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Nov 21, 2018

Publishers need better technology platforms

I have been literally preaching for years that good, quality content (in the eyes of the target group) is "just" a precondition, and that the single most important source of competitive advantage for digital publishers will be technology. The fact that international publishers with a wealth of titles and platforms often fail to establish a common tech platform (CMS, video players, recommendation algorithms, data collection...) on which the brands can build their own offerings in order to capitalize on scale is sad enough, but maybe initiatives across different publishing houses may help out here. We can see increased cooperations in the German market (like ZDF, Discovery and ProSieben joining forces in on-demand video), so maybe these will go further in future. This article by Jesse Knight, former CTO/CIO of Vice, makes that case in a compelling way:

http://www.niemanlab.org/2018/11/is-it-finally-time-for-media-companies-to-adopt-a-common-publishing-platform/

Nov 16, 2018

AI in football match analyis

Any football match (some call it soccer, but to me, it's football, and Amercian football is "handegg") in a major league produces millions of data points that are tracked, summarized and visualized. Heatmaps alone are based on tracking each player's movements on the pitch at any given time, the position of the ball is tracked, passes made, shots etc. All this data is mostly used to entertain us, the fans, and help coaches in their post-match analysis.

Chelsea is now working with scientists on a super-ambitious tpoic: evaluate decision making on the pitch. AI scientists try to determine what would have happened if the player would have made a different decision in any given situation. This is so complex (because it effects the decision subsequently made by others, too) that I am really sceptical about the (at least short term) outcome, but it shows the ambitions and possibilities of AI in sports. At some point in the future, we might have this "scenario analysis" in real time while we are watching football.

http://theconversation.com/chelsea-is-using-our-ai-research-for-smarter-football-coaching-105750

TikTok vs. Lasso

If you don't know the names in the headline yet: TikTok is a short video creation app and social network, specialized on lip syncing and visual effects. It is owned by ByteDance from China, a content & technology company valued at around 75 bn USD last August, and absorbed & integrated a service called Musical.ly into TikTok. Musically had/has 8.5 million users in Germany alone, reportedly around 200 million globally.

If this sounds rather hard to believe for you, don't take it from me or some journalist, take it from Facebook: They launched a competitor to TikTok, called Lasso, and this probably not because they aren't successful. Here's a comparison between the two:


Nov 14, 2018

Effect of the native video player on Reddit

Reddit and its impact are underestimated, especially in Europe. In Germany, it ranks 30th among the most popular websites, beating Focus, Welt, ZDF, bahn.de, dhl.de and others, and its daily 11:25min time spent even puts it in the top10 (according to Alexa.com stats for Germany) In August 2017, they launched their native video player - and here are some stats:


  • 1 billion "native" video views per month (non-native: embedded video like YouTube)
  • 50% of all video views go through the native player
  • 45% more daily time spent with those who watch embedded video
  • 39% more (on top of those 45) in daily time spent with users who watch native video
  • 70% of video views through mobile apps


More here:
https://digiday.com/media/reddit-video-growth/




How YouTube recommendations work

This study by Pew Research Center does not analyze the algorithm itself, but derives insights from what is actually shown to users, and the results are interesting. In short: YouTube recommends slightly longer, and progressively more popular (higher view count) videos in relation to the one you started with. And only (depending on age) 15-25% of users say they don't use the recommendation feature - while roughly 2/3 of users in all age brackets use recommended videos occasionally. Also, there's a short tail of recommendations: During >170,000 random five-step walks through YouTube, 72% of recommended videos in this analysis were only shown one time, and 26% of videos were shown 2-10 times, but 2 percent of videos were shown 11-100 times and a tiny number of videos (<1%) were shown over 100 times as recommendations.

More super-interesting findings (51% of >4500 surveyed YouTube users say they go there to learn how to do stuff they haven't done before) and stats here:

http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/11/07/many-turn-to-youtube-for-childrens-content-news-how-to-lessons/#

19% of NPR's live audio streaming comes from smart speakers (last year: 4%)

Lengthy, but good article on recode with many stats, research and insights about smart speakers and how they are used. It supports my thesis that "voice in, voice out" is just one scenario good for short interactions and information. Voice in, microwaved food out is what Amazon tries with their 60 USD microwave, voice in, video out is what the Echo show tries to do, and voice in, website out is what a Siri search looks like. "Voice in" is probably one of the biggest bets in digital currently, and whoever owns the listening entity, also owns the logic working up any "out" that consumers may adopt. The platform race will be decided between Amazon, Apple, Googe, Alibaba and maybe one or two surprise companies, but anyone who wants to be successful on these platforms needs to understand and serve the logics that are applied behind the voice command. And maybe there will be "voice only" offers that make so much sense with voice, they may make some apps and websites obsolete.


https://www.recode.net/2018/11/12/17765390/voice-alexa-siri-assistant-amazon-echo-google-assistant

Another source for statistics and numbers - 2017 survey on smart speakers/voice by NPR [PDF]:

https://www.nationalpublicmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Smart-Audio-Report-from-NPR-and-Edison-Research-Spring-2018_Downloadable-PDF.pdf

Nov 8, 2018

E-Commerce goes offline - true multichannel ahead

Amazon opened another cashier-less Go convenience store in San Francisco last week, and has announced a few more for 2019. While this seems to be only remotely connected to online purchases on their platform, the end-game in retail will probably be a merger of the two - physical outlets that complement the online experience and the other way round. This seems to be Alibaba's strategy with their "new retail" concept, spending more than 10 billion USD since 2016 on the acquisition of physical retail stores. And they expand their own "Hema" supermarkets aggressively, where your can pay by facial recognition and get groceries delivered in 30 minutes if you live in a 3km radius around it. They have also implemented an initiative to digitize convenience stores and small shops while using them as delivery hubs - something that Zalando is now pushing in Europe as well, calling it "connected retail". It seems certain that the future of retail is true multichannel - not just serving a number of platforms and transaction types, but interconnecting them, and it's stunning to see how the online retailers and e-commerce companies are pushing these types of innovation instead of the traditional retailers.

Amazon: Groceries / Go stores
https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/2/18049672/amazon-go-offline-retail-future-competition-walmart-food-drink-grocery-sales

Zalando: Connected retail
https://corporate.zalando.com/en/newsroom/en/stories/connected-retail-brings-online-and-offline-together

Alibaba: New retail
https://technode.com/2018/02/14/alibaba-new-retail/

Alibaba: Hema Supermarkets
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/313765

Nov 1, 2018

Netflix is bigger than Sky in Germany

Finally a few numbers on German PayTV / OTT:
Sky as a traditional Pay TV service had 4.8 million subscribers by the end of June 2018. A recent study by Ampere analysis suggests that Netflix reached 5.1 million subscribers in Germany, and Amazon Prime Video tops the list with 9.9 million subscribers - although it is unclear how many actually use the service as it is bundled with the e-commerce offer. It would be interesting to have numbers on viewing hours, but we're not that far yet.

Hard to believe for me, but based on these 10 million Prime customers maybe reasonable: 54% of German households have two OTT subscriptions, 12% more than four (!).

https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2018/10/15/netflix-overtakes-sky-deutschland-in-customer-numbers/

The big comeback of direct traffic

With search & social as the dominant traffic sources for most publishers, direct traffic declined almost everywhere. But since 2017 - when Facebook changed the algorithm in a "news/media unfriendly" way - referrals crashed. For publishers relying on social traffic this was a bloodbath, but others have experienced a rise in direct traffic. With efforts like video formats (check the NYT for example or Bleacher Report & others) and a big comeback of newslettering (even with millenials and gen Z), direct traffic has become the most important traffic source for many publishers again.

