Mobile Fix – October 31

Apps; the CDs of Mobile?

As big music fans we were late into CDs. For quite a while after the launch of this “revolutionary new format” we stuck with buying the Vinyl albums. But eventually the convenience – and the difficulty getting a vinyl copy – saw us make the transition and now we’ve more CDs than Vinyl. 

Of course making the music digital led to a subtle change in how music was listened to; in the car a CD changer meant songs could be listened to randomly. Then along came the iPod and burning CDs to iTunes – there even used to be businesses offering this service – soon led to the Shuffle and Genius. More songs played randomly. Which essentially laid the way for streaming, where the song is the hero and the album concept devalued. 

Could we look at Apps the same way? Is web content the “analogue original” existing as destinations and do Apps package that content in a more convenient way? Are homepages of apps the mobile equivalent of CD racks? Now notifications and cards are staring to devalue the app experience by reducing the need to visit the app.

So the question is – what’s the Mobile equivalent of streaming? Will Apps no longer be needed as all the content and the functionality is distributed through the stream of notifications and cards? Do we see a near future where the home screen blends notifications with Tweets and social updates , mediated by some all powerful algorithm?

Given that Google Now gives us a glimpse of this future and the Apple home screen is evolving in a similar direction will GAFA control these streams? Is the power law of the top 25 apps coming from a small number of big players going to consolidate?

We continue to advise clients that they need to think through how they work with GAFA – partnerships and distribution across these big players – and Twitter is going to be key. Having Uber feature as an option within Google Maps is a huge win for them – helped by a $250 VC investment – and a disadvantage to their competitors.

There is lots happening with mobile content and services and just building an app doesn’t seem enough anymore. Having a Card strategy feels like a smart next step so that, as more opportunities to distribute your content/service arise, you have some learning on what works and what doesn’t.

CDs promised a better way to consume content but ended up a stepping stone to the atomisation of music. Are apps going the same way?

Lots more smart thinking on this topic in this piece – which ends with more good articles to read.


Cards are probably most mature in Twitter and we think their new rapprochement with developers is likely to see more uses of Cards. How Fabric works with cards remains to be seen though.

One significant move from Twitter is to use the phone number as a way to sign in to apps, with Twitter handing the SMS authentication. This seems a win win as it makes it easier for the user and the app developer, and give developers an alternative to the Faustian pact they must do with Facebook and Google over the data shared on social sign ins. Fred Wilson sums up this sign in issue well.

But whilst the industry see the new tools as a step forward Wall Street still worry about user growth and it seems inevitable Twitter is going to make some changes so that new users can get more value from the service more quickly.

Twitter wants to create an “immersive experience” for users who do not log in and eventually generate revenue from promoted tweets “across the entire mobile app ecosystem”, Mr Costolo said..

We still think that curated lists could be a way to solve this problem; reading the tweets from a list of Leeds United players, fans and journalists for example would give people a quick easy way to follow the current Elland Road soap opera. Danny Sullivan makes a similar point when he argues that people should be able to follow interests rather than users. 

Whatever Twitter decide to do, they have to hope it works for both new users and for existing ones. Whilst lots of people – including us – love Twitter and find it really valuable, these days it is easy to lose traction and relevance can be lost really quickly. If they are going to offer New Twitter they should make sure Classic Twitter remains available too.


The Facebook results didn’t disappoint many people, and they now have 456 million mobile only users.

This scale is encouraging their efforts to woo publishers and they are suggesting that media companies use Facebook as their primary distribution means for mobile, rather than bother with a proprietary app.

As we discussed earlier this could be one future and there are lots of upsides for publishers being in the stream rather than a diversion from it, but there are quite a few downsides too. As Wired point out, do we want Facebook to control everything we read or watch online? News Corp have been quick to say no, not ever but they largely exist outside of social as their firewall makes sharing their content pretty pointless.

Publishers need a smarter strategy around distribution. (The plan to sell the Guardian and Telegraph together is interesting too)


Apple Pay is up and running in the US and seems to be quickly getting traction – Tim Cook talked of 1 million users in the first few days and we hear that’s now around 3 million.

But there is some resistance. A consortium of retailers are developing their own mobile payments service called CurrentC. The only problems seems to be that it won’t be ready unto next year, it uses QR codes and is quite complicated for both the user and the retailer. Oh, and it’s been hacked already.

These retailers are refusing to accept Apple Pay and some are even disabling their NFC terminalsTurning away people who want to use Apple Pay probably isn’t a huge issue right now but as the adoption grows it could be risky. Already other retailers are making a point that they do take Pay.

