Facebook Messenger will soon let all businesses send sponsored messages

Facebook today announced that sponsored messages are being rolled out to more businesses. The Messenger ads were initially made available to a small number of businesses but will become available to all businesses in the coming months, the company said in a blog post.

Unlike other Messenger ads, sponsored messages that pop up on your Messenger home screen will not be marked as such. In fact, they look like all other conversations on Facebook Messenger.

As previously defined rules for advertising and marketing on Facebook Messenger state, promotional messages like the kind being rolled out now may only be sent once in a 24-hour period, and they can only be sent to a person who previously chatted with that business’ Facebook Messenger bot or account.

During the company’s third quarter earnings report on Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors that more than 20 million businesses use Facebook monthly to communicate with customers.

Advertisers interested in sending sponsored messages must create a Custom Audience, which can be used for retargeting ads at people who have done things like clicked a Messenger bot call to action or deleted a Messenger bot, or simply to target new Messenger bot users.

Advertising and business services through Facebook’s messaging apps have grown steadily in the second half of 2017 following questions about monetization this summer. In July, while onstage at MobileBeat, Facebook Messenger head of product Stan Chudnovsky announced the company will gradually bring ads to the Messenger home screen worldwide. In recent weeks, Facebook opened the Messenger objective for ad campaigns.

At the same time, verified WhatsApp business accounts and a paid WhatsApp customer service app have also opened up.

In August 2016, after initial restrictions on promotional material, Facebook Messenger opened to promotional and marketing material. Ads that appear in the Facebook News Feed and lead to a chat experience with a human or automated bot on Messenger have been available since the launch of Messenger Platform 1.3 in November 2016. Since then, those same ads have expanded to Instagram.

Both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger garner more than 1 billion monthly active users around the world. They compete in the same space to connect businesses with customers as other chat apps with hundreds of millions of users, such as Skype, Apple’s iMessage, and Twitter.

Silicon Valley may have just began to come around to this form of conversational commerce, but it’s been a big part of business in Asia for a while now.

WeChat and Line have offered advertising in one form or another since 2014 and 2015, respectively.

Advertising has become the highest grossing sector of Line Corp, the company behind the Line app. According to earnings announced in late October, 47 percent of the $371 million in Line revenue in the past quarter came from advertising, up 40 percent compared to the same quarter last year.

Apple: iPhone X preorders are ‘off the charts’


(Reuters) — Apple Inc quashed concerns of muted demand for its iPhone X on Friday, saying preorders for the 10th anniversary phone were “off the charts”.

The company’s shares, which have fallen steadily since it announced in early September it would launch two iPhones within two months, rose nearly 3 percent in response.

Pre-orders for the much-anticipated 10th anniversary phone started from 12.01 am PT on Friday.

“We can see from the initial response, customer demand is off the charts,” an Apple spokeswoman told Reuters.

“We’re working hard to get this revolutionary new product into the hands of every customer who wants one, as quickly as possible.”

The company’s website showed delivery times pushed out to five to six weeks for the phone, compared to an initial plan of Nov. 3.

IPhone X’s launch follows weeks of concerns among analysts about the production of the new phone, which for the first time includes new facial identification software to replace the fingerprint used on previous phones.

Analysts have cautioned that production of the phone was below target, due to difficulties in producing the TrueDepth camera system, which houses sophisticated cameras and sensors making it possible to unlock the phone using Face ID.

Wireless carriers in the United States and Canada have reported slow third-quarter customer upgrades.

Major promotions on the iPhone X from U.S. carriers have yet to materialize, and in some cases, the offers have been even less generous than what was available for the iPhone 8, said Walter Piecyk, an analyst at BTIG in a research note on Thursday. The base price for the phone is $999.

He noted that Sprint Corp’s iPhone X promotion of $350 in savings for trading in an eligible device was the most aggressive but still lower than what it offered for last year’s launch of the iPhone 7.

