Trends Section: Merkle’s CMTO on new kinds of marketing, tech, agencies

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When Merkle was young, it was actually Merkle Computer Systems. But over time, they evolved into a database marketing company, a CRM company, an email marketing company, a creative agency.

Today, they’re blending the DNA of technology, marketing, and services into a new kind of agency that defies classical categorization.

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Trends Section: Computerworld’s 2015 Forecast Predicts Security, Cloud Computing And Analytics Will Lead IT Spending

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The goal of the study was to determine IT priorities for 2015 in areas such as spending, staffing and technology. Computerworld spoke with 194 respondents, 55% of which are from the executive IT roles. 19% from mid-level IT, 16% in IT professional roles and 7% in business managementYou can find the results and methodology of the study here.

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Trends Section:Let Algorithms Decide – and Act – for Your Company thro’ Abhishek Singh

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In the near future, simply having predictive models that suggest what might be done won’t be enough to stay ahead of the competition. Instead, smart organizations are driving analytics to an even deeper level within business processes—to make real-time operational decisions, on a daily basis. These operational analytics are embedded, prescriptive, automated, and run at scale to directly drive business decisions.

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Trends Section:MIT Rethinks How You Consume News

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Fold, a news platform being developed by MIT Media Lab’s Alexis Hope and Kevin Hu, has been designed to provide context at its very core. Whereas most news sites (including Fast Company) use links to provide background on who is doing what where and why, Fold is a news site that incorporates background information directly into the articles, including definitions, maps, and other assets.

“Our goal is to allow stories to be more like conversations,” the team tells Co.Design. “We believe contextual tools can help all readers confidently engage with complex material, and also provide avenues for more invested readers to explore further.”

Fold’s UI is broken down into a cross. The vertical bar is dedicated to the story itself–maybe a report of the most recent city sacked by ISIS. This narrative is chunked into white blocks rather than paragraphs, but it’s otherwise your typical, narrative news story.

The horizontal bar is the context stream, crashing itself into the story, and providing background to various points. (It might include an image tracking ISIS’s march across the Middle East, for instance, or an infographic charting ISIS’s relationship with the greater Muslim faith.) What’s neat is that authors can build these “context blocks” themselves, or they can rely on an algorithm to scour the web and fill in context for them. Additionally, Fold’s authors will be able to share context blocks, meaning they won’t be forced to rewrite the history on ISIS that other reliable sources have already written.

The philosophy behind Fold is certainly on trend. As Nieman Journalism Lab points out, the influential, digital-native publishing company Vox has adopted a somewhat similar system of explainers called “card stacks” (though card stacks don’t follow readers around articles in the same way). Google, too, now condenses searches into bite-sized card explainers, summarizing Wikipedia while saving you a click.

The Fold team believes that context is so intrinsic to understanding information that their platform can span beyond news and work for how-to articles, recipes, academic papers, and more.

And maybe it can. But if the media strategies of Vox and Google are right, and readers want better context than what backlinks can provide, I’m not certain that Fold needs to be its own news platform. Why can’t Fold be a web plugin, for instance, that could follow you to any major news site you visit, defining terms and pulling up maps along the way? Why does Fold need to take on the lofty goal of convincing users to create content on its platform to provide context? The team tells me that they saw Fold as a “testbed,” a place where a dedicated group of users can help iterate the idea. After that, they’re open to “explore other reading and authoring options for Fold.”

Hopefully, Fold can move forward even if it fails to woo content creators. Because Fold is full of great ideas and some promising technology. It would be a shame to see this potential lost because it’s intent on being its own product first.

See more here.

Trends Section: The 2014 State of Digital Transformation thro’ Nishad

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Digital transformation doesn’t just mean increasing digital investments. It means thinking and acting “digital first.”

Additional challenges facing digital transformation specific to Digital Customer Exp (DCX) include…

– Thinking beyond a campaign mentality (59%)

– Cross-functional collaboration (56%)

– Resources (56%)

– Understanding digital customer behavior (53%)

– Securing executive support (42%)

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Marketing Section: How Unilever is reconfiguring its marketing

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The marketing world has been changed by disruptive digital capabilities for audience interaction, targeting and tracking, prompting brands such as Unilever to adjust their teams and their marketing goals. The big shift for Unilever will be to move away from marketing to people to marketing for people, according to Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed.

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Retail section: Returns plague fashion e-commerce. Can technology fix the problem?

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PhiSix, a recent eBay acquisition, seeks to apply the digital effects you see in blockbuster films to e-commerce. The same technology that helps a computer-generated character in a film look realistic can help the average shopper find clothes that fit better.

While shoppers can’t yet benefit from the technology — eBay is still determining how to integrate PhiSix into its retail innovations efforts — it appears possible that it will eventually make the online shopping process better for consumers.

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