Hi-tech path to positive social change
Written on the 10 March 2009
By Matthew Ogg
Wayne Denning says the biggest challenge since starting Carbon Media Events three years ago is that the company has grown too fast. With a cost-effective business model and a philosophy for positive social change, the former native title manager has taken the opportunities to advance his diversified media content business. With a $1 million children’s game show underway to launch on Foxtel and Austar in June, Denning tells Brisbane Business News how it all became possible with a ‘can do’ attitude.
CARBON Media Events’ latest production Letterbox aims to make learning fun, and director Wayne Denning says it will help create economic opportunities for indigenous children.
Denning believes the idea to merge technology, media and entertainment under a single business model has helped the company develop rapidly in a short space of time, and while his goal is to make money he always has social improvement in mind.
“It’s about social entrepreneurship to the core, with a model that works and makes enough money to make it viable,” he says.
“The best way to benefit the disadvantaged is through education and in the challenging world of the 21st century media, you have to keep it interesting. Our show inspires and creates opportunities in terms of role models at schools, and it helps with spelling and grammar skills too.”
After less than three years in business Carbon Media has an annual revenue of more than $1.5 million and the development strategy is to keep cash flow buoyant while looking to diversify operations.
“Client business becomes cumulative and we’re expanding phase by phase, whilst actively trying to bring small to medium clients and have them regularly ticking through the place.
“We do web design, television shows such as Letterbox and our travel series Black Tracks, as well as smaller Government projects. We’re also in the process of diversifying into the real estate branding industry.”
Denning is acutely aware of the difficult economic situation globally, so his company is getting in shape to be business-ready, with strategic planning objectives in place to continue to hit key cash flow milestones at the right times.
Carbon Media usually has around 15 clients on the boil, and the list has grown organically through word of mouth. Being associated with the creative industries precinct at QUT has also helped to build networks and gain exposure.
“We’ve been able to achieve what we’ve done without really going to the marketplace or advertise who we are, so all we’ve been doing is getting a lean mean structure in place, says Denning.
“We’re looking for a niche market on a global scale - we produce cost-effective television across a range of platforms, and very much with a can-do attitude.”
After completing his arts degree majoring in psychology and political geography at the University of Central Queensland, Denning went on to work for the Federal government in Canberra for eight years with land rights advocacy and legal aid.
In 2004 he completed his MBA at QUT with a focus on entrepreneurship, strategy and governance.
It was in the 1990s that he hatched the Carbon Media business model, but at the time it was difficult to enter the market without substantial support conceptually and technologically.
“But in the last few years we’ve seen technological opportunities democratised, as individuals are much more able to produce their own content online, with improved capabilities and internet speeds,” says Denning.
“Five years ago, what we’re doing now just wouldn’t have been possible.”
The company’s philosophy is ‘born globally’ and last year it was a finalist for the United Nations Media Peace Prize in New York.
“We have the ability to look beyond our shores because of our model, and we’re actively seeking strategic partnerships with people that are like minded, with a collective approach.
“The fact of the matter is that heavily promoting our content on the internet gives us global reach, and we have the desire to get content like Letterbox onto international TV.”
One of the advantages of the Letterbox production is its Brisbane-based design, which differentiates itself from the traditional media centre of Sydney.
“Everyone in the show is from Queensland, from the business design, the artwork, through to the broadcast team, with a good attitude. We’re here because we’re looking for non-traditional areas with a diverse background,” he says.
“And 2009 is going to be an exciting year of opportunity for Carbon Media, as we continue to cement our place in Queensland.”
The launch of Letterbox will be heavily promoted in June, and Denning is urging VIPs from the public and private sector to get along.
“We’d like to get the Governor General to come and we’re going to try and get Kevin Rudd there. You’ve got to ask, it’s his hometown after all,” he says.