How Google and Amazon are hooking kids from an early age

Google announced a notable update to YouTube Kids this week, one that gives parents a range of tools to tailor the app for their kids. Among the new features is one that lets parents create individual profiles for each of their offspring. They can set each kid up with their own passcode to keep siblings out — though parents can override it — and the general design now reflects the child’s age. This revamp is the latest in a line of recent initiatives from big tech firms as they double down on efforts to suck kids into their ecosystems.

Continue reading “How Google and Amazon are hooking kids from an early age”

Taking the guesswork out of paid user acquisition

A simple tool to estimate the right budget to grow your audience

Developers often want to know whether they should spend money on user acquisition, and what the key factors are to help inform their decision.

There are many useful tools and models to help with this question. After working closely with our key partners in South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, and spending many hours testing, my team created a simple but useful calculator to help you answer this question.

First, I’ll describe the inputs you need to use the calculator and explain how the results can help developers make better-informed decisions about paid user acquisition. I’ll also share an example of how one developer used this lifetime value (LTV) calculator and generated significant value for their business.

Before I continue, however, a word of caution. This LTV calculator — or indeed any LTV calculator — is simply a guide to assist in making decisions about paid user acquisition. It helps you predict the LTV you’ll see from acquired users and therefore what spend is sensible to achieve this return. The model makes assumptions about the impact of investment, CPI, organic spin-offs, payer rate, engagement rate, and portfolio effect. These assumptions aren’t guaranteed or confirmed. Additionally, estimates of buyer rate, ARPPU, and advertising revenue per user will need to be set based on your app’s data. Where I can, I’ll show you where to find those numbers.

OK, so that keeps the folks in the legal department happy, just one more note before we jump into the real details. The calculator uses US ($USD) as the default currency, but you can easily substitute your local currency. The important thing to remember is to make sure all the data you use is specific to the country or region you want to target and relevant to your app and its type or genre. It may seem obvious, but don’t use US figures for a casual game to plan a campaign for a messaging app targeting India.

As you read the next section, you might want to download the LTV Calculator to see how it uses these inputs. You’ll notice that the download includes the option to request a member of the app marketing team to contact you. This team’s job is to help app developers create and execute online marketing strategies and can help you determine the best values to use in the calculator.

LTV calculator inputs

Investment: This is how much to spend on user acquisition. If you plan to use universal app campaigns, start with a daily budget 50-times your target CPI. This level of investment will help AdWords’ machine learning algorithms optimize. So, with a $2.50 CPI target your daily budget would be $125 or approximately $3.7k per month. Another way to view investment is to set it so that you acquire a statistically relevant sample size, enabling you to understand user engagement and LTV with confidence, the goal should be approximately 5000 users.

Cost Per Install (CPI): This is the cost of generating one install. Note that CPIs vary by country as well as app and game genre or category.

Organic spin-off (K-factor): Studies have shown that paid installs can boost organic installs (organic growth) because of spillover from word of mouth and social sharing as well as installs from any listing in a store top apps chart. The K-factor measures the number of organic installs generated by each paid install, with 0 indicating that paid installs generate no additional organic installs.

Buyer rate: The percentage of the user base that makes in-app purchases. You can find the rate from your Play Console: Select your app, open User Acquisition, click on Acquisition reports, and select Buyers.

Buyer rate multiple: This variable represents the multiple by which users from a paid acquisition campaign become payers compared to users acquired organically. To illustrate, if 1% of organic users made purchases in the app while 2% of paid users made purchases, the buyer rate multiple is 2. Well targeted acquisition should achieve a multiple greater than 1 while more generic, mass-market targeting may result in a multiple of less than 1.

Average Revenue Per Paying User (ARPPU): This is the average of the revenue expected from each user who makes at least one purchase between their first and last use of the app. You can find the rate for your app from the Play Console revenue and buyer data reports: Select your app, open Financial Reports, and on the Buyers page select ARPPU.

Average advertising revenue per user: This is the revenue you generate from showing ads to a user over their lifetime and should include revenue from rewarded and non-rewarded ads. Remember, in line with the other figures you’re using, to include ad revenue from the country or region you are running the model for. The ‘Ad Revenue Calculation’ section of the model is designed to help you calculate this value. To get started, you’ll need to access your advertising dashboard: find the total ad revenue generated for a month and divide it by the number of active users in that month. You then need your retention figures for day 1, 7, 14, 28, 60, and 90; these can be found using a third-party analytics tool or Google Analytics for Firebase. The model uses the 90-day value, but you can substitute the 28-day or 60-day values, if you want to be conservative in your calculations.

Engagement rate multiplier: This multiplier reflects how much more engaged users acquired from paid installs are compared to users acquired organically. To illustrate, if users acquired from a paid campaign stick around longer, that is they show improved retention, you could expect to see a higher multiple. Well targeted acquisition should achieve a multiple greater than 1 while more generic, mass-market targeting may result in a multiple less than 1.

Portfolio effect multiple: If you’ve a portfolio of apps, that is, more than 1 app, a paid install may generate additional value by driving the installation and generation of revenue from other apps in the portfolio. Use of tools, such as house ads, would help maximize this multiple.

