Kaizo Live – Media view: Consumer Tech; Experience, Changes and Expectations
[00:00:07] Welcome to Kaizo Live, where we look at insights and issues affecting the world of PR and communications. Today we’re going to look at the world of consumer technology, and I’m delighted to be joined by someone who is very experienced in this sector and has covered over the years and reported and reviewed apartment gadgets and gizmos which have changed our lives. Some of the most innovative and dynamic, extraordinary, and in many cases expensive technology that is that we now use today tonight to welcome Jonathan Margolis, who many of you will know from his columns in the F.T. Bay Business Life and many other places over the years. Jonathan, thank you so much for joining us today. I wanted to start with you.
[00:00:53] Just give us a little bit of background on your career just to get started through the usual journalistic, you know, local news reporter all-time in Yorkshire. Then I came down to the mail on Sunday when it launched. I was there for about 11 years, ending up as a very, very unsuccessful features editor.
[00:01:15] And then I went freelance the Sunday Times for years. And this was about 1990 when I got into tech reporting, which began with the Evening Standard. I mean, I’ve always been like when I was a kid, I was kind of soldier on radios together and stuff. But I still do that for fun, believe it or not. But we kind of nicked the idea from Playboy of Gizmo’s column in the Evening Standard, and it became that was about nineteen ninety and it became a weekly thing. And, you know, I think at that time the problem was simply finding more than one product and finding one product a week.
[00:02:01] Do you remember the first product? Do you remember the first time?
[00:02:05] I certainly do. It was I used to work in Japan for quite a long time and the big thing there was heated shaving mirrors. So, you know, in any hotel you’re in, you didn’t get it steaming up. You it just clicked on and you had a perfect round spot to shave, which I, I sourced one here. We did it and not a single person bought it and not, as far as I know, they never caught on even the most minuscule extent I could overheat heated shaving mirror. And he said never heard of anything like that. So it started with a tremendous failure. But I was lucky at the time. So my office was in the center of Richmond and innovations. Do remember the mail order catalogue? Yes. Your Sunday papers that they had their only shop was in Richmond. So basically I was just going in there and saying, you know, what can I do? What can I borrow this week? And nobody noticed that everything we were recommending was innovations.
[00:03:15] Really great. So you’ve seen tremendous changes over the years. I mean, I guess this has been a year of incredible change and we’re still going through it based upon the announcements this morning by the government.
[00:03:26] I mean, how’s your look down the how’s that? Has it changed the way? It’s been absolutely fine.
[00:03:31] I mean, I’ve been working from home since nineteen ninety, so it’s nothing, it’s nothing remotely new book is I’m kind of that’s not wholly true because you know, I used to make sure I, you know, almost every day I’d go and spend a couple of hours in a coffee shop and kind of working in that vibe. Even if I was abroad that was, you know, it’s now a strangely forgotten part of my routine. But I haven’t worked in an office since 1990. And so I, I just find it is hilarious because, you know, why isn’t that weird? Just working with the actual people you work with. It’s a life. Yeah. I’ve been sitting here two-thirds of it.
[00:04:16] I think of it. Yeah, I’m waiting, just waiting for the next product to arrive. And yeah, they probably were reviewing slightly smaller products over the last six months maybe or I don’t do that many things anyway.
[00:04:31] Yeah. So it’s been, we’ve been through phases of well, first of all, wanting everything kind of related and then thinking let’s just forget about it for a bit and have normal things. But I mean, I don’t think it’s been as structural change as I would have expected for the last six months. It pretty much business as usual, obviously missing, you know, press events and stuff and seeing people. But, you know, I hate to say it, but for most things. Etc. works absolutely fine. I mean, was right at the beginning, I was doing an interview with a company in Copenhagen. This was very much in tech days and this was a column I have had at the time, is suspended at the minute in the company’s market section of the main Hefti rather than how to spend it with. My main column appears and it was just a, you know, an hour’s interview with the guy at his home in Denmark. And I said to me, you know, a month ago I’d have jumped on a plane and we’d have done it live. And apart from, you know, it would have been nice to have gone out for a drink in Copenhagen and chatted over lunch. It was the same thing, actually, many ways much more efficient because, I mean, I think one story, not a tech story for the Telegraph magazine during the lockdown, which involved about 12 people all over Australia, which were unquestionable would have been a three-week job traveling around Australia doing it. What actually happens is that you get to business much more quickly. Yes. Instead of, you know, every time you go to someone’s home, you’re going to be chatting about how you got there. And the weather was like and, you know, and the family and meeting the dog and stuff and all that’s cut out. So it’s from the point of view of late labour efficiency. It’s bad, right? I mean. So I my neighbour here is a documentary maker, and she did a BBC World documentary on coronavirus in Spain without leaving home. You know, there’s no this kind of there was no pretense that she wasn’t, you know, in London overlooking Kew Gardens, just the way it was done. And I think it was rather refreshing, really.
