Mobile Fix – December 12

Apps still evolving

We have a view that apps are the CDs of mobile content; a clear winner over the ‘analog’ mobile web where so many sites still don’t work well for smartphone. But eventually the hunger for a stream will switch attention from apps just as they did from CDs. Notifications are the clear portender of this evolution, even if we don’t yet know what form the stream will take.

As ever, looking at China gives us a glimpse of an alternative to the western user experience. This long post from a US mobile guy working in China is fascinating and there is a lot to learn from his various examples. For instance the idea there is still life in voice input and QR codes is interesting, especially when you see the problems they are solving for Chinese users.

At LeWeb this week the webs inventor Tim Berners Lee spoke up in the apps vs web debate and – unsurprisingly – comes down on the side of the web. He makes the point that closing content up in apps make collaboration and sharing harder.

Deep Linking, one of the ways that apps are evolving, goes some way to addressing this. This is a good summary of the current state of deep linking. Again China is a good place to see some interesting examples. And Google – who have more to lose than most if apps win over the web – are pushing deep linking with new ways to benefits from deep linking in Android apps.

There are other ways to enrich the app experience and Layer give good examples of how their native communications make apps more useful.

If you are interested in user experience – and you really should be – its worth finding some time to read this design class that looks at Maps to make some key points about design. After seeing the attention to detail needed to get these things right, maybe brands will stop hiring their ad agency to do throwaway $20k apps and get some expert advice.

Talking of maps a new report on Googles mobile woes* says that Google Maps only has 100m monthly active users on the 400m iPhones in use. Being the default can be enough for a good enough product, even if there is a better one available. The Homescreen project shows Google maps is on 39% of homescreens versus 36% for Apple maps.

And Ben Evans makes the point that much of Google services aren’t that useful to civilians.

* We don’t subscribe to the Information so haven’t read this report – if anyone can share it with us we would be really grateful.

Smart newTV

The new Ofcom report shows how the UK is now the worlds most advanced digital market – more money spent by consumers on ecommerce that anywhere else. And more money spent online by brands than any other country.

We are also the country with the most smart TVs; 22% of homes claim to have one and 84% are connected to the internet – so 18% of UK homes can watch Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon etc on their big screens. That’s not including PlayStations and xBoxes . Or Chromecast and Amazon Fires.

In the US Chromecast is doing really well and this chart shows how it is outperforming Apple TV. In the UK retail support is good with buyers rewarded with a Google Play voucher and a 3 month trail of NowTV. A Fix reader tells us that when you watch YouTube via the Chromecast the ads now play – so Google are selling TV ads in around about sort of way.

The FT asks whether streaming will lead to a new golden age of TV with Netfix and Amazon commissioning shows as well as YouTube and Vimeo encouraging new talent.

With Sky now selling TV with postcode targeting and Virgin introducing dynamic ad insertion brands can now use TV in a different smarter way –albeit with limited reach.

In its usual click bait fashion Business Insider declare TV is over, based on a range of US data about cord cutters. We don’t think that’s true but things are changing and a King Canute approach won’t work. There is lots of potential for brands to be early and be smart. Will we see a new golden age of TV advertising too?

Year in Review

Lots of looking back at 2014, inevitably at this time of year. It’s worth looking at how the key players see the year;

You Tube celebrate some of the years memes with their most famous YouTubers- who tend to be unrecognizable to anyone over 20

Twitter uses hashtags to show the key moments of the year and the perspective of an eclectic list of 20 celebs –from Lady Gaga to Gary Linekar via Bollywood start Amitabh Bachchan

Facebook has a video pulling together celebs and news – plus a bit of ice bucket challenge and you can did deeper on some key topics and events

Our key takeout is that these are no longer tech companies – they are media companies that both reflect and define culture.

Quick Reads

This is a really good look at how Facebook have transformed themselves into a major player in adtech.  And just how well positioned they now are to fight Google for the money moving from TV.

The Chinese are coming – 2 of the biggest digital media revenue companies and 4 of the fastest growing.

Wired digs into the point we keep making – most of the dotcom ideas were actually smart – they were just a decade too early.

Facebook are doing really well in video and making life difficult for YouTube. But smart brands know you need both – and that there is a lot of reach elsewhere on the Open Web

Too many people still lump tablets with mobile when all the evidence suggests tablets tend to be used in the home. So they should be considered as desktop alternatives. Google are recognizing this by focusing on context rather than devices. It’s worth checking to see whether your team are looking at tablets separately or are they distorting your data by treating them as mobile.

Monitise have aggregated lots of good data on mobile money.

The FT looks at the new social apps – and tell us that ello is doing well amongst female impersonators. Now that is niche.

Mobile Internet is worth £73billion to the major European economies.

Finally….Buzzfeed have a great listicle that proves that 2014 is the future.

Mobile Fix- December 5

Own Goal?

The moves in the Quad Play space we talked about last week continue, with rumours that Vodafone will take Blinkbox off Tescos’ hands to accelerate their move to video content. Blinkbox has had a lot of investment from Tesco when their management were focused in the potential threat from Amazon rather than the more urgent disruption from Aldi etc. This could be a good deal, which when added to the content Vodafone already offers to mobile customers (Netflix, Spotify and Sky Movies) and with a settop box would catapult them into the battle with Sky, BT and Talk Talk.

There are also rumours of a much bigger move by Vodafone; a takeover of Virgin owner Liberty Global which would give them a significant base of TV customers as well as their broadband network.

One area that will be impacted by these changes are the upcoming negotiations for the Premiership TV rights. BT changed the game by winning a chunk of games – surprising everyone – and used this to launch their TV offer and aggressively compete for broadband. If, as seems likely, they do end up with a mobile operator their appetite for football will increase.  The same applies for Vodafone.

In our opinion it’s the mobile rights that are more interesting.  News Group have the digital rights now having paid around £20m. That was apparently an increase on the previous deal when Yahoo had the desktop rights and ESPN bought the mobile rights – which they struggled to monetise.

And it looks like it may have paid off for News Group. Digital subscribers to the Sun have doubled to 225k – with the Times reporting profit for the first time since 2001, so the Paywall seems to be working but growth in subscribers is slowing. How much of this growth is driven by the football is debatable, but £7.99 a month for the Sun and Footie seems reasonable value.

We have often suggested that GAFA could be bidders as Google and Apple look at their TV ambitions. As YouTube moves to a subscription model what better case study than the way Sky built their business on the back of the Premiership? And we still feel that content could become an Anchor for Apple – although they currently seem to prefer to retail other peoples rights in music, games and film.

The FT look at the main rights and how the balance could shift between Sky and BT. This time around the mobile rights are going to be worth a lot more and we can forsee more bidders. But as News Group have shown, you need a subscription revenue model to get the real value – ad revenue is just a nice bonus.

Ad Avoiders

Whilst a surprising number of people choose to us adblockers most ad avoiding is less calculated, More and more content providers are choosing to offer ad free services for subscribers – Spotify, Netflix etc. And if you buy or rent content through iTunes or Amazon its ad free. And YouTube are moving to an ad free subscription model.

