Upon meeting AOL’s self-proclaimed digital prophet David Shing, he was rocking skinny black jeans, a tee and what looked like custom Doc Martens — all carefully splattered in white paint — the style you would pay big money for, but could do yourself.
Only, he did paint the clothes himself.
It’s one example of Shing’s creative flair, which landed the Australian his New York-based job in the first place. Shing’s job at AOL is to spot trends in the market.
So when I asked him what he thought was going to change tech this year he said “more”. More of everything — more Internet of Things, more data. The lot.
And while his response was broad there are three things he looks for when forecasting ideas.
1. What’s innovative?
“What’s innovative at the moment is obviously wearables… physical tech.”
2. What’s emerging?
“It becomes emerging when people layer stuff on top of that. So the Internet of things.”
3. What’s mainstream?
“When it turns up in Kmart. Instead of it being $299 dollars and you can only buy it in… the Apple store. When it hits Kmart at $29.99 it has been commoditised.”
Shing says it’s his job to spot trends and contextualise them so the brands he reps end up right in the middle.
But the difference between what takes off and what flops has to do with timing and consumer acceptance. And he freely admits he’s not always right.
Back in 2012 he famously proclaimed “apps are a rubbish concept”, suggesting HTML5 should replace them all. Fast forward to 2015 and he admits apps take up more than 80% of a person’s mobile device usage. It’s all to do with timing.
“Who would’ve thought that Periscope and Meerkat would be something that would take off? But what’s interesting is Skype bought a company that did something similar a few years ago but we just weren’t ready for it,” he said.
“We’re still in a massive popularity contest. We think that a massive audience is the right audience but maybe it isn’t moving forward. Maybe it’s a locked audience, maybe it’s closed community that’s really important. We move, and I think the industry moves, with what consumer behaviour does.”