Jul 28, 2017

Amazon's new messaging app anytime

Here's an article that I disagree with on many levels - it may very well be that Amazon's Anytime aspires to be the WeChat of the West (while the article says it "will"), and that it may even achieve it. But based on messaging, group chatting, not needing to know numbers and "SMS disruption" (didn't that happen during the last one and a half decades?) it won't get there. My take is that if Amazon manages to integrate Anytime with their media and especially their commerce offering, they may be onto something. And maybe this is a major defense play to prevent Messenger becoming a shopping destination through bots with integrated commerce, on- and offline? Still an interesting read.


McKinsey on Artificial Intelligence

Interesting collection of research, studies and statistics about AI from McKinsey. As always, handle the numbers with care, but they give us a good impression on how the field develops. For example, I would hate to be the CRM and loyalty guy at Netflix trying to come up with human intelligence solutions, when AI improves search results in a way that cancellations were avoided worth about a billion dollars. More here:


Computer-predicted results of startup-success

Take 50,000 companies that received venture capital. Compare the fields/industries they are in, and see how influential and bigger investment firms spread their money across these industries and across the 50,000 companies. Do some math, and voila: the predictions are stunning.


Transitional business platforms

Ultimately, all businesses are transitional in some ways as markets, consumers and environments change. But some are transitional in a sense that they change or create markets. Great article by Kellogg Innovation Professor Robert C. Wolcott that leads to four characteristics of these businesses:

  • they substantially outperform the status quo from the customer's perspective
  • they tend to violate traditional constraints
  • they build brand presence before markets have been clearly defined
  • they enable adaption as conditions change

Read the details here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/foresight-business-building-future-just-defending-past-wolcott

More insights into Magic Leap

Magic Leap, the billion-funded uber-secretive AR/VR startup that the world is waiting for, published a paper called "Towards Geometric Deep SLAM". As it is all gibberish to me, i found this article that explains the stuff they are talking about in English. The article is pretty short, so I fail to summarize it without just copy-pasting 80% of it. Read for yourself:


The success of Buzzfeed's Tasty

By the time Buzzfeed started "Tasty", many publishers had already realized that food was a strong and promising area to create a vertical for. I have seen many try, also earlier than BF, but not really succeed. So how did Tasty do it? Good article on NYT about their explorative and data driven way of approaching things.


The Golden Age of UX is over

Berlin's own Jonathan Courtney from AJ & Smart argues that UX became more or less a commodity because "good UX" is - compared to a few years back - relatively easy to achieve, given the free tools that are accessible to anyone. Besides his interesting view on what a design agency should do next, the article is filled with links to great resources. Must read/bookmark.


Spotify vs. Netflix

Interesting take on revenue per subscriber and subscriber growth in a comparison of Netflix and Spotify. What the article ignores is that Spotify doesn't really have any meaningful "original content" as the wide majority of its contents is available on any other subscription service, too. Therefore, market share and subscriber growth might be of much more strategic value to Spotify, even if it means to take hits with regards to average revenue per subscriber by integrating into telco-models and a "household" subscription on a service that is meant to be of individual use (I love my Spotify Discover weekly, and if it would mix up with what the kids do and listen to, I would get each their own subscription or cancel entirely).


Tesla seen as a technology company

I have read this a few times now: Maybe Tesla isn't actually disrupting the car industry with new means of motorization, but copying their model of unit sales and "might modify this a bit when your self driving car can earn revenues for you while you are not using it" - which in the end means a complete implosion of the car manufacturer business model. Maybe they are building something entirely different, that just happens to "accidentally" destroy the car industry as we know it in order to establish a technology platform and traffic and energy infrastructure? The sooner you get as many cars on the street as possible, the sooner you get as many batteries on the grid as possible, the bigger your advantage will be against any incumbent. Maybe this is Tesla's priority.


Ho Waze sells mobile display ads for 25 USD CPM

Nice piece about Shazam and Wazen and how they manage to create an inventory that actually generates mobile display ad revenue, something most publishers struggle with, and do this without absolutely destroying the user experience. To me, just another example of how the times for easy-to-scale, low effort display advertising (that does its job) are over - at least if you don't have billions or trillions of impressions in your inventory.


