Category Archives: addictive!

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 – 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 – September 26

Mobile & Money

As the details of Apple Pay become clearer, analysts are generally positive – although not quite as bullish as the Chamath Palihapitiya view we shared last week. Many people site Starbucks as evidence that payments can and do work.

In the last data we saw, Starbucks dominates mobile payments in the US. In 2012 around $500m was spent using mobile payments – and Starbucks was around 90% of that. They have been hugely successful – and now 15% of all their US transactions are using their app – but the Starbucks Chief Digital Officer points out it’s not just about payments – the loyalty aspect has been a big driver. 

They are one of the brands that Apple have partnered with for Pay – but interestingly they don’t intend to let people but coffee with Pay – just top up their Starbucks app. Their brand is so strong they have ambitions to expand outside of Starbucks;

“We want to get mobile ordering right first, but you could be hearing more about us in the mobile wallet or universal loyalty space sooner than later

A smart Fix reader made a similar point about the Oyster card and how it could have become a means of paying for items outside of Tube tickets. Now with a plethora of new players like PayM, Zapp Powa etc as well as the Mobile Operator wallets, PayPal and Google iPhone  et al users have a lot of options. But it seems to us that Pay will become a real Anchor for Apple by making it so easy.

And as more people use Pay, more retailers will come on board. Talking with UK supermarkets, they have resisted payments because they tended to slow down the checkouts. Starbucks have focused on their point of sale tech and processes; 

We were able to save 10 seconds a swipe for any kind of Starbucks card, mobile payment, credit card or debit card transaction. That ended up saving us 900,000 hours of line time a year. 

If Apple Pay can contribute to that sort of improved efficiency, people will rush to sign up.

(btw  – one of most hyped mobile money startups has been Clinkle; ran by a 23 year old, they raised $25m seed money and has a  long list of VCs as investors, along with Richard Branson. Lots of smart people have joined and many have quickly left. And it was in stealth so no-one knew quite what they were up to.

After 3 years it has finally launched a rather average debit card linked to an app. Sounds a lot like the Osper card we mentioned the other week)

The Chinese are coming

The Alibaba IPO was the biggest float ever, raising $25bn – eclipsing the $16bn that Facebook raised. Some have questioned the ethics of investing here – largely because the BAT Chinese digital giants  (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) benefit from having no competition from Google, Facebook, Amazon, eBay etc in their home market.

There is a lot to learn from how these companies operate and we now look at BAT when consider the vertical stacks of GAFA. And this good article looks at how important China has become to the global tech economy – with good insight into their M&A activity.

But perhaps the most immediate effect of the IPO is that it (probably) puts Yahoo into play.

Yahoo’s market capitalization is about $39 billion, while its Alibaba stake is worth $37 billion and its Yahoo Japan stake is worth $8 billion.

So someone could buy Yahoo and sell those stakes and essentially get Yahoo for free. Who could that be? No doubt clever Private Equity people are hunched over their calculators right now, but to GAFA, Yahoo would be a valuable acquisition.

Despite some peoples misgivings over their progress under Marissa Mayer, Yahoo still have huge reach (on desktop and mobile) and throw off huge amounts of cash.

Given that Yahoo is still a major player in search its hard to see the EU etc allowing Google to swallow them without divesting the search business to Bing. But for Facebook and Apple they would get lots of content to feed their userbase. And Amazon would get lots of potential buyers that it currently has to advertise with Google to reach. And perhaps even Microsoft or Murdoch could be interested?

Or how about Softbank?. This Japanese company has been very aggressively trying to grow the US business with the merger with Sprint, but its pursuit of TMobile has been unsuccessful. Combing an operator with a content business like Yahoo has been talked about lots, but this could be a first.

As JV partners in Yahoo Japan, the two sides know each other well. And, of course, Softbank now has a new leader who knows a little about the digital space; Nikesh Aurora moved over from Google a few months ago. Is this how he makes his mark in his new role?

We think it’s unlikely that the Wolves of Wall Street will leave something this vulnerable (and valuable) alone, so watch this space.

Beacons

Just like Big Data there is rather more talk about Beacons than there is action. It’s clear there is huge potential, but so far few people have actually started to use them. This piece looks at some of the innovations around the internet of things that use beacons – but there isn’t a killer app. Yet

The people at Estimote have done much to shape the market, and this article considers how they see the potential – including indoor locations. We think that Beacons will be used for simple ideas that improve various situations. For example when Starbucks get around to pre ordering, how do they stop the coffee going cold before you get there? A beacon could detect when you arrive at the store and the coffee is made then and there – and you don’t need to wait.

This example of coupons in Passbook working really well shows the potential – and Beacons could add another dimension. There is a huge opportunity for good old fashioned sales promotion thinking (or Shopper Marketing as its now called).

We’re keen to help kick start this area, so hungry to work with retailers, restauranters etc to test out ideas and try and make some progress.

Quick Reads

Blackberry has a new square device that is going to save their business. We’ll see.

The clever people at Betaworks have revitalized Digg

Apple have bought a firm that makes it easy to create magazines for mobile. Another sign that content creation is being democratized. Will we see the return of the fanzine?

More good thinking on the Apple Watch

More proof that Apple are only human. After the live screening debacle at the launch event, the latest iOS update has been withdrawn.

Eric Schmidt has a new book out – How Google Works. It’s now on our Kindle but we are still engrossed in Goldeneye

Finally…we are big believers in the sharing economy and are looking to rollout our collaborative consumption platform SkratchMyBack in more regions. But the some elements of this movement are proving controversial.

In New York lots of people don’t approve of their neighbours renting to strangers and this long piece looks at both sides of the argument. And the way Uber treats its drivers is questioned in this MIT article. Enabling people to share their assets makes perfect sense but we need to consider the losers as well as celebrate the winners.

 

 

 

 

Mobile Fix – September 5

Digital Transformation

More and more of our work is helping businesses deal with digital transformation. The rise of mobile and social seem to be convincing C level execs that digital is no longer something that can be quarantined in a division.