Using the LTV calculator

Once you’ve gathered the numbers relevant to your app and the region you’re going to promote it in, plug them into the calculator. In my example, I’m working with a campaign investment of US$5,000, have a K-factor of 2, buyer rate multiple of 1.5, and engagement multiple of 1.3, but no portfolio multiple. The ARPPU and ad revenue figures I pulled from the Play Console.

Example figures plugged into the LTV calculator.

In this example, return of advertising spend (ROAS) is over 100% so a paid acquisition campaign should have a positive return.

And the result? I can see that a paid campaign alone won’t deliver a positive return. However, organic spin-off will pick up additional users and revenue that lifts the return on advertising spend (ROAS) to a healthy 110%.

In general, using the calculator as a decision-making tool is simple. If ROAS is over 100% you should return a profit from a paid acquisition campaign. Less than 100% and you probably won’t see a benefit. In the example, we have a ROAS of 110% so it makes sense to go ahead with a campaign.

However, even if the calculator returns a positive result — unless you’ve been testing extensively to determine your organic spin-off and other multiples — it’s worth running a test campaign to confirm your assumptions.

If the calculator says that paid acquisition isn’t worthwhile, you can adjust the CPI to find the level that offers a return. However, rather than chasing a lower CPI, you may be better served by looking to improve your app’s fundamentals, such as retention, monetization, and social functionality (virality). Once these metrics have improved, look again at the value of a paid acquisition campaign.

The LTV calculator in action

Not Doppler, an Australian games developer, used the LTV calculator to decide whether paid user acquisition made sense for Crash of Cars.

The calculator provided Not Doppler with a clear understanding of the total revenue (both from ads and in-app purchases) they generated from a user over their lifetime engagement with Crash of Cars. While the calculator aims to answer the question of whether paid user acquisition is likely to be beneficial, for Not Doppler it also dispelled several misconceptions.

Misconception 1: User acquisition is expensive

“High CPIs had been an initial barrier to entry for us, given we questioned the feasibility of UA with our ad-heavy business model. Through education and controlled testing we were able to profitably acquire a substantial volume of users in the US at CPIs of less than US$1.” — Jason Daskalopoulos, Senior Business & Marketing Manager, Not Doppler

Misconception 2: All users are equal

When Not Doppler ran paid (non-incentivized) campaigns they saw a higher quality of user compared to their organic acquisitions.

We saw that the paid pre-qualified users who installed and opened Crash of Cars via an ad were 1.8-times more likely to spend in the game versus those who came in organically.”- Jason Daskalopoulos, Senior Business & Marketing Manager, Not Doppler

Misconception 3: Calculating ad revenue LTV

With in-app advertising playing a significant role in Not Doppler’s monetization strategy, it was important that they correctly calculated the average revenue generated per user over their lifetime.

The Model allowed us to better understand the ad revenue we generated from showing users ads in our game over their lifetime. By looking at the relationship between ad revenue per daily active users and retention in the US we were able to calculate the revenue we generated from ads over a 30, 60, and 90 day period.” — Jason Daskalopoulos, Senior Business & Marketing Manager, Not Doppler

Misconception 4: Organic spin-off

Soft launching Crash of Cars allowed Not Doppler to calculate the effect of organic spin-off (K-factor) from the game. Interestingly, Not Doppler made a deliberate effort to avoid Crash of Cars appearing in the store top charts and generating organic installs from there. This was because they wanted to discover what percent of additional installs were generated by paid traffic through social sharing, word-of-mouth, or other forms of user driven, unpaid promotion.

Through controlled testing we were able to measure the incremental lift we gained in organic users through paid marketing.” — Jason Daskalopoulos, Senior Business & Marketing Manager, Not Doppler

Try it yourself

Wondering what all this might mean for your user acquisition? There is a simple way to find out, download the LTV Calculator and plug in your app’s numbers! If you’d like to find out more about paid user acquisition or have any further questions about the blog or model, use the “I would like the app marketing team to contact me” option when downloading the LTV calculator and someone from my team will get in touch.

New to using ads to promote your app?

If you haven’t advertised your app or game before, we provide a simple way to get started with Google AdWords’ universal app campaigns. You can set up a universal app campaign in the Google Play Console in a few clicks. Google automatically optimizes your campaign to find users who are most likely to install your app at your target cost per install across Google’s networks including Google Play, Search, YouTube, and the Google Display Network. When you fill in the form for the lifetime value calculator, tick the box if you want to hear from an AdWords expert about setting up and running universal app campaigns for your app.

What do you think?

Do you have any comments on calculating LTV? Continue the discussion in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #AskPlayDev and we’ll reply from @GooglePlayDev, where we regularly share news and tips on how to be successful on Google Play.

Taking the guesswork out of paid user acquisition was originally published in Google Play Apps & Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

BBC is launching an interactive radio show for Echo

The future of entertainment is here. The BBC, in collaboration with Rosina Sound, is working on an interactive radio play for artificial intelligence-enabled home chatbots like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home.

The production will be the first of its kind — the first to use this kind of technology and to function in this way. It plans to release this futuristic, high-tech play by the end of the year.

Do you have an AI strategy — or hoping to get one? Check out VB Summit on October 23-24 in Berkeley, a high-level, invite-only AI event for business leaders.

The play

The story, called the Inspection Chamber, will work similarly to choose-your-own-adventure books and games, in which users can influence the direction of the story by the choices they make.

