You can already see it, but the free ride is coming to an end. Up until now most Internet presence, content, and software has been subsidized by angels and venture capitalists, advertisers, or revenue from non-Internet sources. Some recent articles suggest that the venture money is drying up. This means that companies that were providing free rides (such as facebook) have to start building up other revenue streams. For facebook and others advertising is the first place to look.
We already have seen facebook adding advertising options such as posts in its mobile app and their sponsored posts feature. They have also creatively partnered with local merchants to allow people to send real gifts through facebook and they let people buy virtual items in their online games with facebook currency. There are two ways to make advertising more effective: be relevant or be intrusive. Google bets on relevant while facebook seems to be moving towards intrusive. We also see shadows of what is to come in the recent Instagram controversy where facebook asserted its interest in using user photos in advertising. Unless facebook finds less intrusive ways to monetize its user base, I predict its changes will lead to a decline in its use.
Similarly twitter has instituted limits on third party API access. Presumably this is to steer users towards the official twitter site and applications where it can more easily sell advertising. Twitter has a tough tightrope to walk here. Many of its power users swear by third-party clients like Tweetbot. Since many of these clients already cost money the most sensible move for twitter to make would be to charge developers for API access per user and then let the company pass that cost along to the user via the app purchase. If twitter does not do this, I predict they will phase out third party clients completely.
Advertising is a diverging field. Companies like the New York Times report that their advertising revenue is declining. In contrast the cost of programmatic advertising from companies like Google is increasing. It is important to note that New York Times print advertising revenue dropped 11% while online advertising revenue only dropped 2.2%. Technology news upstart The Verge, which survives on ads sold directly to premium brands, reported it had a profitable first year. I think we will see an increase in digital ads and decrease in print ads because people are moving online. You can see the difference in the following slide from Mary Meeker’s presentation:
Another thing you will see more of is paying for content directly. When the New York Times decided to institute a pay wall there was lots of outrage. I was a heavy user of their website and was disappointed at having to pay, but I gave in and signed up. Lots of other people followed my lead. Now these digital subscriptions make up a substantial portion of their revenue while print subscriptions are in a decline. The Hartford Courant is lagging here since they still have a substantial online only audience that is getting a free ride. Since the New York Times hybrid paywall model is successful it will probably be adopted by other players like the Hartford Courant.
Design and substance are growing in popularity. This is evidenced by the rise of apps like Instapaper and the popularity of the Snow Fall feature article in the New York Times. Even meme properties like BuzzFeed are moving towards generating more long form material. Pocket, a competitor to Instapaper, notes in its infographic that 240 million things were saved to its service this year; the most popular was a long form profile of President Obama from Vanity Fair. We will see more of this kind of content in 2013.
Competition, scale via app stores, and lack of demo versions has pushed the price of software down to free in many categories but we may see a rebound. The New York Times notes that it is difficult for many independent developers to make a living by selling apps. Zynga, which supports its mobile apps through advertising, has not been doing so well. Their intrusive sending of notifications and placement of other advertising has certainly not endeared them to me. Companies like AgileBits, maker of 1Password, are reverting to the old model of charging for new updates to their software (though not without criticism). The New York Times endured similar criticism when they put up their paywall but ultimately giving away software for free is not sustainable, and the mobile advertising in the apps degrades the user experience. So you’ll pay more for applications but they will be of better quality.
Overall you will probably enjoy the Internet and your mobile device more in 2013. However you will pay more for that experience. For better or worse, our free ride is coming to an end.
One of my favorite gadgets is my iPhone 4S. The great thing about the iPhone is that it is easily extendable with an array of applications. Surprisingly most people do not use many of these. So I decided to post some screenshots and descriptions of what apps I am using. Maybe you will find some new apps you enjoy. If you have recommendations please share them in the comments.
Uber is a cab like service that can be summoned with the iPhone. I got a $20 credit for it but since they are not in Hartford I have not used it yet.
SeeClickFix is a New Haven based company that provides a program to report potholes and other quality of life issues in your neighborhood. Many public works departments in Connecticut interface with SeeClickFix so they can find and remedy problems after they are reported.
ForceEffect Motion is an app for simulating mechanical systems with moving parts. ForceEffect is for simulating systems without moving parts. They are fun to tinker with but maybe a bit geeky for non-math or science people.
123D Catch is also made by AutoDesk and can create a 3D rendering of an object after you take pictures of it from multiple angles. You can use other software from AutoDesk to edit the resulting object and then print it on a 3D printer.
VMWare View is for connecting to VMWare virtual computers in the cloud. It works better on the iPad than the iPhone.
The top row of apps is self-explanatory. Scan is a QR code scanner, and Amazon and eBay are for online shopping.
Google Drive is powerful now that it allows editing of Google documents. If you have a Google account it is worth downloading to access, edit, and share files. It is even better on the iPad.
YouTube, GarageBand, and Podcasts are self-explanatory. Miso Music was an app that I saw on Shark Tank that provided tutorials for beginners learning to play guitar or other string instruments. It is fun but I haven’t spent a lot of time with it.
iHandy level uses the iPhone sensors to check whether a surface is level. Cards is Apple’s mobile app that lets you design and send greeting cards the same way you can from iPhoto. I used it once to send a birthday card to a friend and was told the quality was good. djay is a mobile DJing app that is probably underutilized in my hands. I have not used Sprint TV as without a premium subscription the channel lineup is poor.