But most find it hard to work out where the drive and management should come from. Marketing seems like the obvious place to start in many businesses but often this restricts the effectiveness.

For example is Twitter a marketing channel or is it customer service? Clearly it can be both, but we see this skill will migrate from Soho ad agencies to call centres in Fife.  And another hot issue; given the use of customer data in smart programmatic buying, who drives that area? This is an interesting look at how clients are moving their business out of their traditional agencies and either taking it inhouse or using specialists.

Many studies point out the potential conflict between CMO and CIOs and in many cases the dead hand of IT frightens Boards; who want to be the person who over rules IT when your system crashes or you get hacked. In the US the firing of the Target CEO after their data hack made people realize the responsibility lies with the top people. In his excellent keynote at the Dots conference Russell Davies told us that the IT people at GDS now report to the Digital team.

Given the broad impact of digital on business and the potential for data to be transformational (McKinsey say that data driven companies are 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than others) the answer is to get the CMO and CIO working in partnership.

Done properly digital is a core business function rather than a marketing channel and more and more brands are balancing getting outside advice with building internal skills.

Dumb Pipes 

Fix reader James Haycock of adaptive labs was one of the many great speakers at the excellent Dots conference this week and made a great point by applying the Dumb Pipe theory (that, for many, describes the future of Mobile Network Operators) to Financial services. We have talked here a lot about the energy and momentum in FinTech and this analogy sums up both the opportunity for startups and the danger for incumbents.

A real life example is our 14 year old who now has an Osper card – a new start up that gives him a debit card, funded by me transferring money into it. So my bank is the dumb pipe. The app we both have shows where the money is being spent. A really simple, elegant service – with no significant involvement from a ‘real’ bank. When will he go open a ‘proper’ bank account? Who knows. 

Smart Pipes

Thinking about MNOs, there is one huge opportunity that seems untapped – so far.. With the appstore discovery so flawed, what could an operator do to help their customers find apps that they may find useful? Why don’t they build a permission based dialogue with smartphone customers around the latest and greatest apps? Before the iPhone and the Appstore, getting an operator (or a device manufacturer) to feature your mobile content or service was the holy grail for any developer.

A simple authoritative email or MMS that offered help on discovery – based on learning what apps you already had – would be really useful for customers.

And given how much money is spent chasing app downloads this could be really profitable too. Happy to share our thinking with our MNO readers.

Looking at how other markets approach appstores is interesting and suggests there are alternatives to simply hoping the Appstore and Google Play will sort themselves out. This in depth look at Chinese Appstores is a good read.

O2O Retail – Online to offline

With Amazon offering payment solutions to real world retailers, the line between online and offline commerce is blurring. Fold in click and collect and the potential for beacons to bridge the gap between a smartphone and a store and the line starts to disappear.

This article predicts Amazons secret plans – but if you get past the slight hysteria it’s a good take on where retail may be going. And the idea of online to offline is also being taken seriously in China.

As Alibaba prepare for their IPO – possibly as soon as next week – which is expected to raise c$20bn making it the biggest ever IPO (eclipsing Facebook whose $16bn was the previous record) their competitors are trying to build their ecommerce revenues.

Baidu and Tencent have partnered with Dalian Wanda – the Westfield of China with around 100 malls and resorts – to focus on O2O; online to offline. This deal also helps them build their payments business.

All the big players (including GAFA & BAT) see that commerce has two huge advantages – you take a revenue share and you get the data on the purchase.

iPhone speculation              

Lots of noise, but little insight in the huge numbers of stories speculating on what might get announced next week.

The Stratchery thinking on iPhone pricing is worth a read though. Where we use the luxury car market as an analogy he used Handbags and makes some good points on how Apple can preserve their top end positioning and maximise their revenue. We still suspect that Beats budget phone would be the killer and one more thing.

The other theme we think is interesting is whether or whether not Apple embrace NFC and make a big move into payments. Our Anchors theory means we believe Apple need to turn Passbook into a full wallet, so useful no-one will ever move to Android

This piece points up the possibilities, but we wonder whether low energy Bluetooth means NFC is unnecessary?  Or, picking up on our point about the value of payments above, does the widespread base of NFC readers in real world locations makes it viable. Either way Apple will dictate the future of NFC; if it makes the cut in the new iPhone it’s the definitive platform for payments. If it doesn’t, it’s just another dead TLA 

Quick Reads

The Amazon Fire TV box is now available in the UK . Walter Mossberg – the don of consumer tech in the US thought the speech recognition was the killer app – although it only works on Amazon content for now.  It probably isn’t quite as revolutionary as the ChromeCast but it’s a great way to get more usage of Amazon movies etc. Costing £79 it’s another must buy if you have any interest in the future of TV.

Autoplay videos on Facebook are getting some heat from Money Saving Expert, as they think they are driving up users phone bills.

Another good session at Dots looked at how YouTube is redefining fame – and film of a make up artist from Norfolk drawing huge crowds in Covent Garden reinforced just what a parallel universe YouTube is for many. This is  a good article on the YouTube channel Awesomeness which was bought by Dreamworks for $100m and the business model emerging for Video

Can programmatic work for branding? The smart people at Infectious think so. We agree but the way creative is done needs to evolve. If Ikea can computer generate 75% of their catalogue can’t brands use tech to create and modify creative in real time?

More research showing a rosy future for streaming music and hence great potential for Beats. We can’t believe there won’t be some new Beats product next week. Could a Beats smartwatch have music as its core feature? 

Good look at BlinkBox  - the Tesco digital entertainment play. Will the new regime stick with this?

Finally – the next episode of the RCKSCK Friday Edit goes out tomorrow. This new project is designed as a tool for Urban Explorers and the email Edit is the first service, with an app in development.

The idea is to help people get the most out of whichever city they are in, with tips on great places to eat, drink and shop, based on their likes and dislikes.

