Category Archives: disruption

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 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.

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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 

Mobile Fix – June 6

The Apple event this week did what it was meant to. Despite being a developers event the real audience was the rest of the industry, the press and Wall Street.

And it seemed to work. The coverage has been (mostly) favourable and the share price even went up a little. The general view is that  – for the first time without Steve Jobs – Apple have momentum. Lots of ideas and incremental things that roll up into a big picture view of what Apple offers for the future.

Remember their business model is all about selling high end hardware – so the real test is when they unveil the iPhone 6

But in the meantime they are creating more synergies between Apple devices – so if you have a Mac then the iPhone is the natural companion. Content can now be shared between devices and you can even makes calls and get texts on your PC

As expected we saw new Anchors unveiled – HealthKit and HomeKit both have the promise of being incredibly useful and making your iPhone even more central to your life.

Not much on the other Anchor – the Passbook cum wallet – but at a developers event we weren’t expecting too much. The brief mention of TouchID does set up the wallet idea – what better to keep your money and financial info safe than your fingerprint?  (83% of iPhone5 owners use the fingerprint scanning) When the iPhone 6 launches we’re sure Apple will leverage those billion credit card relationships to announce a wallet.

There is some gentle sniping that Apple iOS 8 has learnt a lot from Android and others pointing out that a number of apps look a little superfluous now that Apple has embraced their function. DropBox, WhatsApp, Skype all seem a little less essential than last week. Of course they are arguably better than the iOS8 version but Google maps is better than Apple maps but most iPhone users go with the default.

Another interesting move is the addition of privacy focused search engine Duck Duck Go as option in Safari. We have banged on about the fact the only Google left baked into the iPhone is as the default search. This doesn’t change that but is another option. In Siri Bing has already replaced Google as the default search and we still expect further moves.

Apple is now allowing app extensions so apps can talk with each other  – as on Android) and it will now be possible for any app to offer a Notification Centre widget – which look like they would work really well on a watch or other wearable. And a new coding language that will make it easier to build apps.

There is so much to digest here – and little things keep being spotted  – like the ability to quick launch apps from the lock screen. This is a good attempt at a list of everything you need to know and if you want to dig deeper the Ben Evan post is worth reading as is the Fred Wilson one. 

Beacons

Hardly mentioned at the last Apple event iBeacons and Low Energy Bluetooth (BLE) have proved to be big news. Much of the clever stuff in HomeKit and HealthKit relies on BLE 

This is a good summary on just what a big deal it is. Yet few people have actually done much with the technology yet – lots of talk and little action. But a Fix friend has taken their beacons out of the box and started to experiment – read the learnings here.

Meeker backlash

There has been a bit of a backlash to the new Mary Meeker deck. One thing that welcome is an attempt to improve the charts themselves – as this example shows the data can be even more powerful when presented well.

Of course the money and time are never going to balance – we know that the analogue dollars of Print turn into digital pennies in mobile – but there is a lot of money in flux. Someone points out that chart overstates the case as some of the mobile time is spent on email etc but we think that is angels on pinheads stuff.

You can watch the full presentation video here – Meeker talks even faster than me.

One other piece caught our attention this week  – Michael Wolff makes the point that even in decline print does generate a lot of cash. Clearly the smart Print people are using this cash to build a digital future, but some are just taking the money. We loved this quote;

Print is the hopeless past, but one left with enough cash flow to be somebody’s excellent future

Quick Reads

Amazon are about to launch their much anticipated phone. This video shows people amazed by the mystery device. Will it be 3D? All will be revealed on June 18

The Google lab that gave us the intriguing Field Trip app also has a game. We have played with Ingress but never really understood it. This Guardian article suggests it has really caught on.

Our friend sat OnDevice have gone public with their Brand Effectiveness study. We have been working with them in this and its really impressive. As is the case study 

A good piece on the way Twitter has become embedded itself in public life.

