Thought Starters

A mixed collection of materials looking at societal trends and the impact of technology on the way we live.

Slate looks at separatist movements in Europe in light of the recent decision by Scotland to maintain its ties with the United Kingdom:

Separatist

McKinsey’s forecast for the luxury market points to the growing role of emerging economies. Luxury brands shouldn’t count on a free ride though with Chinese consumers proving less receptive to Western luxury brands than in the past according to a report in The Guardian:

Luxury

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, venture capitalist Bill Gurley has raised concerns about the ‘burn rate’ of startups and the potential risks of a tech bubble  bursting. We may not see this happen in the immediate future but a correction does look increasingly inevitable.

The Financial Times profiles the emerging FinTech sector and the challenges it poses to the incumbents in the banking and financial services sector.

Bitcoin is one of the technologies that is providing a disruptive force in the financial services sector, with Fred Ehrsam from  Bitcoin wallet provider Coinbase giving an introduction to the cryptocurrency:

GlobalWebIndex figures confirm the commonly held view  that tablets are frequently shared whilst mobile phones are more closely associated with the individual:

Devices

Comscore research points to mobile apps taking a dominant role in the time  American’s spend with their smartphones with pointers on the when where and why of app usage:

Mobile App Usage

Results from Shopify points to  50.3% of traffic coming from mobile and just 49.7% from computers among customers using their eCommerce solution. Whilst this doesn’t purport to represent a  statistically sound sample of all eCommerce transactions, it does provide another data point supporting the need for companies to adopt a mobile first strategy:

Mobile Commerce

Code and Theory’s Dan Gardener and Mike Treff call for an approach to responsive design that goes beyond the screen size of device use, encompassing factors such as location, time of day and duration:

Responsive

The social network Ello launched in March of this year but is now beginning to reach critical mass, with consumers attracted by the promise of a system that isn’t based on pervasive tracking and surveillance. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its critics with Andy Baio pointing out the funding provided by venture capital which may see its more ethical policies watered down with time.

Ello

eMarketer figures point to social media taking a growing overall figure and share of UK’s advertising spend, with Facebook dominating brand’s spend on social networks:

UK Social Ad Spending

 GlobalWebIndex figures on Instagram users doesn’t provide any great surprises with steady growth, younger audience and strong indexing among middle and higher income earners:

Instagram

GlobalWebIndex also provide figures for the often overlooked Viber with 12% of the mobile audience use Viber each month,  providing a valuable reminder of  the diversity in the mobile messaging space.

ReadWrite looks at which countries have the fastest internet with South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong taking the top three places:

Fastest Broadband

Ezekiel J. Emanuel provides a fascinating opinion piece arguing that we should be placing more emphasis on quality rather than quantity of  life. Putting this into a more personal context, he stresses that we would like only palliative rather than curative care after the age of 75:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

Mark Buchanan, drawing on Jaron Lanier’s Who Owns the Future, warns of societal problems associated with the internet with the concentrations of power and the disenfranchising of large sectors of society. Another book to add to the reading list.

We’re seeing telecommuting increasingly promoted as providing flexibility to employees with the potential to better combine the demands of work and home, but it’s not a one sided coin. Lenika Cruz provides a personal account of how working from home aggravated her agoraphobia:

To be clear: Working from home didn’t cause my agoraphobia, it just enabled it. As someone who already had latent anxiety issues, I lacked incentive to prove myself wrong about all the imagined catastrophes that could occur if I were “trapped” somewhere. Telecommuting offered me the retreat I craved, but it helped to reinforce my avoidance patterns. And so the agoraphobia blossomed.

The featured image is a DALeast piece that was created as part of the Dunedin Mural Project and found on Arrested Motion.

Thought Starters

A mixed collection of materials looking at societal trends and the impact of technology on the way we live.

The European Commission has released the Sixth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion. The title might not roll off the tongue but it provides a broad range of European statistics including health outcomes, the environment, human development, demographics, crime, the economy and education among other things:

Change in Population The Economist has created an index of where the best country to be born is by looking at a range of quality of life indicators. Care to move to Switzerland?