However, electronics retailer Best Buy Co is charging shoppers an extra $100, if they wish to buy an unactivated iPhone X outright.

If customers order the phone on an installment billing plan, they will pay the same price charged by Apple and the carriers.

“Our prices reflect the fact that no matter a customer’s desired plan or carrier, or whether a customer is on a business or personal plan, they are able to get a phone the way they want at Best Buy,” Best Buy spokeswoman Carly Charlson said.

“Our customers have told us they want this flexibility and sometimes that has a cost.”

The Guardian Mobile Lab’s latest experiment targets public transit commuters with an offline news app

Over the summer, the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab hinted at its next experiment: improving the experience of consuming news when offline. Now it’s revealed the trial product, a news app that incorporates location sharing, content and time customizations, and user data transparency — but is only available for the next few months.

The Lab introduced LabRdr — which can apparently be pronounced like “lab reader” or “Labrador” or another general squish of consonants — on Wednesday. Designed for the public transit commuter who may lose cell service on the subway, for example, and then be left with nothing to read, the app prepares a “package” of Guardian content based on the user’s previous reads in the app and the current stories of the morning or evening. It’s delivered twice a day via push alert, at the times the user has specified they’re commuting; each package contains an amount of content that the app determines will be readable within the duration of each user’s commute.

And yep, location factors in. “We’re experimenting with making offline news reading easier and more relevant, through automatic personalizations of your reading package based on signals like your interests or, possibly in the future, your location and what’s being read nearby,” Mobile Lab editor Sasha Koren noted in the Medium announcement:

LabRdr’s approach to offline news reading is experimental, and different from existing offline news apps in a few ways: Rather than give you all current stories on every topic, it delivers only a self-contained package of Guardian articles keyed to your interests, twice a day just in time for your commute, at times you can specify.

As you use it, it learns what you like to read and delivers you content keyed to your interests. (We’re setting aside important conversations about filter bubbles for now to learn something about personalization.) In addition, we show you how we use the data you share with us, in an effort to enhance trust through transparency…

What we’re looking to learn

What makes a good content recommendation system for news? A lot of the existing work about content recommendations are around e-commerce and we’re interested in what signals are particularly good for news organizations and news reading.

We’re also looking to gauge readers’ reactions to the utility of having a short package of news defined for them for a set period of time. Without the option to read a full spectrum of articles on many topics, will they feel better informed with those they do read, or have a sense of achievement at completing a few articles in a set?

As with all our experiments, we’ll report on what we learn in follow-up posts after the app has been running for a while and we’ve collected and analyzed data and reactions.

LabRdr isn’t the first attempt at improving offline news. Way back in 2012, reading apps News.me and Instapaper both endeavored to serve the offline reader and relied on location to do so, but News.me didn’t survive a Twitter API update. Other apps like Pocket or Evernote require the readers themselves to do the legwork of saving the content for later perusing, rather than having relevant material presented to them.

Another difference is that the Mobile Lab is making an effort to share the data it collects through LabRdr. In a section of the app called the Log, you can view the tracked reading and commute patterns. “The app is a really good first step for gathering information, using it in a respectful way, and seeing how people feel about that,” said Sarah Schmalbach, co-leader of the Mobile Lab with Koren and its senior product manager. She pointed out that readers might feel different about sharing personal information with a news organization than they do about sharing it with, say, Google Maps or Amazon.

“If we can deliver news in more contextually relevant moments, then [will] that content be more valuable to the user?” wondered Connor Jennings, the app’s developer, who came up with the idea during his own frustrating experience reading offline news during his commute.

The team hopes to share its findings about reader trust, habit formation, and more with news organizations; the Mobile Lab is funded by the Knight Foundation (disclosure: Nieman Lab also receives funding from Knight) to explore solutions for the mobile news experience. But its sample will likely be restricted to those who commute using public transit, rather than people who drive, bike, or walk to work.

