On Sunday 18th March 2018 a 49 year old woman in Arizona was killed by an autonomous Uber car, which struck her as she pushed her bicycle along the roadside. The death was blamed on defective software. Two years prior to this, the first of multiple Tesla driver deaths occurred. There is significant evidence
We have written before about how niche media businesses are bucking the downward trends. It seems to be an approach that is working for consumer as well as
B2B businesses. More evidence of this comes with the recent publication of Centaur’s latest interim report, which confirms that its Travel & Meetings portfolio reported revenues of £5.7m (2016: £5.0m), up 14 percent year on year, led by its Business Travel iQ business information brand.
Also mining the travel sector, Skift has been one of the biggest success stories in the business information sector over the past few years – its success stands in contrast to other media startups which rely on VC funding. In fact, its founder Rafat Ali has spoken many times about why going ‘narrow and deep‘ in high-value niches is the biggest opportunities for media companies.
So why does this sector seem to be returning dividends for publishers?
Well, travel is one of those rare verticals that seems to thrive no matter what. For one thing, the travel and holiday industry seems to be resilient – despite
Regulation and technological advances threaten many industries: just ask high street bookmakers. But the simultaneous combination of GDPR and the promotion of ad-blocking technologies by the likes of Google and Microsoft is worrying for digital media businesses.
At the same time, ad-blocking has never truly gone away as an issue for publishers. It often gets swept aside by seemingly larger issues like the Duopoly or rampant fraud, but it’s always there in the background, eating into publishers’ digital revenue potential.
It’s come back into view over the past few days after Microsoft announced that its mobile Edge browser for iOS and Android would have an ad-blocker installed by default, perhaps anticipating that post-GDPR audiences will be more savvy about their digital rights. The Verge reports that the feature – currently in beta – is set to be made available more widely and, crucially, won’t require any extra downloads to be used. Microsoft are making it as easy as humanly possible for their users to block ads, using the existing infrastructure of Adblock Plus – and that’s got publishers worried.
The outgoing President of the CBI has caused a small storm by saying that parts of British industry could become “extinct” unless a proper Brexit deal – including membership of the customs union, the CBI’s preferred approach – is negotiated.
This has attracted the usual binary comments in the media: the ‘we told you so’ from the Remain camp, and the tedious charges of treason from Leave supporters.
But Paul Drechsler’s interview was actually quite nuanced. There was very little that people of either viewpoint could disagree with: he contended that the debates had been ruled by politics rather than economics; that the uncertainty in government was having a knock-on effect to business, making it difficult to make investment decisions; and that the UK’s economy is growing slower than most of its competitors as a result.
These are pretty much incontestable observations. Growth in the British economy is
With PlayStation and Nintendo holding most of the cards when it comes to popular video game exclusives, people have not only been questioning the worth of owning an Xbox, but whether there was any point in Microsoft making another one. So, all eyes were on Microsoft’s E3 conference last night. Some considered it a do or die
In April of this year, UK startup Juro landed $2m in seed funding from Berlin-based VC firm Point Nine Capital, among others. Juro, which provides software-as-a-service (SaaS) sales contract tools to its users, typically caters to customers that have to manage a relatively high volume of contacts, such as marketplaces – making it a prime example of an on-demand software provider who is counting on artificial intelligence to increase the value proposition of their software.
Juno’s CEO and co-founder Richard Mabey told TechCrunch that AI was vital for future growth:
“We actually could have strung it out to Series A… But we had multiple offers come in and there is so much of an explosion in demand for the [machine learning] that it made sense to do a round now rather than wait for the A. The whole legal industry is undergoing radical change and we want to be leading it.”
Juro is far from the only SaaS provider who see AI as being the future of their product. Salesforce, for instance, which has been described as the “quintessential” SaaS provider for its cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) tools, acquired AI startup MetaMind just over two years ago, to “further automate and personalize customer support, marketing automation, and many other business processes”.