Programmatic continues to be a hot topic. P&G have announced plans to but the majority of their digital advertising that way. And GroupMs Irwin Gottleib talks a bullish game on their approach to programmatic in this video interview.

A look at the amazing scale of Tencent  -one of BAT the big 3 Chinese digital players.

Finally…at the excellent Prince concert on Wednesday they made a big thing about people not filming with their phones. So for  once the view wasn’t blocked by peoples phones – or even worse their iPads.

This piece we happened to the same day highlights the Attention Deficit Disorder type behavior that smartphones bring out in people. We think we are going to a new mobile etiquette develop where people consciously wean themselves off mobile for sometime each day. The emerging trend for old Nokia phones is part of this – in Asia you seen taxi drivers with a Phablet for videos and games when on WiFi and a featurephone for calls. Try Phone Stacking – at a bar you all stack your phones and the person who cracks first and checks theirs pays for the drinks 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile Fix – May 30

New Mary Meeker

And she’s back. Mary Meeker shared a new deck at the recode conference yesterday and whilst there is not that much new, it’s still hugely influential.  The stats on growth no longer surprise but her thoughts on the changes caused by this growth are always interesting.

Her most shared chart is the Money one – showing that time spent remains out of kilter with where advertising money is spent. Her estimate of the Big Opportunity for Digital (AKA the Big Problem for Print) is that $30bn is in motion in the US – so probably over $50bn globally. And the vast majority is mobile.

As we have discussed before there is a lot of friction slowing this change, but we are convinced it is happening and it will probably accelerate.

One other key theme from this deck is that Meeker refutes the idea of a bubble and shares some convincing data to support that view.

The whole deck is worth spending time on, but if you want a quick take on the key points this Guardian piece is a good cheat sheet

Content, Curation & Anchors

So finally we have confirmation that the Apple beats deal is happening. It continues to divide people – Ben Evans calls it a Rorschach Blot – it confirms your view of Apple – visionaries or past it.

We have come back around to seeing Apple as real innovators and we think that they are poised to use content and services in really smart ways to protect and build their core hardware business. 

Some analysts support our view that the software side of Beats – is the streaming – is more important than the hardware- even though Apple say headphones will drive profits for them straight away. And their awesome production and sourcing skills should see that product improve and maybe even come down in price.

Another makes the point that Apple are now getting involved with Pop culture and you can understand the Beats acquisition by understanding Lady Gaga. Think back to the Beyonce deal where her album was debuted on iTunes as an exclusive with great success.

This type of promotion can be a win win and Apple have been actively looking for more – the Beats team should make that process a lot more effective and Tim Cook has been very vocal in his praise of the Beats team. Their role in bringing curation the Apple services will be really important.

Interestingly the Beyonce product was innovative in format as well as how it was promoted; it was all about video. We know that YouTube has a huge share of the music market with views counting towards the US charts. Could Apple use Beats and music as a way to kickstart their ambitions for TV too? Again a curated service could beat the slightly anarchic discovery within YouTube.

Either way Apple is going to use music as one of its Anchors. A service that is so useful – addictive even – that customers will be reluctant to consider a switch to an Android. Beats will almost certainly be available on Android devices but we expect it to be so baked into iOS that it’s a noticeably better experience.

And it looks like home automation could be another Apple Anchor. Once your smartphone turns on your heating and your lights, moving to another device becomes a chore.

Streams

We couldn’t make the IAB Mobile Engage event the other week, but we heard lots of good reports. One thing that got a few mentions was Twitters’ Bruce Daisley talking about how mobile users consume content in a stream. He makes the good point that even the newspaper sites now constantly update and some use a stream – the Guardians Politics blog works that way.

He also refers to the very interesting talk that Evan Spiegal of Snapchat made a while back where he talks about profiles no longer being necessary in a world where everyone is constantly connected. Your stream says everything about you – and if you don’t update it you are just not present.

