If you’re anything like us SpeakerBoxers, you love food. That's why last month, after we all felt sick from consuming 2 dozen Georgetown Cupcakes we won in HomeSnap’s Twitter contest, we started drawing up plans for an app called “Remorsel.” Our app was going to include user-based reviews of favorite dishes (or, in Georgetown Cupcake’s case, flavors) at local eateries in the DC area, including photos of said dishes.
Well, I guess we have a leak in the office, because somehow Yelp caught wind and announced some updates to their app today that clearly were stolen from our masterful plan that we never wrote down or really developed to any extent. According to Travis B. (a Yelp product manager) in his recent blog post entitled “Yelp Menus: Connecting People with Great Local Food Porn:”
“I hate to break it to you, but your little problem is about to get much more serious thanks to the brand new mouthwatering Menus feature Yelp is rolling out today. We’ve combed the site to compile visual menus incorporating Yelp reviews and user-uploaded food pictures. Now you can not only read about that decadent chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake swimming in a pool of hot fudge, you can see real users’ photos of said gut-busting dessert from every angle right alongside the menu item.”
Along with the graphics, they will also now have a “favorite dish” option that will show us the preferred dishes at specific restaurants. Since these new features accomplish everything we intended our new app to do, I guess we’ll have to go back to the drawing board on the app front. Or, we can simply hope that one of the flavors we submitted for the Lays “Next Great Potato Chip Flavor” competition is a winner.
But, the new app features aren’t the only announcement Yelp made today. Looks like they’re also putting their foot down on fake reviews. According to their official release, they’ve launched a pop-up consumer alert feature that will notify their users of businesses who are tooting their own horn, so to speak. To punish the offending businesses, violators’ names will remain on “the list” for 90 days, dissuading them from continuing to falsify their businesses reviews. Sounds good to me!
The golden age of mobile ads.
Ask any mobile advertiser what she wants more than anything, and she'll invariably tell you: "Clicks."
Millions of impressions? Worthless. Word of mouth? Pointless. Sure, these things might help your brand. But the new reality in advertising (sometimes referred to as the McNamara Fallacy) is this:
If it can't be measured, it doesn't exist.
Having said all that, I'd now like to address why this is terrible advice for mobile advertisers.
(Note: If I’m unable to finish this post, it’s because I’ve just been taken out by an AdMob sniper on the Westpark grassy knoll.)
Let me explain it this way:
Inside every ad campaign is an ongoing struggle between what’s good for the customer and what’s good for the marketer.
In the old days, you couldn’t “click” on ads. You just saw them, read them, or ignored them. They didn’t dance around provocatively, coaxing you into a reluctant click. They didn’t demand your interaction. They simply existed to tell you something as simply and directly as possible.
Obviously, those days are long gone. The prevailing ad technique today is not the "big message," but rather the "big tease" – the persuasion (by hook or by crook) to get customers to click.
So my question is: Who really benefits from the clickability of these ads? Are customers really clamoring for more in-depth, interactive ADVERTISEMENTS? (As if we were suffering from a dearth of non-promotional Web content.)
No, let’s not kid ourselves. What’s really driving the clickability of ads is the benefit to the marketers and the company CMOs. Clicks produce metrics, and boy do we marketers love metrics.
The only problem is, giving marketers metrics is like giving the Iranians centrifuges. They don’t really know how to use them, and sooner or later they’re probably going to blow themselves up.
So it is with clickable ads. Yes, they get clicks. (Anytime I have to click on something in order to stop a dancing clown from blocking my view of the ESPN scoreboard, I’m likely to do so). But they aren’t engendering good will among customers – which is sort of the whole point of advertising.
At least it used to be.
I had the pleasure today to attend the Google Developer Group Dev Fest, which is a day-long dual-track conference on Startups, Mobile, Big Data and other emerging Google technologies. Here is a recap on a panel on mobile startups: what's involved, what are the challenges, and how to get started.
Thanks to Shiva Thirumazhusai of Nasotech, one of the organizers, for the opportunity to attend.