In what is both one of the bigger tech acquisitions and recruitment stories of the year, the Japanese firm Recruit Holdings is set to buy Glassdoor in a deal worth $1.2bn. The buyer, which also owns recruitment site Indeed.com, will gain access to a vast database of employee reviews, salary data and a huge volume of active job seekers. Glassdoor is also the second-largest job site in the US – the largest being Indeed – so the synergies are obvious, especially if the new owner opts to further integrate the two sites. Whether this justifies the gigantic valuation is another question entirely – the barrier to entry for new rivals doesn’t seem especially high to me, leaving the sector very open to further disruption. But Glassdoor, which has 30m members worldwide, is already growing faster than LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster, so what lessons can employers learn from it?
We have long argued that the games industry should be treated as seriously as those other pillars of the entertainment business, film and music. Government seems to be getting the message, and – as we reported last month – the figures certainly stack up.
But perhaps the BBC is still struggling with the idea of games as a grown-up industry in its own right. When the industry does get coverage (on the Today show, for example), the presenters are typically as well informed as, say, a US senator facing a Facebook Chief Executive.
And then there was last week’s broadcast of the BAFTA Games Awards ceremony. If there is one thing
Modern media, to some extent, is just a series of stunts and marketing materials.
News publishers have to compete with digital outlets who, by nature of the race to scale, sell their content with hyperbole and screaming rhetoric of the sort we used to call ‘clickbait’. Even BuzzFeed, whose news wing is consistently breaking some of the biggest stories of any given week, used to indulge in this.
Consequently even the legacy publishers find themselves dragged further towards that hysterical drive to be noticed. Take The Atlantic, the US-based publication whose work and business model other publishers look upon with envy. Last month, it appointed the arch-conservative columnist Kevin Williamson, as a stunt intended to broaden its appeal, though it was dressed up as an attempt to provide balanced coverage. Unsurprisingly,
You could argue that the most important skill of any media leader is the ability to temper expectations. Everyone’s constantly looking for the next unicorn, and as soon as some hot new thing appears suddenly everyone’s on the accelerator and nobody’s on the brakes. The next step is typically a sky-high valuation and successive rounds of VC investment – followed by a tepid or downright chilly response when the property takes longer than expected to find its feet or fails to deliver a return.
Look at what happened with Mashable, which sold for a fifth of its Spring 2016 valuation of $250m at the end of last year, and which had staked its fortune on the ability to reach a generalist audience at huge scale. When it sold to Ziff Davis in a “fire sale” price in December, much of the analysis
Nintendo Switch has just become America’s fastest selling home games console selling 4.8m units in 10 months since launch. This exceeded the previous record of 4m units, also held by Nintendo for its Wii. (To blow our own trumpet for a moment, we had predicted in a previous blog at its launch that the Switch “could set the gaming world alight.”)
Not content with that, though, Nintendo announced its innovative new IP ‘Labo’ about which the press are already writing “this latest idea is so crazy it might just work” and “how small our imaginations were, and how glorious it is to be blindsided by Nintendo again.”
So, what is Nintendo doing that other companies aren’t, and what can we all learn from them?
In short, Nintendo has
Late last year a taxi drivers’ organisation in Barcelona successfully challenged Uber’s assertion that it is not primarily a transport company. The European Court of Justice ruled in the taxi drivers’ favour, throwing out Uber’s argument that it was first and foremost a digital service, noting that since Uber was central to the operation of the taxi-like service, it was more than simply an intermediary.
The ruling comes at a particularly interesting time for media companies in the UK. As Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, said:
“Today’s judgment made clear, as a matter of law, what everyone already knew as a matter of common sense: Uber provides transportation services, not technology services.”
Part of the problem media companies have with platforms like Google and Facebook is a clash of definitions. It’s well publicised that neither of the Duopoly consider themselves
As early as 2015, media companies had a sneaking suspicion that third-party platforms might not have their best interests at heart. The term that got bandied around to describe Facebook and Google was ‘frenemy’. Not even a handful of years later, the rhetoric is less ambiguous – the platforms are the feudal lords, and publishers are the serfs allowed to till their land.
