Pioneers of Digital Archive

Zhang Minhui from China’s Sohu on Advertising to Half a Billion Users

This article has been re-posted from the Pioneers of Digital Blog.

Zhang-Minhui-sohu-Pioneers-Of-Digital in China has the largest combined search, social and entertainment portals in the world. With over 505 million internet users – more than the entire population of the USA – Sohu contains many of the world’s most populated sites.

Zhang Minhui managed Sohu’s brand advertising and commercial content across its digital platforms during the key years of growth from 2002-2010, which makes him one of the most influential pioneers of digital.

Minhui negotiated how marketing would work through search, social, gaming, mobile, news and interactive media. Where Sohu created the formats, Minhui made it commercial.

A chapter profiling Zhang and Sohu also traces the four key periods in China’s recent and groundbreaking digital history.

Pioneers of Digital launches in October – pre-order your copy now by visiting Buy Pioneers of Digital Book and check back soon for the next ‘reveal’.

PS: If you liked this snippet from the book, please share it with your friends and followers using the buttons below and help us spread the word!



Denzyl Feigelson – Apple iTunes Visionary & Artists Without a Label Founder

This post first appeared on the Pioneers of Digital Blog: Denzyl Feigelson – Apple iTunes Visionary & Artists Without a Label Founder


Number 4 in our series is Denzyl Feigelson, the iTunes Store music visionary who came up with the 99c download and devised a way for Artists Without A Label to drive their own careers .

In earlier careers, he helped African artists working with singer-songwriter Paul Simon to break the US and became the first online florist to make a fortune with endorsements from Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey. For Feigelson, his radical ideas for the music industry preceded technologies that allowed them to happen.

The story of how they came about owed much to timing, persistence and an amazing life journey.

Our chapter profiling Feigelson traces his rise from music graduate and producer working in South Africa during volatile times, through to quitting the music industry, buying a farm in Hawaii and, several eureka moments later, paving the way for acts such as the Klaxons and Arctic Monkeys to find their audiences online. 

Pioneers of Digital launches in October – pre-order your copy now by visiting Buy Pioneers of Digital Book and check back soon the next ‘reveal’.


Mel & Paul

P.S. Please help us generate awareness of the book by sharing this post using the buttons below!

Jess Greenwood from R/GA on Creativity & "Being Interested"

Jess Greenwood

This article on Jess Greenwood has been x-posted from the Pioneers of Digital blog.

Last week we revealed Avinash Kaushik from Google as one of our Pioneers of Digital.

Today, we’re pleased to say Jess Greenwood, formerly from Contagious Magazine and now at R/GA, also agreed to be interviewed about her fantastic work at the London-based magazine and the growth of the publication and off-shoot divisions as “must go to” sources of industry creative inspiration and trends.

During a career that has had many twists and turns, Greenwood first became aware of the power of digital through a BBC comedy and the online community that grew up around it.

In her chapter, we’ll tell you what that show was, give you her sound advice for measuring the effectiveness of advertising online, and let you have some strong pointers as to what personal traits are needed to get into and survive in the industry.

To order the book visit this page Buy Pioneers of Digital Book and check back soon for insight into our next Pioneer!


Mel & Paul

Avinash Kaushik from Google – A Magnificent Opportunity

This post was cross-posted from the Pioneers of Digital Blog: Avinash Kaushik from Google “A Magnificent Opportunity”

As we promised last week, from now until the book’s launch, we’ll be giving you a more detailed sneak peek into the Pioneers of Digital we chose to profile and why their contributions to digital have been so important.

Today we kick off with Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist and author of hugely successful books on web analytics and an incredibly helpful blog.

One of the best presenters in the business, Avinash has inspired thousands of marketers around the world to grasp the “magnificent opportunity” we all have to succeed in our business goals through digital.

In the chapter about him we reveal his colourful career journey from a tiny town in India, via the Middle East to Mountain View and his current role at Google, documenting more than a few hair-raising & “ah-ha” moments along the way!

We thank Avinash and Google for letting us tell his story. You’ll enjoy reading it we promise!

To order the book visit this page Buy Pioneers of Digital Book and check back soon for insight into our next Pioneer!

Stay tuned….

Mel & Paul

Meet the Pioneers of Digital and Pre-Order the Book!

This was cross-posted from the Pioneers of Digital Blog.


Click to see the updated site!

With a little over two months before the book launches in the UK and three before US readers can get their hands on it, we’ve been busy working with the fabulous team at Bronco to update the Pioneers of Digital website and start answering the question we’ve been getting everywhere we go: Who exactly are these Pioneers?

If you click through to the homepage, we’ve added a gallery where you can get a sneak peak as to who we’ve picked to tell their inspiring stories.

Between now and the 3rd of October when the physical book is released, we’ll be showcasing each Pioneer one-by-one on our blog, giving you a bit more insight into their background and including an exclusive fact or word of wisdom we gleaned from our interviews with them.

