December 29, 2011
According to new data from Benedict Evans for Enders Analysis, the number of monthly active users of Facebook’s mobile apps recently passed the 300 million mark. This is primarily due to heavy use of the iOS and Android apps, but it also takes into account apps that run on BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Phone, iPad and feature phones.
That number equates to roughly 40% of Facebook’s currently disclosed 800 million active users.
What’s interesting is that Facebook announced in September that over 350 million active users access Facebook through their mobile devices – a number that includes mobile web users as well as users of its mobile apps. Explains Evans, you can track the number of app users by going to the Facebook Page for each app then adding them up. (Alternately, one could use a service like AppData to do something similar).
At the time that Facebook announced 350 million mobile users, there were 250 million mobile app users, he says. That means that over the past few months, Facebook has seen another 50 million+ become active app users. Impressive.
Evans’ findings also back up TechCrunch writer Josh Constine’s earlier report that Android has finally surpassed iPhone in terms of daily active users. But on a weekly and monthly basis, iPhone and iPod Touch are still coming out ahead. In fact, in terms of monthly active users, over 100 million are using iPhone/iPods, says Evans. (The iPad is broken out separately).
BlackBerry devices and feature phones are still somewhat holding their own, while Symbian and the practically insignificant contributions from Windows Phone trail the number of iPad users whether you’re looking at daily, weekly or monthly active user counts.
One thing we don’t know – and can’t know, unless Facebook itself reported it – is how many usersonly access Facebook on their mobile phone, never visiting the desktop site. Evans estimates that number is high, but it’s impossible to tell using currently published data.
December 27, 2011
2012 promises to be a very busy year in all things digital, but, as with any annum, there will be just a handful of big, memorable trends. Here, I’ve collected five such movements that are likely to make a big impact in our technologically-enhanced lives.
It’s now in games, location apps, business cards and coffee shops and could start showing up in cars and even eyeglasses. Augmented Reality, which puts a virtual view on top of your real world, is really just a cool way of saying, “Reality with Style.” Instead of simply viewing your apartment through your phone, you’re playing Star Wars Arcade Falcon Gunner on top of it. Instead looking up a restaurant in your neighborhood, you’re using Yelp to see its location and reviews for it and other restaurants right on top of your on-screen view of the street. 2012 will mark the beginning of exponential growth for Mobile Augmented Reality (MAR).
According to a report from Visiongain, 25% of all app downloads will feature some sort of augmented reality. Though adoption hinges on more powerful, high-speed and camera-ready mobile devices, it’s clear to me that the majority of smartphones and tablets in end-users’ hands next year will be 3G-to-4G-ready, high-def, large-screen devices with not one, but two multi-megapixel cameras. Trust me, by 2013, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who hasn’t at least tried augmented reality.
The Micro-Payment Economy
App manufacturers are not the only ones who can make money selling tiny wares and incremental upgrades. The barrier to entry for starting your own small business has been effectively knocked down by a variety of online merchants who are willing to hawk your wares for next to nothing. In truth, the merchandise isn’t entirely yours. In fact, these companies are often just selling your idea on top of their wares and you get a tiny slice for each sale, or for when the numbers of sales reaches a certain threshold.
Sites like RedBubble do everything for the artist; all they need to do is upload the content. RedBubble will, for example, make the T-Shirt with your art, sell it for you, manage the distribution and, of course, collect payment. The site lets you set the price above their fixed price. Yes, you could add as much as you want onto a $16 T-shit, but most smart sellers know this means they won’t sell a single garment. Instead, you add 1%-to-5% (maybe 10% if you’re feeling strong) and then promote the dickens out of your product on the site and through various social networks.
RedBubble is just one of many destinations popping up to help the aspiring entrepreneur. They join established platforms like Lulu (self-publish books), and YouTube. YouTube has been inviting videographers into the commerce tent for years, letting them add AdSense accounts to popular videos and then sitting back and watching the pennies roll in.
As the economy sputters along, look for more and more of the sites helping you sell almost anything you can imagine and making you a “fortune”–one micro payment at a time.
The Rise of the UltraBook
Tablets dominate the tech conversation, but that doesn’t mean the PC is dead. No, it’s alive and well, but in a form that will closely mimic some of the best features of tablets. I don’t have numbers yet, but I’m betting Desktop PCs were not big sellers this holiday season. Laptops may have done a little better, but who among you was willing to give junior an end-of-life netbook instead of a sexy, touch-screen tablet? (I’m imagining no one raising their hands).
A term coined by Intel, Ultrabooks describe exquisitely thin and light, yet pleasingly powerful laptops. Think MacBook Air and you get the idea. No, they don’t have touch screens or apps (though that’s changing, too) and Ultrabooks usually have just one HD camera. Still, with just a little more heft and girth than your garden-variety iPad, an Ultrabook adds a full-sized keyboard and far more powerful components. In other words, they’re perfectly designed for getting real work done, but no one will be embarrassed to carry one around. 2012 will witness an explosion of these devices as manufacturers pin on them their last best hopes for regaining consumer computing interest.