The pushback against that situation is now underway – through campaigns organised by the industry, through lawsuits designed to level the playing field, through dialogue with the platforms – but the truth is that the power balance is still skewed against publishers.
And it was a situation that the publishers should have (and probably did to some extent) see coming. Journalism trainer Adam Tinworth points out that Facebook had already done exactly the same rug-pull with marketers, but unfortunately, the promises of revenue from the tech giants ultimately proved too alluring for publishers.
Regardless of how the attempts to redress the issues with Google and Facebook go, hopefully media companies have finally learned that every other entity in the media landscape, at every step of the value chain, is a competitor. And if not, lessons can be learned from the following examples of the rug being pulled out from players in the media industry…
By now, you have probably heard about Improbable, the virtual simulation start-up that raised $502m from Japan’s SoftBank – but what you might not have considered is how its technology could be of interest to your business.
Founded in 2012 by a pair of Cambridge University computer science graduates, Improbable is now valued at more than $1bn thanks to the investment by SoftBank, which represents the largest-ever venture financing round for a private British company.
The business employs 170 computer scientists, engineers and designers who are all attempting to recreate the most detailed version possible of the real world in digital form.
Viagogo’s decision this week to snub the culture committee’s hearing into secondary ticketing was misguided and likely to imperil efforts at self-regulation.
The secondary ticketing market, which includes online marketplace sites like Viagogo and GetMeIn!, is worth an estimated $8bn a year.
While useful to genuine fans, these sites also make it very easy for touts to sell tickets at hugely inflated prices – and that, in part, is one of reasons why the committee was keen to take a look at the industry.
Last year was a busy 12 months in terms of tech business manoeuvring. The big moves, however, were takeovers, mergers, launches and collapses – there didn’t seem to be that many public offerings.
Much of the movement in 2016 was established businesses buying content firms or platforms that provided a link to sizeable audience. Verizon bought Yahoo for $4.8bn, Microsoft paid $26bn for LinkedIn, and we also looked at telco convergence generally. Yet, other than flagging up the expected IPO of Snapchat, Tech IPOs didn’t seem to impact the media world in 2016 to such a degree.
Now, thanks to a study from PwC, the reasons for that have become somewhat clearer – as 2016 marked the decade’s low point for global tech IPOs.
Since the release of its Game and Watch in 1980, Nintendo has dominated the handheld console market. The Game Boy and Nintendo DS are remembered fondly by people who played them in their youth while latest Nintendo 3DS had sold around 60m units by June 2016.
What’s more, a national survey in the 1990s found that Nintendo’s character, Mario, was ‘more recognizable to American children than Mickey Mouse’.
When it comes to home consoles, however, it’s a different story.
Have you ever played Job Simulator? It’s a virtual reality game set in 2050. In the game, jobs are automated and players take part in comical approximations of what real-world jobs must have been like to do when humans, rather than robots, had to perform them.
Let me tell you: it’s great fun! It might also be a window into a not-too-distant future of recruitment where VR could be used to prepare candidates for real-life job interviews and perhaps even the jobs themselves.
The Press Association heralded a new phase of mechanised journalism in the UK with this week’s announcement that it will use ‘robot’ reporters to add to coverage of sport, business and elections.
The national reporting agency will augment its existing reportage, in the next few months, by offering ‘an extra level when it comes to short market reports, election results and football reporting,’ its editor-in-chief, Pete Clifton, told the Society of Editors conference.
According to the Press Gazette, Clifton told delegates the new service would work in a similar way to that used by Denmark’s national reporting agency, which produces hundreds of additional market reports a month with ‘robot’ journalists piecing together these simple stories.
Robot reporters might seem like something plucked from the pages of satirical science fiction, but their use is already very real.
There was a time, not long ago, when owning a BlackBerry was the mark of a serious professional – someone who was always on, always reachable – well, not any more…
As other firms accelerated their development of business-friendly smartphones, BlackBerry stood still. So it will have come as little surprise to anyone who has followed its fortunes that the ailing technology company intends to no longer make handsets and instead focus on developing software.