As we get the tech sorted, the Edit is a simplified service focused on London.

Sign up here and see the first Edit here. 

( Get the email edition of Fix first thing Friday morning – sign up here)

Mobile Fix – August 29

 

Adtech & Vertical Stacks 

We all know how dominant GAFA is. But this one chart from a new Comscore report on US mobile users emphasizes how this plays out in mobile. Of the apps with the biggest reach half are from GAFA – with Yahoo also performing well.

This reach is clearly a huge opportunity for advertising but until now only Facebook and Google have really focussed on this. But that’s changing. As we have mentioned Apple have hired smart people and we expect a push for ad dollars around their music product once Beats is fully integrated. They had been gearing up for an ad supported iTunes Radio, but that now seems to be on the back burner outside the US.

Amazon have been hiring lots of smart ad people too – and in contrast to previous regimes when their smart ad people struggled to get advertising taken seriously by management – this time Amazon seem to be really gearing up to take on Google. With the launch of Amazon Sponsored Links they are looking at how brands sold through Amazon and the Amazon Associates can use advertising across Amazon to drive sales. With all that purchase data this turns online ads into a new version of in store sales promotion – with the ability to measure the precise effect.

This scale and the data make them attractive to brands and agencies. But so too does the fact they are not Facebook or Google 

Google probably suffers most as lots of ads that currently run on Amazon are Google Adwords and we should expect to see that revenue stream start to dry up.

The other huge advantage GAFA and (to a lesser extent) Yahoo have is logged in users so they have cross platform first party data. The insight from this is really valuable and will probably lead to these players growing their share of the ad market. But getting and using the data requires good Ad Tech 

The huge reach of Google is complimented by the dominance of their adtech – Doubleclick etc are used by a huge proportion of advertisers across all their campaigns and as such affect Facebook, Amazon and probably Apple. This irks many publishers and we can be sure that GAFA competitiveness means others would like to limit this dominance.

Facebook bought Atlas, the main rival to DoubleClick, for a knock down price last year – when Microsoft divested itself of what was left of their $6 billion buy of AQuantive. They have been quietly working in bring it up to date and plan to launch it in the coming weeks as a serious rival to the Google stack.

One of the models we use a lot in our strategy work is the Vertical Stack, where GAFA increasingly have proprietary products, services and tools right throughout their business. So it’s no surprise that this is extending to adtech. It is vital that brands understand how their business intersects with GAFA and their stack, and whilst this adds complexity it also adds urgency. As agencies scramble to evolve their adtech to gather data from the various vendors and get some insight, brands might ask who is looking after their interests.

It’s worth reading John Batelles thinking on this

And take a minute to remind yourself of just how complicated mobile advertising is with this infographic showing what happens in .3 of a second to get that ad in front of the user. Hat tip @PaulbMobile

App store discovery 

The other side of the Comscore chart above is how hard it is for an app from anyone outside the big players to get real reach. This piece gets into this in more detail using more of the Comscore data. It shows that people spend the vast proportion of their time in their favourite app and – picking up the point we made last week – most people just don’t download new apps. If you want to use an app as part of your ongoing dialogue with your customers – which makes perfect sense  then you can use your other dialogue to promote your app.

But if you are one of the many start ups chasing the next billion dollar valuation, you have your work cut out. One way to increase your chances of having a hit app is celebrity endorsement; TechCrunch looks at the Kim Kardashian app which has made $1.6 million in the first week – and at other celeb endorsements.

Apple expectations

With the stock price at an all time high, now the September 8 event has been announced the buzz is also at an all time high.

We wouldn’t get involved except it now seems the much anticipated larger iPhone and the iWatch may be joined by a new iPad. A much bigger iPad at 12.9 inches -so a similar screen to a 13inch Macbook Air

Given everyone decided tablets were over a few months ago, when sales growth slowed, this may seem surprising, but a good piece by consumer tech guru Walt Mossberg called In Defence of the Tablet explains just how well these devices have done and continue to do.

As people work out the use cases for their tablet and their smartphones – and as smartphone screens grow – there will be some substitution. And the renewal of tablets will be much less influenced by MNO contracts and the subsidized upgrades that drive so much of the smartphone growth.

Quick Reads

Yet more innovation in video – the new Hyperlapse app from Instagram uses the iPhone technology to enable wonderful new videos. Expect lots of homages to Scorcese long takes like the classic Copacabana shot from Goodfellas

Just as the best people to create content on new platforms like Vine are arguably the most avid users, brands are turning to SnapChat heavy users for brand partnerships. Watch the examples in this piece and you’ll see its not quite Scorcese or even ShakeNVac. But these people have reach and getting paid.

Snapchat is now valued at $10bn, which seems crazy until you see they have feature in the top 25 apps shown above. Insiders seem convinced about the potential and Twitter CEO says;

Snapchat at $10b not absurd. Crazy growth, clear monetization path, & one of the best social product thinkers out there. Long (figuratively) We are going to reread their agency pitch deck and see if we missed something

BAT – the Chinese version of GAFA – continue to amaze. In the latest results Alibaba showed 46% growth and a third of sales were by mobile – up from 12% last year. 

Tesco subsidiary One Stop are rolling out beacons across their 740 UK stores

Finally ….Last week we gave Fix readers a sample of our new RCKSCK project and encouraged sign up to the Friday Edit, which will be the first service from RCKSCK. The App will enable you to save and share all those interesting places you find or hear about (no more bits of paper torn out of the FT Weekend or Monocle). And as well as browsing, you will be able to discover places around your location, based on your profile – which will be built through the things on RCKSCK you like, love and loathe.

It’s early days and we’re keen to get feedback and talk with prospective partners and with brands that want to connect with Urban Explorers. Feedback from last week was really useful and we’d love your help making this better.

Our other side project SkratchMyBack is getting good traction in Manchester where we have been beta testing and we are now turning the heat up. We had some nice coverage in a Marketing piece on the Sharing Economy and we are now looking for Charity partners across the country, so we can help them recruit and manage volunteers. If anyone knows people who might be interested, please let us know. And have a think about signing up yourself.

