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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 18

Old Media

The big deals this week are in old media rather than new. Rupert Murdoch is trying to buy Time Warner to merge it with his Fox business. His $80bn offer has been rejected but the feeling is that the deal will happen if/when he ups the offer.

Why buy them? He sees that the whole world of content is becoming even more of a hits business. And as digital drives the value of content down through ease of sharing (and piracy) we are seeing a polarization; most content is worth very little and the small minority that people feel they have to see shoots up in value. 

A quote from VC Chamath Palihapitiya now shapes much of our thinking;

Experience = Social Capital

So content that is an experience, and therefore has social capital, is hugely valuable. And Rupert gets this – an analyst said 

“He clearly feels that as other players try to enter the media business, content will be more valuable and he wants to get his hands on as much content as possible.”

It’s worth reading a blog post from the same analyst where he dissects the logic of the deal and outlines the key assets of Time Warner; Harry Potter movies and 80 years of classic films, Friends, West Wing and other TV classics, Superman and Batman and the rest of DC Comics. And HBO, which some feel is the real reason for the deal.

But if the value is clear to Murdoch who really only has old media assets to monetise this content through what would it be worth to GAFA who need to improve the monetization of much of their new media assets?

The stories around Apple thinking of buying Disney may have gone away but there is still some logic there. Which is why the story keeps coming back.

Will someone else step up to fight Murdoch for this deal? Maybe, but a little history may dampen down enthusiasm. Time Warner was already bought by a digital giant; AOL bought them for $164bn back in 2000 and the then CEO subsequently called it “the biggest mistake in corporate history

Mark Andreessen is probably right when he says most of the dotcom boom were actually good ideas – just too early – but it would be a brave CEO to rerun this move. We still think its more likely GAFA will move into content with a big Sports deal.

This is a good thinking on how the value of content assets is changing – and how the tactics of digital are trying to slow this change.

Mobile Money 

Our piece on mobile and money last week got some good reaction. There is a general feeling that the legacy issues that are holding traditional banks back, are being overstated and that workarounds can solve some of the key hurdles. 

A new McKinsey report this week makes a similar point about European banking tending to be slow, but sees some reason for optimism. One quote stands out as good sense for every business;

Increase the focus on business outcomes, not digital activity. Too often, banks manage the progress of their digital transformations by tracking activity metrics, such as the number of app downloads and log-in rates. Such metrics are inadequate proxies for business value. Banks must set clear aspirations for value outcomes, looking at productivity, servicing-unit costs, and lead-conversion rates, and link these explicitly to digital investments.

A key issue is where the thinking comes from – too often the IT team are seen as a barrier – if not an enemy – and the big System Integrator contracts are complained about by many people we meet. In a world of MVPs and pretotyping having thousands of people in Pune isn’t always helpful.

A conference this week saw someone make the point that anyone can be a player on money now – and we made the point that c90% of all the money held in US mobile wallets is on the Starbucks app.

The news that the Barclays PingIt app now enables users to send money to India, as well as several African countries, using just someone’s phone number reminds us how fast things are changing.

A little step by Apple is another glimpse of the future. In the US you can now store money in your Passbook app. It’s a little clunky right now in that it involve a visit to an Apple store but we’re sure it will get easier. With around 1 billion credit card relationships, when Apple lets people move money into their Passbook from their cards, they essentially own the payments market. And they create a Money Anchor to stop people switching to Android.

In our conversations with consumers people love the fingerprint tech on the iPhone and it removes much of the worry about security of the phone as a wallet. 

But of course others have similar ambition. PayPals David Marcus has gone to Facebook to run their messaging service and folding in payments seems an obvious step. And Snapchat – who have Chinese BAT giant Tencent as an investor – seemingly plan to add some of the payment and money services that Chinese messaging services do so well from.

London is a key player on all this with the focus on FinTech here – this is some  background on why it’s so important 

Fashion Luxury & tech

One of the hottest areas for VC investment at the moment is Fashion. Startups like NastyGal, Farfetch and Lyst have all been backed by major VCs as the combination of high margins, ecommerce and a fragmented market attract disrupters.

