Uber Technologies Inc. is accustomed to getting sued. Now it’s doing the suing. And it’s partly thanks to Breitbart News.
The global ride-hailing company is taking advertising agency Fetch Media Ltd. to court for click fraud, alleging that the firm improperly billed Uber for “fake” online ads and took credit for app downloads it had nothing to do with. Fetch is owned by the world’s fourth-largest advertising company, Japan’s Dentsu Inc.
Uber filed the lawsuit Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The company said it discovered something was amiss when it canceled a campaign on the conservative website Breitbart, where Fetch was placing Uber ads. As part of the lawsuit, Uber plans to seek at least $40 million in damages, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified disclosing legal plans. Fetch didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Going on the offensive in court is a rare move for Uber. The company is a plaintiff in only two federal cases, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Meanwhile, it has been a named defendant in about 250 federal cases. The data aren’t comprehensive but show Uber is usually on the defensive.
Online advertising fraud has been a problem for the industry since the dawn of the internet. The practice has grown more sophisticated in recent years along with the amount spent on such ads. Fetch has acknowledged the challenge publicly and said it was working with research firm Forensiq to “fight against mobile ad fraud.”
“One of the biggest challenges we face as digital marketers is to reduce mobile ad fraud,” James Connelly, Fetch’s chief executive officer, said a year ago.
Shafquat Arefeen just wanted to understand the housing market better.
The 26-year-old financial data analyst saw that the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) had made aggregated data publicly available — but he wanted to develop his own insights. Using information released by TREB in early July, he published a visualization of trends in Toronto’s housing market.
Readers loved it. His website, which does not have ads, got 13,000 visitors in the first month the visualization was available.
A new report from TransitCenter, a foundation that says it “works to improve urban mobility,” calculates that the parking benefit is worth up to $1,000 a year for commuters who are in high tax brackets and work in big cities. Collectively, it calculates, the break costs $7.3 billion a year in lost tax revenue.
True, there’s also a tax benefit for mass-transit commuters that costs the government about $1.3 billion a year. TransitCenter says that while it’s good as far as it goes, “it is overshadowed by the parking tax benefit’s much larger adverse impact.”
If you work in a place where there’s lots of free parking in lots or on the street you don’t benefit from the tax break. That’s because in such places the employee parking lot isn’t an economically valuable fringe benefit; you could have parked for free even if it didn’t exist. The break is only valuable for people who work in crowded areas. So two-thirds of American workers are in effect transferring money to the other one-third.
The suburbanization of America marches on. That movement includes millennials, who, as it turns out, are not a monolithic generation of suburb-hating city dwellers.
Most of that generation represents a powerful global trend. They may like the city, but they love the suburbs even more.
They are continuing to migrate to suburbs. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, 25- to 29-year-olds are about a quarter more likely to move from the city to the suburbs as vice versa; older millennials are more than twice as likely.
Their future — and that of the planet — lies on the urban peripheries. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made clear that, especially in suburbs, the United States desperately needs better drainage systems to handle the enormous amounts of rainfall expected from climate change.
They also made clear that new, sustainable suburbs can offer an advantage by expanding landscapes that can absorb water.
Housing affordability is a major driver of the appeal of suburbia, which has historically been, and still is, more affordable, especially for first-time home buyers.
Yet millennial suburbanites want a new kind of landscape. They want breathing room but disdain the energy wastefulness, visual monotony and social conformity of postwar manufactured neighborhoods. If new suburbs can hit the sweet spot that accommodates the priorities of that generation, millennial habitats will redefine everyday life for all suburbanites, which is 70 percent of Americans.
How can technology, revolutionary design and planning transform suburban living?
In June, Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention, an initiative aimed at limiting third-party trackers from capturing cross-site browsing data, in the next version of Safari, coming out this fall. The move has implications for ad performance tracking for Google and others. On Thursday, Google sent an email to AdWords advertisers outlining changes it is making in response to Intelligent Tracking Prevention.
What is Intelligent Tracking Prevention?
In short, with ITP, third-party cookies that are determined to be able to track users across sites can only be used for 24 hours from the time a user visits a website via Safari. After 24 hours, the third-party cookies can only be used for log-in purposes. The cookies are purged entirely after 30 days.
The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will “sabotage” the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari.
Six trade groups—the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s and two others—say they’re “deeply concerned” with Apple’s plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention,” limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting.
In an open letter expected to be published this afternoon, the groups describe the new standards as “opaque and arbitrary,” warning that the changes could affect the “infrastructure of the modern internet,” which largely relies on consistent standards across websites. The groups say the feature also hurts user experience by making advertising more “generic and less timely and useful.”
“Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by Adweek this morning. “Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice.”
Simpson’s group has long criticized the country’s biggest tech companies, saying they abuse consumers on everything from privacy to pricing. But across Washington, liberals and conservatives are beginning to find common ground in the view that the industry’s power over American life has grown too vast and unchecked — and the new dynamic is upending traditional ideological alignments.
Tech’s new critics include Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has begun sounding the alarm that Google has grown into “the most powerful company in the history of the world.”
Carlson recently aired an interview with Matt Stoller, a member of an antitrust team that lost its jobs at the left-leaning think tank New America after praising a $2.7 billion fine that the European Commission levied against Google this summer for stifling competition. The New York Times reported that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, a New America funder, had complained about the statement posted by Stoller’s team — a turn of events that Carlson described as a sign of Google’s “terrifying” power.
Stoller, a former aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), later praised Carlson as “one of the few on TV willing to talk about it.”
You would think a company that built its business on the promise of putting sophisticated data to work for advertisers would have the sense not to release numbers that are patently ridiculous.
But time and again Facebook has undermined its credibility by making claims that are easily proven to be false, and then defended these claims with statements that are absurd.
This week it was reported that Facebook was claiming to reach 41 million Americans between the ages of 18-24. If Facebook reached every American between 18 and 24 they’d still be 10 million short. There are only 31 million of them.
The European Union’s GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation comes into force in May, 2018.
GDPR will have a significant effect on business models that rely on “surveillance capitalism“.
Messaging services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Gmail will face tough new rules on the tracking of users under a revision to the ePrivacy Directive proposed by the European Commission on Tuesday.
The new legislation seeks to reinforce the right to privacy and control of data for European citizens, with messaging, email and voice services – such as those provided by Facebook, Google and Microsoft – forced to guarantee the confidentiality of conversations and metadata around the time, place and other factors of those conversations.
Listening to, tapping, intercepting, scanning or the storing of communications will not be allowed without the consent of the user, unless it is critical for billing or other purposes. Companies will have to ask for the explicit consent of users before being able to use their data for advertising purposes, which most use to fund services provided for free to end-users.
