It’s just another week at Uber; Alphabet says ‘domo arigato, Mr. Roboto’; AI for marketers is really hard; Lyft is getting serious about autonomous vehicles; lessons from the WSJ’s paywall; the positive (and negative) about thought leadership in B2B settings; Amazon battles Walmart; Twitter’s live video success; the danger of posting to a Facebook Group; one app accounts for 30 percent of mobile usage in China; streaming services surpass cable; news radio listening is on the rise; Instagram is being used for malware; more efficient marketing through untapped data; the role of the CEO in transformation; and more in the Uber emergency board meeting edition of The Full Monty. Be sure you subscribe to The Full Monty podcast, and don’t forget check out where Brain+Trust is speaking (final section below).
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Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Autonomous
The latest in AI, machine learning, bots, and autonomous everything.
- Alphabet has agreed to sell its two robotics divisions, Boston Dynamics and Schaft, to Japanese telecom company SoftBank. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.
- AI is ubiquitous and it’s improving in execution. So much so in fact, that half of people who encounter artificial intelligence don’t even realize it.
- Machine learning and constant data ingestion may mean that AI companies may be the ultimate defensible business models.
- Nuance announced that companies using its Nina assistant will now be able to interact with customers through platforms that support Amazon Alexa.
- Christopher Penn has a multi-part series on AI for marketers. In part 1, he looks at why artificial intelligence and machine learning is harder. And as a side note, if you haven’t figured out marketing yet, AI is going to be insurmountable.
- Who says bots can’t be fun? A programmer developed AI to deal with Windows scammers.
- GM wants to drive the future of autonomous vehicles. It owns an autonomous vehicle startup, invested $500MM into Lyft, and partnered with two autonomous vehicle companies. So that’s three autonomous vehicle connections for GM.
- Lyft itself is trying to catch up on autonomous cars, with more partnerships, including nuTonomoy, as part of its Open Platform Initiative.
- “But where’s my flying car?” is a refrain you’ll still consistently hear amid technology advances. Well, perhaps it’s not the purview of an auto company. Enter Airbus, who wants to test the future of autonomous flying cars this year.
Industry developments and trends, including retail, fake news, customer experience, content marketing, and influencer relations.
- Millennials are addicted to checking their social media feeds. According to a study by Qualtrics and Accel, 42% of millennial respondents said they couldn’t last more than five hours without checking their feeds; only 26% of GenXers hadn’t gone five hours, and 29% of baby boomers said the same.
- After blocking Google users from reading free articles in February, the Wall Street Journal’s subscription business soared, with a fourfold increase in the rate of visitors converting into paying customers. But there was a trade-off: traffic from Google plummeted 44%.
- Thought leadership can have a positive impact throughout the purchase funnel, with increasing admiration and building trust listed as the top two reasons. But poor quality content may ultimately drive decision-makers away, according to an Edelman and LinkedIn survey of more than 1,300 US business decision-makers.
- As you market your company, it’s instructive to remember that what people want to buy is better versions of themselves. “Here’s what our product can do” vs. “here’s what you can do with our product” sound similar, but they’re completely different approaches.
- In the new book, Rich and Pretty, Rumaan Alam recalls “When I worked in advertising, I took solace in knowing that my task was, fundamentally, to tell stories… Our society’s most successful storytellers are probably the people who make television commercials.”
- Design is becoming more important in creating an end-to-end customer experience. Lines between products, services, and user environments are blurring. The ability to craft an integrated customer experience will open enormous opportunities to build new businesses.
- From Digiday: brands are treating influencers like ad agencies. And therein lies the problem with influencer marketing: take what should be a relationship and turning it into a transaction.
THIS WEEK IN RETAIL:
- It’s been a tough week for the retail industry, with more than 1,000 stores closing their doors for good. Luxury retailer Michael Kors announced it would be closing over 100 locations, and electronics giant Radio Shack closed 1,000 locations across America.
- For users of Microsoft’s Edge browser, Cortana can do price comparisons while you’re shopping online. Cortana will alert users if there are better deals to be had via the browser’s address bar.
- Amazon is going after Walmart with a 45% discount on Prime for lower-income customers. This shows how much Walmart has been able to put Amazon on notice with its recent moves. No word on whether Amazon will accept the same variety of payments that Walmart does, though.
THIS WEEK IN FAKE NEWS:
- Ad network Revcontent launched anti-fake news initiative. A reminder: Revcontent is a network that works with 21 sites that post fake news. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.
- An instructive example of how a misinformed tweet ricocheted all over the Internet, leading to broadcast outlets.
- A new Twitter account hack is spreading fake news in Venezuela. Read on to see just how clever this ruse is.
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News to know about relevant social, virtual, and augmented reality platforms that may affect your business.