“It’s pretty narrow. We’re not targeting people who don’t commute; we’re not targeting people who commute by car. There’s a whole range of people we’re not gearing this toward,” Koren acknowledged.

LabRdr provides a “targeted product until we get better and deeper insights,” Schmalbach said. “We’re confident that the audience is big enough to get a big read on this content.”

Like the Mobile Lab’s other experiments — such as real-time Guardian commentary on a U.S. presidential debate via push alert; live push notifications with the Wall Street Journal — LabRdr is a temporary project. It will be removed from the App Store (it’s iPhone-only) after a couple of months.

Subway commuters by Susan Jane Golding used under a Creative Commons license.

Quartz adds augmented reality models to its news reports


Quartz is known for its news app that delivers the day’s events in short conversational pieces, allowing readers to dive into more detail if they want or move on to the next story. It’s structured like a text conversation with a friend, parceling out each piece of information in message bubbles and aping the format of the chat bots that were all the rage this time last year. Now it’s incorporating another tech trend into its app — augmented reality.

Apple’s been hyping its iOS 11 AR capabilities since it unveiled its software developer kit ARKit at the Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this year. And now that iOS 11 has rolled out to all users with compatible devices, users are starting to see AR pop up in various places, such as Major League Baseball’s At Bat and Fifth Star Lab’s Sky Guide. Quartz has also taken the opportunity to incorporate some lightweight AR into its app, first with a 3D rendering of the Cassini probe that recently entered an early, permanent retirement on Saturn.

“We currently illustrate our news stories with not only images and videos, but also emoji and animated GIFs,” said John Keefe, Quartz’s product manager, in a phone call with VentureBeat. “We decided that it would also be cool to incorporate 3D news objects into it. Since Apple made it pretty easy for us, we got to it right away. We have a developer on staff who started playing with it.”

Keefe says the Quartz team has been working on the AR feature for a few weeks now, and the main issue they’ve encountered is actually finding the 3D models to begin with. They’ve found marketplaces where people create 3D models for others to buy or download, and they’ve experimented with using their own scanning device. Their Cassini model came from NASA, which Keefe says has a number of models available.

Finding the models is only the first step. Keefe says that they want the models to be as realistic as possible, so lighting is often a consideration. He says that ARKit does take care of some of the work, but they still have to make adjustments, such as how reflective certain surfaces are.

“You’ll look at something and be like, hey, that’s not supposed to be shiny, or it is supposed to be shiny,” said Keefe. “That’s usually what we’re trying to adjust. As more and more people are making these 3D models, however they make them, it’s going to get easier to incorporate them.”

Keefe says that they’re aiming to always have at least one AR story in the app, but of course, that depends on what’s happening in the news at any given time. The benefit for readers, he says, is that it gives them a new way of experiencing the news.

“One of the neat things about the Cassini model to me is I never really had a sense of how big Cassini was,” said Keefe. “You see pictures of it and animations that are usually with Saturn in the background, but you have no clue. Is this the size of a building, a car, a lunch box? It turns out that with AR you can put it in your living room and be like, OK, now I get a sense of the size of it.”

Right now, the interaction with the 3D models is limited to simply walking around them or resizing them, but Keefe says that the team is working on adding other features. They don’t expect users to spend a lot of time with the AR feature, since their whole model is to deliver bite-sized bits of information that can be quickly digested. That being said, Keefe said that they’ve received requests from users for an AR gallery so that they can revisit past models, and that’s something they’re looking into.

In the past, other news publications have tackled new tech, such as The New York Times‘ use of virtual reality and 360-degree experiences. Keefe says that they’re at an advantage with AR because it’s a lot less labor than creating VR experiences, which he likens to creating a documentary.

“With AR, we have the benefit of taking advantage of the world that’s actually around you,” said Keefe. “We don’t have to re-create your world, which saves us a lot of work. And then we can add to that. That’s the augmented reality part. The additive concept is just an easier lift to begin with. It allows us to get a bit more experimental and playful.”

