Interesting stories of Internet pioneers
There are several well-known people who have pushed the boundaries of what is possible through the Internet and created compelling, entertaining and useful experiences that have touched millions around the world. But there are also many other pioneers who are less well-known, and it is the stories of these lesser-known pioneers that Paul Springer and Mel Carson write about in their book Pioneers of Digital: Success Stories from Leaders in Advertising, Marketing, Search and Social Media.
The book provides brief biographies of 20 different Internet pioneers including Thomas Gensemer, who was behind Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign; June Cohen, who led the team that brought TED to the web in 2006; Vanessa Fox, who was the driving force behind Google Webmaster Tools; Malcolm Poynton, who produced Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty; Martha Lane Fox, a co-founder of Lastminute.com; and Zhang Minhui, who was marketing director of Sohu.
In addition to providing the biographies, the book contains a chapter on pioneering places and another on lessons from pioneers. The pioneering places described are not places in the US as many readers might expect; they are India, China and the Middle East. These are expected to have the strongest-growing economies in the immediate future, coinciding with digital innovation and the rapid uptake of smartphones. The lessons from pioneers include:
- It is more important to be relevant than original
- Be user-centred rather than technology-centred
- Worry less about production quality and more about ideas, narrative and entertainment value
- For each digital medium, find what it does differently and better than all other media
- Creativity now involves skills convergence and harnessing user-generated content
In my opinion, the book delivers on its promise, telling the interesting stories of lesser-known Internet pioneers. However, the diversity in those stories has made it difficult for the authors to sustain a consistent theme. The last chapter tries to derive some overall lessons from the stories, but those lessons are fairly general, rather than a compelling list of steps for success. Nonetheless, there is plenty of entertainment and inspiration to be gained by reading the book.