[00:06:58] Yeah. Well, I mean, you said you started your first column was it had a shaving mirror.
[00:07:05] And then we just talked about the technology of the last six months, really revolutionising the way a lot of us have been working. What about in the last five to 10 years?
[00:07:13] And if you look at the products you looked at and the themes, what are the big changes you’ve seen?
[00:07:20] I think, first of all, the whole app world is you think I was looking through I for about 10 years we did videos for how to spend it, which, you know, that kind of closed up with the catastrophe. And one of them from 2007 was with a guy with a grant from one of the Mac magazines to say what exactly is an app? You know, this is you know, this is a completely new town. And it genuinely wasn’t quite a new time for me. But, you know, it’s incredible that twenty-seven, thirteen years app has become just the norm. And so the moving away to software and the idea of, I suppose the iPhone has been the and it’s imitators thereafter has been the key move because I mean, I always say this sort of talk in the first Blade Runner film, which was written in nineteen eighty-two, I think it made in nineteen eighty-three, the flying cars have to stop a phone booth to make a video call from a phone booth. If you take somebody in 1992, you know. No, but you know 20, you know, in the early 20s, everybody in the world will have mobile communication which they can make, you know, good quality video calls to anybody else in the world. You would have been held steady on it.
[00:08:53] Isn’t it? Why why did they miss that? I mean, I was watching back to the future too, and they had a hoverboard, but they hadn’t. But the newspaper was being faxed to the living room. It was sort of nobody who saw that coming.
[00:09:07] And you know, the kind of staples of futurology. You know, the thing I get asked every week, you know, where’s my flying car? And right there are now, I think, 17 different companies right now about to launch a flying car. And I’m prepared to say not one single one of them will ever get off the ground. You know, just ask a child of five. Why not? I mean, is very funny about this. Yeah. Yeah. My flying car would be great when my neighbour’s got one and it’s hovering over my house. I’m not so sure. I think it’s incredible that that idea has just stuck and stuck and stuck. And despite the fact that people are putting hundreds of millions of dollars into this thing, which simply will never happen, there’s no legislation, no legislature in the world will ever permit it.
[00:10:02] You can’t on the roads can. You can’t just put people on roads. I’m not sure we’re ready to trust people in the skies.
[00:10:07] Precisely. Yeah. You know, with bells on and. Yeah, you know, other stuff has overtaken exceeded anything. Even the craziest future, I think, as you said, back to the future. Yeah.
[00:10:23] So that’s. And then what’s been your favourite tech.
[00:10:26] You must have a few sorts of which which which maybe you know which dawned on everyone sort of sideboard and the favourite since I mean if I look around me here, there there are things which, you know, clever, but, you know, our solution looking for a problem. And I think all the kind of Google Glass snap chip glasses, all those things come into that category, then fine. But they’re kind of creepy and no human being will ever want them. Yeah, but the things around me, which I’m using on a daily basis ranged from remarkable to this. That’s the Norwegian kind of paper writing pad paper feels like paper, which has completely revolutionised my working life in the sense that I’ve got now because I bought a remarkable one on Indiegogo. I’ve got a sample from Norway, the remarkable to be the first person to write about it. And, you know, I’ve now got three years of scribbled notes available. On my phone, anyway, it’s all backed up at the Cloud and the improvement in remark two is just it’s like a new product and that one is pretty bloody good. OK, that’s great. I’ve got a thing on my desk that I actually bought during the lockdown from a company in Middlesbrough that makes disability aid for people facing difficulties. I have the problem I was having was I live alone here. I like to work with very loud music, either headphones or speakers. But, you know, I can’t hear the doorbell. And I’m totally creative career dependent on everything from Morison’s deliveries to UPS and everything kind of coming in. I wanted to find something where I could get a flashing light when the bell went. Right now, obviously, a lot of people say, what have you got a ring? The ring? Is that my I’m on the third floor. The Wi-Fi doesn’t stretch downstairs and just can’t reach it. Plus, it’s it’s an English-Irish heritage-listed 17th-century building, standing things out that aren’t approved. So I found this thing called Signature Locks, which I think was fifty-nine pounds from a German company. And it tells you exactly what I wanted, which is the moment anybody unfortunate when the dog barks it off as well.