TWITTER / PERISCOPE
- Twitter is showing itself to be a powerful live video platform. During last week’s Senate hearings with James Comey, 2.7 million users tuned in, with 88% of logged-in live viewers under the age of 35.
- A new bot account has taken off in popularity, giving the President’s thoughtful and considered tweets “the honor they deserve.” @RealPressSecBot puts all of the tweets of @realdonaldtrump into this format:
FACEBOOK / INSTAGRAM / WHATSAPP
- All publishers in Facebook’s ad network can now feature ads within “Related Articles” sections at the bottom of their Instant Articles. Facebook is becoming its own Outbrain / Taboola.
- Facebook Live will have closed captioning, provided by a third party and giving greater accessibility for users with hearing impairment.
- A Facebook Group called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens” contained a number of questionable discussion topics, including child abuse, sexual assault, racism, and the Holocaust. And 10 members of the group who had been accepted to Harvard saw their offers rescinded. They probably didn’t fully appreciate the irony of it happening via the platform that was created by former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg.
ALPHABET / GOOGLE
- Google AMP pages were meant to speed up the web, but what’s actually happening is that users are spending more time on pages. Chartbeat shows that it is having an impact on how users interact with sites.
- Google got plaudits for creating an ad blocking system within Chrome, but now it’s catching heat for still tracking user behavior and data. While idealists would like complete privacy, it’s unrealistic to expect that Google gives up tracking user data, as that’s exactly the information that gives it the ability to advertise.
- Snap just acquired Placed, a company that tracks whether online ads actually lead to offline purchases. This is the kind of insight that Snapchat needs to attract advertisers.
- Investors are taking a hard look at Snap as Snapchat’s global user growth pace slows. Sensor Tower reports that downloads were down 22% YoY in the first two months of the second quarter.
- Over in China, WeChat has a 29% share of Chinese phone users time on a daily basis.
- Apple is finally bringing virtual reality support to its Mac laptops and desktops, bringing the company up to speed with what many see as the next phase of computing.
- And here’s a full rundown on everything notable at Apple’s WWDC last week. Lest you think we forgot.
The latest in the world of streaming video, audio, and the advertising, pricing and bundling models related to them.
- In a study by Fluent, researchers found that streaming video has surpassed cable. The survey found that 67% of US internet users watch or have access to a streaming service, while just 61% have cable in their homes.
- According to Cisco forecasts, video will make up 82% of all internet traffic in 2021. Hold on to your hats: within five years, an explosion of online video could triple bandwidth usage.
- Ars Technica looked at Xbox usage habits and found an interesting nugget: data shows Xbox Live users spend 19% of their time in Netflix and 7.6% in YouTube.
- SiriusXM invested $480 million in Pandora, which also made $200 million by selling Ticketfly to EventBrite.
- There’s been a surge in news radio listening. According to Nielsen, Americans listened to more than 11.5 billion hours of news on the radio last year, up from 10.5 billion in 2015, in particular driven by younger audiences.
- Apple is going to let podcast creators and advertisers see what appeals to listeners. Basic analytics are finally coming to Apple’s podcast app in an upcoming refresh.
- New discovery service PodSearch allows podcasts to be listed (for a fee) and for listeners to discover podcast (for free).
- Now that Taylor Swift‘s “1989” has sold 10 million copies, she “wants to thank her fans by making her entire back catalog available to all streaming services.” So much for “I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music.” Also of note for the cynics out there: she made her announcement the day before Katy Perry was set to release a new album.
- Program of the Week: The Dollop with comedians Gareth Reynolds and Dave Anthony. It explores one small topic or person from American history. Do you have a program to recommend? Add yours to our Google Sheet: smonty.co/yourpodcasts.
- And don’t forget to subscribe to our show via email or on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker or SoundCloud.
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Regulatory / Security
Business disruptions in the legal, regulatory, and computer security fields, from hacking to the on-demand economy and more.
SECURITY / HACKING:
- A comment in Britney Spears‘ Instagram account included Russian malware. This isn’t just isolated to Spears’ account; it’s a new trick designed to get the malware in touch with its controllers and is peppered throughout Instagram.
- Your company’s biggest security threat may be bored employees. When they become distracted at work, they are more likely to be the cause of human error and a potential security risk. Quick! Forward them a copy of this newsletter to keep them occupied.
- The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case about whether cellphone location data is subject to warrants.
- Some users have hundreds of listings and corporate backers, turning Airbnb into just another travel booking site. It’s nothing new; give people a way to make money online and they’ll figure out a way to scale it.
- Uber is in talks to acquire car-parking startup Luxe. The discussions also involved technology that Luxe was designing to enable short-term car rentals.
- Jaguar Land Rover is taking a stake in Lyft as its parent company Tata Motors invests $25 million in the ride-sharing company.
