Web storm is stirred up by digital prophet
IT MIGHT seem an arduous task to live up to the job title of “digital prophet”. But when David Shing talks, people pay attention.
Part of it may well be down to his looks – he catches your attention. But the Australian-born tech expert also has some strong opinions that stimulate debate.
In the past he has denounced the notion of apps as a “rubbish” concept, with Facebook likes also coming in for criticism.
He’s also a memorable showman. His talk at the Web Summit last month was a glimpse into how Shing’s mind works – fast and furious, with some prop photos to bring his point home.
Shing adopted the role of AOL’s digital prophet after the company’s reorganisation meant its marketing budget came under pressure.
Shing uses his role as head of media and marketing for AOL in Europe as an opportunity to speak at conferences and on panels as he tries to keep the firm’s profile in the market.
“Some people would argue that we have a perception problem, so I wanted to change that,” he said. Part of this role, he said, was to “out-teach” the competition.
It also means that AOL can identify new opportunities for its business, a crucial advantage in a marketplace that has become increasingly competitive in recent years.
“It doesn’t exist anywhere else, to have this evangelist prophet,” he said. “There are evangelists, product evangelists typically, but that’s not my job. My job is to be agnostic to the marketplace, to educate and inspire.”
Keeping on top of trends and spotting the next big thing is his business, and he is feels at ease discussing the future of technology with the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“I’m native to it, It’s become second nature. I can sit in a room full of 16-year-olds and still be able to tap dance with them. That’s part of the beauty of being part of that fabric, the early adopter.”
In the past few years, the use of social media has exploded among consumers, and businesses have had to follow suit.
Shing, however, isn’t convinced that for businesses, social media can really deliver what they think.
He predicts a backlash against what he describes as a “landgrab” of “likes” on social media by companies. Part of the problem, he said, is that is doesn’t always mean that consumers will interact with the firm, nor will it necessarily translate into any commercial advantage for the firm.