Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 18

This edition of Thought Starters includes a few pieces that take a more critical view of our interactions with the internet and technology as well as the usual analysis of recent developments in media, technology and society in general.

Ex mobile junkie Jeremy Vandehey gives his advice on how to live more of your life without your smartphone, arguing that this will enrich your relationships and personal experiences .

This is your brain on mobile

In a similar mode, Kathleen Davis gives her account of how she survives and thrives in the tech sector despite never having owned a smartphone.

Mike Feibus looks at the growing success of Chromebook within the PC sector which he attributes to strategic mistakes on Microsoft’s part and points to future success as again being closely tied to the latter’s strategy.

Beacon location based services have been getting a lot of attention lately in the media, particularly in terms of what they can do for the retail sector. Bobby Gill looks at alternative use cases for beacons in the education, dating, home electronics, events and sports sectors.

David Hariri provides a spirited defence of the web application, pointing to the benefits of more open based models of development when compared to the more closed mobile app approach. I am definitely all for a more open web but any judgement on the appropriate strategy needs to be weighed against a range of factors including functionality, audience and budget.

A report in the Financial Times points to Apple looking to launch an offering in the connected home sector at the Worldwide Developer Conference on June 2. Roger Kay takes a critical look at Apple’s attempts to operate in the Internet of Things sector, pointing to the company’s controlling tendencies in an environment that is typically based on a more collaborative approach between different players.  Benedict Evans in contrast, takes a broader view of the Internet of Things sector and looks at the contrasting strategies of Apple and Google.

Maciej Cegłowski’s talk, The Internet With A Human Face provides a valuable critique of the centralisation of the web, the growth of Big Data and the inability of the internet to forget.

The Internet with a Human Face

The centralisation of the web has gained a spike in coverage over the course of the last week due in large part to a trio of issues. Matthew Ingram has a look at the three talking points, Amazon’s negotiations with publisher Hatchette, Google’s search algorithm’s impact on metafilter and Facebook’s impact on what news journalism is being brought to consumers’ attention.

Ben Thompson looks more closely at Amazon’s relationship with the publishing industry,  characterising the former as nasty and the latter as incompetent.

Amazon hasn’t exactly been quick in coming out in defending itself in its dispute with Hatchette, but it has been interesting to see them use News Genius as a means of publicising their position. I reckon we’re going to see more of this going forward.

Programmatic buying is making a big impact in the online advertising sector, so its interesting to hear John Battelle warning of the loss of context when media is simply bought on the basis of audience.

Advertisers Continue Rapid Adoption of Programmatic Buying

On a less critical note is Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report which reports on key statistics and trends in the digital sector. Coverage includes growth in mobile, online advertising, mobile messaging and a look at emerging business models online and the digital sector in China. A great way of quickly getting up to speed with what is going on online.

Cycling is a subject close to my heart so I was intrigued by Felix Salmon’s analysis of New York City’s Citi Bike scheme. Well worth a read, even if you aren’t a pedaler. 

Richard Florida takes a fascinating look at the relationship between the popularity of heavy metal and a countries’ economic health.

Though metal may be the music of choice for some alienated working-class males, it enjoys its greatest popularity in the most advanced, most tolerant, and knowledge-based places in the world.  Strange as it may seem, heavy metal springs not from the poisoned slag of alienation and despair but the loamy soil of post-industrial prosperity.

The featured image is a piece by  Maya Hayuk for the Asphalte Festival in Charleroi, Belgium and found on StreetArtNews.

Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 17

A lot of noise is being made about the rapid growth of ecommerce and the  effect this is having on bricks and mortar retail. Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru provides an alternative view,  pointing to the continuing growth in the traditional retail sector and the need to distinguish between retailers making the right (and wrong) decisions.

Geoffrey Moore gives a rather sobering view on the effect that technology is having on America’s middle class and suggests some potential avenues to address this.

Marc Andreessen is interviewed in the Washington Post providing commentary on the impact of revelations on NSA surveillance, net neutrality and bitcoin. His commentary on the latter is particularly interesting and marks out why Andreessen Horowitz are investing heavily in the sector.

