Did you miss us? We’re back after the holiday schedule and a bit of a vacation, but we’ve got just as much for you to think about as always. News organizations seek more concessions from Google and Facebook; a handy cheat sheet for the AI ecosystem; a report on the state of machine learning; the smart speaker market is poised to explode; the latest in self-driving technology; culture before technology in a digital world; the week in retail; bots are inflating egos; Snap has its work cut out for it; no one has figured out Internet TV yet; what the future of podcasting looks like; VPN crackdowns in Communist countries; Airbnb goes upscale; take more naps; and more in the extra, extra, read all about it edition of The Full Monty. Don’t forget check out where Brain+Trust is speaking (final section below).
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- Digital media giants are dominating. Google is now making more ad revenue than every newspaper and magazine published…combined. And roughly 50% of ad dollars in the U.S. go to Google and Facebook.
- At a seeming disadvantage, a group of news organizations began an effort to win the right to negotiate collectively with the big online platforms and asked for a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in order to do so.
- Facebook announced plans to create a paywall subscription model that it would implement after non-subscribers view 10 articles a month from a particular publisher, with the social network taking no revenue in the arrangement.
Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Autonomous
The latest in AI, machine learning, bots, and autonomous everything.
- Because keeping up with industry developments is difficult, here’s a cheat sheet for AI, neural networks, machine learning, deep learning and big data.
- Facebook is building natural language processing into Messenger — a clear sign that it’s focusing on the individual user, rather than the 2 billion-strong network.
- But heads up: Facebook has shut down an AI system it developed as the system began to create its own language.
- McKinsey’s 2017 report on the state of machine learning and AI is here: tech companies like Baidu and Google spent between $20B to $30B on AI in 2016; 90% was spent on R&D and 10% on AI-related acquisitions; 66% of all AI investments in 2016 were to US-based companies; China was second with 17%.
- The smart speaker market is about to get crowded. Currently dominated by Amazon, other major players include Google, Apple, Samsung and Alibaba, as well as others.
- And it looks like the U.S. market is poised for this, according to a JWT survey, with just under half of US respondents (49%) used their voice assistants on a weekly basis, compared with 31% of global respondents.
- Nvidia announced a partnership with Baidu in several areas of AI related to autonomous driving, and its stock rose significantly.
- Around the globe, we’re seeing a race to build the autonomous car, including traditional auto companies as well as newcomers. As a driver, this is one where we’d be glad to wait for the fast follower rather than taking the first to market.
- GM Dev Client is an app that makes it possible for developers to test their in-vehicle software creations in real world conditions in actual cars, including performing real-time updates to the code via a laptop to implement tweaks and changes while the car is moving. Again, we’re glad to wait.
- Big players are using rental car companies to manage their self-driving fleets: Apple will be using Hertz and Alphabet will be using Avis. Apple is thinking different by not putting you in the driver’s seat, and with any luck Alphabet will try harder not to be evil.
- Self-driving rides will be available from Lyft later this year, beginning in Boston.
- To be sure, self-driving cars will be safer—but they’ll be a bear to insure. The equipment itself is much more complex. And who takes the blame? The software developer? The manufacturer? The operator?
- You knew it was only a matter of time: behold, the self-driving potato.
- Machine-delivered food goes back further than you. Learn about the anti-waiter sentiment that made automats go mainstream.
Industry developments and trends, including retail, fake news, customer experience, content marketing, and influencer relations.
- Marketing does three things: creates awareness, sells products or services, and maintains relationships. So don’t get fooled into thinking that digital marketing is a separate discipline; it’s not.
- Risk aversion, weak customer focus, and siloed mind-sets have long bedeviled organizations. In a digital world, those things need addressing even before technology.
- Take a look at seven digital trends that will change business.
- BMW is focused on the customer in its digital transformation process. Again, the franchise law-happy dealer stalwarts will claim sanctuary, but BMW is making it possible for UK customers to buy cars in 10 minutes from the comfort of their home. Can the US be far behind?
- Some Buffalo Wild Wings locations are going with a more counter-service / take-out model in an effort to win back customers. Increasing customer convenience can take many forms—from mobile ordering to faster service options to delivery—but making the dining experience as simple and customer-centric as possible is a highly notable trend in the restaurant industry.
- A healthy position to take about social media that will help set expectations around your office: it’s for branding and engagement, not traffic and revenue.
- The majority of time spent watching digital video is with long-form content, regardless of device, according to Ooyala.
- We’re just over halfway through, so it’s a perfect time to look at the year in social media so far.
