Mobile Fix – December 2

SoLoMo Photo

Just as Facebook used photos as the key element of their timeline so the legion of photo apps are trying to be more social. Everyone is focusing on SoLoMo – Social Local Mobile – and we’d add photo to that too.

Instagram has probably been the most successful so far – for a number of reasons – with 13 million users – with a team of just 7 people!

Path launched to great acclaim but struggled to get traction but their new update is really good. Partly because it looks pretty much like a Facebook timeline. Designed for sharing with close friends rather than a crowd, one new feature causing comment is the option to automatically share your activities instead of you having to post updates.

They now have over a million users and we expect this new version to drive some rapid growth.

Location is also a core ingredient for these apps, bringing them closer to FourSquare – whose new Radar feature alerts you to things you might be interested around you. And we had a glimpse of a cool new Photo/Social service called Pulse that is still in the Nokia labs.

This space is getting crowded and we expect one company to eventually win big. Obviously the smart money would be on Facebook – but some are pointing out that Path and Instagram are making Facebook look uninventive.

One of the key people on the mobile team at Facebook has recently been lured to work on the Google mobile team and he has been quite scathing about the slow pace of mobile at Facebook.

One illustration of their opportunity though is an anecdote from our friends at GroupM search – on Black Friday in St Louis no-one was using FourSquare so the offers from Walmart and others took ages to be claimed.

We think it will take Facebook to make checking in mainstream. If/when Facebook get mobile right they have an opportunity to own this space. But they can’t take too long.

More vertical stacks

We’re talking at a fascinating conference on Monday called Futurebook and one area we’re going to cover is the vertical stacks that GAFA are developing – integrating storage, access devices, purchasing, payment and social.

The apparent risk of letting a rival control one element of their business drives this need to invest in new competences. And we are now seeing this behaviour emerge in marketing services. Media owners like Meredith are investing in marketing companies, with mobile firm Hyperfactory the latest, allowing them to offer a wider range of skills, often direct to clients.

And now Adobe have made some big steps towards a vertical stack, buying Efficient Frontier – probably the leading independent search & digital agency. Long courted by the Agency holding companies, Adobe seems an unexpected buyer. But they have expanded from their software roots; they recently bought measurement analytics giant Omniture, their Business Catalyst product is the platform for many SME web presence and they are the dominant player in ebooks.

The demise of mobile Flash seems less of a blow now

We’re also seeing this vertical stacking in other sectors – think about Tesco who can offer their huge customer base mobile and banking – and they will soon offer on demand movies. Oh and they sell a lot of Kindles too. What sort of products will they weave from this stack? How about when you buy the physical DVD you immediately get digital access to the same film on your PC, xBox connected TV and – soon – your ipad. Sound futuristic? It was announced yesterday.

Cyber Monday

According to IBM mobile played a key part in US commerce last Monday

On Cyber Monday, 10.8 percent of people used a mobile device to visit a retailer’s site, up from 3.9 percent in 2010. Additionally, mobile sales grew dramatically, reaching 6.6 percent on Cyber Monday versus 2.3 percent in 2010.

There is a good overview of Cyber Monday, including its history, here.

Comscore estimate that over $800 was spent online on Black Friday – with Amazon the most visited site. That sounds like a lot of Kindles being sold.

And eBay report that their Black Friday mobile sales were up 250% year on year. Paypal transactions were up over 500%

Content is still king

This week we learnt a couple of staggering stats from a great interview with the commercial head of the Economist

Economist’s own research reveals that 28% of its readers already own a tablet, with a further 23% expecting to own one within a year.

A survey among its US subscribers asked those aged over 40 how they read the Economist – more than 95% said they read it in print. But when asked how they expect to read it in two years’ time, the number expecting to do so in print fell to 35%
Is this exceptional? Well maybe. But remember how well the FT is doing with its HTML5 webapp– over 1 million users. And another great example of the power of combining print with innovate digital tools is the Guardian success with Facebook. They have reported over 1 million page views a day.
When we were talking with the Guardian a few weeks ago they were delighted by the success of the Facebook integration but slightly bemused by the ‘shape’ of the traffic. Most of the stories attracting big numbers on Facebook are very different from those doing well on their mobile or websites. Some of the stories are old ones, revived by people sharing links. It is fascinating learning for them and – as they managed to get the rights to sell the ads within their content – very lucrative.

And on a different type of content EMI are reporting that their experimenting with apps seems to be paying off – albeit modestly. We mentioned a while back they are providing content for developers to play with and it looks like there may be some light at the end of this tunnel for the music business. This video is a good take on where the opportunities are.

Quick reads

Sky are bringing on demand movies to their mobile service for subscribers to their TV packages.

In some great marketing Nokia allow people to demo their new Windows Phone on your existing smartphone.

Mobile views on YouTube are now at 400 million a day – double that reported in January.

Google + gets a cool new feature – free phone calls within the US and Canada so people can join hangouts.

Finally …

We’re out and about next week; speaking at the Futurebook conference on Monday and taking part in a panel at Mobile Advertising World on Thursday. We’ve also been invited to the Guardian Mobile Business Summit on Tuesday. If you are at any of these events, do come and say hello.

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