This event in Paris recently had Seth Godin posing the question is digital the end of luxury brands but feels the effect is one of democratization. Godins point echoes the one we made earlier – as social status and social capital become more important what is the role for luxury brands? And the answer is smart luxury brands will deliver an experience; just ask anyone who has had NetAPorter delivered to their office and you will see what we mean.

But tech is adding more than the efficiency of ecommerce. There is lots of R&D looking at what tech can add to the fashion experience. Tools around sizing are a big focus and so is discovery. The holy grail is how tech can enable shopping from print magazine and TV and film – and there is a way to go yet. But the opportunity to make content shoppable is huge.

UK Fashion colossus ASOS was started with just that idea –you could buy a pair of Sunglasses or a dress As Seen On Screen and a Shazam for vision is getting closer 

London is a big centre for fashion tech and both ASAP54 and SnapFashion are London startups leading the quest for a tool that takes an image and shows you clothes that match. Pinterest are also interested in the space and bought Visual Graph.

We think that the most likely winner could be GAFA – Google bought the visual recognition app Words Lens. And they already had Google Goggles.  With their machine learning focus they have solved how to read the numbers on houses.

Firefly on the new Amazon phone also has smart visual recognition – and developers can use this tech.

This is a good list of some of the most interesting Fashion startups in Europe.

Redefining Retail

We always talk about Brand Cathedrals as the epitome of the High Street – retail stores that are so good fans go to worship the brand. Apple stores are clearly Brand Cathedrals and so are some of the Nike stores – especially 1948. Luxury brands are over represented; Dover Street Market, Corso Como in Florence and Seoul are great examples.

Ron Johnson was the man behind the first generation of Apple stores and this interview is a good read – especially as he tells how Steve Jobs let him define what the stores should be.

Samsung have concept stores in some major cities – the London ones and the New York ones are quite interesting – and have now developed a new retail concept for a BestBuy store in Chicago. Built by digital agency Barbarian the use of technology sounds interesting and the video is a must watch. Perhaps not a Brand Cathedral but a good example of what can be done with tech in retail. This Guardian article goes into a bit more depth on how brand are embracing retail and concept stores.

Quick reads

IBM and Apple may seem odd bedfellows to those who remember the PC wars but they are now partnering to focus on getting entereprise mobile. Worth watching.

Facebook are partnering with Nielsen to look at TV viewing habits. 

Microsoft are firing 18000 people – many who joined in the Nokia deal. In better news they are thought to be ahead of Yahoo in ad revenue for the first time ever.

Social guru Gary Vaynerchuk is very bullish on Facebook ads

Finally – it’s going to be hot in London today, so you may want to take a look at a great weather app that is built in HTML5 so runs in the browser. We would love to think the name Forecast.io is some sort of homage to the Fast Show and Scorchio.

And if you want to escape London, check out the new EasyCarClub iPhone app. Backed by Brent Hoberman and Stelios, this is the AirBnB of cars and we worked with our friends at Ocasta as Architect/Builders on the app.

We are escaping London for a little while, so no Fix until August. Enjoy the sunshine.

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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 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 

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 2

F8 - Facebook steps up

Since we first came up with the GAFA construct a few years back, some people have questioned the inclusion of Facebook. Yes it’s huge, but when you do the Vertical Stack analysis it’s a much more straightforward play than the others.

But at F8 yesterday, Marc Zuckerberg firmly planted Facebook right at the heart of the mobile world and trod on the toes of Google, Apple and Amazon.

The idea of a light Facebook Connect – Anonymous Login – allowing users to try apps without sharing any of their FB profile info – and avoiding any other sign up process is a big step up for Faceboook. Removing the friction of signup means most developers will probably start to use this – putting Facebook right in the middle of the app economy.

The new Facebook Login also gives more control to users to decide what info they share with the app – if anything. So the rather cynical harvesting of data that lots of apps use FB connect for will start to decline – especially as Facebook will start to review new apps to ensure they only ask for data they actually need.

This is a very smart move. It plays to a core principle we always work to – you solve business problems by solving consumer problems.

The business problem is how does Facebook continue to fuel their dramatic ad growth?. The consumer problem that gets solved is the need to sign in to new apps. As people probably experiment with more apps, developers get more users but no way to recontact those users. So the best (only?) way to drive repeat usage is to buy Facebook ads.