We were talking through these projects in a Chemistry meeting with a prospective client and we were asked why we did them. Our response was around the fact that we have ideas we like that don’t fit client briefs. And that by doing these we learn lots that can be applied to more traditional projects. Our knowledge of the sharing economy gained through Skratch was very helpful on the EasyCar Club project.

A much better explanation comes from the smart people at Betaworks, which also covers some of the other people investing in side projects. We are not quite at the Betaworks stage (yet) but the model is fascinating – if you are interested in helping us develop this area let’s get a coffee.   

Mobile Fix – August 15

Spending a couple of weeks on a Cornish beach is a highly recommended way of recharging the batteries – which, as this NYTimes piece reminds us, is a good thing.

As ever, lots happened but rather than look back we think it’s a good time to consider the Big Picture; the key themes that are driving how people use tech and consequently the opportunity for brands to grow by being smart about how they use tech.

The new Video Industry 

We’ve seen the transformation of the web from a text medium to a visual one as connection speeds improve – does anyone else remember the horror when the page you were downloading on a14.4mb dial up had a picture on it?

But the visual web is moving very quickly from photo to video – with Gifs and the clever stuff auto awesome does too. Vine, Instagram and Snapchat are constantly innovating and the power of YouTube is now recognized by traditional media owners and brands. This story of vlogging supergroup Our2nd Life shows how much brands will pay for promotions.

In the UK things are a little less frantic but a YouTube convention in London the other week drew 8500 people but biased towards the makers of video rather than the fans. But VideoCon in the US draws fans too and sold 18000 tickets paying $100 plus and we’d expect similar events in Europe soon.

With Disney buying Maker Studios for almost $1bn, the traditional media industry is keen to work with this new talent and Variety report that one is making a film and a TV show whilst others are sticking with the internet as the money is almost as good. These YouTubers from the London event talk about how their fans react to promotions.

The money from product placement and the slightly murky world of celebrity endorsements stays with the makers, but tbe real money comes from the advertisers buying pre rolls and YouTube is continuing to push this area. 6 months since stepping into the top job at YouTube Susan Wojcicki is talking about how Google want to help the space evolve;

“We have all these pretty nascent creators. What do they look like in five years? Do they have longer shows? Can we help them economically to grow their shows? I don’t think we need new creators. All that content is original content, but how do we make it even better? 

Could YouTube have ambitions to use this talent to drive into traditional TV? Packaging this content into a format that works for traditional TV is pretty easy and getting distribution on cable or Sky isn’t that hard either. The challenge is getting viewers and selling them to advertisers – something Google is pretty good at.

The New App ecology

As the fervour around the new iPhone builds and the new features of iOS8 and Android L become better understood it’s clear that the whole ecology of apps is changing

The first people to seize the opportunity have been the big players like Facebook, Dropbox and Foursquare who have unbundled their apps to take advantage of the ability to deeplink between apps. Ben Evans has a good take on the subject, pointing out that the Chinese BAT (Baidu, Alibaba & Tencent) are taking a completely different approach by adding in more functions in to their apps – but by only offering the services in the right context they retain a simple User experience.

Others think unbundling is still unproven as one of the core benefits is a way of improving discovery and suggests that rebundling will start to emerge.

Despite having constantly used Foursquare since launch, this year in Cornwall I hardly used the new Swarm Foursquare constellation and whilst both VC Fred Wilson and founder Dennis Crowley talk up the new version, we are not convinced.

It remains crucial to really understand both what your use cases are and exactly how deep linking, app extensions and push notifications can help. Getting the strategy and architecture right before rushing into building an app is even more important.

Real time marketing

Programmatic continues to get lots of coverage as it’s moving so fast, few really understand what’s going on. The model from agencies continues to evolve to meet brand reservations, and we can expect further evolution. 

But marketing needs it’s Big Bang to deal with the huge opportunity of mobile and social – and in a year or two the Mad Men agency will seem just as quaint as the red braced City Stockbroker did after electric trading reinvented the London financial markets in the 80s.

We still argue that advertising is one of the few industries where someone from 1964 would recognize their business in 2014. Imagine someone from Banking, Retail or even Transport in 1964 time travelling to today – they would be astounded at how the fundamentals of their industry had changed. But whenever we ask people in agencies and at clients if they recognize MadMen in their current set up they all do. Except the drinking is a bit more discreet and the tailoring is poorer.

As this AdAge piece argues most clients still need Agencies to help them navigate the new landscape but they want a richer skill set and a much more nimble collaborative partnership.

The raw materials of advertising are evolving and the model is in flux. Native advertising is as much a part as programmatic and the holy grail is being able to optimize the messaging as frequently and as fast as the media is optimized. That’s why we are so excited about new tools like responsive advertising, pre testing creative work – and better cross device reporting, but there is lots more to do.

Not so Quick Reads

It’s still the summer and we suggest you take time to think about the Big Picture  too. Invest some time and learn from these long read and views;

A great look at how Facebook is working with brands and their agencies to drive sales.

A series of presentations from the founders of some of the best start ups via  YCombinator Start Up School in New York and in London 

If you are back working so are we and we’re keen to partner with smart brands to unlock the potential for growth from mobile, social and modern digital. If you could do with some smart thinking or need help making things happen, do get in touch.

Why not sign up for the weekly email version of Fix – delivered first thing every Friday morning.

 

 

Mobile Fix – July 11

Mobile &Money

On a recent project we did looking at mobile and money we found a great quote from US economist Paul Volcker

The only useful thing the banks have invented in the last 20 years is the ATM

For all the advances in online banking and mobile banking, essentially it’s the old paper statement made available on a screen. And whilst it’s now possible to pay someone using their phone number, you don’t get the impression any of the banks really wants to innovate. Most banks look at tech as a way of reducing costs rather than driving new services or innovating with products. 