Leanplum data shows push notifications increase purchases by 9.6X


In a mobile marketing world full of shiny new objects, sometimes it is the tried and trusted tactics that produce results.

Push notifications, for example, still drive outstanding returns. In fact, the data tells us that push notifications alone increase user purchases by 9.6X.

That’s according to a new report by Leanplum that was released today. According to the study — which takes in data from more than 56 million activities between December 1, 2016 and June 1, 2017 — push notifications not only increase the number of purchases but also the amount spent.

While the increase in purchases was driven by push notifications alone, Leanplum stresses that they should still be used as part of an omnichannel strategy.

“The analysis validates that push notifications alone can increase user purchases by up to 9.6X,” Leanplum CEO and cofounder Momchil Kyurkchiev told me. “However, we find that for many customers, the impact of their messaging campaigns is strengthened when coordinated across channels. Considering that on average, only 40 percent of users opt into push notifications, a push notification and an email together will reach more users than push alone.”

The report shows that push notifications are also responsible for a 16 percent increase in user spend. What does that say about how consumers respond to promotions in 2017?

“There’s a huge missed opportunity for brands that aren’t keeping their app top of mind with customers by sending push notifications,” Kyurkchiev said. “Data shows that users respond positively when they hear about relevant sales, content, and promotions. With this in mind, it’s critical that you increase your addressable audience with push notification opt-ins.”

That means being transparent with the consumer and explaining what they are missing out on by sticking with the vanilla app experience.

“Once the shopper understands the benefit of push, they’re more likely to opt in,” Kyurkchiev said.

In addition to explaining the revenue-generating benefits of push notifications, the study also details the best days and times to send messages to smartphone users. Of course, there is an inherent issue with that kind of research.

The problem with “best time to post” results is that if everyone follows the advice, it makes those times the worst time to post. So what’s the real takeaway here for mobile marketers?

“While these are proven best practices, the important takeaway is to know your users and understand their individual behaviors,” Kyurkchiev said. “The key to successful mobile messaging is recognizing when your users want to hear from you, and engaging with them at the optimal time.”

What is next for push notifications? While they remain a stalwart of the mobile marketer’s armory, they have to continue evolving. So how do we engage users as fatigue sets in, which it inevitably will?

“We advise apps to coordinate multi-channel engagements in response to each user’s unique journey,” Kyurkchiev said. “Gone are the days when generic mass blast messages were effective. If you can customize messages dynamically with information individual users want, you’re not spamming them — you’re providing value.”

The full report — which also includes an illustrative case study — is available from Leanplum’s website from today.

The Wall Street Journal tested live push notifications, with some help from the Guardian’s Mobile Lab

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its jobs report at the beginning of the month, news organizations unleashed their push notifications.

On Friday morning, the Wall Street Journal tested live mobile push alerts for their jobs coverage, working closely with the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab, which has been for the past year tirelessly testing a range of ideas for distributing news that make the most of people’s phone-reading preferences.

Readers who arrived at the Journal’s mobile site or its Android or iOS apps were able to read its live coverage of the jobs numbers for July — but were also alerted with preview push notifications on updates as they read the existing analysis on the page (readers could dismiss and keep reading, or jump to the update from the push alert).

Journal developers built the infrastructure for the live notifications, and its markets team reported on the event and sent the pushes. The Mobile Innovation Lab provided guidance — based on learnings from its own past experiments and user testing — throughout the process, from evaluating design prototypes for the alerts to crafting an effective survey for users who encountered the Journal’s experiment.

The Journal has its own internal live coverage tool, built ahead of the Iowa Caucuses coverage in time for last year’s elections, but hadn’t dealt with live push notifications, according to Jennifer Hicks, deputy managing editor of digital at the Journal.

“We had a highlights feature where we could pin key posts, but we couldn’t notify readers within the live reading experience,” she said.