A primary point in CurrentC is that the retailers get data on what people are buying and that’s valuable – as the ShopKick acquisition showed – but given Apple are pushing privacy and not using any data from Pay, this could be a hard sell to consumers. But the other ambition is to reduce the fees paid to Credit Cards firms 

Techcrunch have a good look at CurrentC here.

Quick Reads

Is no news on iPad sales, good news? Probably not.

Facebook have launched another new app. Rooms. Described by the Guardian as reinventing the 1990s chat room you don’t have to use your real name which is further evidence that Mark Zuckerberg is less fixated on people having a single identity

An interesting way of looking at the Vertical Stack model we apply to GAFA

YouTube to offer an add free subscription model. Music Key is the Google play in music streaming and this report suggests it will have a big impact.

Is Google an Artificial Intelligence business? Good look at AI from Kevin Kelly 

A good Internet of Things video from Qualcomm

FinallyTim Cook has come out. It seems a little sad that this is seen as news



Mobile Fix – October 17

The Chinese are coming

At IAB Engage this week Martin Sorrel warned the audience that the Chinese are coming, and pointed out the size of Alibaba and the growth of Xiami as two examples. Fix readers know this and also that the size of BAT (Baidu Alibaba & Tencent) is based on a market where internet penetration is around half that of the UK, so lots more growth to come. Of course not having Google, eBay, Facebook and Twitter to compete with, helps this stellar growth. 

But the really interesting thing about China is that this Galapagos effect – an ecology cut off from the rest of the world – has inspired some fascinating business models. So there is a lot to learn from China, other than merely the growth story.

As this chart shows the messaging apps across Asia are developing business models other than taking ads and its likely Snapchat will be amongst the first to monetise their reach as a platform for other content and services.

And whilst Jony Ives may think that Xiaomi are little more than copycats this HBR piece shows they have an innovative business model that may prove more resilient than Apples.

If you want to dig a little deeper on China this report from Campaign Asia is worth a look.

New Devices

With Samsung, Google and Apple all launching new product this week we have seen each brand get their 15minutes of social buzz before the next launch. First the Samsung Note 4 had everyone extoling its virtues. Then along comes Google with their new Nexus 6 – even bigger than the 6+ their new tablet Nexus 9 and the new version of Android, Lollipop. Early indications are that the new devices are impressive and the look and feel of Lollipop is a clear improvement and the other features sound promising.

And then there are the new iPads – with lots of upgrades and some data on sales to counter the theory sales are flattening out.

The Xiaomi model of longer production windows for their product does look smart as they profit from falling component costs– what are Google and Apple going to do with the 7 that makes people what to upgrade? And what will the next iPads do?

Clearly the iPhone and the top end Androids work as Veblen goods – status symbols – or at least as social objects; many people have raised bendgate when they have seen our new iPhone 6 and we know people comment on the size of the 6+.

But because most tablets aren’t actually mobile- they stay at home or in the office – they don’t cause comment and therefore don’t act as social objects – so is the desire to upgrade to the very latest model less powerful?

And because so few people bother to make tablet optimized apps- a huge mistake in our opinion – is there less need to upgrade to benefit from the new version? 

Should ad fraud stop you investing in digital?

The recurring problem with fraud in digital advertising, is polluting the discussion over how much investment brands should be switching over to digital. Whilst the argument is clear – as consumers change their habits, so should brands that want to keep up – the background noise over fraud and viewability is a diversion.

The problem is that just as the sheer volume of money attracts VCs to invest in AdTech, it also attracts criminals. So the arms race between the adtech that can verify your spend is going in the right places and the bad guys is heating up.

This week we heard two great examples that demonstrate the problem. You have probably seen the meme of your porn name? The name of your first pet is the first name and your mothers maiden name is the surname – so mine is Pluto Clement. Great fun, but everyone now knows two answers to the most common security questions online.

Then at an event this week discussing fraud, one of the audience made the sensible comment that where a campaign is measured against a purchase, fraudulent views and invisible impression below the fold etc don’t really have any effect as the bots don’t buy things.

It turns out they do.

Filling forms online is pretty straightforward to a fraudster but they also have lists of stolen credit cards with which to make the purchase.  Eventually the sale will be cancelled and the money refunded to the person whose card is used, but the fraudster is long gone with the CPA commission.

Now having the right partners and paying attention to how your campaigns are being managed can protect you from most if not all of this. And not investing in digital for these reasons is no more sensible than pulling your money off TV because people do go make cups of tea when the ads are on.

On the panel at the Facebook upfronts this week I made the point that we now have an unprecedented situation; for the first time for a long time it is possible to get a significant competitive advantage on your sector.

