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Life Begins at 40

Tom Salt:

To celebrate our VW Beetle’s 40th birthday we decided to take it home. Having been built in Germany in 1972 she spent most of her life in Britain. 40 years later it seemed a fitting celebration to go back to the factory.

Why Software Is Eating The World

Steve Denning:

And after it’s happened, there’s no going back. Capitalism’s process of creative destruction then takes over: knowledge can’t be put back in the bottle. Once it is known that it is possible to operate in this better, faster way, it will inexorably become the new normal. Customers will expect nothing less. Except where government regulation or private monopolies preserve the status quo, firms that don’t adjust over time won’t survive.
 
 Becoming Agile will steadily become a requirement just to stay in business. In effect, for most companies, failure to acquire digital agility will be an existential threat and so, establishing digital agility has become in effect a strategic necessity.
 
 How practical is it?
 Richard Straub, President of the Drucker Society Europe wrote that “improving the software in small increments seems to work much better than having a mega update in longer cycles. It seems to work better for all stake-holders – customers, employees and the investors.” He also had a few more practical questions worth exploring:

Google Second to GE in DC Lobbying Game

Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold:

Since then, Google has soared to near the top of the city’s lobbying ranks, placing second only to General Electric in corporate lobbying expenditures in 2012 and fifth place in 2013.
 
 The company gives money to nearly 140 business trade groups, advocacy organizations and think tanks, according to a Post analysis of voluntary disclosures by the company, which, like many corporations, does not reveal the size of its donations. That’s double the number of groups Google funded four years ago.
 
 This summer, Google will move to a new Capitol Hill office, doubling its Washington space to 55,000 square feet — roughly the size of the White House.

Stoking the fire

Medill Watchdog:

Last Sunday, The Times’ Elisabeth Rosenthal had another in her continuing periodic, and generally excellent, examinations of the costs of health care. This article focused on the cost of devices to treat chronic diseases, including Type 1 diabetes.
 
 “Today, the routine care costs of many chronic illnesses eclipse that of acute care because new treatments that keep patients well have become a multibillion-dollar business opportunity for device and drug makers and medical providers,” Rosenthal wrote. The captive audience of people suffering from type 1 diabetes “has spawned lines of high-priced gadgets and disposable accouterments, borrowing business models from technology companies like Apple: Each pump and monitor requires the separate purchase of an array of items that are often brand and model specific. A steady stream of new models and updates often offer dubious improvement: colored pumps; talking, bilingual meters; sensors reporting minute-by-minute sugar readouts.”

“one in which massive venture-capital injections allow money-losing start-ups to flourish”

Kevin Roose:

Yesterday, I ordered lunch from a gourmet meal-delivery start-up called SpoonRocket – a takeout container of sirloin au poivre and roasted cauliflower that was shuttled to my door in exactly 11 minutes, costing me $8. I then took an UberX car to a meeting across town, paying roughly $10 for a 15-minute ride. On my way, I pulled out my phone to see about getting my broken dryer fixed through Handybook, which provides on-demand repairs in the Bay Area for less than a local handyman would charge.
 
 There are dozens more services like these operating in and around San Francisco – Homejoy for cleaning, BloomThat for flowers, Postmates for courier service, and on and on. Most of them provide cheap, convenient amenities at the tap of a smartphone app. Few of them are profitable on a corporate level. And together, they’ve formed the backbone of a strange urban economy: one in which massive venture-capital injections allow money-losing start-ups to flourish, while providing services that no traditional, unsubsidized business can match. It’s an economy built on patience, and the hope that someday, after the land grab is over and the dust has settled, a better business model will emerge.
 
 It’s hard to know which of today’s new start-ups are unprofitable. But in some cases, losing money is kind of the point. I have no inside information on SpoonRocket’s financials, for example, but I imagine that the company books a loss of a few cents every time I click the order button. (There’s just no way, short of a supply-chain miracle, that my $8 covers the cost of preparing a gourmet lunch, driving it to my house, and paying all the drivers and cooks and engineers and assorted other costs associated with running their business.) But SpoonRocket doesn’t have to make money, because it’s just raised $10 million in venture capital expressly so it can keep its prices low. The metric its investors care about right now is user growth, not profits. And if, indeed, the company is selling meals for less than they cost to make, those investors are willing to fill the gap.

Via Steve Crandall.

