Monthly Archives: June 2021
Twelve years ago, Joby Aviation consisted of a team of seven engineers working out of founder JoeBen Bevirt’s ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains. Today, the startup has swelled to 800 people and a $ 6.6 billion valuation, ranking itself as the highest-valued electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) company in the industry.
As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors.
It’s not the only air taxi company to reach unicorn status. The field is now dotted with new or soon-to-be publicly traded companies courtesy of mergers and special purpose acquisition companies. Partnerships with major automakers and airlines are on the rise, and CEOs have promised commercialization as early as 2024.
As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors. A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead.
Other disagreements have higher stakes. Wisk Aero filed a lawsuit against Archer Aviation alleging trade secret misappropriation. Meanwhile, valuations for companies that have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — are skyrocketing.
Electric air mobility is gaining elevation. But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead.
Big goals and bigger expenses
Taking an eVTOL from design through to manufacturing and certification will likely cost about $ 1 billion, Mark Moore, then-head of Uber Elevate, estimated in April 2020 during a conference held by the Air Force’s Agility Prime program.
That means in some sense, the companies that will come out on top will likely be the ones that have managed to raise enough money to pay for all the expenses associated with engineering, certification, manufacturing and infrastructure.
“The startups that have successfully raised or that will be able to raise significant amounts of capital to get them through the certification process … that’s the number one thing that’s going to separate the strong from the weak,” Asad Hussain, a senior analyst in mobility technology at PitchBook, told TechCrunch. “There’s over 100 startups in the space. Not all of them are going to be able to do that.”
Just consider some of the expenses accrued by the biggest eVTOLs last year: Joby Aviation spent a whopping $ 108 million on research and development, a $ 30 million increase from 2019. Archer spent $ 21 million in R&D in 2020, according to regulatory filings. Meanwhile, Joby’s net loss last year was $ 114.2 million and Archer’s was $ 24.8 million, though, of course, neither company has brought a product to market yet. Operating expenses will likely only continue to grow into the future as companies enter into manufacturing and deployment phases.
What that means for the future of the industry is likely two things: more SPAC deals and more acquisitions.
Mobility companies, including those working on electrified transport, are often pre-revenue and have capitally intensive business models — a combination that can make it difficult to find buyers in a traditional IPO. SPACs have become increasingly popular as a shorter, less expensive path to becoming a public company. SPACs have also historically received less scrutiny than IPOs. Should the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission start to take a closer look at SPAC mergers in the future, it may impair the ability of other air taxi companies to go public this way, Hussain said.
That means market consolidation is nearly guaranteed, as smaller companies may find it more advantageous to sell than continue to raise more capital. It’s already begun: At the end of April, eVTOL developer Astro Aerospace announced the acquisition of Horizon Aircraft.
Horizon cited “greater access to capital” as one of the many benefits of the transaction, and other companies will likely find the buy or sell route to be the most beneficial on the road to commercialization. And just last week, British eVTOL Vertical Aerospace, which has an order for 150 aircraft from Virgin Atlantic, said it would go public via a merger with Broadstone Acquisition Corp. at an equity value of around $ 2.2 billion.
If money is the ultimate commodity, how can fintechs — which sell money, move money or sell insurance against monetary loss — build products that remain differentiated and create lasting value over time?
And why are so many software companies — which already boast highly differentiated offerings and serve huge markets— moving to offer financial services embedded within their products?
A new and attractive hybrid category of company is emerging at the intersection of software and financial services, creating buzz in the investment and entrepreneurial communities, as we discussed at our “Fintech: The Endgame” virtual conference and accompanying report this week.
These specialized companies — in some cases, software companies that also process payments and hold funds on behalf of their customers, and in others, financial-first companies that integrate workflow and features more reminiscent of software companies — combine some of the best attributes of both categories.
From software, they design for strong user engagement linked to helpful, intuitive products that drive retention over the long term. From financials, they draw on the ability to earn revenues indexed to the growth of a customer’s business.
Fintech is poised to revolutionize financial services, both through reinventing existing products and driving new business models as financial services become more pervasive within other sectors.