Jul 4, 2017

India goes digital

Remember how developing countries leapfrogged the PC and went to mobile phones directly? India is way too diverse to see it as a developing country, but they are making a big effort to do a similar thing in administration and infrastructure: 95% of the population have a digital proof of identity, and they are on their way to a cashless society, with more than 270mn bank accounts opened in the last 3 years to process cashless payments.


Jul 2, 2017

Cameras will be the next big platforms

The camera as a development platform is not an entirely new concept - Snapchat calls itself a camera company, avoiding terms like "messenger" and "social network" in their mission. Facebook launched its camera platform earlier this year. I am very careful with the term "game changer", but added with AR tech the camera - being a software product not necessarily based on OS - can really lead to entirely new apps & features. Here's a bunch of first demos from iOS11, and as it is said in the article, "if this is what developers can put together in just a few weeks, imagine what type of wizardry awaits us once iOS 11 officially drops later this year."

And I wrote a longer piece about this on my blog:


Jun 28, 2017

The bike sharing hype - Overview

13 of the world's 15 biggest bike sharing fleets are in China, but the two others are London and Paris, showing the potential for Western megacities, too. This lengthy article in the Guardian gives a great overview of pros & cons and provides some stunning numbers on how fast the "Uber for bikes" companies have grown, and what effect this can have on mobility in urban areas (spoiler: there are serious cons as maintaining the bikes with human labour might be more costly than just adding new ones to the fleets):


Autonomous cars to capture 4 terabytes of data every 8 hours of driving

"Big" data is selling it short. 4 TB of data for 8 hours of driving - given that autonomous cars will likely be driving most of their time instead of sitting there as dead material on some parking lot - is unimaginable. I never saw it from this perspective - and I don't know how much of this data can be processed via the onboard network, where performance can probably be solved easily - but if a good portion of this data has to make its way to the cloud and acted upon quickly, we might have a performance obstacle to overcome before the takeover of autonomous cars can take place.


Uber should test a robot CEO

Interesting thought by Nicholas Carr: A company that consists of software and data as its main assets, and that just lost its CEO due to human flaws, not managerial shortcomings, may be the best case to test how to "automate the automators". Probably this would fall under the categories of deep learning and narrow AI which, as far as i know, we have pretty well under control. In fact, Carr says "a two day hackathon" would probably be enough to create a CEO. Good, quick read:


Jun 9, 2017

Commerce in Messenger / GIF Demo

Facebook messenger is very likely to become the next big platform in a couple of years. It has the potential to combine our two main ways of organizing and accessing information: intentional use and discovery. Both are also major mechanics in online sales. Here's a demo of how a sunglasses purchase could happen on messenger, utilizing the whole infrastructure:


Amazon's dominance in one chart

Click it. It says it all.


What Bleacher Report learned from Snapchat Discover

The clear leader in social media sports journalism, Bleacher Report, has 11 people working on Snapchat Discover. That is huge and i cannot imagine this activity being profitable yet. Unfortunately the article does not reveal numbers, but for anyone thinking they could manage a Snapchat account "on the side", here are some learnings that may convince you otherwise:


Jun 8, 2017

Understanding Blockchain

I'll admit it: I am far away from understanding blockchain. But I am reading up on it and so far, it didn't prove to be of immediate necessity to know this for my business, so I am taking my time. If you are in a similar position, here's one article that adds a new perspective and is accessible to me, TechCrunch:


Intro to cryptocurrencies, or what does Ethereum at 260 USD mean?

Crazy times. A few weeks ago, Vinay Gupta, the release coordinator for Ethereum and a prolific blogger, consultant, publicist wrote a piece about what it meant that Ethereum hit 100 USD. Two weeks leater he updated it, because they broke the 200 USD mark. Now that I am writing this, again a few weeks later, we're at 260 USD. But the piece is not about the next bubble we're entering or how you and I are total idiots for not fully understanding what is gooing on; instead, it is one of the few articles that actually helped me understand that whole concept. If you, like me, never met a person who never stops talking bitcoins, smart contracts and blockchains, but who also could really enlighten you about these topics and could even answer some of your (maybe dumb) questions to some degree, this article is worth your time.