This is a parallel to the death of the home page – as the New York Times lamented last week people just go to the stories they want to read – underlining the Big Problem for Print, as the key locations that are so valuable in the real world don’t translate into digital. And remember when we had homepages – the places we started our web session when we turned on the PC? Now most people never turn their device off and most browsers open with all the tabs you had open last time, so we’re sort of in our own stream even on PCs

Flow

In our work for media owners on what advertising needs to look like to deliver on that $50bn Big Opportunity for Digital we talk about Flow.  This is our term for advertising that doesn’t disrupt the Stream – like banners do. The most successful ad formats fit the Flow of the Stream – best evidenced by Facebook and Twitter, but also true of Google PPC ads and even TV. Look, I am searching for coffee shops and there are all these useful links to ones just around me. Or I am watching an extended piece of video and it occasionally stops and shows me short pieces of video that (sometimes) entertain me and inform me.

The quest for native is about trying to fit with the Flow but sometimes its more about masquerading as editorial – and the New York Times is writing a rule book on native

Bruce showed some good examples of creativity on Vine in his talk and makes the point that only people who consume media as a stream can really crack making content that fits. Here is a good selection of recent Vines and this is a good example of how a brand can use Snapchat by fitting with the Flow.

As these new short formats can deliver significant reach there is more interest in how to make them. As well as Vine and Instagram video, GIFs are getting used more and more in art as well as in marketing. And this new tool to make them is interesting.

We are keen to meet people with skills in this area – people like Son who get new ways of doing things – so please point us in the right direction. The space is getting more commercialized and there is a big opportunity for brands to benefit from these new skill 

Programmatic, Context and Fraud

The new ways of doing creative are moving more slowly than the new ways of doing media – and that may prove to be an issue.

Especially as the context of the message seems to be increasingly absent from the channel thinking. Is a Guardian reader really just as valuable when she is checking her Yahoo Mail as when she is reading the Guardian? We have pointed this out as a real problem before and liked this new thinking about the issue from a US publisher. We agree and are happy to work with anyone who can make some progress on this – is it an opportunity for a smart research programme? We tried last year and couldn’t get enough publishers to get involved. But proving the value of context might even help with the Big Problem for Print.

The FT have a good round up of how advertising is getting automated. If you are not too sure about the pros and cons of Programmatic its well worth a read. Especially as the scale is increasing with two major players partnering to better compete with Google and Facebook.

But as the ways of doing things evolves so too does the appetite for ad fraud. A Mercedes digital ad was seen by more computers than actual people. The fraud in adtech is a growing problem and will slow the shift to digital unless it is dealt with quickly and effectively.

Quick Reads

Interesting thoughts on web apps vs native apps. We still think that open standards will win out and the power of search makes good browser experiences essential for the vast majority of brands. Native apps are good for some brands but probably only really worthwhile for a minority.

No one has come close to cracking mobile and money. Yet. A new survey from Accenture looks at attitudes to banks in the US – and a large proportion would be quite happy to bank with Google or Apple. Here in Europe Vodafone still have ambitions in this space and their new partnership with Bluesource to scan in plastic loyalty cards is interesting.  GoCompare tell us most people don’t make the most of card based loyalty schemes, but we suspect Apple intend to solve this with Passbook as they create a money focused Anchor.

Visual recognition has been a promising feature of mobile for a while and the Google acquisition of WordLens reminds us what can be done with the camera. Camfind is an interesting app that combines algorithms with Mechanical Turk to identify products and provide links to buy them. How long before Amazon buy them? The most interesting uses of visual search are in Fashion and this interview with the CEO of London start up Cortexica is worth reading.

How Yahoo made itself relevant in Mobile – again

McKinsey think that companies must stop experimenting with digital and commit to transforming themselves into full digital businesses. We sort of agree – experimentation is a good way to learn about news things like Streams and Flow – but it’s no longer enough to treat digital as emerging media. It’s now mainstream and a machine for making money. McKinsey have 7 habits of highly effective digital businesses. How many are you doing?