The creators of the Inspection Chamber, though, are seeking to take that idea a bit further and make listeners really feel like they’re in the story.

The story’s narrator will ask you, the listener, questions throughout the story. Your answers to those questions will change the outcome of the narrative.

The questions are designed so the listener doesn’t have to step out of the story to consider their decision, but instead feels like they’re a character in the story. It’s meant to feel like you’re interacting with the other characters in the play.

The creators of the play said they took inspiration from games like The Stanley Parable and Papa Sangre, and authors such as Franz Kafka and Douglas Adams. The story became, in the creators’ own words, “a comedy science-fiction audio drama.”

The technology

The sci-fi elements fit well with the medium through which the story will be presented. The show’s creators say they’ve built a “story engine” that lets the story work on a variety of different voice devices.

First, the Inspection Chamber will come out on Amazon Echo and Google Home, but the BBC is looking into other devices, like Apple’s HomePod and Microsoft & Harman Kardon’s Invoke speaker, as well.

The project comes out of a wider BBC initiative called Talking With Machines that is exploring spoken interfaces. It’s looking at ways to share content through these technologies and improve interactive audio interfaces. It also aims to create a platform for these interfaces that works across devices, instead of relying on one particular device.

Merging art and technology

In some ways, the plot of the Inspection Chamber had to conform to the limitations of the technology used to share it. For example, Amazon’s Alexa requires users to speak every 90 seconds, and these devices only understand a limited number of phrases. The story’s writers had to come up with a way to incorporate these phrases and time requirements into the story, without making it feel forced.

The use of this technology to tell a story may be experimental now, but as the technology improves, this type of content will likely become easier to create with fewer limitations on creativity. This presents some interesting ideas about the future of creative fields and technology. Rather than shy away from tech in favor of the traditional, the BBC is going full force into it.

Physical books and theater productions may never go completely out of style due to their many virtues, but using new technologies creates new possibilities with a plot, user experience, and more.

Kayla Matthews is a technology writer interested in AI, chatbots, and tech news. She writes for VentureBeat, MakeUseOf, The Week, and TechnoBuffalo.

Six years later, the Financial Times is back in the App Store. (Apple still won’t get a cut of subscriptions.)

“Six years is a long time in product,” said Martin Fallon, the Financial Times’ product manager for apps. Six years ago was the last time that the FT’s main app was in Apple’s App Store. In 2011, the company introduced a web app and, a couple months later, pulled its dedicated iOS apps because, reportedly, it did not want to give Apple a 30 percent cut of in-app subscription revenue and wanted more information about subscribers than Apple was willing to provide.

More than half a decade later, you can find the FT app in the App Store once again (alongside some of the company’s other apps, like FTChinese, that never left.) Apple will not, however, be getting a cut of subscription revenues; as The Wall Street Journal reported Monday:

The new iOS app will therefore only be accessible to existing FT subscribers. New readers won’t be able to purchase subscriptions from within the app itself, but must instead do so from the FT’s website before logging in.

This model means the FT can avoid giving Apple a cut of subscription revenue and will allow it to collect payment information and other valuable data directly from its subscribers. Spotify and other subscription-based services have taken a similar approach in recent years.

“We identified an iOS app as a key way to drive engagement,” Fallon told me. “We saw that readers who used our existing apps were much more engaged than those who didn’t. We also saw that we had a much higher app adoption rate on Android, where we had a native app, than on iOS.” (Engagement became a bigger part of the discussion in 2015, when the FT created an audience engagement team.) He also mentioned other benefits of an iOS app over a web app: Improved offline reading, persistent login, easier sharing, and — ultimately — push notifications and automatic update downloads, things that readers have been asking for but that weren’t possible with the web app.

“Another motivation is simple — customers asked us for it,” Fallon said.

Right now, the FT’s iOS app is aimed only at existing subscribers. When you open it, you’re prompted to sign in; if you don’t, you can see a homepage but can’t read a single story. The web app will continue to exist for now, but the FT intends to move the majority of its readers over to the iOS app. (As of Monday, I couldn’t find anything on the FT’s site to alert readers to the existence of the iOS app; it was still only promoting the web app.)

The Financial Times has nearly 870,000 total paying subscribers (up 9 percent from this time last year); of those, 666,000 are digital-only subscriptions (up 13 percent from this time last year). More than 50 percent of the FT’s digital subscribers already use its apps, and with the launch of the iOS app, that percentage is expected to increase.

In 2017, the one thing every digital-native news outlet needs is a newsletter (not an app)

Newsletter > Apple News > podcast > app: In terms of how digital-native news outlets get their information out, the newsletter wins. That’s according to a digital news fact sheet from Pew Research Center, released Monday. It looks at 36 news outlets that originated online and have at least 10 million unique visitors per month (list of outlets, from to, here).

Sites do not appear to be increasingly building native apps: The percentage of top digital-native news sites with an app remained steady between 2016 and 2017, at 61 percent:

This does not appear to include responsive sites: “For mobile apps, researchers searched the Google Play and iOS App Store for each site,” according to the fact sheet’s methodology.

Other publishing methods are more popular:

Fully 97 percent of these outlets offer newsletters, and 92 percent have an official presence on Apple News. Three-quarters, meanwhile, release podcasts and 61 percent allow comments on their articles.

