Benedict's Newsletter: No. 337

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✏️ My essays

Not even wrong - ways to predict tech. Link

The VR Winter. Link

I did a podcast with Vogue Business. Link

 

🗞 News

Facebook shopping: Facebook partnered with Shopify to let brands add purchasing directly into their FB/Instagram profiles. There are already a few shopping projects (especial on Instagram) but this is a general release. This is a logical extension (and Chinese social networks have done this for years, of course), and it's the complete opposite to Amazon: you start with a suggestion for what you might like, whereas Amazon relies on someone, somewhere else (quite probably on Facebook), giving you that recommendation. And there are infinite products, so how else do you know? Link

Less headline-grabbing but much more interesting: Facebook is now analysing messages to see if they're abuse (scams, grooming), but is doing this even for end-to-end encrypted messages, by looking at the metadata around the message rather than the content itself, which it can't read. Expect this to become a bigger part of FB's defence of encryption. Link

Tech and remote work. A whole bunch of SV companies (FB, Slack, Box etc etc) announced they'll let people shift entirely to remote work once the lockdown is over. We mostly have the tools to work like this, and we have some of the tools to collaborate and communicate, and we've spent the last month or two in a forced experiment, and we managed to carry on functioning. What next? 

  • I suspect the pendulum will swing back a bit - the intangible things that don't work when you're not in the same room take longer to surface, and right now we may be burning the social capital that was accumulated in person. But, this might be one of those perpetual arguments, like 'open plan versus closed offices'.  
  • The SF Bay Area has become a lot more expensive even than New York or London in the last decade, so part of the impetus is the cost of living and office space. FB says it will pay less if you live somewhere cheaper (which is how normal companies have always worked). But of course, this also means you can hire people who aren't in the Bay Area in the first place, and indeed people who aren't even in the USA
  • People have been saying Silicon Valley was over for 30 years, and it never happened, but that was before Zoom and $4k/month in rent for a 1-bed apartment. So maybe now diffusion will finally kick in. Or, maybe the selection filter (are you driven enough to move to the Valley?) will just get stronger. 
  • Wired summary of all the companies offering home work: Link

NT Times and cookies: the NY Times is phasing out all 3rd-party advertising data: instead of offering advertisers audience targeting based on behaviour across its own sites. This is possible, of course, because it has 6m subscribers: privacy and the cookie apocalypse make the strong stronger. Link

Podcast talent wars 1: Spotify has done a $100m deal for exclusivity with Joe Rogan, a popular ad-funded US comedy podcaster. Spotify wants revenue lines with better margins (its music contracts have tiny margins baked in) and content with exclusivity, and part of that is building a broader podcast business. Meanwhile, lots of companies are piling into podcasts and trying to work out whether there can be an aggregation layer with exclusive content and some way to build a locked-in franchise when otherwise all the apps have the same content (and today, Apple's podcast app and other similar are just players and directories, not gatekeepers). But if you get really big, do you even need Spotify? See the next story Link ($)

Podcast talent wars 2: Conversely, another popular podcast, 'Call Her Daddy', split with its aggregator, Barstool Sports. Apparently each weekly episode was generating $100k revenue and the two hosts were being offered $500k each plus bonus each year. I haven't done a DCF for a while but I can still work out those numbers (and audio is a lot cheaper to produce than video). Link

COVID scooters: the UK is exploring legalising dockless scooter rental, having banned it for the past few years: as the lock-down eases but social distancing continues, giving people ways to get around without squeezing into trains suddenly looks like a good idea. Link

Walmart closes Jet: They bought it for $3bn in 2016 to bulk up their e-commerce business, but there were all sorts of cultural and personal conflicts, and a totally different logistics model. Link

 

🔮 Reading

How Can (Should) the US Rebuild Its Semis Industry? Link

No less than four (4) pieces pushed out by Facebook around VR this week: two on games (one, two, an interview with Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth on VR and the Portal link) and yet another pitching VR as the future of work at some point in the future (this video reminds me painfully of Microsoft Office concept videos from a decade ago). These are all good people doing good work, but Zuck didn't buy Oculus to make a games console and we still don't see anything other than games that's actually working - see my post linked above. 

Fun NY Times piece on people building revenue from tiny audiences of fans. Link

A review of Netflix's content accounting. Link

 

😮 Interesting things

Drawing road markings freehand, with perfect typography. Satisfying. Link

 

📊 Stats

Oculus Quest Sold $100 Million Worth of Games & Apps in the last 12 months. Link

The public do not understand logarithmic graphs. Agreed. Link

Foursquare Recovery index - how much are people staying at home? Link

Minecraft has 126m MAUs. Link

Nexar's Mobility Report. Link

 

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Benedict's Newsletter: No. 336 (correct)

Monday, May 18, 2020

Benedict's Newsletter This is a weekly newsletter of what I've seen in tech and thought was interesting. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here. Correction: the social voice deal is of course

Benedict's Newsletter: No. 336

Monday, May 18, 2020

Benedict's Newsletter This is a weekly newsletter of what I've seen in tech and thought was interesting. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here. This newsletter now goes to 140000 people. Feel free

Benedict's Newsletter: No. 335

Monday, May 11, 2020

Benedict's Newsletter This is a weekly newsletter of what I've seen in tech and thought was interesting. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here. This newsletter now goes to 140000 people. Feel free

Benedict's Newsletter: No. 334

Monday, May 4, 2020

Benedict's Newsletter This is a weekly newsletter of what I've seen in tech and thought was interesting. Not a subscriber yet? Sign up here. This newsletter now goes to 140000 people. Feel free

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