In addition to creating a monitor to put an Eye on Japan’s Economy™ (which you can subscribe to here) we have also added a twitter feed of highlights on the same subject. You can follow @EOJE_FirstRain. @FirstRain_Japan.
Like Eye on Japan’s Economy™, the Twitter feed will select highlights of articles on disruptive market developments in areas like the Auto Industry, Base Metal Trends, the Semiconductor Industry and the Oil & Gas Industry Outlook, to name just a few of the topics covered, and macro economic trends of interest to business professionals.
We are all shocked and saddened by the terrible events in Japan over the last two weeks, and our thoughts are with the people of Northern Japan impacted by the tsunami. We have also been watching the impact of this disaster on the world’s markets and the potential disruption to products and supply chains and realize that these disruptions may impact our customer’s businesses and investment strategies.
It is our objective to help our customers quickly and easily see the critical developments that impact their industries and businesses – using our patented categorization technology to report the right, relevant content. So in a economic disruption on the scale of Japan’s tragedy we can provide a business monitor to help everyone – customers or otherwise – keep track of the impact of the disruption on Japan’s key markets.
Our new monitor – Eye on Japan’s Economy™ – is available to everyone. You can sign up here:
Eye on Japan’s Economy™ covers disruptive market developments such as the Auto Industry, Base Metal Trends, the Semiconductor Industry and the Oil & Gas Industry Outlook, to name just a few of the topics covered.
If your business is impacted by the terrible events of March 11 we hope this new monitor will help you manage through the next few months by providing you with information on Japan’s economic developments as they happen.
Guest author Ryan Warren, FirstRain VP of Marketing
Do you create, or do you aggregate? That, it seems, is the pressing content question of the day. Penny posted on Tuesday about the seismic shift happening in the media space as news aggregators like The Huffington Post begin to assume market pre-eiminence over more traditional content creator/distributors like The New York Times. Even NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller‘s expressions of aggravation, have now had to be moderated as I’m sure his somewhat snarky commentary triggered a wave of exasperation and irritation amongst the New Media community.
In reality, of course, a forced choice between content creation and aggregation is a false dichotomy. The explosion of innovative content consumption platforms has simultaneously sharpened people’s hunger for more quality content and for technology to improve the efficiency and efficacy of consumption. Content creation and aggregation are like conjoined twins with a passive-aggressive relationship. They may share the same heart, lungs and kidney, but that doesn’t mean they have to like each other.
In addition to the NYT/HuffPo challenge that Penny points out, this shift is also well represented by LinkedIn’s recent entry into news aggregation space. In fact, their new feature LinkedIn Today is a great example of several emergent forces coming together, including Web news aggregation, social networking and real-time news. It allows business-focused users to consume an aggregated feed of linked and posted news stories that people within your identified LinkedIn industry are sharing on Twitter or LinkedIn, and lets you further customize by identifying additional industries or incorporating the twitter feeds of a range of news sources from Ad Age to Bloomberg News to Harvard Business Review.
It’s a smart play, because despite Twitter’s protestations, to date they haven’t provided a very robust platform for business users to consume an aggregated real-time news experience (a la TweetDeck). LinkedIn’s move steps in and intercepts that need by leveraging an existing social network that many of us in the business world are increasingly invested in, while also providing a whole new entrée into real-time news for those who haven’t yet jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon.
But with all this focus on the schism between the forces that ‘Create’ and ‘Aggregate’, there’s another critical element out there that’s just as powerful but sometimes is overlooked: let’s call it ‘Interrelate’. It means the unique and powerful value that business monitoring applications like FirstRain bring to the table. Although we do bring together vast amounts of news and other business content from the Web, what we can do that others can’t is interrelate that content through our (unique and patented) semantic categorization, deliver you some really targeted results, and then show you emerging trends through some pretty nice visualization analytics. What this means to business users in practical terms is quite effectively filtering out Web noise. It makes the time they spend getting up to speed on, or monitoring on an ongoing basis, an industry, market, company or subject, much for efficient and effective.
And not only is this more efficient, but through this type of interrelating of content a new kind value is generated (one that should be of great interest to content creators): the ability to make useful connections between content that may not have been anticipated by the creators themselves. This allows solutions like FirstRain to drive even more high-value traffic back to content creators than conventional news aggregators (or more general-purpose search engines), since we’re making connections for users that others simply can’t.
So as we look at the evolving relationship between content creators and aggregators, let’s resist the temptation to think of this relationship as twin poles between which we must navigate. The key role that ‘interrelators’, like FirstRain, play may emerge as an equally significant link in that chain.
There is a seismic shift going on that is continuing to shake the foundations of journalism. The intellectual view was well captured in an editorial by NYT executive editor Bill Keller – while the commercial reality is impossible to avoid as you can see in this chart from Business Insider on the drop in ad revenue over the last 10 years.
Keller’s piece, which is at once thought provoking and snarky, expresses annoyance at the hyper-inflated public and market valuations of aggregators like The Huffington Post, arguing that AOL’s purchase of HuffPo no more moves it into the content game than a company “announcing plans to improve its cash position by hiring a counterfeiter.”
