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Mobile Fix / September 20

News

In a world of fake news, deep fake video and a general lack of trust, the traditional media brands can still be beacons. Whether or not you agree with their world view they still drive debate and GAFA are taking steps to improve how they are treated in digital. Google are looking at making original reporting rank better than stories inspired by the original. And Facebook are doing something similar for stories featured in their imminent News tab.

Google are very focused on news and a new JV with British publisher Archant will see 3 news sites being developed - ran by Archant and funded by Google, to the tune of “several million dollars”

If more traffic gets to the news sites and apps, we are getting back to the original model of media where content creators are rewarded for their skill in aggregating valuable audiences. As the demise in cookies makes the audience approach redundant, brands can reach people in the context of the news sites, rather than saving a few bob by reaching them on eBay or Yahoo mail.

And next gen adtech firms like Permutive and Illuma enable publishers to understand their audience through first party data and significantly increase their revenues. As we know the context of news sites makes ads work harder, everyone should be happy.

A good example of the work being done by smart publishers is the Washington Post Zeus project. This opinion piece by a Washington Post exec is a good read too.

Adtech perfect storm

I hear dmexco was as busy as ever - the favoured bar was closed because of overcrowding and this list of what’s in and what’s out as dmexco is fun. But having had a few fascinating conversations in the last couple of weeks it feels like this could be the high tide mark for adtech.

Adweek capture the mood well - the implications of the demise of cookies is starting to dawn on people. But it’s more than a reality check. It’s a complete reboot and we keep seeing signs of change.

Some details on the new privacy law coming out of California - which looks likely to be the US version of GDPR. Privacy is now a major concern across GAFA.

Google Subpoenaed for Details on Its Ad Business and Reuters had a piece with ad industry people supporting the idea Google stifle business. They come back pointing out the industry is highly competitive. Regulators have GAFA in their sights and are going to keep pushing for improvements - which will impact how ads have been tracked and traded

Apple have a new way to track ad driven app installations - but little guidance on how this relates to current tools like IDFA which are widely used - and many feel are likely to disappear.

And one of the prime movers in adtech is moving on - AppNexus founder BOK has a new startup focused on commodity trading and logistics

Retail

Arguably the defining brand of DTC is Casper. Their new approach to marketing mattresses revitalised a tired industry and inspired dozens of competitors. Now they have evolved to selling sleep rather than selling just mattresses. This long NYTImes piece is a good read.

And their mention of their New York store where you can go for a 45 minute snooze - including snacks, beverages and renting pajamas - epitomises stores as places for experiences.

A Monocle feature on fashion has these great quotes from two of the best retailers in the world;

Colette Roussaux founded what would arguably become the world’s most influential fashion boutique: Colette. She was asked Do retailers get confused in their quest to be innovative?

I remember walking into shops on the Champs-Élysées two years ago; in one there was a DJ and in the next there was a bar. How many shops have bars now? At Colette we had a restaurant and a museum, and every day we would host a book signing – but we never used the word “experience”. Now some brands and shops do these things because they think they have to.

CEO of Comme des Garçons International and Dover Street Market International, Adrian Joffe on instore tech;

“That virtual thing is not my cup of tea at all. The magic mirrors: nightmare. I don’t understand it and I don’t see the point of it. Why not just get the real thing and try it on? We want to keep that human contact: touching things, touching fabrics, is important. We don’t want to turn Dover Street into a technological funfair.”

Amazon

Following the reveal that Apple favour their own apps in their appstore, now we see that Amazon favour their own products. That’s hardly a surprise - any Tesco, Walmart or Carrefour will give increased prominence to their own brands, alongside the branded alternatives.

With the availability of advertising within Amazon, we will see various strategies play out but if brands feel they are disadvantaged versus private label I think they will vote with their feet. But our understanding is that the ROI on Amazon ads can be fantastic.

And the competitive landscape will keep Amazon honest; Walmart sell ads and are expanding their online grocery delivery business. Instacart are stepping up and have lured an Amazon ad exec to join them.

To better compete with traditional stores Amazon is introducing a cash based checkout option - PayCode - which they have been running in developing markets. A partnership with Western Union, customers choose cash at checkout and get a code they use when they pay cash at a Western Union branch.

Food

The food business is going through digital disruption. In the UK 1400 restaurants have closed in the last year. This is blamed on Brexit but we think the rise of Deliveroo etc is just as big a factor. Of course delivery helps a different class of restaurants from the QSR chains which are suffering. But as we have argued before, the arrival of dark kitchens and the way these delivery chains own the data puts the future of the takeaway brands in jeopardy too.