This opinion piece from betaworks summarises it well – the rich can avoid advertising through subscription, whilst the poor will just have to put up with ads. You can even imagine that Spotify source the worst ads to drive people to upgrade from their free service.

This article makes the point that we have made advertising so cheap it’s no longer that attractive for many publishers – especially when people also block ads too. But it makes the very good point that, whilst inventory is virtually infinite, peoples attention is fixed. And consequently, quite rare. 

And that’s what all marketers really want to buy  – the attention of the right people. There is a media issue here – being willing to pay the right price for the right amount of attention. And a creative one too; having just the right message to make the most of that attention.

App Ads

Wall Street takes a real interest in advertising, given the number of adtech companies that have floated as well as GAFA dominating the market in terms of sheer size.

Barclays have released a fascinating report that looks at many of the big tech players and makes a good job of explaining the market – including the rise of programmatic where they are bullish. Their conclusion is that the market will reward the biggest players and that Facebook and Google are likely to grow at the expense of the rest. This supports our view that brands should be maximizing their investment with Facebook and Google and trying to understand how to make the most of these 2 huge opportunities.

Despite protestations the key drivers of Facebook growth –and most of the rest – is still app download advertising – although both Google and Facebook are very focused on getting brands on board.

TechCrunch have a good look at the app download ad market and get into some detail on what Facebook, Twitter and Google are doing to improve their attractiveness to app developers. Fabric from Twitter and Parse from Facebook are really smart attempts to get closer to developers and bake themselves into the app landscape 

Of course Google and Apple could change this market overnight were they ever to sort out their appstores. It is amazing that Google can’t use their unrivalled expertise in search to make Play easier for users to find things. And it’s equally amazing that Apple, with their obsession over user experience, leave users to stumble through long lists of apps, in seemingly random categories.

A smart VC, that used to be at Facebook, has a good look at how Facebook are using Parse and think it has huge potential.

There are huge revenues at stake in this area and anyone who can help improve performance can make a lot of friends 

Mobile Only

The data on Black Friday and Cyber Monday show a huge increase in mobile usage. But it’s just not surprising anymore. More big brands are spending money on mobile – but that’s is only natural.

The surprise is that other brands seem to have missed the fact 35 million people in the UK are using a smartphone to rewire how they live their lives. Eric Schmidt makes this point well when he talks of the world moving from Mobile First to Mobile Only

Benedict Evans has a new blog post where he talks of the New Questions in Mobile. This is really interesting stuff and we’re excited about the future possibilities of cards, notifications and deep linking between apps. But the war is over and Mobile has won – there are just too many brands acting like Japanese soldiers who didn’t get the memo and continue to fight the old battles.

For the first time in a long time brands can get real competitive advantage by being much much better at this new stuff than their rivals. Let the laggards focus on their big Christmas telly ad whilst you unlock the value of your data with smart advertising that delivers the right message at the right time to millions of your customers.

Quick Reads

At a Ridley Scott premiere this week we were reminded of a quote we heard that the tech people like Scott use in epic movies, only takes a few years to arrive on everyones laptops. The new Beyonce video demonstrates how tech is transforming the creative world, with a great film shot entirely on an iPhone.

Blending retail with tech and mobile is still more talked about than real but a new eBay initiative shows what is possible.

The Chinese influence on new developments in messaging continues – everyone wants to be the western WeChat.

Google have a good report on viewability

Finally… one simple benefit of digital is that you can now learn from the best people in any field. Follow them on Twitter, read their decks on Slideshare and find interviews on YouTube. This long interview with Reid Hoffman (Linked In & PayPal) is very good. 

 

Mobile Fix – November 28

WhatApps

As we mentioned before we play WhatApps at the start of any workshop we do; people pass around their unlocked phone so others can see what apps are on their homescreen. As well as reminding people just how personal their phone is, people see that people tend to have a number of the really popular apps and a few that are very personal to them.

Twitter is the latest media company to take an interest in what apps you have downloaded. By doing this they claim to deliver tailored content that you might be interested in. This plays to their need to better engage new and occasional users who don’t follow many people and hence tend to see little content when they use Twitter

In a happy coincidence, this same data can also be used to better target advertising and equips Twitter with a stronger argument to win spend from the app download campaigns that still drive a large proportion of mobile ad spend.

We think there is good learning for any brand from the apps that have been downloaded. In the old days we believed that knowing which TV shows people watched, and the newspapers and magazines they read, was a much richer insight into people than their age or social class. Now apps probably define people as well or perhaps even better than much of the other data available.

Apple and Google have the best knowledge here through their, appstores. Facebook have a good idea through the apps that use the social login. And Yahoo with the acquisition of Flurry and Aviate, are building their understanding.

And this is why peoples homescreens are so interesting. Betaworks probably started this with their study of people sharing their homescreen on Twitter and Instagram. Now they have launched an app that makes it easy for you to share your homescreen. #Homescreen takes your screenshot and posts it to Twitter and adds it to a website, where people can hover over the apps to see how popular they are. You can see ours on the site here.

We find more and more people are starting to organize their apps and for many people the home screen is where the most used apps are – so this should become a great source of data on which apps are getting the most traction.

Quad play 

The revival of BT continues and they are believed to be in the market for a mobile operator and either O2 or EE could soon be swallowed up so BT can offer their customers a complete comms package.

The mobile operators have pushed broadband in the past but none have made that much progress, with O2 handing their broadband customers over to Sky. EE have preserved and Vodafone are now taking it seriously.

Virgin have been very aggressive and their cross selling is shaking up the market as they use the experience of new owner Liberty to focus on a Quad Play – Mobile and fixed line telephony, home broadband and TV.

It’s the TV service that has really turned BT around and TalkTalk have used YouView to offer a reasonable TV service which has given them around 1m TV customers. They are switching their MVNO from Vodafone to O2 and are being very aggressive on pricing 

Vodafone hinted they are going to offer TV services bundled with their home broadband and they are getting closer and closer to Sky – who have long lusted after a mobile offer. 

So what does this mean for brands? Advertising has never been that significant for any of these players when compared to subscriber revenues – in the last quarter Sky took £104m in ad revenue against subscriber revenue of £1.6bn – but technology will change that.

Sky has started to make money from their AdSmart offer where brands can target individual postcodes (and targeted TV is getting traction in the US) Weve is now starting to drive mobile ad revenues for the mobile operators. And as cross device tracking improves – take a look at what Device9 are doing – the ability to run activity on both targeted TV and the smartphones of viewers watching that TV show will be feasible.  That sort of opportunity will drive significant  revenues and as the operators have to compete on price to attract and retain customers, ad revenue will become much more important to them

(Good background on the Quad play here)

Dialogue Marketing

Last week we talked about the pieces falling into place as mobile matures, and now its time to focus on what brands can get from this mass market opportunity.

Like Marc Andreessen we believe that much of the thinking of the dotcom boom was actually quite sensible – it’s just that the scale of users weren’t there. With 35 million people in the UK using smartphones, digital is now both mass market and mature.

