Category Archives: technology

How News Organizations Need to Change in Order to Succeed : NAA MediaXChange Keynote with Rishad Tobaccowala

This morning at the NAA MediaXchange Rishad Tobaccowala gave a provocative keynote session on the future of marketing and advertising and how traditional media companies must leverage new platforms to more effectively serve advertising to customers.

As the Chief Innovation Officer of Chicago-based Publicis Group Media, Rishad is one of the most influential thinkers in the North American advertising industry. It is therefore no surprise that the audience was on the edge of their seats listening intently to Rishad`s advice.

We at Spreed found his talk very interesting considering many of his recommendations push newspapers in the direction of a number of the products and services that we provide (mobile platforms, mobile advertising, location based advertising, etc).

Rishad left with 10 recommendations for newspapers to follow in the future that we would like to share here:

  1. Be schizophrenic – Only the schizophrenic will thrive. Run two or more business models at the same time but make sure they are very separate. Do not make a big mesh of all your models.
  2. Embrace technology – Tech is the new magic. Make sure the follwing ive things are done by the end of this week.
    1. Use an RSS reader and start following your passions through it
    2. Get a Twitter account
    3. Get on Facebook
    4. Get on Foursquare
    5. Go to someone in your company who is younger (probably 2-3 levels below you) and make them your mentor. Take them outside of the company every two weeks and get them to teach you about what is new and upcoming
  3. Embrace the blur – Church and state are too separate within news organizations. All elements of a news organization (sales, editorial, technology) need to work together in the same group.
  4. Learn fast, iterate faster, make mistakes and don’t be afraid to fail.
  5. Do a massive outreach to young people – You want to make the industry exciting. Don`t be swamped with old people. Get youngsters into the industry.
  6. Think about what curating, combining and editing really is
  7. Platforms – Every company needs a platform strategy. How do you attract new partners? What’s your device strategy (iPad, iPhone, etc)? What’s your search strategy?
  8. Make sure that you celebrate the software and technology folks at your organization. Don’t hide them in a room somewhere even if they are strange. Tell them about the business and ask them to solve business issues
  9. Think about  the future of your organization. Thank about your organizational design, incentives, benefits, etc.
  10. This one was a bit odd and I am not sure exactly what he meant by it, but the industry is not anyone but you. there is not industry but yo, embrace the “muchness”. “This is my dream and I am going to decide how it ends”

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iPhone OS 4 Event Review : Stats, Features and iAds

Apple, who are notorious for their big media events, made their official announcement of the iPhone/iPod Touch OS 4.0 features today. There are loads of new features to go through, but I will do my best highlighting the most important ones here.

Firstly some statistics:

  • 300,000 iPad sold on first day of sales. 450,000 iPads sold as of today.
  • iBooks: Users downloaded 250,000 iBooks in the first 24 hours. Users have now downloaded over 600,000.
  • 1 million iPad apps downloaded in the first 24 hours. As of today they’ve downloaded over 3.5 million
  • Users have downloaded over 4 billion apps through iTunes
  • 185,000 apps in the App Store now
  • Over 3,500 iPad apps in the App Store
  • iPhone has 64% mobile browser usage. Everything else combined is just half the iPhone.
  • Over 50 million iPhones have been sold.
  • If you add iPod touches, over 85 million iPhones and iPod touches

Now for OS 4.0

  • Developers can now access calendar, photo library, still and video camera data, quick look, SMS inside their apps.
    • This is great news as event modules can now add events into your actual calendar.
    • Articles can now be shared via SMS within the application without needing to leave the app
  • Automated testing tool that Apple uses internally to decided whether an app will be accepted or rejected is now publicly available.
    • This means that the app approval process is much more open and it will speed up the overall approval process
  • A few new features: Create playlists, 5x digital zoom in camera, Bluetooth keyboards, spell check, gift apps, Tap to focus video, Places in Photos, Home screen wallpaper, file & delete mail search results, web search from sugestions,Larger fonts for Mail, SMS & Alerts, Rotate photos, Sync IMAP notes, iPod out, Wake on wireless, Folders.
  • Multitasking is here! Jobs likens it to cut, copy and paste. “Not the first, but the best.”
  • Apps keep track of where you were and can start right back up again.
  • iBookstore on iPhone as per our predictions in this blog post
  • Better data protection. Encrypt all your e-mail, including attachments with PIN codes.
  • Mobile device management. Letting IT managers to deploy iPhones and manage them remotely.
  • Wireless app distribution. Companies can push out custom apps over the air instead of relying on an iTunes sync.
    • This is great for corporate apps as they no longer have to be distributed through iTunes