Your rivals have the same distribution as you do, similar brand awareness and a product that is probably top parity. So gaining advantage has been hard.

But we are now at a point when being much better at mobile and social can give you a clear advantage.

Your competitors’ agencies are probably just as good at making the most of ITV etc as are yours. 

But if your team can get more reach, attention, engagement and, yes, sales from Facebook, Google etc then that’s a great place to be. 

What are you waiting for?

Quick Reads

The Mobile Marketing Association say that brands should invest 16% of their ad budget. Now the right figure for any brand depends on their objectives and strategy, but it’s clear most (all) brands should be spending more. What will you do if your main competitor gets there first?

Apple looking to revitalise their iAds offering with retargeting.

Benedict Evans has shared a good presentation on the Industrial Internet – another name for the Internet of Things

Are Yahoo going to invest their new found wealth in AdTech?

Twitter payments launched in France 

Delivery hots up – Amazon launch same day delivery with Pass My Parcel and Google extend Google Express

Pinterest is gearing up to be the next big ad opportunity. Are your agency partners geared up to advise you on this? Really?

Niche is an interesting now type of agency

Finally… no Fix next week as we are off to Cornwall for half term. But there will be a RCKSCK Friday Edit later today and next week, so if you’d like some tips on how to get the most out of London sign up here.

Mobile Fix – October 10

Privacy comes up more and more in our work. In the last couple of weeks two clients have mentioned feeling slightly disturbed by the way data is being used in marketing. One, a German, felt quite strongly that brands that ‘overuse’ data run the risk of alienating customers. 

Which reminded us of Google location – just click on and, if you are logged into Google, up will pop a map like the one above, with a calendar, so you can see exactly where you went on a particular day. (The random day I picked from last summer happened to be the last time I went to Facebook and – being before Citymapper launched in that city – I was probably the only person to turn up on the bus)

You can also run it as a movie, showing exactly how you travelled around that day – presuming you had a smartphone with Google turned on. Of course Apple also know quite a lot as does Facebook who are poised to launch hyper local location based ads.

Now we are all watched over in many other ways; if you drive in London your number plate is recorded and checked constantly to see if you have paid the congestion charge/ taxed your car/ have valid insurance. And in the city with (probably) more CCTV than anywhere else on Earth , you can be tracked as you move around the city as improving facial recognition makes this easier and easier.

But the depth and breadth of what digital firms know is worrying people. A good Wired piece on data and how it is used was picked up by the Standard this week. It’s a really good take on the subject.

Tim Berners Lee argues that this data should be owned by the individual, as it is really useful to that person;

“In general … if you put together all that data, from my wearable, my house, from other companies like the credit card company and the banks, from all the social networks, I can give my computer a good view of my life, and I can use that. That information is more valuable to me than it is to the cloud.”

The idea of Vendor Relationship Management where a person has control of their data and capture the value themselves has been around for quite a while – we featured it in our 2002 futurology video – but it has never caught on and one wonders if it’s now too late?

A good piece in Quartz points out the rapid growth in social login, where access to a site or app is given when the user logs in with Facebook, Google, Twitter etc rather than registering with the app itself.  Some US research says 77% of people had used social login, up from 53% the previous year. Other research says Google and Facebook account for over 80% of all social logins.

Talk to any good growth hacker and they’ll tell you that social logins are a great product feature as people find them convenient – and perversely some think privacy is better protected this way.

As brands understandingly migrate to vendors who have first party data, enabling cross device tracking, and Google and Facebook extend their ad networks, the monetary benefit for the app owner to favour social logins will only increase.

The strong are going to keep getting stronger and their favoured diet is our data. Hard to see anyone changing this in the short term.

But Apple may have a go; a friend spotted this now pops up on iOS8.


The new IAB figures show burgeoning growth of UK mobile adspend continues. The figures for the first half of 2014 are up 68% with video doing incredibly well.

Agencies are increasingly adding online video to traditional TV campaigns, with Omnicom recommending US clients switch between 10% and 25% to online video. Much of this still flows to the big broadcasters for their catch up services but clearly lots gets directed to newer players. Which is why Yahoo are so focused on video – much of their European management team has a TV background and Marissa sees the future as video; 

“For us, display is really about brands storytelling, and display 2.0 is video.”

Probably the most intriguing advertising news this week (other than the Facebook local play) is that SnapChat are ready to offer advertising. Given they have a lot of reach and not much data, there won’t be too much targeting and users will be able to skip ads

“We are cutting through a lot of the new technology stuff around ads to the core of it: telling a story that leaves people with a new feeling,” he said. “They aren’t fancy, they are not targeted.”