One line of thinking that we really believed in was the idea of 1 to 1 marketing. Championed by Peppers and Rodgers this approach argued that we could talk to people as individuals. Lots of email marketing has it’s roots in this thinking (although very little gets it right) and we developed the idea further to come up with Dialogue Marketing, where the ability to see some ones actions (their digital body language) also informs how you talk with them. DLKW Dialogue was so named to try and live up to this and we did some really interesting work across all digital channels.

But digital advertising spend then was a fraction of what it is now and CRM was another silo, often handled by another client team / and or agency. 

Now the idea of fusing CRM and digital advertising is really feasible. Why? Because all the messaging gets delivered on the same device –a smartphone. And the CRM data on existing customers can be fused with first and third party data on individuals to target digital ads. Equally CRM can now be actioned through social (to some extent) and through app notifications

Custom audiences on Facebook and Twitter are hugely powerful tools – enabling your existing customers to be targeted – and helping find lookalikes. Yet few brands are using the services – perhaps because the idea of paying to reach people who have already given you permission to email them seems a little extravagant. Yet with Mailchimp saying typical open rates struggle to get over 20%, new ways to reactivate these users can be a really good investment.

It is getting easier to track people across devices and across channels. And many marketers recognize that getting more purchasing from existing customers can be a more effective approach than trying to find new users. 

Of course advertising has always reached both existing customers as well as prospective ones. In smart digital advertising the level of targeting sophistication means brands can choose whether or not to speak with existing customers. But in most cases taking advantage of what you know about an existing customer should make driving a sale easier. 

The one thing needed to deliver Dialogue Marketing though, is a range of creative messaging that fit the targeting – if you just give everyone the same message then you are probably wasting money on the targeting. This is still the Achilles heel of programmatic.

Quick Reads 

QR Codes just will not die. Despite many experts declaring them over, businesses are still finding ways to use them. Powa are trialing payments with Tesco using QR codes and the airlines find they work really well for boarding passes. A new firm is pushing a modified version of QR codes but we wonder whether they can get people to use yet another app.

Getting one of the YouTube stars to wax lyrical about your product to their millions of fans has got a lot of brands and agencies very excited. And the pay rate has got the YouTube stars pretty worked up too. Now the Advertising Standards Authority has dampened this enthusiasm, pointing out you have to make it clear when a brand has paid for a mention. Lots of native advertising is running the risk of an ASA sanction.

Dark Social is a huge factor in sharing. This is the new term for sharing done outside Facebook, Twitter and the other trackable social platforms. It includes email and messaging, which is how lots of content gets shared. 

Last week we talked about Firefox changing its search partner to Yahoo and speculation is increasing around the Apple relationship with Google search that we mentioned. Now we see this pop up when you leave a Yahoo page on Safari. It doesn’t actually work, but it’s an interesting tactic.

Facebook have launched a new initiative to help app developers, including some funding

Finally… We see music as the canary in the coalmine for digital content. What happens to music is a pretty good glimpse of the future. So the way the US charts are changing is fascinating – including streaming and YouTube views as well as purchases and radio play gives you a much richer data set. And that data will now be a much better indicator of just how popular a track is as frequency of consumption is monitored as well. How might consumption data change the way other digital content is value and funded? 

 

Mobile Fix – November 21

Mobile Matures? 

This week feels like a switch was flipped. Or a target reached. Or is it just that mobile has finally grown up? 

A number of the things we have been predicting finally happened this week. Now these predictions weren’t like our (cheesy)  2002 Futurology piece where we called a fair bit of todays tech enabled world. 

These are more logical next steps or inevitabilities. But they have taken longer to happen than we expected.

Google use mobile optimised as a signal in ranking.

Google have finally announced that they are going to tell users which sites are mobile optimized. And they are going to experiment with using this data as a signal for ranking. So Google will now reward those people who have invested in their mobile experience. And (gently) start to penalize those who haven’t

If you think about it, Google has one key job; help the user find what they are looking for as quickly as possible.  Everything in the Google armoury has been focused on this – using your location, your previous search history, landing pages score etc. But until now Google has ignored one key factor – your device. Knowing you are using a smartphone and returning answers that are not mobile optimized doesn’t make any sense for the user.  Or for Google. But now they are correcting this anomaly and a huge amount of SEO work is about to be made redundant. 

If you don’t have a mobile site, now would be a good time to get one. And if you do have one, you should be constantly testing to make sure it’s as good as it can be – too many mobile sites are designed by desktop web people and are not really focused on touch and fat fingers. ( 

Google kicked out by Firefox

When we talk about GAFA and vertical stacks, we cover the way Google have been eased out of iOS. When the appstore was launched Google were baked in with 3 key integrations; the YouTube app that Apple built, Google maps as default and Google as the default choice is the Safari browser. As we all know Apple have evicted Google from Maps and if you want a YouTube app you have to go download the one Google made. Both have had an impact on Google, but they are still pretty big in Maps and Video on iOS 

We have long argued that, at some point, Apple will kick Google out of search by changing the default setting for search in Safari. They added DuckDuckGo, so the 4 options are now Bing, DuckDuckGo, Google and Yahoo, with Google getting the default tick – for which they pay around $3bn. And we are convinced that Bing and Yahoo would happily pay more.

Firefox have tested this scenario out and in just a few weeks time Yahoo will be the default search engine for the Firefox browser. We can’t imagine that both Bing and Yahoo aren’t pitching a similar deal to Apple every single day.

How long before Apple decide they would rather not have Google know what all their users are searching for? And such a deal could help Apple with legislators like the EU worry about the Google ‘dominance’ of search; by making the default setting an alphabetic one they could rebalance the market.

We’ve been advising our clients to focus more attention on Bing and Yahoo SEO for a while now – you should start too.

Apple have released some advice for developers focusing on the Watch; essential reading around on what can and can’t be done. The key thing for us is that the iPhone is heavily involved in most possibilities so as to leverage the more powerful CPUs and longer life of the phone. So the Watch is a peripheral rather than a wearable. Slightly pedantic I know, but we have to develop experiences that use both devices, not just the Watch.

And last in our told you so list, we now have some more good proof that mobile advertising can and does build brands. We laboured against the belief digital is purely a response medium 10 years ago and it’s slightly frustrating that the same mis-informed nonsense has been trotted out about mobile. But a good case study from Havas and Sky proves what many people have known all along – you can drive brand metrics and response metrics with mobile advertising.

You just need to think carefully about how you use the medium and recognize that an investment in good creative is just that – an investment. One that usually pays off.

Future of apps

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of debate about how apps are going to evolve. There is data showing that time spent in mobile apps is now more than the time spent using the browser on both desktop and mobile.

The Wall Street Journal take the view this means that the web is dying as the walled gardens of GAFA and others dominate. (We would argue that much of this time is actually games and music where one would have used a different device before smartphones).

The very nature of these apps is changing as the latest versions of both the Apple and the Android OS enable notifications purely etc to do more, reducing the need to open the apps. We pointed to this smart thinking about what that means for brand apps and one of the people who initiated the debate has come back to say his thinking as misinterpreted – apps are not dying – they are just evolving. 