But tech doesn’t always deliver in the way people want. The ATM led to people reducing bank visits and online/ mobile banking has eaten away at brand visits too. A few years ago people went to their bank branch twice a week. Now it’s likely to be twice a year or less. New research shows the era of the traditional bank branch is dead.

One of the best thinkers on banking is Brett King and his presentation at the Wired conference on money is well worth watching. His start up Moven is one of the most interesting start ups in banking – but the whole FinTech movment is massive – Accenture estimate there is almost £3bn invested in these start ups.

Talking with VCs about why there is the focus on FinTech reminds us of the Butch Cassidy quote; When asked why he robbed banks.

Because that’s where the money is.

VC Chris Dixon talks of why he is interested in Bitcoin

The payment industry is a $500 billion industry (or larger, depending on how you measure it). That means banks and payment companies charge $500B per year in fees to provide a service that mostly involves moving bits around the Internet. There are other services they provide like credit, security, and dispute resolution, but in any reasonable analysis these services should cost dramatically less than they currently do. The payment industry should be at least an order of magnitude smaller than it is today 

Just like every other sector digital is transforming the money industry and smart people are reimagining the business. If the incumbents don’t step up, they will be stepped over.

Google & the Future

One of the many things that came out of Google I/O the other week was Material Design which – just like Swift from the Apple WWDC  – didn’t seem that big a deal at the time. But on reflection these are significant changes to how digital experiences are designed and built. This is a deep dive into the implications of Material Design.

Just as the web is evolving from a text medium to a visual one, so will apps move from flat pages to something more like motion graphics. 

And if you want more on where Google is going watch this long interview with Larry & Sergey. Lots about the benefits of long term thinking versus the short horizon most companies have and some thoughts on how society will have to change as robots take over more and more jobs.

In one of our talks on GAFA & Vertical Stacks this week we had a great new example of the intense competition in GAFA – Google are taking on Amazon in the grocery home delivery market

Why would Google get into that space? Simple. Ads and Delivery.

On the ads they know many people go directly to Amazon when looking for a product, which impacts their search sales. So the more product they sell, the more search revenue they are likely to get.

But more importantly, grocery brands are amongst the biggest spenders on TV and if Google can link advertising with actual sales – measured by their grocery deliveries – they open up that market. Imagine how powerful the sales case for YouTube is when you can show the effect on sales through people seeing different frequency or sequence of ads.

And delivery is going to be key in ecommerce. Having vans driving around making grocery deliveries is a convenient tool for Google to deliver other goods – as is Uber. And we can expect driverless cars to be an ingredient too.

But Google isn’t neglecting the day job and Jason Spero talks here about their latest mobile ad innovations.

Samsung & China

Talking about GAFA we were asked if we think anyone can threaten their dominance? We have always felt the answer was probably no, as the other big players (Microsoft, eBay, Twitter etc) tend to have a narrower focus.

But we are rethinking this as we watch the Chinese BAT (Baidu, Alibaba & Tencent) grow.  They are only really active in China right now, but as the latest Samsung financial results show China is a big enough market to impact global performance.

One of the biggest factors in Samsung troubles is Xiaomi – the Chinese device manufacturer. New data from Flurry shows that their user base is very mobile savvy – spending 8% more time using apps than iPhone users in China

Xiaomi are spreading out across Asia – with a launch in India imminent – and if they continue to attract the most mobile savvy users they represent a significant threat to Apple as well as Samsung.

As and when BAT follow and start to look outside China they could threaten the GAFA dominance – especially in emerging markets. The size of BAT is already impressive  – but bear in mind that vast majority of their revenue is from China where only around an third of the population have internet access. When the whole country catches up with big cities and has levels similar to the West these 3 companies could be 2 or 3 times bigger.

newTV – the 7% switch

The Sunday Times chose a new TV show called Extant for its pick of the day for yesterday. And if you have been watching the World Cup you will have seen lots of ads for it. A SciFi thriller it looks like the latest attempt to capture viewers who liked Lost and XFiles etc.

The unusual thing is that it isn’t on ITV or the BBC. Or one of the SKY channels. It’s on Amazon Prime

Most people accept our premise that TV is changing and the newTV ecology is being watched by most. But with the traditional TV industry in good health, many feel there is little to worry about

This deck (by the guy behind those scary LUMA charts that some just how complicated the digital world is) should be a must read for anyone involved in TV or advertising.

If you don’t have the time to read the whole thing look at chart 65. This makes the point any media planner knows – the last few points of a TV spend are inefficient as they just deliver frequency rather than extra reach. Smart planners are always looking for the elusive light viewer and already that is driving much of the investment in online video.

But this deck makes the point that taking the ‘inefficient’ 7% and switching it to digital would double the digital market. And it wouldn’t be that good for traditional TV businesses margins.

Of course the digital experience needs to improve – right now there are two many ads and the balance needs to be improved – this research says there are 1 minute of ads for each 2 minutes of content.

There is a lot of money in flux – and those that make the moves quicker and smarter than the other brands in their sector can get real competitive advantage.

Quick Reads 

The whole world of Programmatic is moving very quickly and we suspect there is an element of emperors new clothes here; do brands and agencies really understand how this works and what the pros and cons are for them? This interview with GroupM top buyer shows the market is still evolving and his comments tend to make sense

Good thinking on Digital Transformation from Russell Davies

One of the key issues around Digital Transformation is whether you need a Chief Digital Officer or not. Smart Fix friend Peter Kim (who has just gone to Cheil as Chief Digital Officer) has written a good report on how best to approach this 

Last week we mentioned Google Wave as a product that Google tried and failed with – but probably learnt loads. This is a link to the Google wave homage to Pulp Fiction that actually works

Finally As more and more companies gather more and more data on consumers, the issue of ethics and responsibility is becoming more prominent. I just signed yet another 80+ page Ts&Cs for iTunes – I have no idea what I have agreed to and whilst I don’t worry that Apple is about to do evil, I do believe people are starting to get concerned. A story about the NSA may not get much traction with people yet we find consumers don’t like retargeting and when they realize that there data is being used to drive this they find it a little creepy. They don’t see being stalked by a brand as acceptable. This good article argues that GAFA etc need to act responsibly

Mobile Fix – July 4

Digital Transformation

We delivered a big Digital Transformation workshop this week and developing the content and the exercises reminded us how many businesses are struggling to understand how to best embrace digital. At the C level it’s usually the CMO that has the best handle on digital – but digital is so much bigger than marketing.