E-commerce would’ve gotten built on top of this, instead of getting built on top of the credit card network. We knew we were missing this; we just didn’t know what it was. There is no reason on earth for anybody to be on the Internet today to be typing in a credit card number to buy something. It’s insane, because — which is why you have all these security problems, the Target hack and all this crazy…. And these high fees, this high fraud rate. It doesn’t make sense online to have a payment mechanism that requires you to hand over your credentials to make a payment. That’s just an invitation to fraud and identity theft. It’s just stupid.

But we didn’t have the better way of doing it. So we didn’t know what else to do, and now we have the better way of doing it. Now, it’s going to take time. We’re quite confident that when we’re sitting here in 20 years, we’ll be talking about Bitcoin the way we talk about the Internet today. We just need time for it to play out.

Moving customers over to a subscription model of payments may provide companies with a valuable regular income stream but Brian S Hall points out that this is   not necessarily in the consumer’s best interests.

Timothy B Lee looks at the New York Times’s Innovation report which identifies new disruptive players, but also suggests that the organisation like many incumbents is poorly placed to meet the challenge of new entrants.

Game Oven recently wrote a piece looking at the difficulties in writing software for Android given the fragmented hardware and software environment. Benedict Evans built on this post , pointing to the problems of Android fragmentation but also suggesting that the movement to a more cloud based environment may alleviate many of the current problems associated with developing for Android.

Deloitte has released its latest Media Consumer report looking at changes in media consumption patterns in the UK. Among the areas covered are device ownership, television consumption, trust in journalism, use of social media, cinema viewing, gaming and streaming of music.

Percentage of households that have at least one of these devices

 Julie Ask looks at the role of disintermediaries in an increasingly mobile centred environment, with social media, mapping, entertainment, commerce and payments growing in strategic importance.

Today, a third crop of platforms are laying the groundwork to step into the powerful position of “owning the customer,” by serving them in mobile moments. Consumers expect to be able to get what they want in their immediate context and moment of need. They will reach for their phone for information and services. The issue is, most brands aren’’t yet there for their customers in this moment, challenged to even get customers to visit their mobile website or download the brand’s mobile app.

That’s where the platforms that dominate minutes of use, such as popular messaging and social media apps, come into play. It’s not hard to imagine a future where a small set of highly contextual and curated disintermediaries offer consumers a portal to the universe of services on mobile devices. Companies should consider the possibility of a future where their access to consumers is through this small set of disintermediaries

JWT Intelligence has a look at the mobile payments sector which is encumbered by the chicken and egg scenario. Consumers won’t use a service if they’re not familiar with it but retailers won’t invest in a platform if it’s not widely adopted. Efforts are being made to increase adoption and Apple is a potentially disruptive player waiting in the wings.

A growing amount of attention has been given to the mobile messaging sector lately, particularly in light of Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp. Line and WeChat are similar (provide text and photo messaging but different from the more traditional mobile messaging players  with Mark Bivens and Jerry Yang comparing the two Asian powerhouses on Bivens’ blog.

I am a strong believer that we will see some version of enhanced eyewear make inroads in the future  but Matt Lake’s review points to  Google Glass being some way from the medium’s end goal.

There’s been a lot of talk lately of a cooling in tablet sales with commentators suggesting that the smartphone can more than adequately fulfill many of the use cases. Providing a counterpoint to these suggestions is research from Flurry which point to growing usage by tablet owners.

Tablet usage

Matthew Yglesias looks critically at the content that Facebook looks to share among its users following Director of Product at Facebook’s recent rant about the state of the media.

Relationship status is one of those sensitive areas that users aren’t always willing to make public on Facebook. In an attempt to overcome consumers’ reluctance (and provide another data source), Facebook is providing consumers with the opportunity to directly ask fellow users what their current relationship status is.

Relationship Status

Facebook has added song and television show identification (à la Shazam) to its iOS and Android app, providing the opportunity to further enrich its collection of consumer data.

Facebook Music and TV Id

Whilst digital technologies such as HTML5 and WebGL are enabling a richer array of experiences online, the majority of online spend is still very much on direct response advertising in the US according to eMarketer figures.

Digital Ad Spending ShareThe featured image is Reliefs by Evgeniy Dikson


Messages that resonate

This is part of an irregular series of blog posts looking at marketing communications which have caught my attention. This will complement Thought Starters which will look more at trends, strategies and ideas.