[00:13:03] But that’s the most simple.
[00:13:06] Has a practical purpose which sort of it stretches right the way through to a company called ASTM in Australia have just said me last week I requested it an upright wireless charging station for the iPhone. It’s like an iPhone, Apple Watch, and Apple at the same time. Right. And the difference, just the ergonomic difference in having it upright on my desk, just staring at me all day and, you know, having to charge it flat. I mean, the fact is really with Apple, I’ve never made a wireless charge. And they announce when they want to make it out because I mean and this thing, it’s actually you know, it’s not a very nice piece of design, but you don’t see it because the Apple the iPhone is standing on it. So it’s just simple solutions that really are solutions, including that this hideous stalk. I’ve got my iPad on here. Right. Just because I got like all of us, I got so fed up early on with getting the kind of view up people’s nostrils on the telly, on the desk, honestly, I think.
[00:14:19] And it still happens, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s bizarre. It’s almost like a sort of decision by the production teams that they want to make it as easy as possible. It is all the products you have used. There have been some you say, well, this is going to change the world. This is it’s going to be on everybody’s gift list. It’s going to be on and then it doesn’t.
[00:14:37] And I would say, OK, right, OK. Yeah. I mean, I’ve come to the conclusion there is no I don’t think there’s any headphone gadget, any head which will have to take off. I mean, I’m a massive fan of the first Occulus, the second Occulus. Just remember, I need to talk to Facebook about the third. I think it’s the third version now which apparently has got the pixelation. You know, they were the size of Volkswagens. And now that apparently barely visible. And I’ve been massively excited. I wrote a column about when the second Oculus came out to say that, you know, I apologise. I may have insignificant I may have exaggerated the importance of this technology. And as far as I know, nobody in the world is using it. I can’t think well, I mean, there is all kind of you keep reading things about, you know, surgeons doing, you know, testing out ways of doing operations and or medical students. But it just never happens. And I think it’s. I don’t know, I guess people just don’t like wearing things on the head of this goes this goes for, you know, the weekly. If you look on Indiegogo every week, there’s another head-mounted theatre so you can watch movies on your head. No, nobody wants it, but I’m not surprised by that. And there are a couple of other things which I, you know, that come along that you think I’m sure that’s going to work. I mean, I’ve got one now like this. I mean, headphones have become a bit of a joke in the sense that, you know, there’s a launch, more than one launch every week. And everybody, you try and get excited about it.
[00:16:25] But we wouldn’t we wouldn’t say they were rejected. By the way, you probably wouldn’t say they’re right.
[00:16:31] But, you know, as far as we’re concerned, it’s another headphone. And that my new editor has spent is very sensibly said, you know, I think we’re going to have to pull the rug on headphones because they just mean, well, I’m allowed one, but I think every six months.
[00:16:51] But the one I’ve got coming up in October is simply the best I’ve ever heard.
[00:16:57] It’s a British company called Irish Flo. They bought up some technology from two old hippies, one in L.A., who I went to visit, another in Glastonbury, who kind of the kind of invented something. They didn’t really realise what it was. They were selling it on a CD to record producers around the world. Four hundred ninety-nine dollars. And this lovely guy called Giacobbe and adds to the Calthorpe, Prince Henry and Prince Harry and Prince William’s best mate. And his sister is a supermodel and everything, but like most unlikely tech entrepreneur came across this thing and has commercialised it. It’s such brilliant everything has been done beautifully. It’s the most British thing ever. You know, the design, the industrial design, the manufacture, the promotion. And it’s just it’s it’s going on, you know, like a Beaubourg. It’s just so brilliant. They are the most fantastic headphones they turn, you know, with, you know, lots of software. They turn even a rubbishy old and three-track into something that sounds terrific. And Brian May and Roger Taylor have bought into the company, and that’s a record label in Nashville. I bought into it. And I think it should be the definitive headphone. And I’ve got a horrible feeling it won’t. But it’s not clear to us, you know, because once the audio geeks get out of it, you know, they’ll you know, the kind of I’ll only listen to music standing up with my back to the speakers drinking distilled water brigade. I think it’s the ten thousand pound to me to Speaker Caples, lol. Yeah, I had, I had. It just comes to mind at this wonderful interview, Bob Steerer Meridien, who’s one of the audio global audio greats, he’s in his 70s. He just knows the whole thing. And I was having lunch with him last year, said, you got to tell me what’s your feeling on speaker cables? And he said a very interesting subject. He said I’ve found over a career in audio the most important thing about speaker cables that they should be long enough to reach your speakers as well as the press again, isn’t it?
