22 April 2014

asymco: “On the future of Google. Part 2”

The disproportionate weight of US/UK income and the low growth of income from rest-of-world vs. the far faster growth of usage outside the US/UK means that the toughest nut for Google to crack is not penetration but emerging market monetization.

The disparity is enormous. US/UK revenue is on average $86/user/yr (2012) and rising. The rest of the world only manages $12/user/yr. That Rest Of World includes many wealthy countries such as all of Europe and Japan. So the problem for Google is that it has an order of magnitude less income per user in the part of the internet which remains unpenetrated and the trends show that they are not narrowing the gap.

Horace Dediu

’s problem is exacerbated by the fact that its market share in Europe is effectively 100% (more precisely between 92 and 93% according to StatCounter), the search engine giant is completely dominating the market, yet still unable to effectively monetize it. This is a more general trend for US-based companies though, which usually focus on US users; to cite a recent example, Apple’s iTunes Radio launched in the US only a couple of months ago and still hasn’t expanded much, except in Australia. Also, Microsoft’s search engine competitor Bing has a tiny market share outside the US. Google’s results are simply much better internationally and I get the impression that the Bing team was focused on breaking Google’s dominance in that key market and silently ignored the rest of the world.

19 April 2014

A Hi Moment: “More time is better than more money”

When you have abundant time you can get closer to core of a place. You can hang around and see what really happens. You can meet a wider variety of people. You can slow down until the hour that the secret vault is opened. You have enough time to learn some new words, to understand what the real prices are, to wait out the weather, to get to that place that takes a week in a jeep.

Money is an attempt to buy time, but it rarely is able to buy any of the above. When we don’t have time we use money to try to get us to the secret door on time, or we use it avoid needing to know the real prices, or we use money to have someone explain to us what is really going on. Money can get us close, but not all the way.

Kevin Kelly

That’s how I like to travel!

Facebook Newsroom: “Introducing A New Optional Feature Called Nearby Friends”

When Nearby Friends is on, you can see when your friends are traveling if they’re also using this feature and sharing with you. You’ll be able to see the city or neighborhood they are in, including on their profile. When you see a friend visiting a place you’ve been, it’s the perfect opportunity to send a recommendation for a great restaurant. You can also make last-minute plans to meet up with a friend who happens to be in the same place you’re headed to. Andrea Vaccari

Cool idea, but is has a lot of problems to overcome: privacy concerns about constantly sharing your location with , notifications overload from hundreds of people you don’t really care that much about, and not least battery life, an area where Facebook is pretty bad. I don’t give it much change of succeeding, much like the many apps that have tried this before. I also find in interesting how the announcement stressed multiple times (including in the title!) that the feature is opt-in, as opposed to the usual Facebook approach of turning everything on and hoping people won’t notice.

17 April 2014

The New Yorker: “Cheap Words”

Jane Friedman, the former Random House and HarperCollins executive, who now runs a digital publisher called Open Road Integrated Media, told me, If there wasn’t an Amazon today, there probably wouldn’t be a book business. The senior editor who met Grandinetti said, They’re our biggest customer, we want them to succeed. As I recover from being punched in the face by Amazon, I also worry: What if they are a bubble? What if the stock market suddenly says, ‘We want a profit’? You don’t want your father who abuses you physically to lose his job. George Packer

The article paints a detailed picture – if somewhat unfavorable to Amazon – of the uneasy relationship, even dependency, between book publishers and the largest US online retailer. While they don’t like to admit it, their competencies are actually complementary – editors and publishers have the experience to discover the best books and authors, Amazon to sell them to the widest audience – and it would serve both parties (and readers) it they would cooperate better.

15 April 2014

There’s no such thing as a free lunch – not even digitally

There has been a lot of controversy lately around the fact that brands are seeing less and less engagement on Facebook, leaving them no other option than to pay for promotion to get back to the top, as Facebook is constantly tweaking the algorithms behind the News Feed. It started this time around with a so-called ‘breakup letter’ from Eat24 a company lamenting how much Facebook has changed for the worse and announcing they will be closing down their Facebook page. Many others have since then expressed opinions on the matter, from calling Facebook’s behavior outright ‘extortion’ to more balanced articles explaining that there’s a limit to the amount of information people can consume, so with more and more content, individual pages will appear less often in the news feed.

Someone even made an YouTube video about this: “The Problem With Facebook”

13 April 2014

Financial Times: “US v China: is this the new cold war?”

Fifteenth-century Venetians used to warn, Whoever is the Lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice. Hu Jintao echoed these sentiments when he warned in a 2003 speech that “certain major powers” are bent on controlling this crucial sea lane. Until now, China’s maritime security has been guaranteed largely by the US Navy. But, like aspiring great powers before it, China has been forced to confront a central geopolitical dilemma: can it rely on a rival to protect the country’s economic lifeline? Geoff Dyer

Lately is looks like the new cold war is US vs. Russia, all over again…

Nevertheless, China’s role will be much more important this time around, so it pays to watch their strategy closely. Increased tensions between Russia and the West may well facilitate China’s ambitions to take control over the Pacific, while the US is threatened on multiple fronts. On the other hand, China has strong economic ties with both parties, with Russia as energy supplier for the growing Chinese manufactory and America its main marketplace. If it wants the economy to keep growing, China must find a way to balance these two relationships – it would probably be best to play neutral for now, let the two have their skirmishes, while China continues to grow in influence and strength.

12 April 2014

The New Yorker: “On and Off the Road with Barack Obama”

Even as Obama travels for campaign alms and is as entangled in the funding system at least as much as any other politician, he insists that his commitment is to the middle class and the disadvantaged. Last summer, he received a letter from a single mother struggling to support herself and her daughter on a minimal income. She was drowning: I need help. I can’t imagine being out in the streets with my daughter and if I don’t get some type of relief soon, I’m afraid that’s what may happen. Copy to Senior Advisers, Obama wrote at the bottom of the letter. This is the person we are working for. David Remnick

Very interesting insight into the life of the current US president, from minor trivia about day-to-day procedures to the tedious process of gathering support for initiatives, to his personal philosophy about what it means to be a good president and his perspective on history, the so-called ‘long view’. While it does sound good in principle, a bit too idealistic maybe, I have a feeling that in the current context pragmatism and decisiveness would serve the US president better.