Thought Starters provides me with a chance to look through articles, research and opinion pieces, highlighting interesting trends, developments and changes in the world you and I live in. Among the stories and research we look at in this edition are the habits of children and young adults, the growth of Facebook Messenger, grey zone conflicts, the gender pay gap and lots more.
There’s been growing speculation that Twitter may increase the character length of its posting as it looks to get ahead of Facebook in its user growth stakes (see below). Shira Ovide gives a strong argument for retaining it as it is, although I would argue there’s definitely scope for excluding links, images and video URLs from tweets’ character limit:
Younger audiences given an indication of future habits of the general population. Dan Kopf analysis young adults habits in the American Time Use Survey which unsurprisingly points to growing gaming, computer use and reading and decline in time spent watching television:
Benedict Evans on the other hand has used Ofcom’s Children and parents: Media use and attitudes report to look at the habits of British children which points to the substantial transition to mobile phones and tablets:
Flurry has released their analysis of Europeans’ use of smartphones and tablets based on their app data which shows wide variations in device penetration as well as giving clues on how mobile devices are being used:
Facebook has done a great job of transitioning to a mobile world with 78% of its ad revenues now coming from mobile. Facebook though is not one to rest on its laurels, with Facebook Messenger seen as a key component in strengthening its hold on mobile consumers. Facebook has just published a review of highlights for Messenger from 2015 which gives an indication of the social network’s ambitions for the mobile messaging service:
As mobile phones approach market saturation in developed markets, consumer electronics brands are looking to new categories for a boost in their revenues. Unfortunately for the brands, Accenture‘s global research profiled by Matt Rosoff suggests that consumers aren’t getting caught up in the hype for new products despite a growing array of offerings:
Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey points to growing marketing budgets and an emphasis on digital commerce, innovation, sales conversion and customer retention. You can find further analysis of the survey results from Simon Yates who points among things to the blurring distinction between offline and online marketing:
Interested in knowing what jobs are likely to keep you employed into the future? The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis has analysed employment and unemployment rates for jobs on the basis of how routinised and levels of cognition which might give you some pointers whether you need to be retraining:
Figures from Bloomberg point to the substantial cuts in employment some banks have taken post financial crisis. It might be rather too optimistic to hope that those people whose actions fueled the crisis might have been among the first to leave:
Cass R. Sunstein profiles Gabriel Zucman’s The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens, examining the growing role that tax havens play in enabling corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Zucman’s analysis provides a guide to the scale of the problem and also points to the successes and failures different institutions have had in addressing the problem of tax evasion:
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, you might expect that there would be an international crackdown on the use of tax havens, and as we shall see, international attention is indeed growing. But the numbers demonstrate that no crackdown has occurred. In Luxembourg, offshore wealth actually increased from 2008 to 2012 (by 20 percent). In Switzerland, the increase has been comparable; foreign holdings are now close to an all-time high. Disturbingly, the new wealth is coming mostly from developing countries, which poses a serious problem in light of the severe strains on their limited budgets.
China’s economy is going through a rough patch, with the share market in a nose dive. Given the over inflated valuation of many of the assets. Given the overinflated value of many of the assets in the country’s equity markets, this trend is unlikely to change (unless the government chooses to prop it up):
High profile Silicon Valley venture capitalist Paul Graham’s recent blog posting in which he argues that income inequality per se is not a bad has inevitably kicked up a storm of reactions. Among the more nuanced responses is Ben Thompson’s analysis who points to the risks and benefits associated with a more deregulated economy and calls out for the need for a strong social safety net that is independent of our employers:
Technology is changing the world, and it is naive to not expect the world to begin to push back. Rather than always be reactionary, it is past time for the technology industry broadly and Silicon Valley in particular to get serious about what that world will look like in the future, especially given the fact there is actually a way forward that is a win for not just technology companies and their investors, but for those who are impacted — i.e. everyone. Just as we should separate the means by which Uber allocates drivers from the ability to pay for a ride, it makes sense to separate work from the provision of a social safety net, and those most able to capitalize on this new world order should be the most willing to pay.
The conflict in Syria and the resulting flood of refugees fleeing to Europe is unfortunately leading to an anti immigration backlash in many European countries. Victims aside from the refugees fleeing harm in the middle of a European winter include the Schengen Agreement which previously allowed the free flow of people across much of mainland Europe:
Peter Pomerantsev uses the examples of China in the South China Sea, Russia in Crimea and Syria and ISIS with its terrorist attacks to highlight the growing importance of messy grey zone conflicts around the world:
It’s a brave new war without beginning or end, where the borders of peace and war, serviceman and civilian have become utterly blurred—and where you and I are both a target and a weapon.
Whilst we’re on the subject of globalisation and its impacts, The Economist has updated its Big Mac Index, pointing to who is paying over the odds for their guilty pleasure:
The Freakonomics podcast is one of my regular listening appointments and this week’s edition looking at the causes and effects of the gender pay gap is well worth downloading.
The featured mural is by eko from his Flickr page.