Dick’s Sporting Goods has launched a look book to promote their running offering,  bringing together interactive video with ecommerce in a visually appealing microsite.

Dick's Sporting Goods

Schipol Airport is using an Instagram game to encourage users to fly more from the Dutch airport. The game asks users to identify destinations using user generated photos filtered by location and hashtag from the Instagram API. Users can ask for hints which include local time, flight duration if departing from Schiphol and a list of airlines that fly there. More information over at DigiDay.

Schipol Airport Instagram

Mercedes-Benz has launched a campaign in the Netherlands aimed at connecting its brand with hard working van drivers. The microsite uses a computer’s webcam to detects blisters, calluses and bruised thumbs in consumers’ hands which are then used to access the discount given to potential customers. A good use of a computer’s ‘eyes’ in a new way.

Mercedes BenzTeleport is a new startup which has recently launched that aims to help individuals relocate to where they can get the best quality of life. Whilst the exact details of the company’s offerings remain to be seen, the company’s website provides enough information and interactivity to leave users intrigued.

Teleport Effective example of branded content is the U.S. Air Force talking about how they would deal with Godzilla, capitalising on the publicity for Warner Brother’s latest blockbuster.  See the video over at BuzzFeed.

Coca-Cola attempts to bolster its green credentials in China with 2ndLives.  This sees the company providing a line of 16 caps which can be screwed onto bottles after consumption, transforming them into fun and useful objects, such as a paintbrush, water squirter and pencil sharpener among others.

Another case of rethinking product packaging is Chipotle giving consumers something to read when chowing down on their burritos. Commissioned authors include Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell and Sarah Silverman among others with materials also available through the Cultivating Thought microsite.

Sometimes the simple ideas are still the most effective. Here Milan based art director Marco Sodano reinterprets Michelangelo’s Mona Lisa. You can find more examples of great artworks reinterpreted in a Lego style over at The Inspiration Room.

lego-mona-lisaLet me know in the comments field if there’s any creative work that has caught your eye lately.

The featured image is a piece by Polish due Etam Cru in Italy for the Memoire Urbane festival and found on StreetArtNews.




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The following infographic provides a valuable illustration of trends in the business world as companies go up and down.

S&P 500 Churn Over the Past DecadeThomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has raised some important questions in terms of income inequality. The following graph suggests flattening income growth for the majority of Western consumers although the counterbalance to this is the emergence of the middle class in many emerging markets.

Growth in Real Average Income

Whilst on the subject of income, NPR in the US has looked at what professions are likely to put you above (or below) the incomes of your parents.

Household income during Childhood vs Income during Adulthood

Nemo looks at the winners and losers when services like Uber disrupt markets and how regulators can maximise benefits for consumers.

Jason Jacobs from Runkeeper argues that dedicated fitness trackers are likely to go the way of many other devices that have been subsumed within the smartphone.

Steven Sinofsky looks at how many digital services start with a focused offering but see their functionality expand sprawl over time and argues that this shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a bad thing.

JWT Intelligence identify what they see as the ten key mobile trends for 2014.

Felix Salmon argues eloquently for salaries being public, arguing that it is likely to lead to fairer compensation and avoids fueling some of the nastier aspects of  organisational politics.

Harvard Institute of Politics research points to Facebook’s penetration growing among young adults in the US but usage is declining.

Facebook's Reach Among Young Adults is Still Unmatched

Research from the e-tailing group points to social media as only providing a limited contribution towards sales when compared to other digital channels…That’s not to say it doesn’t provide valuable support to other valuable business metrics.

Digital Marketing Channels that Generated Orders for US Ecommerce Sites

A valuable overview of how Facebook is positioning its digital offering can be found in Facebook for Direct Response Marketing presentation produced following recent announcements at the F8 Developers Conference.

Facebook for Direct Response Marketing

Facebook has launched Context Cards on their redesigned iOS app which will look to serve more contextual information based on user location and activities.

Research from RJMetrics points to women dominating among active Pinterest users with 84% staying active after four years.

Pinterest users remain almost exclusively female, 84 stay active after 4 years

Moz looks at how events can be leveraged to grow an organisation’s digital profile.

Are you running low on ideas? Mark Johnstone looks at ways of kickstarting your creative thinking.

The featured image is by German artist MadC in Tahiti where she was invited to paint for the Ono’U Street Art Festival and coverage was found on StreetArtNews.