Why measuring customer preferences is an illusion

We all know the quote with the faster horses, even though Henry Ford probably never said it. But it is very useful in order to understand that innovation almost never comes from what consumers tell you in a survey. There are reasons for that, and similar reasons apply to customer data in general. This article points out why customer data from studies or research might be helpful in many ways, but can't deliver a blueprint of what to build next (and please note, this does not refer to data constantly generated and analyzed through product usage, but to the "traditional" survey data many use). Interesting read:


May 11, 2017

The first decade of Artificial Intelligence

Very interesting article by Benedict Evans. It opens more questions than it gives answers, but getting to the right questions is always the beginning of understanding things, isn't it? Don't miss this one.


The data economy calls for regulation

There's an interesting trend where capitalist media & actors introduce rather "socialist" ideas. I remember Bill Gates saying that robots that do your work should be taxed. That's basically the idea that ownership of production machines means a greater contribution of generated wealth to society. I'm not saying the idea is Marxist, but not far away from that. Or Elon Musk promoting an unconditional basic income, an idea that, at least in Germany, is seen as a hardcore leftist approach. Now the Economist, not necessarily known as a very cpaitalist-critic publication, calls for new antitrust rules when it comes to data. I can't hear about the oil vs. data comparison anymore, but still: they have a point.


Has the post social media era begun?

I constantly think about the direction social networks are developing. To me, there are public social networks like Instagram, Facebook etc., and private social micro-networks like FB messenger or Whatsapp. Note that all these companies belong to Facebook. If you look at WeChat in China, they try to combine both in one huge app. Also Snapchat has a "left" side (seen from the camera), which is a messenger, and a "right" side, which clearly is a social network with a newsfeed. I haven't made up my mind yet where I believe things are going, but here's an interesting article on meshedsociety about the possible "post social network era":


Clayton Christensen on e-learning

"Disruptive Innovation" by Clayton Christensen is still one of my most cherished business books. So much to learn. And if the guy who wrote this makes predictions, I tend to listen closely. In his eyes, it will take "rather 9 than ten years" for a substantial number (maybe half) of US colleges to disappear thanks to e-learning.


How Google could collapse

Of course, the title is a bit misleading. For Alphabet to collapse, many, many things must go wrong. But this article is very interesting with regards to search, and this indeed might be a good source to understand threats to Google's still most important business. "Search/Intentional" vs. "Discovery" is one of my major storylines when I try to explain the dynamics of digital businesses, and this article builds on this very basic thought. Longer read, but very insightful.


Importance of site performance for publishers

One of the main selling points when instant articles were introduced by Facebook, as well as Google AMP, was that the user experience suffered from bad performance on the publisher side. And yes, companies like Google and Facebook have a different scale and the deep pockets to provide really good performance, while many publishers worry about content and banner formats. They should, but they shouldn't underestimate site performance in a world where everything happens on smartphones with increasingly impatient users. The Washington Post and Vice have invested heavily in this area:


Internet of things in Sports

I don't get cricket, and probably never will, but besides that the article is really interesting in the potential of Internet of things in Sports. It is easy to translate to Football, Basketball, Tennis or any other sport.


The Guardian abandons Instant Articles and Apple News

This "platforms" versus "destinations" thing is one of the key questions digital publishers are facing. Currently, I think that you can't make a wise decision based on pure strategy, but should act tactically based on numbers and data. Ideally, you don't only have your own data - you could be doings stuff wrong - but also compare to others' experiences (I wonder how long it will take until all these huge traditional publishers form a strong alliance where they really share numbers and strategies - it's a matter of survival over competition amongst themselves). The Guardian chose to pull out of two majr platforms, Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News, because the numbers don't really fit. Will be very interesting to see how this plays out.


Otto Group using AI

One of my major examples for successful digital transformation is the Otto Group from Germany. They used to have every ingredient to die with their paper catalogue, but managed to become a modern retail company with impressive ease. Here's a short but interesting piece in the Economist about how they use AI - one of the big issues for online retailers is the stock they need to keep in their warehouses, often having hundreds of millions of Euros at stake in case the stuff doesn't sell (that's why many move towards becoming a marketplace where a long tail of small retailers keep the stock and the risk of buying physical material that may not sell - like Alibaba). With AI, Ottto managed to reduce surplus stock by a fifth. 20%. That's huge.