Sounds like the need for smart creative in mobile is back. News that Google are pushing tools that measure the brand effect of digital ads supports this. Brand Lift isn’t that revolutionary but making it a core tool rather than an add-on is a significant move.


One of the emerging tools to measure the longer term effect of mobile advertising is to look for a sales effect and much of the energy around mobile money and wallets is that they could be the best attribution measure ever. Imagine person a saw the Facebook ad on their mobile, watched a YouTube video on their mobile, clicked on a mobile banner and subsequently visited the store and buy the product using their mobile wallet. Data doesn’t get much more compelling than that.

That’s why we think Google will buy PayPal or Square to accelerate their mobile wallet. And it’s why Facebook hired the PayPal CEO and have a payments product ready to go.

Apple however has a different agenda and ads don’t seem that big a part of it. Tim Cooks note on privacy a few weeks ago set the tone. They want to sell great products and build what we call Anchors – services so compelling that moving to Android would be a huge effort.

Apple Pay is clearly an Anchor and they have eschewed the opportunity to harvest data from these transactions. This plays nicely to privacy but also to security. When the Target CEO gets fired because hacker stole 40m credit card profiles, security is moving front and centre and Apple don’t want to risk their reputation. The breach of iCloud to steal celeb selfies was damaging but containable. A similar scandal with Apple Pay would not be.

In this in depth look at Apple Pay we can see that the system is built around a new way to handle payments. Whilst complicated, its benefits are really clear. This is much safer than using a credit card in the normal way. (And the fingerprint recognition on the device is also hugely impressive for users)

All the other players are going to have their approach compared to Apple Pay and we suspect people like Zapp will struggle, despite signing up retailers well in advance of their launch.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to see real innovation in FinTech –Marc Andreesen believes the whole system is ripe for reinvention

“We have a chance to rebuild the system. Financial transactions are just numbers; it’s just information. You shouldn’t need 100,000 people and prime Manhattan real estate and giant data centers full of mainframe computers from the 1970s to give you the ability to do an online payment.

‘‘You would not today, starting from scratch, invent any of these financial businesses in the same way. To me, it’s all about unbundling the banks. There are regulatory arbitrage opportunities every step of the way. If the regulators are going to regulate banks, then you’ll have nonbank entities that spring up to do the things that banks can’t do. Bank regulation tends to backfire, and of late that means consumer lending is getting unbundled.” 

One start up that has been able to disrupt the market is Square – the $billion side project of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. Despite some negative commentary recently, they have raised more money – $150m at a valuation of $6billion. 

And picking up the point we made regarding Starbucks last week, they recognise that payments in and of itself isn’t a problem that needs solving – it’s the areas around it where you find friction. So Square are getting into pre ordering  - just like Starbucks. I guess this takes Square into the same space as JustEat and HungryHouse.

Quick reads 

Good thinking from Harvard Business School on the war for attention

More on Softbanks hunger for content 

Is Instagram The Next Great Ad Network? Yes

A look at the changing music industry. As we have discussed in the past, the future is really good as streaming delivers increased revenues. Its just that the sharing out of these riches may prove controversial.

How linking between apps is getting better

Finally …we are out and about next week. I’m on a mobile panel at the Facebook Upfronts on Monday morning then talking about location and mobile at an Omma conference in the afternoon. As ever, if you are there come and say hello.

Mobile Fix – October 3

What Apps?

As a warm up for client workshops we often do a WhatApps exercise. We get everyone to unlock their phone and pass it to someone else and then get people to talk about what apps are on the homescreen of the phone they have.

It gets 3 important points over really well;

1/ People feel deeply uncomfortable seeing someone else holding their phone, demonstrating just what a very personal device it is – so marketing risks being very intrusive if not done really well

2/ Most people have a few of the same apps; Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google search etc plus their bank app and a news app perhaps

3/ Everyone has a few niche apps that are very important to them – Dads have games for their kids, sports fans have apps about their team or sport, others have things like YPlan and apps for nights out or travel

And we are also starting to see that people are organizing their apps with the home screen for the most used apps and unused apps migrating to later screens and being forgotten about.

Knowing what apps someone has is hugely valuable for advertising and everyone is trying to get this insight. Apple and Google clearly have the best view but some others have good data too. Facebook has some knowledge through those apps that use Facebook connect in some way  – and where someone has downloaded as a result of a Facebook ads. 

With the Flurry acquisition Yahoo now have a pretty good view too and along with the Aviate launcher app they acquired a while back are building an interesting data set on the apps people have.