The focus of the GDPR is to give greater protections to individuals as well as tougher rules on those who handle data.
“One of the things we have high hopes for significant change under the GDPR is how transparency is really delivered to users, particularly by these internet companies,” Dixon tells WIRED. “We know from our engagement with them that a lot of them are looking very proactively at how they are going to do the transparency under the GDPR.”
This is likely to entail how people can access and view the information that is gathered about them by some of the internet’s biggest firms. “They’re working with designers to look at how they can quickly engage a user quickly but also deliver them with what they need to ensure when they sign-up they’re fully informed,” Dixon says.
In recent years, her office has been heavily involved in some of Europe’s biggest data protection cases, including the Safe Harbour case, where Europe’s top court ruled a 15-year agreement for companies to transfer information to the US was unlawful. Technology companies including Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter and Amazon have European headquarters in Ireland. That means almost all data privacy complaints against them cross Dixon’s desk before being passed to higher courts in Europe.
The real estate process offers a target rich environment for surveillance capitalism.
I thought it might be interesting to review the privacy policies of a few service providers:
“We do not sell your personal information to third parties. We may share your personal information with third parties who may offer services that may be of interest (“Third Party Sharing”).”
“We may also provide your personal information, but not the non-public personal information you enter into zipLogix products and services related to your clients and customers, to our parent company and its subsidiaries to offer other products or services that may be valuable or interesting to you; we do not provide your personal information to other third parties for marketing purposes.
We will disclose personal information without notice only if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to protect and defend the rights or property of zipLogix.”
Virtual Properties offers a unique, integrated crm/document/transaction model that brokers and agents control.
“Before you hit submit, this company has already logged your personal data” – Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu.
We do not share your information with outside companies for their promotional use. We do not track URLs that you type into your browser, nor do we track you across the Internet once you leave our site.
Tim Walters and Horace Dediu discuss GDPR in a 91 minute podcast.
The Eager and Willing – 22% of U.S. adults
At one end of the information-engagement spectrum is a group we call the Eager and Willing. Compared with all the other groups on this spectrum, they exhibit the highest levels of interest in news and trust in key information sources, as well as strong interest in learning when it comes to their own digital skills and literacy. They are not necessarily confident of their digital abilities, but they are anxious to learn. One striking thing about this group is its demographic profile: More than half the members of this group are minorities: 31% are Hispanic; 21% are black and 38% are white, while the remainder are in other racial and ethnic groups.
The Confident – 16% of adults
Alongside the Eager and Willing are the Confident, who are made up of the one-in-six Americans and combine a strong interest in information, high levels of trust in information sources, and self-assurance that they can navigate the information landscape on their own. Few feel they need to update their digital skills and they are very self-reliant as they handle information flows. This group is disproportionately white, quite well educated and fairly comfortable economically. And one-third of the Confident (31%) are between the ages of 18 and 29, the highest share in this age range of any group.
The Cautious and Curious – 13% of adults
Representing 34.5% of all brick and mortar food transactions we analyzed, Costco is the most popular physical grocery chain. Kroger (20%), Whole Foods (16%), Trader Joe’s (13.7%), and Safeway (13.1%) all have relatively similar shares, and Publix (not pictured) represented less than 0.1%. (Note: We should qualify that the brick and mortar stores here reflect the geographic locations of our loan applicants).
In each of the other spaces, one company seems to commandeer the vast majority of sales.
With grocery delivery, Instacart (53.9%) is heads and shoulders above the competition (Amazon Fresh, at 7.8%, is still far behind, but sure to grow in the coming years); restaurant delivery is dominated by the Grubhub/Seamless powerhouse; and Blue Apron has a stronghold on the meal kit space, with 77.2% of all purchases.
Lastly, we looked at how men and women shop. According to this analysis, men go to brick-and-mortar grocery stores marginally more often than women and women use delivery and meal kit services more than men, The data underscores other reports showing that increasingly grocery stores are appealing to male shoppers.
Nationally, there is a wide range in the accessibility of home ownership. It’s a seemingly-simple mix of a local population’s income and the price of homes there. But there are loads of factors contributing to each of those variables. So places with lots of employment opportunity will naturally attract lots of employees. But where to fit them? Conversely, areas without booming economic growth may have residents with lower incomes but the homes are also commensurately affordable (and then some). I found myself in the exceptionally limited scenario of being among the working class in an elite playground.
The first consumer credit bureaus appeared in the 1870s and quickly amassed huge archives of deeply personal information. Today, the three leading credit bureaus are among the most powerful institutions in modern life—yet we know almost nothing about them. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are multi-billion-dollar corporations that track our movements, spending behavior, and financial status. This data is used to predict our riskiness as borrowers and to judge our trustworthiness and value in a broad array of contexts, from insurance and marketing to employment and housing.
In Creditworthy, the first comprehensive history of this crucial American institution, Josh Lauer explores the evolution of credit reporting from its nineteenth-century origins to the rise of the modern consumer data industry. By revealing the sophistication of early credit reporting networks, Creditworthy highlights the leading role that commercial surveillance has played—ahead of state surveillance systems—in monitoring the economic lives of Americans. Lauer charts how credit reporting grew from an industry that relied on personal knowledge of consumers to one that employs sophisticated algorithms to determine a person’s trustworthiness. Ultimately, Lauer argues that by converting individual reputations into brief written reports—and, later, credit ratings and credit scores—credit bureaus did something more profound: they invented the modern concept of financial identity. Creditworthy reminds us that creditworthiness is never just about economic “facts.” It is fundamentally concerned with—and determines—our social standing as an honest, reliable, profit-generating person.
People say they want to protect their personal information, but new research shows privacy tends to take a backseat to convenience and can easily get tossed out the window for a reward as simple as free pizza.
The study — co-authored by Susan Athey, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research — provides real-life evidence of a digital privacy paradox: a disconnect between stated privacy preferences and actual privacy choices. And it serves policymakers with some food for thought about how to regulate data sharing without creating more hassles for consumers.
“Generally, people don’t seem to be willing to take expensive actions or even very small actions to preserve their privacy,” Athey says. “Even though, if you ask them, they express frustration, unhappiness, or dislike of losing their privacy, they tend not to make choices that correspond to those preferences.”
A few months ago, we noticed a notable trend in our web-traffic data: stories with a political aspect were extremely popular with readers. Perhaps this isn’t surprising; today’s news cycle - from the chaos of Brexit to the shambles in the White House, the tragedy of Grenfell to an iceberg twice the size of Luxembourg breaking away from the Antarctic ice shelf – is relentlessly political and possesses an existential urgency.