This comparison with the travel industry supports that view well.

Competition is getting more intense as fast food adopts the Drop phenomenon that increasingly characterises fashion - from Supreme to Nike. In the US Chicken sandwiches from Popeyes and Chick Fil A have been marketed with the manufactured scarcity of a Drop. Watch for KFC doing something similar over here.

newTV

The Apple TV launch last week promoted more concern over whether Netflix can retain its crown. A long detailed analysis from the FT covers most of the issues and it seems their public status means more bad quarters will hit them hard. Their Q3 results are due in a months time.

A good post from Benedict Evans on Apple and their services makes the point that nothing about Apple TV is very Apple - it’s just not innovative.

This long and quite complicated look at streaming makes the (obvious) point that original programing has always driven subscription numbers - but as everyone has huge budgets to create originals will we see this correlation change?

With Apple bundling the subscription into device purchases will that affect Netfxi subscribers? Disney have incentivised their core customers with great deal for 3 years so again will we see that affect Netflix? Comcast are to bundle their service with their core internet access product.

It’s only when the bundling stops that customers see the real cost. It’s going to take a lot of nerve for any of the new players to go full retail price in the near future.

The BBC think this second wave of disruption is good for them, given the depth of their archive. It’s a bit unclear whether he is talking up BritBox or iPlayer. But some fascinating data from our friends at Tubular Labs shows that the BBC is very close to Netflix in terms of unique reach across Facebook and YouTube. Both are in the Top10 but dwarfed by Disney Comcast, Warner etc . The most surprising thing is that Soul Publishing are huge - is it just me that had never heard of them?

Voice / Audio

SeekingAlpha has a good analysis of Spotify and are bullish about their move into content creation. It’s a long piece but has some good data and summarises;

Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) appear to be the biggest competitors to Spotify but given Apple’s user base is limited to Apple product owners and Amazon primarily uses music streaming as a tool to increase the attractiveness of their Prime subscription I do not believe either are a major threat globally. Spotify's lead in music streaming is clear from net promoter score data which shows users clearly prefer the Spotify platform

The big challenge in podcasts is discovery and whoever gets that right will have a huge impact, as this article argues. It seems to be a fight between Spotify and Apple, but Google have ambitions here too, as we see Podcast App Store Optimisation as the next big thing,

The very definition of a podcast is increasingly up for grabs. The original RSS ‘plumbing remains important for measurement and ad placement but we see podcast content on many platforms now and as some blend video with podcasts, YouTube is becoming more important

Innovation in tech will also shape this space. A new start up called Descript is getting lots of attention as it allows people to create audio of their own voice from the text they type. Amazon do this well with Polly but the output is one of their computer generated voices

Hardware

Until the rise of the smart speakers hardware was a neglected space. The smartphone was so dominant it was hard to see why anyone would buy any other device. But Alexa changed that and now the Google Home is completing the circle by allowing people to make calls from the speaker.

Facebook are taking hardware really seriously and putting a lot of effort behind Portal - their chat screen that attaches to your TV. The Techcrunch coverage gets into a lot of detail and carries some good commentary from Facebook luminary Boz.

I get the use cases they talk about but can’t help thinking the real prize is that Portal allows Facebook Watch to make it to the big screen, giving them a competitor to Google Chromecast, Amazon FireStick and AppleTV. Read this coverage of the extended deal with the NFL to see where Facebook are investing. People can and do watch Sports content on mobile but if you can get the Big game action on the big screen...

Quick Reads

Introducing the Augmented World of 2030 - lots of info on where AR is now and what’s next

China has over 850m people using the Internet - the vast majority on mobile - and this is a good look at how they use it.

Spotify have a neat way to try and manage family subscriptions - getting everyone on the account to log in through Google maps and see if they actually live together. Will we see something like this from Netflix to deal with their shared subscription problem?

Is sports site The Athletic the WeWork of media? They have hired a lot of talent and their coverage of Leeds is excellent - well worth the subscription. Is it good for other clubs too?

How StitchFix manage onboarding - great insight into how smart players treat customers

We mentioned Agency GinLane morphing into a DTC holding company - this is their latest launch

Finally…. The first online video content to blow up was LonelyGirl15 - in 2006, when I was running Big Picture, an agency focused on Social and Mobile. This was huge and it showed everyone that content and social were a powerful combination.

Talking with the Content team at Snap this week I saw some of the amazing content now being created for social. Take a look at Dead of Night. We have come a long way, but things are still evolving fast.

Are you keeping up?

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