Where to be born

Retale have pulled together an interactive infographic using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data to providers users with the opportunity to see how the activities of different audiences vary by demographic in the US:

Time Survey

JWTIntelligence has pulled together a report looking at changing family structures in the US. Among the trends highlighted is the evolving nature of the nuclear family, growth in solo living, multigenerational and silver families and the rise of friends as part of family type networks:

The Internet of Things has been getting a lot of attention from the technology sector. The Wall Street Journal looks to pour some cold water on things by pointing out the failure to institute common standards as providing devices interacting that aren’t from the same brand:

Without a common software standard, devices will remain locked into what the German industry experts calls “island solutions”– brands that have a portfolio of products that can talk with each other but won’t be compatible with other brands.

The number of apps available to smartphone and tablet consumers keeps on expanding, but the average consumer only users four according to research from Nielsen:

App Usage

The GlobalWebIndex continues to infographics providing a window into global consumers use of digital.  Recent releases have looked at where WhatsApp, Vine and Pinterest are making an impact:

WhatsApp

Zeynep Tufekci gives an impassioned defence of Twitter in its current form, pointing to the advantages of surfacing content by the human flock rather than an algorithm:

I honestly doubt that there is an algorithm in the world that can reliably surface such unexpected content, so well. An algorithm can perhaps surface guaranteed content, but it cannot surface unexpected, diverse and sometimes weird content exactly because of how algorithms work: they know what they already know. Yet, there is a vast amount of judgement and knowledge that is in the heads of Twitter users that the algorithm will inevitably flatten as it works from the data it has: past user behavior and metrics.

As Twitter broadens its offering to partners by integrating ecommerce functionality with consumers’ Twitter stream with the  trialling of a Buy now button. Whilst the trial is relatively limited in scope at this stage, we can presumably expect to see it rolling out more widely soon:

Research from AOL Platforms points to Youtube as having an important role in introducing products and closing the sale when compared to other social media:

Purchase Funnel

Facebook’s quarterly earning figures released in July pointed to the company as doing a good job of growing its revenues. Analysis from Neustar suggests this position may well continue given that Facebook’s network offering is proving a leader in terms of reach efficiency and average cost although its position is trumped by ad exchanges in the quality of its audience:

Cost Index Online Advertising

Facebook is looking to be more sensitive to consumers’ privacy concerns with the  launch of its  Privacy Checkup to help users better manage their privacy settings:

A report from PageFair points to a 69% increase in the number of consumers using adblock software in the US, raising concerns that online media may be increasingly threatened by declining ad revenues.

Adobe recently released its U.S. Mobile Benchmark Report providing a range of charts shedding light on how users and marketers are taking advantage of mobile. Among the interesting statistics is the use of GPS location data and use of beacon technology:

Location Data

Another interesting data point to emerge from the Adobe presentation is the flatlining of tablet’s share of page views. This provides further ammunition to some commentators’ arguments that tablets are getting squeezed between phablets (smartphones with screen size between 5.01 to 6.9 inches diagonally) and PCs:

Tablet vs Mobile Usage

The growing importance of phablets is given further credence by Flurry’s recently released figures which point to growing market share and TECHnalysis Research’s forecast for forecasted sales in the coming years:

Unit Forecast by Sales notebooks desktops tablets smartphones phablets
Unit Forecast by Sales notebooks desktops tablets smartphones phablets

Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is likely to provide a boost to its smartphone marketshare.  Samsung on the other hand is likely to find itself increasingly squeezed between Apple above and a growing array of Chinese based manufacturers (Xiaomi, Lenovo, Huawei, Coolpad etc) at the mid to lower end:

Smartphone Market Share

Amazon’s Fire Phone was released with much fanfare in late July but the fact that it’s now dropped the price by $200 suggests it hasn’t been a winner among consumers.

Putting this all in perspective is Benedict Evans’ valuable blog post looking at Amazon’s failure to post a substantial profit despite its large revenues:

Amazon Revenue vs Income

Evans points to Amazon’s willingness to reinvest any potential profits back into the business. Some of these investments aren’t going to be an immediate success, but others such as the Kindle have enabled Amazon to gain a market leading position:

Amazon Profit Model

Reddit gets strongly criticised by T.C. Sottek following its failure to take action on the release of nude celebrity photos:

Reddit, he wrote, is “not just a company running a website where one can post links and discuss them, but the government of a new type of community.” So, then, what type of government is Reddit? It’s the kind any reasonable person would want to overthrow.

