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The more something changes… June 23, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news.
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A blue freeway...get it?A couple weeks ago Bluefreeway stock resumed trading. Actually that’s a bit misleading, as “trade” implies both selling and buying in fairly equal measure, and with 6 million shares hitting the market at once thanks to Macquarie bailing out, nobody was going to scoop up that much stock.

Last week Simon Chen caught up with Rick Webb, one of the founders of Bluefreeway. The chat was completely off the record, though Simon is of the opinion now that the other side of the story needs to be told.

As of Friday the share price sat just above 7 cents, which makes it worth less than a third of its former value when the stock was initially suspended from trading so auditors could figure out how deep the rabbit hole went. There are new management initiatives being put in place to try and save the company, but when they include companies buying back their own equity at the original sell price, you have to wonder how long this flight of fancy will continue to run.

Image courtesy of kathycsus, with thanks to compfight.

Bluefreeway request extension to voluntary suspension May 22, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing.
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Bluefreeway today extended their suspension from trading while investigations continue internally. Simon Chen does a decent breakdown of the situation in his own inimitable style.

I really feel sorry for all those local companies who did a 50/50 deal for cash and stock when the fast talking Bluefreeway guys came along. There’s not one who wouldn’t be regretting their decision to sell.

Because if the core group goes pear shaped when they do finally make an announcement to the market, each and every company won’t be able to do anything. Potential buyers of the carcass (or carcasses) will be negotiating with someone from Ferrier Hodgson rather than the founders of the individual brands.

I read a great piece recently which I’ll try to dig up on matching your development cycle with your sales cycle to make sure one doesn’t sink the other. 20/20 hindsight for Bluefreeway, hopefully it will serve as a lesson to others. For those interested in the history of the “train wreck”

Context of text in the next generation May 13, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in marketing, philosophy, work/life.
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I read two unrelated posts this morning which both said the same thing; the generation of children who aren’t yet teenagers have an interesting relationship with and approach to communication.

The first was from Fred Wilson who was after a new phone for his daughter to replace a broken iPhone. Funnily enough, she didn’t want it replaced with an iPhone, 2007’s must have toy.

She wants the new crimson red Blackberry Curve.

Fortunately, it looks like I can get an unlocked one on eBay for between $100 and $200.

I wonder what this says? I realize it’s a sample size of one, but I’ve heard that a bunch of her friends have also given up their iPhones in search of a better texting device which seems to be the one feature they value most.

The second was from Simon Chen who said exactly the same thing:

Ask a teenager to give up their mobile phone and see what happens. Actually, I bet if you told any kid today that the new rule of the house is their phones would be restricted to voice calls only (and that the text or SMS function would be disabled), there would be a global revolt. Parents would be locked in cars and basements and all manner of threats would be shouted from every rooftop.

Kids don’t talk on phones anymore. They grunt. But the little f@#ckers can text. Man, can they text.

I am loathe to carry out a conversation via text, I flat out refuse and don’t respond, or else I call if it is really important*. But I’ve seen this behaviour in my younger cousins, and being somewhat pedantic about grammar and punctuation, have certainly seen it carried out in the way sentences are constructed – or rather abbreviated into forms that begin to border on unrecognisable.

With this in mind, I’ve begun thinking aloud (and with no real clarity yet) about what this means for the way the next generation will communicate, particularly how they will expected to be communicated to and how this will impact their interactions with the rest of the world.

For example, is it reasonable to expect “correct” grammar to be taught if it ceases to apply to their daily lives the way it does to mine? Will an essay in SMS or l33t speak be admissable in new communications courses once they at university? More applicable to me, how does that change the nature of text in ads? How do you affect the tone of a piece if not just punctuation but vowels themselves cease to play a part? Srlsy?

I’d dismiss the above as nonsense, except I already see my own generation with hard and fast mind sets on certain things nobody had to teach us, we just knew. The notion of respecting someone because of their title never even entered our minds; what do I take for granted that the next batch won’t bat an eyelid at?

The changing nature of communication is something I find endlessly interesting, even if there are no easy answers.