Facebook will break the 1 billion user mark in 2012, but its numbers have flattened out in the U.S. Twitter is growing; it may have as many 450 million users, but no one knows how many people are really active users. Google+ is growing steadily, but is still well behind the two most established networks and much of the public is unaware of its existence. There is the now persistent, with good reason, backlash against mobile phone usage in cars and on streets.
In general, more and more people seem to be reevaluating their social and digital existence. Even the SOPA battle is revealing some unforeseen schisms. The Stop Online Piracy Act is a bad idea, not because piracy is good, but because of the plan for enforcement is wrong and dangerous. That said, no one who creates content can deny that the digital revolution hasn’t forced them to rethink how they create, sell and distribute content. There are no easy answers here and 2012 will be a year of introspection; one where we possibly rewrite the rules of content, copyrights and social interactions.
Mobile Chip Wars
The tech industry is gearing up for a rather intense battle—on a micro scale. With ARM-based CPUs in virtually all of today’s tablets and handsets, Intel, the dominant system CPU manufacturer, has no presence in the mobile space. It’s a situation the company promises to change in 2012 with Medfield—its rethinking of the Atom CPU (popular in netbooks). Meanwhile a consortium of Pacific Rim manufacturers have just banded together to produce new mobile CPUs for phones and tablets.
These efforts may not mean much, though, as Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Motorola, Marvell, Nvidia and others all license the ARM architecture and show (along with the hardware partners) little interest in switching to a new or once-established platform. Even Microsoft is developing Windows 8 to run on ARM-based CPUs in addition to traditional Wintel machines.
What do you think? Are these the right trends? Will there be other defining movements in 2012? Chose the biggest trend in our poll and then let’s talk about it in the comments.
December 16, 2011
In the past twelve months we’ve seen the first generation of web video business models draw to a close, and the emergence of devices and business models that will fuel powerful continued growth in the year ahead.
Since web video began, user-generated content sites have counted on advertising revenue as their economic salvation. Despite the belief in this model, and a steady stream of venture capital, advertisers haven’t bought in. Instead, money has flowed to quality created content, and quality curated collections. Google looked at the trends and made a massive pivot in the YouTube model, effectively shifting from a neutral content aggregation and delivery platform into a ‘studio’ model that puts them in the position of funding and promoting content. This is a smart strategic shift, and one that has the potential to give conventional cable networks and other emerging distributors a powerful new competitor. At the same time, it further diminishes Google’s interest in what used to be called “the long tail.”
My prediction is that YouTube won’t go out of the UGC business; in fact, it will be the exact opposite. I think you’ll see more creative ways to monetize YouTube, including new partnerships with portal players, third-party ad units, and the emergence of important sponsorship and co-branded pages. It’s unclear if YouTube will build these offerings, buy them, or partner with others to provide them. But AdSense text ads for video aren’t alone going to fund the future of the middle market of video. Instead, you’re going to see some number of business users look to take more control over their content, their ad units, and the community around their media.
At the same time, the delivery system for video is very much under construction. The so-called “Over The Top” competitors have had a busy year–with Google TV falling flat, but version two looking promising, and Netflix’s Qwickster dying a quick death. At the same time, Boxee jumped into the business of providing digital ‘rabbit ears’ and Hulu briefly auctioned itself before returning to running the business. And now Microsoft moves to gain OTT dominance with a brand-new Xbox interface and more content deals. So, no clear winner here yet.
HERE ARE 5 PREDICTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TO THE BANK:
Prediction #1. 2012 is the year all video goes a la carte.
Remember all the promises of a new ‘a la-cart’ cable world, where consumers had choice and freedom? Well, you have to hand it to the cable guys, they’ve been able to keep that commodification of their product just out of arms’ reach for as long as anyone can remember.
But 2012 will be the year that cable breaks free of its terrible tiered chains. Anything that you can get on cable will find it’s way to an ‘on-demand’ or ‘pay per view’ service. The gap between date of broadcast and the window for PPV will narrow or disappear. Cable content will become on demand content.
Prediction #2. 2012 will be the year of the OverTheTop revolution.
While pundits, myself included, have heralded the coming herd of cable cutters. So far, they’ve been the outliers and early adopters. It’s seemed so painfully close–and so many devices had pieces of a solution. Boxee was the leader in the open world of web content. Roku had apps and file playback. Apple TV had a well-scrubbed ecosystem. Tivo had DVR functionality and off-air recording. And Google TV had a broad consumer electronics offering with Logitech. But none of them had the ‘killer app’ quotient that made them runaway winners.
That’s all about to change. Boxee is adding a tuner, Roku is connecting with more services. And offerings like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are making the leap to multiple devices and screens. Services and boxes will merge. Flatscreens will get smarter and more easily connected. The distribution bottleneck will dissolve.
Prediction #3. YouTube and Google TV will merge (really this time).
It’s been five years since Google bought YouTube. Both companies have grown and prospered, but they’ve remained separate companies. There have been attempts by Google to monetize YouTube with various ad formats, but it hasn’t been terribly successful. Why? Because the buyers of text ads don’t want to pay a premium for video, and video is notoriously harder to target. Meanwhile, Google video closed its doors, and Google went down the road of content aggregation trying to find value in the search space around video. That too wasn’t a huge win. But now, with Google TV 1.0 a distant memory, there’s a clear path to profitability for the search giant.
