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6 things publishers need to know about UK media consumption, from Ofcom’s latest report

The Media Briefing

The dust has by no means settled when it comes to the changing mix of devices and methods people in the UK use to consume content, if Ofcom’s latest communications market report is anything to go by.

As usual it’s packed with useful survey data that helps answer some of the questions publishers have about the way in which their consumers approach media in the digital age, so we’ve picked out six of the most important points. The full reportis worth reading for more detail, however.

1. A laptop still most important device for connecting to the internet

Overall across all internet users, a laptop was considered the most important device for connecting to the internet, according to 40 percent of respondents. However, more respondents said a smartphone was more important than a desktop for getting online – 23 percent to 20 percent, respectively.

Only 15 percent of respondents said a tablet was the most important device, up from 8 percent in 2013.

Those tablet stats almost double however when just looking at those people who actually have a tablet.

mostimportantdevice 6 things publishers need to know about UK media consumption, from Ofcoms latest report

2. Newspapers won’t be missed

Given TheMediaBriefing’s raison d’étre, we’re pretty attached to newspapers and magazines.

However, the wider population doesn’t seem so sentimental, with just two percent of respondents saying a newspaper would be form of media they would miss the most.

Unsurprisingly, watching TV tops the leaderboard for most-missed media (42 percent), but smartphone use comes in second, with 22 percent of respondents saying they would miss it the most.

mostmissed 6 things publishers need to know about UK media consumption, from Ofcoms latest report

3. Less time is spent listening to radio

More time is spent per day using TV, the internet, and mobile phones, but consumers are spending less time per day using the radio, which has dropped from 172 to 166 minutes in the last 5 years.

Consumers are now spending an average of 68 minutes a day using the internet on a PC or laptop, and only 28 minutes a day on a mobile phone, which seems a little low, but the averages are probably skewed by older age groups that still use traditional consumption forms like TV and radio and eschew more digital alternatives.

timeperday 6 things publishers need to know about UK media consumption, from Ofcoms latest report

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Should publishers really think ‘mobile-first’?

Digiday

The trend for many publishers is to loudly declare they are “mobile-first.” But the reality is, well, more complicated.

Most mobile-first proponents loudly trumpet exploding mobile audiences. That’s true. Just about every publisher today is seeing an increasing amount of their traffic coming from mobile devices — often over 50 percent of their overall, in the case of sites like BuzzFeed,Glamour and CNN.  Yet it’s not a zero-sum game: Most publishers are seeing their desktop audiences grow, too, albeit at a much slower rate than mobile.

According to publisher analytics service Chartbeat,  mobile consumption is, on the whole, complementing desktop. Desktop traffic is essentially daytime traffic: It starts to increase at 9 a.m., peaks at noon and starts to decline at 6 p.m. Mobile, in contrast, tends to decline in the early morning and peak in the evening. Put in more concrete terms, people are reading on their desktops while at work and shifting to tablets and smartphones while at home.

 Should publishers really think ‘mobile first’?

There’s no doubt that many publishers are seeing surges in mobile traffic, but right now, they’re not all seeing corresponding declines. Data from comScore shows that while mobile traffic to the Web’s top 10 news/information properties grew 36 percent in the US last year, overall desktop traffic for those sites decreased by just 1 percent. Mobile consumption may be eating into desktop habits, but, so far, it’s doing so slowly.

“In general, it seems like each medium is strong while the others are weak,” said Josh Schwartz, chief data scientist at Chartbeat. “People are using phones while they wouldn’t be using desktops anyway,” he said.

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Here’s how wearables will invade the workplace

CITEworld

When people discuss wearable tech, it’s typically as a consumer phenomenon. Smartwatches, Fitbits, Google Glass — these products seem like they’re for hipsters only, not mainstream consumers.

But if anything, it’s the opposite. It’s probably true that most people will feel silly wearing Google Glass, for example. But it’s also probably true that there are countless business contexts where your boss will want you to wear Google Glass.