Improving the bus experience

Many people, including me, believe that in future, not very far away from today, i will order a car on my smartphone, similar to Uber, and it will be at my doorstep a few minutes later, driverless, and bring me wherever I want. The car may be owned by you, but I will get a monthly invoice for my transportation by some platform (may be Google, may be Uber, may be someone else) and they will distribute my money among the car owners. On our way there, public transportation won't stand still, hopefully, and it is time this area will introduce innovation, too. Citymapper has collected 50mn to do just that. Up to now a pure software company, they are toying around with a physical bus in London that is fully connected, offers a screen that shows in realtime where you are, and on your smartphone, you can check how long it takes for the bus to arrive, how many people are on board etc. Can't wait to see how this plays out:


Mar 31, 2017

Every company that will use AI faces a trade off

To fully function at its best potential, AI needs to learn "on the job", and not in a simulated environment. So everyone willing to use AI will have to live with a weaker product in the beginning, and will have to try and make it as smart as possible before launching it. Interesting read about this challenge:


Object recognition changes search for photo and video

We are used to tag stuff. Even texts, in order to make them searchable or be able to quickly put together compilations. That might be a thing of the past as AI evolves and object recognition gets better and better. Google unveiled a search recently that is able to determine objects in videos. And in November 2015, the open-sourced tensor flow, their machine learning project, which is now used in Google Photos to recognize objects. Soon, tagging might be over.



Agility vs Consistency

When everyone goes agile and instead of research just throws products out there and sees how they are doing, who ensures consistency? And why would consistency be a success factor? Short and interesting (older, Jan 2017) piece on Havard Business review around this topic.


Sports Highlights on Instagram

Nice Overview on Wired about how Sports is one major topic on Instagram. The article has a few interesting numbers in it, for example that House of Highlights, owned by Bleacher report, has a (stunning) interaction rate of 2,43% on Instagram.


Mar 10, 2017

Overview of machine learning / AI potential in 12 sectors

Apparently taken from a McKinsey report, this article on medium lists 12 industries and evaluates how much which area within those will be impacted by automation and artificial intelligence. AI is always scary and fascinating at the same time, and you cannot begin to imagine how many "human jobs" will be obsolete when all this happens. On the other hand, everything will be more effective, cheaper, accurate and powerful. The article offers no interpretation, just a list of business areas and how they may change. Still a great resource:


Computers with an IQ of 10.000

A genious human has an IQ of about 200. Softbank Robotics CEO Masayoshi Son predicts that by 2047, in 30 years, a computer might have an IQ of 10.000. Which means they will decide and do things that humans are completely incapable of understanding.


[German]: Grundkurs App Economy von Hannes Kleist

Sehr interessanter Podcast, der mindestens zur ersten Hälfte als "Grundkurs App Economy" taugt. Hannes Kleist, Gründer der App-Agentur und -Publisher Stanwood, erzählt die Geschichte ihrer TV-Programm-App "On Air", und gibt dabei sehr lehrreiche Insights preis, wie man erfolgreich Apps in der derzeitigen App-Store-Economy betreibt. Toller, ca. 1-stündiger Podcast hier:


Gartner says Facebook becomes the WeChat of the West

A year ago I started giving talks about Messengers, and halfway through I had a chapter called "the WeChat-ification of Facebook Messenger". That was not based on the monopolization of mobile user attention, which is very much the case in China with WeChat, but on Facebook's move to make Messenger a platform on which 3rd party applications (bots etc.) can be built, distributed, conducted that may even threaten the app economy as such. This TechCrunch article lays out the recent developments on Messenger and how this could be the next big platform:


A conversation with Elon Musk

35 min talk in the United Arab Emirates with Elon Musk. At 8:35 he starts talking about AI and autonomous cars, predicted that in 10 years from now the vast majority of newly built cars would be driving autonomously. At 10:00 he classifies this as "narrow AI", while the real opportunity - but also threat - will be "general artificial intelligence" which he sees developing like super intelligent aliens. If you don't have time and want to be scared a bit - start at minute 20.