The powerful combination of these two models is rapidly driving both public and private market value as investors grant these “super” companies premium valuations — in the public sphere, nearly twice the median multiple of pure software companies, according to a Battery analysis.
The near-perfect example of this phenomenon is Shopify, the company that made its name selling software to help business owners launch and manage online stores. Despite achieving notable scale with this original SaaS product, Shopify today makes twice as much revenue from payments as it does from software by enabling those business owners to accept credit card payments and acting as its own payment processor.
The combination of a software solution indexed to e-commerce growth, combined with a profitable payments stream growing even faster than its software revenues, has investors granting Shopify a 31x multiple on its forward revenues, according to CapIQ data as of May 26.
How should we value these fintech companies, anyway?
Before even talking about how investors should value these hybrid companies, it’s worth making the point that in both private and public markets, fintechs have been notoriously hard to value, fomenting controversy and debate in the investment community.
At this year’s Google Marketing Livestream, we shared the latest updates coming to the new Google Analytics, the next generation of Analytics designed for the future of measurement.
Get privacy-safe customer insights using machine learning
With new privacy-safe solutions, Google is helping advertisers preserve marketing measurement while respecting user consent choices. This includes using machine learning to model conversions in Google Ads, so you can continue to optimize performance in a privacy-safe way when observed conversion data is not available.
Later this year, we’ll extend our modeling capabilities to certain reports in Google Analytics 4 properties to enhance your understanding of the customer journey when observed behavioral data is not available. If users don’t consent to analytics cookies, you’ll still be able to generate important customer insights while respecting your users’ privacy preferences.
For example, if there is incomplete data in your User Acquisition report, modeled data (in addition to observed data) will offer a more complete picture of the number of new users your campaigns have acquired.
Easily discover relevant insights
We want to make the new Analytics experience as intuitive to navigate as possible, so you can discover key insights with unprecedented speed and ease. In a new modular left navigation, we’ve organized important use cases into workspaces that will guide you to the reports, analyses, or data — like advertising conversions — you’re looking for.
The new Advertising Workspace is designed to quickly address everyday advertiser needs and unlock deeper insights into your campaign performance. In the snapshot, you can see relevant campaign and performance insights at a glance. You’ll get automated insights notifying you of things like performance spikes in your campaigns, where the majority of your customers are converting from, or what channel is performing the best that week.
With an intuitive and easily accessible home for these insights, you’ll be able to quickly improve campaign performance when you want to make real-time optimizations.
Beyond easier navigation, it’s also important to be able to tailor Analytics to the specific needs of your business, and even your role. To allow flexibility, we’re launching an entirely new set of customization options to reporting.
For the first time, within the Reports Workspace, users with admin access will be able to curate the Analytics interface and reports to suit the specific needs of their teams. Admins can make simple edits to existing reports or even create entirely new custom reports. They can also customize the left navigation to group reports into collections, and create custom overviews to highlight information. You can showcase these overviews in the Reports snapshot, the new homepage for the Reports Workspace.
Once admins set up customized reporting preferences for your organization, you can reduce time spent on reporting and surface the most relevant insights faster than ever before.
Better understand the value of your marketing
We know how valuable it is to have attribution reporting for your campaigns directly within Analytics, so we’re bringing new cross-platform attribution capabilities into the Advertising Workspace.
Data-driven attribution models will soon be available in all Google Analytics 4 properties, so you can use Google’s machine learning to understand the contribution of each touchpoint in your marketing funnel, alongside your other customer journey insights. We’ve also introduced two new attribution reports: the Conversion Paths report and Model Comparison report.
Similar to Multi-Channel Funnels in Universal Analytics properties, the Conversion Paths report allows you to view the customer journey by channel, assigning credit to touchpoints from when your customers first arrive to your site or app through conversion, based on a selected attribution model. It also includes a new conversion credit visualization that helps you understand your ROI by channel.
The Model Comparison report allows you to assess campaign performance using various attribution models, and compare how each affects the value of your marketing channels so you can determine which model best suits the needs of your business.