The Guardian’s Mobile Innovation Lab had been hosting some get-togethers and roundtables with various news organizations after the November 2016 election around news notifications, and the Journal expressed interest in trying out an experiment with the Lab. Work on this project started in June.

“There were lots of experiments the Guardian group was doing, so we talked about what we could bite off and pull off in a short amount of time,” Hicks said. “For us, it was also an opportunity to change our culture and talk directly to readers about testing a new feature.” (The Journal and Mobile Lab teams had a joint Slack channel going morning of the live notifications project for potential troubleshooting in implementation.)

The Journal plans to use the live notifications feature in future live coverage (with tweaks as necessary), according to Journal mobile editor Phil Izzo: “From jobs reports to the Olympics to terrorist attacks, we use live coverage a lot, and that’s one of the reasons we really wanted to build this out, since we knew there were so many use cases for it,” he said.

Both the Guardian and Journal teams emphasized the project’s experimental nature; it’s the first partnership of this kind for both organizations. The Lab is welcoming similar partnerships with other interested outlets.

“In the Lab we’re working for the industry and not just for ourselves — if we were to experiment in silence for two years and not share tips and tricks that we’ve experimented with, that wouldn’t be fulfilling the mission of the Lab,” Sarah Schmalbach, the Lab’s senior product manager, said. “We have been flexing our notifications muscle, then when we felt more confident in what we’d learned, we began to host events to ask other organizations what they were doing, where we’d then make a point to say, please come talk to us if there’s anything we can do to help, any data we can provide. Maybe we can launch something together.”

“We really relied on Sarah and [Mobile Innovation Lab editor] Sasha Koren to provide expertise in terms of, how do you talk to your audience directly, how do you conduct a real-time experiment, how do you offer a survey to audiences that gets you useful and actionable feedback,” Hicks said. “We had a lot of guidance on how to set up an experiment, which is not something we’ve done regularly at the Journal.”

Data points the Journal will evaluate for this jobs report experiment center around engagement, and include time spent on the live coverage, whether readers dismissed the notifications or clicked into the post, and bounce rate during the live event.

“Another thing we’re thinking about is, does this tell us anything about experimentation at the Journal?” Izzo said. “Did we make the job reports live blog better, because we put more attention to it, and should we push to do more things like this in the newsroom in general?”

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 jobs@venturebeat.com. 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.

 

Newsonomics: The New York Times’ redesign aims to match the quality of its products to its journalism

Please sign in.

Those three words — a request as old as the web — now drive the strongest strategy of our news era: reader revenue.

Today, The New York Times announces and starts to rollout the most significant redesign in its digital history. That redesign, 18 months in the arduous making, won’t turn heads or surprise many eyes, but its underlying thinking aims to empower the Times newsroom to deliver more timely, more nuanced, and more dramatic products to its readers — and thus for the Times to get more readers to pay for more of them. With this move and others, the Times aims to provide more and more reasons for readers to log in and get a constantly improving product offering as they move from phone to desktop to tablet to audio-on-demand and, eventually, to the new TV. Though the changes may not be flashy, they represent a significant change in strategy.

The Times calls the new system Vi — pronounced “vie”, not “six.” (Times watchers will note that an earlier redesign team was called NYT5.)

“People are inundated, surrounded with information 18 hours a day, and we understand that they get it from a variety of sources. So the question is: How do we, at any given moment across the day, across the globe, present the report in the most meaningful and easily accessible way that we can?” says Kinsey Wilson, the Times’ editor for innovation and strategy and executive vice president for product and technology. “That shift from platform to reader is what I would say is emphatically the pivot that we are making here.”

2015 and 2016 were all about platform for major news publishers — social discovery, distributed content, feeding Facebook — and this return to reader-centricity happens even as Facebook finally plans more publisher-friendly, subscription-supporting features. For the most part, the money in digital news is in attracting and retaining paying subscribers. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other platforms can acquaint readers with top news brands, but it’s the on-site, on-browser, on-app experience that’s got to seal the deal.