There is much more, but this is all they had time to highlight

iAds

iAd’s is Apple’s new advertising network. They will be managing all the inventory and from the sounds of it they will be taking 40%. All ad units are built in HTML5 and get served up in the application without having to go to an external site. Spreed is doing something very similar, but NO development skills are necessary.

  • Jobs says Apple wants to help developers make money off their creations, but says that “most of this mobile advertising really sucks, and we thought we might be able to make some contributions.”
  • Jobs says ads are easy on the desktop b/c of search. But people are spending all their time within apps. “This is where the opportunity to deliver advertising is,”

  • Jobs: Average user is spending 30 minutes a day using apps. That’s 10 ads per device each day.
  • We want to get 1 billion ad impressions per day by the end of the year.
  • Jobs: deliver “interaction” and “emotion”Something that’s in the middle of where Web ads are, and ads on your TV.

  • Jobs said it was annoying for people to click on an in-app ad b/c it would take them out of whatever they were doing.
  • Devs can add iAd in their apps for a 60% split of the revenues. All the sales and inventory are handled by Apple.
  • Ads have access to much of the same APIs as apps, like location and some level of accelerometer access
  • Jobs demoed a Toy Story and Nike ad
    • All the animations are interactive, and crazy smooth.
    • It’s not so much about the content of the app, but the interactivity
    • He’s flipping through the app: it’s offering up the history of nike ads, allowing you to flip through the years to see all the shoes throughout history
    • He pulls up the app with the Nike ad. It puls up an Air Jordan 2010 clip

So the run down on iAd’s is that it is great for developers in that it will be very easy to monetize apps. However, this is not a great solution for publishers and media companies. Apple will be taking 40% of all ad revenue and they are administering the inventory (you cannot retain your ad sales teams). In addition I am skeptical as to how deep their ability to target advertising will be. They have one piece of the puzzle and that is strong creative advertising, but they do not address targeting. Because they do not parse, control or index the content and because they do not understand user behavior, it will be hard to do deep targeting which is one of the main promises of mobile advertising.

Julie Ask of Forrester Research backs up my point about iAds not being for big publishers in her blog post on OS 4.0 with these two points

  1. We didn’t hear a lot about targeting – making use of past purchase behavior, day-to-day use of applications, etc. We did hear about location. Knowing that I have downloaded and am using the latest Audi application or browsing automotive sites on my iPhone might indicated that I am in the market for a car – that would be valuable information to automotive OEM’s. Knowing that I buy alternative rock music or that I read mysteries adds other dimensions. Location – given the structure of how they sell ads – this will more likely be purchased by large, national companies with stores throughout the country. Location (from the consumer’s perspective) will be more interesting when it helps me find local mom and pop stores that better match my interests.
  2. We didn’t hear much on analytics for the advertisers. This will be interesting to watch as the more effective Apple can be in demonstrating ROI – bought movie tickets, purchased a Nike shirt, bought the movie Toy Story – the more advertisers will spend. They’ll spend on branding now, but I think they’ll spend more if they can drive sales.

What is good though is that it will super charge the agencies to begin selling ads as they can utilize their existing skills sets to build strong creatives. Jobs just did to the mobile ad industry what he did to the mobile industry in general 2 years ago.

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Is The Mobile Web More Popular Than Reading?

The European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA) recently released a study on European usage of the mobile web. According the EIAA a whopping 71 million European’s use the mobile web on a weekly basis. They also found that on average European surf the web for an average of 6.4 hours a week.