*Things that are important:

  1. A guitar I simply must have
  2. The girl I’m seeing accidentally meeting the girl I’m seeing
  3. Confusion over which bar we will begin the evening’s festivities in
  4. A Springsteen tour being announced
  5. More as I think of them…

8 for ’08 – Random Bio April 22, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in work/life.
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So I got tagged in a meme that circulated the web back at the beginning of the year. It of course went completely over my head and I didn’t realise I’d been tagged, even as I watched it pass from site to site thinking “Hey that looks like fun!”. Chris Wilson over at Fresh Peel is the culprit, he and I got talking on LinkedIn one day, amazing how these things start. Chris, thanks for the tip!

Without further ado, the much-belated eight facts about me that weren’t common knowledge:

1. The first game I produced was an ice skating game called Barbie’s Sparkling Ice Show. Obvious drug/bling references aside, it did quite well, and was a great lesson in brand management and dealing with third-party IP.

2. I grew up in Hong Kong before a short stint in the US rendered my well-spoken Queen’s English accent marred with rolled Rs and “mom” replaced “mum”. It’s much softer these days, though I still don’t sound remotely Australian.

3. Basketball was the only sport I was ever any good at, but I was quite good at that. I once single-handedly scored more points on my own than the opposing team did in the entire game. It would end at that if there was a legend to be made; sadly the other team only managed 13 points, so a Herculean-effort it was not.

4. My first guitar teacher refused to teach me on account of being left-handed. I subsequently stopped learning guitar with him…

5. The first song I ever performed live was The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues. I bought a harmonica the day before to play the solo in it. That was 13 years ago, I am a marginally better harmonica player than I was that day (suffice to say I’m crap).

6. My first girlfriend’s name was Clare Darby. To the best of my knowledge I cannot remember holding hands or even speaking to her one on one. We were five of course, so I think a little slack can be cut. Funnily enough I never went through a stage where I was bothered by girl germs, though girls seem to remain bothered by mine. Hello to Clare if she is playing at home.

7. In Hong Kong all the grass had signs saying “Please keep off”. To this day I have never been camping and have absolutely no desire to. I’m as big a tree hugger as the next guy (unless the next guy is one of the ones that boarded the Japanese whaling ship, in which case I look like a carbon-positive, nature-hating, tree-felling, seal-clubbing, ice-cap-melting capitalist), but to quote Minnie Driver in Grosse Point Blank, I say leave your live stock alone.

8. British GQ is my favourite magazine on the planet. I wish it was something like The Economist, but it isn’t. I love fashion even if I can afford none of it, the writers it has are extraordinary, the whole thing is endlessly entertaining. Unlike Australian GQ, which is fucking awful. If you’re reading Grant, call me – 0404078686, I can save your terrible, terrible magazine.

So, I now have to tag 8 others in this wee game. I am keeping it very close to home and hitting up Stuart McPhee (the best music writer I know), Scott Drummond (the most insightful person I know), Alysha Sandow (the best dressed person I know, she’s a pretty good graphic designer too!), Simon Chen (he’s at the Web 2.0 conference right now, so won’t reply; odds are he wouldn’t anyway), Andrew Cafourek (smart and unafraid of getting his hands dirty in addition to being an incredibly nice guy), Iain Tait (who no doubt got tagged several times with this while he was in India), Laurel Papworth (I’ve only had limited interaction with Laurel but I like the cut of her jib…whatever that means *Update* Laurel has already done this, hers can be found here) and Skelliewag who I don’t know at all but I really like what he does, and so he deserves more of your time and attention (because I say so).

Are You a Partner or a Provider? March 3, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in work/life.
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Those who know me will tell you I love a feisty debate. I’m sure a few ex-girlfriends would even tell you I argue for the sake of arguing, but if I’m guilty of playing Devil’s advocate a bit too much, it stems wholly from a love of learning and a constant desire to prove myself and my own ideas wrong. I don’t mind being wrong at all, as I’ve said before, I’m quite happy not to be right; I’m simply working towards being least wrong.