At one point, it seemed that liberal democracy was cruising towards comfortable middle age. The world order had been established and we were edging in the direction of greater freedoms and equality, some of it driven by increased access to technology. Sometimes progress was dramatic but, more often, it was simply the direction of travel, pulled inexorably in one direction by the tide of history.
Today, whether we are addressing issues of security or the environment, employment law or corporate takeovers of global organisations with vast amounts of data, the WIRED perspective of the world – one that is centred on how technology and science are shaping every aspect of society – is the norm, not an outlier.
My new book has just been released. It’s called: BADMEN: How Advertising Went From A Minor Annoyance To A Major Menace.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think surveillance marketing, the collection and selling of personal information, online tracking, and ad tech are existential dangers to free societies.
I think the monopolistic powers of some tech giants have gotten way out of control.
I think the idea that “the consumer is in charge” is the stupidest, most naive bullshit we’ve been fed since some dimwit decided that people wanted to “join the conversation” about their frozen fish sticks.
Mounting evidence suggests that the notion that the 2007 crash happened because people with shoddy credit borrowed to buy houses they couldn’t afford is just plain wrong. The latest comes in a new NBER working paper arguing that it was wealthy or middle-class house-flipping speculators who blew up the bubble to cataclysmic proportions, and then wrecked local housing markets when they defaulted en masse.
Analyzing a huge dataset of anonymous credit scores from Equifax, a credit reporting bureau, the economists—Stefania Albanesi of the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Geneva’s Giacomo De Giorgi, and Jaromir Nosal of Boston College—found that the biggest growth of mortgage debt during the housing boom came from those with credit scores in the middle and top of the credit score distribution—and that these borrowers accounted for a disproportionate share of defaults.
This report, the third in the Technology at Work series, focuses on the automation driven by e-Commerce for physical goods. We look at the technology needed to automate order fulfillment, inventory management, and delivery when consumers shop online and examine the implications in a wide range of areas for industry, retailers, supply chains, real-estate, and transportation, looking too at the impact on labor and employment.
Growth in e-Commerce is the main driver of warehouse automation, a driver which itself will increase with broadband and mobile device penetration. In Japan, 32% of all goods bought on the Internet were bought on smartphones in 2016, up from 27% a year earlier. Millennials, those most likely to shop online, will soon enter their peak spending years. Global e-Commerce sales have grown at a compound annual growth rate of 20% over the last decade, and online retail sales have gone from ~2% of total to ~8%%.
While technology is not yet either capable or cost effective in all cases, this is likely to change. Our estimates show that that 80% of jobs in transportation, warehousing, and logistics are susceptible to automation as a consequence of the trends we observe in technology. Retail is one industry in which employment is likely to vanish, but unlike manufacturing jobs which are highly concentrated, the downfall of retail employment will affect every city and region. U.S. companies employ 2 million people just to do stock and order fulfillment work and over 90% of warehouse picking is currently done by hand. Migrating to automated picking gives productivity gains of 2x–3x that as compared to pick-to-conveyor operations and 5x–6x as compared to manual pick-to-pallet fulfillment centers.
An unintended effect of Google’s heavy-handed attempt to silence Barry Lynn and his Open Markets program at New America has been to shine a really bright light both on Google’s monopoly power and the unrestrained and unlovely ways they use it. Happily, Lynn’s group has landed on its feet, seemingly with plenty of new funding or maybe even more than it had. I got a press release from them this evening. This seems to be their new site. I’ve already seen other stories of Google bullying come out of the woodwork. Here’s one.
I think it’s great that all this stuff is coming out. But what is more interesting to me than the instances of bullying are the more workaday and seemingly benign mechanisms of Google’s power. If you have extreme power, when things get dicey, you will tend to abuse that power. It’s not surprising. It’s human nature. What’s interesting and important is the nature of the power itself and what undergirds it. Don’t get me wrong. The abuses are very important. But extreme concentrations of power will almost always be abused. The temptations are too great. But what is the nature of the power itself?
Many people who know more than I do can describe different aspects of this story. But how Google affects and dominates the publishing industry is something I know very, very well because I’ve lived with it for more than a decade. To say I’ve “lived with it” makes it sound like a chronic disease or some huge burden. That would be a very incomplete, misleading picture. Google has directly or indirectly driven millions of dollars of revenue to TPM over more than a decade. Not only that, it’s provided services that are core parts of how we run TPM. So Google isn’t some kind of thralldom we’ve lived under. It’s ubiquitous. In many ways, it makes what we do possible.
What I’ve known for some time – but which became even more clear to me in my talk with Barry Lynn on Monday – is that few publishers really want to talk about the depths or mechanics of Google’s role in news publishing. Some of this is secrecy about proprietary information; most of it is that Google could destroy or profoundly damage most publications if it wanted to. So why rock the boat?
I’m not worried about that for a few reasons: 1: We’ve refocused TPM toward much greater reliance on subscriptions. So we’re less vulnerable. 2: Most people who know these mechanics don’t write. I do. 3: We’re small and I don’t think Google cares enough to do anything to TPM. (If your subscription to Prime suddenly doubles in cost, you’ll know I was wrong about this.) What I hope I can capture is that Google is in many ways a great thing for publishers. At least it’s not a purely negative picture. If you’re a Star Trek fan you’ll understand the analogy. It’s a bit like being assimilated by the Borg. You get cool new powers. But having been assimilated, if your implants were ever removed, you’d certainly die. That basically captures our relationship to Google.
It all starts with “DFP”, a flavor of Doubleclick called DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP), one of the early “ad-serving companies” that Google purchased years ago. DFP actually started as GAM – Google Ad Manager. We were chosen to be one of the beta-users. This was I think back in 2006 or 2007. What’s DFP? DFP is the application (or software, or system – you could define it in different ways) that serves ads on TPM. I don’t know the exact market penetration. But it’s the hugely dominant player in ad serving across the web. So on TPM, Google software manages the serving of ads. Our ads all drive on Google’s roads.
Then there’s AdExchange. That’s the part of Google that buys ad inventory. A huge amount of our ads come through ad networks. AdExchange is far and away the largest of those for us – often accounting for around 15% of total revenues every month – sometimes higher. So our largest single source of ad revenue is usually Google. To be clear that’s not Google advertising itself but advertisers purchasing our ad space through Google. But every other ad we ever run runs over Google’s ad serving system too. So Google software/service (DFP) runs the ad ecosystem on TPM. And the main buyer within that ecosystem is another Google service (Adexchange).
Then there’s Google Analytics. That’s the benchmark audience and traffic data service. How many unique visitors do we have? How many page views do we serve each month? What’s the geographical distribution of our audience? That is all collected through Google Analytics. Now, that’s not our only source of audience data. We have several services we use for that in addition to our own internal systems. But we do use it for the big aggregate numbers and longterm record keeping. In many ways it’s the canonical data people on the outside look at to see how big our audience is. Do we have to share that data? No. Unless we want potential advertisers to see we have an audience.