As this Adweek chart shows CMOs expect digital to grow to 75% of their budget – but 42% worry about managing that change.

When we talk with a wider C level audience we tend to find a hunger for knowledge across two areas 

What is the topline on digital marketing? – so they can judge whether the marketing team are moving fast enough

What can we learn from other businesses that will help us evolve into a business that uses digital throughout the enterprise?

The Accenture study of CMOs that the Adweek chart is based on, suggests just 21% believe their company will be known as a digital business in 5 years time. So we need the whole C suite in board if progress is to be made.

So a new McKinsey report on the digital tipping point is well timed. Their research shows executives believe their CEOs are increasingly involved in digital initiatives. But they believe the most important digital focus will shift from digital engagement of customers to the digital innovation of products, operating model or business models in the next 3 years.

Another McKinsey piece highlights the breadth of issues with a look at digitising the customer journey –and the opportunity to design a better experience and reduce the ‘leakage’ across channels. But even within this a key question is who owns the customer and how you can get a silo based organization to collaborate in the way needed to make radical change.

Our work in the area of Digital Transformation ranges from Workshops and change management programmes through to briefing CEOs and Boards on how companies have embraced digital with different degrees of success. There is lots of interesting learning and a clear opportunity for those who take the initiative, rather than waiting to be disrupted by someone more nimble. If you would like to learn more about our work in this area let me know.

UK Mobile Adspend to hit £2bn

To reinforce the pace of change emarketer have predicted that mobile advertising will be bigger than print next year and bigger than TV in 2016. There is a slim chance it could be bigger than print this year as the forecast shows them neck and neck.

Does looking at spend this way actually help though? Should brands be measuring the % of spend on mobile or is the smart approach to spread the money across the channels where your audiences are? If you want to reach the people who value the Guardian then you will spend across print, online and mobile – tailoring the message to suit the channel it will be delivered in.

AKQAs’ Tom Bedecarre made a great presentation which gets into how the opportunity is so much bigger now and that the incremental approach just wont get you very far.

As we have said before, there is a danger we are building an industry on sand. A high proportion of mobile ad spend is VC money chasing app downloads from the rare people who pay to jump a level on Candy Crush. New research from Venture Beat shows that much of the app download spend isn’t actually that efficient Couldn’t better creative have an effect here? 

But talking with another publisher this week we learned they do the creative for free to incentivize the media buy. Until we get creative talent engaged with mobile, there is danger a large proportion of the mobile spend is being wasted.

Mobile Money

Talking with a bank about mobile and money this week was interesting. There is a real recognition that there is an opportunity with mobile to reimagine money – but there doesn’t seem the appetite to try things. In the meantime startups are experimenting and an interesting new mobile focused start up, with a prepaid debit card service aimed at kids, has launched in the UK.

If you are as fascinated by mobile and money as we are, you will want to read this long piece looking at the disruption in the US market.

Inevitably it ends up looking at Bitcoin and this article by Peter Diamandis  – the man behind the $10m XPrize programme to encourage private spaceflight – is  a good summary of the current state of Bitcoin and predicts we are just a couple of years from it really disrupting.

More on Google I/O

Following the Google I/O event there has been some smart thinking on the implications. This interview with Larry Page and Sundar Pichai adds some colour to the various announcements. This quote jumps out

Today, computing mainly automates things for you. But there’s an evolution from, today we tell computers to do stuff for us, to where computers can actually do stuff for us. For example, if I go and pick up my kids, it would be good for my car to be aware that my kids have entered the car and change the music to something that’s appropriate for them.

Ex Google Patrick Mork share his thoughts on I/O and thinks the Google strategy is moving from maximizing its share of mobile and is now moving to maximising share of time. So Android being present in your Car and on your TV as well as your phone plays to that – and as Google is more deeply baked in to Android they get more learning to drive the sort of thing the quote above alludes to.

New TV

The good performances of the US team has led to the World Cup breaking records for digital stream of sports events in the US. With research showing interest in the World Cup is strongest amongst the young we continue to think that one of GAFA will buy the mobile rights for either the Champions League or the Premier League. Our money is on YouTube, but Facebook continue to build out their video capabilities so don’t rule them out.

This Economist article thinks that eventually the US will get soccer, but it will take a little longer to get India and China on board.

Beacons & Retail

We recently met with the mobile lead at one of the US largest retailers when visiting London to see who was doing what with instore tech and Beacons. He had seen the Tesco trial at Chelmsford and the Waitrose one at Swindon and was off to Paris to see what Carrefour was doing. It seems that the US is just as cautious over beacons as over here. The Carrefour trial does seem a little more ambitious, but when will we see some real testing and learning 

Quick Reads

Very interesting look at how programmatic data could be really useful for search

A really interesting piece on how print has a lot to offer digital . We are convinced there is lots of potential for smart content on mobile and good print titles can inspire this.

We think Apple is engineering an interesting collision of smartphone, wearables and beacons. This look at what Disney is doing with location and tech is a good clue to what’s possible. And the theory that Apple could buy Disney isn’t as daft as it first seems – all that content to offer as an Anchor.

This FT article makes the case the Amazon Fire is more about buying things than connecting people. We agree but think that FireFly will be a separate app by the end of the year. That capability is too powerful to leave locked in a phone with a low market share – especially as a Walmart or Tesco could roll out their own version.

