The new, new thing — April 2017

Clips — Apple’s new video app

“For starters, Clips is a tool, not a platform. Yes, you can use it to make highlight reels of your cat, but you’ll still do your sharing over iMessage (or, more likely, your social network of choice). It’s also smart: Clips uses facial recognition to identify the people in your videos, and suggest people to share them with. But what really sets the app apart is a feature Apple calls Live Titles, which turns your spoken words into on-screen text. It also goes one crucial step further: Apple claims it synchronizes the text to the cadence of your voice. If it works as advertised, Clips’ speech-to-text feature will be the easiest method yet for close-captioning social videos. That makes Live Titles a neat solution to an ironic — and increasingly irksome — problem: The more people use video to communicate, the more they need text to tell them just what those videos are saying.”

Elon Musk’s latest brainwave

“SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence and has no public presence whatsoever, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.”

Nasdaq is trying to bring blockchain technology to ad trading

“Earlier this month Nasdaq announced the planned launch of New York Interactive Advertising Exchange (NYIAX), a platform it claimed would reshape the future of how advertisers and media owners trade by taking ‘Wall Street tech to Madison Avenue’.

With the service set to launch in beta later in the year, NYIAX claimed its offering would use blockchain technology to help bring greater transparency plus efficiency to the way all media is traded. The Drum caught up with Richard Bush, NYIAX’s chief product and technology officer, to gauge its plans goals, strategy and tactics to bring about the proposed changes.”

Amazon is making an F1 documentary series

““The series will take Amazon Prime members inside what it takes to compete at the highest level of Formula 1 racing,” said Conrad Riggs, Head of Unscripted, Amazon Originals. “It will combine unparalleled access with exciting and dramatic storytelling that will appeal to racing fans and non-racing fans alike.”

“McLaren dominated F1 in the modern era, creating champions like Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton. But they are also a family who have recently gone through difficult times, both on track and off,” said Executive Producer Manish Pandey. “And like all families, we will watch them pull together to regain their rightful place at the head of F1.””

Amazon’s plan for taking Google’s ad revenue

“Amazon has articulated a strategy for its advertising business at an internal event. It promises advertisers the chance to target Amazon buyers who are ready to purchase something. This makes it a potentially more compelling option for advertisers than Google, due to the promise of higher conversions.

The ecommerce giant is betting on a strategy of using ads as an additional revenue stream to lower the price of the goods it sells. The approach could make Amazon a more compelling place to shop. Sellers can promote their products through advertising, customers get relevant ads for products they’re likely to buy.

Amazon has even started placing ads directly on Google to promote products on its marketplace, making it even more ubiquitous.”

Amazon launches its own influencer programme

“Social media influencers — like Instagram stars or YouTube celebs — often promote products they like, either as part of a brand relationship or as means of generating income through affiliate sales. Now, Amazon is looking to get in on this action as well. The company has quietly launched the “Amazon Influencer Program,” which is currently in beta testing as of a couple of days ago. Similar to the Amazon Affiliate program, the new program will offer influencers commission on products sold, but is not open to the public.”

Food delivery app Deliveroo opens restaurant spaces for restaurants to use

“With Deliveroo Editions, the London-headquartered company is putting its arsenal of delivery data to use through identifying customer demand and specific cuisine shortages in certain areas — it’s about spotting gaps in the market. Deliveroo then asks eateries, be they small independents or national chains, to sign up to its new kitchen-only delivery platform, though restaurants can also register their interest in being selected.

For restaurants looking to expand, this setup reduces the risk of setting up shop in expensive neighborhoods, with only the actual catering side of things to worry about. Deliveroo provides everything else in terms of infrastructure, including bespoke kitchens, local marketing support, software, and fleets of couriers.”

Drones for crop-spraying in China

“Based on the outskirts of Beijing, Hive develops its own crop dusting drones that spray pesticide. Comparable to other products on the market, such as DJI’s Agras MG-1, Hive’s drones can carry up to 10 kilograms of liquid at a time and spray about 50 acres of crops per day. Each device costs about US$5,000.

For farmers that don’t want to buy and maintain a Hive drone, the startup also offers a crop protection service, where they charge about US$1.50 for every 0.16 acres of land sprayed, not counting the pesticide. Including chemicals, it’s US$2.90.

Hive says it’s currently partnering with over 400 farming cooperatives in China, and has clients in Hubei, Henan, Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, and Hainan province.”

UK digital ad spend exceeded £10bnfor the first time in 2016, up 17% vs 2015

Not surprisingly, mobile (up 51%) and video (up 56%) saw massive growth, with mobile video up more than 100%. Mobile now makes up 38% of UK digital ad spend, and 79% of social ad spend. Also, 72% of display was traded programmatically. Lots to read and take in — let me know if you’d like the full IAB presentation.

Facebook now has 5 million monthly advertisers

Facebook’s ambition to be the home of advertisers both big and small continues with this new stat, up 2m since March 2016. 75% are outside the US, pretty much in line with its user numbers. It shows the power and simplicity of it’s DIY ad creation and targeting tools, and of course it’s high reach into large parts of the population.

20% of Facebook videos are now live

Live is now ‘a thing’ on Facebook. One year after it was launched within the app, one in 5 videos on the platform is live, mainly because that’s the easiest way to put videos onto there. It’s interesting that there aren’t that many great examples of brands using live video next — which is a surely a big opportunity if people are getting used to seeing their friends go live.

