Digital Economy USRG

Creative Digifest #SXSC2 Speaker Profiles: Mike Lister

Avatar photoSeptember 29, 2012
by Lisa Harris

This is the latest in our series of posts which profile the panelists and speakers at the Creative Digifest on 11th October.

Mike Lister obtained a degree in graphic design and did everything from shooting advertisements and making radio commercials to the design and layout of the Observer Colour Magazine. By 23 he was Head of Design at PA Advertising, a division of PA Management Consultants. At 28 he was Creative Head of David Baker Associates, a below-the-line advertising agency, and managing a team of 23 designers.

Meanwhile, in his spare time, Mike invented a very profitable system of photographic lettering and set up a company, Safelight, to commercialise it. For the next 25 years he ran Safelight as a highly successful Marketing Communications, Multimedia Design and Events Company. Work involved TV titles and film animation, video and CD-ROM production and print design as well as staging conferences and events for up to 3000 people. Safelight pioneered computer graphic systems in Europe and Mike funded and helped design and test graphic software packages for USA companies like AVL (Audio Video Laboratories) and Artronics. In 1980 he founded Dimension Technology to create Calypso software using his proprietary windows interface. Eighteen months before the launch of Microsoft’s Windows, Calypso was hailed as a brilliant success by the UK computer press, but being early to market made funding difficult. Calypso was developed at the European beta test site for Stepstone’s Objective C, the programming language later acquired by Next Computer which became the basis for Apple software as well as the first browser WorldWideWeb.

In 2000 Mike founded Netusability Ltd to improve his web-tracking and video streaming software. He held four USA patents pending and was funded by $6m from eVerger (owned by Aegis plc and Warburg Pincus). As CTO he ran development teams in the USA and UK but eVerger pulled out in the dot-com crash. Mike bought back his software and became Director of Customer Experience for the strategy division of i-level, Europe’s largest Internet advertising agency. It provided access at senior level to major corporations and the opportunity to experiment using his software to analyse internet behaviour. Clients included Teletext, the COI, Orange, Sony, Yell, News International, RAC and Cosmos. These results were gained by using qualitative techniques: since 1998 Mike has spent more than 4,000 hours interviewing over 2,000 people purchasing from websites, and also quantitative techniques: 30,000+ hours analysing on and offline purchasing behaviour and trawling through web analytics, CRM and call centre data. For more information about Mike’s latest research please visit his website

In what ways are digital technologies transforming our lives?

It seems to me that so far the major effect of digital technology has been to increase the velocity of communication, the quantity of information and the entertainment options available.  To simplify Herbert Simon’s quote – all this “stuff” consumes our attention and “eats” our time.  People are spending more of their time in the virtual world at the expense of the physical world.  We had a similar effect with the introduction of Radio in the 1920s to 1930s and later on TV in the 1950s.  In the past people have gradually adjusted from over-consumption of any new media to a more balanced media diet, although the feedback processes using digital technology may have changed this.

What can the latest technologies do for you?

I’m impressed with the “state of the art” cloud services I’m receiving via my Google Nexus 7 tablet.  This can become a newspaper; a magazine; a book; a Filofax with calendar and email available; a note making device; a map; a music or podcast player; a bus or train timetable; or a screen on which to watch movies or TV whilst on the move and a payment mechanism.  Of course all these services were available from a laptop that needed charging every three hours or so that also has a long boot-up time.  The tablet is very lightweight (345 grams), low cost device that is instantly available and will run all day without needing a battery charge.

 If you’re not online, are you out of the game?

It depends on what game you are playing and the time period involved.  For example; if you mean shopping, in the UK according to the latest ONS figures online sales are only 11% of the total of all retail sales in a typical month.  Of course many people research online before making a store purchase but the majority still purchase shopping offline.  Selling the right product from a good position on a High Street it is still possible to be a success but being online would increase your sales.  My local baker sells bread and cakes from his shop but his website provides a broader reach for his event catering business.

Categories: Blog and SxSC2 Bio. Tags: SXSC2.

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