Facebook buys video ad tech firm Live Rail

The nice people at Unruly have a new report called the Science of Sharing, looking at what works in viral

7 clues for the collaborative consumption future from the AirBnB CEO

Finally – as part of our Digital Transformation Workshop we talked about accepting failure – as the learning can be so useful – and one example we used was Google. Remember Google Wave? – a really interesting messaging and collaboration tool that never quite took off and was quietly handed over to Apache – but not before this genius Pulp Fiction homage demonstrated the potential. 

Another experiment has finally failed – Orkut was Googles first attempt at social networks in 2004 – launched after Friendster turned down Googles offer to buy them. Whilst big in Brazil, it never really took off and has now closed. 

But if you don’t try, you never know what does work. As we always end our presentations; It’s time to Experiment.

(Subscribe to get the email version of Fix every Friday Morning)

Mobile Fix – June 27

 

Google I/O

The arms race continues. On Wednesday Google held their I/O developer event – the Android version of the Apple WWDC  a couple of weeks ago.

As well as sharing growth figures and a long list of new features, products and ideas – and having a bit of a pop over who does what first –  the event was notable as evidence Google want to take back some more control over how Android is used.

Android is only really useful to Google in two ways;

More Android devices means more distribution for Google products – feeding more data back to Google and giving them more eyeballs to sell ads against

More Android devices means less Apple devices. Every high-end android sale is probably a lost sale of an iPhone. So Google is less at risk to the ongoing Apple deGoogling of their ecology.

But when people can use Android without baking in Google, there is little advantage and Google have spent the last couple of years tightening their grip on the platform

Benedict Evans made the point that when people fork Android – creating their own flavour of Android – they lose much of the Google magic ingredients and that looks increasingly pointless (other than China where Google has different issues).

Like Apple, Google see a world where people effortlessly switch between devices – smartphones, watches, Chromebooks etc and Android and Chrome recognise and enable this. For example when you are wearing an Android watch your smartphone wont require you to use the pattern to unlock the home screen

As predicted when Pichai took over Android – whilst still running Chrome – the distance between Android and Chrome is shrinking. What this means for the ‘distance’ between native apps and the web is a topic for another day – but its clear that Google – essentially a web company – are looking to close this gap.

To get more on I/O its worth reading VC Fred Wilson  and this interview with Sundar Pichai is good background on Google and their take on GAFA. And if you want to dig deep then check out the I/O site – lots of good video on topics that are going to be really influential – like Material Design

Its also worth remembering what didn’t get mentioned – Glass, Robots and more

Ad Formats

One element of our talk at Facebook last week was about how little creativity gets applied to mobile advertising. Because many see banners as the work of the devil, they are ignored by most creatives and usually end up being worked on by junior staff. And doesn’t it show? 

If you look at the Cannes winners in mobile little could be called advertising and we think that’s a problem.

Yet if you treat banners as little billboards or posters you can convey an idea with them. You just need to have an idea to start with.

It’s clear that we need new formats and new ways of working to breathe life into mobile advertising and win back the attention of the talent. French publisher Le Monde are pushing a new format, which looks quite elegant. 

But the other issue around mobile and digital creative is the production costs – delivering a campaign that works across a whole range of different formats usually means that a disproportionate share of the budget goes on repurposing assets to fit a range of different shapes and sizes

Just as responsive sites is the right approach for most people building a web presence these days, we are convinced that responsive advertising is the only real answer for anyone wanting to unlock the value of digital advertising. We are working with our friends at Responsive Ads to bring their really effective platform to Europe. Beta trails at with the LA Times, Mashable and Mastercard and more have proven really successful at delivering Rich Media creative that can be adapted in real time. Google have a similar, though arguably less sophisticated tool and it has proven very effective for TalkTalk – reducing eCPA by 12%.

We will soon be knocking on the doors of European publishers and agencies to find partners for Responsive Ads – if you would like to jump the queue let me know.

Internet of things

Just prior to their I/O event Google made a further play in their internet of things strategy with Nest buying Dropcam – the video monitoring camera system – for $555m. They also announced they are launching a developer programme – with Mercedes, Jawbone and Whirpppol amongst the launch partners. This will be a space whare Google and Apple go head to head – how long before Apple stop selling Next and DropCam?

This interview with a garage door company gets into the detail of how these partnerships are being forged.

Recent Pew research suggests the internet of things will be thriving by 2025. We don’t think it will take that long.  The CEO of the newly merged Dixon Carphone talks of the connected home as part of the logic for the merger.

Quick Reads

Great example of how UX and design can transform a process from Virgin America

More on different ways to measure engagement or media performance. Upworthy use engagement minutes. Back in our Mindshare days we tried to get minutes earned – ie YouTube views – accepted as comparable to minutes bought (they are actually more valuable because people are viewing by choice rather than through interruption) Hard to get traction with the idea but as video gets real scale we think there is mileage in this.

Interesting take on the inexorable rise of Product Placement. The effect of this type of tactic is debatable but we did see evidence that Coke ads in the breaks of the US XFactor – where they had lots of product placement  – performed much better than the same ads on other shows.

The Daily Mail have hired the mastermind of Buzzfeeds advertising success. Should we look forward to brands in the sidebar of shame 

Finally if you think the animosity between GAFA and especially Apple and Google is bad take a look at BAT in China. People wanting to place World Cups bets with the Tencent mobile betting site QQ Lottery, were told they couldn’t pay with Alipay – the payments arm of Alibaba. Whilst it was claimed to be a technical issue many people suspect it’s the BAT vertical stack at play. 

Both companies resorted to social media and things got a little heated. At least GAFA remain fairly civil to each other.

Mobile Fix – June 20

Another week and more significant new products from GAFA.

The most anticipated was the Amazon Fire – their smartphone has been rumoured for years and it’s finally available- at least in the US. The UK website has no mention of it at the time of writing.