Whilst the number of new apps downloaded is declining, we believe there is still a huge opportunity to help people discover apps they will find useful/ entertaining. Especially given how poorly the app stores perform if you don’t know exactly what your are looking for. People have done very well with apps designed to help find new apps but just as Apple kicked out AppGratis last year they have just kicked out an iOS launcher app. Launcher was different to AppGratis and seemed a good way to improve how you use the apps you have – but Apple clearly don’t want anyone but them to know what apps you have.

Of course the other people who have some idea of what apps you have – at least theoretically – are operators and we think they are missing a trick by not providing a really elegant service that helps their customers discover new apps.  There have been some attempts but no one has nailed this; the upside of happier customers and a chance to get some of the burgeoning app download spend should make it a priority.

Facebook & Adtech

When Facebook bought the Atlas adtech business from Microsoft last year the price was rumoured to be around $50m – a very low price when Microsoft had paid $6bn+ for the whole aquantive business. Nothing much was heard about Atlas until recent rumours that it had been complete rebuilt to give Facebook a robust platform for serving and tracking ads.

Its now officially launched and is a big part of the new Facebook ad network where they use their profile data to target Facebook users across sites and apps outside the Facebook empire. It’s more evidence of the antipathy across GAFA and means Facebook starts to get a better view of what’s happening across the open web, which should let it improve ad performance within Facebook.

Mobile & Money

Building on our thoughts on Starbucks last week, mobile money is heating up. We see that Apple has hired two very senior Visa execs in Europe. And Capital One have launched a pretty good wallet app in the US whilst Barclaycard are rolling out their bPay bracelet – which is interesting but could do with some love from a designer.

But the big news is that eBay and PayPal are going to split into two companies. Many people believe PayPal will be more valuable on its own, but it will also probably be more attractive to a potential suitor who doesn’t want the distraction of eBay. Who could be interested? Well Google needs a response to Apple Pay and folding PayPal would be a great way to revive Google Wallet.

Content is King?

Last week we speculated that Softbank – now ran by ex Googler Nikesh Arora – could be interested in buying Yahoo, as they look to build out their Sprint and broadband business by adding content.

This line of thought is probably validated by the story that they are in talks to buy Dreamworks – the hugely successful movie studio ran by Jeffery Katzenberg.  

This blending of content and pipes has always been talked of, but the AOL Time Warner debacle still scares most people off. Like most dotcom bubble hubris though, the issue was essentially one of timing – and poorly executing the merger.

Yahoo, Softbank & Alibaba

As we discussed last week these 3 companies are closely linked and this long article is a great look at how they came together. If you believe in fate, choosing then Chinese Civil servant Jack Ma (now the Alibaba founder) to guide Jerry Yang around the Great Wall of China in 1997 is right up there. A must read


If you talk to any enlightened media planner they will tell you they now see TV and online video as essentially the same thing; if you want to reach Downton viewers you are equally happy to buy them on broadcast TV or online catch up. And they also know that smart use of pre rolls or any of the online video formats will probably add reach to a traditional TV campaign, as the elusive light viewers are added.

But regulatory things are still more compartmentalized. Now that is starting to change. In the US it looks like regulators will treat online video services as the same as cable and satellite providers. This means they can get cheaper access to programming and the old divisions will start to melt away.

Some brands get this already and Mondelez have done a global deal with Google for video to accelerate their ambition to put 10% of their spend into online video.

Adding to the momentum is the new Twitter TV ratings, where Kantar will report on levels of Tweeting related to TV programming with data around how twitter affects audience.

Many years ago we tried to prove that data on recording a programme correlated with better engagement in the live viewing. If you like a show so much you record it when you are out, you probably are more attentive when actually watching it live. So ads in those programmes are probably more effective and more valuable.

Those enlightened media planners will be looking at whether Tweeting is a similar engagement metric 

Quick reads

Still play Angry Birds? No us neither. And they are firing 130 people. More proof that apps is a hits business.

Did you know people launch brands on Amazon? Coke and Pepsi have both launched products only available through Amazon.

Google have acquiesced to German publishers and won’t publish extracts from their stories – they will just show the headlines. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Product placement is getting tech – Music videos can now feature brands in a way that the product can be changed according to region etc.

The Google Internet of Things play is now public – The Physical Web. Very interesting.

Lots of the smart people at Tesco know that their real competition is going to be Amazon rather than Lidl, but (understandably) short term thinking is prevailing and they are going to sell or close Blinkbox

Apple debut Watch at our favourite Paris store, Colette. And as they reposition themselves as a luxury brand, Vogue profiles Jony Ive.

GE Enhance your Lighting is a great example of a brand using video and social really well.