Moderator: Shashi Bellankonda, Social Media Swami @shashib
Alec Walker, mPortal @mportal
Munish Ghandi, Founder and CEO of Hy.ly @hy_ly @munishgandhi
Chris Schroeder, CEO and Co-Founder, App47 @chris_schroeder @app47
Barg Upender, Founder Mobomo @bargmarley @mobomoapps
Jonathan Altman, Founder Async.io @async_io
Shashi Bellamkonda began the discussion by asking each of the panelists questions around trends, execution, and requesting advice based on their experiences in consumer and enterprise environments. Some of the highlights (I am paraphrasing - so if i inaccurately report the gist of the message, that is all on me!):
Chris: Ideas are cheap, execution is expensive! Great ideas are plentiful, but turning it into a busines that generates revenue is tough. There is a big gap between developing an idea, getting a prototype, then bringing a product to market. Especially with mobile apps.
Chris: Biggest piece of advice is to "watch the patterns" in developing your business. With App47, it's a company focused on systems management for mobile apps. His previous business was a similar model, but for mainframes. He continued to make the point that the more things change, the more they stay the same...
Alec: It's important to consider the business reason for why you are developing your product, service, or app. mPortal sells into the enterprise, and works with very large cable companies, who aren't just looking to generate revenue. In some cases, they are looking to change the way that their customers watch TV, and that affects the work they do. It could be customer retention, it could be sales and conversions. But think carefully about the problem you are trying to solve - that is most likely 50% of the challenge.
Barg: There is no shortage of great ideas. His company Mobomo began as a crowdsourcing application for traffic patterns. They received a ton of publicity, but not a lot of revenue. Then Google announced an app that effectively did what they did, and they needed to pivot, and now they consider themselves a services company and they've seen success. His most recent company that he's launched, HitchRides, however, leverages the technology they developed for Mobomo, and leverages maps and locations to make it easy to find taxis. Need to be fluid and keep your eyes on what's happening and what people need.
Jonathan: It's critical to set the stage with your app / mobile product by making the final vision really clear, even to your family and friends and early adopters. Spend some money on UX design and graphics. If you have an idea for where the product will end up, set it up from the beginning that way. This is particularly important if you are in fundraising mode. Early adopters will put up with some warts, and will give you feedback. But don't take them for granted, and be sure to take care of them down the road.
Munish: On the topic of distribution, conversion and downloads are really hard to get. It's important to look at every customer as a marketer. It's really not a viable long term strategy to "buy" your way into distribution, or to try to cheat the system by naming your app something that comes up first in the App store. Instead, make sure you have a social hook: Instagram was a great example of that - every time someone shared a picture, it was marketing Instagram. Then, assuming you have a social hook - make sure the feed is your friend: Twitter's feed, Google+, Facebook, etc.
All: One of the keys to developing a successful app is in finding the feature hook - the one thing that people want to use in their daily lives. Native apps that do that and people use every day are the ones that are successful. Hook into Facebook and other platforms when designing and writing an app - don't be an island, connect into everyone else. You have to tap into preexisting places and apps that people use every day.
Barg: On a question on HTML5 versus developing native apps: listen to Mark Zuckerberg's talk at the recent TechCrunch DISRUPT that talked about how they were built on HTML5 and found it to be a mistake: it wasn't ready yet. Now they are focused on native.
--Elizabeth Shea, @eliz2shea
After writing my recent blog post reminding everyone about the importance of getting out into the local tech community, I couldn’t resist filling everyone in on my latest outing. This past Wednesday night I headed into Clarendon to check out MoDevDC’s latest get together at the new Capital One Labs space. Not only did I get to tour their awesome spread, but I also got to view some product demos and listen to a panel of mobile commerce rock stars to learn more about the space and where it’s headed.
The event kicked-off with a couple of demos from white label payment solutions leaders Paydiant (presented by David Gray, technology innovation and strategic alliances, Capital One) and SeQRPay (presented by Bryan Colligan, founder, SEQRPay), who showed the crowd that wallets and credit cards may soon be a thing of the past. Their presentations gave way for the main event, the panelists for which included (from left to right in photo):
- Chris Clark, moderator and senior product manager, Capital One Labs
- Gill Haus, senior vice president of technology, RideCharge
- Sameer Saddiqui, director of product and social commerce, Gannet (DealChicken)
- Bryan Colligan, founder, SeQRPay
- Jeremy Rephlo, senior product, Capital One Labs
The major point the group wanted to make was that commerce is everywhere. While the technology for mobile commerce is here, it’s all about adoption. It is essential that companies focus on merchant adoption of mobile commerce solutions so consumers are able to use these solutions. Once this happens, smartphones are all we’ll need for a trip to the store. But they stressed that different use cases require different technologies and that companies must keep their unique audiences in mind at all times. For example, according to Saddiqui, when Gannet launched DealChicken, their social commerce daily deal site, they had to take into account that most of their audience still read newspapers, so their mobile payment approach had to make sense for that consumer – most of which are using email to purchase deals.