In order to make the launch as successful as possible, it’d really help if you could pre-order the book and encourage your friends to do the same. It will be coming out on the Kindle, but we understand that option won’t go live until early September.


So please click on the button above to get your copy from your favourite retailer, please share this post either by email or by using the social media buttons, and know that we’re very, very grateful for your support.

We can source discounted copies of the book for bulk buys from Kogan Page, so please Contact Us if that’s something you’d like to do!

Check back soon for the first deep-dive in our series about the Pioneers and have a great week.

Thanks very much!

Mel & Paul

P.S. Please share this using the buttons below!

The Future of TV via Ross Honey from Xbox

This post was cross-posted from the Pioneers of Digital Blog: The Future of TV

While is was in New York a couple of weeks ago for the Digital Content NewFronts, I finally got to meet Ross Honey who heads up advertising and entertainment on Xbox.

Not only is he a great bloke (and an excellent presenter – he’ll be in Cannes with us for the advertising festival), he also has some important things to say about the future of TV – essentially that the future is here and his team has helped create it!

Through more choice, easier discoverability via Kinect voice control, and by creating new and engaging experiences through social and more interactive technology, Ross claims that Xbox has fundamentally changed the way we “watch” TV and that it’s all available NOW!


A curious by-product of moving to the US is being introduced to the ubiquitous estate sale. Every weekend, while driving through any suburb of Seattle, you’re likely to see signs pointing to houses where the occupants have ”shuffled off this mortal coil”, and all their worldly possessions are up for grabs. I passed through one at the weekend and spotted a TV not unlike the one above. It got me thinking about how times have changed so rapidly in the entertainment space and how the pace of innovation seems to have accelerated over the past couple of years.

Hearing the bold claim by Ross got me thinking how lucky I am to be playing small part in the future of all this change. When I was given a ZX Spectrum in 1980, I couldn’t dream that in 30 years time I’d be working with people who were creating technology that not only entertains so beautifully, but that can really change the world.

OK! Waxing lyrical over! Back to work…..



Book Interview: Optimize by Lee Odden from

This interview has been reposted from The Pioneers of Digital Blog


One recurring theme in our book – Pioneers of Digital – centres around providing real value for customers on the web. More often than not, that value comes in the form of great content, but too many business owners and brands forget (or are unaware of) the nuts and bolts that, when put together, can do so much to surface that value to their target market. Integrating your SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media efforts along with great content, can increase the visibility and garner additional reach for longer periods of time. For some people, the kind of thinking you need to assemble a strategy like this comes naturally, but for anyone who needs a leg up, look no further than Lee Odden’s new book Optimize. I’ve know Lee for many years, and in that time he’s done amazingly helpful work on his blog and at conferences helping marketers solve problems through an integrated approach. Now (thankfully) he’s jotted it all down in what is set to be a sure-fire hit in the industry.

Lee took time out from his busy book promotion duties to answer a few questions about his career, the process of writing the book and how he sees Optimize (available on Amazon and B&N and all good book stores) being a useful addition to marketer’s library.


Mel and Lee at PubCon in 2007 (Stripes were in back then!)

You’ve been pioneering education around integrating PR, search marketing and social media on the TopRankBlog for a while now. How did it all begin and what have you learned?

Our company began in 2001 as a PR agency and I came on as a contractor to optimize the website. Then we began including SEO with media relations and PR pitches, winning some sizable accounts. I became an employee, then a partner and after a few years. CEO. During that time the agency evolved from a focus on PR to online marketing. I’ve been advocating the integration of search and PR as well as SEO, content and social media for as long as they’ve been around.

A holistic approach was a natural evolution with content at the center of how people communicate, persuade and socialize online. I started blogging late in 2003 and that evolved into a fairly popular marketing blog plus robust networks on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and several other social sites. I’ve learned that by having a blog as a hub and social networks as spokes, we can create meaningful content for our target audience  and achieve substantial reach.  When I talk about the size of our agency, people assume we’re 200 people because that’s the footprint we have online.

At the core, the approach we take is to best understand the customer relationship with content and information that can lead a prospect on their journey from awareness to purchase. SEO, Content, Social and PR each play interrelated roles in creating thought leadership, trust and "shareability" of content amongst networks as well as sales. By understanding how customers discover, consume and share content, we can optimize in ways that transcend standard search or typical social media marketing. We optimize for customers first, then keywords, links and other tactics.  One of the most important things I’ve learned is to not only be adaptable, but to make adaptability a part of a process.

A fellow author, your new book Optimize comes out soon. What was the premise behind it and why should business people read it?