Prediction #4. Yahoo will emerge as a big creator and distributor of video.
While it’s easy to let Yahoo’s corporate drama draw your eye, the company continues to make a conserted effort to build a solid video business. While AOL has dipped its toe in the content waters, Yahoo has jumped in feet first. In particular, Ross Levinsohn’s well-executed partnership with ABC News is a clue about just how seriously they take video. ”In this time of enormous economic and global challenge, the Yahoo! audience will determine the next president of the United States. We’re building Yahoo! News to be the source for political coverage, harnessing the voices, opinions and proposed solutions of Americans from across the country to deliver content and reporting focused on the issues and decisions that voters and their families must deal with daily,” Levinsohn said. Bravo.
Prediction #5. Business video will arrive as a real targetable business opportunity.
There are some basic truisms in business (and in life), and one of them is: “Nothing in this life is free.” For the past 10 years, consumers, business, and even media have gorged themselves on the wonderful access to free video. The cost of bandwidth has continued to fall, giving the large players an edge, even as ad revenues and CPMs have continued to fall.
Business has been late to the party, but in the past year more companies have begun to explore the idea of making and sharing video with their customers. Many of them are using a free UGC uploader, building in some cases large collections of video on third-party servers. But the free video party is about to come to an end, as more and more low-CPM ads and obtrusive ad formats appear. This is going to give businesses the need to find new homes, and new solutions, providing a boon to the SMB video market.
Expect big changes in how video is made, shared, and consumed in 2012. On the content side of the world, it appears there is now a consensus that everyone needs to be a publisher. This means brands, networks, and print media all are vying for a spot in your overflowing content inbox.
What is a publisher in this new world of digital overload? It used to be publishers were content creators, but increasingly publishers are taking on the role of content filters. Finding, organizing, and presenting coherent content is wrapped in to the role of curator that brands and media now embrace. Magnify.net sits squarely in the center of this revolution. As the web’s largest video-curation platform, we watch as Parenting.com, TEDx, and Patagonia all power their video experiences with our flexible toolkit.
The big surprise in the future of video delivery is that it may not be the flat screen at all. The Amazon Kindle Fire, the newest kid on the tablet block, is off to a stunningly fast start as a video and VOD platform. IHS Research projects Amazon will ship 3.9 million units in Q4, recording a 13.8 percent share of global tablets shipped, compared to Apple’s 65.6 share. While the data is still new, all indications are that Kindle Fire is going to burn up the video consumption charts, making Amazon Prime Video a powerful contender for table, OTT, and mobile video consumption.
The next twelve months are going to be transformative. Web video will become simply “video”–made everywhere and consumed everywhere. And brands and companies, who’ve contemplated using video to tell their stories or connect with consumers, will find that the train is leaving the station. It’s time to get on board the video express, or be left with an unpunched ticket in your hand.
December 8, 2011
1. Differentiate your blog from your competitors’.
“I wanted to make sure that my site looked drastically different,” Halpern says of his company’s site. “Most marketing blogs are running a magazine layout, so I went back to the traditional blog layout. Other marketing blogs are focused on the color red as their main color; I chose purple. Other blogs have really fancy designs; I chose a minimalist design.”
2. Choose photos that help direct your visitor’s gaze.
Research has shown that people will follow the gaze of another person, whether that is on the Internet or in person. Halpern suggests using this to direct your visitor’s attention to key parts of your blog, like an email signup box.
“I’ve done a lot of research about images on the web and how people react to them,” Halpern says. “Imagine you’re walking down the street and you see four people looking up in the sky; chances are you’re going to stop and look up in the sky too. The same applies online. When you see eyes looking towards something [on a website], you follow the gaze.”
3. Drop your categories, archives, and search box.
Halpern suggests getting rid of features that your visitors don’t use and replacing them with features that promote your best content and encourage email sign-ups.
“In all of my [blogging ] experience I never saw that many people using my search box or archive pages,” he says. “They might click on a category page, but that’s not really the best way for them to find your best content. You don’t necessarily want people to click around and only see yournew stuff first; you want people to be able to find your beststuff.
To spoon-feed visitors your best content, Halpern suggests using what he calls “Resource Pages” instead of archive pages. Resource pages are essentially category pages where you handpick articles to highlight that are not necessarily presented in a date-based format.
4. Rewrite Your “About” Page to Be About Your Visitors
Halpern says the About page is one of the most heavily visited pages on your blog and should follow a specific formula which includes strategically placed opt-in forms for your email list.
“The first few paragraphs should be all about what your site offers your visitors. Then an opt-in form,” he says.
After that, include testimonials or social proof that really shows you can satisfy these needs for your visitors. And then another opt-in form.
Finally, that’s when you can tell your personal story. But when you’re telling people all about you, you want to make sure that each thing you tell them will help reinforce the point that your site can help them solve their problems.
And then (say it with me), you put in another opt-in form.