Valuable insights in 2014 #InternetTrends report by Mary Meeker

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Last week, US venture capitalist and former Wall Street securities analyst Mary Meeker published her 2014 Internet Trends report that offers a deep-dive look into the trends, possibilities, probabilities, scope and scale of what the global connected world will look like in the coming few years.

It highlights trends to pay attention to, offering keen insights into what’s shaping this connected world:

  1. Key internet trends showing slowing internet user growth but strong smartphone, tablet and mobile data traffic growth as well as rapid growth in mobile advertising.
  2. Emerging positive efficiency trends in education and healthcare.
  3. High-level trends in messaging, communications, apps and services.
  4. Data behind the rapid growth in sensors, uploadable / findable / shareable data, data mining tools and pattern recognition.
  5. Context on the evolution of online video.
  6. Observations about online innovation in China.

At 164 pages, the slide deck is huge in its scope, and a challenge to decipher detailed meaning from just a deck without the benefit of hearing its creator talk you through it (she did that at the event last week for which she had prepared the deck).

Many others are filling the vacuum to do that. I have some thoughts, too, on a few areas from the 164 slides. I expand on that below, but if you want to just feast on all of Meeker’s data right now, here’s the deck:

Last year’s 2013 Internet Trends report was 117 pages, a slim volume by comparison. Indeed, I found it it a relatively simple matter to quickly glean and absorb insights from her deck to come up with what I saw in May 2013 as fifteen big trends for the evolving digital age.

A year later, how does the landscape look?

Here are three elements from the 2014 report that caught my attention (and imagination).

1. The rise of the mobile internet and the mobile devices that people want to use on the web are irresistible

The first aspect is the steady increase in shipments of smartphones (Wikipedia definition) worldwide since 2009 …

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…  and, in tandem, the rocketing growth in tablet (Wikipedia definition) shipments which overtook shipments of desktop and notebook PCs at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013.

And notice the massive uptick in tablet shipments that started at the end of the first quarter in 2013 …

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… which makes it easy to understand in the context of the increasing numbers of people accessing content on the web via mobile devices like smartphones and tablets in May 2014 compared to the same time in 2013. While there isn’t a slide to show how connectivity – whether wired, wireless or cellular – is growing everywhere, these figures surely provide convincing evidence that that is what’s happening.

And global mobile usage average has almost doubled year on year, broadly reflecting the detail in each of the regions measured.

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What these metrics say to me is this: if your presence on the web isn’t attuned to mobile – meaning, your site delivers the content people want and a great experience they expect when they come to you on their mobile devices – you’re in serious trouble.

2. The evolution of mobile apps

If using the web on a mobile device is increasing at a rapid pace as smartphones and tablets eclipse desktops and laptops, the requirement for mobile tools – apps – to let you do what you want on your mobile connected device is equally increasing at a rapid pace …

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… where those apps are evolving into tools of genuine utility for the user, that let you do certain things very well.

So instead of being all things to all men, so to speak, many apps are shifting into specific use formats …

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… that offer you context-aware interactions that, as TechCrunch notes, are purpose-built and informed by contextual signals like hardware sensors to interact with you in far more compelling ways than at present to maximize their usefulness to you.

3. Game changers for mobile TV and video consumption

Meeker’s slide deck has a great deal of content about the rise of personalized television where you the user define what the content is that you will watch and where you get it from (think of custom user preferencing in Netflix and Chromecast, as examples of this), and how you control it.

Consumers increasingly expect to watch TV content on their own terms.

I have a good example: watching a film that’s delivered from Netflix where I control its output with my smartphone or tablet to play on my digital smart television via wifi connection to the Chromecast dongle plugged in to the HDMI port on the TV. No traditional TV broadcaster in this transmission/consumption equation at all.

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For me, this text slide summarizes very well the key aspects of all this, the “televisual game changers.”

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And so, a small subset of the compelling content in Mary Meeker’s 164 pages of metrics and insights that make up her Internet Trends 2014 report. My focus has very much been on mobile. That’s by accident and by design – I didn’t plan this post to be like that, yet all the things that grabbed my attention that I’ve written about here are all to do with mobile.

Well, maybe not everything. Big data trends, for instance.

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Do review the full deck and see what strikes you as compelling. And some of the other reporting on it is pretty good, adding to the ways in understanding what the report is about:

Download the PDF report here: 2014 Internet Trends By Mary Meeker or view the deck on Slideshare.

Changing the game with native advertising

'Sponsor Generated Content'

Does “native advertising” bother you?