Clearly he has an issue not only with the HuffPo team making out like bandits – but more so because they are doing so, in his mind, through aggregation. Earlier in the piece, Keller describes the news aggregation business model as “taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material,” a practice he then likens to Somalian piracy. Methinks he also finds Arianna’s ability to capture a thought and repackage it in a warmer, more convincing way, very annoying.
Keller’s irritation is somewhat understandable, after all, he presides over one of the world’s great newsgathering organizations, one maintained at great expense and passion, and he’s watching the public perception of the monetary value of that content sink precipitously. But while aggregation in some form is here to stay, the quality of journalism is a pendulum that will swing back. His bemoaning of the fate of journalism is not unlike to bemoaning of the smut being circulated in England in Victorian times. Yes, there were great writers publishing in periodicals at the time (Dickens for example) but at the same time the Illustrated London News was a bestseller with stories of scandal and mayhem like Jack the Ripper.
I think Keller substantially misinterprets the value and appeal of HuffPo. Not only does HuffPo attract readers with pop culture – it also hosts a tremendous amount of valued, original opinion content authored by high-profile bloggers from politicians to religious leaders, mixed with aggregated news, yes I admit all from a decidedly left-wing perspective. I am often surprised to find out who is reading HuffPo. Not only rabid liberals in the mid West, but also academics and captains of industry. I find out because they tell me their reaction to some of the provocative pieces I have myself written for HuffPo.
More importantly, however, I think Keller misses the overall shift in content dynamics to which The NYT is also subject – the growing ability to analyze new and aggregated content and derive relationships between them making the stream both relevant and unexpected. Something we provide to our business users.
It was International Women’s Day yesterday and our Gurgaon team celebrated the day by giving roses to each of our female employees in the Gurgaon office and taking them out to lunch. You can see a picture of most of our our female team members below.
FirstRain is an unusual company in that so many of the leadership are women. Myself (CEO), YY (COO) and Aparna (GM India). We all developed our careers based on deep technical training and hard work – there are no quotas in the technology world – and it is both unusual and worth celebrating to have a deeply technical company with almost 50% of the leadership being women (and one woman board member too). It may be indeed be unique, we don’t know. And it is probably a sign that women continue to improve the opportunities they have in our society.
As Aparna (our GM in India) told her team:
“International Women’s Day (8 March) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, more women in the boardrooms, greater equality in legislative rights, and more importantly women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.
2011 is the Global Centenary Year and let’s take this opportunity to celebrate success of all women and especially the India woman Rainmakers.”
A subset of our Gurgaon female team members:
Do you remember those futuristic articles or stories we’d read in the 80s that talked about how with technology we would work less and have more time to recreate? Technology was going to free us from the shackles of our desk. Well, that is possible, if you actually wanted to change it.
The technology of the future has freed us from our desks (mobile phones, laptops, etc.), and this article discusses how the right mix of technology can easily enhance our productivity. Additionally, the Internet has dramatically changed the way that we gather information for business decisions.
With improvements in analytical algorithms in business monitors like FirstRain, Capital IQ, FactSet, and many others, more valuable data can be targeted. The FirstRain platform can filter out the noise, and simultaneously generate highly targeted business intelligence with its patented semantic technology and analytics. Through such advancements, analysts can not only receive information that is personalized and adaptive to their markets, but discover valuable patterns and data trends as well.
In speaking with one of our customers—a sales rep named Samantha Barrett, I was able to understand how she used FirstRain to solve four problems:
This newfound method of information gathering is contradictory to what used to be considered the “traditional” way of researching. Think of it as a new perspective for a new century—it was acceptable, and necessary to “do-it-yourself” given tech limitations in the 90s and first half of the last decade. Searching for your own information was the way to go—who else could you trust to find the most relevant results and cover all the bases? Well, now we can automate it, and we have to start building that trust.
The change in information management models to platforms like FirstRain comes as no surprise. Using solutions like FirstRain allows for an easy, efficient way to manage information. Not having to worry about how credible the sources are, or how much time you spend gathering information allocates time for more important tasks.
Being able to understand information in different ways, and having access to meaningful patterns and data trends can directly or indirectly make all the difference in an entire business. Those who embrace the technology will be more effective, and have access to a plethora of information that they otherwise wouldn’t.
The stories of the future are now the stories of the present—the revolution is here and it would be smart to adopt the 21st century trend of “trusting tech,” as the end result will benefit decision makers. No longer can you do-it-yourself, the 80s were right, and once again technology dramatically eases our lives.
It’s interesting to look at the smartphone choice our users have made across different markets. We conducted a mobile survey a couple of weeks ago and found that a BlackBerry is still a necessity in the corporate environment, but often not enough. However, our survey results are contrary to the latest consumer survey that shows Android surpassing Apple iOS and the Blackberry platform in market share.