THIS WEEK IN RETAIL:
- The parent company of QVC is taking control of Home Shopping Network for $2.6 billion. The play will create the third-largest e-commerce company. It’s all about e-commerce. And brick and mortar.
- Amazon filed a trademark for a meal kit and just like that, Blue Apron stock dropped precipitously. It still has not recovered.
- And Amazon is quietly rolling out its own version of Best Buy’s Geek Squad for home electronic service. Similar to Facebook’s strategy with Snap, it’s a matter of having the scale and the ability to duplicate a process or service.
- And yet, amid the stiff competition from Amazon, Best Buy still remains. The reason may be that the company thinks of itself as an omnichannel company, not simply brick and mortar stores.
- Meanwhile, Walmart’s e-commerce activity remains strong and is steadily growing. [Disclosure: Walmart is a Brain+Trust client.]
- Walmart is in a unique position to build a bridge between its e-commerce operations and its global network of stores. That means deploying the kind of machine learning that can leverage the digital relationship between its customers’ online experience with the experience of shopping in stores—a strength Walmart has been building for some time. Bridging the online/offline gap is a major hurdle for retailers to overcome.
- McDonald’s is on the verge of an impressive turnaround. It will rely more than ever on its app and mobile ordering in the US. So it might learn from the success that Walmart and (to a lesser extent) Target have experienced.
- For just a single day last week, Jeff Bezos was the richest man in the world. Perhaps it’s a good time to look at the Jeff Bezos empire in one giant chart.
If you’re seeing this, maybe you’d like to see your company’s name here too. Let us know.
News to know about relevant social, virtual, and augmented reality platforms that may affect your business.
TWITTER / PERISCOPE
- The Notifications tab of Twitter is more informative: it includes trends, interesting links, and accounts you might be interested in.
- And as if that isn’t helpful enough, Twitter will offer a $99 monthly subscription that will boost your overall presence on the site, ensuring your tweets appear in your followers’ feeds more often, and your profile surfaces more often in searches. No, that’s not annoying at all.
- Twitter is exploring adding a feature that would let users flag tweets that contain misleading, false or harmful information. Except for one user, one would hope.
FACEBOOK / INSTAGRAM / WHATSAPP
- Facebook reported its second quarter numbers last week: $9.3B in revenue, up 45%, mobile made up 87% of the total; profit was up 71%. There were 1.3B daily active users, up 17%; and 2B monthly active users, up 17%. The company’s headcount was up to 20,700, up 43%.
- Messenger debuted the Discover tab to help find chatbots and businesses.
- Speaking of which, bots are inflating Instagram egos. We didn’t realize that was possible.
- Of course, you realize that everything on Instagram is from a world of make-believe, right?
- Facebook is successfully challenging Snapchat and Morgan Stanley has downgraded them after admitting their expectations for innovation were not realistic. From the department of “duh.” This is what happens when you don’t have a strategically defensible position.
- WhatsApp‘s Snapchat clone WhatsApp Status has 250 million daily active users, and WhatsApp has surpassed 1B users.
ALPHABET / GOOGLE
- Google Play Music and YouTube Red will merge to create a new service.
- Google is bringing the fruits of its AI to life with a feed that is a news stream of your evolving interests.
- Marketers are looking harder at augmented reality this year, along with AI.
- You can look at your Tesla Model 3 before it even ships thanks to an AR app. As improbable as it might sound to some circles, the potential is building for a broader car sales experience devoid of a dealership visit. It’s a good time to recall the classic Sherlock Holmes quote:
The latest in the world of streaming video, audio, and the advertising, pricing and bundling models related to them.
- Hulu subscribers can get access to HBO and Cinemax with an additional fee. HBO joins the ranks of Showtime, which already has a spot on Hulu; both are part of Amazon Prime as well.
- But even with five major players at work, it seems that no one is getting OTT TV right yet.
- That might change, however, with the acquisition of the Scripps Network by Discovery Communications and the possibility of a bundle that includes Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, HGTV, Cooking Channel and Food Network.
- Panoply Media, the podcast network, plans to let marketers buy targeted ads on podcasts using Nielsen’s data management platform and audience segmentation. Expect to hear more personalized ads in your podcast listening lineup.
- A new report from Nielsen shows that on-demand audio streaming is up 62.4% over last year—a record high. On-demand audio surpassed the 7 billion figure for the first time ever during March of this year.
- What does the future of podcasting look like? You’re bound to find out in this conversation with Tom Webster, VP of marketing for Edison Research. And if you really want to dig in, Edison and NPR offer The Smart Audio Report.
