Previously the co-founder of blog advertising company Nuffnang, Timothy Tiah is one of the few who were quick to tap into the digital world, when there was very limited blogging and online content. Nuffnang eventually became a global player with offices in Beijing, London and Melbourne, at its most simplistic, simply connecting bloggers and collectively approaching clients to pitch content. Ironically while Timothy was at the forefront of all things digital, a decade later he has become somewhat skeptical about its influence. He now finds himself in an industry that is polar opposites from Nuffnang, when he ventured into the co-working arena as the creator of Colony Co-Working.
What was it that made you "lose hope" in what you have built with Nuffnang?
I believed that more people would read news online and more journalists would actually come out and create their own whether it the form of blogs or other things. It did happen to some extent but not in the way I expected. I was sort of right, sort of wrong. In the early days, like many others I went by the adage “content is king,” but today, it seems like that is not true. The growth of digital online advertising turned out as I predicted, but the budgets didn’t go to the content creators, instead it went to the distributors, the likes of Facebook and Google, which led me to realise that “distribution is king.” There is so much more money in the market right now but so much harder to earn it.
How are things different for you in promoting a digital entity like Nuffnang, compared to an analogue entity like Colony?
The good thing about advertising is that it is intangible. Nobody can really say that your advertising product is better than mine because beyond numbers and reach, I can always spin something. But in a brick and mortar business, you can’t, what you are is what you are. People walk in, they see how they are treated, that’s what it is. You can’t fluff it to win.
What would you say is the lesson learned here, having dabbled deep with the digital platform?
Technology has made us feel pressure that we all need to be rich and successful. But the thing that
makes people happy is the people they have in their lives. People make other people happy. As long as we have people around us, we will be happy. I used to be able to read books and get very involved in a book that I lose track of time. I can’t remember the last time I had that feeling. I watch shows set in the 1960s and 1970s, and I think their life was pretty cool. If you set out to meet friends for a movie, if they were late you go ahead without them because you couldn’t contact them. Life was just simpler because development and technology have actually made humans sadder.