Finally….. the lure of Apple devices has been a core factor in their success since the early days. Here are some of their prototypes from the 1980s. But we don’t get the Bashful branding?

 

Mobile Fix – May 23

GAFA quiet period?

With anticipation building for both the Apple developer event (just over a week away) and the Google one at the end of June, you could argue things have gone a little quiet with GAFA.

Still no news on Apple & Beats. It seems that US financial rules mean that Apple don’t need to talk about a deal unless it’s much bigger than $3bn. So it could still be on. The Spotify results this week underline our belief that streaming is going to be a major business and Apple do need to step up to regain anywhere near the dominance they had with iTunes. With 10 million Spotify subscribers – and around 30m listening to the free (ad supported) version – people are starting to accept that streaming will reinvent the music business. This is more on the numbers.

Google did make one acquisition, buying the Word Lens Translation app. This is one of those really innovative services that demonstrate just how magical mobile can be. Take a minute to watch the demo and download the app whilst you can. Along with the Google Goggles Sudoku video it’s something we have used a lot in workshops. But since launch back in 2010 it’s been quite low profile and now Google see it can enhance their Translation service.

It’s another source of rich contextual data – once Google know I am using Word Lens to translate a menu or a road sign it has another powerful signal to decide which ad to show me next. Coupled with my location and all the data that Google Now can cook up, context is getting more and more usable.

Facebook 

Facebook were turned down when they offered $3bn for Snapchat a few months ago. So now they seem to be making their own version. Slingshot sounds like a better bet than Poke, but the FT say it may not get launched. Given the way that Facebook is taking the constellation approach to its apps, we can’t see why they wouldn’t roll the dice on this. The video messaging space is very attractive to the audience Facebook is struggling with and the reach of WhatsApp is a useful lever. Maybe this is the first sign that the fail fast regime really is over.

Another interesting move from Facebook has the potential to spook people. A new service lets you automatically post about the TV show you are watching or the music you are listening to. The microphone option when writing a post lets Facebook listen to the sound and identify the tune or the show. It’s another way of getting a signal that helps sell advertising. Remember Yahoo bought a firm with a similar technology; the IntoNow app was closed a few months ago – but Yahoo said the technology would be incorporated into some of their other apps.

Given how many TV viewers use their smartphones whilst watching TV, this tech could allow Facebook and Yahoo to offer synchronized ads to brands. The smart people at Xaxis are already looking at this type of service with their Sync product but their approach is a little less sophisticated.

And Facebook gave just announced some new policies on privacy.

Old Media

Whilst we wait for news from GAFA, the legacy media (arguably the biggest victims of the shift in both time and ad revenue to digital) continue to struggle. A new report castigates the BBC  for not going fast enough in digital. A little unfair given the pioneering work on iPlayer etc but their Non Exec points out that Buzzfeed has a bigger global reach than BBC News despite only launching in 2010.

And much has been made of the New York Times Innovation report (leaked via Buzzfeed ironically) where the division of church and state are shown to be very pronounced. And the practice of journalists doesn’t seem to have changed much;

“Stories are typically filed late in the day. Our mobile apps are organized by print sections. Desks meticulously lay out their sections but spend little time thinking about social strategies,”

This piece looks at how so many people curate content from old media and do really well with it. We heard a similar story about a UK magazine that had a great cover of Little Britain – and when they PR’d the story a day before publication it got picked up by the Mail and the Telegraph websites and was soon being shared. But with no mention of the magazine. A friend working at the company went to ask why it wasn’t on the magazine website – only to be told their policy was that nothing from the magazine could go on the site prior to the print onsale day.

In our client workshops we often use a great quote from GEs Jack Welch about change;

If someone is going to eat your children, it may as well be you.

In media it’s so true, but few people seem to have the appetite.