For example Flipboard no longer knows that you have downloaded their app, as you use Facebook to login. But Facebook gets to see more of the apps you are using, making the targeting for app install ads even more effective than it is now.

Of course Google and Apple also know what apps you have, but Facebook have one advantage; they can see what you have downloaded on your Galaxy and on your iPad. And if you switch from an iPhone to an Android phone, Facebook know, whilst Google and Apple probably don’t. 

Other big news includes the ability to link            direct to in app content – something Google are pushing too and the ability to send to mobile so a user on your site can be sent a link to your app on their mobile.

The Facebook Audience Network was also unveiledso their reach is hugely increased. We met with a couple of the key product people on this a few months ago and the opportunities are really exciting. 

Our friends at Yodel are experts in the media side of app discovery and have shared some interesting stats on how well Facebook works.  They see Facebook currently performing twice as well as much of the competition and cost per installs of around £2. These new moves should make Facebook even more competitive.

Well worth spending time reading about all these changes – lots to digest. QZ has a good round up here 

How many apps do people have?

Whilst Fix readers probably have numerous screens full of apps, civilians tend not to. Some McKinsey data from 2012 showed the average number of active apps was 23. New data from Ofcom shows the average smartphone user in the UK has is 23 but that the mean number used regularly is just 10.

So all these app install ads are trying to be part of this limited repertoire. How many of these VC funded ad campaigns make sense paying £2 per install when they may well be soon deleted or just ignored? Again the new Facebook tools can be used to get an app revived.

One other thing that jumps out is data on app usage versus mobile web. We are not convinced that the balance is as app focused as some recent reports suggests and this data supports our view. A big proportion of app usage is around games and music – which in the pre mobile days would have been consumed on different devices for most people.

Clearly apps are important and the data on news shows this – but just comparing time spent with apps versus browser doesn’t give anyone a very clear view on what people are doing.

One other point – when asked which media they would miss most, everyone under 55 would miss their smartphone more than their PC or laptop. And amongst the under 34s, they would miss it more than watching TV.

There is lots of great facts and figures in this paper and we’ll be doing some insights for our clients. If anyone else would like our take on this get in touch.

Tablets

The big story from the Apple results last week was the slow down in sales for the iPad. There is lots of speculation about why this may be the case – especially after such incredible growth since launch –and the many Android tablets that followed 

Ben Evans does a great job digging into the data, coming up with the thought that maybe tablets have more in common with laptops than with smartphones and that people are seeing they can do most things on their smartphone.

It has always been a little lazy to bundle tablets in mobile as most tablets never leave the home. We see two issues. Firstly relatively few people have developed bespoke content or experiences for tablets, with the fact that desktop content works pretty well on a tablet driving people to save the expense of tablet version. So for the user the tablet gives you a desktop experience – albeit using fat fingers on content designed for a mouse.

Secondly, because there is less specific content and apps, there is less requirement to update the device. Our original iPad – bought on launch day – still does the majority of things well at home – web browsing, video and email etc. Some apps have stopped because the device can’t be updated to the newer OS, but not that many. Even the short lived HP Touchpad still does the job. The first Kindle Fires also.

So it’s hard to see how Apple – or anyone else – can kickstart the growth again. But does that matter? Tesco have sold 500k Hudls and are planning an update version. The addressable audience is still huge and people still love using them, so it’s worth considering whether bespoke content is worthwhile. And as an opportunity for advertising its really attractive.

One analyst points out that the Peak iPad meme may be overdone – making the point that as a standalone business the iPad is big enough to be in the top 100 US companies.

One key action though, is to separate out tablets from smartphones in your Google Analytics and other data – one figure for Mobile is really misleading.

Twitter

The other question we always get when talking GAFA is what about Microsoft/eBay/Twitter? These firms do have big influence but not at the GAFA level.

The Twitter results this week disappointed as they show huge growth in revenues, but slow growth in users.

On ad revenue people tend to be bullish and the way they are using Cards has some interesting possibilities. This is a good round up and whilst longish, it is worth reading.

