it, whenever they want to watch it. They don’t have to sit in front of a TV and tune in at a particular time or get the show from a single service that they have to subscribe to. These behavior changes are radical changes. For many years, I mean 50-60 years, the TV companies have had a captive audience in the living room and they really haven’t had the skill of thinking about audience so much. They haven’t had to think about audience so much because they have been able to control them (force them perhaps) to watch TV on their terms. So what the digital devices do is give us the ability to control media, manage media, consume it how we want to and even contribute to media in a meaningful way. We can talk back to our video shows, we can talk to our friends about them, we can share them with our friends, create our own playlists… So I think this is actually a great opportunity for media companies to reinvent themselves, and reinvent themselves along the lines of a consumer-facing company, a company that responds to customers, anticipates their needs and provides them with what they want. Now, the interesting thing is that the companies that are the best at this are not television companies, they are the YouTube channels. The YouTube stars, they don’t make such great shows if you compare them to television, the quality is not as good … but they engage with their customers, they engage with their audience at a level that TV companies can’t even imagine doing! These people are crazy about social media, social engagement, and as a result they have tremendously loyal fans. So today someone like Pewdiepie, a Swedish video blogger, has more than 35 million subscribers to his YouTube channel and his typical clip will be watched 1-5 million times. He gets viewership like a broadcast network! Actually greater than the biggest broadcast networks. One guy in an apartment in London can command a global audience and he’s not the only one. There are literally thousands of YouTube stars who have audiences in the millions!

HUB Institute: What other advice would you give media companies & advertisers so they don't become 'vaporized'?

Robert Tercek: The two pieces of advice that I have for companies that feel like they are going to be on the receiving end of this process of vaporization or dematerialization: The first thing they have to do is reconsider what they actually make and really meditate on that, concentrate on it, think hard, examine your business and say: what part of my business is information? Is the information embedded in my product? Is the information embedded in my process? Is the information in the heads of my employees? There is information in everything that we do. What the information companies are doing, information tech companies are finding a way to pull that information out of the physical product and distribute it freely on the internet where it takes on a life of its own. Well companies can do that to themselves and thereby get a head start. In my book, I give many examples of companies that are doing this successfully, companies that are finding a way to unlock the information that is frozen in a physical product or in a process. So that is one strategy that I would recommend. The second one is every company is going to be a software company. This seems very clear to me now that the ability to develop software, make software, present your products in the form of software is going to become THE defining characteristic of successful companies. Either a company is good at that or not. Today too many companies outsource software development, they deal with digital marketing agencies so they send that part of their business out… these are vitally important, they should pull these functions in and make them the core of their business. So I think start with information and start with software, make those the center of your business and then everything else will flow from that. [column width="three" position="first"] vaporized-cover[/column] [column width="seven" position="last"]

Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World

Media industries took the first blows dealt by the rise of digital technology. One by one, once-tangible goods such as music CDs and video DVDs were Vaporized, replaced by pixels and bytes of data. With them went their recording and playback equipment, as cameras, personal stereos, game consoles and even televisions were collapsed into tiny handheld devices still quaintly referred to as “phones”. Now, every aspect of our economy and society is set to be reconfigured by technological forces that only a handful of increasingly powerful companies have mastered. In Vaporized, digital pioneer Robert Tercek reveals the inner workings of the largest cultural and economic shift since the industrial revolution, and explains its implications for retail, finance, employment, education, and even our human identities. Dynamic and engaging, Tercek does for digital business theory what Malcolm Gladwell has done for sociology, articulating a complex, arcane subject in approachable and relevant terms. In contrast to the digital-era doomsayers and hand-wringing pundits, Tercek offers an insightful, optimistic analysis of the future and a practical blueprint for success that no business leader, from the Fortune 500 CEO to the small startup owner, can afford to ignore. [button href="" target="" css_classes="tiny_button regular_text"]Find out more[/button][/column] [column width="three" position="first"] Robert Tercek HUBFORUM 3[/column] [column width="seven" position="last"]


Discover the replay of Robert Tercek's keynote at the HUBFORUM Paris 2015 conference in October. [button href="" target="" css_classes="tiny_button regular_text"]See the replay[/button][/column]