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The freemium flaw: The challenges faced by freemium – TNW Insider

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Close your eyes, and cast your mind back to the first dotcom boom in the late 90s/early 00s. What’s your overriding memory of that whole crazy period? Or if you’re too young to really remember, what do you immediately think of when you hear dotcom bubble or dotcom boom mentioned in relation to Silicon Valley at the turn of the millennium?

I’m going to take a stab and guess that it has something to do with over-inflated valuations of ill-conceived, kooky ideas. Okay, that may be wide of the mark for some of the companies that are still plying their trade today, such as Amazon, eBay and Google. And of the many ideas that didn’t work out, not all of them were inherently bad, they were simply ahead of their time.

We’ve discussed this subject before, looking at why the original dotcom boom of a decade ago isn’t the same as today, and why we won’t see the same widespread collapse of the digital industry. In the intermittent years between the two dotcom booms, technologies, attitudes, skill levels…everything, has caught up. So even if companies such as Groupon were to fall flat on their faces tomorrow, the bubble would probably still remain intact, simply because the Internet ecosystem is far more robust – companies rise and fall as they have always done, but e-commerce is here to stay.

One of the reasons why so many companies failed before was that there was a broad lack of understanding about monetizing the Web.

Continue via The freemium flaw: The challenges faced by freemium – TNW Insider.

Written by Kees Winkel

September 30, 2011 at 14:38

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Facebook Has Just Added In-Stream Ads – TNW Facebook

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Ads on Facebook have pretty much always had their place ; we know they’re going to pop up on the right hand side, clearly labelled under sponsored content. And up until the introduction of Sponsored Stories, we knew exactly what these ads looked like. They looked like – ads – promoting a service or company and following a standard format. Sponsored Stories changed that once when the content advertised became ‘natural’ stories on Facebook.

Now Facebook have gone one further than that and introduced something that has far-reaching consequences for the role of advertising on the site : ads in the newstream.

Now We Know Why The Ticker Was Built

When Facebook introduced its news ticker for apps, where you can see recent activity your friends have made on apps :

This is all well and good, as it provided a new way to discover friends’ activity on Facebook. But when this update was made, they kept something a little quieter – the fact that Sponsored Stories will now be appearing in this ticker as well. This is the first time that we have seen Facebook integrate advertising so seamless into the organically created content on the site, and it looks as if they’re experimenting with this in a ‘quieter’ place on the platform, away from the main newsfeed. As reported on Inside Social Games, the Sponsored Story will appear with the line ‘sponsored’ below, but this is hard to spot and apart from this it looks identical to the organic stories in the ticker :

This is a hugely significant change from Facebook, as it shows they are willing to blur the lines between natural and sponsored content in a way that they have never really done before. It seems as if they are testing this on the app news ticker softly, to gauge user reaction and the rate at which the sponsored stories are clicked ahead of the natural stories.

Read on via Facebook Has Just Added In-Stream Ads – TNW Facebook.

Written by Kees Winkel

September 2, 2011 at 08:41

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How The LA Times is winning with social media – TNW Social Media

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Surprisingly, newspapers are paving the way for using social media effectively. That theory has come true, as a recent case study published by the Nieman Journalism Lab shows how the LA Times has embraced social media alongside a smart SEO strategy, to bring its traffic numbers through the roof. It’s implemented a new social strategy that included Facebook commenting and a higher emphasis on the blog section of its site that has seen readers more engaged, and their visits increase at a time when other, larger, rivals are seeing a decline in traffic levels.

In March this year it saw 160 million uniques to the site, compared to 189 million in May. And this compares with a year on year increase of 5%, when the New York Times saw a decrease of 18.8%.  So what’s the secret sauce and what can we learn from it?

If you’re going to blog, do it well

When the concept of blogging first emerged it was a huge talking point and a must-have on every online marketing strategy. Newspaper blogging is an essential part of most strong social media strategies, for how it can make your site a living, breathing extension of your brand and also the value it can drive in SEO. This consideration should be secondary, but it’s still important.

The LA Times has shown that if you’re going to have a blog, you need to do it well and dedicate the time and resource it needs in order to work. In the traffic report on the Times, the managing editor discusses how it’s changed the blog section on their site to include reports and mirror longer style articles. He explains how it ensures fresh content on the site, that is more informal and conversational in manner.

He says “Most of our blogs are reported stories…What we’re seeing is big increases in our blogs, and that’s where a lot of the breaking news is.” A quick look at the blog section on the site shows the extent of information available here.

via How The LA Times is winning with social media – TNW Social Media.

Written by Kees Winkel

August 20, 2011 at 11:25

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The Rise Of The Mobile Social Network – TNW Mobile

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Right now, we are in the middle of the smartphone boom. Apple, Google and other mobile operating system vendors have provided the foundations for developers to launch innovative new services that add extra functionality to powerful new mobile phones.

