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Thought Starters

Thought Starters: Facebook grows, software as the new oil and the music industry evolves

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

Facebook’s release of quarterly financials point to strong growth in mobile users and video although costs grew at as faster rate than revenue. This seen a reshuffling of the S&P 500 in the US with the social networking overtaking a still healthy General Electric and Amazon.

Biggest S&P 500 Companies by Market Cap

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson points to software as taking the place of oil in securing a disproportionate share of the global economy’s economic surplus going forward:

“Companies that control the software infrastructure of the information revolution will sit back and collect the economic surplus of the information revolution and that will be a path to vast wealth and economic power. It has already happened but I think we are just beginning to see the operating leverage of these software based business models.”

We’ve seen a growing number of startups pass the $1bn valuation mark in recent years but a much smaller number have chosen to expose themselves to closer scrutiny and take themselves public. One of the enablers of this has been the availability of venture capital which is looking more and more like traditional debt financing:

“This is hardly an equity instrument at all,” says Altman. “Investors are buying debt but dressing it up close enough to equity to maintain their venture capital fund exemption status. In a world of 0 percent interest rates, people become pretty focused on finding new sources for fixed income.”

Consumers’ media consumption habits are inevitably changing when faced with a growing array of choices. Traditional television channels have up until recently managed to hold its own but Liam Boluk’s analysis points a substantial drop in viewing habits among younger consumers in the US:

Change in Time Spent Watching Television in the US

Content marketing appeared to provide an obvious choice for many brands looking to engage with their audiences providing relevant content in return for consumers’ attention. As Greg Satell points out, it’s not quite that easy as a growing glut of content is making it harder for companies to get their brand noticed unless your content really stands out:

“Yet despite these scattered successes, there is mounting evidence that most marketers’ content efforts are failing.  The Content Marketing Institute reports that although the majority of B2B and B2C marketers have some kind of content marketing program, less than 40% find those efforts effective.  Clearly, things need to improve.”

Songkick’s Ian Hogarth points to the convergence of radio, on-demand music and concert ticketing as reshaping the music industry, with data enabling musicians to foster a closer connections with their audiences:

“The integration of these three, previously distinct industries will produce a richer experience for artists and fans, unlock a ton of additional subscription, ticketing and advertising revenue for artists and create a better experience for fans. It will resolve the central tension between fans, artists and technology companies that so much ink has been spilled about.”

David Pakman argues strongly that as the automotive sector evolves with the introduction of electrification, software and data, traditional manufacturers will be poorly placed to fend off competition from new entrants:

“I am confident many of the existing automotive companies will produce cars with autonomous features. And some of them will be quite good. And eventually they will produce some fully autonomous electric cars too. In the meantime, there are many super-strong, thoughtful entrepreneurs with lots of incredible hardware and software experience working to fundamentally redefine what consumers should expect from cars.”

Chrissie Giles provides a fascinating look at Britain’s changing relationship with alcohol as the industry adapted to changing societal norms and trends which saw UK reach ‘peak booze’ in 2004:

“As the new century began, alcohol was easier to access, cheaper to buy and more enthusiastically marketed than it had been for decades. By 2004, Brits were drinking well over twice as much as they had been half a century earlier. The nation stood atop Peak Booze, and my generation was drinking the most.”

There’s a general expectation that we should see health statistics improve over time with advancements in healthcare seeing many problems either addressed or mitigated.  So it’s rather shocking to see research from Anne Case and Angus Deaton point to growing mortality among non-hispanic middle aged males in the US:

America's middle-aged mortality

The featured image is by Argentinean artist Pastel in Playa del Carmen, México published in StreetArtNews.

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Thought Starters

Thought Starters: Content that has got me thinking 14

The Next Web charts the inexorable rise of HTML5 as Flash becomes increasingly marginalised in a multi device world.

Jean-Louis Gassée looks at the role of the iPad as its growth slows and a role which is arguably stuck in the no mans land between smartphone and PC.

No longer charmingly simple, but not powerful enough for real productivity tasks. But if the iPad wants to cannibalize more of the PC market, it will have to remove a few walls.

Juan Pablo Vazquez Sampere argues that high-end disruption has a much lower chance of success than low-end disruption, and lays out some preconditions for where its more likely to be successful.

Drawing on the topic of disruption is Benedict Evans’ where he explores  situations where innovations and changes in market conditions enable ‘unfair’ competition.

An unfair comparison generally means an unfair advantage, and this isn’t the Olympics – unfair is good. Customers don’t care if a company’s advantage is unfair. Investors don’t care. Unfair advantages are often the best kind. 

Sameer Singh looks at the changes that Project Ara‘s modular view of smartphone could bring to the smartphone sector, providing a disruptive force within the smartphone market.

Project Ara scattered parts

Horace Dediu explores the concept of innovation, contrasting it with novelty, creation and invention.

The Atlantic explores changes to employment in the American retail sector which is being turned on its head by the movement to large format retail stores and the growth of ecommerce.

For consumers, there’s never been a better time to buy stuff. It’s not such a happy story for the people on the shopping floor and behind the counters.

Simply Business provides an interactive infographic looking at Apple, Amazon, Google, Yahoo and Facebook’s acquisitions over the the last ten years.

Hungry Tech Giants

Needing to polish up your social media guidelines? The UK’s Government Digital Service has just released their Social Media Playbook, which should make a good starting point.

Robert Newman in conjunction with other commentators looks at the mixed performance of app based digital magazines and the opportunities provided by digital magazines in the future.

Mindy McAdams explores emerging forms of digital journalism online, that includes reference to examples from the Council on Foreign RelationsDigital First Media, NPR and National Geographic.

Whilst we are on the subject of digital journalism, it is worth exploring Bloomberg’s How Americans Die which uses interactive infographics to explore mortality and its causes in the USA.

How Americans Die

Vision Critical and Crowd Companies infographic looking at the collaborative economy. You can find more detailed coverage in their report Sharing is the New Buying.

A Taxonomy of the Collaborative EconomyDavid Hepworth argues that the power is shifting from content creators to digital distribution platforms in the news, music and entertainment industry.

In responding to this traditional media owners are having to recognise that content in itself is not enough.

GfK looks at the newspaper industries exploration of different strategic options as audiences move increasingly online. The Blizzard, The Sun and the Financial Times are held up as interesting examples of brands adapting to new environments.

Angus Steakhouses are seemingly imprevious to London’s culinary renaissance. The Independent explores their continuing success despite the increasingly refined tastes of London residents.

George & Jonathan provide a data visualisation of a different kind, bringing their music to life.

George & jonathanThe featured image is a Stohead mural in Linz, Austria found on StreetArtNews.