Both these pieces are worth reading as is this other viewpoint what the web is pretty resilient and could still come out on top.

Just like they say in Hollywood, no-one know anything and brands should remain nimble and avoid making moves based purely on technology. Instead focus on creating valuable experiences for your customers on the devices they choose to use and in the channels where they spend their time.

Quick Reads

Flurry have some new research showing time spent in apps now exceeds time spent watching TV in the US. This doesn’t mean one should ditch TV but where are the examples of people looking to link these two hugely powerful media? There is huge potential to marry the power of TV with an immersive mobile experience; essentially delivering part 2 of the commercial.

Interesting look at how GAFA (and Microsoft) are developing their vertical stacks. And how their value has doubled in 3 years.

Snapchat say their ads work even though there is no targeting. Reach – combined with the targeting inherent in the channel – can be enough

Apple are poised to launch Beats and will use their next OS update to get it onto everyones iPhone 

Retailers continue to test how mobile can improve the instore experience. Target are trying in store navigation

And one of the major players in Beacons is rolling out new features to try and make it simpler to implement this technology.

BAT – the Chinese GAFA – have a way of investing in promising startups and using their reach and muscle to accelerate the growth. Could they bring this Kingmaker strategy to the West?

It seems Apple are about to enter programmatic advertising – at least according to this press release which got taken down after a couple of hours. 

Finally …More proof that content is king.  A podcast has gone viral and is getting over a million downloads for each episode. We believe episodic content has huge potential in modern digital. Imagine a 3 minute video version of something like Hollyoaks published on Facebook at 12 noon every day with storylines expanded in Snapchat Stories. A weekly omnibus on YouTube. And each character has a rich social presence too.

It’s time for brands to reinvent soap operas. We are developing an interesting format and would love to talk with potential partners and collaborators.

 

Mobile Fix – November 14

It’s all about Video

“Five years ago, Facebook primarily consisted of text …if you fast forward five years, it’s probably going to be mostly video.”

Mark Zuckerberg

We missed this quote from a couple of weeks ago, but along with Susan Wojicki statement that over half of all YouTube viewing is now mobile this backs up our conviction that it’s now all about video. Now.

That’s why Yahoo bought BrightRoll – so they can continue to grow their display revenues and capitalize on the shift to online video spending by big brands. And look at the how the EMEA Yahoo team has so much experience in TV.

Some Yahoo investors seem to think that a merger with AOL would be a smart move as that would give the joint entity a third place position after Google and Facebook – but still some way behind. We tend to agree with this piece defending Marissa Mayer. With the hire of a top ad sales person from Amazon, the team seems well positioned. And this new buy shows they have a plan.

Video is display 2.0. It’s what brand advertisers love. It’s a format that elegantly and easily transitions from broadcast television to PC to mobile and even to wearables. This is why video is a key part of our strategy. 

It’s all about Music

Along with photos we see music as a key Anchor, something that GAFA have to offer to have a chance to keep people within their vertical stacks. We still have thousands of tracks in iTunes many of which aren’t on Spotify etc and migrating them to a new service is a lot of friction. The threat to the money Amazon made selling music CDs by Apples iTunes store arguably kicked off the tension between GAFA, and all now have strong music strategies.

The new Google service is Music Key and it builds on the often overlooked fact that YouTube is already the biggest source of music listening on digital. The new service looks strong – this analysis by Musically is a good read – and raises the bar for Apple and Beats.

They were helped in the PR battle by Taylor Swift pulling all her music from Spotify. Music Key has all Taylor Swifts old music but doesn’t have the new one either. Swift and her label contend that Spotify isn’t paying them anywhere near enough money, but Spotify disagree.

The Music industry is divided over the future; those who believe streaming is going to generate much more money for labels and artists are seen as overly optimistic by the rest, who think making money from selling recordings is over and its now all about live shows. 

The next stage in music is ad funded streaming and we expect that YouTube will continue to be a big player here as non subscribers watching music videos will still be pretty huge.  A combined Beats / iTunes radio is expected to launch with ad funded models early in 2015 and we’ll see whether brands can take advantage of this opportunity with better creative. Anyone who has spent any time listening to the ads on the free Spotify service may be not be that optimistic.

We can expect to see lots more exclusive windows of top artists new albums – see JayZ with Samsung and Beyonce with Apple – as the key players see the value of being able to offer something their rivals cannot.

The other players in music are also active; SoundCloud has raised quite a lot of money and have now signed a deal with Warner where the label gets paid whenever one of their tracks is featured in a mix or a DJ session.

And the original music start up LastFM – now owned by CBS – is still around and we understand they are going to focus on discovery with their fantastic Scrobbler technology, with the music delivery left to Spotify etc.

Retail

We talked last week of the activity in visual recognition and Fashion Tech. The other side of this coin is how retail are using visual recognition and mobile in general. As we have covered before, most of the big supermarkets are playing with Beacons but none feel ready to subject their shoppers to personalized messages – yet. Asda are the latest to trial the technology – and we know their colleagues from Walmart have been scouring Europe to see who is doing what.

In our view, the big opportunity is around personalized pricing as a way to counter the general cheapness of Lidl etc. The next Clubcard type step change in retail will be a big player using a ShopKick style service to deliver real time discounts, funded by the brands of course. 

The FT have an interesting round up of what retailers are doing including the Asda partnership with Zappar to celebrate Halloween.

Singles Day

The online shopping frenzy that Alibaba invented, took place this week and broke all the records. They took $9.3 billion – up by around 50% on last year and 43% of the orders were on mobile. To give that some context, Amazon takes $166million on an average day.

This is a fascinating look into how the Alibaba team ran the day – lots to learn.

Quick Reads

Sweden has embraced electronic money

Square are looking to exploit the shift to chip and pin cards in the US.

Amazon are commissioning more original programming – and so are Netflix.

Twitter have a new expression of their mission and want Wall Street to see they are bigger than they thought

Amazon are experimenting with using Taxis for delivery – the smart people at GetTaxi have been looking at that too

More smart thinking on the evolution of apps – how they are changing from destinations to distribution tools

Finally… if you want to read a good business book the FT have published a list of the best ones from the past few years.

Mobile Fix – November 7

Mobile Money

The word on Apple Pay seems positive in the US. As this article points out the rapid adoption is one of the key strengths of Apple.  And this well thought through post points out the strategic importance of Pay for Apple. Having tested all the key ingredients Apple could launch a fully ready product and they are taking advantage of the fact the upcoming switch to chip and pin requires everyone to install new POS terminal – (nearly) all of which will have NFC.

As we mentioned last week, US retailers have an alternative system – CurrentC – brewing and some stores have refused to accept Pay in the meantime – switching off the NFC terminals as it’s the only certain way to stop Pay. This interview with the CEO of CurrentC doesn’t suggest that Apple have much of a fight on their hands.

It’s hard to see anyone really countering Pay in the iOS ecology so I guess the opportunity for all these other Mobile Money players is Android, But can any get the scale to dominate? 