When I was first asked that question, my response was the inevitable “It depends…” And that primarily means: It depends on how open and transparent the advertiser and the publisher are about the native ad.

Just what is “native advertising”? you may ask.

Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Native advertising is an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience. Native ad formats match both the form and the function of the user experience in which it is placed. The advertiser’s intent is to make the paid advertising feel less intrusive and thus increase the likelihood users will click on it.

In other words, it’s an ad that looks like the editorial content of the publication in which it appears – similar typeface, perhaps, certainly a similar presentation so it blends in – but clearly noted somewhere that it is content provided by an advertiser and not by the medium in which it appears.

It’ll be variously described as ‘sponsored content,’ ‘featured content,’ ‘brought to you by…,’ ‘in association with…,’ or such like.

It’s not the same as an “advertorial,” a long-practised advertising method that is largely falling out of favour among many advertisers as media evolves – more publications are appearing especially online, many covering unique niches, and mostly published by people who aren’t traditional media publishers – budgets tighten and more bang is required from that ad buck where methods of yore don’t do so well any more.

And consumer behaviour is radically changing where the number of eyeballs on a mass medium ad increasingly has little to questionable relevance compared to the engagement possibilities through a more intelligent approach to advertising that reflects a greater respect for an intelligent consumer who expects more than just to be “advertised at” and, instead, can (and often wants) to do more with the advertiser’s content.

(For a depth perspective of the new advertising/content marketing/consumer behaviour landscape and the role of native advertising, read Danny Brown’s insightful assessment.)

A report in AdAge.com yesterday is the prompt for this post, about the Wall Street Journal’s entry into the native advertising game.

AdAge sets the scene thus:

[...] Marketers want to work with publishers on native advertising partly because it gets their messages closer to the editorial content readers have arrived to consume. And publishers are not just offering it up; they’re carving out new departments to produce the content, whether they’re text articles, infographics or videos.

That piqued my interest in what the Journal is doing, and how they’re doing it:

Starting Tuesday, a box with headlines, subhead text and thumbnail images teasing content produced on behalf of the data and storage firm Brocade will appear in the middle column of WSJ.com and on the technology front page, situated between editorial headlines. Wall Street Journal’s custom content division, part of the business side of the operation, produced the ads, which will exist in a separate section of the website.

The ads will be labeled as “Sponsor Generated Content.”

And here’s what that looks like; I’ve highlighted the Brocade ad in a red box:

'Sponsor Generated Content'

If you click on the ad – or tap it if you’re reading the paper on a tablet – you get a new page on the WSJ.com website with expanded content about Brocade’s offering presented in a similar fashion to a news story or feature:

Brocade

 

Note these interesting characteristics about what you see:

  1. The browser tab at top of the image shows just the description “Sponsor Generated Content” rather than the title of the web page or article as would be more common.
  2. The lengthy web page address, the URL, in the browser address bar contains codes to enable metrics analysis from clicks and is clearly identified as a Wall Street Journal address.
  3. Next to the legend ‘Sponsor Generated Content’ in capitals above the article headline is a link saying ‘What’s This?’ Hovering your mouse over it produces a pop-out containing this text: “This content was paid for by an advertiser and created by The Wall Street Journal Advertising Department. The Wall Street Journal news organization was not involved in the creation of this content.”
  4. There is a byline which says “Narratives by WSJ Custom Studios for Brocade.”

A clear separation of church and state, as it were.

This looks to me as an intelligent approach to transparency, with little chance of anyone concluding that there is any kind of subterfuge or deception about an ad dressed up as editorial. There is no deception.

I see it simply – if an advertiser offers content that a reader will find of use or value in some way; that isn’t simple a “buy me!” approach that is characteristic of much advertising; that assumes the reader is intelligent and has a mind of his or her own; and is offered honestly and transparently, then this approach to native advertising probably has a good chance of success.

If the reader then acts upon what he or she has read – share it online among his or her community, at the very least – then you have achieved a measurable goal of engagement.

It’s a good game!

(Via AdAge.com)

Smartphones preferred device for news among affluent consumers says BBC

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The results of a new survey for BBC World News shows a surge in smartphone use for consuming news among affluent consumers compared to the general population. The BBC defines “affluent consumers” as the highest 20 percent income earners in each country surveyed.

What the BBC describes as the world’s first study into the use of mobile by affluent consumers – over 6,000 such people were surveyed in Australia, Germany, Sweden, India, Hong Kong and the US – shows a 15 percent yearly increase in the amount of people who would prefer to use a phone to read the news compared to a 17 percent decline for desktop computers.