Messages that Resonate

This is the first of an irregular series of posts looking at communications which have caught my attention. This will complement Thought Starters which will look more at trends, strategies and ideas.

A recent trip to a local hospital made me acutely aware of the dehumanising experience that these institutions provide, despite the best efforts of the staff. Dignity Health is looking to reposition itself as a more humane experience with KindVines.  Consumers are being encouraged to submit Vines  that show moments of human kindness in their community.

Kind Vines

Another brand doing interesting things with Vine is Lowe’s with its Fix in Six campaign which provides six second DIY tips. It shows you less can be more sometimes.

NOMOS Glashütte’s video Look over the watchmakers’ shoulders provides a great example of how beautifully long form video can be used to increase the perceived value of a brand.

American furnishings retailer CB2 is looking to use Pinterest plus a dose of consumer feedback to decide how to decorate a New York apartment.

The election of Tony Abbott as Australian Prime Minister has reinforced some of my more negative associations of the land down under. So I was intrigued to see NAB recruit locals to offer live commentary of that most quintessential of Australian events the Aussie rules final. A great way of reflecting the diversity of Australia where 27% of the population are born overseas.

UNICEF has a campaign to promote access to  clean water by asking consumers to download an app and not touch their smartphones. For every 10 minutes you don’t touch your phone, sponsors will donate one day of clean water to UNICEF.

Amazon’s move to enable ecommerce functionality within consumer’s Twitter stream may not be groundbreaking for Chinese consumers but it does provide an example of expanding what brands can do in social media.

Optic Square in Thailand provide a great example of using the characteristics of an out of home environment to add impact to a creative execution.

Providing something of an antidote to the world of marketing is Honest Slogans which looks to give a more consumer centric view of the brands many of us live with.


Feel free to chip in with campaigns that have caught your attention lately.

The featured image is a mural by French artist Mist and was photographed by Big Addict for StreetArtNews.

Thought starters: content that has got me thinking 15

Owen Williams reports on how the smartphone is reshaping the digital landscape as we move increasingly toward a more app centric world with tablets providing an important bridge, particularly for older consumers.

App vs Mobile Site Usage

Matt Hartman provides a valuable look at how the structures of social networks affects users experiences them drawing on concepts of nodes, data/content, edges and jumping functions.

Issie Lapowsky suggests that LinkedIn’s generalist approach may see it being sidelined by more specialised players in the professional networking space.

The Community Roundtable reviews how the community management sector is doing and the opportunities communities provide for organisations looking to engage with customers and other stakeholders.


Twitter has enabled ecommerce functionality using the #AmazonCart hashtag. Mark Millan points out that this kind of service has been available on China’s Sina Weibo for around two years, pointing to the country’s innovative mobile ecosystem.

Brian Solis reviews announcements at the F8 Facebook Developers Conference which included Facebook Login, Anonymous Login, App Links, Message Dialog, FbStart, Send To Mobile and Audience Network. After making a slow start, Facebook is becoming a major player in the wider mobile ecosystem.

Mike Elgan looks at Facebook’s growing role as personal data harvester,  using the capture users behaviour across a range of properties to drive sales across its advertising network.

David Segal reports on the  mis-selling of online video with advertising networks frequently failing to deliver the assets promised. Whilst this situation isn’t unique to online video, the complex web of buyers, sellers and traders is making for a far from transparent marketplace.

Josh Constine reviews Foursquare’s launch of Swarm and Facebook’s Nearby Friends service, pointing to ambient proximity as a means of overcoming consumers’ concerns about sharing location.

Ross Simmonds provides a guide to how you can incorporate Snapchat into your marketing strategy.


Kevan Lee looks at how to improve your organisation’s Pinterest presence.

Izitru gives consumers and publishers a better chance of judging whether an image has had the photoshop treatment.

Photoshop free zone at Izitru

Danah Boyd looks at the declining importance of the car in young people’s identities and how this could add fuel to the trend towards autonomous cars.

David Epstein compares the performance of athletes from the past with the present day and suggests that changes in performance aren’t quite as dramatic as some people would have us believe.

The featured image is a MAANI GURI NURAH by Remed and was photographed by Sharmila Wood in Pilbara, Western Australia.