Little over a fortnight after Microsoft paid $26bn for the social network, LinkedIn has introduced a mechanism for advertisers to buy programmatic ads that will display across the site.
In an effort to draw fresh revenue from LinkedIn’s 433m users, the new system will display banners across the LinkedIn desktop and supplement the subscription fees paid by premium users and sponsored content as the main sources of earnings.
For the uninitiated, programmatic ads are administered by a system that relies on complex algorithms to trigger ad deployment to a set of specific criteria. The process is versatile and quick. It allows advertisers to save resources by automating media buying at pre-determined rates, and book and optimise campaigns via a web interface. Optimisation ensures ads are only shown to desired audiences and on relevant pages – and with LinkedIn’s wealth of business professional indexed by industry, job type, gender, nationality, interests, skills and much more, brands will be able to really drill down to find the most valuable audiences for their ads.
Barely a month seems to go by without us writing about ad-blocking – if we’re not discussing its rising popularity, or increased use on mobile phones, we’re examining the fear it engenders in digital publishers.
In fact, ad-blocking has been such a prevalent topic, I think Martin’s pretty bored of it! And I was prepared to leave the subject well alone, but then the issue was ratcheted up several notches last week when John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary, used his speech at the Oxford Media Convention to wade into the debate.
2016 marks twenty years since I became a headhunter. While that makes me feel incredibly old, it has been a fascinating time to be an observer of the media landscape across the UK and beyond.
When I first started, the internet existed, but was a hard-to-use and limited resource with dial-up access. Email also existed, but not in my office (we relied on faxes). Things were changing, yes; but no-one had really grasped the magnitude of what was about to happen.
If you really want to know how much the media world has changed in the intervening years, imagine saying this back in 1996:
Brands, publishers and media owners are increasingly focused on tailoring content to meet the specific needs of individuals; and fuelling this rush to ever-greater personalisation has been a reliance on access to data – every last search term, web view, and geo-tagged movement helping firms to build a profile against which advertising can be sold.
So what does a consumer get in return for handing over all this information?
Other than being fed messages that advertisers think are relevant, they usually get nothing; but all that could be about to change…
With just over a week to go before everyone downs tools and sets off for a well-earned break, it seems a good moment to review the last twelve months to see if any discernible pattern can be established from looking at the subjects we have covered on this blog.
By taking the wholly unscientific route of totting up the topics (essentially, counting repeated use of subject tags) covered in the last year it’s possible to see where our thoughts have been since January. So, which issue has dominated this executive recruitment blog? Of all the topics we have used in the last 12 months, which has been the most prevalent?
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
It is one of the most derided quotes of all time: simultaneously mocked both for its obviousness and its obscurity, Donald Rumsfeld was trying – ham-fistedly – to explain US foreign policy in Iraq. And we know how well that turned out.
Web users find online advertising annoying, intrusive, often irrelevant, and a drag on browser speed. For those that go online using a mobile, there are also concerns over stealth data consumption and privacy.
It’s for these reasons, according to a recent YouGov survey, that 15% of internet users currently use ad-blocking software and 22% have at one time or another downloaded
Bringing in new staff to run and, hopefully, improve the performance of a business means that payroll – alongside commercial rent – is often the biggest expense a company faces; but a typical business knows comparatively little about the real motivational factors that drive their workforce once they have got them through the door.
What if smart use of data could help firms understand their employees better? How would that change the criteria on which they base their hiring choices?
Big Data is usually talked about in terms of what it can do for consumers and customer relationships, but what happens when you apply its principles to staffing?
What happens when a firm starts to look scientifically at information about its employees? What happens when it starts to apply People Analytics?
Here’s a potentially concerning development all media owners would be advised to keep an eye on: this week, the Financial Times revealed ‘several’ mobile operators are proposing to lock advertising on their networks, with one European provider preparing to do so before the end of this year.
If you’re thinking of recruiting digital executives in the next 12-months, this could be a live issue with which they (and you) might have to deal.