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 22

Evolving Video

One of the key themes for mobile and tech is video and our thoughts last week resonated with quite a few people – and someone pointed us to this fascinating celebration of unboxing videos. This development of the very popular haul videos – where people show off the results of their shopping trip – can be a little dull, but the toys videos from Disney Collector are staggeringly popular amongst toddlers (and their parents) with this unboxing of a Play Doh toy getting 45m views.

The scale of video can be surprising – for example over half of 18-24s in the US use Snapchat – and its rapid growth suggests it may go mainstream. With that sort of scale brands have been quick to find ways to use it as and Snapchat are now out selling to agencies focusing on SnapChat discovery.

This new service lets media brands share their content on the platform – with the Mail Online a likely early partner. This is the pitch deck they are using, which gives great insight into the platform

As we said last week the rate of innovation is astounding in this space and we see Vine have made a major move in allowing people to use their own videos as Vines now. Previously you had to create your 6 second video using the Vine app if you wanted to use the Vine distribution (although there were some hacks to get around this). As ever creativity flourishes where there are restrictions and we have seen some great examples.

Now you can just take any video and share it, will that water down the experience? Time will tell, but the danger is that brands just repurpose existing film and we would think that will tend not to work as well – but it will be popular with brands. Vine have also improved their desktop experience as they encourage people to explore the content

Instagram allowed this importing of video some time back and with a 15 second duration – the same as the standard US TV commercial – they have been popular with brands. They are now looking to monetise this with a new Advertising Chief.

Of course not everyone wants ads around their videos and Snapchat, Vine and Instagram now face the dilemma of getting the balance right. The people who have been most effective at monetizing video is YouTube and it’s rumoured they are about to offer an ad free version – getting the funding instead from users through a subscription service designed around music.

The stats keep getting bigger

The huge scale of the messaging and video apps leads VCs to say 100 million users is the new I million users. Whilst we used to cover the growth of mobile and smartphones, we stopped as the graphs all point to the top right hand corner and few people question the importance of mobile these days.

But the new UK data from the Office of National Statistics is worth considering. If only for us to recognize how far we have come 

38 million people access the Internet every day – 76% of adults – double the number in 2006. And 58% have used a mobile to access the internet – doubling since 2010. Lots of good data on what people do on the internet in the report

Perhaps even more convincing is data from another part of the Government which shows that over half of all driving tests are now booked on a smartphone or tablet. It’s interesting that the mobile element is up by 28% since March whilst the tablet figure is unchanged.

Some of this is due to the inexorable rise of mobile but it’s also down to the fact the Government now has excellent web services that are truly responsive and consequently work well for mobile. Too many brands have (finally) got to thinking about mobile but don’t yet realise they actually have a crap mobile site.  The government use data to keep improving their sites – a great example to follow.

The end for Apps?

In anticipation of the latest version of Deloittes 2014 Mobile report (due in early September) lots of press jumped on the stat that a third of smartphone owners don’t download any apps in a typical month.

Coupled with stories showing few app developers make any money, the general view seems to be that the App party is over. The FT takes a more reasoned look and points to the Apple research showing the impact of Apps on the European economy – claiming it’s created over 500k jobs.

We agree that civilians have already got most of the apps they want or need and it’s only the tech crowd who rush around downloading Swarm or Yo. But apps that do solve a real problem are still being launched – it’s just that the distribution model is broken as the bloated app stores hide the new amongst the million apps. 

Just like music, books and films, apps are now a hits business and, as people from those industries know, it’irs pretty much impossible to predict what will be a hit. So everyone tries to game the system and/ or spend a fortune on advertising.

It’s surprising that Google have yet to leverage their expertise in search on the Play store, but perhaps the new iPhone launch will give Apple a way to sort their appstore. The rumoured new form factor will drive smart app developers to adapt their apps to fit the bigger screen, whilst most of the Zombie apps won’t be updated 

So an Apple version of the PlayStore approach of showing only apps that are compatible with your device could be a help for users and developers. Do read the full FT piece as its full on useful insight.

Taxi wars

It’s a little surprising that an industry as old and unsophisticated as Taxis has emerged as a key battle ground for tech. But in many cities around the world there is a battle going on. 

In China there is something of  a ceasefire, as Alibaba and Tencent scale back the massive incentives they were giving drivers to encourage use of their Taxi apps. At one point these reached 100RMB – 5 times the typical fare. This caused all the drivers to stop driving around and just wait for an app request – meaning it was virtually impossible to get a Taxi without using one of the apps. We also heard of people being thrown out of a cab so the driver could take a more lucrative app booking.