The full fact sheet is here. Pew also released two other new fact sheets — one on public broadcasting, one on Hispanic and African American news media — on Monday. (These fact sheets, with staggered releases, have taken the place of what was once Pew’s giant annual State of the News Media report.)

VentureBeat is looking for ace tech reporters in S.F. and NYC

VentureBeat has immediate openings for experienced reporters with a track record of getting scoops and providing smart analysis.

We’re looking for two people, one in San Francisco and one in New York, who love covering the business of technology but are not infatuated with it. Reporters with a critical eye, an ability to develop sources, and a knack for breaking news.

For the San Francisco role, we’re seeking someone with experience — or a demonstrable interest in — covering Apple and startups, as well as general tech news.

For the New York City role, we’re seeking an experienced reporter who can cover general tech news including IPOs, machine learning, and venture capital, to name a few.

As a VentureBeat reporter, you’ll help define our daily coverage with breaking news, second day takes, and features. Further, you possess strong writing and analytical skills to help differentiate VentureBeat from the rest of the pack. You’re a journalist who is eager to go out and get the stories that other sites don’t have. These are full-time staff positions.

If you’re as excited as we are, please send a resume, desired compensation, and cover letter containing three links to your best clips to Please put “Tech reporter – SF” or “Tech reporter – NYC” in the subject line.

Google opens digital skills academy in London to ‘educate and inspire’

Google has opened the doors to a new digital academy in the heart of London, designed as a hub for “educating and inspiring” everyone from schoolkids to company founders.

The new digital space, which Google calls The Academy, will be home to “Googlers and external industry experts” who will be on hand to support a range of “educational and inspirational experiences,” including meetings, collaborative events, and workshops. The venue is kitted out with themed spaces including the Electric Cinema, Beach, and Funfair auditoriums.

Above: Google Academy: Electric Cinema

Above: Google Academy: Beach

“The Academy has been created to educate and inspire everyone from schoolchildren to CEOs as part of Google’s plans to help build digital capability across the country,” said Google’s U.K. managing director Ronan Harris.

The 40,000-square foot venue was opened to mark the annual London Tech Week event, the first since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union (EU) last June. Indeed, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, opened the 2017 event by saying that Brexit won’t curtail London’s technology sector — despite many signals to the contrary.

“London’s ambition to grow, harness new technologies, and build the brightest and best companies has been a constant over the last decade,” added Harris. “When the tech community with industries ranging from fashion and music to automotives and AI have worked in partnership with government, the mayor’s office, and passionate communities supporting startups and scaleups, new jobs have been created and London has shown it can lead the way in a competitive global environment.”

Today’s announcement comes just a couple of weeks after Google submitted plans for its gargantuan new 92,000-square metre “landscraper” London HQ, with construction anticipated for a 2018 start with an expected two-year build.


You can call it hype — but Watson is getting marketers ROI

IBM CMO Rashmy Chatterjee is a featured speaker at MB 2017, July 11-12 in San Francisco. She’s among dozens of others from some of the most iconic brands who will be sharing how marketers are using AI within the broad marketing ecosystem to stay ahead. See the full roster of speakers here.

“AI, or cognitive computing, absolutely should be table stakes today,” says Rashmy Chatterjee, IBM’s North America CMO. “In the future, cognitive computing (AI) won’t even be an option anymore. You’ll use it as a matter of course.”

In her upcoming talk at MB 2017, “Applied AI for Real ROI,” she’ll break down the real-world examples that prove her statement out — like the five-fold increase in conversions that BMO (Bank of Montreal) achieved using strategies fueled by Watson, IBM’s powerful AI platform.

“BMO uses our client experience tools, and their conversion rate on mobile — from customer interest to actual business — went up from ten percent to 50 percent,” Chatterjee says. “With American Eagle, we’ve seen an almost 20 percent increase in mobile traffic because AI implementation dramatically increased their understanding of customer issues.”

Chatterjee has an unshakable focus on making IBM’s clients successful, and goes on to explain this goal is achieved by helping brands better understand their customers, discern context of action and queries,  provide multiple options to engage, respond to feedback quickly in a personalized way — and, ultimately, by enabling them to deliver an unmatched superior experience.

Enter Watson, IBM’s poster child for AI, which now has APIs that can discern tone, understand personality quirks, and learn where and how the client is seeking to be engaged, with real-time input from customers that is immediately actionable.

“Watson has a set of capabilities, and with each of them the goal is: Can we make this experience better for the client, and can we make them more successful in what they want to do?” Chatterjee says.

For instance, the Tone Analyzer capability uses linguistic analysis to detect communication tones in text to understand conversations and communications — allowing brands to respond to customer needs, worries and wants. Or to better analyze and understand what’s really behind the thousands of comments customers leave scattered across social media.

“We also use Tone Analyzer for customer experience assessments and customer support, and with this information, we keep getting better,” she adds. “We’re constantly asking, what does it mean, and how can we respond to it better?”

Then there’s Watson’s Personality Insights service which extracts personality characteristics based on a variety of written communications using customers’ social media entries, enterprise data, and other digital communications.

Try a demo here and Watson may tell you that “you are helpful and analytical,” and “your choices are driven by a desire for well being” (along with a much fuller description). Or you may learn from that “you are excitable and adventurous, eager to try new things.. and you tend to speak up and take charge of situations.”

