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Mobile Fix - November 20

Messaging

 

More useful insight into Wechat, this time looking at their smart City services. Building on the idea that you shouldn’t have to leave the app to complete a task users can now book a doctors appointment and report an incident to the police etc within WeChat. This is clearly an idea whose time has come - One of local restaurants now takes bookings over WhatsApp

 

Thinking through what people may want to do within messaging – and what notifications will be useful and which won’t is now core to product and service development. Having these extensions within the messaging app helps make it even stickier so we expect that brands will be encouraged to support a number of leading players. But in a winner takes all world, does the messaging app with the bigger reach become disproportionately important? Almost certainly yes.

 

David Marcus tells the Telegraph that his plan for Facebook Messenger is to replace Apps with Chats. The best technology fits seamlessly with people lives and nothing is more natural than conversations. The team behind Kik, which reaches 40% of US teenagers are equally bullish – and see commerce as being more important than ad revenue.

 

Snapchat are innovating with their advertising – working with P&G on geo fenced campaigns around key retailers. P&G are using store sales to determine the effectiveness of the ad buy.

 

Facebook

 

A pretty deep interview with Marc Zuckerberg gives us a good overview on all the things Facebook are doing right now – and it’s a lot.

 

As this piece points out Facebook wants to subvert the Apple operating system with Notify and have that act as your start point on mobile. Their ad supremo has some advice for brands – focus on the first 3 seconds of your ad and ask yourself is it thumb stopping?

 

With all this going on, the actual experience of Facebook varies by location and user profile as they constantly test different features before rolling out the successful ones. In France they have been testing disappearing messages – not unlike Snapchat – on FB Messenger.

 

And this FT piece gets into their AI work – leveraging the huge user reach that they think gives them an advantage over the competition, who don’t have that social content to mine.

 

Publishers

 

It’s a tough time to be a publisher. Your audience is rapidly migrating to mobile, yet your core advertisers retain their focus on your legacy products. Those advertisers you can get often alienate your audience and drive them towards adblocking. And no one seems to be able to make paywalls work, other than a handful of niche players.

 

The promise of the platforms acting as distributors – and taking their tax on the additional advertising they sell– seemed a reasonable bargain; treating Apple, Facebook & Google as ‘free’ marketing. But that loss of control doesn’t seem to have been balanced with extended reach – some research shows the traffic that Facebook send to top publishers has dropped 32% this year.

 

A conference on Journalism and Silicon Valley got into the issues last week and it’s clear that everything is still unclear. Most publishers see collaborating with GAFA as inevitable – but there a number of key questions still unresolved. As ever, experimentation is definitely the best approach – The Guardian have launched a team dedicated to this on mobile and hope for as many failures as successes. And this look at how publishers are using Snapchat is interesting evidence of experimentation

 

AppNexus have a succinct view on what publishers need to do, which chimes with our own thoughts. Incidentally we think that the next publisher to Say No to people using ad blockers could be News Group. Having made the brave decision to take down the paywall will Murdoch really let people read the Sun with an AdBlocker in place?

 

The Economist is one publisher making the paywall work and they shared their views on building their customer base at last weeks Festival Of Marketing.

 

Music

 

As we get more details on the new YouTube music service and Facebook enter the space with Music Stories – enabling anyone to share music (with a 30 second preview pulled from Spotify or Apple) we see that the growth in digital music revenues has stalled.

 

2014 digital music revenues turned out to be 1% down on 2013. Whilst some in the industry believe streaming will dramatically increase the size of the music business many others are more skeptical.

 

Discovery of music you like has to be the key to any economic model and we think the divide, between those who believe in pure AI and those that value the human touch in creating playlists, will narrow.

 

We think that fans can make a huge contribution to discovery and the recent 7 days of music meme on Facebook supports this – whilst pointing out the fault lines in the space. The basic idea is that people nominate a friend to share 7 great tracks over 7 days and then nominate someone to takeover. I had great fun doing it and even more fun following other peoples – and in the process discovering many soul, jazz and reggae tracks I didn’t know. And reading the stories behind the choices.

 

The fault lines? Facebook is the perfect platform for this to share with friends. But 99% of the music came from YouTube videos. So the meme content is lost in the cracks between these two platforms. There is huge value in seeing the memes from friends and non friends, but no easy way to find them. Because YouTube don’t ‘see’ how the content is being used there is no easy way to monitise this either. Bringing the whole thing together with a brand to fund it could be really interesting – but making it work would seem to be a real challenge. I have made my selections public so you can get an idea of the meme on my Facebook timeline.

 

This balkanization of music seems to be holding the growth of streaming back – and Soundcloud - another of our go-to places for music - is facing problems.