Chartbeat confirms this with an interesting observation (on 4000 news pages) - when Facebook was down for 45 minutes on August 3, 2018:

  • direct website traffic went up 11%
  • direct app traffic went up 22%
  • search referral went up 8%
  • overall traffic to publisher sites went up 2.3%


http://www.niemanlab.org/2018/10/what-happens-when-facebook-goes-down-people-read-the-news/

HIstory & risks of the like button (and ultimately of big tech)

Interesting piece about like buttons as a votig mechanism and how Facebook made it big - and then broke it, relying on algorithms to manage the consequences. Today, very few sites have an embedded like button the way they used to, and it's "share or nothing", while on the platform, we are now dealing with "reactions" that still amplify fake news and are hard to manage. I found the history part more interesting in this one:



A bigger & broader view about the consequences of such features (but also news feeds etc.) in this piece from BuzzFeed News, taking Brazil's terrible election results as an occasion to think about how big tech companies helped to radicalize the world:

Stories are the new news feed

A few years ago, we talked about the three transforming megatrends "mobile, social, video". Now, if you want to visualize these, you just need one picture - a (Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp, Messenger, TikTok, Facebook-)Story. Full screen vertical video in snippets rules everywhere. The question is how well a business can be built around this format - that's the key message from the Facebook Q3/2018 results:

Oct 15, 2018

Ligue 1 / France TV-audience grew by 25% last year

And that's where the money is: Not in Neymar shirts. It's in TV contracts both domestically and internationally, and it's a paradox that one club pays it, and all others benefit,too (at the expense of minimizing their chances to win a championship, that is). Having Neymar and Mbappé in the league seems to have great effects on the value of the media rights.

http://www.sportspromedia.com/news/psg-ligue-1-tv-rights-lfp-ceo

You will have to become agile, too

We teach companies to become agile as no one can really predict on a 5 or 10 year perspective how the(ir) world will really look like, so there is a need to be able to adapt to the three or four futures that we can think of now, and hope that this applies to the fifth future, too: the one that will actually come. We ourselves should do something similar: become able to adapt to developments that may disrupt the whole fields we are working and living in. That's my key takeaway from GQ's interview with Yuval Noah Harari (the guy who wrote "Sapiens"): There won't be one big disruption because AI will reach some kind of peak, and then a new "order" appears in which we will have to find a position. It will rather be a constant change with constant position-finding required from our side.

https://www.gq.com/story/yuval-noah-harari-tech-future-survival  


Programmatic advertising explained

Nice article about "the anatomy of a click". Basic explanation of how programmatic works, and why GDPR doesn't really change a thing -  once again, either our regulation efforts do not succeed because they are done by people outside the business, or people from inside the business were involved and managed to keep regulation at a level where their basic business is not touched at all. The article explains pretty well what happens when you click on a site that uses programmatic (virtually any publisher nowadays).

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/what-happens-when-you-click_uk_5bb60455e4b028e1fe3b43a3 

Education through Fortnite

Generation Z is so incredibly hard to reach, and even harder to talk to - I mean, with at least some kind of attention on their side - that scientists have set up a channel on Fortnite to talk about climate change. That's desperate on so many levels.

https://www.wired.com/story/fortnite-twitch-climate-scientists/

Balancing subscriptions and advertising

Most publishers have moved to subscriptions, and besides learning how to deal with users as clients instead of readers, one key task is to balance the interest of making a visitor a subscriber/increase loyalty of a subscriber versus squeezing out the maximum value of one hard-earned visit. The latter means playing out as many ads as possible, trying to increase the number of page or video views per visit, even at the cost of maybe annoying a visitor. The NYT rolled out a new article page in May 2018, with far less clutter, focusing on the subscription side - create a pleasing visit, and at some point this will increase the chances to make someone pay.

But since both areas contribute substantially to revenue, finding the balance between a subscription and ad focus is difficult. The Washington Post is running a user lab that initially tested new journalistic formats and products, but has now taken ads into their portfolio, too: One key to strike the balance may lie in ad formats that are not annoying or intrusive, but still valuable to advertisers. Everyone should have thought of that even before subscriptions were a business.

https://digiday.com/media/washington-post-advertiser-subscriber-demands/

Oct 9, 2018

PWC Sports Survey 2018

A new report full of stats and some research work. They see a 7% growth overall in global sports market, led by esports and followed by football (soccer), and digital media rights as the main growth driver - including OTT. Smartphone (96%) and laptop (84%) are leading daily device usage among 18-34yo, putting television in third place (81%). And they say you basically can't overestimate direct fan relationships for both rights holders and sponsors - didn't need a survey for this .-)

Full PDF: https://www.pwc.ch/en/publications/2018/PwC%20Sports%20Survey-2018_web.pdf


Oct 4, 2018

The end of Snap and Tesla

This is somewhere between an analysis and an opinion piece from Scott Galloway - about Snapchat and Tesla being unable to survive on their own. I found the Snap piece more interesting and more analytical, althuogh it contains a lot of Facebook-bashing, too. His prediction is that either Amazon or Disney will buy the company. His main argument is: who else? I am not sure whether Amazon would need to spend this type of money for reach within generation Z (they surely don't need to spend it for camera/AR technology) and when "DisneyFlix" launches, I think they will rather be targeting me instead of teens.
So here's my take: Why not "the Chinese"? One of the "BAT" triopoly over there may want to increase their US/Europe footprint, they know the type of business inside out, and definitely have the cash to acquire the company (and send Evan into early retirement). It would perfectly reflect the development of the digital economy in the past decade - not only are we running into a (quote) "hunger games economy with four religions", there's a parallel world in China with three religions, too, and they will clash / mix eventually.

Still a great read:
https://medium.com/s/no-mercy-no-malice/no-mercy-no-malice-the-end-of-snap-tesla-af4499558ce0

Sep 25, 2018

Google changes its philosophy on search

This might be underreported and there's so much to learn not only for SEO, but for content & marketing strategies in any digital area. Google itself talks of "three fundamental shifts" in how they view search (in a very bold statement saying "for the next 20 years"):

  • from answers to journeys 
  • from queries to a queryless way
  • from text to visual

All this is hardcore AI powered, and Google says that's the only way to deal with 15 percent (!!) of queries each day that they haven't seen before (I always thought this number were closer to 1 percent). 

We don't know the effects for publishers and businesses yet, other than continue to provide relevance in a more visual way (images, video, stories). But there will be ways to "hack" these algorithms, for example object recognition in videos may increase their search relevance, so i would recommend to include most typical and easy to recognize shots of objects that are most relevant to a story, for example - or use headlines or subtitles. In short: help the AI figure out what it's about, so it can appear in search results, without annoying users.

I was convinced before that embracing the story format (vertical video) and strengthening capabilities in visual storytelling would pay off anyway as these are most suitable for smartphone usage and seem to be attracting generation Z more than long text articles, but now that Google is doubling down on that, I cannot imagine you could be wrong choosing this path. Also, behind these three fundamental shifts, you can see an idea of trying to understand user motivations (establishing a queryless way) from past behaviour and trying to satisfy these with more than just basic offers (from answers to journeys) - something that should be relevant to anyone in digital and is reflected in user journeys and design thinking as tools in digital product development.   

About the fundamental shifts:
https://www.blog.google/products/search/improving-search-next-20-years/

About the increase of relevance of visual content in Google search:
https://www.blog.google/products/search/making-visual-content-more-useful-search/

What works in subscription advertising

Many publishers venture into direct to consumer, but have no clue how to do that in digital (the systems and mechanisms used in the good old days to generate paper issue subscribers do not work anymore). As they have always considered readers as something entirely different from clients (advertisers), systematic newslettering, performance marketing, CRM, churn prevention, winback programs etc. are new to many publishers - and many learn painfully that just offering a paywall and a free month to test (and then hope for the best) just won't do.

Here's an interesting research by the Center for Media Engagement (University of Texas) on what works and what doesn't (at least in the US) to advertise for subscriptions. Surprise: Converting free email newsletter subscribers alongside multi-channel advertising tops the list.

Study/Report as PDF
https://mediaengagement.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Subscriptions-Report-1.pdf

Philips works directly with Google, Facebook, Amazon

Everyone has been waiting for media agencies to enter the time of becoming obsolete for more than a decade now. Maybe the time has come, as the need for a middle man dwindels away with less and less partners that provide supply for advertisers' demand - and there's little more than a "triopoly" left when you think of global digital advertising.

This article shows how Philips - in my eyes correctly - came to the conclusion that since every feature the big platforms offer is available to anyone, any competitive edge in digital advertising has to come from in-house capabilities. And these mainly lie in real time analytics, the ability to identify and boost well-working pieces of advertising and optimize spending - allocate budgets where performance is best. You wouldn't want this knowledge (software, data) to be outside the company with a supplier - and there's little reason why they (media agencies) should be better at providing this than the advertisers themselves. Their advantage of having x clients and therefore a bigger data base to draw conclusions from is a) de-valued because of course they'll share that knowledge with all their clients, b) is less relevant if the advertiser in question is has a big enough media budget to rely solely on their own data and c) they haven't really built tech capabilities in the past that are so advanced, an advertiser couldn't get there.