Another discussion topic included web vs. native mobile applications. Most panelists were on the native track, insisting that it increased user experience and addressed the critical ease of use required for inspiring in-moment purchasing and managing corporate customers.
After the short panel, things opened up for questions. You can check out the full panel and Q&A online to get answers to questions about security concerns, adoption and predictions for mobile commerce.
Pete Erickson, founder and president of MoDev, one of the largest developer groups in the country, and founder of Disrupthon, was the man in charge of putting this event together. MoDev has grown exponentially since 2008 and has resorted to wait lists for their events (they’re that awesome). Their next DC event, MoDev Tablet, will be held September 13-15. If you are interested in attending, I’d recommend signing up soon, as it looks like tickets are selling out quickly. Hope to see you there!
Not to be outdone by iPad's SIRI, Surface comes preloaded with Clippy, the Microsoft Office Paperclip
Noted inebriate Winston Churchill once said about Microsoft Office: "It's the worst of all enterprise software packages, except for all the others."
You said it, Churchy. How else to explain the fact that while I despise MS Word with the intensity of a thousand suns, I just shelled out 120 bucks to get the latest version on my MacBook Air.
Yes, you read that correctly: I, Jonathan Katz, have purposefully (on purpose) infected my pristine Apple computer with (and this is on purpose now) Microsoft software.
Why did I do it?
Well, for starters, I don't much care for the Pages/Numbers/Keynote suite on OS X. Yeah, it's probably better than the Office suite.
But it isn't obviously better, so the switching cost is tough to swallow. Plus, while I was using Pages and Keynote, I was spending approximately 97.4% of my workday converting files to Word and PowerPoint -- just so my colleagues could peer quizically at a jumble of unformatted characters and images (because Apple and MS file formats are only compatible in the biblical sense).
I did for a brief moment experiment with using Open Office, but this program was obviously built by communist Nazis in the Iranian nuclear commission. So I sucked it up and went for Office 2012.
Anyway, the reason I mention all this is because of Microsoft's unveiling of its new Surface tablet (a.k.a. the iPad killer).
I think I share David Pogue's skepticism that Microsoft Windows (which auto corrected to "Wiccan" on my iPhone -- I'm not making this up) can offer anything to justify leaving behind Apple's warm glow of tablet beneficence.
And since 80% of the world's tablets are iPads, Microsoft won't have its usual, most crucial product differentiator -- sweet, sweet ubiquity.
Pogue also mentions the Zune a number of times as a point of comparison (which is mean, but apt).
(Sidebar: How much longer until we put Zune in the American lexicon? As in, "Corel's launching a Photoshop alternative? Sounds like they're about to get Zuned.")
(Other sidebar: Is Corel even a company anymore? I sort of feel like I saw a commercial talking about it being driven into bankruptcy by Bain Capital...)
In any case, I'm not holding my breath until the Surface catches on. Pogue seems to like Windows 8, but my most reliable inside source says it's the worst OS ever devised.
So I'm not shelling out my hard-earned dollars until everyone else in the world switches over, and I'm spending the bulk of my day converting old Word files into the Windows 8 format.
That's certainly something to look forward to, isn't it?
On the bright side: Here's some footage of Steve Ballmer on bath salts.
So rumor has it that Tim Cook will be announcing the iPanel (i.e., Apple's smart TV product) at next week's Developer's Conference.
In true Apple form, the company could start shipping out these devices by the end of year, or -- just as likely -- there's no television product at all.
We just don't know.
That's why Apple product speculation is such an entertaining pastime (way more so than oil futures speculation).
Actually, my dad thinks Apple doesn't even need to design products anymore. All they have to do is spread the rumor they're expanding into some ridiculous new area (for example, boardwalk snacks), and then Apple fanatics will begin feverishly drawing up the plans for what iFudge should look like, what it should taste like, and if it should have LTE.
