Category Archives: Business

And they said it wouldn’t work: Digital subscriptions are a thing now

Farhad Manjoo has some good news for those of us who want this internet experiment to work out: People are paying for stuff .

This paragraph caught my eye:

“Apple users spent $2.7 billion on subscriptions in the App Store in 2016, an increase of 74 percent over 2015. Last week, the music service Spotify announced that its subscriber base increased by two-thirds in the last year, to 50 million from 30 million . Apple Music has signed on 20 million subscribers in about a year and a half. In the final quarter of 2016, Netflix added seven million new subscribers — a number that exceeded its expectations and broke a company record. It now has nearly 94 million subscribers.”

Netflix has nearly 94 million subscribers.

That’s an amazing number. Those aren’t “users.” Those are people who pay for the service.

For years I’ve joined the chorus lamenting the impending doom of creativity, content, and culture. No one will ever pay for anything .

I think back to that moment 10 years ago when I realized that online advertising was a race to the bottom for all but a few massive companies. I was distraught. Really, I was legitimately upset. I was fascinated by the internet’s possibilities, yet it seemed to be built on a pile of sand. I wondered how it would all play out. I wondered if I needed to find a new line of work.

And yet, here we are.

When I consider my own digital subscriptions I’m struck by how easily and naturally they’ve arrived. At a certain point, each one just made sense and just fit in.

I guess I’m not alone.

This video won’t save book publishing, but it sure is creative

The magazine industry might want to consult the following video the next time they’re fighting for consumers’ hearts and minds.

Be sure to watch the whole thing. It’s not what it initially appears to be. And you might want to gird yourself for the inevitable torrent of copycats to come.

Heads up, traditional media! Pay very close attention to what OK Go just did

It’s rare when you see such a clear example of the Internet’s disruption: OK Go, the band best known for its clever music videos, has severed ties with its record label, EMI. The reason? The label is caught in old-think and wants to disable the embed function on the group’s web-based videos.

OK Go … God bless ’em … told EMI to politely bugger off. The band knows embedding is an absolute must-have if you want to harness the web’s power.

Speaking of which, here’s the group’s latest masterpiece:

Want to know what Google is up to? Here you go

GoogleI’ve seen lots of hand-wringing and sweaty prognosticating about Google. What will it do? What does it want? Is that don’t be evil mantra for real?

Funny thing is, Google’s strategy has always been in plain sight. There’s no obfuscation. There’s no misdirection. Heck, this New York Times piece spells it out:

Google has used a similar approach — immense computing power, heaps of data and statistics — to tackle other complex problems. In 2007, for example, it began offering 800-GOOG-411, a free directory assistance service that interprets spoken requests. It allowed Google to collect the voices of millions of people so it could get better at recognizing spoken English. A year later, Google released a search-by-voice system that was as good as those that took other companies years to build.

See what Google did there? It released a free service so it could gather huge amounts of data that could then be used in another product. That’s what Google does. Free leads to data, data leads to another product. Repeat over and over and over and over again.

The Long Tail and iPhone app usage: Nothing surprising here

From The New York Times:

The average iPhone or iPod Touch owner uses 5 to 10 apps regularly, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends. This despite the surfeit of available apps: some 140,000 and counting.

I’ve seen the same stat mentioned before. Heck, I referenced that stat in a piece I wrote. But what I find surprising is that anyone is surprised by this. It’s the behavioral equivalent of the Long Tail: a few apps get frequent use — the blockbusters — while the others wane after post-installation popularity or, even worse, don’t get downloaded at all.

Instead of this broad-based stuff, what I’d really like to see is data that links up people’s interests/professions with their most-used apps.

God bless Apple’s anti-vaporware stance

Kudos to Joel Johnson for elegantly noting one of Apple’s most profound strengths: it doesn’t muck about in vaporware.

From Gizmodo:

The fact that Apple does not reveal prototypes but shipping products is the fundamental difference between their entire business strategy and that of the rest of the industry. It evokes a feeling of trust between Apple and consumers — that when Apple actually reveals a product, it’s something that they’re confident enough to support for years to come.