Next there’s search. Heard of that? There’s general search and then there’s Google News, a separate bucket of search. Search tends not to be that important for us in part because we’ve never prioritized it and in part because as a site focused on iterative news coverage what we produce tends to be highly ephemeral – at least in search terms. We don’t publish a lot of evergreen stories. Still, search is important. For other publishers it’s the whole game.
One additional Google implant is Gmail, which we use to provision our corporate email. The backbone of the @talkingpointsmemo.com email addresses is gmail. Lots of companies now do this.
So let’s go down the list: 1) The system for running ads, 2) the top purchaser of ads, 3) the most pervasive audience data service, 4) all search, 5) our email.
But wait, there’s more! Google also owns Chrome, the most used browser for visiting TPM. Chrome is responsible for 41% of our page views. Safari comes in second at 36%. But the Safari number is heavily driven by people using iOS devices. On desktop Chrome is overwhelmingly dominant.
Google and Facebook will be unable to use the personal data they hold for advertising purposes without user permission. This is an acute challenge because, contrary to what some commentators have assumed, they cannot use a “service-wide” opt-in for everything. Nor can they deny access to their services to users who refuse to opt-in to tracking. Some parts of their businesses are likely to be disrupted more than others.
The GDPR Scale
When one uses Google or Facebook.com one willingly discloses personal data. These businesses have the right to process these data to provide their services when one asks them to. However, the application of the GDPR will prevent them from using these personal data for any further purpose unless the user permits. The GDPR applies the principle of “purpose limitation”, under which personal data must only be “collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes”.
Google and Facebook cannot confront their users with broad, non-specific, consent requests that cover the entire breadth of their activities. Data protection regulators across the EU have made clear what they expect:
But the most disturbing part of the experience was what came next: Somehow, very quickly, search results stopped showing the original story at all. As I recall it—and although it has been six years, this episode was seared into my memory—a cached version remained shortly after the post was unpublished, but it was soon scrubbed from Google search results. That was unusual; websites captured by Google’s crawler did not tend to vanish that quickly. And unpublished stories still tend to show up in search results as a headline. Scraped versions could still be found, but the traces of my original story vanished. It’s possible that Forbes, and not Google, was responsible for scrubbing the cache, but I frankly doubt that anyone at Forbes had the technical know-how to do it, as other articles deleted from the site tend to remain available through Google.
Deliberately manipulating search results to eliminate references to a story that Google doesn’t like would be an extraordinary, almost dystopian abuse of the company’s power over information on the internet. I don’t have any hard evidence to prove that that’s what Google did in this instance, but it’s part of why this episode has haunted me for years: The story Google didn’t want people to read swiftly became impossible to find through Google.
Google wouldn’t address whether it deliberately deep-sixed search results related to the story. Asked to comment, a Google spokesperson sent a statement saying that Forbes removed the story because it was “not reported responsibly,” an apparent reference to the claim that the meeting was covered by a non-disclosure agreement. Again, I identified myself as a journalist and signed no such agreement before attending.
Rebecca Porter and I were strangers, as far as I knew. Facebook, however, thought we might be connected. Her name popped up this summer on my list of “People You May Know,” the social network’s roster of potential new online friends for me.
The People You May Know feature is notorious for its uncanny ability to recognize who you associate with in real life. It has mystified and disconcerted Facebook users by showing them an old boss, a one-night-stand, or someone they just ran into on the street.
To understand how humble, cheap inventions have shaped today’s world, picture a Bible — specifically, a Gutenberg Bible from the 1450s. The dense black Latin script, packed into twin blocks, makes every page a thing of beauty to rival the calligraphy of the monks. Except, of course, these pages were printed using the revolutionary movable type printing press. Gutenberg developed durable metal type that could be fixed firmly to print hundreds of copies of a page, then reused to print something entirely different. The Gutenberg press is almost universally considered to be one of humanity’s defining inventions. It gave us the Reformation, the spread of science, and mass culture from the novel to the newspaper. But it would have been a Rachael — an isolated technological miracle, admirable for its ingenuity but leaving barely a ripple on the wider world — had it not been for a cheap and humble invention that is far more easily and often overlooked: paper.
The printing press didn’t require paper for technical reasons, but for economic ones. Gutenberg also printed a few copies of his Bible on parchment, the animal-skin product that had long served the needs of European scribes. But parchment was expensive — 250 sheep were required for a single book. When hardly anyone could read or write, that had not much mattered. Paper had been invented 1,500 years earlier in China and long used in the Arabic world, where literacy was common. Yet it had taken centuries to spread to Christian Europe, because illiterate Europe no more needed a cheap writing surface than it needed a cheap metal to make crowns and sceptres.
In the hours after European antitrust regulators levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in late June, an influential Washington think tank learned what can happen when a tech giant that shapes public policy debates with its enormous wealth is criticized.
The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left.
But not long after one of New America’s scholars posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had chaired New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar.
The statement disappeared from New America’s website, only to be reposted without explanation a few hours later. But word of Mr. Schmidt’s displeasure rippled through New America, which employs more than 200 people, including dozens of researchers, writers and scholars, most of whom work in sleek Washington offices where the main conference room is called the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab.” The episode left some people concerned that Google intended to discontinue funding, while others worried whether the think tank could truly be independent if it had to worry about offending its donors.
“Real estate and its adjacent industries are broadly behind in technology adoption, so many investors look at the space as low-hanging fruit,” says Constance Freedman, managing partner at two-year-old real estate-focused VC firm Moderne Ventures.
Brendan Wallace, co-founder of Fifth Wall, another newish real estate-focused VC firm, echoes the sentiment, observing that “real estate has been a tech laggard.” The industry seems to be in catch-up mode lately, however, and Wallace says he’s seeing “an explosion of companies trying to solve pain points.” Those solutions include improving how buildings are designed, managed and financed.
Sure, there have already been some multi-billion-dollar businesses like Zillow and Redfin that brought online, mobile and data analysis capabilities to the industry. But real estate VCs believe that it’s still very early innings.
Here are some of the areas where we see significant seed and early-stage funding activity.
A few months ago, while dining at Veggie Grill (one of the new breed of Chipotle-class fast-casual restaurants), a phrase popped unbidden into my head: premium mediocre. The food, I opined to my wife, was premium mediocre. She instantly got what I meant, though she didn’t quite agree that Veggie Grill qualified. In the weeks that followed, premium mediocre turned into a term of art for us, and we gleefully went around labeling various things with the term, sometimes disagreeing, but mostly agreeing. And it wasn’t just us. When I tried the term on my Facebook wall, and on Twitter, again everybody instantly got the idea, and into the spirit of the labeling game.
