Thought Starters: potential for micropayments, notifications and a closer look at WeWork

The following is a look through articles, infographics and opinion pieces highlighting interesting trends, developments and changes in the world you and I live in, with an emphasis on technology.

As the online media sector grapples with the impact of ad blockers on their business model, we’re likely to see growing interest in micropayments. Frédéric Filloux profiles Dutch platform Blendle and how their business model takes a collaborative approach with media operators:

“Blendle benefits from exceptionally favorable trade winds. The traditional advertising model is crumbling under the pressure of programmatic buying and of the pervasiveness of adblockers. In addition, Blendle also takes advantage of limitations in paywall models that mostly target the heavy, affluent users segment, but exclude the younger audiences that are Blendle’s main target (today two-third of Blendle users are under 35). From the legacy media perspective, this makes the paid-by-the-article system more attractive than ever.”

Figures from comScore in the US point to mobile and tablet app usage following the power law with a few apps monopolising consumers’ attention:Time spent per app

John Borthwick profiles the role of notifications as the smartphone becomes the centre of our digital lives:

“Right now we are witnessing another round of unbundling as the notification screen becomes the primary interface for mobile computing. It’s easy to get fixated with notifications as a feature — they are a feature for an app. But they are also part of this broader unbundling cycle and they are part of an architectural shift from pull to a push. It’s an interesting time.”

Steve Cheney looks at how Apple has used its expertise in microchips to carve out a competitive advantage in smartphones with potential to do the same in other market categories.

WeWork is positioning itself more as disruptive tech startup rather than traditional property company as a means of buttressing its market valuation. Nitasha Tiku takes a closer look and asks whether the company is really that different from more traditional commercial property providers:

“These slides show how easy it is to create a good-looking growth curve — not just for WeWork, but for all of its peers in the current tech climate. “You put together a model. It spits out whatever it spits out based on the inputs,” Sussman told BuzzFeed News. “I always say, ‘If you gave David Copperfield or Harry Potter Microsoft Excel, they could do even more amazing magic.’” The basis for WeWork’s five-year forecasts, he said, all rests on its assumptions. “Key metrics like membership growth, pricing, and square footage leased drive the whole model. Change those inputs and everything changes.” Input in, pivot out.”

On the topic of startups and their respective valuations, the following slide provides an interesting look at how Slack is miles ahead in terms of the value of each customer according to L2:

Valuations per user

Having grown up (at least initially) with the printed word, it’s fascinating to see the growth of YouTube as an information channel for the under 55s according to Ofcom research:

Sources used when looking for information online

The Pew Research Center has released figures looking at how social media usage has changed over the last 10 years. No great revelations but an interesting window into how usage has grown and how it does (or doesn’t) vary by age, gender, education and income:

Social Media vs Income

Corporate taxation (or the lack thereof) continues to pop up in the headlines with Facebook apparently paying out just £4,327 in tax UK despite giving out £35m in staff bonuses according to a Guardian report. Among the tricks of the trade are the use of offshore shore bases which The Economist highlights with FDI inflows:

FDI inflows as percentage of GDP

Using figures from the American Community Survey, the United States Census Bureau points to women overtaking men in having a bachelor degree or higher in the US (although pay equity looks much further off):

Comparison of Gender vs Tertiary Qualification in US

Whilst Britain’s role in Europe may be in question with talk of Brexit, English becomes increasingly dominant among languages taught in primary schools in the European Union according to the Pew Research Center:

Growing dominance of English language in Europe

The featured image is Dark Perimeter / Basic Primary Shapes by the Argentinian artist Elian Chali for Nuit Blanche in Brussels and published in StreetArtNews.

Trends to Watch: Bitcoin reducing hurdles

I was asked to have a look at some of the trends that I feel are likely to have a considerable impact on the consumer landscape. This is the third in the series, after pieces on mobile enhanced retail and quantified health.

There has been a lot of debate in the business press about the opportunity Bitcoin presents to investors. Whilst the future value of Bitcoin is a point of considerable debate, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are likely to have considerable impact on how consumers buy and transfer funds in the future.

Traditional online and foreign exchange payment systems take significant fees for the purchase of goods and conversion of currencies, with typically higher fees in the developing world.

Using Bitcoin provides the opportunity to avoid these gatekeepers (and some of their protections), lowering the fees encountered by consumers and businesses. For consumers, this has the potential to ease payments abroad, reduce prices and enable the purchase of new goods and services via micropayments.  It’s in the growth of micropayments that we are likely to see the most significant change for consumers, as businesses are able to fund services that were previously uneconomic (eg payment for access by article rather than for the whole publication for online media).

Kipochi: Getting money back to loved ones

Kenyan based Kipochi provides a mobile app enabling consumers to send funds internationally. This provides an important innovation for remittance payments given the 10% charge that Western Union and other money transfer agencies typically charge.

Kipochi

BitWall: Making it easier to support publishers

BitWall gives web publishers the opportunity to charge visitors to their online content via a small one off Bitcoin payment, subscription, via tweeting or watching an advert. Bitwall system integrates with the Coinbase digital wallet system enabling conversion between Bitcoin and US$.

BitWall

Fancy: Fancy that?

Ecommerce website and social network Fancy now provides consumers with the opportunity to pay by Bitcoin. Similarly, ecommerce operators using Shopify are now Bitcoin enabled via integration with BitPay.

Fancy Bitcoin

BitTag: How much is that?

One of the problems retailers face in introducing Bitcoin payments is the fluctuating value of the cryptocurrency. This can be more readily managed for ecommerce but provides a bit more of a challenge for bits and mortar retail. BitTag have looked to overcome this by introducing digital price tags which give real-time pricing of goods in Bitcoin.

BitTag
BitTag