Tim Harford looks at how we can improve our forecasting, pointing to better understanding probabilistic reasoning, working collaboratively and being open minded as key contributors:

Masha Gessen looks at how the Russian population is being squeezed between declining birth rates and falling mortality rates, pointing towards a loss of hope as a key contributor:

If this is true—if Russians are dying for lack of hope, as they seem to be—then the question that is still looking for its researcher is, Why haven’t Russians experienced hope in the last quarter century? Or, more precisely in light of the grim continuity of Russian death, What happened to Russians over the course of the Soviet century that has rendered them incapable of hope?

The featured image at the top of the page is a PARKER by GoddoG and DelwooD in Biarritz and found on GoddoG’s Flickr stream.

THOUGHT STARTERS: CONTENT THAT HAS GOT ME THINKING 19

This week is a varied collection of resources. Topics include a look at Japan, Europe’s leading economies, the growing role of mobile, Tesla’s sharing of its intellectual property, collaboration across different industry, rising costs in the tertiary sector and the role of the European white working class. I hope you enjoy it.

David Pilling looks at the intertwined relations of Japan and China in their role of neighbours and competitors and how this reflects Japan’s self image.

Europe’s ten most competitive economies according to the World Economic Forum, with the Nordics definitely coming out ahead.

Europe2020 Competitiveness ReportMarc Andreessen argues that we don’t need to worry about robots eating all the jobs, with technology based innovation providing greater opportunities for modern society.

GlobalWebIndex looks at what devices we are using to get online, PC still on top but mobile growing.

GWIGrowing signs of mobile’s significance as key markets within Europe pass 50% smartphone penetration market according to eMarketer figures.

Smartphone Penetration Europe

The growing penetration of smartphones is reflected in rapid forecasted growth in mobile data and mobile ecommerce reported on in the Ericsson Mobility Report.

Mobile data growth

Mobile Commerce Growth

Whilst they say a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes a words are more appropriate. Econsultancy have pulled together a strong collection of quotes looking at mobile and mobile marketing.

In today’s modern world, people are either asleep or connected.

Janice H. Reinold, Rosetta Marketing

Bubba Murarka looks at the current and future evolution of mobile advertising which he sees as happening over three stages.

Gartner Digital Marketing Transit Map is over a year old now but provides a window into increasingly elaborate world

Gartner Digital Marketing Transit Map

Intellectual property is viewed by many companies as an important economic moat, providing a barrier against encroaching competitors. So it’s been interesting to see commentators response to Tesla Motors sharing its electric vehicle technology, with Sarah Gray pointing out that the brand’s competitor could be more readily defined as petroleum powered car sector rather than other brands’ electric powered vehicles.

Whilst a lot of attention is currently being given to social media, you need to also bear in mind the capabilities of search and email marketing, as reflected in Custora research publicised on Pamorama.

Acquisition Channel Growth

Box have surveyed different industry sectors collaboration pointing to the fact that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all forms

Industry Collaboration

Tertiary education appears to be on an inexorable growth in costs which Thomas Frank takes a critical look at. This growth in costs is putting a university education out of reach of more and more people and is leaving the sector ripe for disruption from organisations like Coursera and Udacity.

Education Inflation

Simon Kuper looks at Europe’s white working class in light of the surging popularity of anti-immigration populists in the European elections drawing on research from the Open Society Foundations.

The Howard Griffin Gallery is fast turning into one of my favourites, with an interesting selection of artists and an intelligent use of their space on Shoreditch High Street. The Bob Mazzer exhibition is no exception.

Clockwell

The featured image is a piece by Matt W. Moore from Brooklyn, New York.

Thought starters: content that has got me thinking 9

The following provides a roundup of some of the articles, thought pieces and content which have got me thinking recently.

Organisational intranets are too often where content goes to die. SmallWorlders look at how to get colleagues interacting more with their organisational intranets.

The Atlantic looks at the difficulties in choosing metrics that give a true representation of website traffic – no one measure is going to provide a cure-all.

Russell Holly gives his verdict on Google Glass – good but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

The rapid growth of the mobile based social network Secret (currently iOS only) has seen a growing interest in user anonymity online. Wired and PandoDaily profile Secret and the the anonymous trend (and Secret’s pseudo anonymity) whilst Chris Poole and Sam Altman give arguments for and against anonymity.

Secret

Wired profiles Amazon’s Flow mobile app which uses image recognition to reduces the hurdle to purchase for mobile users.

The New Yorker takes an extended look at Amazon’s effects on the book industry for consumers and for the publishing sector.

Maserati’s Superbowl television advertisement didn’t exactly send a stampede of customers in the direction of their local Maserati dealerships. Advertising Age has done an interesting analysis on what else Maserati could otherwise have bought with their media budget.