Let’s look at some of the most promising future applications of wearables in the enterprise.

Google Glass (or something like it)

Let’s start with them. So mocked. They probably don’t have a future as a consumer device, at least in the short and even medium term. (Long term, who knows?) But they — or something like them, such as the Vuzix M100 — most certainly have a future in the workplace.

The first and obvious application is on-premises security. From police departments to private security firms to the military to bar bouncers, Google Glass has obvious applications.

Other applications include retail (think of store greeters), medicine (one hospital in Boston is already using them in the emergency room, and a number of startups like Pristine are well along the way to developing Glass apps for surgeons), and any kind of hands-on work done in remote locations — think oil drilling, mining, and the like.

Fitness trackers and health insurance

This is a bit Orwellian but also perhaps unavoidable  if you work for a big corporation and they think they can reduce their insurance bill by getting you to wear a Fitbit or equivalent device, they will. Some companies may even see and promote it as an employee perk, since a lot of people get value out of fitness trackers.

Cutting down health costs is a huge priority of governments and private sector actors alike, and the idea that using the bio data our bodies generate could help to do this is a powerful one. The idea is that insurers would pay you to wear fitness trackers, and then pay you even more to behave healthfully; since most people in the United States get health insurance through their employers, the way to roll this out would be via large employers.

The privacy and security applications are immense, but so is the drive to make this system a reality, whether you want to or not.

Retail

Wearable tech will also make quick inroads into the retail space. Apple’s iBeacon is already a potential enabling technology there. Many startups and large retail firms are working on ways to identify customers as they walk in the door.

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The New York Times explores cheaper digital subscriptions

Digiday

The New York Times is considering a cheaper version of its digital subscription as it continues to look for ways to get more revenue out of consumers.

According to a survey sent to readers this week, the new offering would give users 30 articles a month for $8, over 45 percent lower than the current cheapest offering. Now, for readers who hit the paywall at 10 articles, digital access starts at $15 a month for access to NYTimes.com and Times smartphone apps.

“With the new subscription offer from The New York Times, you would get: Your choice of 30 articles a month on NYTimes.com and the NYTimes smartphone and tablet apps,” the survey read.

The survey also asked people how willing they would be to cancel their existing subscriptions if they could get the $8-a-month plan. A Times spokeswoman said the offering isn’t a done deal.

“We often issue surveys to provide input from existing customers on their level of interest in various potential new initiatives,” she said. “Surveys are not indicative of any firm plans to launch new subscriptions.”

The Times has conducted surveys before on prospective and new products, like NYT Cooking.

The initiative comes as the Times’ digital subscription growth has slowed, and new paid apps have failed to take off in a big way. As the Times revealed in its second-quarter earnings call, itadded 32,000 digital subs in the second quarter, down from 39,000 in the first quarter. Meanwhile, print ad revenue declined a troubling 6.6 percent (after a 4 percent gain in first quarter).

The proposed, lower-priced offer resembles the Times’ new, $8-a-month NYT Now app aimed at young readers (big differences being that NYT Now is an app and the articles are handpicked by Times editors) and dovetails with a truncated version of the print newspaper that it also reportedly is looking into. It’s all part and parcel of the effort to unbundle the Times’ content, with the idea that there’s a market for vertical products (NYT Cooking, NYT Opinion) and a lower-priced, lighter version of the full news product.

There are good reasons to try a cheaper sub-offer. Growth for All-Access may have leveled off, and the Times may have miscalculated the market for NYT Now, said Ken Doctor, analyst with Outsell. But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a market out there for less than the full product. “There are people who don’t want a wide range of access.”