Prepare your measurement foundation for the future
The new Google Analytics will help ensure your measurement foundation is reliable and ready to meet the demands of an evolving ecosystem.
Get started with Google Analytics 4 properties today, and stay tuned for more enhancements coming soon.
- Reddit is the seventh most popular website in the US while Quora has a DR of 91
- These factors make for great opportunities to build your brand’s online presence and enhance your E-A-T standing
- This comprehensive guide helps you take advantage of Quora and Reddit marketing
Get ready to take advantage of the resources that two-third of marketers and SEO specialists miss out on. We’re talking about Quora and Reddit Marketing and you’re about to know how they can bring tons of value to your business.
Raising brand awareness, driving traffic, and diversifying your link profile with useful backlinks – all that is more than feasible with the right, out-of-the-box approach.
Let’s dive right in and take a look at the pros, cons, and everything in-between concerning the promotion of your website on Reddit and Quora.
Content created in partnership with Crowdo.
What makes these two solid platforms for SEO and marketing?
According to Alexa, Reddit is the seventh most popular website in the US, surpassing even Wikipedia. It’s a community-based platform with 130K+ niche-based subreddits brimming with highly active users.
Although different from Reddit in terms of structure, Quora is equally worthy of marketers’ attention. It’s a Q&A platform with a DR of 91, making it a highly trustworthy resource, frequently shown in SERP.
Both platforms have strict moderation and high content standards, which means no spamming or self-promotion is allowed. Google is known to favor links from clean unspammed resources, which is why backlinks from either of these platforms will be useful for your backlink portfolio.
Apart from that, expanding your brand’s online presence is crucial for the EAT Google algorithm. This is aimed to provide users with relevant, and useful information.
This is where Quora answers and Reddit comments and posts come into play. Submitting helpful and informative answers can get you far in your promotion strategy, but let’s first start with some theory.
Are backlinks from Reddit and Quora useful for SEO?
Many SEO specialists don’t consider Quora and Reddit viable sources for link-building because the backlinks coming from these platforms are nofollow.
Taking into account the myth about the uselessness of nofollow links – nofollow translates into no-good for them.
This misconception is easy to clear up:
- Your backlink profile looks suspicious to Google and other search engines if it contains dofollow links exclusively. Diluting it with good nofollow links allows creating an organic-looking and diversified link profile.
- Google perceives nofollow links as “hints,” which means they still have a positive effect on your promotion. Even Google’s John Mueller confirmed it, just take a look at the tweet below.
How to get the most out of Quora: A step-by-step guide
1. Create a well-thought-out user profile
A thorough and properly formatted user profile is essential for Quora. Your profile should look trustworthy for your answers to be considered valuable and included in the feed. Here are some points you need to include:
- Fill out the “About me” section with information about you and your occupation. Don’t shy away from going into details if it can truly benefit your credibility as an expert. But keep in mind that only 50-character-worth of text, including your name, will be shown above your answers. So make sure you make them count.
- List your fields of expertise by choosing them from the “Knows About” section. Expert replies are deemed more valuable by the Quora algorithm, which in turn increases the chance that your answers will get into the feed and won’t be collapsed.
- Link your social media accounts in the Settings section. Verified social media accounts add trustworthiness and make it easier to connect with you.
- Add credentials
You can either copy them from your LinkedIn profile or fill them out and add some more info. “Credentials” is the part of your profile where you can add links to your portfolio, info about previous companies you worked for, your educational background – anything that can make people believe that you are indeed an expert in your field.
- Upload a clear and friendly photo of yourself
Profiles with a photo instill more trust and are more relatable for other users. Try to avoid funky pictures or graphics.
2. Find suitable, niche-related questions
Now that your profile is all set up and looks good, it’s time to get down to business and find relevant questions to showcase the expertise and skills you’ve mentioned.
Start with outlining some keywords, relevant to your niche. You can either do it yourself or you can use a keywords generator tool like SEMRush or Ahrefs.
You can either choose questions with the most views because they’re shown in the feed and get a lot of attention or go for unanswered questions and score a higher chance to get in the top spot.