We have mentioned Shopkick before – a great example of where mobile, physical and promotions meet. It’s been acquired for $200m to fund international expansion so expect to see it in Europe soon


We heard Peter Thiel talk about his excellent new book and lots of his thinking applies to any business – not just startups. In our Digital Transformation workshops we talk about how big companies can learn from startups and this book is very useful. So too is this Stanford lecture on how to start a Startup and this piece by YCombinators Paul Graham.

Oh, and we have finally revamped our website outlining the range of things we do for clients and for our own projects. <sell> If you ever need any help lets have a chat <sell/>

Mobile Fix – September 26

Mobile & Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Chinese are coming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Quick Reads

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

The clever people at Betaworks have revitalized Digg

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

More good thinking on the Apple Watch

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

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

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

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





Mobile Fix – September 19

Thinking about Apple

The ramifications of the Apple launch last week continue. Pre sales of the new phones have gone very well – too well perhaps; as the wait time on Apple is weeks. Some of the operators were quick to offer the iPhones too and have done really well.

iOS8 is available and that has kept people thinking about Apple –once they could actually get it downloaded. It looks beautiful and the elegance of much of the interaction whets the appetite for the iPhone6 too.

We are also starting to get an understanding of just how much better the new devices are – and the camera in particular is getting a lot of praise. As we talked about last week, the Ice Bucket Challenge has taught millions of people that making and sharing video isn’t that hard. Add a great camera to that new expertise and we can expect some great content.

For a long time we have argued that video is going to be democratised just like music was with the launch of technologies like the Roland 808 –that enabled talented people to make music in their bedroom and bypass the traditional stranglehold of the record companies. As the explosive growth of YouTube has shown, the talent is there and even with a webcam they are making content people want to see. Better camera will accelerate this. SXSW showed a film shot entirely in an iPhone5 and the guy behind that is very bullish.

It’s the Apple watch that is driving most of the commentary though. Last week the feeling as the launch was a little vague and that was a bad thing.  This week the feeling seems to be that the vagueness was actually pretty smart – as it allows Apple to set the agenda over the coming months as they drip feed feature and functionality news. Talking in a US TV interview Tim Cook talks about their desire for developers to come on board before the device launches. Just like no one expected Uber, Moves or Flappy Bird when the iPhone launched, great watch apps could make the device a must have.

One of the best Apple commentator blogs is DaringFireball and he makes some good points over pricing – suggesting the gold watch could cost as much as $10k. He also gets into some of the possible functionality – which, along with some of Tim Cooks comments, make the Watch sound like less of a peripheral. It will clearly have many ways to enhance the iPhone in your pocket or bag but will be able to do a lot on its own. He also thinks that the S1 computer on a chip that powers the watch could be replaceable, meaning the Watch is truly comparable with luxury watches where people expect them to last a lifetime.

Ben Evans thoughts on the Watch are worth reading – particularly his point that the delight of glancing at your wrist, to see that Leeds have scored or that your flight is being called, could be just as addictive as the smartphone. People check their phones dozens of times a day – can a watch replace much of that? 

The chatter around Pay is more muted – largely because there is still a lack of real insight into how the service will roll out. Sure, we know the key points but as Apple need all the various partners on board, its not easy to see where they could end up in a couple of years. Right now the US is poised to move to Chip & Pin or Chip and signature, so retailers will have to upgrade their terminals. And just like in Europe most will include NFC technology. So Apple have been smart and adopted a less optimal technology largely because someone else is paying for the hardware roll out. And partnerships with Visa, Mastercard Amex etc make perfect sense. 

But one of the smartest investors Chamath Palihapitiya thinks Apple have pulled off a masterstroke. He believes Apple is poised to disrupt the global banking infrastructure in the next decade or so and earn trillions of dollars. He likens the deals with the credit card firms to the way they got the record labels to support itunes. And he thinks that – eventually – an iPhone will act as a POS terminal so you then don’t actually need the credit card. Very interesting.

It is worth watching the Tim Cook TV interview for a good take on where Apple is and some hints on what’s next. Asked about TV, he says its still stuck in the 70s and then politely declines to talk about their plans for the space. And he also talks about the move into enterprise and the IBM partnership. (this long Bloomberg interview covers a lot of these issues too)

Another piece of the jigsaw is the Apple announcement on privacy, making the point that advertising is a small part of their business and hence they can be very focused on privacy. It also makes the point that Apple don’t cooperate with the NSA – which begs the question who else can say that?

Google & Nest

The $3bn acquisition of Nest did more than position Google as a key player in both the Internet of Things and the connected home. It also injected 300 people with an Apple DNA into Google. The CEO was instrumental in the launch of both the iPod and the original iPhone, and at Nest he attracted lots of Apple people.