The proposed subscription offer is Web-based, which could fit better with news-consumption behavior. People on smartphones are more likely to get their news from a browser than an app, and they’re increasingly coming to the news from search and social. A Pew Research Center report found that 61 percent of smartphone news users got news “mostly” from their mobile browsers versus 28 percent who got their news “mostly” from apps. Getting your app discovered is a challenge, as is getting people to keep using it once they download it — issues that a Web-subscription plan solves.

Still, there’s always the risk that a cheaper product will cannibalize the full-priced option, a risk the Times is trying to assess with the survey. There’s also the risk of confusing readers with the ongoing parade of new offers, which are difficult to compare, said Rebecca Lieb, analyst at Altimeter (a problem the Times itself conceded).

“People do the math later, and then you always feel like you never get the best deal … and that’s not best way to get people to subscribe,” she said.

Why Microsoft Azure could have the last laugh in the cloud wars

CITEworld

Venture capitalist Brad Feld recently wrote an interesting post predicting the end of Amazon’s dominance of the cloud computing market, and concluded, “it’s suddenly a good time to be Microsoft or Google in the cloud computing wars.”

I’d go one step farther. Using Feld’s arguments, I’d say that Microsoft is in the driver’s seat.

First, the price war. Microsoft and Google are on approximately equal ground when it comes to cutting prices — both have highly profitable core businesses that they can use to subsidize a price war in cloud infrastructure, even to the point of sustaining losses for a while to gain market share. Amazon does not.

Second, the quality argument. Like Feld, we’ve also pointed out that there are niche cloud providers that do a better job than the big guys at providing infrastructure-as-a-service for specific verticals, but when you move all the way up the stack to full software-as-a-service applications, Microsoft has an edge among the big three with Office 365. Google has been making inroads into smaller businesses with Google Apps for almost a decade now, Microsoft remains the standard in the biggest and most profitable business customers — as this recent investigation from Dan Frommer at Quartz showed, only one company in the Fortune 50 uses Google Apps. (That company happens to be Google itself.)

The third argument, support, is mostly a wash. While Amazon’s support may be terrible (I have no evidence of this, but I’m taking Feld’s word for it), Microsoft and Google and their respective ecosystem partners do a decent job of supporting customers on their stacks. This hasn’t always been the case — Google used to treat support as an expensive afterthought — but in the case of Google Apps, at least, the company and its partners have stepped up significantly.

But then comes the fourth argument. Feld points out that once companies get to $200,000 per month of cloud-infrastructure spend, it’s actually significantly cheaper to build their own data centers.

Microsoft is the only one of the big three players with an on-premise offering — Windows Server and the rest of the Microsoft infrastructure family. Maybe the exact break-even point will change as the cloud price wars continue, but Microsoft has the most pieces customers would need to move from all-cloud to a hybrid or on-premise solution. Or, for that matter, for existing on-premise customers to begin experimenting moving some workloads to the cloud.

There’s one more point favoring Microsoft. Google’s core business is selling online advertising. That business makes up about 90% of Google’s revenue, and it has enviably high operating margins — around 30%, based on Google’s 2011 financial report. (I picked 2011 because that was before Google bought Motorola Mobility, which changed the margin structure.)

It’s unclear how the Google Cloud Engine helps that business. Are customers using Google’s cloud somehow more likely to advertise with Google? I don’t see it. Are Google advertising customers demanding to run other workloads on Google technology? I don’t see it.

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Why I’m Already Giving Up on Android Wear

Mashable

I believe in wearable technology. From Google Glass to smartwatches, the idea that you can have access to useful and essential information right when you need it — without digging a smartphone out of your pocket — is compelling. Once you have that convenience, you don’t want to go back.

That’s why it’s so jarring when that ability disappears after you’ve grown used to it. Ever since Google I/O in late June I’ve been wearing an Android Wear smartwatch, the Samsung Gear Live, fairly regularly. But too often I’ve picked up the watch from my desk or nightstand only to be greeted with a dead screen where my faux-sophisticated digital watchface is supposed to be.

