Meet Shingy, AOL’s ‘Digital Prophet’

Meet Shingy, AOL’s ‘Digital Prophet’

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The New Yorker profiles Australian born Shingy, AOL's digital prophet who gets paid to jet around the world attending conferences and sharing his 'brain farts'. Tough gig.


Shingy believes in storytelling — more story, less telling. A story can be anything — text or image, six seconds or thirteen hours.

According to Shingy, we are no longer living in the age of information; it’s the age of social, and social is all about conversations. How does Shingy know? Because he is a digital prophet. Literally.

His business card has a microchip embedded in it, and it reads “Digital Prophet, AOL.” It also says “David Shing,” but, unless you knew him when he was a kid in Australia, you should just call him Shingy, which is also his Twitter handle and his URL. AOL pays him a six-figure salary for—for doing what, exactly?

“Watching the future take shape across the vast online landscape,” Shingy says. “I fly all around the world and go to conferences.” Last month, he was in Singapore, Brazil, and Germany. “I listen to where media is headed and figure out how our brands can win in that environment.”

In 2002, AOL had more than twenty-five million subscribers; it now has fewer than two and a half million. Shingy calls it “a company in transition.”

“There is no typical day for me,” Shingy, who is forty-four, said. “Which, if you think about it, means that today is pretty typical.”

He arrived at AOL headquarters in the Village wearing black nail polish and high-top sneakers with leather wings. His jacket, T-shirt, and pants were black, and he had decorated them with wide stripes of white paint. He wears his hair up and out, like Phyllis Diller or Beetlejuice.

“You’d be surprised how easy it is to get it to stay like this, actually—a blow-dry and then a quarter-size dab of product,” Shingy explained. “It’s all in the cut, not the styling.” He ran into a Ward Cleaver-ish advertising executive named Jim Norton. “My man!” Shingy said, offering his trademark three-part handshake, ending in a hug.

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