Unsurprisingly Google have entered the battle for Music with a new ad supported free version of their previously announced streaming service Google Play Music. Brands using Google Display Network now have the music service as an option to show their ads. Google are focused on curation through their Songza acquisition last year and along with the Apple launch, the pincers around Spotify tighten. It’s likely that there is a bigger market for a free service with ads than a paid for one and it’s clear that Google are better able to monetise a music service than Spotify – or Apple.
As the Taylor Swift story last week showed the economics of the music business are in flux; Apple can easily afford to swallow the cost of paying artist their fees for the free trial period. But getting most people to pay has proven a problem for Spotify and its hard to see why Apple, will be any more successful. This piece looks at the industry and suggests Apple must leverage the artists – maybe at the expense of their labels – and reminds us that Apple have built up a lot of experience of live events with their iTunes festivals.
All of which plays to our theory about Apple buying Tidal. This week we learned something else to support our theory; Tidal is being run as a European business – their Norwegian CEO has just left – and Apple have earned huge cash reserves around the world that can’t be taken into the US with paying tax. So using part of their $200bn cash pile to buy a business outside the US, means they effectively pay a discounted price. But does Google enter a bidding war to get all these artists on their service?
Plumbing – How Mobile works
The discovery of the adblocking option in iOS9 has caused a lot of nervous discussion in the ad business – and the latest find will worry more people. It seems that Apple are making it almost mandatory for apps to open web pages in Safari – rather than a browser that the app developer builds into the app. So good news for app developers.
But stipulating Safari means that Apple can ensure data doesn’t flow between the app and the web page - so an app can’t harvest user data. And the new content blocking options extend to these pages too. As we have pointed out before, the idea that a majority of time is spent in apps ignores the fact that lots of Facebook and Twitter time is actually on web pages opened in these apps. With this move Apple take control of the flow of data between the browser and the app and that spells trouble for some of those apps. It’s a complicated area – as the article shows – and I am sure our smarter tech friends will share their thoughts – but it looks like another example of Apple using data and privacy as a reason (excuse?) to impose their authority.
In a related move Apple are clamping down on apps that ‘read’ what other apps someone has on their iPhone. On Apple one needs to exploit an obscure API to do this and Apple are already shut down one app that did this. On Android apps like Aviate help users manage their apps – whilst gathering lots of info on which apps they have - and Yahoo bought them for this ability.
We see the move to better combine apps and webpages as key areas for GAFA in the coming months. With deep linking, app search and notifications – and new approaches like streaming apps so they can be tried out before downloading them (Google ‘secret’ acquisition Agawi does this) – mobile content is evolving fast, but we don’t know where it is going to end up.
It’s the final event of the ad agency / tech platform season this week. After CES, Mobile World Congress and SxSW, the road warriors of our industries showed up in Cannes. This weeks Twitter, Facebook & Persicope streams have been full of pictures of blues skies and yachts and parties plus tweets of inspirational one liners gleaned from the hundreds of briefings, panels and showcases. Last week I thought I would probably fill Fix with Cannes related stories. But no. Not much actually happened. Well not much interesting anyway.
There is a lot of value in meeting up with others in the industry and there are few nicer places to do that than the South of France. But with all these brands running media pitches at the moment, I suspect procurement people in Cincinnati, Deerfield and High Wycombe are sharpening their pencils as they read about the Domaines Ott, UberCopter and celeb packed parties in Cannes.
The other thing that got lots of press was the slightly odd idea of a new agency created by WPP, Snapchat and the DailyMail to focus on vertical video. There is a huge opportunity with vertical video and with Snapchat (and the huge reach of the Mail Online) but you have to wonder whether this is the best way to approach it.
Another expression of Facebook ambition is their deal to show the new Dwayne Johnson HBO show Ballers – Entourage for the NBA essentially. With 50m Facebook fans Johnson can bring a lot of audience and as we keep saying the sharing makes Facebook a great place for episodic content.
With Google and Apple both looking at curation for their music services the idea of balancing algorithms with people is clearly a trend. Wired worries about it as expectations are so much higher when a human is involved, but combining the two is very powerful. Benedict Evans has a good post on the subject –making the point that the failings of discovery create a role for advertising.
With all the promise of programmatic, ads – viewable, noticeable and relevant ads - should be able to solve this problem for people. But some interesting research from friends at Mindshare show that people think ads have got less useful; in 2005 51% of Americans thought ads helped them learn about products and services but this dropped to 41% in 2014.
Our nascent RCKSCK project is all about curation but matches people by topic; I am interested in which LA hotel someone prefers if they like the ones I like in Paris but I don’t care about their music taste. And whilst I want RCKSCK to tell me the music listened to by people who also love Nina Simone, their hotels don’t interest me. Blending peoples self professed taste with machine learning seems the best of both worlds.
IoT - Cars
It’s likely that the most connected device won’t be the fabled internet fridge but the car. And (just like in newTV) people realise that the cleverness should on the device that gets updated frequently – the smartphone – rather than the one that tends to be kept longer; the TV screen and the car. Ford are one of the leaders and their new Trend Deck is an interesting look at how they see the future.
The latest version of Instagram lets you search by Location and an Explore page will show trending tags and places – so like Twitter Project Lightening you can follow an event – such as Glastonbury for instance
Design is now recognized as a core part of an experience rather than just the painting and decorating. Anticipatory design is used to make an experience easier;
This FT article on BAT is more good insight into China and the tech scene there. With Alibaba spinning of their payments business into a new company valued at $45bn, the pace of change and the scale is astounding.
If you ask a digital marketing guru about QR codes they tend to snigger and tell you they are useless. In China they are huge – and this piece explains why. They are still widely used in the West for Boarding Passes and cinema tickets etc. And one of the most common ways for people to add friends on Snapchat is to scan their ghost from their app – which has a personalized QR code baked in. And you can now customize it.
One thing the Watch has done is make us use Siri - voice makes so much more sense. Now Amazon are opening up their voice service to developers; Alexa powers Echo and the Amazon Fire stick app. With Google opening up Chrome to voice it’s going to get noisy.
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