By enabling companies to learn who their customers are as individuals, they can improve acquisition, retention, and engagement with highly personalized interactions.

Chatterjee points out that mobile is where these AI capabilities have the most potential to shine. Of course, the bar is high. Customers already expect to be able to do most transactions on mobile, and take things like location capabilities for granted.

“But what is the next frontier?” asks Chatterjee. “What are the next things we can do — through emotions, through tone, through personalities, through so many other technological capabilities that will create an even more differentiated client experience?”

Chatterjee will be speaking about how her teams are already making progress on this next frontier — and where it’s going next. You can register for MB 2017 right here.

The 7 most innovative mobile partners for retailers and publishers

Presented by Sailthru

While AR and VR are forecast to be the future of mobile, most retailers and publishers are still struggling with the basics. Yes, there are standouts like the oft-cited Sephora, T-Mobile, and now Target, which have amassed significant engaged mobile app audiences, but for most brands, we’re still at square one.

To start getting ahead, it pays to bring in the experts. Finding the right partner is critical to making sure that mobile initiatives fulfill their promise. But the range of agencies, technologies, development shops, and boutiques working with both large companies and ambitious startups to get the mobile experience right is beyond impressive — it’s overwhelming.

At Sailthru, we work with a full range of integration partners and agencies, and we’ve seen first-hand that each has something different, and unique, to offer. There’s no single partner or agency that’s going to be best for every single brand or project. That being said, there are a handful that we’ve seen consistently rise above the rest–the ones that have developed technologies that accelerate mobile revenue generation; the ones that produce great work, on time and on budget, and most important, leave a trail of satisfied customers in their wake.

These are the partners we’d turn to for strategy, inspiration, analytics, data management, messaging automation, or practically anything else.

Best data management layer: mParticle and Segment

When it comes to data management, the excellence of two particular firms demanded that we call a tie. Both mParticle and Segment are devoted to helping mobile marketers and technologists better consolidate and actually use their data. Segment and mParticle each provide a single API that can coordinate a company’s entire marketing stack, making it easier for marketers to add new partners and saving them from having to integrate multiple SDKs. Both Segment and mParticle have managed more than 100 integrations to date. No matter what providers you’re using, the chances are that mParticle and Segment are working to make your work better together.

mParticle customer portfolio: Bleacher Report, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Seat Geek

Follow on twitter: @mParticles

Segment customer portfolio: Trunk Club, Breather, New Relic

Follow on twitter: @segment

Best mobile messaging and push notification platform:’s mobile marketing suite includes push notifications, in-app messaging, and a rich customizable message center that allows marketers to incorporate customer behavior, location, and demographic data into their messaging. Sailthru acquired and fully integrated Carnival into it’s multichannel campaign suite because it’s the most marketer-friendly mobile platform around, decreasing reliance on technical resources for your mobile projects, while giving you the ability to easily connect your mobile app experience to email and web. Carnival works with the globe’s biggest brands with customers such as Sephora, BP, Six Flags, Penguin Random House, and more.

Customer portfolio: Air New Zealand, Oreo, Swish

Follow on twitter: @carnivalio

Get a demo 

Best mobile app strategy and development: Prolific

Prolific thinks big-picture and develops solutions neatly tailored to each client. That’s at least partly because founders Eric Weber and Bobak Emanian decided early on that they wanted their agency to be one of the best in the world, not the state or the region. The company, now based in Brooklyn, is uniquely focused on business outcomes, achieving them by using lean, cross-disciplinary teams and maintaining a focus on sustainability.

Customer portfolio: SoulCycle, Sephora, Saks Fifth Avenue, Old Navy

Follow on twitter: @weareprolific

Best deep linking between apps: Button

Button is designed to help apps integrate and play nicely together. It worked with Foursquare and Uber, for example, to allow someone browsing restaurants and clubs on Foursquare to tap an Uber button that would automatically call a car to bring them to their chosen location. The goal is to create a new platform, beyond Facebook and Google, that will help merchants acquire and quickly convert mobile-loving customers.

Customer portfolio: AirBnB, OpenTable, Uber

Follow on twitter: @button

Best attribution tracking: Appsflyer

For us, Appsflyer is the first choice in attribution tracking, helping marketers know which messages did the most to spur customers on to a buying decision. Appsflyer uses data such as the time of the ad interaction and the percentage of customers who saw a particular marketing message, to help figure out the relative importance of various messages, and to help marketers spend more on activities that actually bring in the best users.

Customer portfolio: Telefonica,, ThredUp

Follow on twitter: @AppsFlyer

Best mobile analytics: Amplitude

Amplitude is at the forefront of a new wave of mobile analytics players. Amplitude offers a plethora of real-time charts and dashboards, cross-platform tracking, and plenty of scalability even for the largest customers. All of these tools can be made available across an organization, enabling business leaders and marketers to derive important insights without relying on already-overburdened analysts.

Customer portfolio: Square,, Instacart

Follow on twitter: @amplitudemobile

Jason Grunberg is VP of Marketing at Sailthru.

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7 takeaways from Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends report

Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report has become an annual ritual for Silicon Valley. It’s as if the tech industry had an annual physical exam and received a health report in the form of a 355-page presentation.