[00:19:26] Yeah. So so getting back to your start where you started going down to innovations and buying up products, and obviously, your relationship has changed my friends buying products already, but your relationships change with agencies and brands over the years.
[00:19:46] And I just want to make a lot of people watching here will be if I’m a communication and it’s kind of you to know, the PR industry is kind of crept up to things like this. I had a cousin working at one of the massive global brands in their tiny London office, which had only three hundred and seventy desks in it. And I went to see her and I said, look, you know, you have to realise there are more people employed here than in every newsroom in London, several more people. So I reckon somebody should work out the ratio of journalists. And that’s not getting into financial PR, which is a huge just in my little area of consumer tech, you know, beauty and fashion, all that. There must be one hundred just in this in London or in Britain. There must be one hundred plus for every working journalist.
[00:20:45] This must be incredibly tough from your point of view. And it’s interesting how even now the companies who are trying to survive without pay are just screwing up to such a level. I have this approach a German company like projectors and stuff, and they have a ton of things in the past. Not particularly exciting with very good quality. They came through with another product, which I thought would actually be very, very useful for people working in Aspen today. But it is kind of back on the menu, of course. And but this one had written a kind of generic e-mail trying to be in the marketing department.
[00:21:32] You put in a pretty generic email to two hundred people at the hefty price, not including me. Somebody kind of forwarded it to me. And it was so clueless that there wasn’t there was any point at which anything made sense. And I started at one point I thought it like a kind of it’s like a Chinese scam, except that the emails were perfectly literate. I mean, she’s obviously, you know, if somebody in this country who, you know, could write in English and a very polite and everything, but every time it was so off, I sent her an email yesterday when we finally established the nice thing, if she could send me the product at some point, I’ll play with it and hopefully we’ll do a little piece on it.
[00:22:23] And I said, oh, by the way, what’s the retail on this? Took a week to come back with the retail price. Should all have to find out. Find that out. Nobody’s asked that. And I wrote an email yesterday. It looks like we finally got it right. This is the address to send it to. Could I, you know, kind of suggest it might be an idea to get a professional PR company involved in this? Because, you know, I’m pretty certain I’m the only journalist on the planet who would have fun with this because, you know, I can’t put this more politely with such an eccentric approach.
[00:22:54] You take you know, ninety-nine point nine of us will have just deleted it, somebody, who doesn’t know what they’re doing. So I try and do my bit for your business by promoting. But, you know, she came back with a very polite yes to the Post, totally ignored my my point.
[00:23:10] So that’s the I guess that’s sort of the Amitav approach.
[00:23:13] Do you have are there any other bugbears or any brands you want to mention them necessarily.
[00:23:19] But you know, the principle that I’m absolutely clear about its brands who make a secret of who that PR is, you know, small companies have a link to press. You know, they have a little warning on there saying, you know, if you’re an unhappy consumer or if you have a consumer credit, please go. And I’m sure they get a few people saying, you know, I’m going to the press with this. Not my nuisance, but I’ve probably not covered fifty products in the last few months because I just can’t find the bloody PR right. And and then the next thing is the people just won’t respond. Really. What? I don’t understand it. Who I mean, one thing I’ve learnt about your industry since people have been working is I know exactly when you will get out.
[00:24:07] I can tell you we do a normal working day so they lions.
[00:24:13] But the people I tend to stop quite early. So like seven, eight o’clock hour blackout, a couple of emails and you know, there’ll be a couple. We answered at nine thirty, then a whole bunch like twelve thirty. I don’t think I know what’s going on and exactly what’s happened there. And this is particularly a US thing. It’s just they’re not interested or can’t be bothered. I mean, I put in I have one we have one product agreement. Who’s going to be lead in the FTC and company in Santa Monica after about five emails and three voicemails we just gave out, you know, they probably lost five thousand sales because of that, because it was so incompetent, so lazy that even the PR company couldn’t be bothered. Now, they said there’s a US centric thing that they don’t you know, they think, you know, the UK is possibly in Europe somewhere. Not interesting to them. But but it happens here as well.
[00:25:19] And I’m just just if we just if we sort of stop there. So the moral of the story is put put a link on your website and hire a really good PR agency or even a really bad PR agency, but at least have somebody have you know, I’ve got I do a column actually for Saga magazine right now.