Optimize will help change the discussion around what optimization means. It’s more than keywords and links. The emphasis is on a holistic approach to continuously making our online marketing better and more customer centric. By better understanding customer segments, we can empathize with the pain points and goals of the most desirable customers and design content marketing strategies accordingly. Optimize answers one of the most important questions missing from many online marketing books and that is "Why". It goes from 30,000 foot strategy quickly into practical, actionable tactics that will help readers develop their own content marketing strategy that’s optimized for search and social media.

How did you find the process of writing the book?

Insane.  :)  I didn’t approach Wiley with any ideas about a book, they contacted me. Through their persistence, I finally decided to write a book after about a year. I decided that I wanted to go through the experience of writing a book because I felt it would force me to become smarter and more organized about adaptable marketing on the web. At the same time, writing Optimize created many opportunities for me to connect with old and new industry contacts that has been beneficial in other ways.   With the help of Ashley Zeckman for project management and several of the TopRank team providing insights, the book was written using Evernote and MS Word. Not a single piece of paper was printed during the writing of the book. At least not by me!

You’re an accomplished speaker. Where can our readers find you talking about marketing next?

My upcoming events include: 4/18 ionSearch – Leeds, UK.  4/24 Social Media Club Webinar, 5/3-4 Fusion Marketing – Antwerp, Belgium.  6/5 BlogWorld – New York. I will likely be doing a number of regional events in between for associations and groups. We’re currently seeking a book tour sponsor.

Pioneers of Digital is about inspirational leaders who have done amazing things in the online space over the last 20 years. Who’s inspired you most in your career and why?

That’s a toughie – so many people have been a inspiration. I started out in web dev, then SEO and PR, then focused on blogging, content and social. Now I spend most of my time consuming information, meeting with our consulting teams, writing, speaking and always – experimenting.   I see what others are doing but I do my best to not copy or emulate but to take risks and do what I think will help our clients, agency and myself advance.   My inspiration comes from my kids, because anything I’ve ever done that is good is because of them.

Thanks to Lee for his time. We’ll be reviewing the book here soon, so keep checking back and here you can see an interview Lee did with Abby Johnson  via the WebProNews YouTube channel.



P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for news about Pioneers of Digital, the new book I’ve co-authored coming out in October 2012!

Pioneers of Digital Book Website Launched


Overjoyed to announce that the website to accompany our book Pioneers of Digital has now officially launched.

Designed by Kean Richmond who works for the fabulous Dave and Becky Naylor at Bronco, a UK-based Web Design and Search Marketing agency, the site includes the usual “About” areas and also an advertising blog where we’ll be writing about our adventures writing the book as we run up to launch in October 2012.

We’ll be adding sections highlighting each of the pioneers too, plus a video gallery which should make it a useful, informative and engaging place to get some digital inspiration.

Do take a look and let me know what you think and thanks again to Kean, Dave and Becky!

We’re also building up a following on Twitter and Facebook, so you can pick up all our news there too!

Just putting the finishing touches to the book now, so stay tuned!

Pioneers of Digital Book now on Twitter and Facebook


Now we couldn’t write a book called Pioneers of Digital without helping it along with a bit of digital marketing, so we’ve added a Facebook Page and Twitter account so you can keep up with all our progress.


Paul’s just got back to London from China where he’s been interviewing pioneers over there, and I’ve been rattling off chapters from interviews I’ve done with inspirational figures here in Seattle, California and New York.

As we go into 2012, we should have half the book written and have 2 months left to write 10 more profiles and a lot of analysis.

The Facebook Page and Twitter account are a good way to keep track of where we are and who we’re working on. We also want you to engage with us and give us your views on some of the people we’re writing about.

We’ll provide a bit of a list in the new year so make sure your follow and like the links below:

Pioneers of Digital Book on Twitter

Pioneers of Digital Book on Facebook

[Update 3/3/12: Now the website is live too Pioneers of Digital!]

Take care and have a great Christmas!!!

Stephen Fry Interview for Pioneers of Digital


Personal and career highlights collided last week as I was lucky enough to spend a whole 45 minutes with actor, writer, presenter and digital commentator, Stephen Fry, interviewing him for the book I’m co-writing called Pioneers of Digital.

I’ve been a monumental fan since the Fry & Laurie and Blackadder days, and have met him a couple of times (see Steve Clayton’s memories of one such occasion here) through his dapper business partner, Andrew Sampson.


We met at the Groucho Club in Soho’s Dean Street, all for the book I’m writing with Paul Springer called Pioneers of Digital.

Chatting about his first memories of the internet, Stephen shared some personal stories about the early days of the web. We learned about how his site came about and this history of his foray into social media with his blog “blessays”, and how he got into Twitter and changed the media landscape forever in the UK with one photo from a stuck lift.


Extremely knowledgeable, frank and passionate, Stephen drove our discussion into areas perfect for profiling him in the book as a definite Pioneer of Digital.

We’ll be releasing some of the excerpts early next year.

Worth waiting for……….believe me!

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