Article from Digiday: 
https://digiday.com/social/theres-no-need-middlemen-philips-now-works-direct-triopoly/




New formats for news (BBC News Labs)

Great two-part article about the development of news formats especially for generation Z. They are pretty important as they enter the advertising relevant age brackets from the lower end and are one of the few sources to grab market share in over-saturated news markets - and, being the first generation to grow up with smartphones, show a totally different news consumption behaviour than older target groups. BBC News Labs shares their approach and also their findings from developing and testing prototypes (part 2). Integrating these types of formats and innovations that may attract other users from older age brackets as well may be an answer to the sub-brand approaches (in Germany: bento by Spiegel, ze.tt by Zeit, orange by Handelsblatt etc.) many publishers have chosen.

Part1 (general research / format overview - from Sept 2017):
https://medium.com/bbc-news-labs/beyond-800-words-new-digital-story-formats-for-news-ab9b2a2d0e0d


Part2 (prototypes & testing with generation Z - from July 2018):
https://medium.com/bbc-news-labs/beyond-800-words-prototyping-new-story-formats-for-news-e3102e783b5f

 

Sep 21, 2018

How the EU should regulate the internet

I've said it before: Ben Thompson is one of the smartest guys out there and Stratechery.com is the "go-to-blog" for understanding the big picture in digital. This time, Ben speaks about the way the EU tries to regulate the internet, and how the approach inevitably will fail. Brain teaser quote:

  • First, just as business models ought to be constructed that leverage the internet instead of fight it, so should regulation
  • Second, regulation should start with the understanding that power on the internet flows from controlling demand, not supply

Approx 10 min read, but if you start thinking, it may turn out to be 30 - time well invested:
https://stratechery.com/2018/the-european-union-versus-the-internet/

Sep 19, 2018

Digital publishers behaving like studios / Bleacher Report

One thing that has really gained momentum during the past year is digital publishers inventing formats, very often in "seasons and episodes", as if they were studios. Besides Buzzfeed (Follow This) and Vox.com (Explained) having shows on Netflix, there are a number of smaller examples where distribution (still) happens on the digital publishers' channels, for example "This is my next" on The Verge (which could have been just a subcategory to product tests, but has been made into a video format on YouTube), or a number of daily or weekly talking head shows that double as podcasts.

I see one major reason for this development: Creating fans (and, in extension, intention). It's way easier to become a fan of a show, or even a host, to wait eagerly for the next episode, than to become a fan of a category in an app or website (look at all the influencers and YouTube stars). So creating fans means that you will probably increase direct traffic to your destination - that you do not have to "earn" every time on ultra-competitive search and social. It's about creating fans that will intentionally look for that specific content. And if your destinations are less important, and you distribute your own format on social, fans translate into engagement, which subsequently leads to more views and reach.

The hard thing to learn is that, very much like on Netflix for example, it is better to have 1000 hardcore fans who love the show instead of having 5000 people who think it's "ok". Only fans will lead to the desired intentional and engaged usage. And maybe some publishers are really planning to create a studio business out of this - leave monetization to the few that managed to create a functioning model and concentrate on creating great content (which, of course, will become a casino business if that's your only source of revenue).

The reason I am writing all this now and today is Bleacher Report's new series "The Champions". That's what you do when you serve a GenZ & Millenials audience on Instagram - without having the rights to show a moving ball and neither the means nor the access to produce something with players or coaches: An animated series accompanying the UEFA Champions League in 13 episodes. They have successfully done this with the NBA in 5 seasons with "Game of Zones" before, and, just like from a production studio, Bleacher's parent company Turner used it for pre-game shows before NBA live matches on TV.

Don't judge the content, just appreciate the strategy:

The Champions: https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2796237-the-champions-episode-1

Game of Zones: https://gameofzones.bleacherreport.com/#/season-5-episode-8

Sep 17, 2018

Sports Clubs = Media Companies

I've been saying for years that sports clubs & organizations behave more and more like media companies when it comes to digital - subsequently, they have very similar needs and issues, although sports clubs (still) get the majority of their revenue from TV and do not sell advertising to just anyone on their owned & operated or social media channels, but only to sponsors, and on other deals than pure CPM.

But if you look at the big trends in media:
  • technology as a driver in efficiency of production and content distribution
  • multiple revenue streams like events and e-commerce besides advertising
  • native/branded content instead of display
  • studio-like behaviour in creating content formats (often in seasons and episodes)
  • B2C pay models for content
  • CRM as a key discipline behind most of those activities

... they apply to sports clubs (and in some way also to governing bodies, tournament organizers etc.) as well. This article points out how Manchester United does it, but frankly, all major clubs have similar activities going on. Still interesting to see, for example how the average app user for Man Utd is 30, while the average linear viewer is 54 years old:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevemccaskill/2018/09/10/how-manchester-united-sees-digital-as-the-key-to-future-commercial-success/#3dc9149b6407 

Franken-Algorithms and the News Business

This is far more than "It's Facebook's and YouTube's fault" .-) I have to link to two great, long reads from the Guardian that are totally independent from each other but, of course, are connected closely. The first is Alan Rusbridger's (ex editor in chief of The Guardian) look back into the last two decades, analyzing what happened to the news business (and why it did). Although I don't agree with everything, it is very interesting to see this from an editor (and not a manager or digital strategist). That's something that has changed, too - awareness for the whole process of producing and monetizing news among those reporting.

Take a lot of time for this one:
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/31/alan-rusbridger-who-broke-the-news

The second read is about algorithms: what they are, how they function, and why they can unfold an impact that is both unforeseeable and and not easy to control/direct. This goes far beyond the news business - but helps to understand media, too, among other things:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/aug/29/coding-algorithms-frankenalgos-program-danger 

Struggles for Facebook-reliant publishers (like Unilad)

These struggles are not new - remember the 9 boxes diversification strategy from Buzzfeed last December. For some publishers, the past months may have offered enough room for maneuver to pivot in business models or at least diversify to a number of distribution channels (and monetizaton models along with them), but the bigger the operation, the harder it is to achieve (for example Little Things had to shut down, Slate, Mashable, Vice lost over 60% of traffic referrals from FB).

Facebook's biggest video publisher in recent years, Unilad, now seems to face really serious problems, maybe even insolvency. Hard to imagine we won't have a similar discussion in a few years with Instagram- or Whatever-platform-dependent publishers. I'd still recommend to milk the cow, but grow a few others besides the big fat one in case it runs dry.

Digiday says that for Unilad, "the writing is on the wall":

https://digiday.com/media/writing-wall-unsteady-waters-uk-viral-publisher-unilad/ 

Sep 7, 2018

How subscription businesses are different

If I had a company that helps corporations transform into subscription models (for example Zuora), I maybe would make the case that soon your business has to become a subscription business in order to survive (like Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo). If you can put that prediction aside for a bit and focus on the differences between selling units on the one hand and winning and maintaining subscribers on the other hand (think about differences from purchase, production, marketing and sales), you might enjoy this interview:

https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/why-every-business-will-soon-be-subscription-business

Fitbit has the biggest set of heart rate data ever recorded

Over 150 billion hours of heart rate data. From tens of millions of users all over the world, it allows interesting insights as sex, activity levels, age etc. are known, too. Check out the findings, mostly about resting heart rate, in this article. I hope this is made available to universities, hospitals etc. - the general public, instead of only selling it to pharma or insurance companies...