It’s technically my own fault. This happens whenever I take off the watch and forget to put it back in its charging cradle. Android Wear smartwatches are designed to provide “all-day” battery life; the device expects — in fact, depends upon — me to remember to recharge it every single night, or else it reverts to what I like to call bracelet mode.

This is why Android Wear stumbles so badly right out of the gate. Although it feels logical to expect users to simply mirror their nightly smartphone recharge habit with another gadget, as I’ve discovered, that’s a wrongheaded assumption.

While a smartphone is easy to keep in a pocket in almost all situations, I often find the watch inconvenient to wear while playing with my kids (who are still young enough to be picked up) or, say, cooking. In those cases, off it goes to the coffee table, kitchen counter or nightstand — usually for the night.

That habit is deadly to an “all day” smartwatch because of its secondary role. For my smartphone, I will almost always remember to charge it because it’s my primary window into my digital life; if I forget to juice it up, I’ll be cut off from what’s now a fundamental part of the way I (and millions of others) live.

Smartwatch habits

For a smartwatch, though, things are different. While its notifications are convenient, they’re not always essential. I really only “need” the notifications when I’m working and tend to mute them at home. Add to that the expectation created by decades of wristwatches that a watch can be put down for days, weeks and even months and still just work (“Take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’,” etc.), and you practically guarantee that all but the most anally retentive will occasionally forget to charge their smartwatch.

Android Wear does give you warnings when the battery is running low, but given the poor battery life you probably won’t see them in the case of a forgotten overnight charge. If you’re at, say, 30% when you go to bed, the 20% alarm won’t trigger until a little later, and by morning the watch will probably be completely dead — especially if you have the watch face permanently displaying the time.

It certainly doesn’t help that most smartwatches require a cradle to charge, which usually means there’s no way to quickly recharge it with any cable you have conveniently lying around the office.

Pebble Chief Evangelist Myriam Joire recently said battery life was the biggest challenge facing wearables, and she’s dead right. Wisely Pebble built its smartwatch to run for several days at a time, which I now regard as table stakes for any device in the market.

Battery futures

There are more than a few positives about Android Wear — the gesture-based UI is quite good and setup is nice and simple — but the poor battery life is such an issue that the platform should never have been released in its current form. I have high hopes that future models (including the beautiful Moto 360) will last longer, but the first two products hint that that’s probably unlikely. After all, if it were possible to create a lightweight smartwatch with four- or five-day battery life using Android Wear, why didn’t Samsung and LG do that in the first place?

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Who has the biggest cloud? By year’s end, the answer may surprise you.

Gigaom

Amazon Web Services remains the biggest of the big cloud providers, but it’s seeing competitors gaining in its rear-view mirror.  Nomura Securities analyst Rick Sherlund now expects Microsoft to field the largest cloud business by December — at least in terms of annual revenue run rate which he estimated will be $5.77 billion.

In a research note, Sherlund, who has covered Microsoft on and off for years, said that revenue estimate would represent 89 percent year-over-year growth for that business. In terms of run rate, he ranked Salesforce.com as the second largest provider at $5.5 billion and 28 percent growth year over year.

This is a tricky calculation for a few reasons, not least because AWS, the world’s largest cloud infrastructure provider, does not break out its numbers. Actually, none of the cloud providers make it easy to assess the size of their businesses. Microsoft, for example, seems to lump Azure, Office 365 Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business all together. Still, given that rather large caveat, Sherlund estimates that Amazon’s cloud business run rate would be comparable to Salesforce.com’s.

Another wrinkle is that this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Salesforce.com’s business is mostly SaaS with some Platform as a Service (PaaS) sales from Force.com and Heroku. AWS, on the other hand, is typically defined as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Microsoft Azure started out four years ago as a PaaS but last yearadded AWS-like IaaS capabilities.