Unlike most media the problem with Twitter isn’t quality. It’s quantity. The volume of content can be overwhelming and we are still convinced that curated lists could be the way to go. Users are loyal and we believe there is still lots of potential here – and they are hiring clever people to help work out their future  – including the former head of Google Maps and very smart planner (and Fix reader) David Wilding.

Quick reads

Deloitte research shows digital influences $1trillion retail sales in the US – with mobile at half of that.

Foursquare continues to reinvent itself with a new app called Swarm that focuses on who and what is around you. And the Foursquare app is going to focus more as a recommendation engine and take on people like Yelp.

Snapchat adds video messaging

McKinsey have published a new piece of thinking around balancing entertainment and information across the customer journey. We liked this quote;

“An effective TV ad today drives people to engage with the brand on a second medium, either on a mobile device or a computer.”

Google have shared 25 rules for building a better mobile site. A big issue now is that many companies have crap mobile sites, which is better than no mobile site – but only just.

The head of the US IAB says brands must prepare for the post TV world

Forrester research shows Instagram is a brilliant tool for engagement 

Are websites back in fashion? Jack Daniels has started driving traffic back to theirs.

More proof that Mobile is a hits business – Rovio sales slump as Angry Birds runs out of steam

Finally… Facebook are very keen to become the developers friend and this video Lets Build gets that point over well.

Mobile Fix – April 25

Google

It’s that time again. The financial results for Q1 are out for Google, Apple, Facebook & Amazon. Google was a few days ago and despite a 19% year in year increase in revenue the results were seen as a disappointment. Why? Because whilst paid clicks were up by 26%, the average cost per click fell by 9%. This is clearly a mobile factor and until brands can see mobile conversions are as good as desktop, the value of a mobile click remains in question. Better attribution of transactions that cross multiple screens is a focus for the whole industry. But until brands have sites that work as well on mobile as they do on desktop, the potential of search is reduced. More on this below.

It is worth listening to Nikesh Arora talk about the 4 sectors of Googles business on the earnings call. One topic pulled out was how Super Bowl advertisers nearly all used YouTube to extend the reach and life of their TV ads.

But when asked about mobile pricing Nikesh reiterates his view that in the medium to long term mobile pricing will be better  - and talks through the reasons why. 

Facebook

Facebook had no such problems – their success with mobile continues. The two issues that plagued them at the IPO – where would revenue growth come from and how would they deal with mobile – are both now non issues.

With revenue up by 72% and user number growing in all regions – and mobile grew to be 59% of all ad revenue – they are being lauded as a big success story.

They look likely to maintain growth – and the pressure on Google – with their own ad network seemingly imminent.

An interview with Zuckerberg a few days before the results, is worth reading to get an idea of the issues he is focusing on; innovation and privacy feature heavily.

And this interview with the WhatsApp CEO is worth a look too – 500m active users each day and 700m photos shared each day.

Apple

Whilst Google and Facebook both talked up their plans for the future, Apple did nothing more than share their latest figures. The figures were good enough though. Increased iPhone sales e surprised everyone – and success in China and Japan seems to have been a big factor. More worrying was a 16% fall in iPad sales, which no one seems to understand. We are going to look at this more next week.

Couple of bits of speculation that relate to Apple;

As we have been saying for ages we expect Apple to switch the default search in Safari from Google – they can’t be happy at giving that amount of data and insight to their key competitor. Seemingly Yahoo want the deal and are pitching hard. Given that the Yahoo search product is essentially Bing we don’t expect Bing to let this go. Danny Sullivan doesn’t think a Yahoo deal is likely either.

But we now advise all our clients to pay more attention to BING seo – especially on mobile.

And Nike this week downsized their Fuelband team, whilst denying they were closing the programme down. They never did do an Android app so we stopped using the Fuelband as without the app it’s just not that useful. We also found that apps like Moves (just bought by Facebook) do the job of the wearable/peripheral equally well. Should we expect Nike to have their fitness app baked in to the new Apple Health everyone expects with the next iPhone?

Amazon 

The Amazon results are out and they are pretty much right on the estimates – so no real news. But this pre results speculation from an analyst shows the scale of the change Amazon is going through;

Though desktop page views at Amazon.com declined by about 9 percent in the first quarter compared to a year earlier, mobile page views increased by more than 50 percent, RBC Capital said.

Mobile advertising

We see the digital advertising world separating into two states; those players that have rich data on their users (GAFA plus Twitter are clearly in the lead here) and those who have rich data they can apply to raw inventory bought from media owners (The Agency RTBs and some of the ad networks).

Mobile network operators have long been considered as possible players but despite lots of talk there has not been much action. It is changing; Weve have got some good traction on the UK and now Telefonica have made an aggressive statement of intent with the launch of Axonix.

This new company is jointly funded by Telefonica and Private Equity firm Blackstone and is built around the tech from Mobclix – a fast growing mobile ad firm that ran out of money after Velti bought them. With the cream of the Telefonica Digital ad team running the business and a tech platform that enjoyed a good reputation, this looks like the first credible ad play from a MNO. If they can leverage the rich data they hold on over 300 million customers, they could have an impact on GAFA etc.

This move by Telefonica highlights the various false starts by US Operators – and most of the others – although AT&T are investing in an interesting deal around ad supported video, working with a former head of News Corp. This sort of deal demonstrates the issues around net neutrality – will AT&T customers who want to watch YouTube or Netflix get as good a service as those who want to watch the AT&T service?

The Home Screen battle

If you want to be a player on mobile advertising you need rich data. One way to get that is through knowing what’s on someones homescreen. Flurry have evolved their research business into a good ad network and become probably the only non GAFA firm with insight into the apps people have.

But with the new crop of homescreen apps, this data is becoming more widely available. We mentioned Yahoo buying Aviate a few weeks back and then Twitter bought Cover – and Facebook arguably kicked off the trend with Home. Newer players like EverythingMe are emerging.

All these apps – and their Chinese equivalents – take over the home screen and intend to serve up the right apps at the right time. The ambition is to emulate the Google Now type contextual service and these apps want access to all the data on the phone – diary, contacts and email. So privacy is an issue. The FT have a good round up here.

Is the first big mobile trend that started on Android? Of course Apple don’t allow anyone to mess with their homescreen.

Mobile Sites

New data from the IAB shows that slowly, brands are getting around to having mobile optimized sites. Now it’s only around a third of top brands that don’t have a site that’s works on mobile. The next problem is that many of the optimized sites aren’t actually that good. We see many that are slow loading – and this research suggests that two thirds of responsive sites load unacceptably slowly 

It’s actually not that hard to build a site that is Fit4Mobile but it requires ongoing work to sort the basics like image size etc as well as looking to improve conversions and actions on the site. Every time we have done the math, the value that can be unlocked from search means the investment in getting the site right is paid back quickly.

We remain convinced that Google will start to reward optimized sites with better placing in organic search when people are using mobile, so this value could soon be dramatically increased. A good story this week was around the new Ryanair website where the amateur approach meant it performed really badly in search. We took a look and found they hadn’t bothered to make it mobile optimized either.

Quick reads

Here is more on the Twitter ad network play, using the MoPub marketplace they acquired last year.

YouTube continues to push for TV budgets and a new interview with Susan Wojcicki outlines the next step – making YouTube stars famous in the real world­ with press and outdoor ads and even local TV spots.

There is also more and more information on the habits of youTube viewers – with this infographic debunking some of the key myths.

More Google thinking on blending mobile and desktop shoppers

China continues to fascinate and this look at the digital landscape is well worth reading

Finally

The team at Flurry have put together a great deck called The Age of Living Mobile. As well as celebrating the immense progress made by the industry in the last few years it also points out that there is still lots more potential for growth.

It’s time to experiment

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile Fix – April 11

Mobile Innovation at risk?

I am currently rereading Burn Rate, Michael Wolf’s excellent book on his adventures running a content business in the early days of the web. Starting in 1996, his stories of VCs and startups still sound quite contemporary. The figures are amazingly small though – he talks of Excite having a $40million warchest.

But the thing that resonates most is the description of the shift taking place from AOL, Genie, Delphi and Prodigy towards the web – and the huge excitement as people moved from a controlled environment to the free web, where anyone could do what they want.

I’m old enough to remember that era – we had just started Poppe Tyson in London – and many prospective clients were still investing marketing budget in AOL and Compuserve.

As we discussed last week, the web seems to be taking a back seat on mobile and the rise of apps is arguably taking us back to that controlled era. Chris Dixon of VC firm Andreessen Horowitz points out;

Apps have a rich-get-richer dynamic that favors the status quo over new innovations.

VC Fred Wilson agrees that the dominance of apps is stifling innovation and looking at the top 200 apps sees very few that are recent venture backed businesses.

GAFA are crucial in the discovery and distribution of apps and we all know that without a substantial budget for Facebook app install ads (etc) it’s nearly impossible to get an app to scale. And the appstore tax of 30% is a major factor too. Are the Vertical Stacks the new Walled Gardens?

The Net Neutrality arguments are designed to give similar status to the Mobile Networks – which, as we know, stifled innovation in mobile prior to the GAFA era. This is a good summary of the various points of view on apps and the threat to innovation.

Yet the combination of the mobile web and mobile search are still low cost options – and therefore great opportunities for innovation. And in our research we find that people think of apps as the icons on their home screen; click on them and something happens. Few know or care about them being native apps or bookmarks for mobile websites. If it solves a problem, it will probably earn its place.

So in our projects we usually advise that a blend of mobile web and native apps is the right way to go – together with smart thinking on how to use search and social to drive discovery and get than icon on the home screen.

As Ben Evans points out, the mobile opportunity is still wide open and current trends are no real indicator of where we might end up. The size of the mobile opportunity means that everyone needs to get involved and invest smartly in learning what works and what doesn’t for your business.

Reading Burn Rate you remember that those early days were just the start of the digital switch that has changed how millions of people live their lives and transformed every business sector.

We are now just at the start of the Mobile switch where billions of people are going to have their lives changed. And every business sector is going to get transformed again.

It’s time to experiment.

Social Evolution

A very experienced smart marketer slightly stumped us this week when he posed the question Why should I spend any effort on Facebook? He totally saw it was a valid media channel for ad buys, but with a modest number of followers he wonders why he should invest in time and content to grow his likes, when there is now little benefit in free reach. Of course as part of a social strategy of ubiquity, the effort in Facebook improves results on Twitter, Google+ etc as some content can be reused. And knowing what content resonates with fans does help improve ad performance.

But as the Facebook Feed evolves we see both users and brands frustrated with the experience. This TechCrunch piece gets into the details on how the Feed is now constructed and looks at the various complaints, but we don’t see a solution yet. John Batelle argues – quite convincingly – that Facebook should let the user take control.

It is essentially the same challenge that Twitter potentially has. Twitter is a hugely valuable service but you always have the nagging doubt that you may have missed some good stuff if you haven’t checked for a while. But I prefer that to a feed that Twitter have decided is the right one for me. Again we thinks lists are an underused asset for Twitter; setting up some specific lists allows for an occasional browse of a certain set of Twitterers, without needing to have those feeds in your timeline.

With a whole swathe of new ad formats on the way, Twitter is  ramping up their advertising push and by redesigning profile pages potentially make them much more usable. Some think that these profile pages could evolve to be someones main profile on the web; you may have a blog and a LinkedIn page but an improved Twitter profile would probably be a better representation of you.

Just as Facebook and Twitter share similar problems – and similar ad formats – the new profile pages makes Twitter look a lot like Facebook.

A couple of other useful bits on social;

This is a good roundup of thinking on what the ideal length of a Facebook, Twitter or Google+post is. We were told a while back by Facebook that the average brand message is much much longer than the average users posts – the challenge for a brand is finding a way to convey their character in as few words as possible. It has always amazed us that brands often leave their most important language – search ads and social – to inexperienced media buyers and project managers. There is wealth of copywriting talent that should be employed for these crucial tasks; the easiest way to double response to both search and social is great creative.

Twitter have shared why people follow brands; people want to hear from these brands – especially with promotions and special offers

Social Revolution

It’s clear that messaging is going to change social and Facebook are keen to stay ahead of the curve. They demonstrated this when they bought WhatsApp, but many questioned the role for their own Messenger service. They are now stripping out the Messenger functionality from the Facebook app, so users have to download the separate app – continuing the single purpose app strategy they showed with Paper.

This is a good take on Facebook messaging and the new Asian competitors; Line, WeChat and Kakao

Ex Facebook exec Christian Hernandez has a good look at these new apps in this piece on the pros and cons of relying on someone else’s platform. Well worth reading.

Hardware – Cheap & Useful

Working on an ebooks project a few years ago, we recommended the backers ( a number of publishers and a major retailer) to ignore the siren call of developing their own hardware and instead develop for the nascent tablet market as well as smartphones. As it turned out that was sound advice. Then

Now it is possible to develop hardware that is cheap enough and good enough to differentiate your business. Tesco are making a pretty good job of it with Hudl and Google are having a lot of success with Chromecast (we are less convinced about the Chromebooks).

Amazon have done a brilliant job with the Kindle, straddling both hardware and software, and Fire seems to have started well – it’s the bestseller in electronics on Amazon.com.

Their latest piece of hardware is really intriguing. Dash lets users scan a barcode of any product to add it to their shopping list – and it can also work with voice too. It is only available to customers of AmazonFresh – their grocery home delivery service currently in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The biggest problem for people like Ocado and Tesco is online grocery basket size tends to be smaller than a shopper in store as the impulse buys don’t happen. But once on the list they tend to be reordered again and again.

So for Amazon to have a tool that people can use around the kitchen to reorder should be great for both retention and revenue. And as a physical object it should also help with customer acquisition as people see it in their friends’ houses.

Most of the smart people we know in the Grocery business are convinced that its only a matter of time until Amazon launch Fresh in the UK. This is a good look at the US market for home delivered grocery and it reminds us that dotcom casualties like Webvan actually did have market impact – it was just way too early.

Interestingly Dash has dotcom ancestry too. Does anyone remember CueCat? Launched in 2000 this barcode scanner needed to be plugged into a PC before it could read a code on a product or in an ad. Called one of the 25 worst tech products of all time, it didn’t last long. But as we see with Dash, these ideas have real potential once you unlock them from the desktop and define the problem that needs solving.

Marc Andreessen says;

“All the dot-com ideas were correct,” “They were all too early. They are happening now.”

We’re looking for content ideas in Burn Rate to reimagine for today.

Quick(ish) Reads

Dropbox is looking to play a bigger role in its millions of users lives, with new apps for email and photo sharing.

The Music business isn’t in as bad a state as many think. This profile of Lucian Grainge suggests streaming will soon turn into a major revenue stream

The New York Times has an interesting new app called NYT Now and it’s getting good reaction. With a subscription model and native ads, the key question is whether it differentiated enough from the Times itself?

There is a lot of interest in news content at the moment, with a focus on niche plays. But the business model is in question; as the writer of Burn Rate points out, the ad business wants scale.

When Google sold Motorola it kept the bit that is designing a modular phone. This is a sneak peak of Ara. And you can sign up to help design the project by doing Special Missions

A good look at Yahoo mobile ambitions and the thinking behind their excellent Aviate app.

Finally.. a couple of our agency friends questioned our take last week that the Agency world hasn’t embraced tech yet.

But this week Agency bible Campaign is running a story saying;

Confidence in creating digital and mobile campaigns is still low among marcoms and media professionals in the UK

Another survey suggests many Marketers don’t really get the idea of ROI and hence struggle to demonstrate the true value of marketing to their board.

And client de jour Bonin Bough suggest Creative agencies aren’t necessarily the best partners for brands

Creative agencies used to manage 100% of our communications; now they manage 60% or 50%. As that happens, we keep adding agencies which is not sustainable,” 

Now obviously this is a generalization and there is some great talent within Agencies producing great work. For smart clients who really do get it.

But nearly 20 years into the Digital Switch it’s still a little patchy and you have to ask yourself if you are getting the right thinking on mobile, social and content from your existing partners.

Or do you need some provocative Big Picture thinking?

(No Fix next week as we will be eating Chocolate in St Ives. If you fancy a change from Eggs check out our friends at CocoaRunners who can send you a box of fabulous artisan chocolate. If you use this link and use ADDICTIVE as the code you get a £3 discount and we get a free bar. Enjoy.

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