In terms of how those surveyed prefer to read the news on their smartphones, the results make that quite clear:

News apps are the most commonly used apps on affluent consumers’ mobile phones, whilst social network apps are favoured by the general population.

BBC News Android appBBC News Android app

Speaking as a smartphone user of the BBC News app for Android devices, my view is that the app must present the user with a compelling experience to not only read the news but also be able to easily share it across the social web. You’d also want to be able to customise the app to your preferences and have it automatically update the news for you even when it’s not open.

And you’d prefer such an app for news consumption and social sharing over other high-use apps such as social networking apps, and have the opportunity to use it for contributing news to the BBC if you want to.

The BBC’s News app does all that and more.

The survey presents more rich metrics on mobile usage by affluent consumers:

  • 51 per cent of affluent consumers use their mobile phone for business, compared to 40 per cent of the general population.
  • Affluent consumers are 18 per cent more likely to share their location to get relevant services than the general population.
  • A third of affluent consumers agree that, if a brand wants to be modern and dynamic, it needs to be on mobile – 15 per cent higher than the general population.
  • Mobile advertising is twice as effective as the proven desktop in driving key brand metrics such as awareness, favourability and purchase intent amongst the total population. This figure rises to four times as effective for affluent consumers.
  • High-income earners are as positive towards advertising on mobile (19 per cent) as desktop (18 per cent). The percentage who are happy to see ads on mobile websites rises to 41 per cent for sites where the content is free.

The BBC says that the results reveal the increasing importance of smartphones to affluent consumers and demonstrate the extent to which mobile devices are integrated into both their personal and their business lives, as improved technology enables greater engagement with content.

The study also provides evidence that affluent consumers – a large proportion of the BBC World News and BBC.com/news audience – are significantly more receptive to mobile advertising than the general population.

(The focus on and talk about mobile advertising reflects the BBC’s commercial activity in markets outside the UK. Within the UK, we don’t see ads on any BBC property: the BBC gets its revenue from the annual license fee everyone has to pay – widely seen as a tax – plus a government grant.)

Earlier last year, the BBC released the results of a survey that, for the first time, measured news consumption habits across multiple devices – the so-called “second-screen experience.”

That survey offered some credible insights into the growing impact of TV, smartphones, tablets and laptops on the news consumption habits of more than 3,600 people surveyed in nine representative markets.

This latest survey reinforces key messages from that previous survey about the importance of mobile and smartphone usage to news organizations, advertisers and brand owners alike.

According to Jim Egan, CEO of BBC Global News:

This new research reveals significant change in mobile consumption – people are delving deeper into stories on their mobiles, consuming more video and, significantly, growing accustomed to advertising on their mobiles. This large study provides compelling evidence that mobile advertising works with affluent mobile consumers in particular and that has big implications for publishers and advertisers alike.

No doubt among the topics being discussed in Barcelona, Spain, this week at the 2014 Mobile World Congress.

Get an overview of the survey findings in this BBC infographic:

(Click for large infographic PDF)

Valentine expression

You're a fox

Today is Valentine’s Day, the day traditionally when millions of people express a feeling towards another via the mechanism of anonymous greeting cards they send.

Well, note the word ‘traditionally.’

The days of buying a printed Hallmark Valentine card and sending it through the post haven’t quite vanished yet.

But things are quite different today, both the methods of communication as well as what’s communicated. The rise of social media, the online sharing of ideas and creative thinking, along with the huge shifts in behaviours in terms of what people want and are willing to share as a Valentine expression, have produced as many different ways of sharing a feeling as you can imagine.

A few days ago, I received an email from Pinterest with some suggestions for Valentine greetings. Terrific imaginations at work on the board, something to appeal to everyone. The fox you see above is from that board, the pin that has attracted the most shares so far.

I did like this one especially, an elegant use of an animated GIF (if you don’t see it below, it’s here).



Then there’s good old satire for the contemporary age as evidenced in what’s on offer at someecards.com:

Valentine - Groupon

Valentine - Twitter

However you express Valentine’s Day today, have a nice day!

How to meet the challenge of the brand storytelling opportunity

Shazam newsroom

If “content marketing” and “brand journalism” are among the phrases you’ve been yawning at recently, a new report from Mynewsdesk is worth reading and may make you decide to give your closer attention to those two phrases.