Resting heart rate insights
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/exclusive-fitbits-150-billion-hours-heart-data-reveals-secrets-human-health-133124215.html?guccounter=1

And some more about the 6 billion nights of sleep data:
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/exclusive-fitbits-6-billion-nights-sleep-data-reveals-us-110058417.html


Digital Trends (the publisher)

There's an independent publisher called "Digital Trends" who gets >80 of traffic from search but manages to reach generation Z with that - about digital products, gadgets, unboxings etc. Beyond mobile, social, video, we can see a few more trends in digital publishing currently, and Digital Trends is embracing most of them, among others revenue diversification (sponsorships, e-commerce, partnerships, conferences etc.) and branded formats instead of categories (shows with hosts & faces).
Interesting article about their current activities:

https://digiday.com/media/digital-trends-rare-profitable-growing-independent-publisher-looks-expand

China sees gaming as a health hazard

This hasn't been big enough in our news - for three aspects: a) the possibility of online/mobile games being health hazards that need regulation, b) the size and impact of the Chinese gaming market and c) the reminder that China still has a highly regulated economy. The news is this: No new licenses for games have been approved in China since March 28 this year. Yet, the market is still growing. But only in single digits, which is the first time since 2009 (!). The market has a volume of >520 million gamers, >450 million of those also mobile gamers, and turned over 15 bn USD in the first half of 2018. The stop of approvals for licenses seems to be about game addiction and health concerns - maybe we will face regulations of some sort, too.

Two interesting articles from South China Morning Post:

https://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2162114/china-regulators-plan-restrict-number-and-usage-new-games-amid-concerns-over

https://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2158743/chinas-gaming-industry-suffers-revenue-slowdown-new-government-body-kills 

Aug 31, 2018

13% of Germans own a smart speaker

This is more than I thought. According to statistics from Bitkom and Deloitte, 84% have heard of the technology (also more than i thought). Given that Amazon Echo was launched less than two years ago, this is an amazing speed.

German article with more stats: https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Alexa-Co-Jeder-Achte-hat-schon-einen-smarten-Lautsprecher-4149631.html

Wikipedia may be a model for society

At times where news companies have to tell what is an apple, we know that we simply started to cancel the most important contract there is: sharing a reality based on facts. Different narratives become "alternative facts" and so on. I remember a time where you couldn't refer to Wikipedia because "some guy on the internet wrote that" and it wasn't taken seriously as a source - now, its mechanics may be a model for how to maintain shared reality - the very foundation societies are built on.

https://medium.com/the-atlantic/wikipedia-the-last-bastion-of-shared-reality-b1e48595a65d 

Humanity spent 85 billion hours Whatsapp in the last three months

Facebook "only" 31 billion (but with Instagram & Messenger the company has 4 of the top 10 apps in "time spent globally"). Clash of Clans 3.8 billion, Fortnite 3 billion. WTF??? We might be underestimating what humanity does - living in front of screens.

Research/study by Apptopia: https://blog.apptopia.com/these-are-the-apps-taking-up-most-of-your-time

Good article with more details on Forbes:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2018/08/20/people-spent-85-billion-hours-in-whatsapp-in-the-past-3-months-versus-31-billion-in-facebook/#50d0b4571725

How Tripadvisor changed Travel - the problem of scale

I am, and was, a big fan of Tripadvisor. I don't know how many travel decisions, be it destinations, hotels, or even restaurants on site, have been influenced positively by that site. In the past years, I started skipping the top 10 recommendations (like restaurants for example) - there is a "being on top of tripadvisor" business logic that doesn't necessarily mean you will get a great experience - only one that is created to "hack" the platform. In essence, it is a similar problem that Facebook faces - too much scale. As a million member service, Tripadvisor worked great. Now, with half a billion people on it, this scale is a problem - network effects take over. Lenghty, interesting article, especially if your try to transfer the content to any other industry / service that might "scale too much".

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/17/how-tripadvisor-changed-travel

What algorithms do

"God is in the machine" is the name of this great article that raises the question how we as societies may deal with the rising power of algorithms. A year ago I published a lengthy post about that question, and one of the options I saw (and still see) is that we may have to create a religion-like narrative around AI and algorithms in order to make their decisions and actions "acceptable" to societies. This piece goes in the same direction, only much better written:

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/ridiculously-complicated-algorithms/

And here's another view on the same topic with more insights - I am glad this discussion seems to take off:

http://behavioralscientist.org/what-to-do-when-algorithms-rule/ 

YouTube Boxing Match brings 8mn revenue

This was too small in sports media - probably because it wasn't really sports. Two influencers/YouTube stars that you (reading this) probably never heard of - Logan Paul (18 million subscribers) and KSI (19 million subscribers) - had a box match and charged 10 USD for the live feed on YouTube - and 784,000 people from 45 countries paid (plus 20,000 in the Manchester Arena). Even if you believe they don't have common subscribers - 37 million people in total - >780k paying customers means a ratio of something around 2%, and that's fantastic.

More here:
https://www.wired.co.uk/article/who-won-the-ksi-logan-paul-fight-analysis

Aug 15, 2018

"Hearables" may power Voice business

As a new class of hardware, "hearables" may be one of the catalysts and accelerators that will give voice its next uplift. Great piece by Fast Company entitled "the future is ear" about how hearables can do more than talk to you, like a wearable Alexa - with the right sensors, they could even know what you are looking at (a shelf in a store for example) and act accordingly.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90212065/the-future-is-ear-why-hearables-are-finally-techs-next-big-thing

Another nice read about voice from InVision about how basic rules of UX can (have to) be applied to voice:

https://www.invisionapp.com/blog/design-voice-user-interfaces/

Aug 14, 2018

Esports in 5 charts

Nice article in Digiday. Maybe esports fans are nerds? They tend to enjoy being by themselves (73% vs 63% in general population) and consider themselves to be an introvert (70% vs. 48%). However, esports healthy distribution of revenues continues, with sponsorship being the biggest single stream (40%) and media rights (with room for growth) at 18% of the overall volume.

More here:

https://digiday.com/marketing/state-esports-advertisers-five-charts/

New Numbers on the drop in Facebook engagement

If you need to explain to someone why your Facebook engagement has been declining, you can use these stats & research to show that you are not alone: Buffer and Buzzsumo analyzed 43 million posts during Q2 2018 and compared their results with Q1 2017. It's a massacre. Total drop in engagement for media/news sites is 64%, for TV shows 61%. This is due to algorithm changes, and subsequently increased activity & competition: The top 20.000 Facebook pages increased their post frequency by 24% over the past year. Another interesting aspect is that in overall engagement/interactions, you're probably better of with approx. 5 posts per day as engagement per post is best when you just post once, but absolute number of engagement will add up to the highest when you post around 5 times - after that, engagement declines rapidly.

A ton of interesting numbers & also good advice on post/page strategies here:

https://blog.bufferapp.com/facebook-marketing-strategy 

Facebook buys bigger sports rights

Facebook will show Premier League football - every match - in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from 2019 to 2022. Reportedly, the deal is worth 265mn USD. Additionally, they partnered up with Eleven Sports to show a weekly game of Serie A or LaLiga live on Facebook in the UK. Eleven Sports sells subscription packages and uses free-to-air coverage to generate exposure for their content and their partners. This will now happen on their Facebook page.
Slowly but surely Facebook establishes a global sports rights portfolio and will probably continue to expand it; it will be interesting to see their approach in advertising and sponsoring around these products.

http://smartseries.sportspromedia.com/news/premier-league-rights-facebook-thailand-vietnam-cambodia-laos

https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/facebook-free-stream-real-madrid-barcelona-juventus-cristiano-ronaldo-eleven-sports-a8479326.html


Aug 13, 2018

Apple has made 300 mn subscription contracts

One underestimated area of Apple's business is its service area, which includes subscriptions (and customer service and other fields with 9.5 bn USD revenue past quarter and 31% growth YoY). Roughly 30,000 apps sell subscriptions (incl. Apple Music and others) in their App Store, and Apple adds approximately 10 million subscribers each month - with staggering growth: 60% in the past year. Especially media companies, but also adjacent businesses (games, fitness apps, Headspace and such) seem to come to the conclusion that "direct to consumer" subscription is a more sustainable business than ads. Here's the thing: instead of "direct" to consumer, there's Apple in between, taking a toll for everyone who passes through. I am convinced these types of businesses will be more and more important in the coming years.

https://digiday.com/media/apple-tops-300-million-paid-subscriptions-reportedly-preps-new-subscription-services/

Jul 16, 2018

Content Creation based on Data: Amazon vs Netflix

This article is a few weeks old, and at its core is a great Ted Talk from 2016 that compares how Amazon and Netflix used data to create content. The talk is just 12 min long and if you add 5 min for that article (with a lot of newer info), your time is well spent. In a nutshell, Amazon based their decisions on actual reactions of viewers who saw pilots (which they produced after holding a competition), while Netflix did not use (limited) reactive data to existing pieces of content, but reactions & insights about any content watched on Netflix - and created theirs from there. Amazon's result was "Alpha House", Netflix's was "House of Cards".