Where the study falls apart in our eyes is how they compare these stats to the average number of hours a typical European spends reading traditional news/magazines a week (4.1 hours). The study concludes that people are reading news and magazines more on the mobile web than traditionally. This seems like a flawed assumption considering that most of these reported users are in a younger demographic and are probably surfing Facebook and other geographically relevant social networks, not reading a news website.

I have no doubt that in the near future we will see more people reading the news through mobile applications and websites than traditional forms of media. However, it is important that we stay grounded in the statistics and not act to hastily.

An interesting next study for the EIAA would be to segment their data in order to find out how much of the 6.4 hours a week Europeans are spending on actual news and magazine mobile sites.

The mobile web is clearly on the rise and here at Spreed we are constantly asked whether the right mobile strategy for a publishing company is to launch a mobile website or whether it’s best to just launch an application. This is worthy of a blog post in itself, however  simply put we do not think that the two are mutually exclusive. In this increasingly mobile world that we live in, it is necessary to work on both strategies as they each address specific goals and challenges.

The mobile web is great for sharing and receiving links on the go. Mobile applications on the other hand serve the purpose of content discovery. More information to come in a future blog post 🙂

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Flurry Smartphone Industry Pulse, February 2009: Traditional Media Dominating the News Category

Flurry, a mobile analytics company known for their strong industry statistics released their February report today. The report is interesting as it relates to the consistent surge of iPhone developers and their unique demographics. What is interesting to our readers is the specific attention it gave to the news category. As expected traditional media sources are dominating the news category. This is mostly due to the fact that it is not easy to simply start publishing the news and creating content. What it does point out though is that the iPhone and other smartphones are very useful channels to distribute content very inexpensively and target a very attractive demographic.

Possibly, more interesting is the rise of online news sources on the iPhone. Flurry believes that with the release of the iPad we are going to see an even strong supply and demand for blogs and other online media sources. It is therefore essential that if your newspaper does not have an app now, to act fast. If you wait too long, the online media sources will own the real estate on users phones and other mobile devices.  More below and in the report.

Like gaming, the creation of compelling content in News is a specialized and costly operation. To source and report quality news, companies often have to span various media such as TV broadcast, radio and print, which further increases cost. It’s therefore no surprise that Traditional Media dominates the News category, controlling nearly two thirds. For traditional media (e.g., New York Times, ABC News, NPR, etc.), the iPhone represents a large channel through which to distribute their existing content. The small incremental cost of expanding the distribution of Traditional Media’s core content, and the attractiveness of reaching an educated, affluent and tech-savvy audience, makes iPhone the perfect platform through which to serve news. Looking forward, the iPad creates an even greater opportunity to increase reach because its larger screen size works better works for newspaper and magazine layouts, as well as TV broadcast.

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Pew Research Center Study on the Participatory News Consumer

Yesterday, The Pew Research Center released a new report on the state of news consumers, specifically focusing on the behaviors and habits of digital consumers. What was interesting about this report was the focus that it put on mobile. Click here to be taken to the mobile section of the report. In summary the report finds the follow:

Some 80% of American adults have cell phones today, and 37% of them go online from their phones. The impact of this new mobile technology on news gathering is unmistakable. One quarter (26%) of all Americans say they get some form of news via cell phone today — that amounts to 33% of cell phone owners. These wireless news consumers get the following types of news on their phones:

Wireless news consumers have fitted this “on-the-go” access to news into their already voracious news-gathering habits. They use multiple news media platforms on a typical day, forage widely on news topics and browse the web for a host of subjects.

Among this subgroup of internet-using mobile phone users, Pew found that the vast majority get some kind of news online:

  • 72% check weather reports on their cell
  • 68% get news and current events information on their cell
  • 49% have downloaded an application that allows them to access news, weather, sports, or other information on their cell
  • 44% check sports scores and related information on their cell
  • 35% check traffic information on their cell
  • 32% get financial information or updates
  • 31% get news alerts sent by text or email to their phones
  • 88% say yes to at least one of the above

These are very interesting statistics and the report shows that mobile users and more engaged with their news brands and appreciate news more when it is highly interactive.