As a connoisseur and occasional purveyor of fine premium-mediocre memes, I was intrigued. It’s rare for an ambiguous neologism like this to generate such strong consensus about what it denotes without careful priming and curation by a skilled shitlord. Sure, there were arguments at the margins, and sophisticated (well, premium mediocre) discussions about distinctions between premium mediocrity and related concepts such as middle-class fancy, aristocratic shabby, and that old classic, petit bourgeois, but overall, people got it. Without elaborate explanations.
But since the sine qua non of premium mediocrity is superfluous premium features (like unnecessary over-intellectualized blog posts that use phrases like sine qua non), let me offer an elaborate explanation anyway. It’s a good way to celebrate August, which I officially declare the premium mediocre month, when all the premium mediocre people go on premium mediocre vacations featuring premium mediocre mai tais at premium mediocre resorts paid for in part by various premium-mediocre reward programs.
It is not hard to learn to pattern-match premium mediocre. In my sample of several dozen people I roped into the game, only one had serious trouble getting the idea. Most of the examples below, and all the really good ones, came from others.
A surprising thing happened when Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods giant behind Gillette razors, Crest toothpaste and Pampers nappies, trimmed $100m from its digital marketing costs in the second quarter: nothing changed.
“We didn’t see a reduction in the growth rate [in value or volume of sales],” Jon Moeller, P&G’s chief financial officer, told investors. “What that tells me is that the spending that we cut was largely ineffective.”
P&G’s cuts were aimed at websites where its ads were more likely to be viewed by bots, computer programs that simulate the activity of real people browsing the web, and those where its brands were appearing next to undesirable content. “We want our advertising to be seen by real people,” a spokesperson said.
What is the average number of miles driven per year? The short answer is: 13,476, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Put another way, the average driver racks up over 1,000 miles each month, or almost the equivalent of two roundtrips from New York City to Los Angeles.
But to understand driving habits nationwide, you need to look at who is driving how much and where. FHWA and other federal research data underscore the following trends:
One summer morning in a coffee shop on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, I sit behind my MacBook Pro as tens of thousands of machines around the globe prepare to indelibly inscribe a record of my tinkering into their collective consciousness. I am in the midst of creating my own digital tokens—essentially online currency—on a sprawling, decentralized network known as Ethereum.
Mike Goldin, a software developer at ConsenSys, an Ethereum development studio based in Bushwick, walks me through the coding process. Goldin is my Sherpa today, graciously attending, with utmost patience, to my every query. (The 10-plus hours I spent downloading software the day prior was unnecessary, he tells me; we’re going to employ some work-arounds that will achieve my goal in a matter of minutes.)
After considering a variety of names for my token—“fortunecoin,” “hackettoken,” “neither”—I settle on a cheeky one that evokes a spectacular flameout of the great ’90s Internet bubble: “Petsdotcoin.” I click “create.”
The Silicon Valley economic miracle has become a housing nightmare. We aren’t building enough housing for all the people who want to live here. As rents and home prices continue to rise, our economic growth, our diversity and our climate are threatened.
SPUR believes that the actions of local governments are critical to addressing the housing shortage. Cities can make decisions that will help alleviate this shortage by zoning for dense housing near transit, allowing the creation of secondary units in existing single-family neighborhoods and supporting funding for a ordable housing. Or they can make the housing shortage worse by not allowing multifamily apartments to be built within neighborhoods, by making it hard to site and fund a ordable housing that families need, and by stalling important transit projects that help connect the region, forcing people into long commutes from less expensive housing to the places where jobs are located.
That direct influence will be far more helpful than anything they’re learning now just by following our shadows and sniffing our exhaust, mostly against our wishes. (To grok how little we like being spied on, read The Tradeoff Fallacy: How Marketers are Misrepresenting American Consumers and Opening Them Up to Exploiitation, a report by Joseph Turow, Michael Hennessy and Nora Draper of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.)
Our influence will be most corrective when all personal data extraction companies become what lawyers call second parties. That’s when they agree to our terms as first parties. These terms are in development today at Customer Commons, Kantara and elsewhere. They will prevail once they get deployed in our browsers and apps, and companies start agreeing (which they will in many cases because doing so gives them instant GDPR compliance, which is required by next May, with severe fines for noncompliance).
Meanwhile new government policies that see us only as passive victims will risk protecting yesterday from last Thursday with regulations that last decades or longer. So let’s hold off on that until we have terms of our own, start performing as first parties (on an Internet designed to support exactly that), and the GDPR takes full effect. (Not that more consumer-protecting federal regulation is going to happen in the U.S. anyway under the current administration: all the flow is in the other direction.)
When I was in school, I wrote an essay on redesigning the car. It seemed to me if you were going to start from scratch, you’d tackle the transport quite differently. I never understood why we push around two tons to get our shopping home.
Later in life, it continued to strike me how much land we cede to cars. Back in Melbourne, I used to drive past Victorian mansions on thoroughfares like Hoddle Street and Punt Road. Two streets over and they’d be architectural marvels. Here, on the noisy main road, it’s marginal commercial real estate.
More recently I was in Seattle. A beautiful city that’s cleaved in two by the I-5 freeway, amongst others. What if that was open space instead? Boston did this when they created a tunnel for the I-95, creating North End park. Called the “Big Dig,” it was sadly a plagued project with numerous controversies. However, as a visitor, it’s hard to miss how this project transformed the North End of Boston and opened up the city.
Google said the buyers it contacted in this instance were impacted by invalid traffic over the course of a few months this year, primarily in the second quarter. Part of that traffic affected video ads, which carry higher ad rates than typical display ads and are therefore an attractive target for fraudsters.
Google has also joined a number of industry initiatives, such as the “Ads.txt” project launched in May by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an industry trade body. The tool lets premium publishers insert a text file on their web servers to list all the ad tech vendors authorized to sell their inventory so ad buyers can confirm which platforms are selling legitimate ads.
“When people talk about [ad fraud], there’s a big specter to it and a big concern about invalid traffic in digital,” said Mr. Spencer. “It’s not that large in terms of a percentage of what people are buying, but it can be a little bit scary to buyers, and our goal is to remove that to improve the trust overall in the ecosystem.”
Ads weren’t forever
At its peak, Google had a massive and loyal user-base across a staggering number of products, but advertising revenue was the glue that held everything together. As the numbers waned, Google’s core began to buckle under the weight of its vast empire.
Google was a driving force in the technology industry ever since its disruptive entry in 1998. But in a world where people despised ads, Google’s business model was not innovation-friendly, and they missed several opportunities to pivot, ultimately rendering their numerous grand and ambitious projects unsustainable. Innovation costs money, and Google’s main stream of revenue had started to dry up.