One key features is Dynamic Perspectives – a sort of 3d that seems to be powered by an accelerometer type tech that changes the content as you move the smartphone. It looks interesting but we suspect the partnership with AT&T is partly designed to get the device into all their shops where people can play with the phone and get the experience – the video isn’t going to be enough.

The other is Firefly , which is a sophisticated visual recognition tool – think a QR reader combined with a Google Goggles type of tech. This enables the device to ‘read’ text on posters, magazines and business cards and recognize live TV, movies and TV shows as well as hear songs. And they claim it will recognise 70 million products – letting you add items to your wish list or just order.

Why does Amazon need a smartphone of its own? The Vertical Stack means it makes sense to have a device that drives consumption and sales of its core products and the Kindle has proven this strategy – although no one has any idea on the number of devices sold.

It is worth reading the whole feature list as it is impressive – and if you are an Amazon prime customer it probably deserves consideration when you think about your next phone –especially as it saves you the $90 Prime fee.

There are lots of good points – the camera looks good and free cloud storage of all your photos is a good offer. They will extend their video help service MayDay so they should be good at getting people to understand more of the device capabilities. They even claim their headphones won’t tangle…..

But the price point puts the Fire into competition with the iPhone and the high end Androids and we can’t see that many people choosing it over the iPhone 6. We expect it to be a modest success – although we doubt we will ever hear about actual sales numbers (which is a problem for developers who won’t build unless they believe there is a substantial potential market for their apps.)

And we think that the Firefly technology could soon emerge as a standalone app (just like the Kindle software). The upside for Amazon of millions of people using their tech as a way to discover products and content is too valuable to leave this locked in a proprietary device that will never reach more than a fraction of the potential userbase.

This is a good take on the launch and this is the FT view. Techcrunch walk through the features you won’t get elsewhere. Wired take a view on the hidden agenda behind the launch – but we’d argue little is actually hidden 

Slingshot

The other launch was also anticipated – mainly because Facebook launched Slingshot by accident a couple of weeks back. The official launch was this week and early reaction has been good.

Pigeonholed as a Snapchat clone, Slingshot makes it easy to take photos videos and selfies and lets the user customize them with drawings and captions – then you send it to your friends. The shot can only be viewed once – like Snapchat – but the time period isn’t fixed at 10 seconds. But they only get to see your picture – or shot – when they send a shot back. This is a new behavior and feels counterintuitive – but we think people will get used to it.

It also means that Slingshot has the one thing that Snapchat doesn’t  – a way to send to all your friends. The reciprocal model means that it shouldn’t descend into spam.

The app is only available in the US appstores at the moment but, if you know how to get around that, the service works fine in the UK.

Like all the messenger apps, Slingshot uses your contact list to find users amongst your friends – as well as tapping into your friends on Facebook. Mashable has a good look at the service and an interview with the team behind it.

The last Facebook new app Paper has been updated but has yet to launch outside the US suggesting it hasn’t got traction – so everyone will be watching to see how fast Slingshot grows 

Social Retail

Last week we mentioned that Goldman Sachs are very bullish about the opportunity for Amazon to disrupt grocery with their home delivery service that is rolling out across the US – and strongly rumoured to be heading to the UK.

We also recently mentioned another grocery start up that is getting traction – Instacart. Here you hire a personal shopper who takes your shopping list and goes and buys everything delivering back to you.  The idea seems niche at first but as the collaborative consumption world grows the idea does seem to have legs – in every sense. VC Andreessen Horowitz see the potential and have just invested $44m and one of their people will join the board. Along with AirBnB, Uber (who the Instacart founder used when he start the business as he didn’t have a car) and even our own Skratch, the idea of using digital technology to connect people and unlock the value of their time and/or assets is fascinating.

Publishing

Of all the sectors facing disruption, publishing probably gets most attention. One of the most agile and most successful at managing their evolution is the FT – who have been at it a long time – we worked on the launch of FT.com in 1999. This Nieman piece is a good look at how they are evolving how they work ;

“The biggest challenge for the FT, we feel, lies not in its transition to digital, which can be achieved with web-savvy staff, but in the transition of the print staff to this ‘post-news’ method.”

But as Fix readers know the bigger challenge is monetizing the audience and the FT are innovating in this area too. Their new focus is on time spent rather than a simple view and it will be worth watching to see how successful this new metric is.

Regional newspapers are going through a similar evolution – albeit possibly at a slower pace. This really good look at how smart publishers are focusing on their audiences rather than the platform is a must read. Regional audiences are really valuable to brands and especially to retailers. Who wants to advertise to people who don’t live near enough to use your stores?

Ben Evans has curated a set of interesting charts on digital news drawn from a Reuters report on The Study of Journalism.

Seth Godin has a typically smart look at what publishers should be doing to adapt to the digital world –and warns of Buzzfeed envy.

Quick reads

An interesting look at Google moving beyond search

How Facebook works with advertisers to make ads sharable

A couple of must read articles on Apple in the NYTImes. An in depth look at how Tim Cook is making his mark and an interview with Jonny Ive

We have talked about the way tech firms are starting to use content exclusives to drive usage (eg Beyonce and iTunes & Samsung and JayZ). This article argues that the key for music services is the depth of content rather than a few exclusives. As a marketing tool both exclusives and curation will, in our opinion, differentiate what can be commodity services.

Finally – I am speaking at Facebook tomorrow on the current mobile advertising climate – if you are there come and say hello. This article suggesting we have no idea whether digital advertising works will fuel the debate. Much of the research they point to has been debunked and we know – like many digital businesses – that digital advertising can – and does – work. They point to a study by the author that proves Location, Repetition and Proximity increase ad effectiveness.

Our view remains that, done properly, digital advertising – and mobile – solve a problem for users and becomes advertising so good it’s a service 

The problem is most of it isn’t done properly. Too often its left to the media owner to chop up desktop assets or it’s done by a junior team that doesn’t quite get the big idea and only have a little time to devote to it.

If you want to dramatically improve your advertising, we’re happy to help