Increased smartphone use has led to the introduction of many mobile-based social networks; some aim to connect people based on their location, others assist users in sharing their photos or help people find a new partner – but it never used to be that way.

Myspace, Bebo and Orkut have enjoyed success, multi-million dollar valuations and unrivalled popularity in different countries around the world. Whilst they may have presences on mobile, none of them managed to leverage the boom in smartphone use to their advantage and have since languished as Facebook continues to innovate via its website and mobile applications.

Google launched its long-awaited Google+ social network last week, unveiling a service that many had referred to as “Google Circles” after ReadWriteWeb’s editor Marshall Kirkpatrick’s revelation earlier in the year. The search giant not only launched an impressive new Web service, it also dropped a companion Android app to help those with early access interact with the service and their friends that had joined it.

Google and Facebook are tech behemoths but startups are trying to innovate the social networking space each and every day, introducing new features that ultimately mean they are snapped up by the very companies they are trying to beat.

The shift to mobile has been fast and it has been highly innovative. Here, we take a look at what investing heavily in mobile can do for a company’s strategy.

via The Rise Of The Mobile Social Network – TNW Mobile.

Written by Kees Winkel

July 4, 2011 at 08:12

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Mobile phone radiation: what you need to know – TNW Mobile

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A lot has been suggested regarding radiation and mobile phones. In today’s TNW story, the perspectives seem clear to me: watch out!

It’s a concern that probably sits at the back of most people’s minds. However, the thought of life without mobile phones is just too depressing to consider.

I’ll just come out and say what you’ve all thought about at some point: mobile phones might be bad for your health.

The science

Many studies have been carried out over the years to try and reach a definitive conclusion on the subject. But the fact is, it’s impossible to know for sure, because it has really only been a decade and a half since mobile phones have proliferated. And the subject was put in the limelight again this week when a World Health Organization (WHO) panel concluded that the radiation from mobile phones is “possibly carcinogenic.”

As The New York Times noted, this puts mobile phones in the same category as some dry cleaning chemicals and pesticides.  They’re potentially damaging to human health…but it seems that the experts aren’t quite sure.

It’s important to note that the panel didn’t actually carry out new research. Instead, they reviewed existing studies that focused on the health effects of radio-frequency magnetic fields. The very fields that mobile phones emit.

Dr. Jonathan M. Samet, a physician and epidemiologist at the University of Southern California, noted that the decision to classify mobiles phones as “possibly carcinogenic” was predominantly based on health-event patterns that indicated an increased risk of a brain tumor called a glioma among heavy mobile users.

However, before you cart your mobile phone off to the nearest incinerator, these latest findings – published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Vol. 35, No. 20, dated May 25, 2011 – were immediately dismissed by another team of experts from the University of Maryland.

The whole story here: Mobile phone radiation: what you need to know – TNW Mobile.

Written by Kees Winkel

June 6, 2011 at 09:09

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Bitcoin, the Peer-to-Peer Currency that Hopes to Change the World – Industry

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I take an interest in Bitcoin. Could it be that a social currency is due? Will it last? Will it be safe? Can we trust it? Who runs it? What is it? TNW’s Joel Falconer gives us his story.

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer currency with no centralized authority, that provides some level of anonymity to its users. Those behind it claim that it has the potential to change the way our economies work.

But you already knew all of that: Bitcoin has been around for quite a few years, but in the last few months it has received more attention and discussion than in its whole lifespan. This attention, in tandem with the limited supply of currency, has seen huge, leaping increases in the value of each Bitcoin in USD.

By now, most of us know at least a little about it. But how did it begin, and why? What do economists think of Bitcoin?

The Genesis Block

Bitcoin was officially announced by its creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, in January of 2009. As a group that largely sees themselves as revolutionaries, the Bitcoin community uses terms for this day that have an almost religious air: the dawn of time is one such phrase. This is the day that the first Bitcoin block was generated, something you’ll hear referred to as the Genesis Block.

A “block” contains a record of transactions and forms part of a chain that represents every transaction ever made over the Bitcoin network. Each computer running Bitcoin has a full copy of this transaction history, and contributing to the chain by having your computer’s client contribute a full block of transaction data collected through the network rewards newly minted Bitcoins — currently at a rate of 50 per block.

This reward rate is designed to decrease over time. One of Bitcoin’s more unusual aspects is that there’s a cap on the number of coins that will ever be generated. That number is 21,000,000 Bitcoins, or BTC in currency shorthand, and the network adjusts the time it takes to complete a block and the reward distributed for completing one over time so that this cap isn’t reached too quickly.

Having your client complete new blocks and collect the reward for doing so is commonly referred to as ‘mining’.

As it becomes more difficult to create new currency and more people express an interest in Bitcoin, the value of the currency has continued to rise at a rapid rate. The built-in scarcity of the currency suggests that this growth in value is by no means nearing stability.

On the 9th of February, 2011, two years and one month after the creation of the Genesis Block, the currency reached parity with the US dollar, trading at a one-to-one cost.

