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.

Thought Starters: innovation, incomes, employment and happiness

The following is a collection of articles and thought pieces highlighting interesting trends, developments and changes in the world you and I live in, with an emphasis on technology:

The Global Innovation Report as the name suggests ranks the innovation levels of various countries. The Economist recently published the following which points to Britain doing strongly:

Global Innovation Ranking

Figures from the US Census Bureau indicate growth in jobs but no commensurate increase in median incomes as represented in the following graph from the Economic Policy Institute:

Real Median Household Income

Whilst there’s been a lot of noise about the growing wealth of the top 1%, analysis by the Brookings Institute points to the relative success of the upper middle class in the US in recent years:

“While the rise in income and wealth at the very top is eye-catching, it also distracts attention from the action a little lower down the income distribution. The idea that the real divide is between ordinary members of the bottom 99 percent and the rich 1 percent is a dangerous one, since it makes it easier for those in the upper middle class to convince themselves they are in the same economic boat as the rest of America; they’re not.”

Maintaining overall income is not going to get any easier in the future due to an ageing population, with Morgan Stanley figures point to a decline in the total working population since 2005:

Working Age Population

There’s been lots of speculation recently on the effect that technology is having on the labour market. James Bessen suggests that we’re looking at a process of displacement rather than replacement of labour with a need for a labour force that is more adept at using technology:

“While technology takes over some tasks, it also increases demand for goods and services and hence increases demand for workers performing the remaining tasks. Instead of just eliminating jobs, new jobs are also created, sometimes in different occupations.”

Eurostat figures point to where Europeans spend comparatively more (or less) of their income on proportionately. Rather surprised to find UK’s spend on alcohol and tobacco to be lower than the European average:

European Household Spending

Marco Arment’s launch and then pulling of the Peace adblocker for iOS has led to renewed focus on the plight of the online media industry. Ben Thompson takes a look at some of the key pressures facing the industry and comes up with some recommendations if they want to be profitable.

Among the recent announcements at Apple’s Special Event on the 0th of September was the launch of the iPhone Upgrade Programme. Benedict Evans‘ takes a closer look at the initiative and how it shifts the balance of power from the mobile networks to Apple.

It’s also worth reading Benedict Evans’ piece critiquing talk of the  mobile internet given that internet access via mobile devices is increasingly the norm rather than the exception

Facebook has updated its Pages offering as it looks to provide a more relevant platform  for small businesses’ which includes an ecommerce offering and better design for mobile users:

Facebook Pages Update

Adam Piore writing for Nautilus looks at the role of human contact in making us happy and the impact that social networks are having on these relationships.

The featured image is a piece called Huemul produced by Pastel in Buenos Aires and published in StreetArtNews.

 

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