As in years past, Meeker’s 2017 report contained a few notable trends in its firehose of data points, which are interesting in how they show the tech industry evolving. Here are some of the key takeaways.

Growth in Internet population is slowing, but growth in online ads is accelerating.

The number of global users on the Internet reached 3.4 billion in 2016, equal to 46 percent of the world’s population. That’s more than double the figure in 2009, but the growth rate has flatlined around 10 percent a year for the past five years.

Meanwhile, growth in online advertising is accelerating, at least in the U.S. Digital advertising rose 22 percent to $73 billion last year, up from 20 percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2014. Unsurprisingly, the growth is coming from mobile ads, which is growing fast enough to more than offset a decline in desktop ads.

Meeker said that the amount of money spent on digital ads will surpass spending on TV ads sometime in the next six months.

Ecommerce growth is also accelerating.

That online-retail sales is growing year after year is a given. But the pace of growth has been accelerating for the past three years, rising steadily from 14 percent in 2013 to 15 percent last year.

Credit Amazon, of course, but Walmart is also seeing new online growth in the wake of its purchase of deep-discount site Meanwhile, physical retailers are expected to close nearly 1,700 shops in the U.S., the largest number in 20 years, the report says. Those closings have more to do with unwise overexpansion in recent years than Amazon or ecommerce in general.

Gaming continues to lead and shape the online experience.

Another unsurprising insight concerns the growth and popularity in gaming, but it’s interesting to see the figures Meeker has collected to show that growth.

Meeker estimates that there are 2.6 billion gamers around the world, up from 100 million in 1995. The gaming industry generated $100 billion in global revenue last year, with nearly half of that, $47 billion, coming from Asia. Games are central to defining the overall online experience. In her presentation, Meeker speculated that they may be preparing society for the rise of human-computer interaction.

Revenue in the music industry is rising again.

The Internet has not been kind to the music recording industry. For the past 16 years, revenue has declined by an average of 4 percent a year. The rate of decline had slowed in the past several years as downloaded and streaming music began to offset the vanishing sales of CDs.

Last year, overall music revenue grew by 11% to more than $12 billion, its highest figure since 2009. Subscription and streaming revenue made up more than half of the total figure for the first time.

Digital health care is approaching an inflection point.

Health care is at once a data-driven industry and one that is perhaps the worst at managing data. Meeker says health care “is at a digital inflection point,” one of those terms that act as red meat for investors because it signals strong growth ahead.

The rise of fitness trackers and health apps are collecting more user data than ever, while hospitals are sharing more health care information with patients. The average hospital holds 50 petabytes of health care data, and the total amount of that data is growing by 48 percent a year, Meeker says.

The bottleneck to analyzing that data is patient privacy. Health care data can be used to the benefit and the detriment of patients. A survey of consumers asking which tech companies they’d share their health data with shows 60 percent trust Google and 56 percent trust Microsoft. Less trusted are Amazon and Facebook — only 39 percent of consumers would share health data with them.

China is growing as a tech rival to the U.S.

The biggest market caps in tech belong to none other than the Big Four: Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook. Together, they are worth a collective $2.4 trillion. But seven of the next 16 on the list are Chinese companies like Tencent and Alibaba. Those seven are worth $929 billion in aggregate.

U.S. companies may still dominate the money invested in tech, but China’s rivals are quickly catching up.

Immigrants are core to the Valley’s DNA.

The story of Silicon Valley is in good part the story of immigrants who have played a part in building and shaping its technology. Meeker looked at the 25 most highly valued tech companies and found that 15 of them had founders who were first- or second-generation Americans.

The shift in the Trump Administration’s “America first” stance on work visas may put that in jeopardy. To underscore the importance of foreign workers and founders in tech, Meeker showed that half of the most highly valued private tech companies were founded by first-generation immigrants. Those companies — including Uber, SpaceX, and Slack — have created 48,000 jobs.

The full report can be found here

Google launches Data GIF Maker to help storytellers convey information through animations

In an age of ubiquitous computing and high-bandwidth video streaming capabilities from our pockets, the fact that the humble GIF continues to thrive is a remarkable feat. But its success is testament to the 30-year-old file format’s continued support, and ability to convey information (and entertain) without requiring huge processing power.

Indeed, GIFs continue to be used for many purposes, which is why Google has launched the Data Gif Maker, a tool aimed at helping journalists and storytellers convey information visually through simple animations.

“Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex,” said Simon Rogers, data editor at the Google News Lab, in a blog post. “In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.”

The Data GIF Maker is pretty simple to use, though it is fairly narrow in scope. It’s basically designed to help people show how two competing “things” compare to each other in terms of popularity, such as sales of a particular product, or the frequency of two items in search engines, and requires the user to manually enter the information and then download the GIF.

Above: Data GIF: Batman vs. Superman

The advent of the internet and big data has given birth to a number of businesses that serve to help people make sense of the deluge of information at their disposal and tell meaningful stories. For example, Latvian infographics and data visualization company Infogram offers a slick WYSIWYG editor that converts users’ data into infographics that can be published or embedded anywhere, and earlier this month it was acquired by Prezi.

Other companies are making moves to monetize GIFs specifically. Last month Tenor launched real-time analytics tool, designed to educate marketers on using GIFs.