Of course the end game isn’t about the cab ride; in Chine the taxi apps were a Trojan horse for BAT to acquire users for their other services such as mobile payments and chat.

In the west the end game isn’t quite as clear but it seems likely home delivery and ecommerce will be critical. Uber are testing Corner Store in Washington DC – where users can request that an Uber driver deliver anything from Pampers to Popcorn – for a fixed price. There is a lot of action around delivery right now and we know WunWun are working with GetTaxi in some US cities. The NY Times has a good look at this space reminding us of Kozmo etc from dotcom boom days.

It’s clear that the taxi firms are a factor in the new model and the new API from Uber is an open invitation to startups to build in an Uber partnership. The first round of partners is more traditional – Open Table, Hotels and Airlines – but anyone can use the API. But if you do  use the API, you have to agree not to use any other Taxi firm – so it’s another angle on the landgrab going on across the major cities of the world.

And with the Google Ventures investment in Uber, transport (and eventually delivery?) is part of the vertical stack. In Google maps Uber is now offered as a choice of transport when looking for directions. Will we see GetTaxi, Hailo and Addison Lee in there at some time in the future? Perhaps,

The next episode of delivery will be around groceries – where all those Amazon vans trundling around the streets should enable Amazon to offer same day delivery of Amazon Prime. Could they decide to invest in one of the Taxi firms to accelerate that? Some think the economics of grocery will prove a problem for Amazon so cabs could be a cheaper option?

Quick Reads

Just as Uber is a tech firm rather than a transport business, can it be argued that Buzzfeed is a tech firm rather than a media business?

Beacons – like big data – is one of those topics that everyone talks about but there are few real examples. This Q&A is a good sense check on the topic.

Very interesting thinking on deep linking in mobile and what the implications might be

Sometimes the best call to action on mobile advertising is to make a call. Google are making it easier to measure these calls.

Finally smart mobile thinker Chetan Sharma believes we are just entering the Golden Age of Mobile. His new whitepaper on the Connected Intelligence Era (PDF) is quite a heavy read but a good look at how sensors and connected devices are going to change how we live.


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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.

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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 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.

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

Mobile Fix – July 11

Mobile &Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because that’s where the money is.

VC Chris Dixon talks of why he is interested in Bitcoin

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

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

Google & the Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samsung & China

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

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

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

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

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

newTV – the 7% switch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Reads 

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

Good thinking on Digital Transformation from Russell Davies

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

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

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

Mobile Fix – July 4

Digital Transformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK Mobile Adspend to hit £2bn

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile Money

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

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

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

More on Google I/O

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

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

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

New TV

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

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

Beacons & Retail

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

Quick Reads

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

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

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

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

Facebook buys video ad tech firm Live Rail

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

7 clues for the collaborative consumption future from the AirBnB CEO

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

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

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

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

Mobile Fix – June 27


Google I/O

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

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

Android is only really useful to Google in two ways;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad Formats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Internet of things

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

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

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

Quick Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mobile Fix – June 20

Another week and more significant new products from GAFA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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 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 13


Viacom are the latest ‘old’ TV business to invest in newTV with a deal with DefyMedia, trading a couple of their games properties for a stake in Defy.

Next to go could be Fullscreen who reportedly are about to be bought for $1bn. Their head of talent talks about what’s happening with YouTube in this good Guardian article;

“I really believe there’s a tipping point that’s happening right now, where you see studios, networks and advertisers all starting to look at these creators and what’s happening,”

“…What Madison Avenue and all of traditional media has yet to understand about this is that there is this authentic bond between these creators and their fans. Their fans represent their distribution channel: it’s a living, breathing organism, which I don’t think traditional media understands, nor do they really understand the power of that. The fans helped build their distribution channel: they told their friends to subscribe, to retweet something. They’re part of this whole process.”

Here in the UK we have a similar set of emerging talent and this C4 video looking at them is worth watching – as are the related interviews. Brands are already starting to get involved. In New York a new talent agency is representing the talent emerging on Vine and Instagram. How long before this goes mainstream? 

Apple Agency?

We have talked a lot about how a lot of the work traditionally done by agencies is getting hoovered up by new competitors. The big professional services firms like Accenture and Deloitte have built big practices around digital and made smart acquisitions. Big tech firms like Adobe, IBM and Salesforce offer more and more marketing services too. And increasingly businesses are seeing that digital is a core competence and building skills inhouse.

This is one reason we like our architect builder model- we can work with any builder that a client already has a relationship with and add value through strategic thinking, big ideas and UI expertise. Because those soft skills tend to be under represented in these new competitors Agencies still see a valuable role for themselves.