This interview is a good reminder that Google value design thinking too.

Fashion tech

We have covered Londons dominance in FinTech before, but as well as leading the field in the Financial world London is a major player in Fashion Tech. This FT piece looks at Burberry as a great example of a luxury brand embracing digital and others using tech to show at London Fashion week. The Burberry Kisses campaign from last year is also worth a look – not least for showing how digital marketing is maturing 

Metrics & ROI

Preparing for a workshop for a Financial Services brand we have been looking at best practice in metrics. As ever the key is having a small number of important metrics to focus on and ensuring that everyone can see (and understand) what’s going on. The Don of analytics  Avinash Kaushik shows us how simple a dashboard can and should be. His latest look at Mobile measurement is essential reading too.

The desire for comparison means we often measure the same as everyone else, but here we see that a less usual measure can be really useful too. Weekly users is a lot more valuable metric than monthly users for many businesses.

Twitter – what’s next?

Comments from the new twitter CFO around improving the timeline in Twitter caused consternation. This is a thoughtful piece on how Twitter can evolve to deliver on the timeline that so many value and provide other ways for more discreet conversations 

Quick reads

Bubble anyone? A veteran VC doesn’t think so, but worries there is too much money going to startups, and that the burn rates are unsustainable for most of them.

A good case study on responsive design and ecommerce from long time Fix readers at Schuh 

Long article on the riser and rise of GoPro

The Economist takes a look at programmatic. Good round up on where adtech is and some of the key issues. Our favourite quote;

“We are only where search advertising was in 2001,”

Once called the Ministry of Magazines, IPC is probably managing the transistion from print to digital better than most. Newly rebranded as Time, this is a good interview with the man now running the business globally.

Finally the rise of growth hacking is seen by some as an indictment of marketings failings, but to us the technique of product/market fit is just modern marketing. This piece looks at how engineering works as a marketing tool. We think modern marketers work to the Malcolm X / Jean Paul Satre mantra By any means necessary. 

Mobile Fix – September 12

The huge hype of the Apple launch reminds us just how far mobile has come in the last few years. TV news coverage and stories in every newspaper. Celebs, fashion journalists and Rupert Murdoch at the event. 

Apple isn’t just a tech company anymore. They are a lifestyle. A hybrid of fashion, content, devices, services and U2. The mycube from that Simpsons episode never felt more insightful;

I see you’re admiring our myCube

It’s fueled by dreams and powered by imagination.

(Homer) What does it do?

You should ask yourself what can I do for it

The new iPhones are pretty much as the leaks suggested – and whilst Android fanboys make the point the spec is virtually the same as the 2 year old Nexus 4 – we think they will sell really well. Ben Evans has a good take on how the product and pricing hits Android – and particularly Samsung – hard.

It’s likely that the imminent Nexus 6 from Google – (& Motorola) will be a more innovative device, but that’s unlikely to dent iPhone sales.

The Watch also lived up to most of the hype but has divided opinion – especially given the price point. It’s telling that no-one seems to be talking about battery life

Our take is that it won’t replace many peoples current watch. If you still wear a watch, it’s probably as much a piece of jewelry as it’s a timepiece. Will people want to wear something that’s the same as everyone elses?

But some people have more than one watch and we can see the Apple watch being added to that repertoire – particularly for sports.

For those people who have stopped wearing a watch as their phone tells the time, this could be good enough to tempt them back. Once people can actually try the watch we’ll have a better idea – one horology expert does rave about the level of finish and the detail. Given he wears a $40k vintage Omega it’s a pretty positive viewpoint.

So one thing we should expect is lots of ways to customize the watch, with more straps and more apps offering unique dials. Just like Swatch did in the 80s, partnerships with fashion and art brands will keep the device fresh. Remember the Japanese phone market has lots of partnerships with fashion brands like Marrimekko and Pucci. Expect a Kanye West watchface as part of his next album promotion.

But the big problem with the watch is that it’s not a wearable. It is actually – like most of this sector – a peripheral 

Wear an Apple watch without having your iPhone in your pocket and we suspect it’s pretty useless. Like the Nike Fuelband we gave up on as they didn’t have an Android app.

And if you have the iPhone in your pocket, the question is what does the watch do, that is that useful. But we can expect lots of app developers to focus on this issue. And, as someone on Twitter said, Do Google put Google Now on this device or keep it back for Android?

Pay is a big deal and Apple have revived the NFC market. The only issue is how they persuade retailers to invest in the instore devices, but that should just be a matter of time. A big surprise is the fact Apple don’t know what you buy – which erodes a potential advantage for their ad sales.