The fourth screen is dedicated primarily to games. My current favorite is Letterpress, a word game designed by the same developer who wrote Tweetie.
My third page is dedicated to news and media. In the news category I have NPR, CNN, The White House, and Politico Playbook. The Playbook is a nice summary of the news of the day that is driving DC. Instapaper is my favorite app for downloading long form articles to read later. It is one of my most used applications. iMuscle is an app that lets you tap a 3D rendering of the human body and will give you exercises to work on that muscle. I use it for workout ideas at the gym. DuoLingo is a free app for learning a foreign language. I have used it a little bit and so far have enjoyed it but have not used it enough to opine on its effectiveness.
My second page has some of my most used apps. CoBook is an enhanced address book application to keep contact databases synced and organized. I have the Mac version as well. I also use CardMunch to automatically convert business cards to iPhone contacts.
Waze is a social GPS application. I used it until Google Maps was released.
1Password is the ultimate password and PIN code management program. I have over 200 logins stored in it. With Google, Dropbox, and other websites I use Google Authenticator for two-password authentication. This adds an extra layer of security.
Dropbox is the best application to access and store files.
Camera+ is an enhanced camera application. It has features to aid in composing and editing photos, including a stabilizer.
CardStar stores all your loyalty cards so you do not have to carry them. It used to work with all types of scanners but on the iPhone 4 and later it only works on the optical ones.
The main application I use in the finance category is Mint. It pulls the account information from all my bank accounts and keeps me updated on bill due dates among other things. Most of my banking is through ING Direct and I use their application to deposit checks using my smart phone camera. It is one of the best features of having a smart phone.
These are all your standard social media programs. For twitter I prefer to use Tweetbot. It syncs among the iPad and Mac versions using iCloud and has an easier to use interface than the regular twitter client.
Finally the first page is fairly standard. I use the GMail app instead of the built-in mail app since it provides a little more functionality and better battery life. However I miss the ability to double-tap to zoom. Hopefully the app improves and adds this in the next update.
TurboScan is by far the best mobile scanning application I have ever used. It will process a picture of a page into a PDF that looks better than something you get from a flatbed scanner, especially if you use the option to scan three times. The only downside is that recently the user interface has become ugly.
One of Facebook’s most underutilized features is its lists. If you are a heavy Facebook user like me they allow you to create feeds that focus in on specific areas or interests. Then you can share them with others. Since I could not find a Connecticut focused one when I learned about this feature I built one using about 80 news sources that I am aware of. You can see it and subscribe by clicking here. If you have suggestions for pages to add please contact me or comment below. I have left out members of the Connecticut General Assembly as they have their own list.
On a chilly morning in sleepy suburb a crazed man unleashed terror on an innocent community. This is not the first time we have faced the horror that results from mixing an unstable individual with a killing machine. A school in Littleton, a college in Virginia, and a grocery store in Arizona are still scarred from the tragedies that unfolded there. As a fearful nation, we have transformed our school palaces into fortresses. Today we learned that even that is not enough to stop a determined killer. We cannot prevent every tragedy. We cannot anticipate every shortcoming of every policy. However we can take pause and learn from this. We can sit down and use information and data to make informed decisions about the best way to reduce the risk of this happening. Then we can come together and meet this moment of tragedy with a moment of courage. It is time for the United States Congress to have a real and serious discussion on gun violence in America. We may not prevent every massacre, but we can fight fear with knowledge and risk with action. As our world has changed, so must our laws.
Here in Connecticut, the General Assembly should convene a commission to investigate policies related to gun violence and in the next session pass a comprehensive gun violence and safety act. This act should address policies related to gun control, crime prevention, and school safety. While our leaders are not gods that can stop every death, they can certainly lead us into a world where fewer people die. As our senators and representatives in Washington remain stuck in gridlock, it is incumbent upon our leaders in Hartford to set an example and push our state forward.
I recently received a fundraising plea from the CT Mirror claiming they have 60,000 unique visitors a month. I was shocked that the number was so low. This online news entity covers news of importance to the entire state and their monthly readership is less than the population of Hartford. Meanwhile the Hartford Courant claims 651,345 readers with a majority of them reading the paper offline. With Connecticut’s population sitting at 3.58 million people who means the Courant is reaching about 18% of the entire Connecticut population and the Mirror is reaching 1.7%. This is in spite of the fact that in 2010 86.5% of the state had an Internet connection and 47% had a Facebook account.
These statistics matter because it is the job of news people to tell our stories. They document our history. Reporters highlight the challenges we face and their writings can rally people together to tackle them. Yet for the most part this is not happening. The majority of reporting occurring in mainstream outlets like NBC Connecticut or The Courant focuses on crime or minor things like when the Wethersfield Library got self-checkouts. The majority of people are not thinking about the same issues that Connecticut’s leaders are thinking about. This is why it is easy for an insider like Chris Donovan or Jim Amann to believe they have a good chance at winning a major office but then drop with a quick thud. We live in different worlds.
We need to fix this. I do not have all the answers for the journalists that might be reading this post wondering why I am complaining. The journalists probably have a better idea than the owners of their papers. All I know is what I enjoy. Websites like The New York Times, New Yorker, and The Verge produce fantastic longform pieces that dive deep into important issues facing our country. They publish powerful editorials that push their readers to think. Articles are written that create context and force us to reconsider our policies and values. Good journalism makes the reader feel slightly uncomfortable. Discomfort causes people to talk and think. Talking and thinking sells more papers or builds online readership. The community grows; our worlds collide.