Facebook Live "TV-shows"

We are seeing many publishers experimenting with Facebook live, and Facebook recently announced they would introduce video ad breaks in live and on-demand video, fed by the Audience Network. While this type of monetization is important for (automated) scale, I keep thinking that branded content and sponsoring is a great way for publishers to monetize their social media presences. Perform's Goal.com is running a "TV-like" show that monetizes on the integration of brands, and some insights are shared here:


Stadium WiFi and tech monetization in the NFL

Very good article from TechRepublic about how the NFL uses in-stadium WiFi and apps. Super Bowl 50 saw 10.1 terabytes of data flow through the Levi's stadium's WiFi (63% increase to Super Bowl 49). Team apps feature in-stadium sections with the ability to order food&beverages to your seat, which obviously increases turnover, merchandising discounts and info on waiting lines for restrooms. The Patriots' app is used by 18-22k people each gameday - with 66000 in attendance. More great stats and info:


State of the German Internet (3-17)

Nice presentation from Online Marketing Rockstars and the relation of German internet companies to GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and other global players. The link features both the talk (video) and a slideshare.


Feb 3, 2017

Digital in 2017 - collection of global stats

We are social frequently releases an aggregation of research results and statistics, and the 2017 report (which of course is a 2016 report :-) features some nice insights about digital: internet penetration, smartphone penetration, social media usage etc. etc.

Global report here:

Germany starts on slide 78:

Fun fact for Germany: 80.6mn population, 109mn smartphone contracts. 136% penetration.

The schedule and the stream

Long read, but worth every minute: An analysis of the stream as a relatively new way of organizing information (approx. 10 years): one of my main topics in consulting. This piece compares it to the schedule as one of the many "old" ways of organizing information and content, and how both differ in creating public spaces, and what that means for our societies, politics etc. Highly interesting.


1mn concurrent streams for a counterstrike match on Twitch

1mn concurrent viewers is nothing for linear TV, especially not for a globally accessible program. But in streaming esports, that's a real milesstone, and the match was also available on TV, ELeague's website and on YouTube. Streaming is special because there is no "audience flow" like we know it from linear programming, no accidental audience because of zapping or viewers that watched it "becausethere was nothing better on other channels". You also don't typically stream and do the dishes in parallel like with linear TV - meaning: a streaming audience is most likely a dedicated audience, and 1 mn concurrent viewers for a platform like Twitch is a stunningly high number.


Finally: some Snapchat numbers

Snapchat filed for an IPO and therefore had to release some numbers on users and usage: Topline is 161 million daily active users (DAU), 53mn of them in Europe, 400mn revenue in 2016 (coming from 59 mn), most of it in the US, and staggering >500mn loss. If they manage to create similar revenue growth in Europe and Asia, it can become a very interesting company though. I also found this statement from their filing very interesting:

"Snap Inc. is a camera company.
We believe that reinventing the camera is our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate.
Our products empower people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together."

The full filing is here:

Two nice TechCrunch articles with key charts & stats here:

Pokemon Go makes 1bn of overall 35 billion global app revenue in 2016

We all know the app business is very short tail, due to app store structures and bad discovery mechanisms, but also app access on our phones (which is essentially a nicer bookmark list with icons on our smartphone screens). Still waiting for a smartphone notification stream that can be fed by hundreds or thousands of apps, but i am sure the day will come. For now, the short tail is very short - Pokemon go alone took in 1 billion of an estimated overall developer revenue of 35 billion. More interesting numbers from App Annie and Sensor Tower here:


Jan 26, 2017

Smartphones and health

Maybe the next big thing for smartphones: to greatly contribute to our health. Singularityhub.com is always a great resource, and the article linked below gives us a good overview or where smartphones can be beneficial to our health (although, for elite athletes smartphones may be the opposite).