The obvious contenders are Google, Amazon & PayPal. It seems to have gone quiet at Google Wallet but we should expect some movement. And newly independent Paypal are still innovating – their One Touch payment is coming to Europe soon.

Amazon showed one strategy with their partnership with AllSaints. As well as being able to pay using your Amazon account, being a Prime member gets you free shipping.  As they get more sites using the Amazon pay button, an offline payments system makes more sense. But will high street retailers feel comfortable partnering with Amazon and sharing data on purchases 

As well as helping push payments this partnership is probably part of a bigger Amazon (stealth) push into fashion.

China

As the debate continues over how apps and mobile content evolve what can we learn from China? Their BAT, like our GAFA , are dominant and shaping the market. And finding the big switch to mobile something of a challenge.

Because of the great firewall that keeps US competitors like Google, Facebook & Twitter out of China, the Galapagos effect is interesting as it shows alternatives to the way our market is changing.

It’s the largest internet market by far – with 632m internet users it’s over the twice the size of the US (in second place with c270m users) – even though penetration is relatively low at 48%. When/if it gets to the UK figure of 90% the market would be over 1.2 billion users – the vast majority by that time on mobile.

The three big players in BAT (Baidu, Tencent & Alibaba) see messaging apps as the key to maintaining their dominance and both Alibaba and Baidu are investing heavily to compete with the Tencent owned WeChat and QQ.

These apps that have daily usage often have ‘smaller’ apps bundled within them; the most quoted example is a hotel booking app bundled in the Baidu maps. As linking between apps become more common we expect this focus on partnerships to grow in the West too.

Alibaba have taken another approach that has paid off really well. They invented the idea of Singles Day, where Chinese people who don’t have a partner treat themselves with some online shopping. Last year this event drove nearly $6bn in sales – twice the size of the US Black Friday and Cyber Monday – and with Alibaba sales up by 54% in the last quarter expectations are high for this November 11.

Of course just as the Chinese own lots of physical infrastructure in the west who is to say they don’t become equally acquisitive of digital businesses?

Visual recognition

One of the issues for the CurrentC people in their fight with Apple, is that their payments system uses QR codes and, despite that being hugely successful for Starbucks, it positions the product as a little dated. Even Google Goggles seem quite old hat now – but their acquisition of WordLens suggests they are still moving forward .

One area where there is lots of action is in FashionTech where a Shazam for clothes is the Holy Grail for many. Upmarket US department store Neiman Marcus have been quick to embrace mobile and have launched a new service called Snap Find Shop. Using a Canadian technology called Slyce, shoppers take snaps of clothes or pictures of clothes and the NM app shows you matching items.

That’s actually quite hard to pull off and this piece points out the difficulties andlooks at the various players – many of whom are in London.

One killer application of this tech is in making print catalogues and magazines shoppable. When Net a Porter launched their print magazine Porter they also launched a Layar powered app to make all the content shoppable. Other AR players like Blippar (who now own Layar) are active in this space too.

Mad Men/Math Men

It’s one of the most persistent clichés, but the tension between Mad Men and Math men gets repeated because it’s largely true.

The Chief Creative Officer of Facebook has made an impassioned plea for creative people (the talent celebrated in MadMen) to get more involved in the distribution of ads. He is right that at the moment the Math Men tend to drive the digital element and the benefits of right/left brain collaboration are lacking.

Too many creative people still dismiss digital as just banner ads and on their 20th anniversary they are getting a bit of a kicking. Somewhat unjustly really , as many very smart digital creatives have and continue to make them work for both brand and response. But too often they are left to the last minute and given to the most junior people. On mobile it’s even worse, as frequently desktop assets run unchanged  – just smaller – or are chopped up by mac jockies at the media network.

But there are better formats on mobile, as we find ways of integrating messages into the flow of peoples mobile stream.

Michael Wolff laments the loss of the old (Mad Men) advertising world here, but we remain optimistic – you can blend art and science and those brands that do can perform alchemy; turning the lead of small ad formats into the golf of customer attention and action.

We have been doing a lot of work looking at how Programmatic and Creative interface and we see a huge divide. And a huge opportunity.

The best way to improve any Programmatic campaign is by making the creative more relevant and more effective. As we develop our new project in this space we’re keen to talk with anyone who wants to see the two worlds realign. If you are interested get in touch.

Quick Reads 

Building on the Apps are the new CDs thought we shared last week Forrester have made 8 predictions  on how apps are going to change

And a look at how Messaging Apps are so addictive

An interesting look at how Facebook are approaching partners in Europe

More on the new Twitter developer tools Fabric

Good stats on the rapid rise of Mobile Search – you need to be getting this right, right now.

Finally – our favourite media remains Vanity Fair magazine which always has a great mix of insightful articles. This one on the Uber CEO is well worth reading

 

 

 

Mobile Fix – October 31

Apps; the CDs of Mobile?

As big music fans we were late into CDs. For quite a while after the launch of this “revolutionary new format” we stuck with buying the Vinyl albums. But eventually the convenience – and the difficulty getting a vinyl copy – saw us make the transition and now we’ve more CDs than Vinyl. 

Of course making the music digital led to a subtle change in how music was listened to; in the car a CD changer meant songs could be listened to randomly. Then along came the iPod and burning CDs to iTunes – there even used to be businesses offering this service – soon led to the Shuffle and Genius. More songs played randomly. Which essentially laid the way for streaming, where the song is the hero and the album concept devalued. 

Could we look at Apps the same way? Is web content the “analogue original” existing as destinations and do Apps package that content in a more convenient way? Are homepages of apps the mobile equivalent of CD racks? Now notifications and cards are staring to devalue the app experience by reducing the need to visit the app.

So the question is – what’s the Mobile equivalent of streaming? Will Apps no longer be needed as all the content and the functionality is distributed through the stream of notifications and cards? Do we see a near future where the home screen blends notifications with Tweets and social updates , mediated by some all powerful algorithm?

Given that Google Now gives us a glimpse of this future and the Apple home screen is evolving in a similar direction will GAFA control these streams? Is the power law of the top 25 apps coming from a small number of big players going to consolidate?

We continue to advise clients that they need to think through how they work with GAFA – partnerships and distribution across these big players – and Twitter is going to be key. Having Uber feature as an option within Google Maps is a huge win for them – helped by a $250 VC investment – and a disadvantage to their competitors.

There is lots happening with mobile content and services and just building an app doesn’t seem enough anymore. Having a Card strategy feels like a smart next step so that, as more opportunities to distribute your content/service arise, you have some learning on what works and what doesn’t.

CDs promised a better way to consume content but ended up a stepping stone to the atomisation of music. Are apps going the same way?

Lots more smart thinking on this topic in this piece – which ends with more good articles to read.

Twitter

Cards are probably most mature in Twitter and we think their new rapprochement with developers is likely to see more uses of Cards. How Fabric works with cards remains to be seen though.

One significant move from Twitter is to use the phone number as a way to sign in to apps, with Twitter handing the SMS authentication. This seems a win win as it makes it easier for the user and the app developer, and give developers an alternative to the Faustian pact they must do with Facebook and Google over the data shared on social sign ins. Fred Wilson sums up this sign in issue well.