It is getting better. The Mirror announced a big increase in digital revenues and the Telegraph are pushing mobile first sites for the World Cup and experimenting with new ways of working.

newTV

Wired have produced some really good nativeadvertising /brandedcontent /advertorial for Netflix. It’s worth a look as a good example of what can be done – and its also interesting thinking for Fix readers interested in newTV. Surprisingly it doesn’t work that well on mobile. Adage take a look at the back story on its development here.

Wired also have another (apparently unrelated) piece on Netflix – looking at their Chief Product Officers views on the future of TV. It reports a presentation he gave suggesting what TV will be like in 2025.  We’re not sure we agree with the idea of the smart TV being central – we favour the dumb screen with the smartness in a smartphone. Watching the NBA playoffs this week by Chromecasting from a BT Android app felt like a glimpse of the future. Will it really take another 10 years to reinvent TV? YouTube is only 9 years old this month.

Social

One thing we keep reminding brands is that being early – and smart – in using new opportunities in mobile and social can deliver real competitive advantage. We think Ford have done a great job by being very focused on social and this interview with the main guy behind their social is a must read. He is leaving Ford and it will be interesting to see what he does next. Interestingly he has a good piece on the lessons brands can learn from the  NYTimes Innovation report we mention above.

Quick reads 

The latest version of the Google Mobile Playbook is now out. Lots of good examples of best practice.

Another Think with Google initiative– people celebrating good digital marketing. This one is their own (and Fix friend) Ben Malbon looking at global campaigns

Another good deck on growth hacking 

Marc Andreessen thinking is always worth listening to – in this interview he is bullish about Bitcoin – talking of it as a trillion dollar industry in

Finally.…with our social start up SkratchMyBack getting traction in its Manchester beta, we are very interesting in the sharing economy or Collaborative Consumption as its called. A new service in the US shows how much mileage there is in this space- Instacart lets you ‘hire’ a personal shopper who goes off and buys the groceries on your list and delivers them to you. There are so much room for business model innovation these days.

 

Mobile Fix – May 16

Apple, Beats & Anchors 

Is it happening or isn’t it? Almost a week on and it is still unclear whether Apple are going to buy Beats.

But the lack of news hasn’t stemmed the opnions and speculation. As someone on Twitter said; when Google, Amazon or Facebook announce something everyone goes – Ooh Interesting move. Yet when Apple announce something (or even a rumour) lots of people say Oh Stupid move.

We don’t think Apple is at all stupid and believe this could be a great deal. Beats is a very successful company with a really string brand

First reason is that Beats could resolve the issues around a cheaper iPhone. Many people have pointed out that a lower price iPhone – an iPhone Nano – could allow Apple to take the fight to the mid price androids that are doing so well all around the world

But the problem has always been about what a low price version does for the brand and does it affect the higher price iPhone? We have termed Apple the Audi of smartphones before and its worth considering how that brand deals with market segmentation.

There are many flavours of Audi but all at the top end of the market. For lower price points they have VW and Skoda -all sharing the same technology as Audi but each operating in its own market sector.

So a Beats phone at around $300 could be a big hit; iPhone 5 technology – which is still top parity with the best androids even though it’s a year old – with the very popular Beats branding, sold through the awesome distribution networks of Apple.

The second reason why is would be a good deal is that it should allow Apple to reinvent its music offering. Remember the renaissance of Apple was driven by the iPod and iTunes. As streaming grows in importance iTunes Radio – which is to be ad funded – probably isn’t a strong player. Now Beats streaming hasn’t done that well so far – but with some Apple love it could do a lot better.

Music industry insiders are very excited about the potential of streaming – but they see a different model to Spotify etc. Mark Geiger, the head of music at talent agency William Morris Endeavour believes streaming can transform the music industry . He envisions Streaming revenues of $72bn – 5 times the total music sales (globally) in 2013. Lucian Grange who heads up the biggest label Universal tends to agree. But Geiger thinks it will take one of the the big players – GAFA – to make it work and they need to have all music on it, not the relatively limited supply that current players have. 