In a few short years, Google had gone from a fun, commonplace verb to a reminder of how quickly a giant can fall.
Mic started riding the Facebook wave early in 2012. Individual stories kept going viral, pulling in 2 million, 3 million, 5 million unique visitors per piece. Former staffers described the viral power of Mic’s stories as a fluke, something they’d never witnessed before and have never seen again. Every month brought a new record, former staffers told me. It felt like Mic was unstoppable — but it was not to last. In August 2015, Mic’s Facebook traffic dropped dramatically, former staffers said. This happened every so often; traffic would dip, the audience and editorial teams would adjust a bunch of levers, and the crisis would blow over. This time was different, possibly due to changes made by Facebook that included a penalty for clickbait, as indicated by readers clicking on a story but not spending much time with it.
Mic had already exhausted its outrage vocabulary by the time Trump’s election supercharged civil rights violations
Mic, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, had already hired Bleacher Report veteran Michael Cahill in May 2015 as its director of search engine optimization. His task was to translate Mic’s Facebook optimization process to Google. This meant analyzing search trends in order to generate key phrases — everything from “What time is the convention” and “Watch Trump’s speech live” to “How to pick up women” — and assigning those key phrases to a staff of SEO writers, who then reverse-engineered stories around them. “He starts building this little team. They’re off in their own world. Garbage shit. Typos everywhere. ‘Keyword keyword 2017 colon how when where why.’ These poor kids are writing like ten of these a day,” said the former staffer who left in late 2016. “That strategy just kind of overtook the entire newsroom. The desk editors would have weekly meetings with his little lackey… they would have a spreadsheet of like 50 different story ideas that had a bunch of keywords in them, and we had to sit down and assign them to writers together
Shopping isn’t always as easy as it should be. When was the last time you needed to pick up something from the store but didn’t have the time to make the trip? Or you went to the store only to realize they didn’t have the brand you wanted? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get what you want, however you want, from the stores where you already shop? We launched Google Express and shopping on the Google Assistant to do just that: make it faster and easier for you to shop your stores like Costco, Target and now Walmart.
We’re entering an exciting partnership with Walmart to bring you hundreds of thousands of products at Walmart’s Every Day Low Prices—everything from laundry detergent to Legos—that you can buy through voice with your Assistant on Google Home or on the Google Express website or app.
If you’re an existing Walmart customer, you can choose to link your Walmart account to Google and receive personalized shopping results based on your online and in-store Walmart purchases. For example, if you order Tide PODS or Gatorade, your Google Assistant will let you know which size and type you previously ordered from Walmart, making it easy for you to buy the right product again.
This year, the world’s largest social network will see a decline among teen users in the U.S., according to a forecast by EMarketer. It’s the first time the research company has predicted a fall in Facebook usage for any age group.
EMarketer predicts 14.5 million people from the ages of 12 to 17 will use Facebook in 2017, a drop of 3.4 percent from the prior year. Teens are migrating instead to Snap Inc.’s Snapchat and Instagram, the photo-sharing app that Facebook owns, the research company said Monday in a statement.
Facebook has continued to grow around the world, with more than 2 billion users this year, but younger people are finding it less compelling, said Oscar Orozco, a forecasting analyst at EMarketer. The company needs to attract younger users so they build a Facebook habit that will carry into their adult years, when they become prime customers for Facebook advertising.
Instead of helping homebuyers sell their houses, Opendoor buys the homes directly and then resells them, eliminating uncertainty and lag time for sellers. The company charges sellers an average fee between 7% and 8% of the purchase price when it buys houses. While Opendoor can make the case that its approach involves less of a hassle for people looking to sell their home, homeowners might have to pay thousands of dollars more in fees than if they used a real estate agent. Meanwhile, some instant-sell competitors are trying to undercut Opendoor’s fees.
“It’s still more expensive than listing with a realtor, and we’re not there yet,” said Mr. Wu. “I hate to cite other people’s principles, but [Jeff] Bezos says it nicely: ‘Our margin is your opportunity.’”
Lowering fees is a way to get more “mainstream,” said Mr. Wu. Opendoor executives hope to reduce the average fee from about 7% to 6% by the end of the year to be on par with traditional agents, said a person close to the company. It’s a challenging proposition. Opendoor charges the fee to help offset the cost and risk of holding a property for months before selling, a tradeoff that many customers might accept given the certainty selling to Opendoor provides. Reducing that cost hinges on Opendoor honing its predictive models that determine optimal prices to offer.
Mr. Wu, a 34-year-old University of Arizona graduate whose geo-data analytics startup Movity.com was acquired by Trulia, co-founded Opendoor in 2014 with Keith Rabois, a former PayPal and Square executive who is now Opendoor’s executive chairman. In turn, Mr. Wu has recruited the likes of former Uber head of finance Gautam Gupta and former Amazon executive Jason Child to the San Francisco-based company in recent months.
The company, reportedly valued at about $1 billion on paper, focuses mostly on cookie-cutter suburban homes in the $125,000 to $500,000 range. Opendoor calculates how much to offer based on machine-learning models that predict home value and market risk, using both public data like prices of similar homes and more subjective criteria such as the quality of the flooring to help predict how much to offer for homes.
The stakes are high for Opendoor to get prices right. If Opendoor lowballs an offer, customer complaints can stream in on review sites like Yelp, and competitors can scoop up the home. Overvaluing the home is bad for business, too, sticking Opendoor with a home that might be difficult to sell for high-enough margins. (For example, it sells homes at about a 5.5% margin in Phoenix on average, according to an estimate by Mike Delprete, an independent real estate analyst. Opendoor says that figure is too high and likely excludes repairs Opendoor makes to homes and concessions to home buyers.) Mr. Wu said the company has made “drastic improvements” on the rate of big mistakes on pricing over the last few years. He said one in three “serious sellers” accept Opendoor’s offer, a ratio Mr. Wu is pleased with.
Today, the open office layout is back with a vengeance. In a 2013 survey by CoreNet Global, an association for corporate real estate managers, more than 80% of respondents said their company had moved toward an open space floor plan. And once again, the backlash has begun. In the last five years, a slew of articles with alarmist titles like “Death To The Open Office Floor Plan!” and “Open-plan offices were devised by Satan in the deepest caverns of hell” have assailed the supposedly progressive design.
So what exactly is wrong with the modern open office layout and how can we create spaces that fulfill the promise of a happy and collaborative workplace?
What isn’t working
By design, colleagues are more accessible in an open office layout. The minute a question pops into your head, you can easily hop over to a co-worker’s desk, or simply swivel your chair to face them. Unfortunately, these well-intentioned intrusions can lead to real problems.