But I digress. Often. We got into an argument discussion on Friday over what it meant to be a provider/supplier as opposed to truly being a partner. Long time readers know I show Simon Chen over at Eight Black a lot of link love, and I do that for a couple reasons. The first is he is great at what he does, and having worked with so many snake-oil merchants over the years, it is a pleasure to send every pair of eyeballs I can his way. So if you need some advice on SEO, SEM or email marketing, go say hi and tell him David Gillespie sent you. Actually don’t, he’ll probably ask for danger money.

The second reason I send him a lot of love is he understands what it means to be a partner. Simon doesn’t just show up with invoices, he shows up with heart, passion, and a genuine desire to add value to your business. Partners are proactive, they come to you with ideas and insights for your business, they send you books that help you be more self-sufficient, they connect you with people who will give you good advice, at best for free, and at worst for a nice bottle of white over lunch. They brainstorm when you’re not in the room, they do mock-ups of ideas for your website and don’t charge for them; they recognise billable hours are worthless and relationships are priceless.

Do you have partners or just providers for your business? If you’re in the vendor space, when was the last time you went out of your way for a client? Not the bluechip one that paid for your kid’s schooling, I’m talking the guys who are passionate and boot-strapping to get by. The adage that you only know who your friends are when you’re down is just as true in business. Take a couple guys from that company to lunch this week and simply show an interest in what they do. Then sit back and smile when something you were genuinely a part of manages to take flight.

If you’ve picked your projects right, you will be along for the ride the entire way.

For anyone following the Bluefreeway saga March 3, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news.
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I can’t pretend to know markets or offer insight, so I’ll just point you in this direction.

For those needing some background, read this, then this, and then this.

*Update* As Simon suggested might happen in his post this morning, Bluefreeway are now up for sale.

Bluefreeway; the bridge is out January 30, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news.
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Simon Chen has a nice (if you can call it nice) wrap-up of the day’s events. Richard Webb, founder and CEO of Bluefreeway is out, as is the CFO Ken McDonnell. The share price is currently at 39 cents, back up from a low today of 26 cents, but even the offering of 76 cents a week and a half ago seems a distant and far-fetched dream now. A person who works at Bluefreeway swung by today and said they will be focusing on portfolio companies, and tagged a good deal of braggadocio on the end of it. I’m mad for a bit of defiance in the face of adversity, though it tends to carry more weight when your parent company has the cash to make good on the threats.

Best of luck to everyone affected by these developments, please feel free to share your experiences below or get in touch.

More on Bluefreeway January 16, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news.
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Before Hollywood heavyweights arrived at YouTube’s gates baying for blood we could have posted a dozen different clips from movies all with bridges out ahead and roads falling apart. Whether a picture is still worth a thousand words or not is one thing, but there is little else in this world like a line from Arnie that can make light of what is really a wholly unpleasant situation for a lot of people employed in Australia’s digital media industry.

Simon Chen has some more thoughts on the company today, along with noting that the share price has continued to slide almost 30% since last week, down to 76 cents. For those that missed the news last week, David Smithers resigned from the company after little more than three months on board as a Director. The company has remained fairly quiet since last week’s announcement, if anyone would like to share their side of the story, we’re all waiting with baited breath.

Detours on the Bluefreeway? January 9, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing, web 2.0.
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Simon Chen over at Eight Black has some interesting news regarding Australian digital media conglomerate Bluefreeway.

Today, the ASX was advised that one of their Director’s was resigning…the Director in question who threw in the towel was David Smithers, an ex partner and previous Chairman of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a not too shabby accounting and professional services firm. He also used to be the President of the Australian Institute of Accountants. Oh, and also on the board of Rabobank.

Now I know that there are always 2 sides to the story, but I’d love to hear Mr. Smithers side first. Someone with his experience, wisdom and threshold for corporate pain doesn’t just call it quits after 90 days.”

Bluefreeway have been on a buying spree over the past few years, stocking up on a veritable who’s who in the Australia media scene. Recently the retail property group Centro ran into trouble due to the cash fueling its acquisition run stemming from the US sub-prime market, I wonder (aloud and with no reason to back it up, pure speculation on my part) if the case here is in any way related.

If, as Simon says, something foul is in play, the fallout will have far reaching consequences.