In his presentation at Mipcom he makes it clear that the people behind the streaming firms aren’t from music – but the Beats people clearly are. Could Apple deliver the 500 million users who pay $15 a month for all you can eat streaming music?

One other point on this – we are told that he music rights that Beats have can be transferred in the event of a takeover whilst the Spotify rights can’t. So Apple may have pulled up the drawbridge behind them with this deal.

Music as an Apple Anchor

Is music that critical for Apple? Sure they built a big business with iTunes but everyone now has a music offer and many thought that it had become a commodity – something you have to offer but unlikely to make  a big difference to a customer.

We disagree – we think if you can get music right then it can be very powerful. Along with sleep, music is the most underrated drug in the world. Hearing the right song at the right moment can enhance your mood just as well as any narcotic 

But whilst the music that does that for me may be Marvin Gaye, Frank Ocean or 1960s Brazilian Jazz, yours will be different. And that’s where music services have to go next – to discovery and personalization. Jimmy Iovine of Beats talks about curation;

“There’s an ocean of music out there,” said iconic engineer, record producer and Beats CEO Jimmy Iovine. “And there’s absolutely no curation for it.”

What better raw material to start with than someones iTunes collection, and scrobbling that (remember how clever LastFM was at that) to deliver a curated stream.

If Apple can use their knowledge of my music and deliver a great personalized stream – helping me discover new music that I love  – they have something hugely powerful. And 500m people paying $15 a month generates $72 billion a year – and a 30% share gives Apple over $20bn a year in new revenue.

Apple Anchor – Passbook 

We see music as a crucial Anchor – something that will cause Apple users to pause before moving over to android and losing something they value.

Right now getting your music out of iTunes is a huge faff and that acts a sort of negative anchor – as does the way iMessage buries your texts once you quit Apple.

If you are Apple though you now want to build positive Anchors that keep people with the iPhone. The Appstore used to be an anchor but now most of the top apps are on Android too.

Music can be one and we are convinced that Passbook could be another. If I have a passbook full of my loyalty cards, coupons and boarding passes, will I just leave that behind as I switch to a Galaxy? And if Apple get the Passbook working really well with iBeacons to offer a new level of utility around shopping, will I just leave it? 

When Apple leverage their 600m credit card relationships to offer a real wallet service it becomes even more of an Anchor. Like moving banks – I know I can be done but do I really want to?

Apple Anchor – Health

If Apple do make health a key part of the new iPhone experience this quickly becomes another Anchor. The breadth and depth of your records from the iPhone apps and wearables (peripherals) will become crucial to health. Friends built a simple Diabetes app for sufferers to record their eating habits, mood swings etc. This has transformed the way Doctors treat them as the diagnosis is now based on fact rather than a selective memory. As the next generation gets smarter and more intuitive, the data gets richer and the barrier to churn gets stronger. A key Anchor 

And….?

If you accept the premise that the hardware is no longer going to be a key differentiator (the Amazon smartphone and the Tesco one are not going to be that different to the new iPhone or the next Galaxy etc) then services are key.  What else could Apple do to create differentiation and Anchors?

Everyone in the TV business knows sport is a key to differentiation. Sky built their business around football and BT is trying hard to emulate that strategy. Could Apple decide to invest in sports content as way of driving uptake and loyalty?

Charmath Palihapitiya – very early Facebooker, VC and owner of NBA team Golden State Warriors – believes it’s a 100% likely that Apple or Google or Amazon will buy the rights for a major sports league in the next couple of years

The US rights to the Premier League are with NBC and seem to be doing well. What if Apple wanted to buy global mobile rights for the Premier League – leaving the TV rights with the current players? 

That would be some Anchor – and a great way of making a Beats smartphone a must have in emerging markets too.

Idle speculation on our part, clearly. But there is something happening here and the question is what do brands do?

We advice all our clients to have a GAFA strategy; a real understanding of how they are involved and connected with Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon and an appetite to test and learn on new opportunities as soon as they arise. For Apple we think Passbook is a huge opportunity for many brands and it is fairly straightforward to start learning what works and what doesn’t.