Article on Forbes incl. Sebastian Wernicke's Ted Talk:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kristinwestcottgrant/2018/05/28/netflixs-data-driven-strategy-strengthens-lead-for-best-original-content-in-2018/#6e61c1813a94

Talk only:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQILP19qABk

Hands On with the BBC News Lab

At the end of the article, they reveal that they are hiring, and it's a smart way to maybe attract developers: show them what is actually done at BBC News Lab. They describe their work as being divided into two categories: new tools to help journalists produce better content, and new news formats for BBC audiences. Interesting insights:

Jul 10, 2018

Meet JD.com, the Chinese E-Commerce Giant

When I started monitoring & including WeChat in talks a few years back, I came across the "Kingmaker Strategy": Buy a significant share in a fast growing (potential) leader in a segment, and leverage that investment by (sometimes exclusively) integrating that company in your own service. That's what Tencent did with JD.com (wouldn't integrate Alibaba as they have that big rivalry) on WeChat, and now that company has grown to a 65bn USD valuation. This is an interesting article on Wired about how they use automation and robotics, and what their approach to ecommerce is.

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/china-jd-ecommerce-store-delivery-drones-amazon 

FC Bayern on Social Media 2017/2018

A few numbers and stats on FC Bayern during the last season, where they - in my opinion - upped their social media game significantly. The top post achieved close to 600,000 likes on Instagram alone, and it was - cat content. A cat selfie in front of the team. Unthinkable a few years back, but FC Bayern understood that stuff like this does not damage the brand, but rather increases relevance in target groups that you probably won't get on TV anymore (also because in most markets, Champions League football is on Pay TV anyway - and you'll need to provide some kind of exposure for sponsors, and make new fans on new channels). Some interesting numbers:

https://fcbayern.com/en/news/2018/07/fc-bayern-social-media-cat-content

Jul 9, 2018

Health & fitness apps success factors

Great overview by Stanwood's Hannes Kleist of the German market in fitness and health apps - which are the genres, which monetization models work, how a paywall or freemium model should be implemented, and how to find the right pricing, based on data. Read this:

https://medium.com/@HannesKleist/how-to-develop-successful-health-fitness-apps-c347f23fdc2d

[fun post] Bizarre correlations & statistics

If you want to make fun of statistics that don't entirely convince you, this is a great source - it shows bizarre correlations in data with nearly identical curves, like "US spending on science" and "Suicides by hanging and suffocation", or between "US crude oil imports from Norway" and "Drivers killed in collision with railway train". Not all data analysis that brings up statistically relevant / significant correlations makes sense, obviously.

http://tylervigen.com/spurious-correlations

The Kindle edition of the book where these are from is just 7 bucks (German store):

https://www.amazon.de/Spurious-Correlations-Tyler-Vigen/dp/0316339431/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531126588&sr=8-1

AI acquisitons 2013-2017

Great overview by CBSinsights that shows how we are in an "acquisition binge" for AI startups - and nine companies are buying the majority of those. Alphabet/Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Intel, Twitter, Salesforce - and a monitoring form called Meltwater snap up most of them. In this article you will find a list of their acquisitions 2013-2017, and a number of charts on all other major M&A activities in this field. Great for a quick overview.

https://www.cbinsights.com/research/top-acquirers-ai-startups-ma-timeline/

Alibaba has an AI copywriting tool

Partners sell products on Alibaba's sites, so they upload images, product descriptions and advertisements like banners or 20-sec-video for marketing. In order to make that easier and more efficient, just like any other site, Alibaba offers tools (compare Facebook's ad planner). But Alibaba now claims they have a deep learnig/natural language processing tool that can write 20,000 lines of copy per second - and pass the turing test. You can even choose if your copy should be promotional, fun, heartwarming, functional or "poetic". Offered in Chinese only (currently), this shows us where we're headed - additionally to this, they have tools that automate banner-resizing to different formats and AI-powered video tools to easily generate 20 second ads for their platform. So the direction is: basic creative idea - human. Everything else: machine.

https://mumbrella.com.au/alibaba-claims-its-ai-is-about-to-revolutionise-copywriting-for-agencies-and-brands-527272

Is IGTV an attack on YouTube?

I am a firm believer in vertical video - basically in every format. From Snapchat over WhatsApp Status to Instagram Stories, short form works exceptionally good, and IGTV now opens that format for long form video, too. This article on Hacker Noon makes the case that in a few years' time, IGTV may do to YouTube what it made with Millenials to TV: to become a potentially dispensable part of their lives. Very interesting though that what is missing - and should be added by Instagram - is a smart search feature as the structure of content being tied to accounts that you follow may cover a "social" way of distributing content, but leaves the whole area of intentional viewing (YouTube's stronghold) mostly open. Will be interesting to see the further development here.

https://hackernoon.com/igtv-another-brick-in-the-wall-of-a-content-conundrum-ad426dae267c

Ben Evans about Machine Learning

If an article about machine learning begins with dismissing sentences like "data is the new oil", I am interested. Benedict Evans, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, offers his perspective, and as always, it's valuable. You should read it, but if I try to summarize, Ben makes a case that ML is currently a disruptor to what we used to call "data mining". While data analysis is the goal-oriented examination of data, data mining describes the analysis of data sets without asking a question - trying to find correlations, anomalies and potentially significant insights in data. So ML can help in both areas, give you better anwers to questions you already have, and deliver answers to questions that you didn't ask. And it can broaden your data set as ML makes it possible to include new data types in an analysis, like audio, video or images.
Worth the time to read through it:

https://www.ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2018/06/22/ways-to-think-about-machine-learning-8nefy

Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018

Pew Research Center with stats & numbers from the US market on generation Z. 95% of US teens have a smartphone, and 45% say they are online "almost constantly". That's coming from 24% in 2015 and is a dramatic increase. In platforms used overall YouTube leads (72%), followed by Instagram and Snapchat, while "most used platform" is led by Snapchat. Nothing that you wouldn't know if you have an n=2 group of teens in your personal environment, but it helps to see these impressions verified on scale by research. 

http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/

Twitter's turnaround

I recently made a quick research for a client about news apps and news aggregators, and I was surprised to find Twitter in the "news" section of app stores instead of social networking. At a time where Facebook positions itself away from news, Twitter seems to embrace that opening (although the article below says it's a coincidence). "Live" has always been boon and bane for Twitter - an algorithm clearly delivers more relevance than a purely time-based newsfeed, on the other hand these obstruct any "live"-news mass distribution as we can clearly see with the World Cup (where I get "goal" posts a day later on Facebook or Instagram). BuzzFeed News wrote an interesting overview about Twitter's comeback:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexkantrowitz/how-twitter-made-the-tech-worlds-most-unlikely-comeback?

Aibaba vs Tencent

Or "Ma vs. Ma". Comprehensive piece from Forbes about the two Chinese giants, how they compete with each other and how they differ from their American peers. It includes some interesting info about the domestic Chinese market and a few great charts/stats, about their operations and investment strategies. And personally I wasn't aware of Alibaba's "integrated retail program". where even 7-11-sized shops and bodegas get modern inventory software, sensors that monitor foot traffic and camera generated heatmaps to optimize their physical stores. Great read:

http://fortune.com/longform/alibaba-tencent-china-internet/

Jul 7, 2018

Facebook sends less and less traffic

Lengthy article from Slate - including some very interesting numbers and stats from their own publication - about how Facebook's change in treating news, concentrating on a "trust ranking" among publishers and emphasizing meaningful interactions has impacted their business. Their traffic from Facebook dropped 87% from 2017 to 2018. They come to the conclusion that Facebook "retreats from the news business".