Today, only a few months later, Bitcoin is worth US$14.41. You can see how much that figure has changed by the time you read this by checking Bitcoin Charts Markets, which aggregates data from across various exchanges.

Read the whole story here: Bitcoin, the Peer-to-Peer Currency that Hopes to Change the World – Industry.

Written by Kees Winkel

June 5, 2011 at 10:53

It’s not just the iPhone, Android stores your location data too

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I have copied this story straight from The Next Web and strongly recommend you read it. I’ll leave it without comment…

You may have heard about the way that the iPhone is trackingyour every move. Well, it turns out that Android phones do this as well, and likely for the same reasons.

Developer Magnus Eriksson has created what he calls an Android location service data dumper. This is an app that searches Android phones for a location data file similar to the one iPhones use to store location data.

Following the latest days internet outrage/overreaction to the revelation that iPhone has a cache for its location service, I decided to have look what my Android devices caches for the same function.

This is a quick dumper I threw together to parse the files from the Androidlocation provider.

The file contains what he refers to as ‘coarse’ location data. That is to say data obtained by cellphone tower location and not a more accurate GPS data location.

Here is a sample set of data from the cache.cell file that records cellular locations in the Android file system. You can see that it contains a set of entries that record a latitude and longitude as well as a time stamp.

$ ./parse.py cache.cell
db version: 1
total: 41

key accuracy conf. latitude longitude time
240:5:15:983885 1186 75 57.704031 11.910801 04/11/11 20:03:14 +0200
240:5:15:983882 883 75 57.706322 11.911692 04/13/11 01:41:29 +0200
240:5:75:4915956 678 75 57.700175 11.976824 04/13/11 11:52:16 +0200
240:5:75:4915953 678 75 57.700064 11.976629 04/13/11 11:53:09 +0200
240:7:61954:58929 1406 75 57.710205 11.921849 04/15/11 19:46:31 +0200
240:7:15:58929 -1 0 0.000000 0.000000 04/15/11 19:46:32 +0200
240:5:75:4915832 831 75 57.690024 11.998419 04/15/11 16:13:53 +0200

The file is only accessible on devices that have been rooted and opened up to installation of unsigned apps. This is similar to the way that the iPhone used to storethe data before it was made available to developers using the iPhone’s background API for location sharing.

Now however, the iPhone data is exposed to casual access using an application called iPhone Location Tracker that is similar in intent to the app that Eriksson has created for Android phones.

We spoke to Eriksson about the way that the data from the Android OS and from iPhones is being used by their respective creators. He explained that when an application requests location information, it doesn’t always need a pinpoint spot so the OS just uses cell towers to get a general location.

The phone then sends the cell tower info to Google and in return gets a set of coordinates.

Then it can use this info (via triangulation and weighting based on each cells towers signal strangth etc) [to] get a rough estimate of it’s location.

He mentions that it’s likely that the data is transmitted and received in the same way by Apple.

This is corroborated by Adam Swindon, the creator of the CDMA version of the iPhoneTracker, who says that the data from a separate field within the Apple location data file, LocationHarvest, points to the possibility that the information is sent periodically to Apple.

I think the names of the tables could be another clue towards how the data is being used. I have only ever seen the harvest tables containing a few entries with very recent timestamps, therefore they might be used as a queue for data to be sent to Apple. Once sent it could be archived in the other table, and the harvest table cleared.

Due to the strong evidence that this behavior is extremely similar between the Android and iOS operating systems, it’s likely that the inclusion of months worth of this data is an oversight or error on Apple’s part and not intentional. Instead it’s likely that the Apple system was originally intended to behave the way that Google’s system does.

This is the behavior that John Gruber has speculated was the initial intent of Apple in regards to how long they keep location data in their system.

After a period of time, 12 hours for cellular data and 48 hours for WiFi data, has passed, the location data is renewed by a new request from Google. It is also limited to a maximum number of entries so that the database doesn’t grow too large.

Swindon says that the location file pulled from his phone contained roughly 13,000 entries related to cellular network tracking. By contrast the Android file is limited to only 50 entries in the cellular location database.

The size of the database on the iPhone is what Eriksson attributes the accuracy of the location maps created by the iPhone location data file to. Normally the data would be much more crude, but with a lot more data sampling to work with, the map grows more detailed and more accurate.

This means that the only reason that the Apple system yields such detailed results is that it has far more data than it’s supposed to have in it’s database.

Why that system does not behave the way that the Android location recording system does and simply dump out older entries is a mystery at this point. Gruber points to unofficial channels to suggest that it is a bug that will be corrected and looking at the evidence, we tend to agree.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Panzarino is a gadget obsessed writer and photographer living in California. Matthew brings 20 years of computing experience and mobile tech obsession to delivering the latest and greatest tech news and views. You can follow him on Twitter or his personal blog.

Written by Kees Winkel

April 24, 2011 at 09:27

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