Not a bad business model, I'd say.
So, yeah. I can't offer you any new iPanel rumors. The best I can do is tell you what it should be like:
Here's what I want: simpler, easier content delivery.
See, I only really want to watch two things on TV: sports and cartoons. Yet for some reason, I'm paying for 6 home and gardening networks and two Turner stations that just show Mel Gibson's The Patriot on a continuous loop.
So if Apple can figure out a pay-for-content scheme (that includes live sports), that would be a big win in my book.
The other major issue I have with TV is that there's so much content everywhere, I never know what I'm missing.
(Yes I realize this is somewhat contradictory to my first complaint, so don't bother pointing it out in the comments section.)
Anyway, some type of Siri-like artificial intelligence that knows which shows I'd never watch and which shows I might conceivably watch (completely eliminating the former and making relevant recommendations regarding the latter) would be fairly appealing.
Here's what I don't want: social media and app integration.
Yes, I sometimes watch TV while playing with my iPhone. But that doesn't mean I want game center notifications, tweets, and text messages flashing across the TV screen every 2.4 seconds.
Multi-tasking efficiencies notwithstanding, this would not be a positive development for a society that's already chronically ADHD.
Call me old-fashioned, but I still think TV should be immersive, escapist entertainment -- like the movies. How would you like going to the theater to see Schinder's List, and there's an Access Hollywood newsticker at the bottom of the screen?
No thanks. I don't think I'm ready to have my TV become the hub of my connected world. Then where will I go to unwind from my TV time?
But I guess we'll know more in a few days...
Last Thursday, I listened in on comScore’s webinar “Mobile Future in Focus: Key Trends Shaping the Mobile and Tablet Landscape in 2012.” The webinar was really interesting and focused on the results of their latest mobile trends study.
As the mobile landscape continues to evolve with new connected devices coming out and changing the way we consume news, information, media and content, comScore has identified four key trends for 2012.
1. Mobile media is mainstream
Basically, content consumption is being increasingly driven by smartphone usage, with more than half of mobile phone users in the U.S. consuming mobile media. The majority of Americans (93%) are accessing connected media via their smartphones…I’d say that shows it’s become mainstream.
2. Mobile fueling social media and commerce
Obviously, smartphones are being used to access social media sites with over 64 million people in the U.S. accessing them through their mobile device every month and over 38 million every day. Facebook crushes all other social sites with 77% of people accessing it monthly. Most of these visits are to read or post updates but some users follow links and over 50% follow organizations and/or brands.
However, mobile content and connectivity is also changing how we define commerce with deal-a-day sites, shopping guides, electronic payment processing, online retail and bank accounts being accessed regularly by smartphone users. The number of people that use PayPal on their phones has more than doubled over the last several months and 1 in 4 smartphone owners accessed online retail sites in December 2011. Also, smartphone use is changing the in-store experience of shopping by letting users easily check availability, compare prices, search for coupons and research features – sometimes while they’re actually in the store.
3. Platform wars intensify
Android and Apple are battling it out for first place with each of them taking the lead in different areas. As of July 2011, over 50% of people in the U.S. buying a new phone purchased a smartphone, making them a majority in the market.
Savvy consumers are basing their choice first on network quality, then phone operating system and third on the selection of apps – surprisingly cost ranks after these three factors. While iOS still holds the lion’s share of devices owned, Android sales are growing at the greatest rate with iOS at a close second. As this race is heating up they’re seeing RIM’s sales decline, turning this really into a two-platform race.
4. Connected devices give rise to digital omnivores
The rise of tablets and the number of smartphones on the market has changed how people access content, giving rise to a new kind of content consumer that comScore dubbed a “digital omnivore.” With tablet usage on a steep incline, connected devices are rivaling the PC in how Americans access content. comScore outlined the biorhythms of when digital omnivores access content via which device, with tablets being used mostly before and after work, computers being used mostly during typical business hours and mobile phones being used steadily during waking hours.
The data also showed that Android and Apple are continuing their battle in this arena as well with Android having the lead in number of devices available and Apple holding the lead in actual tablet usage. Additionally, people are increasingly accessing mobile content over Wi-Fi as opposed to mobile services – especially when it comes to tablets where over 90% of traffic is over Wi-Fi.