Purists prefer to break out all those categories separately, but for non techies those roles are muddled. For example, Synergy Research Group’s recent figures which combine IaaS, PaaS and SaaS into one big blob, show Microsoft and IBM growth rates in the second quarter of 2014 (164 percent and 86 percent respectively) outstripping AWS growth (49 percent), Google (47 percent) and Salesforce.com (38 percent).

For context, note that AWS remains the largest cloud provider per Synergy, but it is no longer bigger than all four of its nearest competitors combined (see chart.)

For Amazon’s recent second quarter, net sales for the category including AWS grew 38 percent year over year, to $844 million but were off 3 percent sequentially. And the growth rate declined from 60 percent for the previous quarter.

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How Consumers Search for Products on Desktop, Tablet and on Smartphones

eMarketer

Local Corporation is a local advertising technology company that connects consumers and businesses through products and services such as Local.com and Krillion, a local shopping platform aggregating data from 120,000 stores. Chairman and CEO Fred Thiel spoke with eMarketer’s Yory Wurmser about mobile search and the evolution of retailing.

eMarketer: What is your sense of how consumers are using smartphones vs. desktop computers for search?

Fred Thiel: Consumers are definitely conditioned to use Google or another search engine for search on desktop—excluding travel searches. For travel, we see more mobile usage, and in that case, they’re usually using an app which is specific to whatever travel site used such as KAYAK or TripAdvisor. That category is pretty much the first to be “appified,” as some have termed it.

When it comes to shopping and general discovery, on desktop it’s still Google or a search engine, or a particular shopping or deal site when the customer wants something specific. To quantify, 73% of product research is done using a search engine, 33% is done through specific shopping sites, and 24% is through apps.

“People prefer to use apps if they’re searching on their smartphones, and that’s partly because that search happens right there in the store.”

eMarketer: Why do you think that’s the case?

Thiel: The reason is people prefer to use apps if they’re searching on their smartphones, and that’s partly because that search happens right there in the store. The tablet looks more like the desktop in this way. On the phone, the generic search engine has a small amount of real estate, and it’s kind of clunky and not the best user experience.

We see that eventual transition happening on desktops—as desktops really just become tablets—and that transition will go into appifications, or specific sites for visitor function.

eMarketer: So when consumers search on mobile, what’s the retailer’s goal? Is it to get consumers to buy something online, to get them into the store, or show them an mcommerce ad, perhaps?

Thiel: Most of the top 100 retailers have omnichannel programs in place, with sophisticated and well-developed ecommerce sites and brick-and-mortar stores.

More and more, with retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, the brick-and-mortar location is becoming a localized distribution center. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying online, picking up in-store, having something delivered in a store or ordering it online for home delivery. Retailers just don’t care. What they care about is that the purchase is made, and they’re setting up their systems so that omnichannel becomes the core mantra.

“More and more, with retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, the brick-and-mortar location is becoming a localized distribution center.”

 I think that’s the reason we’ll see retailer appification. Branded retailers are going to try to build retailer affinity among consumers so the purchase is made, whether it’s online or offline.

eMarketer: How do you see this evolving, or the potential repercussions for the industry?

Thiel: I think it’s going to create some very interesting dynamics in the marketplace relative to how Amazon and other ecommerce sellers adjust. A brand manufacturer doesn’t necessarily care whether you buy a TV from Amazon or Best Buy, as long as it’s their product. Best Buy, meanwhile, doesn’t care which manufacturer’s TV set you purchase, as long as you get it from Best Buy. I think it may come down to which retailer is willing to spend more money to influence the consumer at that particular moment.

Ultimately, as a company we’re very focused on providing a consumer-centric, not channel-specific experience—and definitely a nonsiloed experience—relative to a specific brand or retailer.

The state of UK programmatic advertising in 5 charts

Digiday

Programmatic advertising has become one of the U.K. media industry’s most bandied-about buzzwords, but until very recently, few knew whether it lived up to the hype. The picture is now a little clearer: A recent study conducted by MTM on behalf of the IAB U.K. attempts to quantify how ‘programmatic’ automation and real-time bidding techniques are being applied to advertising transactions.