Google’s GIF effort is limited in its ambitions for now, but as an experiment it could be turbo-charged in the future to enable GIFs with far greater detail and multiple data points.


Everything Microsoft announced at Build 2017

So Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference came and went, and the computing giant unveiled a number of initiatives aimed at the software engineers and web developers of the world.

From Windows 10 to Cortana and bots, here’s a quick recap of everything announced at Build 2017.

Embracing the competition

A core theme to emerge from Build 2017 was Microsoft’s tacit acknowledgement that it needs to embrace competing platforms if it’s to thrive as a software and services company.

Though iTunes has been available on Windows for more than a decade, Microsoft revealed that Apple’s media-focused software would be landing in the Windows Store later this year, a key launch given the impending arrival of Windows 10 S which can only use apps available in the Windows Store.

Elsewhere, Microsoft also announced that its cloud storage service, OneDrive, would soon work with Apple’s iMessage, letting users share documents and photos with friends without leaving their iMessage chat. As part of the same announcement, Microsoft revealed that it was opening offline access to folders within OneDrive on Android, with support for iOS users coming later this year.

Microsoft also unveiled Xamarin Live Player in preview, which is effectively a “live coding environment” for developers to debug Android and iOS apps without SDKs or emulators.

Additionally, Microsoft’s integrated development environment (IDE), Visual Studio, was also launched out of preview for Mac. And as another swift reminder that Microsoft has been increasingly prioritizing the “big 2” mobile operating systems over its own, the company finally revealed that Visual Studio Mobile Center was finally getting Windows support — seven months after debuting with support only for Android and iOS.

In a show of support for developers and fans of Linux, Microsoft also revealed that Ubuntu, Suse Linux, and Fedora are all coming to the Windows Store, making it easier to run Linux apps on Windows 10 devices.

Bots, Cortana, & AI

A little more than a year after launching its Bot Framework, Microsoft revealed that it’s now used by over 130,000 developers. With that in mind, the company used Build 2017 to announce that Bing search results now include Skype bots, in addition to myriad chat apps including Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram. Bots will also soon be able to join video conversations in Skype, with developers able to use the BotBuilder RealTimeMediaCalling extension on Github, which just entered preview.

Microsoft also revealed that Cognitive Services, a conduit for third-parties to access its AI algorithms for “vision, speech, language, and knowledge,” was arriving on a bot-to-bot communication platform Interbot, a product from Gupshup. Related to this, Microsoft announced it was releasing four new customizable artificial intelligence services via Cognitive Services, allowing developers to build even more AI into their own products.

A number of announcements were also made relating to Cortana, Microsoft’s voice-enabled digital assistant. The company announced a public preview of its Cortana Skills Kit that enables developers to create voice apps for Cortana, and more than 20 such apps made their debut at Build. The software giant also revealed that it was working with both Intel and HP to bring more Cortana-powered devices to market.

Microsoft’s bread and butter

Microsoft announced some interesting tidbits about its core bread and butter services, in addition to making a few surprise announcements.

The company gave a glimpse into how it wants to tie its various apps, products, and platforms together with the Microsoft Fluent Design System, which is effectively guidelines to enable Microsoft to evolve its Metro/Modern UI design language, replete with rules for developers creating software to run on Windows 10.

Microsoft also demonstrated Windows 10 running on devices with ARM processors, with full support for existing Win32 apps. And it also revealed that Windows 10 is now installed on more than 500 million devices, a feat that took around 21 months to achieve.

Looking to the future, Microsoft announced a new Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which is coming later this year, with the company teasing a new creative app called Windows Story Remix that uses the Microsoft Graph to transform and combine your photos and videos.

As part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft also outlined plans to launch OneDrive files on-demand, a feature that lets users access their files online without having to download them and consume valuable storage space on their devices.

Elsewhere, Microsoft had a little news to share around its cloud computer service Azure. With Azure Cosmos DB, Microsoft is offering a globally distributed database with five consistency choices, rather than forcing developers to choose between strong and eventual consistency.

Other notable announcements to emerge from Build include: developers can now publish Microsoft Teams apps to the Office Store, while Microsoft unveiled its first Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers, alongside a mixed reality developer kit.

Finally, one of the more interesting early-stage products to emerge at Build was the Emma Watch, a wearable that counters Parkinson’s tremors through using vibrations.

Read GamesBeat Summit Stories Here

Tech companies, if you create addicts, you need to help them

Two years ago, I published a book on how to make products more habit-forming. The book became a bestseller and I’m frequently asked to consult with companies—particularly tech companies—looking to make their goods and services stickier and harder to stop using.

Unfortunately, making things more engaging also makes them more potentially addictive. The techniques I describe in the book, intended to help product designers build healthy habits in their users (like using a wellness app, keeping better track of personal finances, or staying in touch with family and friends) are the same tactics used by some to keep people un-healthfully hooked.

The solution is not stripping out what makes these products engaging; rather, it’s helping the addicts. Luckily, the two-way nature of Internet-connected services means companies can identify, message, and assist people who want to moderate use.

For example, instead of auto-starting the next episode on Netflix or Amazon Video, the binge-inducing video streaming services could ask users if they’d like to limit the number of hours they watch in a given weekend. Online games could offer players who cancel their accounts the option of blacklisting their credit cards to prevent future relapses. Facebook could let users turn off their newsfeeds during certain times of the day. And rather than making it so fiendishly difficult to figure out how to turn off notifications from particularly addictive apps, Apple and Android could proactively ask certain users if they’d like to turn off or limit these triggers.