Mobile Gaming ads – a bubble? 

Finnish gaming company Supercell is insanely profitable – this article says that one day last October just two of their games totalled over $1m in revenue. The actual games are free – like most of the rest of the gaming market these apps are free to buy, but make money through in app purchases.

Most people don’t buy the gems or smurfberries, but a small number do. This chart from a great presentation at Facebook F8 conference shows the math.

Around a quarter of paying customers  – a very small proportion of all players – will spend over $1000 in a game and account for 90% of the game revenue. This writer thinks gaming is essentially gambling and worries we may end up with regulation.

Should we be worried that a large proportion of the booming mobile ad market is focused on finding these whales? Are we building an industry on sand?

The sooner we get real brands spending real money on mobile advertising designed to build brands and sell product the better.

Ephemeral?

There have been lots of new services that offer privacy – although Snapchat isn’t as private as people thought and they are proving very popular. Secret has raised more money and new data from Sandvine shows SnapChat is bigger than Whats App in the US

The same data source says “On several LTE networks in Asia 3rd-party messaging apps such as Line or WeChat R used by 40%+ of mobile subs each hour”

And Yahoo have bought Blink – a snapchat style service  – which they intend to close suggesting they wanted the people more than the product.

Square in trouble? 

Whilst a Bain report talks of the next step in mobile money being imminent, former mobile wallet poster child Square is in trouble. Reported to be losing $100m a year the business started by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is up for sale. Despite a plethora of startups in this space we can’t see that anyone other than GAFA or maybe a Operator backed business can win. And only then, by solving a real customer problem. Paying for something with cards or cash still works fine. In our opinion, bundling payments with offers seems to be the only way forward.

The new Square app – replacing their wallet app – may be the last throw of the dice but being able to order on advance does solve a problem.

Quick Reads

Smart thinking on the evolving media agency model and their relationships with clients.

Interesting look at the relentless rise of ecommerce and the risk to retail

Foursquare are unbundling and their new Swarm app is now available. This Techcrunch piece sees Swarm as a service layer – using context to see when your friends are around.

This video from F8 is worth watching. Titled Disruptive Mobile Business it feature a panel with key people from Nike, Square, Pinterest, Estimote and Beats . It’s 45 minutes but if you are short of time the Beats bit starts at 19 minutes.

Finally…. we are out and about next week. On Monday I am on a panel at Open Mobile. And on Wednesday I am speaking at the Mediatel Media Playground. If you are at either event do come and say hello.

Mobile Fix – May 9

Chinese IPO

Last week the focus of Wall Street was on GAFA – now it’s the turn of BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) as Alibaba prepares to IPO in New York

We have talked before about how the Vertical Stack model we apply to GAFA also works on the Chinese BAT. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent all compete ferociously across virtually all online sectors– take a look at this infographic to get a sense  of the scale – we’d include it in the mail but it doubles the length…

Analysts estimate that the IPO will value Alibaba at between $136bn and $245bn – which sounds a lot until you consider their sales in 2013 were $248bn. And look at how many western firms you would have  to combine to match Alibaba; Amazon, eBay, Twitter, PayPal, uber, Spotify and more

A major beneficiary of the IPO is Yahoo who own 22% and they are expected to sell off $10bn of shares – prompting the question what will they buy with that cash?  Almost certainly something mobile

“When I got to Yahoo, mobile was everyone’s hobby. It was no one’s job,” Marissa Mayer

Talking about the new focus on mobile she talks of serendipity – the idea that people who go to the desktop site to check their emails and end up reading Yahoo news. In their apps you will be able to easily switch between emails, news and weather. Hasn’t she heard of the trend for unbundling?

Given how hard it is to get an app onto the home screen, we think that this type of cross pollination has more legs than the unbundling.