- Podchaser is “the IMDb for podcasts” and it’s building a tags-based database to power program discovery.
- SoundCloud has enough money to last only 50 more days. The company also laid off 40% of its workforce and its subsequent all-hands meeting was tense, shall we say. Where there’s smoke, there’s a fire sale.
- Program of the Week: This week’s recommendation comes from Laurel Miltner: Dinner Party Download, which is billed as “a fast and funny hour of culture, food and conversation—it’s public radio’s arts & leisure section. Do you have a program to recommend? Add yours to our Google Sheet: smonty.co/yourpodcasts.
Regulatory / Security
Business disruptions in the legal, regulatory, and computer security fields, from hacking to the on-demand economy and more.
SECURITY / HACKING:
- Apple has removed all major VPN apps from its App Store in China, a blow to users trying to do an end-run around China’s notoriously harsh censorship rules. Meanwhile, in Russia, Vladimir Putin signed a law prohibiting VPN services. Two Communist countries that for decades have controlled the news and the narrative, now desperate to regain and retain that control in an effort to silence dissent. Will it work?
- Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps are listening to you through your phone’s microphone, via the default “on” setting. Here’s how to turn it off. One has to wonder if Mr. Putin is running app development at some of these shops.
- The EU fined Google a record €2.4 billion for manipulating search results. The company deliberately downgraded its rivals in search results and favored its own products, particularly in Google Shopping.
- It’s only going to get worse from here, thanks to voice technology.
- Ford is attempting to fix New York’s transportation woes with a crowdsourced shuttlebus. The company acquired Chariot in 2016 and has run the service in San Francisco, Seattle and Austin. Now the city with the largest ridership in the country that is decidedly less tech-centric than those three will have a go at it. Stay tuned.
- SoftBank and Didi invested $2B into ride-hailing company Grab, in an effort to unseat Uber in Southeast Asia.
- In London, cabbies are at war with Uber. The wars are less about the disruptive power of an app, or a new business model, than about the disruption of Britain.
- Meanwhile, the drama that is Uber’s CEO search continues. HP’s Meg Whitman will not be taking the job (nor will any other female at this point), and Travis-ty is working behind the scenes like a regular Machiavelli, trying to stage a Steve Jobs-like resurrection. See, Travis, if you want to do that, first you have to actually leave. As Kara Swisher wrote, “it’s like a really nerdy version of “Game of Thrones,” with 100 percent less dismemberment but 53 percent more intrigue.”
- Here’s the inside story of how Uber tried and failed to build a FedEx rival. Uber’s grand vision of becoming a logistics company looks like it’s now on the rocks. Maybe Uber is just a ride-hailing app, after all.
- Meanwhile, Lyft is giving riders a chance to stop at Taco Bell en route with Taco Mode. It’s actually a brilliant arrangement that’s perfect for both brands.
- Get ready to go upscale with Airbnb: the home sharing service is preparing a new tier of luxury rentals with Airbnb Select.
- The hotel industry isn’t taking any of this lying down. Hotel money is funding anti-Airbnb sting operations to take down illegal operations.
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.
- Measuring your media at the speed of life is essential, but it’s easier said than done. Steven Wastie from Origami Logic asks are you a marketing performance measurement innovator?
- PR pros often get told to follow the lead of marketing when it comes to metrics and measurement. But does marketing really have all the answers? PR and marketing need to work together to improve measurement, says Chip Griffin at CARMA.
Other links to help you reflect, improve, or simply learn something new.
- Here are five emotionally intelligent things to do upon meeting someone. Couple that with 10 techniques for building rapport with anyone, and you’ll be unstoppable.
- A simple manifesto: take naps at work. Apologize to no one.
- From a Silicon Valley engineer: every tech worker needs a humanities education. As a former classics major, we can attest. The ability to think critically, to be curious about things outside of your purview, and to understand the universality of the human condition—all of this cannot be underestimated.
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Upcoming Brain+Trust Speaking Engagements
- 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)
- Social Mitten 2017, September 22, 2017 (Scott)
- Content and Commerce Summit in Los Angeles, September 18-201, 2017 (Christopher)
Can we speak for your organization? Drop us a line.
Brain+Trust Partners doesn’t believe in gobbledygook — we use common sense strategic guidance to help you master the evolving marketplace. From strategy development to technology and data vendor selection, to digital transformation and streamlining processes, our focus is on the customer experience. And our decades of experience working for major brands means that we deeply understand the challenges you’re facing. Let us know if we can help you.
Top photo credit: US National Archives (Flickr)
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