“This year is the year for us to deliver on both our journalistic and our business ambitions,” Wilson says. “We not only have to create what we feel is one of the finest news reports in the world, but we have to deliver an experience that is the equal of the journalism.” That experience is based on product and service. It’s not the stream of news, as impressively as it has gushed this year; it’s how usable, convenient, and accessible publishers can now make it. Make no mistake, every slide from Mary Meeker, comScore and more confirm how much news reading has become a multidevice adventure. One goal here then is to make that journey more seamless.

“We know from our research that multi-platform/device subscribers retain better,” says Wilson. “A key differentiator is that readers who read broadly across a variety of subjects are more likely to subscribe and retain.”

He says the Times has overhauled its end-to-end digital publishing system “with the goal of being able to move with much greater speed, to do a better job at serving our audience, to create a systematic experience across all platforms…It lays the foundation for a much more rapid system of iterative development.”

That process includes moving the Times from running six platforms to a singular, responsive publishing system. “If I want to adjust a feature on the site today,” says Wilson, “I’ve gotta touch six different stacks of code to do that. What we’re moving to is pretty much a single stack.”

Ironically, the work, led by Wilson’s teams, should make life easier for the new product teams to be redeveloped as just-promoted COO Meredith Kopit Levien assumes responsibility for them, and Wilson leaves his position.

Readers will notice some changes — on the desktop NYTimes.com, on the mobile app’s display, in slow-moving personalization — over time, but Wilson says that only 10 to 20 percent of the impact of what’s possible will be seen soon by readers: “This is really just a huge investment in the next couple of years of product development.”

Let’s consider how this all fits into the Times’ subscriber-first strategy — which parallels similar strategies now being pursued by big players on both sides of the Atlantic. Take, for instance, Schibsted’s major second-generation platform initiative. In offering a bevy of tailored reader benefits (touts to stories of personal, contextual usage), “we will have 100 percent logged in users,” Terje Seljeseth, Schibsted’s chief product officer, told me last month. Quid pro quo: sign up, sign in, and get more — or stay anonymous and get less.

Within the last year, Schibsted’s popular daily VG has seen a 27 percent increase in digital subscriptions, and the company intends its technology to glue those payers and entice more of them into the fold.

Of course, The Washington Post’s Arc platform both meets and anticipates next-generation publishing technology needs as well and can claim partial responsibility for the Post surpassing 500,000 digital-only subscribers this year. News Corp — its technology strategy now led, in part, by two former New York Times executives, Marc Frons and Rajiv Pant — likewise looks to how its technology will build on reader loyalty and payment on three continents. News Corp’s Wall Street Journal can count 1.2 million digital-only subscribers.

All these companies emphasize the greater value of getting readers logged in. Their newsletter strategies have served as the newest weapon in that offensive, with the Times noting it has 13 million subscriptions to 50 email newsletters. As I’ve dug into both the Times and Post newsletter strategies, the new value of a registered, signed-in reader has become clear. It leads to greater engagement, increases conversion to subscription, and will power efforts toward that holy grail of personalization. While the Times won’t say how many registered readers it now counts, those millions — gained by subscription, by newsletter signup and more — are the ones this redesign most wants to please. Engage ’em. Log ’em in. Engage ’em some more. Get them to subscribe. It’s the new virtuous circle.

So, what will Times’ readers notice most, and where?

The Times believes that desktop readers will see the most change. In the screenshot below, you see a representation of what some desktop readers will see beginning today.

Clearly, the new desktop design borrows from the Times’ highly successful mobile products. I was glad to greet that arrival last year here at the Lab and would love to do the same with the new desktop one — but I can’t. The Times is acting on the research-driven understanding that “our home screen effectively communicated the news of the day, but was not as effective in communicating the full breadth of content offered by The Times,” says Paul Werdel, product lead on the home screen redesign and replatforming. It’s clearly more visual, and its top-right real estate resembles the top of the phone product: Morning Briefing, “The Daily” podcast, and New York Today, replacing the large current Opinion block. (The demotion of Opinion might seem odd at this political moment, but maybe the Times’ research backs up that decision.) “Latest” — breaking news — is now emphasized.

But overall it lacks the vitality and the informality that the Times mobile product embraces, still seeming more like an artifact of the 20th century than its in-our-pocket cousin. Perhaps it will evolve over time, or perhaps — as we’ve almost proven in 20 years — no one’s yet figured out how to translate the serendipity of print (and phone) to the deadweight computer.

The phone products will benefit from the redesign, too, of course. Wilson believes the greatest difference will be seen on the Times’ apps. Its two iOS apps — for iPhone and iPad — now will exist on a common codebase. “You’ll see only subtle design changes, at first, but you should see enhanced performance — and what we really get is the ability to publish web pages into it that are beautiful and fluid and include the vast majority of the features that we’ve been developing into our story pages, but have always had difficulty getting into our apps because we had to rebuild them in our apps.”

App users have come to become more and more meaningful for the Times — and for their peer competitors. In May, the Times’ iOS and Android apps represented 27 percent of its daily active user and generated 37 percent of its overall pageviews.

As of today, the Times will have released the new mobile browser version of the redesign to about a quarter of its users, with the new app iterations deploying soon.

Perhaps no potential impact of this redesign may be as important as “personalization” — a term some in the news business complain has now lost all meaning, given both its immense possibility and vagueness. For the Times, personalization so far has meant mostly a little geolocation — tailoring newsletter and other delivery by continent and more.

Since at least the introduction of My Yahoo (which required active selection of user preferences) two decades ago, personalization’s been a fraught word in the news business. Remember the debates about “one to many” and “many to one” and “one to one”? They’re still in the air, but the technology — and the analysis of reader data — has clearly matured. Personalization — a harder or softer tailoring to signed-in readers’ preferences — is now much more doable. And it will be part of what the Times, along with those other advanced tech players in global news, will test out this year. But their caution remains.

“We have to be very careful that people don’t feel that we’re any way limiting or restricting or filtering the news report,” Wilson says. “One of the things Times readers value most is the serendipity of the Times. What they get from the Times, and the knowledge that what they see, other people are seeing, and that the judgment of Times editors is being fully applied to things. So we’re not gonna mess with that.”

Quite true — that’s part of the brand promise of the big publishers who have generated hundreds of thousands of paying digital readers.

Still, we all want a little more of what we like most. So the pages we get — over time — will reflect that, a game of percentages that I believe will be imperceptible but agreeable to most of us.

As the new desktop NYTimes.com rolls out to 1 percent of the audience today, this redesign also marks a major departure in how the Times debuts its technology changes.

“Last year, we were still very much in the waterfall mode, where design had a high degree of control over how the redesigns were being executed — things were finished to within a pixel of their lives, and the redesign was pushed out the door to pretty much 100% of the audience,” says Wilson. Today, as that desktop audience tests out the new tech, the Times believes it can adjust to needed changes on the fly. “You get it in front of people, see how they react, get their feedback. We will notify people that they are in the test, and we’ll give them the ability to flip back to the current site. It’s the best way to do development and understand what’s really working for the audience and what’s not, rather than doing endless research and testing and trying to survey people and get stuff in front of them.”

There are a half billion other reasons for avoiding flip-the-switch changes. Says Wilson: “We now are running a $500 million digital business, and you don’t want to be making big, disruptive changes without understanding the economic consequences.”

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: Carnival.io

Carnival.io’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, Jet.com, 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, Change.org, 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 Jet.com. 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


The scariest chart in Mary Meeker’s slide deck for newspapers has gotten even a smidge scarier

It’s an annual moment of print realism here at Nieman Lab: The posting of the attention/advertising slide from Mary Meeker’s state-of-the-Internet slide deck. It’s enough of a tradition that I can now copy-and-paste from multiple versions of this post. Here’s a sentence from the 2013 version:

For those who don’t know it, Meeker — formerly of Morgan Stanley, at VC firm Kleiner Perkins since late 2010 — each year produces a curated set of data reflecting what she sees as the major trends in Internet usage and growth. It may be the only slide deck that qualifies as an event unto itself.

And a chunk from the 2014 version:

What’s useful about Meeker’s deck is that its core data serves as a punctuation mark on some big, ongoing trends. The kind of trends we all know are happening, but whose annual rate of progress can be hard to judge. Like, say, the continued demise of print.

The Meeker slide that always interests me most is the one where she shows how American attention is divided among various forms of media — and how that division lines up with where advertising dollars go. How much of our attention goes to television, say, versus how much of our advertising goes there?

It’s not absolute dogma that the two — audience attention and advertising dollars — will always be equal. But it makes sense that they would tend toward parity. More people listening to the radio should lead to more companies advertising on the radio, or vice versa.

So let’s travel back in time. Here’s Meeker’s chart for 2011:

mary-meeker-adshare-2011

The two things that jump out at me: Print gets a lot more advertising than it gets attention. And mobile is the opposite. You’d think that would equalize with time.

Here’s 2012:

mary-meeker-adshare-2012

Equalization! Or at least the path to equalization, proportionately. Print loses attention, but loses ad dollars a bit more quickly; mobile gains attention, but gains ad dollars a bit more quickly. (Sizable margin of error here, it’s worth saying.)

Here’s 2013:

mary-meeker-adshare-2013

The print story remains the same: down in attention and in ad dollars. But note there is still a wide gap between the two — print still gets far more ad dollars than its hold on the American attention would seem to “deserve.”

Here’s 2014:

mary-meeker-chart-2014

The mobile growth everyone anticipated is happening — moving from 4 percent to 8 percent in 12 months’ time. And print continues to lose both time spent and revenue.

Here’s 2015:

mary-meeker-adshare-2015

On the positive side, print’s share of attention remained steady at 4 percent. You’ll note, though, that when the numbers get that small, you’d need roughly a 25 percent decline in attention share to drop from 4 percent to 3 percent. So steady doesn’t necessarily mean steady — it just means a pace of decline less than that. (And of course we don’t know if that 4 percent is really 3.51 percent of 4.49 percent either.)

The ad-side trend, though, is unchanged — down another two points from 18 percent to 16 percent. And, of course, there’s still a long way to fall from there. Note, too, that mobile advertising had another huge jump, from 8 percent to 12 percent.

Finally, here’s the newest slide for 2016 (it’s slide 13):

Take a look at mobile! Up from 12 to 21 percent of ad revenue in one year. We now spend 40 percent more time looking at media on our phones than on our laptops and desktops. And there’s still plenty of room for growth, both in ad spend and in time spend. But given that the vast majority of new digital ad revenue goes to Google or Facebook — see Meeker’s slide 15 for more on that — that money isn’t exactly a boon to publishers.

But then there’s print — staying steady at 4 percent of time spent for the third straight year, but another big drop in ad dollars, from 16 to 12 percent. That lines up with the evidence that the decline in newspaper print advertising accelerated last year in a big way.

Let me wrap up by copying what I wrote four years ago, since the overarching trends haven’t really changed since then:

Print advertising is not coming back. It will fall further. Substantially further. All newspaper planning for the coming few years needs to reckon with that basic fact.

Mobile continues its rocket rise, and there’s still lots of room for ad revenue growth. And now it’s even eating away at the Great American Time Suck, television. Mobile is eating the world, and most news organizations make only a pittance off it.

Lots more interesting stuff in Meeker’s complete deck.

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