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Congratulations to the Guardian

The UK’s Guardian is one of the most innovative newspapers in the world when it comes to digital media. About two months ago they launched their iPhone app which costs $3.99 in the iTunes app store. In only two months they have broken the 100,000 download mark which means they have made a staggering $400,000 – 30% that goes to Apple.

This is great news and something newspaper publishers around the world should be paying attention to. Not only does it prove that consumers want to read their news through native mobile applications, but it also proves that they are willing to pay for this privilege.

A big round of applause go to the entire Guardian Digital Team for their pioneering work in the mobile media ecosystem. Congrats!

Download the app here

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BBC Mobile Apps, BBC Trust, The NPA and Lots of Drama

Last week at the Mobile World Congress, the BBC announced its plans to launch two iPhone applications. Until now the BBC has had a rather weak presence in the app store. Their app simply displayed a list of new articles from their site and then launched a web based version of the article in a safari browser. This was far from an optimal strategy if the BBC really wanted to leverage their brand on the mobile front.

By not optimizing the page for mobile devices there was really no reason for users to download their application. In addition none of the advertising was optimized for the iPhone, so CTR’s were probably very close to 0. That’s all in the past now and as of last week they have announced plans to release a proper news application in April as well as a sports application that will also cover the upcoming World Cup of Soccer (along with live radio feeds of the games).

This seems like a pretty obvious move for a news organization these days, no? Well apparently not! The BBC is a government run organization and although it is quite progressive and recently has been run very much like a business, it is still held in check by the BBC Trust. In the past two months we have seen the launch and re-launch of a number of major national British newspaper apps – i.e. The Telegraph and The Guardian. These apps are both best of breed mobile news readers and have claimed the top spots in the UK iTunes News category. These publishers, as well as a number of other publishers from the Newspaper Publishers Association (NPA – a very powerful association made up of all the national newspapers in the UK) are yelling foul saying that the BBC’s new app strategy will distort the market.

This is a very interesting case of private and public news organizations fighting it out in a very new arena. We will clearly be following what happens as the NPA is currently in the process of  lobbying the BBC Trust and the British Department of Culture, Media and Sport to effectively have the applications banned. David Newell, the NPA’s director, summarized his organization’s argument in a terse and biting statement:

“Not for the first time, the BBC is preparing to muscle into a nascent market and trample over the aspirations of commercial news providers. At a time when the BBC is facing unprecedented levels of criticism over its expansion, and when the wider industry is investing in new models, it is extremely disappointing that the Corporation plans to launch services that would throw into serious doubt the commercial sector’s ability to make a return on its investment, and therefore its ability to support quality journalism.”

What is your take on this? Will the entrance of a real BBC app strategy hurt the current publishers? Will it distort the market or will it lead to greater competition and therefore increased innovation in the news app space? I know here in Canada the CBC (a Crown Corporation) has been aggressively working in the app space. They have built out an internal mobile team and are planning to push out a number of apps over 2010. Their CBC Radio application has held the #1 spot in the Canadian iTunes News category for some time now. If the CBC can do this, why can’t the BBC? We would love to hear from you. Should the BBC be allowed to release the application or not and if not, why? Let us know!

Update (2/26/2010):

An interesting piece popped up on the Times website today, however I am not sure whether this will have an effect on the future of the BBC’s iPhone apps. The piece talks about the end to an era of expansion for the BBC. The piece explains that the BBC will be cutting down most of its radio, TV and internet operations to allow for a level playing field with their corporate competitors. There are two quotes that really stand out to me here:

“Mark Thompson, the Director-General, will admit that the corporation, which is funded by the £3.6 billion annual licence fee, has become too large and must shrink to give its commercial rivals room to operate.”

and

“It will be seen as an attempt to show a potential Tory government that the BBC understands the effect the deep advertising recession has had on commercial rivals and that it does not need outside intervention to get its house in order.”

It appears that the BBC is going to be moving from their expansionary strategy and focus on quality over quantity. As I stated I am not sure whether this will have an effect on their app strategy, but it sounds like it may. The article can be found here and is definitely worth reading.


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