[00:25:42] It’s about two million circulation people. With spare cash and much more techie, I mean, that encourage people who’ve, you know, includes people, the soccer world includes people who’ve been, you know, working in tech for 50 years. Yeah. And they’re very smart and they know exactly what’s good and what’s bad. Quite challenging working for them, actually, because you’ve got to you know, if you get anything wrong, they’re on your readers or on your back and they know the tech most anyway. But the I’m trying to get one product for them. And, you know, you’re offering somebody if you could send out some photos, I don’t even want to sample just some photos and we’ll put you in a magazine with two million circulation. Nothing.
[00:26:25] OK, what I can tell you, most of the clients would be relevant, would be very keen to be in there. Just haven’t got that much more time.
[00:26:33] I’ve got a couple of two questions if you really want is about the industry and CBS and and it’s sort of gone virtual, whatever that really means. I mean, we’ve seen a little bit later this year, I mean, how do you think that’s going to impact the industry?
[00:26:49] And I was getting to the point with CBS. I mean, I’m B2C for for about three or four years. I find it, to be honest, more useful, but I just didn’t get invites. So we don’t have any budget for, you know, trips. So I was getting to the point with CBS where I was beginning to tire of it. It was a hard slog, but find again, you know, 50 companies with a product I wanted. But by March, 30 of them had disappeared. The launch had worked. The others get the same problem again, just not responding, not not even interested in seemingly appearing. I don’t know where they want to be immediately.
[00:27:39] I don’t know where some of these brands want to be, because I imagine you’ve got a number of brands announcing a product which isn’t quite ready for market on that.
[00:27:50] Yeah, but, you know, on the other hand, you know, some of my best things have been from CBS finds I can’t remember what’s the name of the hole where they deal with the kind of future DR fans expect.
[00:28:05] Yeah, yeah. I mean, Cloud there that massive hole. I mean, well, you know, probably six out of ten big red herrings. Yeah. Two or three of the spots on exactly what we want out of me. I don’t think it’s just a matter of being not being someplace.
[00:28:25] And it could be for those sorts of brands, which is sort of the exposure to investors and the distributors. They’re probably the ones who suffer the most, I imagine, for not being able to go maybe.
[00:28:38] Yeah. I mean, I do feel because there are something you do need to see in the flesh. Yeah. Yeah. And I you know, I do love that, you know, the downstairs bit and I kind of miss that. But maybe if they’re up and running again for twenty, twenty two, I might go.
[00:28:57] OK, so final final final question is, is what are the what are you probably get asked this all the time about what are the gifts, you know, what’s going to be the winner this Christmas and what would you suggest. And recommendations.
[00:29:09] And do you have a field you have pretty boring really because yes, I’d love people to buy these iris headphones and I’d love people to buy the remarkable two. They largely won’t. And I think it’s, you know, conservative choices. I’d say obviously the five and the Xbox AIX will be big sellers, I think coming out at the same price, I believe. And also the all the AC models of the particularly the what the Apple Watch and see. Yeah. You know, the Apple phone at the beginning of lockdown, I left my iPhone eleven pro in and I happened to be in Valencia and it took about three months to get it back. Lucky to get it back, but I bought an apple an Apple phone see during that period and it’s great. And it was I think it was under four hundred quid as opposed to I think that the iPhone I think is about probably sixteen hundred now, something out of the arrangement. So I think yeah. The mainstream products in a reasonably affordable form, you know, there’ll be some outlier, but there’s no predicting that so much going on.
[00:30:25] OK, well, listen, Jonathan, thanks so much for that. OK, well anything that Amber mug. Oh my.
[00:30:31] Great, great, great, great, great Kaizo launch brilliantly PR my absolute standby I reckon. I’m sure five hundred of those to be bought because of my recommendation personally. And maybe another five hundred now because of that, so I think it is a brilliant product and we can we can read it in the still we where we’re currently not in the main F.T. Saga magazine by business life, I don’t think is being published until, you know, when I. And also a new thing in e-mail got news out of New York, which is Graydon Carter, former Vanity Fair editor’s email newsletter for the Rich and Famous, for which I’m the tech correspondent.
[00:31:25] Fantastic. Fantastic. Jonathan, thanks so much. We could have gone a lot longer and I’m not sure is, but we run out of time. Thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:31:34] And thanks for everyone for watching if you’d like to watch this and other episodes of Kaizo, if that’s available on our website, Kaizo, DR. OK, and there’s a whole section on Kaizo, like all the different broadcast we’ve been doing. Please join us next time. And thank you very much.