While we are developing the FirstRain mobile application, our survey showed that among the users surveyed they have an average of 1.2 devices each – and when we broke it down by device to find that 14% of the BlackBerry users were also using an additional device. We suspect this is because while BlackBerry may be mandated by many firms it simply does not have the app support and so is not as useful and fun outside of the standard corporate apps like email and calendars.
What does this mean for RIM? Research in Motion first introduced the BlackBerry in 1999, and 12 years ago the BlackBerry was able to hold its own— a strong operating system, stable, reliable—all the works. With the highly anticipated BlackBerry 6 OS debuting with the Torch, BlackBerry users can keep up with the competition—right?
The BlackBerry Torch does have all new features—upgraded camera, proper touch screen, security features, built-in GPS, universal search, and perhaps most favored by IT — the administrative control available. But is this enough to keep up with personal and work demands?
We found that for our users, the BlackBerry as a smart device is not cutting it. The app development has been slow for the BlackBerry OS, and the functionality of the apps are not up to par. If 14% (and growing) of our users need a second device, usually an iPad or iPhone, to maintain the quick pace of the workday, the Torch will not salvage RIM as a business-friendly product.
If 2011 is the year of the enterprise app, then this may be the beginning of the end for RIM. The BlackBerry has not made substantial enough strides to maintain functionality with all of the “super apps.” Salesforce already has 20,000 companies that have embraced their new Chatter mobile app, and it is no surprise that more than 50% of the workforce is using mobile devices as their new desktop. With more companies shifting towards app development, including FirstRain, maybe there is a reason that so many of our users who utilized BlackBerry’s also needed a supplemental device.
It is also quite hard for the BlackBerry OS to compete against the prominently featured “fun” iOS system. The iPhone is becoming so deeply embedded in our business culture, that it is seen as a necessity and the new iPad 2 is going to continue Apple’s overwhelmingly dominant control of the tablet market. Businesses like Juniper and Good.com are thriving with more consumers bringing their mobile devices into work (that now need additional security). In October, Good Technology released their first quarterly data report— illustrating how the rapid adoption of iOS is revolutionizing enterprise mobility and how they are benefiting from the move away from the Blackberry.
Whether this means more good news for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, or a meek future for RIM, one can’t be sure—but it is clear modern users will now demand competitive apps on their primary handheld device.
I was so very sad to see the news that Borders is failing and has not being able to keep up with the digital era. I saw it with Tower Records — falling to iTunes and other downloadable music; Blockbuster –falling to Netflix, and now Borders falling to…Amazon’s Kindle? Barnes and Noble’s Nook?
The top 3 comapnies we see in this industry:
-Barnes & Noble, inc.
There are many reasons as to why the bookstore giant is losing share, but at the heart they simply missed the digital trend and did not keep up with the rapidly changing industry. The lesson here is they are in a long line of businesses that failed to adapt to digital media fast enough and they will probably not be the last.
This same fallout happened in the movie rental industry, with Blockbuster going down for the count. In 2000, Blockbuster declined several offers to buy Netflix, for a now trivial price; ten years later they declared bankruptcy. Netflix now has more subscribers than the entire population of Australia, and the thought of driving to the store to pick out a movie seems archaic. The problem is that Blockbuster can’t keep up with mail delivery and Redbox type vending machines. (Full disclosure – I have been a Netflix customer almost from the beginning because I knew the management team so I am a little biased.)
This chart illustrates the effect that Netflix has taken on Blockbuster.
Also, Netflix streaming video, which was in their strategy from the beginning but which took a while to make reality is what’s making them #1. Netflix now accounts for more than 20% of the bandwidth in America during peak internet hours and it is going to get worse from here. With the flexibility of streaming to your PS3, Xbox 360, television, Nintendo Wii, iPad, Tivo, iPhone and more—it’s hard to beat the immediacy.
Tower Records also missed the mark in this age of downloading, and it cost them greatly. They prospered through the days of the cassette tape and compact disc—but when Tower didn’t react fast enough to the decrease in sales of tangible items, current music giants like iTunes quickly took over. Tower filed for bankruptcy in 2006, and their failure to adapt to the ever-changing technology cost them everything.
With even the Dalai Lama making appearances on twitter several times per week, it is no surprise that everything is becoming virtual. Medical records, newsstands, bank accounts, and college textbooks…what’s next?
Back to books. It is also interesting to see why Barnes and Noble has survived and may thrive in contrast to Borders even though on the surface they seem the same. The fundamental difference is that BN saw and acted quickly on the digital trend, unlike Borders who dragged their heels and only brought up their website 3 years ago. Barnes and Noble’s “Nook” has more than 2 million titles to download, and its easy-to-read screen and inexpensive price has made it a tough competitor. Amazon’s fabulous Kindle has increased their share price over 60% in the last year.
The bottom line is that our society is going digital. Perhaps it’s our laziness, or ability to create, but as H.G. Wells puts it nicely—“adapt or perish… is nature’s exorable imperative.” So who is responsible for killing Borders, Blockbuster, and Tower? Themselves.