According to the study, an estimated £500 million ($840 million) changed hands through some sort of automated system in the U.K. in 2013. A full 13 percent of the entire digital display market was traded on an impression-by-impression basis using real-time bidding. Slightly more, 15 percent, involved some other form of software-based automation from the buyer and seller — for example, a private marketplace. Half (51 percent) of spend went directly from an advertiser or agency to the media owner, while nearly a quarter (22 percent) was sold indirectly through an ad network.

When the market is broken down into segments, mobile leads the way in programmatic, while video lags behind. Mobile continues to grow and sees the highest proportion of real-time bidding taking place, due to the fast pace of new product innovation in the market. Video, meanwhile, is still mostly bought and sold through direct or indirect ad networks without the use of automated systems.


The IAB UK predicts as much as 46 percent of total display advertising could be traded using some form of software automation by the end of 2014, such is the rapid growth of the practice. This means over £1 billion ($1.68 billion) could be spent through some form of automated buying and selling process this year.

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The truth about big data: It’s more than technology

IDG News Service

Hey, it must be hard to be the only person on the planet who doesn’t understand big data.

Actually, that’s far from true: You’re in good company. While Gartner finds that 64 percent of enterprises are investing in big data, a similar chunk (60 percent) don’t have a clue as to what to do with their data.

The real problem isn’t one of technology, but of process. The key to succeeding with big data, as in all serious IT investments, is iteration. It’s not about Hadoop, NoSQL, Splunk, or any particular vendor or technology. It’s about iteration.

Big data, big confusion
Though the number of companies embracing big data projects has grown since 2012 — from 58 percent of enterprises surveyed to 64 percent — the level of understanding of exactly what to do with that data hasn’t kept pace, as the Gartner data suggests.

This isn’t all that surprising, given how hard it is to pull money from data. It’s easy to say “actionable insights,” but far harder to glean them. That’s why data scientists currently outearn most other professions, with an average salary of $123,000, which continues to go up:

Those who do data science well blend statistical, mathematical, and programming skills with domain knowledge, a tough combination to find in any single person. Of these, I’d argue that domain knowledge matters most as it leads to the process of getting value from data, as Gartner analyst Svetlana Sicular hints:

Organizations already have people who know their own data better than mystical data scientists …. Learning Hadoop is easier than learning the company’s business. What is left? To form a strong team of technology and business experts and supportive management who create a safe environment for innovation.

That “safe environment for innovation” is one that affords data practitioners room to iterate.

Innovation is iteration
There are at least two major problems with big data projects. The first is that many companies consider them, well, projects. Big data isn’t a one-off project: It’s a culture of collecting, analyzing, and using data. As Phil Simon, author of “Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data,” told me: “Do you think that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Netflix, and Twitter do? Nope. It’s part of their DNA.”

The way it becomes DNA, however, is the second detail that trips up companies getting into big data: They think it’s a technology issue. While most great big data technology is open source, building out a big data application isn’t as simple as downloading Hadoop or the NoSQL database of your choice. As IDC analyst Carl Olofson highlights:

Organizations should not jump too quickly into committing to any big data technology, whether Hadoop or otherwise, as their solution to a given problem, but should consider all the alternatives carefully and develop a strategy for big data technology deployment.

Such careful consideration happens by iterating. Rather than paying a mega-vendor a mega-check to get started (do this, and you are absolutely doing big data wrong), the right approach is to start small. As Thomas Edison noted, the trick is to fail fast or, as he says, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Big data is all about asking the right questions, hence the importance of domain knowledge. But in reality, you’ll probably fail to collect the right data and to ask pertinent questions — over and over again. The key, then, is to use flexible, open data infrastructure that allows you to continually tweak your approach until it bears real fruit.

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