These services know the usage patterns of each and every user. They don’t need to bother everyone, just those people showing patterns of behavior indicative of a problem. For example, setting a trigger based on the number of hours spent using an online service could prompt the company to reach out to suggest ways to cut back or deprecate certain features.

Indeed, the benefit of all the data being collected about us these days is that companies could use this information to help people who may be harmed by their products’ overuse. Clearly, there are many things tech companies could do to help users break the cycle of addiction. Whether they actually do anything however, is another matter.

There are some industries and companies that can’t and won’t help addicts. It’s not just dealers of illegal drugs who benefit from harmful addictions. Legitimate industries depend on addicts as well. For example, those ubiquitous ads for online games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush are fishing for what the industry calls “whales”—the 0.15 percent of players who bring in 50 percent of revenue. In an industry where the cost of acquiring a player is just barely less than the revenue made per user, whales tip the scales to profitability. Without these extreme customers, their businesses aren’t viable. Similarly, the casino industry depends on a disproportionate share of revenue coming from a small group of likely addicted gamblers, some of whom are known to wear adult diapers to avoid having to stop playing.

Many industries earn an outsized proportion of their revenue from their most loyal customers. The fast food industry for example, amusingly calls the 20 percent of diners who account for 60 percent of their revenue, “heavy users,” according to the Wall Street Journal. While there’s nothing unethical about being a patron’s favorite brand, a line is crossed when a company knowingly exploits people with addiction problems the way the gaming and gambling industries do.

For example, though most American casinos are required by law to have “self-exclusion” programs for gamblers who wish to stop their addiction, casinos have been known to welcome problem gamblers back with open arms. A similar situation revealed itself during a discussion on ethics I recently led at a publicly-traded online gaming company. The product managers confessed that they also allow people to play even when the players have explicitly asked to be cut off.

Casinos escape liability through a legal loophole protecting them from prosecution. Nevertheless, it is unethical to accept patronage from someone a company knows wants to stop using your product but can’t. This moral standard should apply to all industries that collect personal usage data on individuals and therefore have the ability to identify, message, and help problem users.

The trouble is, gambling and gaming companies are as addicted to their addicts as their addicts are to the companies’ products. Doing the right thing is an existential threat since luring whales can mean the difference between the success and failure of a game or casino. Without outsized proceeds from the few addicted players, these industries would have a hard time making a profit.

Thankfully, not all companies are as dependent on addicted users as the casino and online gaming industries. Helping addicts wouldn’t much hurt Facebook or Reddit, for example.

In fact, some tech companies are already limiting overuse, albeit in rudimentary ways. Stack Overflow, a technical question and answer site used by 6 million coders, was designed with breakers built-in. “The current system is designed to reward continued participation, but not to the point that it creates obsession,” according to a post on the site by co-founder Jeff Atwood. “Programmers should be out there in the world creating things too,” Atwood noted, stressing that Stack Overflow should be a utility, not an addiction.

Unlike, say, cigarettes–potentially addictive products where the manufacturer does not know the user—online services intimately aware of their users’ online behaviors have an opportunity to intervene. Of course, tech companies won’t be able to “cure” addictions, nor should they attempt to do so. Nor should they act paternalistically, turning off access after arbitrarily determining that a user has had enough. Rather, tech companies owe it to their users simply to reach out and ask if they can be helpful, just as a concerned friend might do. If the user indicates they need assistance cutting back, the company should offer a helping hand. With the data these companies collect, identifying and reaching out to potential addicts is a relatively easy step. A harder one, it seems, is caring enough to do the right thing.

[This story is an excerpt of a post on the ethics of addictive products published on the author’s own blog,]

Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Design School. He has sold two technology companies since 2003 and now help teams design more engaging products. He is also an active angel investor. Some of his past investments include: Eventbrite, Product Hunt, (acquired by LinkedIn), Worklife (acquired by Cisco), Happy BitsPresence Learning7 Cups of Tea, Pana, and Symphony Commerce.

Slack introduces Frontiers, its first future of work conference

Slack is getting into the conference business with the launch of Frontiers, an event centered around the future of work. Held in San Francisco from September 12-13, the company is inviting customers, partners, and developers to hear what it has in store for improving work productivity.

Tickets are now available for purchase with an early-bird price of $399, but will go as high as $999 for those who make the last-minute decision to attend. Speakers have not been announced, but it will likely include notable executives from not only Slack — such as chief executive Stewart Butterfield, vice president of product April Underwood, and the Search Learning and Intelligence (SLI) group lead Noah Weiss — but also major partners.

With so much happening in Slack over the past year, holding a conference will help the company provide all parties with a better idea of what it wants to do to help people work and communicate better. Slack could also take this opportunity to share details about how it’s appealing more to the enterprise, unveiling tools designed to entice developers to build in-message apps and bots, and showing off additional third-party integrations.

Attendees are promised that they’ll “come away with concrete ideas you can apply in your organization, along with fresh information about new Slack features and partners.” As is typical with these conferences, Slack will have not just keynotes, but also multiple tracks around teams, teamwork, and even developer tools such as its API and platform.

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