Harvard Business Review on collaboration work models

Being kind of an introvert and having the feeling that I am most productive with a switched off phone alone at my desk, I am sometimes positively surprised and sometimes really annoyed when groups of people get together not to dicuss and decide (what meetings should be for), but to actually work and produce together. I think it is a very complicated thing, beginning with hierarchies and team dynamics and ending with practical distribution of workloads. Here are some interesting thoughts from HBR on "collaborative overload":


Uber releases public data platform (a drop in the ocean)

I have always argued that we have one major construction bug in the web: Data that I cause should be mine, and not belonging to the service provider. I can lend this data to the company in order for it to be able to provide better services, but I also should be able to delete it, or take it elsewhere, or publish it if I want. Everyone posted their Spotify data analysis at the end of 2016, but I didn't like it because it showed data that I felt was mine, and that I should be able to take with me to Pandora or elsewhere if I wanted to. Same with my movements: Car2Go and DriveNow have data on my automotive history, Lufthansa and AirBerlin on my flying, DeutscheBahn on my train rides etc. - and Google maps, if you have location tracking on, all of them - but these should be mine. If we all put them together or give them in trusted hands, the public could greatly benefit from it. Uber has tons and tons of data on traffic, and - kudos - has decided to make it public. I guarantuee that no single traffic planning government entity in any city has comparable data to invest our, the tax payer's money, in how to design cities and make traffic more effective and safe. You have to be grateful to Uber for publishing this, but it is also a reminder that there's so much super-useful stuff out there being held away from our societies.


Strategic view on Amazon Echo as an operating system

This article is three weeks old, but I just recently received my Alexa/Amazon Echo product (love it) and had a few thoughts that I may have put together as a bigger blog post. Doing some research, I found this one and it summarizes everything better than I ever could: The "design" of Amazon Echo as a platform and why it has this huge potential:


Micro-Moments: Realtime, hyperlocal matters

I recently discovered the weekly newsletter on http://meshedsociety.com/ and sometimes I can find interesting links to articles on sites I didn't even know. "Street Fight - Inside the Business of Hyperlocal" is one of them. Although I don't really like to declare 2017 "the year of xyz" withing January, and the author might have an interest in doing so, being the CEO of uberall, a location marketing company, the article gives an interesting perspective on "micro-moments" and why they matter. Having had two years of "micro-services" in any IT-discussion, maybe we will see this term more often on the marketing side (side note: at the time of writing this post here, the article had 4 shares on G+, 44 on Facebook and 100 on LinkedIn - interesting spread).


Time to read up on algorithms

If I would have my own "Google Trends"-like analysis of words used in professional conversations and presentations, I guess that "algorithm" (maybe besides "data") would have the steepest growth of all. Amidst the Trump-domination of my newsfeed, algorithm-driven, I stumbled upon this interesting article (pure politics, Trump in perspective) and found it interesting enough to see what else was published on "Los Angeles Review of Books". And here comes one of the most interesting reads of this year so far: An exhaustive examination of algorithms - how we use the term, what they are, and what impact they have. Lengthy article, but worth every minute.


Internet, radio and politics

Fake news and alternative facts and their impact on society and politics are widely discussed. I found an interesting thought about this on meshedsociety, comparing radio and its role in the rise of Nazis in Germany with the internet today. Not very long, but good food for thought:


Interesting statements from Facebook's Head of Advertising

Andrew Bosworth, two weeks ago on AdWeek, was quoted with this:

"Hyperlocalizing the expansive digital network is the next step, he added. In Bosworth's mind, Facebook should help people directly order food, buy tickets to events, find out what to do on a Saturday night and shop until their heart's content straight from the app."

I bleieve that one day Facebook will make more money from transaction provisions than from displaying advertising. But that's a long road. Other than this, the article is a documentation of how FB's platform is too advanced for the industry it serves:


Cars as feature phones

There's a ton of articles out there dealing with the upcoming disruption of the automotive industry, from various angles and perspectives. Besides big data, intelligent co-pilots like this interesting-looking start up from Germany (https://www.germanautolabs.com/) and self-driving, cars are stunningly un-connected nowadays. Given that the average car age on German roads is 9.2 years, this should be a home-run for products like this Bosch-powered car/smartphone dongle: https://www.drivelog.de/connect. But somehow none of these things really take off. An interesting perspective on the situation of cars is to compare them with feature phones, pre-iphone: interesting article by Benedict Evans from Andreessen Horowitz: