For the past 3,000 years payments hasn’t been the most exciting industry, but in the last 5-10 years, there have been dozens of new entrants into the market.
It took 3,000 years to give us pretty much seven payment options: coins, banknotes, debit cards, Diners club, Visa, Mastercard and American Express. In the last ten years, we’ve seen an explosion of disruptive players, all driven through the adoption of the Internet and/or mobile technologies.
Yesterday we hosted an event “The Future of Digital Payments” in London at the magnificent, if slightly warm, Royal Exchange. It was one of the best attended Endava events that we’ve held, despite the World Cup and Wimbledon trying to compete with us!
In today’s Western digital businesses, advertising is the main source of revenue for websites, mobile sites, mobile apps and anything in between:
In the first quarter of 2013, Google advertising revenue was $11.9 bn. Advertising revenue was 92% of Google’s revenues for the quarter.
For the fourth quarter 2012, Facebook’s revenue from advertising was $1.33 billion, representing 84% of total revenue.
Personally, I believe the advertising industry is in a bubble which is ready to burst. It is a semi-self-fulfilling industry that has been growing at a rate out of proportion to the businesses revenue which support it.
This post is the second of a multi-part article describing methods to monetise large digital audiences. The freemium model is one of the most modern monetisation methods in the series.
The concept of freemium is to offer a free service, and if users want more content or functionality, they must buy a subscription.
One of the most common freemium products is the music service, Spotify. Users can download Spotify and immediately listen to music. If users want to be able to listen to the music when an Internet connection is unavailable, or they want to listen to ad-free music, they need to pay a monthly subscription.
Last week we received an email from Google offering us a pair of Google Glass (singular). Google Glass is a pair of spectacles with a head up display unit over one eye. It also has a forward facing camera for stills and videos, and has most of the functionality that you’d expect from a modern device – such as Bluetooth, Wifi, GPS, and it can make calls.
We’ll be using Google Glass to develop some prototype apps for our clients, and showing our customers how their consumers will be using technology in the future.
Google Glass is only available for developers in the US. It’s not cheap – it’s $1,500 (currently £1,000), and for that money, you only get tinted lenses, not clear ones. It does come with a charger though. And the charger comes in very useful…
When you buy Google Glass, you have to book an appointment to get them. My US colleagues went to the appointment, and within a couple of days, Glass was on a plane over to the UK.
The first thing we did was to factory reset them. This is important because Glass relies on a Google+ account, and pretty much everything you do with Glass is then applied to your Google account.
It took two hours to set Glass up. In that time we had to charge them, do another Factory Reset and then charge them again. Apparently, Glass works well if you already have an Android phone. I’ve got a Samsung S4 so this was music to my ears. You download the MyGlass app from Google Play and hey presto. Only, MyGlass isn’t available in the UK Google Play and the US store wouldn’t let me download it. So we continued the set up on a computer and manually configured my phone as a hotspot and paired it to Glass.
Setting up Glass on a computer is a step by step procedure which finishes with a QR code. You use Google Glass to look at the QR code, and this transfers all the settings to Glass. Clever stuff.
You need to do some configuration on a computer or phone because entering Wifi passwords just isn’t practical on Glass. There’s no concept of a keyboard on Glass.
The first thing you notice, even during setup, is how crystal clear the screen is. Bearing in mind I had to remove my standard spectacles to wear Glass. The system font is the [currently] fashionable thin san serif, and it’s easy to read. And Glass feel no heavier than my usual spectacles.
Once we had eventually setup Glass, it was time to start testing them. But the Google Glass User Interface isn’t easy to pick up. You use the right arm of the frame to swipe forward, backwards and down. The track pad is excellent to use, but it’s easy to get lost in the user interface. You can swipe between each ‘screen’ or ’tile’, and some menus have dozens of tiles. It reminded me of old Nokia phones.
After half an hour I’d got the hang of some of the functionality. It also helped that a colleague from the US office who had been in the original Google appointment, sat opposite me and walked me through some of the functionality. If you are close enough to the person wearing Glass, you can see a reflection of the screen they are looking at, and then help them with the track pad. A word of caution though – in the middle of an open plan office it looks like you’re stroking the side of someone’s face. Another word of caution – this half an hour of ‘playing’ with Glass had reduced the battery to 71%.
The user interface is a key problem for Google. As soon as the device arrived, people in the office wanted to use it. But as soon as they started using it, it was confusing to use and they got frustrated. It takes a while to get the ‘wow’ moment, such as activating Glass by saying “OK Glass”, and then doing a voice activated Google search.
I found voice activation worked well, although I’m using it more and more in Chrome (you should try it) and Word. Other people in the office managed to annoy the rest of the office by constantly repeating “OK Glass” in an increasingly frustrated tone.
The battery life is clearly an issue. If smartphones like the iPhone or Galaxy frustrate you, Glass is in a league of its own.
In the office, twenty-one people wanted a go within two hours of setting Glass up, and that included some customers. But it takes a while to master that user interface, so people’s reactions went from amazement of seeing the device, to frustration of not being able to use it properly.
I’ve been adding more apps to Glass. Apps are added via a web browser, and there are several apps already available including my all-time favourite, the cycling app Strava. There are lots of apps available. After almost a year of using Windows 8 I still have fewer apps on my laptop than I have already added to Glass.
Once the initial novelty had settled down, I thought about wearing Glass outside of the office. I wear prescription glasses, so it would be a bit silly leaving those in the office and walking around with Glass and the absence of lenses. And then there’s the looks. Glass looks really nerdy. Really, really nerdy. Honestly, I think I’d feel a bit embarrassed to wear them in public at the moment.
Last night I had a parents’ evening at my son’s secondary school. I couldn’t help but think that if I’d have worn Glass to the parents’ evening, teachers would have spoken to me differently. The forward facing camera is the same size as a modern smartphone – it’s clearly visible. Trust will be a significant issue with Glass, and I’m not sure how it will be overcome.
Will this be the future? At the moment it feels a bit too intrusive. From Google’s point of view, it’s a brave step. The smartphone was a natural evolution of where mobile phones were heading. An iPad is in between a laptop and a smartphone. Smartphones and tablets are evolutionary. And Google Glass is revolutionary.
I’ve been writing about the need for a trusted Single Sign On system across the web for some time now and I think I’ve seen it start to emerge.
My concept of the Single Sign On solution is similar to Facebook Connect, but from a trusted, strong, long term brand. Facebook still needs to prove its credibility in the trust arena. I only use Facebook Connect for some personal sites where I want to reduce, or even avoid, the time it takes to register.
Would I use Facebook Connect for tax returns, or my road tax, or my company’s payroll system? Nope.
I do a fair amount of travel and seem to need my passport number (and sometimes other passport details) from time to time. I once scanned my passport and I keep it as a digital image on some secure digital storage where I know I can access it everywhere (interestingly the UK Government also recommends to “store it online using a secure data storage site“). The same goes for my National Insurance card, photos of my bikes’ frame numbers and stuff like that. When I speak to other people about this, they have similar solutions, and I know some people who keep these solely as photos on their phone. We all have different levels of security that we’re comfortable with, but I really wouldn’t advise the phone method.
Last week I heard about a new service from Barclays Bank called Cloud It. Cloud It enables, well actually it encourages, users to upload important documents. It then adds additional functionality such as alerts for expiring documents, or regular renewals (e.g. MOT certificates and insurance).
I have no proof whether Barclays Cloud It is any more or less secure than say, BT, Google, Microsoft or Dropbox, but the fact that a bank is storing your document ‘feels’ more secure.
The next step of Cloud It really should be Single Sign On. I would trust my bank to authenticate me into other services.
Trust a bank?
I spoke about this concept of a bank offering Single Sign On at a conference earlier this year. Over lunch afterwards I was asked whether people really trust banks after the recession, and the bad press that bankers often receive. One person on the table categorically stated that he wouldn’t trust his bank.
My answer to this is simple: people still keep their money, one of our most valuable day to day assets, in banks once they’ve been paid and they still go to banks to borrow money for their houses and cars. Conversely, if people didn’t trust banks, we’d be hearing a lot more about mass withdrawals after being paid. But people don’t withdraw their money based on lack of trust (except Cyprus), and this proves that people do trust them, and in the future we’ll be trusting them to log in to all sorts of systems across the Internet.
In a technology trends report that I produced earlier this week I included a slide called “This Puppy Changes Everything” next to a picture of Chromecast, the USB dongle designed by Google which plugs into TVs and makes it really simple to watch web TV on a TV. Hours later, Iolo Jones also released a blog post called “This Changes Everything”.
My nephew has just competed in the Maccabia games. The opening ceremony was streamed live using a proprietary Flash player, so our family and extended family sat around a computer monitor in our house. 10 metres from the computer is our 40-something inch TV (with a comfortable sofa instead of chairs!), but hooking the computer up to the TV is a nightmare.
Chromecast changes all this. It will stream content from any iOS, Android or computer on your home network. There are apps for Netflix and YouTube, but the most powerful function is to duplicate your web browser (well, as long as it’s Chrome) on any device, on to the TV.
And Chromecast is a one off cost of $35 (less than £25). One of the reasons it is so cheap is that no remote control is required – the unit is controlled using your smartphone or computer.
Chromecast is a game changer because using a web browser is by far the most flexible and easiest interface available. Why would you subscribe to a premium TV channel if content is available on the web for a cheaper price?
Concentrating on legal content for a moment, monthly web subscriptions to say, sports content, is cheaper than equivalent TV subscriptions. When you include illegal content as well (I’m including YouTube here) makes it the game changer.
This is the most disruptive piece of hardware I’ve seen in the media industry since Sky+.
The new Microsoft Xbox console looks like it will be an amazing piece of kit, with voice activation and what looks to be (no pun intended) some impressive image recognition too.
Microsoft is firmly focussing on the TV market. The current Xbox allows users to watch video on demand, but the new one will support live TV as well, with a fully integrated EPG (Electronic Programme Guide).
Many people have questioned whether the world needs another generation of games consoles, and many people have been suggesting Apple will release an Apple television or a decent version of their Apple TV product, which is currently too ring fenced to appeal to a mass market. Microsoft has answer both questions admirably, by providing a cutting edge games machine as well as a highly interactive STB (Set Top Box).
There had also been rumours that the new Xbox might not have an optical drive at all, that all games will be downloaded in a similar model to iOS devices. Microsoft has answered both end users who want a second hand games market, and the games developers’ business models by not making the console backwards compatible. So if you enjoy playing a specific game, you’ll need to either keep your existing Xbox console for that game, or buy a new version when it’s released for the new console.
Microsoft also announced a $400 million deal with the NFL to provide interactive TV experiences during matches. I question whether users want this level of interactivity during sport, but Microsoft (and the NFL) clearly believe many users do want it.
The surprise is that Microsoft didn’t win the rights from the Premiership football rights during the recent bidding with BT. BT want the Premiership to boost their BT Vision product. Winning the Premiership would have similarly boosted the adoption rates for the new Xbox. Perhaps Microsoft doesn’t want to go head to head with broadcasters, but this is probably inevitable (and underway) by supplying the de facto platform for Netflix.
The craziest part of the new Xbox is the name. During the announcement I saw a friend’s tweet which asked “Why is it called the Xbox one when it’s the third one? – asked by my son who’s seven year’s old” And apparently the Xbox one is what eBay sellers refer to the original Xbox in listings!
On 6 October 2009, Endava hosted an event for all the Premier League Football clubs (and a handful of European ones too) called Football Club Website of the Future. It was to mark the end of the transition of the IMG Digital team over to Endava.
We had a number of high profile speakers at the event including some of the Premier League clubs, IMG, Facebook, and Deloitte, who produce the annual Deloitte Football Money League report.
At the event I gave the introduction/ welcome presentation, and discussed two key concepts based on the experience moving from IMG to Endava:
- Football clubs have unrivalled levels of loyalty – a fan might change clubs once in their lifetime, compared to moving around financial services companies every few years.
- Technology trends in the marketplace.
The technology trends became a regular part of all our future presentations and events. As I look back on the various industry conferences we’ve spoken at or hosted, I can see how they developed from the Football Club Website of the Future event.
The first trends we highlighted included the following:
- Content won’t be free for much longer. Content overly relies on the advertising model as a source of funding. In the future, users will pay tiny amounts per page or function (such as a web search on Google, etc.) and there will be a central ‘agency’ for distributing these micropayments back to the content author.
- The web needs an SSO (Single Sign On) system to be the single method to log on to all websites with the same username and password (or another form of authentication such as facial recognition or text message). Facebook Connect had been launched for little under a year when we hosted Football Club Website of the Future, and I thought it was a brilliant first attempt at a web-wide sign on system. However, I didn’t (and still don’t) think Facebook is a trusted brand that I would use for everything across the web. I wouldn’t use it for my tax returns, share dealing, pensions, and so on. I would want the SSO system provided by a fully trusted organisation such as Visa, Mastercard or HSBC. It probably wouldn’t be a government or a dotcom company.
These trends have evolved, and I’ve started documenting them in much more detail since reading The Intention Economy by Doc Searls.
I was recommended to read The Intention Economy by a client when we travelled to Romania to show them one of Endava’s delivery centres (where the project management, development and testing is executed). At dinner one night I went through some of the trends, and the client asked whether I’d read The Intention Economy. I hadn’t even heard of the book at the time. The client said that many of the trends ran parallel to Doc Searls’ thoughts.
When I returned to the UK I bought the book within an hour of landing.
When I started reading the book, it was a strange feeling. It was like someone reading back to me some of the presentations I’ve been giving for the last four years (only he is infinitely more articulate and structured!)
The book covers a dozen or so different topics for the future under the banner as a customer-centric economy. These include the Single Sign On concept above, the unsustainable advertising bubble, cookie tracking, modern legal contracts, so-called loyalty schemes, big data, ownership, and the core of the new economy: VRM.
I first reported about a VRM tool (it was a mobile app) that I’d seen on holiday in Israel last summer. I called it a personal CRM tool at the time, which Doc Searls calls VRM, for Vendor Relationship Management.
The concept of VRM or The Intention Economy is simple – we are constantly being pitched stuff all the time – buy this, buy that, this is why you need this or that. However technology should enable us to say “I want this thing, who wants to match the price I’m willing to pay?”
The example in the book is landing at an airport and entering into your VRM system “I want to hire a car, with 5 seats, and can hold 3 large suitcases, and I want to pay $x for 6 days”. Searls calls these ‘personal RFPs’ (Request For Proposals). After submitting this request, the hire companies will return a result with offers.
I don’t agree with everything in Doc Searls’ ecosystem.
Whilst I completely agree with Searls’ key point that the advertising industry has become a huge bubble that now sustains such a large industry, it is necessary. If there was no advertising, customers simply wouldn’t know about new products or services. There needs to be a balance. In June last year I posted an article about Tencent in China, who have revenues of $1.5bn per quarter – not from advertising:
I find it fascinating that whilst most US/ UK B2C digital offerings are focussed on advertising models, especially Facebook and Google, Tencent are earning money from subscription models and e-commerce.
Doc Searls is the editor of Linux Journal, so he is a strong advocate of open source. He puts his case for open source in the book, however it’s unbalanced and I see the software industry from the opposite side of the fence, where vendors do want to earn profit from selling software. He then moves on to discuss why Creative Commons (essentially open source Intellectual Property). At the end of that chapter I agreed with his thoughts on this, and decided so change some of the content strategy on this blog – make it more open and not hold back on personal thoughts. However, The Intention Economy book is copyright!
It’s a shame that Searls doesn’t have any retail experience. Although he cites a number of conversations with CEOs of huge retailers, they are completely biased towards their own model (e.g. of not having loyalty schemes) rather than providing a balanced argument.
The Intention Economy is the best business/ technology book I’ve read for a long time. I thoroughly recommend you read it. The style of the writing with lots of short chapters, and an opening argument and closing ‘so, then’ closing argument makes it easy reading.
Most importantly though, Doc Searls gets across how companies need to get back to customer centric organisations. The current organisational trend is that branding and marketing and advertising and other departments within an organisation are becoming more distant from paying customers, even during the recession.
We need to reverse the trend and put the customer first. This can be accomplished through changing corporate culture (making senior managers physically meet customers in their own environment) and systems such as VRM.
I’m delighted to see large organisations begin to do this. At the Visa conference last week, before I’d finished reading The Intention Economy, I could see how the CEO and CTO were discussing key concepts from the book – putting customers first.