Overall Tuesday supports the view that all Apple really want is to keep selling premium price devices. And they are building Anchors to keep people in the iPhone franchise; the wallet, health kit, home kit etc. And as the U2 music spam showed, they will use content as an Anchor too. Will they buy Netflix next?

Probably the best commentary we have read is Jason Calcanis, who is very positive. And yes, we’ll be buying a Plus to replace our Nexus.

As more details emerge we’ll get deeper into Pay in the coming weeks.

(One more thing. Apple now has a mobile optimised site. Finally.)

Another interesting peripheral.

Motorola have some interesting product around. The Hint is really intriguing –an in ear headset that you can speak to and cintrol your phone. Bluetooth Headsets suffer from the Ken syndrome – most people who wear them aren’t very nice. Maybe this can revive the sector.

The Fire phone

The Amazon fire is finally coming to the UK – on an exclusive with O2. It’s hard to see many people choosing this over a new iPhone. But the pricing is very aggressive – and in the US the price has dropped to 99 cents. So whilst the strategic logic of Amazon having their own phone remains, getting significant distribution is proving a problem.

We are still convinced that Amazon will make the Fireflly technology available on other devices. This is the most interesting feature of the phone and makes everything identifiable and hence buyable. What’s the point of restricting it to the few people with a Fire phone, when you could add it to the Amazon app on millions of peoples iPhones and Androids? In time for Christmas.

Video & Facebook

It looks like the Ice Bucket challenge is over. As well as a great case study for fundraising and social it’s also possibly the first mass participation video meme. Most previous memes on social have been about sharing rather than making content – remember the old 1 9 90 rule where I % create content, 9% share it and 90% just view?  Whilst the % sharing has been growing, the % creating hasn’t.

But this showed that people now can and will create and share video. And even more interestingly a huge proportion of this video lives on Facebook, rather than just being on YouTube. Facebook had 17m Ice Bucket videos shared and seen by 440m people in total.

Facebook have been conscious of how big video is for them, but only now are they showing viewcounts. The baked in ability to share on Facebook is a big advantage over YouTube. A new Beyonce video got 2.4m views on Facebook in the first 4 hours after release – against just a few thousand on YouTube 

This NYT piece looks at how Facebook video has grown but also looks at how media brands are using social to drive views.

Facebook are being quick to push the use of  video to their customers


More on the O2O Retail (Offline to Online) partnership in China that we mentioned last week. The intention is to fight back against the dominance of Alibaba and one of our readers in China pointed us to this video of the Alibaba founder telling the story of the business

As they prepare for the IPO they are moving into mobile games – where rival Tencent is very strong. The Chinese BAT vertical stacks show how keeping customers in your stack on mobile is so crucial.

The O2O article gets into some good detail on why Chinese retail is different and also looks as some of the most recent BAT investments.

Quick Read 

Microsoft are killing the Nokia brand name (and Windows Phone) and focusing on Lumia and Windows. Not sure that’s such a smart move.

Twitter have added a buy button. Is eCommerce going to be big for them?

One of the smart people we worked with at WPP was Jeff Cole from the Centre or the Digital Future. His views on the future of advertising are worth a listen

One of the smartest Internet of things ideas is finally launched – Tiles are such a good idea, but we’ll probably wait to version 2

The US NFL is starting talks over their next TV deal. TV companies are bidding up prices as live games are seen as an edge over online services, But they are talking to Google et al and their VP of media says; 

Selling game-streaming rights to an online company is a matter of “when, not if,”

Over here consultant Claire Enders told the Royal Television Society that youth is deserting TV, with a 22% fall amongst 4 15 year olds. Are they all watching YouTube?

And more evidence that TV is changing; Sky have expanded the targetihg options for their AdSmart service. Brands can now choose the households their ads are seen in based on postcode as well as MOSAIC data etc. And you can use your own data to target.

Ages ago we mentioned that Sainsbury was trialing a mobile shopping service in Clerkenwell and Mile End. The Shop and Scan seems to have gone well and its being rolled out to more stores. Despite using QR codes. Why hasn’t some mobile expert explained that QR codes don’t work?

Mobile adtech firm Medialets have shared lots of data on mobile advertising.     

Cards are probably the biggest step forward in how mobile is put together, but they are still misunderstood by many. This is a good guide to what they are. And this is a good guide to how to use them on Twitter.

Finally…    John Batelle is one of our favourite bloggers. He runs a very successful digital media business and really gets the whole space, although he admits he was lateish to mobile. He has written a good summary of his thoughts on where mobile is now and where its going. Well worth reading.


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.


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