Bitcoin payment solutions are looking less and less like science fiction, so it’s valuable to hear from an ecommerce retailer about their experiences in using the alternative currency.

McKinsey reviews the growth in mass customisation which has been given a boost by various technological innovations and is allowing companies to better engage with their audiences.

Europe’s stalled economic performance has prompted a lot of hand wringing, with the region often criticised for its lack of innovation. INSEAD’s Bruce Lanvin puts this idea under the microscope and provides a rather different conclusion.

Featured image comes from French artist Nelio.

 

Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 4

In the space of two days this week, we saw the launch of Instagram Direct and Twitter’s enabling the inclusion of photos in direct messages. This can be seen as their response to the encroaching presence of mobile messaging services by upgrading their one to one communications.

Social Communications Map Stratechery
Social Communications Map Stratechery

Ben Thompson also looks at the importance of being one of Apple’s featured apps and the growing importance of marketing in the app economy, with more than million now available in the App Store now.

Xiaomi Hugo Barra talks through some of the more interesting innovations in the mobile and ecommerce sector in China.

Having a mobile optimised website is only going to grow in importance as Google factors in load times for mobile devices in the ranking of its search results according as reported in Econsultancy.

Eurostat figures point to the European countries where social networks are more popular, with UK coming out near the front.

The MIT Technology Review has an interesting infographic which points to Twitter’s multicultural profile and the countries where it has the largest presence.

Gmail has traditionally has traditionally required users to enable images when viewing their emails as a means of protecting their privacy. This is about to change as Google caches images within consumers’ emails which prevents the tracking of emails beyond the first opening and their location according to Econsultancy.

We Are Social look at strategies for how to deal with social media when things don’t go quite to plan for organisations and their brands.

Keep Calm and Deal With It, We Are Social
Keep Calm and Deal With It, We Are Social

We Are Social along with Tablexi have also looked at where to employ responsive design as opposed to native apps. Definitely a case of judging situations on a case by case basis.

Wired looks at the array of mobile interactions offered by Apple’s iBeacons, enables richer location based services and bringing Bluetooth to fore. We just need to ensure that brands use this mode responsibly or we’ll see consumers shutting closing off this new channel.

It’s that time of year where we have commentators looking backwards at the year that’s been and forward to the year that is coming. Contagious provides one of the better year reviews with case studies on a range of interesting innovations from around the globe thoughtfully curated.

Most Contagious 2013, Contagious
Most Contagious 2013, Contagious

For a more forward looking guide, you might want to try Carat’s 10 Trends for 2014, which looks at smart devices, push notifications, bluetooth beacons, frictionless payments, location & local, deliveries and health & wellbeing among others. Then again, if this is all proving too much, you can turn to Soap for a more light hearted approach.

New Republic looks at the disruptive effect that Netflix is having on mass culture, creating smaller but potentially more passionate communities of interest.

Community lost can be community gained, and as mass culture weakens, it creates openings for the cohorts that can otherwise get crowded out. When you meet someone with the same particular passions and sensibility, the sense of connection can be profound. Smaller communities of fans, forged from shared perspectives, offer a more genuine sense of belonging than a national identity born of geographical happenstance.

The article also makes the valid point that mass culture only really arrived with television in the mid to late 20th century and its decline shouldn’t be seen as the threat that some people would have us believe.

Image recognition technology keeps on getting smarter with recent advances enabling software to identify consumers cultural affiliations by their style of dress (raver or rockabilly). This will enable further targeting opportunities based on the images and videos consumers share.

Computers Can Now Automatically Stereotype 'Hipsters' and 'Bikers', The Atlantic
Computers Can Now Automatically Stereotype ‘Hipsters’ and ‘Bikers’, The Atlantic

Counter Notions looks at how digital automation is encroaching into print journalism as computers are able to write standardised copy. Whilst the likes of Jeremy Paxman might not have anything to worry about, it is likely to impact on the demand for more basic journalistic roles.

Can robots write sports previews? CounterNotions
Can robots write sports previews? CounterNotions

It is apparently the season of goodwill and design agency Raw have developed Let’s Talk Turkey to get us all to consider the fall guy for many of our Christmas dinners. The site provides simple graphics to explain how turkey came to dominate our Christmas meals and the poor conditions that many turkeys face before landing on our plates.

Let's Talk Turkey
Let’s Talk Turkey