Written by journalist and consultant Jon Bernstein, The Rise of The Brand Newsroom offers some useful insights on brand storytelling and the role of the online newsroom in presenting news, information, links to and content from social channels, multimedia content and more in one space, designed for people to consume and share, and for search engines to discover and index.

The Rise of the Brand NewsroomThe 32-page PDF includes short interviews (including one with me), practical tips, advice and case studies on what some organizations are doing with online newsrooms that are central to how a company can enjoy the benefits of it being a media company – a concept first mooted by Tom Foremski in 2009.

The report is divided into two sections, with the ten steps in How to Build a Newsroom as the foundation that leads to 8 Steps to Newsroom Success. It includes case study examples from Mynewsdesk customers Moneysupermarket.com, Oslo Airport and Shazam whose newsroom illustrates this post.

The introduction to the report includes a concise history of content marketing that serves well as an introduction to the detail of the report. It includes a quote from an interview with Stephen Waddington, Ketchum Europe’s director of digital and social media, which sets the scene perfectly:

“It’s the market that’s pushing organisations to do things much better,” he says. “The whole thing is being driven by the consumerisation of media. It’s very much the audience that’s in the driving seat and it’s the market that’s responding to the audience demand.”

“If that’s the opportunity, the challenge is to make it happen.”

The Rise of the Brand Newsroom is available from Mynewsdesk on free download: register to get your copy.

A new guide to help you verify digital content from any source

Giant beach ball on the loose...Verifying facts before publishing a news story is one of the cornerstones of trusted behaviour that we have traditionally expected from the mainstream media.

Even in the disruption of traditional sources of news over the past decade – with the rise of social media, of newer sources of news and information that compete with the traditional, of newer digital platforms from which to make news and information available, and in changing behaviours of people from purely consumers to creators (citizen journalists and the ugly-sounding ‘user-generated content‘) and questioners of the news story wherever and whenever it appears – we still largely hold the mainstream media to a higher standard with a continuing expectation that reporters and editors will get the facts right before they go to print or (more likely) publish online.

Nowhere is that more expected than in cases of disasters or tragedies. When there is so much happening so quickly, confusion and misinformation abound – mostly accidental but some deliberate – as a reporter tries to get the facts from many different places, increasingly including user-generated content in addition to traditional sources, eg, newswires and official spokespeople.

Especially at times like that, you want to be sure of what you intend to report with confidence, based on verifiable facts, that others will read, see and hear. And you need to do it very quickly.

Enter the Verification Handbook, a ground-breaking new resource for journalists and aid responders which provides step-by-step guidelines for using user-generated content during emergencies, and how to verify that content and the sources of it.

Verification Handbook

In a crisis situation, social networks are overloaded with situational updates, calls for relief, reports of new developments, and rescue information. Reporting the right information is often critical in shaping responses from the public and relief workers; it can literally be a matter of life or death.

The Handbook prescribes best practice advice on how to verify and use this information provided by the crowd, as well as actionable advice to facilitate disaster preparedness in newsrooms

The Handbook is divided into the following chapters:

  1. When Emergency News Breaks
  2. Verification Fundaments: Rules to Live By
  3. Verifying User-Generated Content
  4. Verifying Images
  5. Verifying Video
  6. Putting the Human Crowd to Work
  7. Adding the Computer Crowd to the Human Crowd
  8. Preparing for Disaster Coverage
  9. Creating a Verification Process and Checklist(s)
  10. Verification Tools

There are also a number of cases studies – including one that explains the giant beach ball on the loose photo at the top of this page – so the guide starts out with real credibility and not purely an academic-looking work.

Publisher The European Journalism Centre in Maastricht, The Netherlands, says it’s the first-ever guide for reporters and editors who use user-generated content during humanitarian emergencies. It is edited by Craig Silverman, author and founder of Regret The Error, now at The Poynter Institute in the US, and includes contributions by some credible and trusted names from across the world of journalism (scroll down from the website landing page to see who the authors are).

Significantly, the Verification Handbook is positioned as being a useful resource not only for reporters:

While it primarily targets journalists and aid providers, the Handbook can be used by anyone. Its advice and guidance are valuable whether you are a news journalist, citizen reporter, relief responder, volunteer, journalism school student, emergency communication specialist, or an academic researching social media.

If you publish anything online in a professional capacity, whatever your role, journalist or not, on which you have based your content on that of others, you will find the Verification Handbook worth bookmarking.

The guide is available as a website and, next month, as a downloadable PDF file, and in print, as well as a Kindle version for Amazon’s ebook reader.

What an excellent resource.