First among those is reduced productivity. According to a study on the cost of interrupted work, a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes. Even worse, people often take up to 25 minutes to refocus on the original task.
And without physical barriers to block it out, noise may be the number one problem with open office plans. Together, loud phone talkers, gossipy co-workers, and that guy chomping on an apple every afternoon can frazzle your auditory system. Researchers have found that the loss of productivity due to noise distraction doubles in open office layouts compared to private offices, and open office noise reduces the ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic.
As anyone who’s had to call their doctor from their desk knows, one of the worst parts of open office layouts is that you can’t control who you hear—or who hears you. In a 2013 study about the privacy-communication trade-off in open offices, 60% of cubicle workers and half of all employees in partitionless offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem.
“We went from a 3,000-square-foot colonial with three floors to a single-story, 1,400-square-foot living space,” said Tena Bluhm, 76, formerly of Fairfax, Va. She and her 77-year-old husband, Ray Bluhm, moved this month to a retirement community in Lake Ridge, Va.
Before the move, their two adult children took a handful of items, including a new bed and a dining table and chairs. But Mrs. Bluhm could not interest them in “the china and the silver and the crystal,” her own generation’s hallmarks of a properly furnished, middle-class home.
The competitive accumulation of material goods, a cornerstone of the American dream, dates to the post-World War II economy, when returning veterans fled the cities to establish homes and status in the suburbs. Couples married when they were young, and wedding gifts were meant to be used — and treasured — for life.
But given the huge investment this involved, they were often disappointed with the savings. Until about 1910, plenty of entrepreneurs looked at the new electrical drive system and opted for good old-fashioned steam.
Why? Because to take advantage of electricity, factory owners had to think in a very different way. They could, of course, use an electric motor in the same way as they used steam engines. It would slot right into their old systems.
But electric motors could do much more. Electricity allowed power to be delivered exactly where and when it was needed.
Small steam engines were hopelessly inefficient but small electric motors worked just fine. So a factory could contain several smaller motors, each driving a small drive shaft.
As the technology developed, every workbench could have its own machine tool with its own little electric motor.
Power wasn’t transmitted through a single, massive spinning drive shaft but through wires.
A factory powered by steam needed to be sturdy enough to carry huge steel drive shafts. One powered by electricity could be light and airy.
Steam-powered factories had to be arranged on the logic of the driveshaft. Electricity meant you could organise factories on the logic of a production line.
Old factories were dark and dense, packed around the shafts. New factories could spread out, with wings and windows allowing natural light and air.
In the old factories, the steam engine set the pace. In the new factories, workers could do so.
You needed to change everything: the architecture and the production process.
And because workers had more autonomy and flexibility, you even had to change the way they were recruited, trained and paid.
Factory owners hesitated, for understandable reasons.
Of course they didn’t want to scrap their existing capital. But maybe, too, they simply struggled to think through the implications of a world where everything needed to adapt to the new technology.
In the end, change happened. It was unavoidable.
Mains electricity became cheaper and more reliable. American workers become more expensive thanks to a series of new laws that limited immigration from a war-torn Europe.
Here’s a sure-fire way to get teen drivers to stay safe behind the wheel: Threaten to embarrass them by playing mom and dad’s favorite tunes.
That’s the idea behind Toyota’s new app from Saatchi & Saatchi London that basically functions as a teen’s virtual parent while they’re driving. First, both a parent and teen download the Safe and Sound app, which is available on all Android devices in Europe.
When a teen asks to borrow a parent’s car, parents click a button and the app pulls in Google Maps API to track how fast the driver is going. After it senses that the vehicle is moving faster than 9 mph, it automatically flips into ‘do not disturb’ mode that blocks all incoming calls and social media notifications.
The app also plugs into Spotify to link up a parent’s and child’s playlists. If the driver tries to touch the phone or speeds while listening to Spotify, the app begins to play the parent’s playlist on Spotify, which the agency expects will include some embarrassing music from artists who kids may find dated like say, Milli Vanilli. “There’s nothing teenagers fear more than being seen as uncool,” says Saatchi & Saatchi London in a statement.
Once the teenager takes his or her hand off the phone or slows down, the driver’s own playlist will resume playing. The app sends the parent and child a message at the end of the drive containing a summary of the trip.
Most steps can be automated. Scanning the bar code from a driver’s license populates basic personal information like name, address and date of birth. Employment history can be pulled from LinkedIn.
A few months ago, Lisa Harrington, a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles, was shopping for a new car, and an acquaintance suggested she give AutoGravity a try. “Even as an executive who negotiates for a living, it can be daunting,” she said. “It really isn’t easy, especially for women by themselves.”
She decided on a Mercedes-Benz GLE, a cross between a sports coupe and a sport utility vehicle. The AutoGravity app let her check the models at a dealership, Fletcher Jones Motorcars, near her home in Newport Beach, Calif. From home she used the app to apply for credit and then went to the dealership with the lease financing already lined up.
The property crisis in Spain, linked to an unprecedented digital revolution, has radically transformed the construction sector, in turn influencing the way cities are traditionally developed. The burst housing bubble, coupled with the tech and data revolution, has changed the way we live, giving us the potential to correct shortcomings and build a stronger, more people-oriented urban economy. Because knowledge holds the solution to this crisis and there are no longer problems that can’t be solved, there is a conviction that the housing crisis can open up positive paths for Spanish cities.
In Spain, the middle class has seen its purchasing power slip away as the disparity in the income earned from work grows. That said, I will argue here that the ‘city’, if it takes into account the mistakes of the past, can mitigate the impact of this new phenomenon and even generate fairer redistributive policies and opportunities that make climbing the social ladder easier.
Cities too slow with legislation in a tech disrupting age
On the one hand, carrying a window to the world in our pockets in the form of a smartphone or tablet has changed our lives: we share flats, buy and sell second-hand items and video conference at the click of a finger without knowing the first thing about programming. What began by revolutionising the business world is already beginning to have an impact on the city. Millennials no longer buy CDs, for example, because the money spent on the average cost of a CD can go towards a monthly subscription that provides access to a whole digital library that grows daily and makes it faster and easier to search for any song, by any artist, anywhere in the world. That is: access to services is quickly gaining ground on ownership. This paradigm shift can also be seen in shared-economy platforms like Uber and Airbnb, which gain millions of new users weekly, and cities have not been quick enough to adapt their legislation accordingly.
I also think you have to consider global trends in the direction of, as I said earlier, app based media consumption, over direct-to-consumer OTT services, which gives us the ability to improve our fortunes in terms of how we monetize the great IP and the strong brands that we have, whether it’s in increased advertising revenue, whether it’s in the, basically the value creation proposition of knowing the consumer better and mining data more effectively; whether it’s in basically creating stronger bonds or stronger brand affinity.