 

VC Chris Dixon has written a good long piece on what can be learned from the PC Video Game industry and he sees a number of lessons for the music business – worth a read.

 

VR

 

The distribution of 1 million Google Cardboards by the New York Times last week will probably be seen as the first time Virtual Reality went mass market. The NYT share some reader reactions – and the issues around this new tech and journalism are interesting.

 

Another NYT article looks at the attention coming from brands. Making this compelling for viewers is the key and the people good at content Red Bull etc will be first to master this. If you look at what they are already doing with Facebook 360 videos you get a sense of what is possible. This US Today one is good too.

 

Amazon

 

Lots of news from Amazon. It looks like their food service will launch soon, with a limited supply of food items currently available in East London and Birmingham. Next up is Pantry, with a next day box delivery of non perishables shortly

 

Rumours suggest Fresh will start in Birmingham any time now. And in the US they could start restaurant deliveries. With the FT suggesting the UKs beleaguered supermarkets are losing £300m a year on their online shopping delivery, the long anticipated arrival of Amazon into their business must be frightening.

 

Picking up on our theme from last week, competing with someone who has a different business model is tough – and Amazon have plenty of other ways of making money from their prime customers.

And another new focus from Amazon is Launchpad – new products from startups.

 

Creative

 

The IAB organized an event around Mobile Creativity in New York last week and this is a good summary of the main issues. Our deep dive into the market for Route55 showed us that the tools for building great mobile experiences are actually pretty good; our friends at Responsive, Celtra and others provide a great service and people are doing some great work with them. Just not that many.

 

But there is increasing momentum in the space - some M&A as firms look to consolidate and broaden their offering - and it’s taken very seriously by Google etc. Google Web Designer has been improved and they quote case studies showing much better results and much faster build times.

 

The challenge is less about saving time and money on building cross device experiences – although that’s clearly a huge benefit – but more about using this canvas to create more compelling experiences. Getting the talent onto these platforms is what’s important. Otherwise we’re in the world of giving typewriters to monkeys and waiting for Shakespeare. A key element of our Route55 project is getting really smart creative talent focused on the opportunity for data enhanced creative that works across devices.

 

Evolution of search

 

One of the macro issues across digital is what search is going to look like in the near future. As voice search becomes more common and the plethora of signals inherent in a mobile device can enhance the search, 10 results on the first page might not be the ideal answer.

 

Our money is still on Google to define the future of search and some new innovations show much promise. Now Google can pull app data into the search results – without users having to install the apps. Instead they deliver a streaming video of the app results, which is interactive. So if I am searching for a hotel in New York, Google can supplement their traditional search results with a stream of the relevant info from the Hotel Tonight app – even if I dint have it installed.

 

Limited to Android devices for now, it’s another example of how the building blocks of digital are being atomized and reassembled. Think about how this tech could be blended with Google Now and information delivered as a notification.

 

Google have also reached agreement with Facebook to let them search public profiles. Fold in how Chrome can now make mobile websites work more like Apps and the old Apps vs Browser debate looks a little stale.

 

As people concentrate their time and attention on a handful of apps - and seem reluctant to download new ones - having search act as the interface to all (most) of the content looks like a big win for Google.

 

But Apple are focused on search too – primarily to improve discovery in their app store and we could see this being extended. But they have a long way to go.

 

Quick Reads

 

Sky are updating their set top box and this will up the stakes in the battle for newTV – do you plug in the sky box or go for one of the streaming devices?

 

And it looks like the end of the first mass market interactive platform – the Red Button is under threat. So this is the end for Ceefax, A great British invention. We worked with Teletext for a number of years and they were a great service. Pity they didn’t heed our advice in our futurology project for them

 

More on Mobile Money – an interesting report from Oracle on how Banking is changing.

 

Accenture have a new report on the Next Generation of commerce

 

We are working on a fascinating retail project and how to use location smartly has been a key topic. This HBR piece on the opportunity is good.

 

Some interesting advice for Yahoo

 

Another good deck from Benedict Evans looking at how the Galapagos effect of the Bay Area shapes so much tech development. We have long thought there is lots of potential for ‘democratising’ some more arcane apps by adjusting them to solve real peoples problems. For example Foursquare never went mainstream but we think an operator could have launched a location driven friend finder service that would work for people on a night out in Cardiff or Leeds. EE are launching one for dogs soon

 

Finally….this hour long video from marketing guru Mark Ritson is worth watching. His argument that social is overrated and digital marketing is outdated do make some sense – and his key thrust that integration is key makes perfect sense.

 

But it’s not a victory for the marketing luddites. It’s a clarion call for those of who know that blending deep digital know how with smart marketing thinking is the way to win

 

 

 

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