Voice & Audio

The Amazon Chief evangelist for Alexa spoke at Shoptalk in Las Vegas the other week and was unsurprisingly bullish;

“…Don’t think of this as a new device that is a smart speaker revolution — this really is having voice be the new HTML. It’s the interface for everything.”

That might sounds like hype but new data shows that in the US over a quarter of adults have a smart speaker — Amazon outselling Google by more than 2 to 1. That’s 66 million people. The latest research we can find on spending habits shows that Alexa owners spend $600 a year more than the average Amazon customers ( $1650 versus $1000 — Prime customers average $1250) With these economics, at some point Amazon will start giving the speakers to their Prime customers.

The big opportunity for brands is Skills — 80000 exist but none are famous. It’s very like the early days of Apps — everyone waited for their app to go viral, then we saw the start of app store optimisation, with mobile ads driving enough downloads to make the top 10.

Branded Utility isn’t that fashionable anymore but brands should be looking to solve problems with Voice — and when they have traction, use marketing to make them famous. This Tide stain remover skill shows what can be done — but needs a little more panache.

If you want further evidence voice is mainstream, smart speakers have been added to the basket of products that the UK government use to calculate inflation.


Lots of interesting learning on influencer marketing from this look at Key Opinion Leaders in China. And the push into O2O ( Online to Offline) continues with Tmalll opening 1000 beauty stores across China

The New York Times looks at how TikTok is influencing other social platforms


If you are good at producing content there have never been so many opportunities. The spread of movie studios and TV stations kept a pretty big business ticking over for decades. Following the huge impact of Netflix and Amazon showing up with $billlion budgets, we now see the social platforms paying out hard cash too. We mentioned the Snap commissioning editor the other week and now Facebook are ‘matching’ publishers with online talent to create new shows, that they will fund.

Hulu is also going to have more budgets soon and are going global, as AT&T pump in more money. But they have always been an ad business and are leading the pack amongst the OTT players, with ad revenues in 2018 of $1.5bn — a significant proportion of which comes from DTC brands.

This is a good indepth look at the Amazon strategy for newTV, from their huge commitment with the Lord of the Rings series to their growing involvement in sport. The way they value the shows is driven by how their audience uses Prime — rather than just the number of viewers. They increase their power in this space by acting as a middleman and selling subscriptions to other channels too. A must read.

The huge choice in TV remains a challenge and one can see why ‘competitors’ partner with Amazon to gain audience and subscriptions. This Homer Simpson clip is a great commentary on the current business

It’s odd that the TV model (create content and get a station to show it to their audience) hasn’t been more widely emulated in digital. Constantly driving people to your website is a hard work and in this Peter Kafka podcast the head of Overtime Sports argues his model of distributing content across Facebook, Instagram and Snap makes much more sense. There is a transcript if you would rather read than listen.

..we are trying to build something that is truly global and a distributed sports network, meaning we’re on every platform you can imagine, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, TikTok, anywhere that we can be,

Amazon & Retail

To help build those 20 news stores every week Amazon have hired a head of real estate who knows retail well. 3000 stores over 3 years is a tough job and this guys experience will help. There is clearly a lot of thinking about what these stores should look like and all the 87 US pop ups are to be closed.

Ther London fashion store was just for Christmas but they are now the biggest fashion retailer in the US, shading Walmart

A round up of the Shoptalk event looks at how traditional retailers are organising to deal with new customer behaviours. One thing covered is the importance of a single customer view — and the consequent 1st party data. Not being able to connect online and offline transactions for the same customer is depressingly common and getting that sorted quickly should be a priority for any retailer.


The switch from second price auction to first in Programmatic buying seems almost complete now that Google have finally made the move. But not for Adsense and YouTube — only AdX. Our friends at MobileDevMemo have a good explanation of the issue and some implications. This piece from last year goes into the pros and cons of both First and Second price.

With such complexity, brands need smart partners that are both totally transparent and truly expert. This combination seems in short supply.

Privacy Facebook

Kara Swisher weighs in on the Facebook pivot to privacy, making a similar point to that we made last week — as she puts it, Zuck is shoplifting Snaps strategy.

Benedict Evans has also addressed this with an article — drawing similarities with the Microsoft of the 90s

The issues that drove the pivot keep coming; now Facebook face criminal investigations focusing on the datasharing deals they did with virtually all the big tech firms. So we can expect regular revelations for the next few months.

Quick Reads

The new research showing a fall in Facebook numbers doesn’t look that convincing. The study is in partnership with Triton and is focused on audiobooks and podcasts, And it’s conducted over the phone. Is the 15 million drop real? We will see when the Q1 figures are released next month.

Great Twitter thread from VC Andrew Chen on Meaningless metrics

When IBM wanted to train AI for facial recognition what do they do? They scrape millions of photos from Flickr — without asking permission. This cavalier attitude to privacy is fairly typical

How not to launch a DTC brand — done properly you can start with £hundreds rather than 1.5 million. A Shopify site and a Facebook ad budget will let you work out if your business idea has potential.

The Sharing economy — which morphed into the Servant economy — really started with Uber. But it grew rapidly — we tried with SkratchMyBack. This is a look at the winners and the losers.

Google Maps is the first Western app to look like the Super Apps that dominate China

Lots of advice around on writing a VC pitch deck — this is some fresh thinking, that applies to lots of general presentations

New research from the Mobile Marketing Association says mobile ads work in under a second. Interesting research technique but does this mean blipverts are coming? We should be focused on better formats rather than trying to see if a fleeting glimpse can be effective.

Spotify are the latest firm to try and avoid the Apple Appstore tax of 30%. They are taking the issue to the European Commision

One of the most interesting things I learned from Vidcon is how nuanced the YouTube search algorithm is — this write up of one of the sessions is full of insight

Finally…. as I am currently lodging at Fora — a sort of WeWork for grown ups — i was interested in this deep dive into WeWork

The co-working giant’s real product isn’t office space — it’s a new kind of “corporate culture.“

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Pattern Recognition / Strategy / Consulting / Creative Thinking from Simon Andrews — Sharing knowledge through our email newsletter Mobile Fix every Friday