We’ve got this unbelievably passionate base of Disney consumers worldwide, and virtually all of our businesses except theme parks, we’ve never had the opportunity to even connect with them directly and know who they are. And it’s high-time that we got into the business, particularly with the technology available to us, to accomplish that.
Once we do, and this gives us the ability to do it, then I think the monetization possibilities are extraordinary for this company. There will be some sacrifices. Obviously, as you move product from, I’ll call it, a licensed to third-party model to a self-distributed model, you’re foregoing the licensing revenue that you’ll get for whatever revenues you generate by all the things that I just described.
We believe that ultimately, I can’t give you an idea of when or how long, the profitability, the revenue-generating capability of this initiative is substantially greater than the business models that we’re currently being served by.
Disney moves to drive their own platform.
At the end of June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook had hit a new level: two billion monthly active users. That number, the company’s preferred ‘metric’ when measuring its own size, means two billion different people used Facebook in the preceding month. It is hard to grasp just how extraordinary that is. Bear in mind that thefacebook – its original name – was launched exclusively for Harvard students in 2004. No human enterprise, no new technology or utility or service, has ever been adopted so widely so quickly. The speed of uptake far exceeds that of the internet itself, let alone ancient technologies such as television or cinema or radio.
Also amazing: as Facebook has grown, its users’ reliance on it has also grown. The increase in numbers is not, as one might expect, accompanied by a lower level of engagement. More does not mean worse – or worse, at least, from Facebook’s point of view. On the contrary. In the far distant days of October 2012, when Facebook hit one billion users, 55 per cent of them were using it every day. At two billion, 66 per cent are. Its user base is growing at 18 per cent a year – which you’d have thought impossible for a business already so enormous. Facebook’s biggest rival for logged-in users is YouTube, owned by its deadly rival Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google), in second place with 1.5 billion monthly users. Three of the next four biggest apps, or services, or whatever one wants to call them, are WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram, with 1.2 billion, 1.2 billion, and 700 million users respectively (the Chinese app WeChat is the other one, with 889 million). Those three entities have something in common: they are all owned by Facebook. No wonder the company is the fifth most valuable in the world, with a market capitalisation of $445 billion.
The Piper Jaffrey data shows how commanding iPhones are in today’s smartphone landscape for teens. This is in line with our various surveying here at Fam, in which we have approximated over the past year that 75% of US teens use iPhones. In terms of why this may be the case, there are several factors to consider: design, iTunes, network effects, and of course what we believe to be the most important one, iMessage.
By no means am I commenting on what device is better, more powerful, better looking, or any of that. Simply laying the groundwork for this thesis at large.
iMessage IS a social platform for teens. It’s currently the center of their immediate, social universe.
Another thing that is far too often over looked is what iMessage actually is to teens. Given the trend over the past several years with the rise of various messaging apps, e.g. WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat, Kik, most people now glance over traditional SMS as being much of a social experience, and understandably so. The only problem is many people consciously / subconsciously view iMessage as synonymous to traditional SMS. I can see why this is the case — after all, iMessage is a pre-installed platform on every single iPhone so obviously it will naturally have a ton of engagement. But it being pre-installed should not be a reason to discount it, especially when taking into account the level of saturation within the Gen-Z demographic and its dynamic user experience to date (relative to traditional SMS). Of course this is more of a subjective premise, however, after first hand observing how teens use iMessage over the past few years it is clear that they treat it as much more than a basic text message delivery service. It’s the center of their mobile social life, whether they themselves realize that or not.
This time in the wild battlefields of strawberry development:
Bjorn, the company’s president, says, “Consumers have to be more satisfied, or what we call more delighted, all the time.” Produce companies tend to be driven by supply: what they grow, they try to sell. Driscoll’s, conversely, sees itself as a consumer-products company. According to Bjorn, “We create the demand …”
The company is Driscoll’s “a fourth-generation family business, says that it controls roughly a third of the six-billion-dollar U.S. berry market, including sixty per cent of organic strawberries, forty-six per cent of blackberries, fourteen per cent of blueberries, and just about every raspberry you don’t pick yourself.”
Produce is war, and it is won by having something beautiful-looking to sell at Costco when the competition has only cat-faced uglies.
In other words, they meet customer expectations for flavor and appearance (that would be cheng) but then figure out how to add something special and unexpected — something that delights (the chi). This could be a new variety as a result of their high powered R&D effort, or perhaps a tinkering of a currently seasonal variety to make it available year round, in 49 countries. The result, as the man said, and as it usually is: “We create the demand.” The Steve Jobs of Strawberries?
Although the most liveable cities in the world remain largely unchanged, there has been movement within the top tier of liveability. Of the 65 cities with scores of 80 or more, six have seen a change in score in the past 12 months. While most cities in the top tier have registered an improvement in their scores, two of them, Manchester in the UK and Stockholm in Sweden, have seen their scores decline as a result of recent, high-profile terrorist attacks.
Over the past few years several US cities have registered declines in their scores. This stems in part from unrest related to a number of deaths of black people at the hands of police officers. In addition, the country has seen protests held in response to President Trump’s policies and executive orders.
Sydney in Australia is another city that has seen a decline in its ranking, reflecting growing concerns over possible terror attacks in the past three years. Sydney now ranks outside the top ten most liveable cities, at number 11, down from seventh place just over a year ago. Nevertheless, with such high scores
already in place, the impact of these declines has not been enough to push any city into a lower tier of liveability. Although 17.2 percentage points separate Melbourne in first place from Warsaw in 65th place, all cities in this tier can lay claim to being on an equal footing in terms of presenting few, if any, challenges to residents’ lifestyles.
Apple users head to their local mall’s Apple Store, owned by Apple Inc. (AAPL) , with their iPhone or laptop in tow for service or to take a course.
Then while waiting for repairs or on the way in or out of the mall, they may stop at a Nordstrom (JWN) and drop $300 on a shirt or look at a loveseat at a Brookstone for about $200.
The mall trip could also mean picking up makeup at MAC, owned by Estee Lauder Companies Inc (EL) , or maybe even dinner at P.F. Chang’s. $Ka-ching, $ka-ching, $ka-ching.
Apple Stores turn out to be very good neighbors, and have become the new mall anchor store, a role once held by department stores, because they draw lots of foot traffic, which also benefits the smaller stores.
In the U.S., there are roughly about 140 million customers with iPhones, estimated Gene Munster, a partner in Loup Ventures in an interview with TheStreet, and those millions usually need to go to a bricks-and-mortar store for service.