Full article:
https://slate.com/technology/2018/06/facebooks-retreat-from-the-news-has-painful-for-publishers-including-slate.html

Digiday's take (with less statistics):
http://www.niemanlab.org/2018/06/slates-facebook-traffic-has-dropped-by-87-percent-since-2017/

Jun 15, 2018

WhatsApp usage for news has tripled since 2014

Guess what doesn't have algorithmic orders (at least yet) and is great for sharing content? Messengers with groups and friends. A study based on 74,000 people in 37 countries has revealed a number of interesting stats published by Reuters Institute of Journalism - Digital News Report 2018. Obviously, the increase in messengers has happened at the expense of Facebook (from 42% usage for news down to 36%) and Twitter (in some countries fallen behind WhatsApp even).

Highlights here: https://www.theguardian.com/media/blog/2018/jun/14/whatsapp-popular-for-sharing-news-minus-the-toxic-debates

Full study: https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/digital-news-report-2018.pdf


How the NBA built a winning digital strategy

Here's a comment from the Marketing insider on how the NBA managed to become the strongest sports media brand in digital. While I don't disagree with the points made there (a. the NBA is global and diverse, b) they embrace digital, c) they operate with transparency), I don't think these points are critical (check the article here: https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/320516/how-the-nba-built-a-winning-digital-media-strategy.html).

In my point of view, the NBA differs from most leagues (football, American football, hockey etc) in this point: They have 1230 games per regular season, plus extensive playoffs. There's so much content, it doesn't make sense to try and limit exposure outside live broadcasts. In fact, action from a minute ago is the ideal piece of content to tune into TV now, and yesterday's content is ideal to advertise a game on TV tonight. Plus: Basketball, by nature, produces highlight plays each game which can easily be compiled into spectacular highlight reels (try this with football/soccer - you need way more "minutes played" to get something spectacular, and in fact you have less minutes played in each league). So they can afford to flood all digital channels with amazing content, which is essentially advertising the next or current live game. Live, realtime, the NBA is as restrictive as anyone, because that's still where the money is made. But outside live, they just have more and better content to distribute than anyone else. In football/soccer, highlights are a media right worth millions. While I believe that using these to advertise live would still be a wise choice (strategically: in order to make fans for the future, tactically: in order to help the live rights holders achieve great numbers/new subscribers), all other leagues simply have other, worse preconditions.

The economics of Netflix

Bottom line: Netflix is currently losing a lot of money (in free cash flow). The stock still soars, because many people believe it's a marathon, and we haven't even crossed the 5km mark yet. That's impossible to know and a question of belief, but it is very interesting to see how Netflix follows a third model between film studios and TV networks.
In Hollywood, 6% of the films account for half the profit (what I always call casino business, basically), and that is sold tickets at the box office. TV is different from that, with better risk distribution, but still depending directly on how many people tune in, and how that slot is sold to advertisers. And then there's Netflix. Revenue is not directly linked to who watches how much of what, but more on attracting and retaining subscribers, so a series or movie that works fantastic in a small niche may be worth more than one that many people "like" to see, but don't love. A very interesting blog post about "Netflix economics":

https://taimur.me/netflix/

Google insights about mobile app users

Nice interactive insights from "think with Google" about mobile app users. 91% of smartphone owners use apps they downloaded. Some Germany highlights - 42% of games app users are in these while "watching" TV and spend a daily average of 55 minutes there, while news apps are used only 21 minutes a day, 44% while travelling - and 62% of news app users are men. Sports apps are 81% male, 39yo average (biggest bracket 25-35 years though), 12 minutes a day, 37% while travelling - supporting my theory that this quick "kill time" usage (i am somewhere waiting - let's see for a minute what happened in Sports) is on the rise.
Numbers are available for the US, UK, Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany:

https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/feature/mobile-app-user-demographics/

Facebook tracks just about everything

While I still don't believe Facebook listens to your conversations via microphone, the Senate hearing answers have revealed what else they track: everything. Mouse movements, file names on your phone, which other apps you have, the Wifi or cell network you're in, "nearby" devices in that network, your address book (if enabled) or you being other peoples' address books, available storage, connection speed... the list goes on.

Find an overview here
https://www.buzzfeed.com/nicolenguyen/here-are-18-things-you-might-not-have-realized-facebook?

or the entire document (222 pages)
https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/9d8e069d-2670-4530-bcdc-d3a63a8831c4/7C8DE61421D13E86FC6855CC2EA7AEA7.senate-commerce-committee-combined-qfrs-06.11.2018.pdf

May 31, 2018

The new Mary Meeker / Kleiner Perkins Internet Trends are out

As always: If you download only one study/research/statistics/numbers document this year, it has to be these 300 pages. Interesting how big the China sections became over the years, and that one of my mantras in the last two years: "in saturated markets, growth is harder to find" is emphasized right at the start. You either innovate to steal market share from others, or you win over generation Z. Download your copy here:

https://www.slideshare.net/joshsc/techcrunch-mary-meeker-2018-internet-trends-report

Recode's selection of highlights: https://www.recode.net/2018/5/30/17385116/mary-meeker-slides-internet-trends-code-conference-2018

May 25, 2018

A lesson about pricing power

If you ever wondered how much pricing power matters in the luxury segment, here's a hint: Richemont, the owner of brands like Cartier and Montblanc, destroyed / de-assembled watches worth close to 500 million (!) Euros during the past two years - to avoid having them in unwanted sales channels at discount prices.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/18/richemont-destroys-nearly-500m-of-watches-in-two-years-amid-buyback-policy

The Modern Football Fan (report)

UK-focused report on how generation Z consume online football content. It was conducted by Copa90, who will have their own agenda with such a study, but it's highly interesting nonetheless. It states that most of +16yr old fans get their introduction to football through video games (FIFA), often support more than one club and reject the traditional broadcast models. And they create: on April 3, 2018 - when Cristiano Ronaldo scored an amazing bicycle kick goal - over 5,600 accounts uploaded over 6,800 different videos/gifs of it to Twitter and Instagram.

Download the unreadable, terribly designed report here, at least full of numbers and stats:
http://copa90.media/insights/

or get the headlines from Digiday:
https://digiday.com/sponsored/copa90-copa90sbl-escaping-algorithm-young-football-fans-might-leave-big-social-platforms/

(The report also claims that young football fans "escape the algorithms" and try to avoid Instagram and such, but I suspect too much wishful thinking from Copa90 there).



May 24, 2018

A great guide to gas

This is a great overview of what Ethereum gas is, what its utility on the blockchain is and how it works. If you're a blockchain expert, don't bother, but if you want to get your head around these topics and understand why Ethereum won't be means of payment in a supermarket soon, but will power an economy of decentralized apps, read this article on Medium.

https://media.consensys.net/a-guide-to-gas-12b40d03605d

May 22, 2018

The moat map

Super interesting article about Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple - and how they differentiate through or commoditize suppliers, and externalize or internalize network effects. The two graphs are worth the visit alone, but I strongly recommend the full article. By the way, Ben Thompson, the guy running Stratechery, is probably one of the smartest guys in the universe and would be a superstar if he lived in Silicon Valley. I highly recommend the whole blog.

https://stratechery.com/2018/the-moat-map/

Computing power shows the acceleration in AI

Quote: "Three factors drive the advance of AI: algorithmic innovation, data (which can be either supervised data or interactive environments), and the amount of compute available for training." That last one is quantifiable, therefore a good indicator of what's going on. I mean: even if the other two were stable (which they are not), here's a number: Compared to supercomputer "Alex Net" in 2012, the computing power of Alpha Go Zero is a 300,000x increase.

https://blog.openai.com/ai-and-compute/



May 14, 2018

Voice search numbers & stats

Here's an article about voice search - I am not sure whether the title "How entrepreneurs can take advantage of voice search marketing" is true to its promise, but the article references a number of interesting studies and researches and includes a lot of Microsoft Bing & Cortana data about the state of voice search, and that's worth reading anyway:
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/311236

More:

Capgemini study linked in the article, including infographics:
https://www.capgemini.com/resources/conversational-commerce-dti-report/

Mary Meeker / Kleiner Perkins Voice Chapter:
http://dq756f9pzlyr3.cloudfront.net/file/Internet+Trends+2017+Report.pdf#page=46

Ogilvy Digital Trends report featuring a chapter "the end of typing":
https://www.ogilvy.com/topics/topics-digital/key-digital-trends-for-2018/