‘Punk’ brewer BrewDog sold a minority stake to a private equity firm, valuing them at £1bn

This is an astonishing achievement by the Scottish company, who have pretty much followed (and added to) the ‘challenger brand’ playbook over the last ten years. It’s also fascinating that at a time when lots of bars are closing they are opening several a year, and that they have pretty much built it all on PR and social media, with great on- and off-trade distribution. Will their marketing change with the big cash injection?

Here is a look at their social strategy, from 2015

BK’s voice ad very cleverly uses Google Home — until…

Must have looked great on paper — An 15 second TV ad that says “OK Google — What is a Whopper Burger?” — then triggering Google Home to read out the Wikipedia definition of the Whopper.

But… You can edit Wikipedia, so people did, and it started reading out all sorts of strange things, and then Google blocked the command.

Great idea though…

Thanks to Adrian Lee for the link!

Benedict Evans takes a very smart look at augmented reality

Typically insightful, with lots about new hardware that will come (he has managed to get to play with Magic Leap, and loves it), plus a fascinating point about how AI is crucial to AR. Essentially the tech needs artificial intelligence to work out what it is seeing in the real world, to then overlay things onto it

Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to shareholders

Full of interesting insights into how they do things, including obsessing over customers, ‘beware of proxies’ — measure what you really want to measure — and having the bravery to really go for it when you see big trends, which you can see they did with Echo and Alexa.

Read the three page letter here:

Brilliantly simple idea — image recognition identifies and rings up prices of items on a store conveyor belt

Once you can recognise objects, you do not need bar codes or someone to make sure they scan correctly

Flipboard ramps up its focus on video

“CEO Mike McCue said videos are going to be a native part of the app, which means you’ll see standalone videos starting to show up in the smart magazines (which offer a personalized collection of stories around topics like cooking or photography) and elsewhere. Publishers can also connect related videos together into storyboards, allowing viewers to swipe from one video to another.

The new video formats will start appearing in Flipboard’s technology, news and lifestyle/entertainment categories. Initial partners for the video program include ABC News, CNBC, Hearst Digital Media and The Enthusiast Network.

McCue said that with these new formats, Flipboard can help publishers highlight all those videos they’ve been producing, while also turning the app into the definitive source of content around a reader’s passions — whether that content is an article, a podcast or a video.”

Instagram launches ‘collections’ — essentially scrap books of saved pics (a bit like Pinterest)

“Starting this week, you can save posts into private collections. Tap and hold the bookmark icon underneath any post to save it directly to a collection. You can create and name a new collection when you save a post, or you can add it to one you’ve already created. You can also create a collection out of your existing saved posts. Tap the plus icon in the top right corner, give your collection a name and select the saved posts you’d like to add.

You can find your collections on the saved posts tab on your profile. Just like all saved posts, your collections are private — only you can see them.”

Amazon gets a patent for on-demand clothing production

“Amazon, meet Fast Fashion?

Amazon was awarded a patent on Tuesday for an on-demand manufacturing system designed to quickly produce clothing — and other products — only after a customer order is placed.

The computerized system would include textile printers, cutters and an assembly line, as well as cameras designed to snap images of garments that would provide feedback on alterations needed in subsequent items. In order to increase efficiency, the goods would be manufactured in batches based on factors such as the customer shipping address, the patent says.”

Echo Look — a new hands-free camera and style assistant from Amazon

“Using just your voice, easily take full-length photos and short videos with a hands-free camera that includes built-in LED lighting, depth-sensing camera, and computer vision-based background blur

See yourself from every angle with the companion app. Build a personal lookbook and share your photos.

Get a second opinion on which outfit looks best with Style Check, a new service that combines machine learning algorithms with advice from fashion specialists”

Thanks to Adrian lee for the link!

A new partnership gets Netflix into China

“Netflix is to introduce original content in China in a licensing deal with local video streaming service, says the US company.

Netflix has struggled to break into the Chinese market, where streaming services are subject to strict data storage regulations and foreign films and television are routinely censored. In October CEO Reed Hastings said that prospects for a direct streaming service in the country were slim, and the firm had made no progress in obtaining government approvals.”

Mercedes connects with Amazon Alexa and Google Home

“Owners of 2016 and 2017 Mercedes-Benz models will be able to link their cars to Google Home’s Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, according to a press release. The service, which follows the car maker’s integration with Google Assistant on Google Home, is available in the U.S. and will launch in Europe later this year.

The voice assistants can understand various vehicle functions. For instance, Mercedes-Benz pointed out that Google device users can say, “Ok, Google, tell Mercedes me to start my car,” and their Mercedes-Benz vehicles will be started remotely. Alexa users can say, “Alexa, ask Mercedes me to send an address to the car,” for navigation purposes. “

Wikipedia announces Wikitribune, a new news site

“Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, is launching a new online publication which will aim to fight fake news by pairing professional journalists with an army of volunteer community contributors.

Wikitribune plans to pay for the reporters by raising money from a crowdfunding campaign.

Wales intends to cover general issues, such as US and UK politics, through to specialist science and technology.

Those who donate will become supporters, who in turn will have a say in which subjects and story threads the site focuses on. And Wales intends that the community of readers will fact-check and subedit published articles.”