Put another way …

Hey, journalists, this is why you need a blog

A phenomenal post from Jason Fry at the National Sports Journalism Center:

When I started Faith and Fear in Flushing with my friend Greg Prince in the winter of 2005, I’d been at The Wall Street Journal Online for nearly 10 years. But despite all that time as a Web guy, I’d adopted some rather unhealthy attitudes. I was studiously uninterested in knowing how many readers read my columns, and only took a passing interest in their reactions to them. I thought that my job was to be a thinker and a writer. Worrying about traffic numbers? That was somebody else’s job – and a lesser calling.

This was arrogant and dumb, and a few weeks of writing Faith and Fear showed me that. On my own blog, the numbers were of immense interest to me. I pored over them every day in an effort to figure out what posts were connecting with readers and what posts weren’t. I was singing for my supper, and it made me a better columnist. If a column was well written but didn’t seem to connect, I wasn’t happy with it. I no longer dismissed Web traffic as not my job, complained about writing promos for my stuff, or gave reader comments and emails short shrift. And I realized those folks on the business side were critical to our collective success, and could teach me things. [Emphasis added.]

I’ll add this: journalism’s biggest mistake was allowing business apathy/hatred among the editorial ranks. That’s a far more egregious “sin” than publishing free Web content.

Journalism pet peeves [Ongoing]

An ongoing list of journalism habits that get stuck in my craw.

Audience hatred — You are not better than your readers. You are not smarter than your readers. You can hate readers all you want in your off time, but while you’re on the clock you need to serve them with everything you’ve got. Find value. Create value. Seek viewpoints. Respond to comments. Give a shit. Without an audience, you’ve got nothing.

Killing (tech) — Technologies do not kill other technologies. One might supplant another. The market might choose another. But gadgets do not have homicidal urges (yet).

Lists of pet peeves — That’s right. I’m violating my own pet peeve. No one cares! (And yet, I continue …)

Non-linking — Please. Seriously. Please. If you include a URL in a story, and that story is posted on the Web, you must take the three extra seconds required to link it in.

Stand-in opinions — Squeezing a quote out of a source that just happens to dovetail with the exact point you sought to make does not make you objective. At best, you’re being opaque. At worst, lame. Just say it. Put it out there. I’d appreciate the honesty. Maybe all the time you’ve spent researching and talking with folks has given you — hold on, this is gonna hurt — an opinion of your own.

Stealing and/or non-acknowledgement — I realize journalists are supposed to live for the exclusive. That’s fine. Competition is a good thing. But when you get scooped, give credit where it’s due. Cite the original source and link to the story, even if it’s a hated competitor. They won this battle, maybe you’ll get the next one.

Got others? Please share them below.

Conferences and custom mobile apps: Yup, that makes sense

Attendees at the LeWeb conference held earlier this month had an extra organizational tool at their disposal: a custom iPhone app.

I cannot believe how much sense this makes. As app frameworks become more common, and development costs come down, I can see a point in the next two years when conference apps move from novelty to must-have. Sort of like Wi-Fi (but hopefully more reliable).

And let’s not forget the sponsorship opportunities here, either. A smart sponsor could use the app to send a hyper-targeted message to a hyper-targeted audience. Toss in some sort of booth contest, and you’ve got the marketing equivalent of the Death Star’s tractor beam.

Revealed! The true motivations behind survey data

Alan Mutter looks at the face-palm-inducing results from a recent newspaper publisher survey. Apparently, execs have high hopes for 2010. Very, very high hopes.

Ridiculousness aside (and these results are truly ridiculous), I found the end of Mutter’s piece quite interesting. I think most survey data is crap because it has no way of incorporating the qualitative, subconscious motivations of respondents. People are emotional creatures with wacky ideas. Yet, survey companies and analysts throw projections out there under the billowy banner of Truth.

That’s why I was heartened to see the underlying explanations/motivations laid out by one of the guys behind this newspaper survey. This is the type of honesty surveys need:

  • “Wishful thinking.”
  • “Print people over-estimating the potential of online (which is the sole factor contributing positive gain).”
  • “Corporate insistence to make the online look better.”
  • “If I don’t show better numbers, they’ll cut my budget.
  • “Optimism is better than slitting your wrists.”

Yes! A thousand times yes! This is the meaty, emotionally-honest stuff I want to see. It forces people to take surveys with a grain of salt. Surveys have some value, I’ll give you that, but they’re only a reference point. That’s it. The end-all-be-all, we’re-sure-this-will-happen authoritarian perspective is useless.