But whilst the industry see the new tools as a step forward Wall Street still worry about user growth and it seems inevitable Twitter is going to make some changes so that new users can get more value from the service more quickly.

Twitter wants to create an “immersive experience” for users who do not log in and eventually generate revenue from promoted tweets “across the entire mobile app ecosystem”, Mr Costolo said..

We still think that curated lists could be a way to solve this problem; reading the tweets from a list of Leeds United players, fans and journalists for example would give people a quick easy way to follow the current Elland Road soap opera. Danny Sullivan makes a similar point when he argues that people should be able to follow interests rather than users. 

Whatever Twitter decide to do, they have to hope it works for both new users and for existing ones. Whilst lots of people – including us – love Twitter and find it really valuable, these days it is easy to lose traction and relevance can be lost really quickly. If they are going to offer New Twitter they should make sure Classic Twitter remains available too.

Facebook

The Facebook results didn’t disappoint many people, and they now have 456 million mobile only users.

This scale is encouraging their efforts to woo publishers and they are suggesting that media companies use Facebook as their primary distribution means for mobile, rather than bother with a proprietary app.

As we discussed earlier this could be one future and there are lots of upsides for publishers being in the stream rather than a diversion from it, but there are quite a few downsides too. As Wired point out, do we want Facebook to control everything we read or watch online? News Corp have been quick to say no, not ever but they largely exist outside of social as their firewall makes sharing their content pretty pointless.

Publishers need a smarter strategy around distribution. (The plan to sell the Guardian and Telegraph together is interesting too)

Money

Apple Pay is up and running in the US and seems to be quickly getting traction – Tim Cook talked of 1 million users in the first few days and we hear that’s now around 3 million.

But there is some resistance. A consortium of retailers are developing their own mobile payments service called CurrentC. The only problems seems to be that it won’t be ready unto next year, it uses QR codes and is quite complicated for both the user and the retailer. Oh, and it’s been hacked already.

These retailers are refusing to accept Apple Pay and some are even disabling their NFC terminalsTurning away people who want to use Apple Pay probably isn’t a huge issue right now but as the adoption grows it could be risky. Already other retailers are making a point that they do take Pay.

A primary point in CurrentC is that the retailers get data on what people are buying and that’s valuable – as the ShopKick acquisition showed – but given Apple are pushing privacy and not using any data from Pay, this could be a hard sell to consumers. But the other ambition is to reduce the fees paid to Credit Cards firms 

Techcrunch have a good look at CurrentC here.

Quick Reads

Is no news on iPad sales, good news? Probably not.

Facebook have launched another new app. Rooms. Described by the Guardian as reinventing the 1990s chat room you don’t have to use your real name which is further evidence that Mark Zuckerberg is less fixated on people having a single identity

An interesting way of looking at the Vertical Stack model we apply to GAFA

YouTube to offer an add free subscription model. Music Key is the Google play in music streaming and this report suggests it will have a big impact.

Is Google an Artificial Intelligence business? Good look at AI from Kevin Kelly 

A good Internet of Things video from Qualcomm

FinallyTim Cook has come out. It seems a little sad that this is seen as news

 

 

Mobile Fix – October 17

The Chinese are coming

At IAB Engage this week Martin Sorrel warned the audience that the Chinese are coming, and pointed out the size of Alibaba and the growth of Xiami as two examples. Fix readers know this and also that the size of BAT (Baidu Alibaba & Tencent) is based on a market where internet penetration is around half that of the UK, so lots more growth to come. Of course not having Google, eBay, Facebook and Twitter to compete with, helps this stellar growth. 

But the really interesting thing about China is that this Galapagos effect – an ecology cut off from the rest of the world – has inspired some fascinating business models. So there is a lot to learn from China, other than merely the growth story.

As this chart shows the messaging apps across Asia are developing business models other than taking ads and its likely Snapchat will be amongst the first to monetise their reach as a platform for other content and services.

And whilst Jony Ives may think that Xiaomi are little more than copycats this HBR piece shows they have an innovative business model that may prove more resilient than Apples.

If you want to dig a little deeper on China this report from Campaign Asia is worth a look.

New Devices

With Samsung, Google and Apple all launching new product this week we have seen each brand get their 15minutes of social buzz before the next launch. First the Samsung Note 4 had everyone extoling its virtues. Then along comes Google with their new Nexus 6 – even bigger than the 6+ their new tablet Nexus 9 and the new version of Android, Lollipop. Early indications are that the new devices are impressive and the look and feel of Lollipop is a clear improvement and the other features sound promising.

And then there are the new iPads – with lots of upgrades and some data on sales to counter the theory sales are flattening out.

The Xiaomi model of longer production windows for their product does look smart as they profit from falling component costs– what are Google and Apple going to do with the 7 that makes people what to upgrade? And what will the next iPads do?

Clearly the iPhone and the top end Androids work as Veblen goods – status symbols – or at least as social objects; many people have raised bendgate when they have seen our new iPhone 6 and we know people comment on the size of the 6+.

But because most tablets aren’t actually mobile- they stay at home or in the office – they don’t cause comment and therefore don’t act as social objects – so is the desire to upgrade to the very latest model less powerful?

And because so few people bother to make tablet optimized apps- a huge mistake in our opinion – is there less need to upgrade to benefit from the new version? 

Should ad fraud stop you investing in digital?

The recurring problem with fraud in digital advertising, is polluting the discussion over how much investment brands should be switching over to digital. Whilst the argument is clear – as consumers change their habits, so should brands that want to keep up – the background noise over fraud and viewability is a diversion.

The problem is that just as the sheer volume of money attracts VCs to invest in AdTech, it also attracts criminals. So the arms race between the adtech that can verify your spend is going in the right places and the bad guys is heating up.

This week we heard two great examples that demonstrate the problem. You have probably seen the meme of your porn name? The name of your first pet is the first name and your mothers maiden name is the surname – so mine is Pluto Clement. Great fun, but everyone now knows two answers to the most common security questions online.

Then at an event this week discussing fraud, one of the audience made the sensible comment that where a campaign is measured against a purchase, fraudulent views and invisible impression below the fold etc don’t really have any effect as the bots don’t buy things.

It turns out they do.

Filling forms online is pretty straightforward to a fraudster but they also have lists of stolen credit cards with which to make the purchase.  Eventually the sale will be cancelled and the money refunded to the person whose card is used, but the fraudster is long gone with the CPA commission.

Now having the right partners and paying attention to how your campaigns are being managed can protect you from most if not all of this. And not investing in digital for these reasons is no more sensible than pulling your money off TV because people do go make cups of tea when the ads are on.

On the panel at the Facebook upfronts this week I made the point that we now have an unprecedented situation; for the first time for a long time it is possible to get a significant competitive advantage on your sector.

Your rivals have the same distribution as you do, similar brand awareness and a product that is probably top parity. So gaining advantage has been hard.

But we are now at a point when being much better at mobile and social can give you a clear advantage.