3. Write informative, source-rich, helpful answers
Your answers on Quora should be informative and answer the question directly – include statistics, references, graphics, and other media that can help illustrate your points and give a better insight into the topic you’re covering.
The Quora algorithm filters out irrelevant answers and collapses them. The more expert and in-depth your answer is, the higher the chance that it gets shown in the feed and won’t get collapsed.
As for the length of the answer – short answers usually don’t look authoritative and insightful. The optimal length of your answer should be between 1500 – 2000 characters, at least that’s what we think at Crowdo.
4. Format your answers in an appealing way
Formatting your answer is essential for making it look professional and easy to understand. No matter how much effort you’ve poured into your answer and prior research – if you submit a wall of text, it won’t do.
Answers like these don’t get enough upvotes and are mostly ignored by the viewers. Use all formatting means necessary to make your answer as appealing as possible: bullet points, appropriate headings, quotes – all of it will help your text look clear, engaging, and comprehensible.
5. If you use someone else’s content – indicate the source
Plagiarism is a big no-no on Quora, and it might get you banned. If you use someone else’s content to emphasize/illustrate/prove your point – always indicate the source.
6. Link to your website naturally
Although Quora allows self-promotion, it doesn’t mean that you can blatantly abuse it. Clickbait titles are frowned upon on Quora, and the same goes for obvious begging for clicks, like “Check out my awesome website!”.
The link to your website must be organically inserted in the text and correspond to the context.
For instance, you can present it as something that provides additional in-depth information: “This detailed overview of best digital marketing practices might come in handy to you.”
7. Use authoritative sources to enrich and add authority to your answer
Answers with a single link to your website look suspiciously promotional and don’t instill trust. Try including other topic-related, helpful links from reputable and authoritative sources like Wikipedia, Reddit, YouTube, or others.
It will add a professional touch to your answer and increase its value for the reader.
How to avoid collapsed answers?
Sometimes, even if you followed the Quora guidelines to the letter, your answer might get collapsed.
The reasons may vary, from an error in the algorithm that can be corrected by writing a support ticket to a mistake on your part. Let’s take a peek at the most common reasons why answers get collapsed:
Your user profile is lacking trustworthiness
If you haven’t indicated your field of expertise, skipped the credentials and bio description, the Quora algorithm may deem you unfit to answer certain questions due to the lack of trustworthiness of your profile.
Your answers aren’t helpful to the author of the question
Make sure you clearly state the answer to the question.
Posting long text walls containing no definitive answer and brimming with irrelevant links helps no one.
A common mistake among those who only start working with Quora is to write as many replies as possible and cram all the links they can think of in their answers.
You have to establish yourself as a trustworthy contributor first, show your expertise and only then strategically insert links into your replies. Start with writing 20+ helpful and informative answers without any links.
Your answers are lacking interaction from other users
If the Quora algorithm detects that your answers have no comments or upvotes, it may deem them unworthy of showing and collapse them.
The ideal way would be to try to benefit the readers as much as possible and get this social traction organically.
The rather “grey” way would be to use other Quora profiles to upvote your answer and increase the view count.
The approach you choose is completely up to you.
Product/service promotion on Reddit: All about Reddiquette and Karma
Being a community-based platform, Reddit pushes you to come to the audience and pour actual value into the content you generate and share. On Reddit, you must be a part of the community if you want to succeed.
Before submitting anything, you need to “get the feel” of what every community is about and tailor the content you contribute to be in line with the customs of each and every subreddit.
An excellent way to start your marketing campaign on Reddit is to learn its basic rules, aka Reddiquette. Let’s take a quick look at the main ones:
- Don’t rush to submit – Easy does it
Reddit algorithm and moderators take into account your profile’s age and authority, aka Karma (more on this later). If you rush to post right after you registered and haven’t even researched the subreddit you’d like to post on – it’s a sure bet that your post will be removed.
- Never beg for upvotes
Upvotes and downvotes are used on Reddit to show appreciation or displeasure with posts or comments. Submissions with the highest upvote score rise to the top and may even reach the front page – the holy grail of Reddit. Begging for upvotes is rightfully considered to be a “big no”.