- Chicago cabbies say that the taxi industry is teetering on the verge of collapse. About 42% of Chicago’s taxi fleet was not operating in the month of March, and cabbies have seen their revenue slide for their long-beleaguered industry by nearly 40% over the last three years as riders are increasingly ditching cabs for ride-hailing apps Uber, Lyft and Via, according to a study released Monday by the Chicago cab drivers union.
THIS WEEK IN #DELETEUBER
We’re giving Uber its own section this week because the developments have been many and are fairly significant, in terms of understanding startup culture.
- Early last week, Uber hired Harvard Business School’s Frances Frei to fix its management issues.
- But as one observer noted, it’s not a management issue; it’s fundamentally a flawed and toxic culture.
- Then the negative news started flowing. First was a report that CE-Bro* Travis Kalanick had taken to meditating in the company’s lactation room. This, from the company that was accused of widespread sexual harassment in February.
- Then, a 2013 profanity-laden fraternity-like email was uncovered in which Kalanick advised employees on sex rules for a company outing in Miami. This, from the company that was accused of widespread sexual harassment in February.
- Next up: an Uber executive obtained the medical records of a customer who was a rape victim, and circulated the records to Travis Kalanick and SVP Emil Michael, carrying them around for months. One possible scenario is that they wished to discredit the victim. That executive, Eric Alexander, was subsequently fired. This, from the company that was accused of widespread sexual harassment in February.
- Reminder: Michael was the Uber executive who suggested in 2014 that Uber should dig up details about journalists’ lives as ‘oppo’ research.
- Ola, Uber’s rival in India, called the company “despicable” and “low on morals.
- Pando simply called Kalanick and Michaels “Monsters.”
- Uber also fired 20 employees related to the investigation into its workplace culture — including the sexual harassment scandal. A good start, but not enough nor of the right level to matter.
- Finally, over the weekend, news broke that Uber’s board was meeting on Sunday to vote on the recommendations included the forthcoming report by Eric Holder.
- And late last night, the board voted unanimously to adopt all of the report’s recommendations, which may include Kalanick taking a three month leave of absence and Michaels taking a permanent one.
- And in possibly the worst-timed career move in history, Apple marketing executive Bozoma Saint John is becoming Chief Brand Officer of Uber.
- If you haven’t been following all of the Uber developments (we’ve chronicled them on The Full Monty, but haven’t made a significant update since August 2016), you’re in luck. Episode #271 of The Dollop has a fun and horrifying rundown of the history of Uber and its ethically-challenged behavior:
* Disclosure: I wasn’t aware of Dan Lyons’ article prior to using that term.
Measurement / Analytics / Data
The future is not in plastics, but in data. Those who know how to measure and analyze it will rule the world.
- People Pattern tells us why data-driven marketing means more efficient marketing. Audience intelligence can now take advantage of this untapped social data resource by ingesting and analyzing the profiles that follow your business across a variety of social media platforms.
- One type to keep your eyes open for as you look to improve your marketing strategy: the quantitative analyst. A quantitative analyst looks at trends and data, or proposed models, and leverages that data to make interpretations and verify results.
- And one from a purely prescriptive angle: how to improve your Google search ranking quickly.
Other links to help you reflect, improve, or simply learn something new.
- Some of the greatest assets Leonardo Da Vinci left behind are his notebooks. Here’s what you can learn about taking notes from the master.
- Managing people is hard; doing it remotely is another thing entirely. But one executive shares his secrets of becoming a better leader by managing remote employees.
- The CEO plays a critical role in the success of business transformation by communicating its significance, modeling the desired changes, building a strong top team, and getting personally involved.
- There’s one key behavior that all successful leaders exhibit. We’ll save you the suspense; it’s to being more decisive. Click through if you’d like 9 tips on how to be more decisive. That is, if you can decide to.
- It’s summer – the time of ice cream, pools and road trips. If you’re out and about, you might want to stop by one or more of the 50 independent bookstores you must visit in every US state.
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Upcoming Brain+Trust Speaking Engagements
- Keynote at the CEO Communications Summit at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business in Montreal, June 13-14, 2017. (Scott)
- Keynote at Health:Further in Nashville, August 23-25, 2017 (Frank and Scott)
- Session at Content Marketing World in Cleveland, September 6, 2017: “How to Build and Maintain an Audience with a Remarkable Newsletter” (Scott)
- Automotive and Transportation Lab at Content Marketing World, September 8, 2017 (Christopher, Tim and Scott)
- Digital Summit Detroit, September 12-13, 2017 (Christopher)
- Content and Commerce Summit in Los Angeles, September 18-201, 2017 (Christopher)
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Top photo credit: Vandenberg Air Force Base
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