A peek behind the diginomica curtain. How we figure out #evilplans


The core diginomica team just came off a retreat where we discussed a bunch of evilplans. How do we do that? Check out this behind the scenes look.

via wikipedia
Brighton Pier

It’s been quite a while since we provided an update on what we’re doing and now is a good opportunity to correct that error. On this occasion we’re giving you a peek behind the curtain into how we go about making #evilplans.

The core diginomica team has just come off its semi-annual one day intensive retreat. This time it was held in Brighton, one of those eponymous British seaside towns that has plenty of bars and restaurants, many colorful characters and a storied history.

To make clear, we run diginomica as a sort of committee. Each of the team has a voice that must be heard and respected. We believe that’s the only way to ensure that individual agendas are both transparent to everyone else and yet capable of discussion among the broader team.

As with all committees, there are disagreements and occasionally, we end up voting on something or agreeing that an A/B test is the best way of resolving something around which there are differences of opinion. Top of mind in all those discussions are two things:

  1. How do we move the ball forward?
  2. What’s in the best interests of the reader in whom we are interested?

We don’t spend much time congratulating ourselves although if I was to tell you how we are performing both qualitatively and quantitatively, you’d likely go ‘WTF? How did that happen?’ Even though we are entering our fourth year, diginomica continues to evolve at a fairly rapid pace.

Looking back, many aspects of what we do and how we work have changed dramatically and that’s a good thing. If there is any sense of satisfaction, it comes from knowing that as a team, we’ve managed to pull off something that’s extremely rare in media and upon which we continue to build.

That comes from a variety of angles that include keeping a firm eye on changing behaviors in the broader market, constant evaluation and morphing of the analytics we get, a continuing refinement of the value we add to our partners and, most important in my view, a relatively conservative approach to fiscal management.

I make no secret of the fact that from day one we have been in healthy positive cash flow territory as well as profitable to the point of paying corporate taxes while at the same time following in the footsteps of Salesforce 1:1:1 mantra of giving.  And all without needing to take a penny in external investment or the backing of a trust fund. That provides an important sense of ownership to the whole team, all of whom have a stake in our combined success. It also keeps us focused on adding value rather than adding fluff.

This year, we decided to use the Atlassian playbook to discover what each core team member thinks is important in a 1, 2 and 5 year time horizon. We then whiteboarded those thoughts. Each person acted entirely independently of one another. The result was a surprising degree of commonality although there were variations in how each person perceived the timeframes. One of the key areas of commonality was the topic of events.

Events – an immediate win

This year we made a strategic investment in a UK local events business and last week, led the content for Think Digital Government 2017 Derek and Stuart are leading that effort as they are established as subject matter experts.

We like events because they provide a rich seam of conversation with practitioners alongside the vendor pitches. Events also provide us with opportunities to demonstrate the knowledge we parse on a daily basis as it relates to specific topics in face to face conversations.

We have more events in the planning stages so, as the saying goes, watch this space.

Community – the next big uncharted step?

Another key area was community. There are numerous approaches to community and no ‘one size fits all.’ It’s a topic we watch carefully because we know for example that there are different motivational factors behind why an individual will participate in one community over another. There’s also the problem of usability.

Do you go for something like Facebook Groups on the assumption that most people know how to use that service? What about greater use of LinkedIn Groups? Might Slack work? Or how about your own system or at least a system over which you have data control? What about following conversations inside existing groups? These are not easy questions and we’re at the start of figuring out the best way to pursue the creation and curation of interest based communities that play directly to the questions buyers face.

We won’t make any quick decisions but are talking to someone a few in the team have known for many years as a thoroughly reliable and trustworthy person, who takes a thoughtful approach to this topic and who has successfully developed specialized communities in the past. Again watch this space.

The analytics conundrum

Last year, I attended a media event that concentrated upon the value analytics bring in an age of a media that is changing. I learned a couple of things:

Advertising really is a dog’s breakfast. Digital media of our kind will continue to bleed revenue if that’s the model they’re chasing. I am so glad we said ‘no’ from day one.

Analytics in media is a rapidly evolving but messy businesses. Whether you’re the Wall Street Journal, FT.com or lil ol’ diginomica, you must have your hands on a pool of solutions, none of which will give that all important 360 degree view but which, when taken in aggregate, can help better understand what people want. We continue to experiment but have found a small bunch of tools that make a difference and which help the editorial element move forward.

Personalization within the context of analytics remains something of a mystery. It is particularly difficult for us since we are not ‘selling’ something per se. However, the patterns of activity that we do see should help us better understand the direction we need to take.

Right now, that appears to be best served by developing vertical market content. That’s where we’re going next content wise. It is too early to say how that will work although we have a fair idea about what’s needed and we do have a preferred playbook. What’s for certain is that we won’t need to announce, you’ll just ‘see it.’


Four years ago we could not have imagined being where we are today. The early ‘science experiment’ has turned into a sustainable and credible media presence. We take the view that it is still early days where there are both challenges and opportunities. We continue to experiment in many small ways to see what works and what doesn’t. Some of that will be obvious, some of it less so. Regardless, here’s looking forward to the next time we provide an update but for right now – we see plenty of clear blue sky.

Endnote: #evilplans is a term that Hugh MacLeod – aka gapingvoid – used many years ago to playfully describe the development of off the wall ideas that could become a reality. We picked that up when we created diginomica and have used it continuously since.


Image credit - via Wikipedia, Featured image Brighton Pier in Brighton. © Ludmila Smite - Fotolia

Disclosure - Salesforce is a premier partner at time of writing

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    1. Cool. On Community I think Commenting systems are being superseded by Chat, a la Snapchat, Messenger, Hangouts. Rocket.Chat is supplanting Slack in busy engaged communities because content does not drop off the free version. Otherwise very similar, self registration, channels can echo back diginomica focus topics (and have admin to remove any bad actors, bad content).