Your competitors’ agencies are probably just as good at making the most of ITV etc as are yours. 

But if your team can get more reach, attention, engagement and, yes, sales from Facebook, Google etc then that’s a great place to be. 

What are you waiting for?

Quick Reads

The Mobile Marketing Association say that brands should invest 16% of their ad budget. Now the right figure for any brand depends on their objectives and strategy, but it’s clear most (all) brands should be spending more. What will you do if your main competitor gets there first?

Apple looking to revitalise their iAds offering with retargeting.

Benedict Evans has shared a good presentation on the Industrial Internet – another name for the Internet of Things

Are Yahoo going to invest their new found wealth in AdTech?

Twitter payments launched in France 

Delivery hots up – Amazon launch same day delivery with Pass My Parcel and Google extend Google Express

Pinterest is gearing up to be the next big ad opportunity. Are your agency partners geared up to advise you on this? Really?

Niche is an interesting now type of agency

Finally… no Fix next week as we are off to Cornwall for half term. But there will be a RCKSCK Friday Edit later today and next week, so if you’d like some tips on how to get the most out of London sign up here.

Mobile Fix – October 10

Privacy comes up more and more in our work. In the last couple of weeks two clients have mentioned feeling slightly disturbed by the way data is being used in marketing. One, a German, felt quite strongly that brands that ‘overuse’ data run the risk of alienating customers. 

Which reminded us of Google location – just click on www.google.co.uk/locationhistory/ and, if you are logged into Google, up will pop a map like the one above, with a calendar, so you can see exactly where you went on a particular day. (The random day I picked from last summer happened to be the last time I went to Facebook and – being before Citymapper launched in that city – I was probably the only person to turn up on the bus)

You can also run it as a movie, showing exactly how you travelled around that day – presuming you had a smartphone with Google turned on. Of course Apple also know quite a lot as does Facebook who are poised to launch hyper local location based ads.

Now we are all watched over in many other ways; if you drive in London your number plate is recorded and checked constantly to see if you have paid the congestion charge/ taxed your car/ have valid insurance. And in the city with (probably) more CCTV than anywhere else on Earth , you can be tracked as you move around the city as improving facial recognition makes this easier and easier.

But the depth and breadth of what digital firms know is worrying people. A good Wired piece on data and how it is used was picked up by the Standard this week. It’s a really good take on the subject.

Tim Berners Lee argues that this data should be owned by the individual, as it is really useful to that person;

“In general … if you put together all that data, from my wearable, my house, from other companies like the credit card company and the banks, from all the social networks, I can give my computer a good view of my life, and I can use that. That information is more valuable to me than it is to the cloud.”

The idea of Vendor Relationship Management where a person has control of their data and capture the value themselves has been around for quite a while – we featured it in our 2002 futurology video – but it has never caught on and one wonders if it’s now too late?

A good piece in Quartz points out the rapid growth in social login, where access to a site or app is given when the user logs in with Facebook, Google, Twitter etc rather than registering with the app itself.  Some US research says 77% of people had used social login, up from 53% the previous year. Other research says Google and Facebook account for over 80% of all social logins.

Talk to any good growth hacker and they’ll tell you that social logins are a great product feature as people find them convenient – and perversely some think privacy is better protected this way.

As brands understandingly migrate to vendors who have first party data, enabling cross device tracking, and Google and Facebook extend their ad networks, the monetary benefit for the app owner to favour social logins will only increase.

The strong are going to keep getting stronger and their favoured diet is our data. Hard to see anyone changing this in the short term.

But Apple may have a go; a friend spotted this now pops up on iOS8.

Advertising 

The new IAB figures show burgeoning growth of UK mobile adspend continues. The figures for the first half of 2014 are up 68% with video doing incredibly well.

Agencies are increasingly adding online video to traditional TV campaigns, with Omnicom recommending US clients switch between 10% and 25% to online video. Much of this still flows to the big broadcasters for their catch up services but clearly lots gets directed to newer players. Which is why Yahoo are so focused on video – much of their European management team has a TV background and Marissa sees the future as video; 

“For us, display is really about brands storytelling, and display 2.0 is video.”

Probably the most intriguing advertising news this week (other than the Facebook local play) is that SnapChat are ready to offer advertising. Given they have a lot of reach and not much data, there won’t be too much targeting and users will be able to skip ads

“We are cutting through a lot of the new technology stuff around ads to the core of it: telling a story that leaves people with a new feeling,” he said. “They aren’t fancy, they are not targeted.”

Sounds like the need for smart creative in mobile is back. News that Google are pushing tools that measure the brand effect of digital ads supports this. Brand Lift isn’t that revolutionary but making it a core tool rather than an add-on is a significant move.

Money

One of the emerging tools to measure the longer term effect of mobile advertising is to look for a sales effect and much of the energy around mobile money and wallets is that they could be the best attribution measure ever. Imagine person a saw the Facebook ad on their mobile, watched a YouTube video on their mobile, clicked on a mobile banner and subsequently visited the store and buy the product using their mobile wallet. Data doesn’t get much more compelling than that.

That’s why we think Google will buy PayPal or Square to accelerate their mobile wallet. And it’s why Facebook hired the PayPal CEO and have a payments product ready to go.

Apple however has a different agenda and ads don’t seem that big a part of it. Tim Cooks note on privacy a few weeks ago set the tone. They want to sell great products and build what we call Anchors – services so compelling that moving to Android would be a huge effort.

Apple Pay is clearly an Anchor and they have eschewed the opportunity to harvest data from these transactions. This plays nicely to privacy but also to security. When the Target CEO gets fired because hacker stole 40m credit card profiles, security is moving front and centre and Apple don’t want to risk their reputation. The breach of iCloud to steal celeb selfies was damaging but containable. A similar scandal with Apple Pay would not be.

In this in depth look at Apple Pay we can see that the system is built around a new way to handle payments. Whilst complicated, its benefits are really clear. This is much safer than using a credit card in the normal way. (And the fingerprint recognition on the device is also hugely impressive for users)

All the other players are going to have their approach compared to Apple Pay and we suspect people like Zapp will struggle, despite signing up retailers well in advance of their launch.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to see real innovation in FinTech –Marc Andreesen believes the whole system is ripe for reinvention

“We have a chance to rebuild the system. Financial transactions are just numbers; it’s just information. You shouldn’t need 100,000 people and prime Manhattan real estate and giant data centers full of mainframe computers from the 1970s to give you the ability to do an online payment.

‘‘You would not today, starting from scratch, invent any of these financial businesses in the same way. To me, it’s all about unbundling the banks. There are regulatory arbitrage opportunities every step of the way. If the regulators are going to regulate banks, then you’ll have nonbank entities that spring up to do the things that banks can’t do. Bank regulation tends to backfire, and of late that means consumer lending is getting unbundled.” 

One start up that has been able to disrupt the market is Square – the $billion side project of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. Despite some negative commentary recently, they have raised more money – $150m at a valuation of $6billion. 