Pro Sports clubs are equal parts sports & media companies

Finally it's not me who keeps saying this, but I can quote a publication like Fast Company on that: "like all major pro sports teams, Manchester City as a brand is equal parts sports team and media company". The article outlines their media/content strategy without going into too much detail like technology or staffing, but gives a good overview of what (top) football teams have to deliver in digital media.

https://www.fastcompany.com/40568464/manchester-citys-most-important-product-after-soccer-is-content

More in the same direction about the MLS - they "doubled down on video", and, like with any media outlet, a new star adds a lot of relevance - in this case Zlatan Ibrahimovic. And new stars require the ability to adapt content strategies to their presence, or integrate them into existing strategies seamlessly.

https://frntofficesport.com/inside-mls-digital-strategy-and-the-impact-zlatan-has-had

And finally, if you are not convinced that we are talking about "media companies" here, read this lengthy article about a night with the Chicago Bulls media team. No less than 20 (!!) people are involved in the coverage of a match. What seems to us like "two dudes with smartphones" near the pitch and maybe one more guy in some office updating homepages and apps, is in reality a full-on professional media operation that optimizes content management systems and other crucial parts of technology and creates first-hand, unique content for fans in an already "over-covered" sports media space.

https://www.ama.org/publications/marketingnews/pages/how-chicago-bulls-use-social-media-to-humanize-players.aspx 

May 11, 2018

We are data factories (not mines)

Super-interesting read by Nicholas Carr on data. An older theory of mine is that we made a foundational mistake when the internet unfolded: we gave ownership to the data to the place where it was created rather to the people creating it. So when I purchase a product on Amazon, or even if I search for something on Google, that data could (in my eyes: should) be mine. But it isn't. In this case, it's Amazon's and Google's, and we are struggling to find regulations like GDPR to give me as a consumer at least some control over it. Carr provides a sophisticated overview on how to approach this question by seperating two philosophies by the metaphors of mines and factories. Plus links to other very interesting articles on that topic that I wouldn't have stumbled upon on my own. If you're interested in data, read this.

http://www.roughtype.com/?p=8394

The new NYT article page

I keep telling my publisher clients that the two destinations they should worry about are the article page and the video player page, instead of redesigning apps, homepages, editorial structures and navigations. The NYT seems to be working a lot on their article pages and even if you don't want to follow their ideas, the approach and the mentality behind are something to be aspiring to:

https://digiday.com/media/new-york-times-brings-unified-ad-editorial-approach-new-article-page/ 

A new Google News may try to beat filter bubbles

Google I/O was not only AI phone calls. The Google News app will be revamped, and two features are striking - the "full coverage" and "newscast". Both promise to give you a comprehensive look on news events by compiling video, articles and more from different sources on a single news topic. This may be a (pre-emptive) move over criticism on being responsible how me see the world. Also worth noting, if you saw the keynote, how much they emphasized towards publishers that "we come in peace" .-)

https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/8/17329074/google-news-update-new-features-newsstand-io-2018

A theory of economic impact of AI

A highly interesting, unique perspective offered by professor Ajay Agrawal looks at AI as means to decrease the cost of predictions. McKinsey took this thought and published what they call a "CEO guide to parsing and prioritizing AI opportunities". Interesting read and, unlike many AI articles, coming from a unique angle:

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-analytics/our-insights/the-economics-of-artificial-intelligence

2017 US digital advertising market numbers - 57% mobile, Google & Facebook landgrab slows down

According to the Internet advertising revenue report by the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), the US digital ad market is 88bn, 49,9bn of that in mobile (57%). The study also states that search makes up 46% of the market (mobile & desktop, 40bn, up from 34bn) - but down from 47% last year, so Google's search business has grown significantly, but the overall share hasn't. There are no stats on individual companies, but I believe that Amazon's growing ad business may also play a role here. More key facts from the article:

  • Digital video advertising is at 11.9bn with 33% growth (while banners make 27bn with 23% growth, 67% of it on mobile)
  • Mobile digital video contributes 6.2bn to the above mentioned 11.9bn - while growing 54%
  • Social advertising is 22.6bn, growing 36 percent on 2016
  • Digital audio grows 39% to 1.6bn


More here:
https://www.iab.com/news/digital-ad-spend-reaches-all-time-high-88-billion-2017-mobile-upswing-unabated-accounting-57-revenue/

Apr 23, 2018

Amazing Amazon

You can criticize Amazon in many ways, but there's an angle to this company where you have to be in awe - the angle is how strategic, long-term, against-your-traditional-wisdom and innovative the company is being led. Here are three things that I love, and maybe you didn't know all of them.

1. Ever since 1997, I have used Bezos' shareholder letters in presentations and talks. They are well known and the first one is an eternal classic. I think the 2018 one is also wonderful. Besides talking about milestones and how customers are "divinely discontent", you also learn a few inspiring things about the company:

"We don't do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of "study hall". Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussions. Sometimes they come in at the other end of the spectrum [...] by tradition at Amazon, authors' names never appear on the memos - the memo is from the whole team."

Read the current (and 1997) letter here:

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1018724/000119312518121161/d456916dex991.htm 


2. They have an annual, ultra-exclusive, invitation-only, super secretive conference (MARS) where anyone who is an important contributor to our future, from science, business, philosophy, politics etc. (except people from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, for obvious reasons) come together and discuss, play, explore. Not only listening to talks - but really participating.

More about Mars here:
https://www.fastcompany.com/40547902/at-amazons-mars-conference-jeff-bezos-plots-the-future-with-200-very-big-brains
https://qz.com/1234822/inside-amazon-ceo-jeff-bezos-private-mars-conference-for-a-new-golden-age/


3. They invested the ridicolous amount of 22.6 billion USD in R&D in 2017

That's 41% more than in 2016. Google's parent company Alphabet came in second with 16.6bn, Alibaba is estimated at 15 bn (source here). Facebook spends more than Pfizer or Daimler on R&D - with 7.8bn. And that's roughly a third of what Amazon invests in innovation, research and development. Amazing.

https://www.recode.net/2018/4/9/17204004/amazon-research-development-rd


Talking to books

AI powered new search tool by Google that sounds super promising: "Talk to books". You can send out a query in natural language and you can access the wisdom captured in books (instead of websites with traditional Google search).

Tool: https://books.google.com/talktobooks/

Article: https://qz.com/1252664/talk-to-books-at-ted-2018-ray-kurzweil-unveils-googles-astounding-new-search-tool-will-answer-any-question-by-reading-thousands-of-books/

Google’s AI-enhanced spreadsheets are a taste of white-collar automation

The headline above is copy pasted from their clickbait on Facebook - terrible. Not everything that is cool & new in software is an AI threat to jobs, subsequently democracy and will ultimately destroy humanity. The article is about a super nice UI tweak for spread sheets: you can ask "create a histogram of xyz sales" and the spreadsheet just does it if the according data is there. There may be AI involved. But that is so far away from an AI deciding whether it makes sense to create that histogram, or what to do with it, or "white collar automation" in any way.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608023/google-sprinkles-ai-on-its-spreadsheets-to-automate-away-some-office-work/

Network effects @ Facebook

I still think that network effects are the most under-estimated dynamic in digital businesses. There are far more complex ones than the easy to grasp two-sided networks like seller/buyer platforms. This article gives a great overview on the layered structure of network effects within Facebook, and although I would maybe argue about some details here and there, it is a recommended read because you can apply the structure of network effects so well on other businesses and strategies.

https://medium.com/@nfx/network-effects-predict-the-future-of-facebook-35f9d3c214ec

Apr 10, 2018

GIFs should be part of any content strategy

I wouldn't go so far to talk about "GIF strategies", but having both terms in one sentence is already satisfying for me. Bayern Munich, also Bundesliga (DFL), Borussia Dortmund and others have embraced GIFs as an accelerator of social media communication, and one GIF says more than a thousand words in many cases. Nice piece about GIF in sports:

https://digitalsport.co/gifs-sport-clubs-leagues

Generation Z is a huge experiment

I am afraid we have no clue (but also little options) about what we are doing to Generation Z and all that are following. We give them tablets when they are 4 and tell everyone how intuitive they swipe and press. When they get older, they spend 6-12 hours of screen time a day, and we have no clue what this does to them. We have some indications, but then again, there can't be long term studies as smartphones are not around that long, and especially everything that happens on smartphones changes quickly. A generation that is served by algorithms seems to get bored quickly, though:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/generation-z-is-already-bored-by-the-internet 

Does your country have an AI strategy?