First Party Data

In the era of the PC, digital advertising built its infrastructure on top of the third-party cookie, a reliable workhorse that wasn’t exactly controversy-free, but at least remained nonproprietary. In our post-PC world, however, it appears that the infrastructure we need will be provided by large and proprietary first parties. 

This quote is from a good piece by a smart US agency head, pointing out the power of Facebook and Twitter in mobile advertising. As we have stated, the new ad world is divided between those with rich data – essentially first party data – like GAFA and Twitter – and the rest who use their adtech to add value to raw inventory through third party data.

Given the scale that GAFA and Twitter can deliver we wonder whether brands will continue to take the trouble to go buy others cheap inventory, in the hope of turning the lead into gold. Which is a worry for the main suppliers of this other inventory – traditional media owners.

Spend any time on a newspaper mobile site and the quality of advertising is terrible; poorly designed banners that often click through to non optimized sites and a surfeit of house ads. Yet they have something that could be almost as valuable as first party data – context.

Once upon a time the environment delivered by media owners was a key factor in the decision to advertise and the price paid. Of course you can now reach New York Times readers on eBay and Guardian readers on the Trainline app – but is it the same as reaching them in the right context? And could context be helpful as the debate around  viewability in digital – and the continuing scandal of fake traffic. This NYT article looks into the problems around online video and we suspect many of the same issue plague display on mobile and desktop.

Despite great tech and robust research in digital, every time these problems get aired, conservative brands have another reason to maintain their investment in traditional media.

How do we get a sense of the value of context?

One brand that monetizes its context well is the FT – this is a great insight into their digital strategy.. Of course their subscriber base gives them some first party data too. 

A key issue for Yahoo is how to revive their first party data – once they had millions of people logging in for Yahoo mail etc and that has virtually disappeared.

iPhone 6

Despite no announcements and no leaks there is a huge amount of speculation around the next iPhone – googling it gets 2.5m results.

One thing that is commonly accepted is that the new device will be bigger. One issue this throws up is getting apps optimized for the new devices – could this be a way for Apple to reboot the app store?

Finding anything in the appstore is a nightmare – it’s a digital jumble sale with a million apps. Solving this is a problem that Apple have not really focused on. But if we have a new device with a different ratio screen, there could be a way Apple get to restart the app store. Clearly with a new device and new OS, smart developers will be quick to optimize their apps. But lots wont and all those zombie apps that never get downloaded are unlikely to be updated.

So stealing an idea from the Google PlayStore, Apple could organise the app store based on apps that are compatible with (or optimised for) your device. All the key apps are there and discovery should be much more manageable.

More idol speculation over the next few weeks.

Quick reads

Amazon will now let you buy from Tweets – Amazon Cart (or Basket here in the UK) is a good idea and we expect it could be used more by brands in sponsored tweets. A huge proportion of tweets relate to music, books and film – could Twitter build advertising around media brands?

Groupon want to play in the grocery market – Groupon Basics competes directly with Amazon Pantry

Google apparently pressure Android device makers to include Google search etc. Google dispute this.

An interesting read about the Twitter purchase of Gnip –one of the firms that sells Twitter data to brands

eBay is getting into the content business – hiring talent to create a digital magazine. We think that they would be better to open up the site to curators – people who know a topic well and can help people find the right items on the site. We proposed this sort of role for our friends at Trekstock, so they could get a donation from people who found their help useful.

An interview with Hugo Barra gives more insight into Xiaomi – who are expanding into Malaysia. Very interesting Chinese company

When it comes to first party data the person best able to deliver that is you. Vendor Relationship Management is the term for people managing their own data and profiting from it. This is a good look at the area from a smart NY entrepreneur who is focusing on this exciting opportunity.

Facebook have launched a new tool so brands can better understand  -and target them. Audience Insights is US only at the moment.

AOL results disappointed – leading to their stock price falling. Most interesting stat is they still make $138m profit from people who still use AOL as their dial up internet access.

Finally….a bunch of really smart people were asked their views of the future – on the basis that they are quite likely to invent it. Well worth reading