And picking up the point we made regarding Starbucks last week, they recognise that payments in and of itself isn’t a problem that needs solving – it’s the areas around it where you find friction. So Square are getting into pre ordering  - just like Starbucks. I guess this takes Square into the same space as JustEat and HungryHouse.

Quick reads 

Good thinking from Harvard Business School on the war for attention

More on Softbanks hunger for content 

Is Instagram The Next Great Ad Network? Yes

A look at the changing music industry. As we have discussed in the past, the future is really good as streaming delivers increased revenues. Its just that the sharing out of these riches may prove controversial.

How linking between apps is getting better

Finally …we are out and about next week. I’m on a mobile panel at the Facebook Upfronts on Monday morning then talking about location and mobile at an Omma conference in the afternoon. As ever, if you are there come and say hello.

Mobile Fix – October 3

What Apps?

As a warm up for client workshops we often do a WhatApps exercise. We get everyone to unlock their phone and pass it to someone else and then get people to talk about what apps are on the homescreen of the phone they have.

It gets 3 important points over really well;

1/ People feel deeply uncomfortable seeing someone else holding their phone, demonstrating just what a very personal device it is – so marketing risks being very intrusive if not done really well

2/ Most people have a few of the same apps; Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google search etc plus their bank app and a news app perhaps

3/ Everyone has a few niche apps that are very important to them – Dads have games for their kids, sports fans have apps about their team or sport, others have things like YPlan and apps for nights out or travel

And we are also starting to see that people are organizing their apps with the home screen for the most used apps and unused apps migrating to later screens and being forgotten about.

Knowing what apps someone has is hugely valuable for advertising and everyone is trying to get this insight. Apple and Google clearly have the best view but some others have good data too. Facebook has some knowledge through those apps that use Facebook connect in some way  – and where someone has downloaded as a result of a Facebook ads. 

With the Flurry acquisition Yahoo now have a pretty good view too and along with the Aviate launcher app they acquired a while back are building an interesting data set on the apps people have.

Whilst the number of new apps downloaded is declining, we believe there is still a huge opportunity to help people discover apps they will find useful/ entertaining. Especially given how poorly the app stores perform if you don’t know exactly what your are looking for. People have done very well with apps designed to help find new apps but just as Apple kicked out AppGratis last year they have just kicked out an iOS launcher app. Launcher was different to AppGratis and seemed a good way to improve how you use the apps you have – but Apple clearly don’t want anyone but them to know what apps you have.

Of course the other people who have some idea of what apps you have – at least theoretically – are operators and we think they are missing a trick by not providing a really elegant service that helps their customers discover new apps.  There have been some attempts but no one has nailed this; the upside of happier customers and a chance to get some of the burgeoning app download spend should make it a priority.

Facebook & Adtech

When Facebook bought the Atlas adtech business from Microsoft last year the price was rumoured to be around $50m – a very low price when Microsoft had paid $6bn+ for the whole aquantive business. Nothing much was heard about Atlas until recent rumours that it had been complete rebuilt to give Facebook a robust platform for serving and tracking ads.

Its now officially launched and is a big part of the new Facebook ad network where they use their profile data to target Facebook users across sites and apps outside the Facebook empire. It’s more evidence of the antipathy across GAFA and means Facebook starts to get a better view of what’s happening across the open web, which should let it improve ad performance within Facebook.

Mobile & Money

Building on our thoughts on Starbucks last week, mobile money is heating up. We see that Apple has hired two very senior Visa execs in Europe. And Capital One have launched a pretty good wallet app in the US whilst Barclaycard are rolling out their bPay bracelet – which is interesting but could do with some love from a designer.

But the big news is that eBay and PayPal are going to split into two companies. Many people believe PayPal will be more valuable on its own, but it will also probably be more attractive to a potential suitor who doesn’t want the distraction of eBay. Who could be interested? Well Google needs a response to Apple Pay and folding PayPal would be a great way to revive Google Wallet.

Content is King?

Last week we speculated that Softbank – now ran by ex Googler Nikesh Arora – could be interested in buying Yahoo, as they look to build out their Sprint and broadband business by adding content.

This line of thought is probably validated by the story that they are in talks to buy Dreamworks – the hugely successful movie studio ran by Jeffery Katzenberg.  

This blending of content and pipes has always been talked of, but the AOL Time Warner debacle still scares most people off. Like most dotcom bubble hubris though, the issue was essentially one of timing – and poorly executing the merger.

Yahoo, Softbank & Alibaba

As we discussed last week these 3 companies are closely linked and this long article is a great look at how they came together. If you believe in fate, choosing then Chinese Civil servant Jack Ma (now the Alibaba founder) to guide Jerry Yang around the Great Wall of China in 1997 is right up there. A must read

newTV

If you talk to any enlightened media planner they will tell you they now see TV and online video as essentially the same thing; if you want to reach Downton viewers you are equally happy to buy them on broadcast TV or online catch up. And they also know that smart use of pre rolls or any of the online video formats will probably add reach to a traditional TV campaign, as the elusive light viewers are added.

But regulatory things are still more compartmentalized. Now that is starting to change. In the US it looks like regulators will treat online video services as the same as cable and satellite providers. This means they can get cheaper access to programming and the old divisions will start to melt away.

Some brands get this already and Mondelez have done a global deal with Google for video to accelerate their ambition to put 10% of their spend into online video.

Adding to the momentum is the new Twitter TV ratings, where Kantar will report on levels of Tweeting related to TV programming with data around how twitter affects audience.

Many years ago we tried to prove that data on recording a programme correlated with better engagement in the live viewing. If you like a show so much you record it when you are out, you probably are more attentive when actually watching it live. So ads in those programmes are probably more effective and more valuable.

Those enlightened media planners will be looking at whether Tweeting is a similar engagement metric 

Quick reads

Still play Angry Birds? No us neither. And they are firing 130 people. More proof that apps is a hits business.

Did you know people launch brands on Amazon? Coke and Pepsi have both launched products only available through Amazon.

Google have acquiesced to German publishers and won’t publish extracts from their stories – they will just show the headlines. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Product placement is getting tech – Music videos can now feature brands in a way that the product can be changed according to region etc.

The Google Internet of Things play is now public – The Physical Web. Very interesting.

Lots of the smart people at Tesco know that their real competition is going to be Amazon rather than Lidl, but (understandably) short term thinking is prevailing and they are going to sell or close Blinkbox

Apple debut Watch at our favourite Paris store, Colette. And as they reposition themselves as a luxury brand, Vogue profiles Jony Ive.

GE Enhance your Lighting is a great example of a brand using video and social really well.

We have mentioned Shopkick before – a great example of where mobile, physical and promotions meet. It’s been acquired for $200m to fund international expansion so expect to see it in Europe soon

Finally

We heard Peter Thiel talk about his excellent new book and lots of his thinking applies to any business – not just startups. In our Digital Transformation workshops we talk about how big companies can learn from startups and this book is very useful. So too is this Stanford lecture on how to start a Startup and this piece by YCombinators Paul Graham.

Oh, and we have finally revamped our website outlining the range of things we do for clients and for our own projects. <sell> If you ever need any help lets have a chat <sell/>