If you are not in France, ask yourself this: Could your head of state, or even a secretary, give an interview like this on AI? Or do they even know what "Wired" is? Read up on Emmanuel Macron's view of AI. Meanwhile, we are discussing how ridiculous or desirable flying taxis would be in Germany.

https://www.wired.com/story/emmanuel-macron-talks-to-wired-about-frances-ai-strategy/

Incentive based sponsoring

About time: So many sponsoring deals, even on the highest level, are just based on gut feeling, on fear of missing out, or on personal desires of high-ranked managers. Anheuser Busch / Budweiser now obviously implements a new type of contracts and model that may very well influence the whole industry (and probably in the right direction): based on a flat fee, certain KPI milestones unlock incentives. As Anheuser is more or less involved in every corner of US sports (NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL etc.), this can be hugely influential. It would make governing bodies and teams measure what they do, and other sponsors may follow. Exciting to see where this may lead us:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2018/04/02/anheuser-busch-launches-revolutionary-incentive-based-sponsorship-model/#31deee393d5f

Dynamic / personalized pricing is coming

For products that you could buy physically, it might take a longer time. For services like transportation, we are close already: Uber is reportedly already applying dynamic pricing - best guessing what you are ready and willing to pay individually, at a certain point in time, for a fare instead of calculating one price that is the same for everyone anytime. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, this can be a great business tool. It can also be a kind of "socialist" tool to adjust prices. Who said that "one and the same price for everyone" is the most correct system of pricing? Fines for example, for running over a red traffic light, are vastly different for a student, for me, or for a football professional, although we comitted the same "crime". On the other hand, it might be also very dangerous for businesses: If I have the feeling I am getting ripped off... especially because I was a good customer (would buy anyway, so no discounts or special offers for this guy - the opposite, a higher price)... it would kill my loyalty in an instant. Difficult topic, interesting to observe.

Overview in the Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/global/2017/nov/20/dynamic-personalised-pricing

Airlines:
http://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Airline-News/Airlines-inching-closer-to-dynamic-pricing

Uber:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16706164

Mar 16, 2018

4% of users own 96% of Bitcoin

At least that was the case in Sept 2017, and I see no reason why that should have shifted dramatically. Just wanted to throw this out there. This would mean that the wealth disparity in bitcoin would be worse than that of FIAT currency.

https://medium.com/@BambouClub/are-you-in-the-bitcoin-1-a-new-model-of-the-distribution-of-bitcoin-wealth-6adb0d4a6a95

https://www.fastcompany.com/40537404/how-bitcoin-ends?


Shifting attention from Facebook video to YouTube

Personally, I still believe that we#re talking different ballgames, at least as long as Facebook watch is not a real competitor - to me, Facebook dominates discovery, while YouTube has a large amount of intentional visits - people go there explicitly to watch video, often even with a certain channel in mind. Achieving this on Facebook, where people go to see what's up, often with the intention to kill time, 2 minutes here, 5 minutes there, will be very hard. This article explains why House of Highlights (Bleacher) didn't even consider Facebook to expand their strong Instagram footprint.

https://digiday.com/media/media-companies-shifting-attention-facebook-youtube/

Democratize big data

I keep saying (here in German from 2011) that my purchases on Amazon or my searches on Google or my likes on Facebook should be mine - just because I happen to cause them on an application built by someone else, who said that the data should be owned by those offering the application? To me, this is a fundamental flaw in how we built the internet (and my hope in blockchain is that we may fix this in a "crypto web 3.0"). Here's an interesting piece in the Guardian - with a longer version that will be published soon in an interesting magazine called "Logic" - about another way to democratize big data, proposing a "data dividend", coming from a more societal perspective on data ownership and governance:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/mar/14/tech-big-data-capitalism-give-wealth-back-to-people

Mining data of taxi rides in NYC

There's so much stuff hidden in data, and so much to learn - it's simply amazing: NYC's government released data of over 1bn cab rides between 2009 and 2014. One student analyzed trips between big banks and the Federal Reserve, and there's a statistical correlation between the number of rides and major decisions taken by the Fed. You can't prove illegal arrangements just by taxi rides, but at least there's another argument the public availability of non-personalized data.

https://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21738396-novel-data-source-reveals-surprising-patterns-mining-data-cab-rides-show

Mar 13, 2018

John Oliver explains "blockchain"

There are hundreds of not thousands blockchain explainers out there. But there is none like John Oliver, so here's some entertainment around Bitcoin, Ethereum and blockchain involving Chicken McNuggets and weddings at Burning Man. Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6iDZspbRMg&feature=youtu.be

Mar 12, 2018

We are far away from (knowing how to gain) control over fake news

No major election, less discussion about fake news - but we haven't achieved much yet. Facebook's strange introduction of "meaningful social interactions" and a two-question-survey about trusted publishers is borderline ridicolous. Currently, I heard this from FB directly, meaningful social interactions (MSI) are defined as comments and shares. Guess which stories get the most of these - "refugee ate a 4 year old blond kid". A German stat about interactions revealed a high climb for right wing publications in January and February. While established publishers are at a level they were 30 months ago (in interactions), anonymousnews.ru (not linked on purpose) climbed 147% in Jan/Feb. I guess MSI at its current state can't be the answer, Facebook. A number of studies have been conducted, and they all draw a dark picture - we have no clue how to deal with the fact that every part of society creates their own reality, one the want to believe is true.

Fake news spread faster than real news:
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/03/fake-news-spreads-faster-true-news-twitter-thanks-people-not-bots

Largest ever study on fake news:
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/03/largest-study-ever-fake-news-mit-twitter/555104/

What if Publishing and Advertising do not need each other anymore?

I think journalists have a bright future. I really do, and always have to emphasize this when I give talks about digital publishing, AI generated story summaries and how technoogy will be a bigger source of competitive advantage than quality of journalism. I am not so very sure about the profession in newsrooms and publisher organizations, but I am sure about the fact that we all need and want storytelling, and I am sure that many, many companies will hire journalists in order to tell their stories - distinct from creating campaigns which will still be done by advertising agencies. 

Background is that any company could be their own publisher nowadays. The barrier to entry is so low, 14yo kids become global publishers. So here's one simple, but fundamental thought: what if publishers and advertisers wouldn't need each other any more? I just stumbled upon this 15page PDF, published in a joint effort by Harvard Business School and the Tow Center for Digital Journalism from Columbia Journalism School from October 2017. It's a very interesting, inspiring and thought-provoking read, you can download the PDF from this page here:

Google AMP Overview

With Facebook sending less traffic to publishers, Google's accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are getting even more popular than they were before already. This article is insightful yet not at all in favor of AMP - its tone is basically "the next desaster to happen to publishers", mainly adressing an often voiced, seldomly heard or discussed criticism of AMP handing over too much control to Google. New to me is that AMP's experienced fast load reportedly doesn't come from its actual design but from pre-loading:

https://ferdychristant.com/amp-the-missing-controversy-3b424031047

Another view worth sharing is this from The Verge about AMP as a new web standard:

https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/8/17095078/google-amp-accelerated-mobile-page-announcement-standard-web-packaging-urls

Feb 26, 2018

Automated propaganda

here's an interesting piece that, thankfully, isn't just a simple "techlash"-rant. But of course, the question is legitimate: If software, machine learning, AI and technology progress in general makes producing content more effective, faster, harder, better, then of course it will make evil-doers more effective, faster, harder and better, too: This article sees fake news merely as a subset of automated propaganda.

https://www.cjr.org/analysis/algorithm-russia-facebook.php

Remote work outperforms offices

I have been saying this since two decades now (and after reading "work naked" (a book from 2001) to my then-boss, with success) and I am glad there are studies supporting this thought: that remote work is more productive. I just wonder why so many companies bother to install coffee corners, playgrounds for kids and adults and many more things that are meant to make your stay at offices less terrible instead of working to implement better, more effective remote work models that will probably turn out to be cheaper and more effective at the same time.

https://www.inc.com/brian-de-haaff/3-ways-remote-workers-outperform-office-workers.html