But a new move by Apple might shake things up a little. They are building an internal agency with 1000 people and using them to compete with their long time Agency partner TBWA. Whilst there are no stars moving over – yet – this will be worth watching. Google has hired some remarkable creative talent but still partners with agencies. Can Apple replicate this success or will they struggle to persuade talent to forgo the variety inherent in an agency job to concentrate on one brand – albeit quite a special one?

Another sign of the evolving marketing services landscape is the partnership messaging app Line announced with Salesforce – where Salesforce users can now schedule campaigns in Line alongside Facebook and Twitter.


Not that long ago Music was a basic element of the Vertical Stack for GAFA – offered by everyone, but not seen as that significant. With the recognition that streaming will transform the economics of the music industry, focus has shifted back – as the Beats acquisition shows 

Amazon made a big push into music last year with their Cloud player – and by giving customers digital versions of most of the CDs they had bought through Amazon. In the US they have now relaunched the Cloud Player app as Amazon Music and Prime customers now have access to over 1 million songs. They have some work to do as they don’t have some of the latest music – particularly from Universal who don’t share their most recent hits – and of course Spotify offer 20 million songs.

We suspect the average Prime customer is a little different to the typical Spotify customer and this is another play by Amazon to make Prime absolutely essential – their Anchor?

Google are also looking at this area – although a £15m deal to buy Songza isn’t going to worry anyone. Of GAFA Google seem least concerned with content – other than in YouTube.

One writer talks of his dissatisfaction with Beats and has switched back to Spotify  – largely because Spotify is more social than Beats. Do we think that will get better within Apple – who arguably don’t really get social? Or will Apple encourage a closer link between Beats and Facebook? What would that mean to Spotify? And how will Apple use their Shazam/Siri partnership to drive Beats?

A big focus for all the music services is curation – helping people discover music they might like. This piece points out that there is a risk this gets distorted by the money to be made. Just like Payola was a scandal in radio when people found the DJs were getting kickbacks to play certain records, curation might go the same way.


With launch of iBeacons Apple have enabled a very interesting new way of connecting with people. There is a huge excitement at the potential of beacons – especially in retail- even if there hasn’t be too much implementation yet.

But Apple have also taken away one of the main ways people like retailers have been using to monitor customers. In a little noticed change in iOS8 Apple stop anyone from tracking people using WiFi. Amongst others JC Penny in the US have used it and Asda are using it in the UK.

It gives Apple a big tick in the privacy stakes and makes their new technology even more attractive.

(VC Jason Calcanis has written a good article on why he is so excited about beacons and points to some of the companies that are doing good stuff in this space)

Quick Reads

You probably saw that Google are investing in satellites. But as well as the story that was widely reported this week, they are also very focused on providing internet access by satellite. Together with their Fibre offering in the US this is a good way to strengthen your Vertical Stack  – own the ‘pipe’.

A good look at the fast growing Chinese device manufacturer Xiaomi

Goldman Sachs thinks Amazon can have a big impact on the grocery market. And Amazon are going to enter the local services market  - so you will be able to find a local plumber or babysitter. Seemingly paid, so we don’t need to worry about the threat to our Skratch project.

In response to Amazon, IBM are going to offer same day delivery to their clients

As everyone talks about content this is an interesting look at Branded Entertainment from an Ogilvy exec

Google continue to search for ways to signal to customers whether the link they are about to click will result in a mobile optimized experience.  Even as people -finally – get a mobile site, many haven’t bothered to make their links redirect properly. This Google initiative alerts users that they may be redirected to the sites home page. It’s really not that hard to ensure that a link goes to the right page on a mobile site – the new mobile site we launched this week for PlanUK does exactly that, so their efforts on SEO continue to pay off 

Top VC Ben Horowitz on why he is so excited by bitcoin

As if to prove the point about mobile causing attention deficit disorder, the link last week was wrong. This is the correct one.

Longer reads

Whilst much of what happens in tech comes from the US West Coast, LA is sometimes overlooked. When I visited last summer I was surprised at how much is going on – and this is a really good take on the particular focus of LA start ups; lots of video and lots of ecommerce.

A VC firm has shared its bullish thinking on mcommerce. Well worth reading

This is a long interview with the king of short form content, Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti. Again, well worth reading it all.

Finally…it’s the World Cup. Loads of tech companies are doing something related; Google have launched an interesting site to celebrate  And you can add all the matches to your Google calendar here

But the only medium that really matters for the next month is the TV. The World Cup ads from Nike, Adidas and Beats etc all look good. This is still our favourite  though – combining great Brazilian football and great Brazilian music. Enjoy.

(and if you want to hear more check out the excellent Gilles Peterson playlist from the FT.)