American subprime lending is back on the road

Gillian Tett:

A few short years ago, “subprime” was almost an expletive. During the financial crisis, mortgages linked to subprime borrowers – or those with poor credit history – caused devastating losses; so much so that many asset managers declared they would never touch subprime again.
 
 But the financial world has a short memory, particularly when easy money and innovation collide. In recent months subprime lending has quietly staged a surprisingly powerful return, not in relation to real estate, but another American passion – cars. Some wonder how long it will be before this new boom causes another wave of casualties, not just among naive consumers, but investors too.
 
 The historical echoes are uncanny. During most of the past decade the amount of car-related debt grew only modestly. Yet outstanding car loans, which totalled $700bn in 2010, have jumped by a quarter in the past three years. This has led to a sharp increase in car sales, benefiting groups such as General Motors.

Digital advertising hits $43B, passing broadcast TV for the first time ever

John Koetsier:

This past year, digital advertising online and via mobile crossed the $40 billion mark for the first time ever, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau. Since 2004, the average growth rate has been 18 percent. And this year, digital ad revenues surpassed broadcast television for the first time.
 
 Not shockingly, mobile is leading the charge.
 
 Search remains the largest overall category, at $18.4 billion, and display hit $7.9 billion, according to the IAB’s numbers, but those categories are growing much slower than mobile and digital video ads. Search is “only” growing at 8.6 percent, while mobile ad revenue jumped 110 percent last year, and digital video ad revenue has tripled over the past few years to $2.8 billion.

The Big Shift in Business Strategy

John Hagel III:

Business strategy has evolved dramatically over the past four decades in response to the Big Shift that is re-shaping our global business landscape. We’re on the cusp of yet another shift that will determine who wins and who loses in the years ahead.
 
 We’ve recently been exploring some key elements required to escape from the dark side of technology: passion, institutional innovation and movements shaped by narratives.
 
 Today, we’ll look at the importance of new approaches to strategic advantage. These new approaches offer the potential to learn faster in ways that will be very difficult for others to copy. In a world of mounting performance pressure, this is a powerful advantage.
 
 A brief history
 
 Business strategy emerged in full force in the 1970’s and 1980’s with a strong focus on structural advantage. The essence of structural advantage was simple: find barriers to entry that will protect a company from competition. These barriers could take many forms: for example, geographic, economic, technological (patents) or regulatory. This made sense in a push based world: the key was to build walls to prevent others from pushing you out of your leadership position.
 
 But here’s the problem. The Big Shift is ultimately about the convergence of two powerful forces: digital technology infrastructures and long-term shifts in public policy towards economic liberalization. These two forces together are systematically and significantly reducing barriers to entry and barriers to movement on a global scale. The structural advantages that used to provide safe havens became less and less effective. If you’re an incumbent, welcome to the dark side!

How mobile is taking over the web

Gilles Raymond:

The latest Comscore figures reveal people are using the web less and less. Total Internet audience is stable in the US with 222 million unique monthly visitors. But from February 2013 to February 2014, the average time spent on the web per visitor went down by a scary 17 percent from 35 hours per month (2108 minutes) to 29 hours per month (1741 minutes).
 
 News Websites are Shrinking. Quickly.
 
 News websites are especially suffering from this dramatic shift. Yahoo News, the number one news website in US with 73 monthly million unique visitors, dropped by 25 percent to 54 million unique visitors over the last year. Even worse, the average time a user spends on the site went down 14 percent. Usually when the base decreases, the average number of minutes remains relatively constant because the site retains its core users. In this case, both users and time decreased dramatically, signaling a sea change in user behavior. In another example, NYTimes.com saw a decrease in users by only 6 percent but the total number of minutes spent on the site fell by 41 percent. What Yahoo! And The New York Times are experiencing is a global trend, as illustrated in the graph below. The web news industry isn’t just losing users, but time spent on their sites at an impressive speed.

Facebook for Android and Why Zuckerberg Now Owns Your Ass

Danny Brown:

The Calendar I’d seen on previous Permissions, and the Calls (while annoying) I’m pretty sure had been there too. But check out the exact wording of the SMS/MMS Permission, and that of the Contacts one.
 
 Doesn’t that alarm you as a user? Read that wording again, especially this statement:
 
 This allows the app to read all SMS messages, regardless of content or confidentiality.
 
 Wow. Just… wow. Not even my wife gets access to my SMS messages (and no, Jacki, I have nothing to hide!). What honest and useful reason can Facebook have to get access to my texts? Seemingly they’re running with the “It will help us target better” message.