- Don’t rely on reposting
Reposting is a common bane on Reddit and involves sharing the content of any type, pictures, gifs, videos previously shared by the original poster on another subreddit. In other words, it’s stealing to get upvotes.
In a few cases, the content is reposted to multiple subreddits if it’s extremely important for all, and the more people see it, the better. But in the vast majority of cases, it’s a dishonest way of obtaining Karma points.
- Don’t spam with useless comments
Comments in threads are a perfect place to help the OP (original poster), give advice, joke around, provide some tips. Users share links and provide valuable insights here.
You can use the comment section to your advantage and write helpful answers with a link to your website.
However…sometimes people just share the link. Comments like these are immensely annoying and bring no value to the discussion. They are typically removed by moderators and will likely lead to a shadowban (more on that in a bit).
Karma is a Redditor’s score determined by the number of upvotes against downvotes their posts and comments received. In other words, Karma is essentially the reflection of the user’s reputation and a trustworthiness indicator.
Some subreddits don’t allow submitting content if one’s Karma score is low. That’s why it’s crucial to spend some time surfing the subreddits, understanding the rules, types of content welcomed in each of your target communities, and contributing helpful and interesting content.
It’s a common mistake among new users to rush into posting with no Karma and include links on top of that. If you do that, there’s a very high chance that your post won’t pass the moderation and will be deleted.
And here comes the shadowbanning that we mentioned earlier. It implies that the posts you submit are visible only to you. Shadowban is used to filter out promotional posts and comments that are made solely for self-advertising purposes.
Marketing on Reddit: Some ground rules
Keep in mind that each subreddit is a close-knit community protective of its habits, rules, and culture. The one thing communities have in common is the absolute hatred towards those whose sole purpose is self-promotion.
Imagine it as a gathering of friends discussing things they like, and that one guy suddenly starts to preach about some irrelevant business and its benefits. It’ll obviously annoy everyone and get your profile banned.
Let’s take a look at how to approach marketing on Reddit the right way:
- Grow your Karma by submitting useful content
Learn the ins and outs of every subreddit and contribute content people of the subreddit like to see. The more engaging, useful content you post, the more Karma you’ll generate.
The sure-bet subreddits to grow your Karma are r/aww – for cute pics of animals (no one downvotes these), r/AskReddit – where you can ask literally about anything and everything, or r/explainlikeimfive/ – a helpful and friendly community that rarely downvotes even the most absurd questions.
Remember that your submission history is visible to everyone, and some Redditors make it their point to go through the entire submission history of the person to see if there’s a hint of them being an advertiser.
- Once again, don’t go crazy with placing links
It’s not a commonly known fact, but only one in ten of your submissions can contain a link to look natural and be accepted – the rest should be contributed without any links, be it posts or comments.
This ratio is directed at making you contribute more than you take, keeping the benefit of the community above all else. If you exceed this ratio, you’ll be immediately suspected of self-promotion and get a shadowban.
Long story short, be a friendly neighbor and not a salesperson.
Marketing on Quora and Reddit takes a lot of time and effort, but the benefits for SEO (in terms of increased traffic to your website and backlink portfolio diversification), brand awareness, and ultimately sales boost are equally impressive.
Given the extent of work, competence, and resources needed for successful marketing on these platforms, even experienced marketers leave this task to experienced professionals like Crowdo, who offer a standalone Quora and Reddit Promotion Service.
That being said, hopefully, you’ve just discovered two unexplored marketing channels and got a hint of how to approach them wisely!
The post Quora and Reddit: Powerhouses for SEO and marketing in 2021 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Apple announced a batch of accessibility features at WWDC 2021 that cover a wide variety of needs, among them a few for people who can’t touch or speak to their devices in the ordinary way. With Assistive Touch, Sound Control and other improvements, these folks have new options for interacting with an iPhone or Apple Watch.
We covered Assistive Touch when it was first announced, but recently got a few more details. This feature lets anyone with an Apple Watch operate it with one hand by means of a variety of gestures. It came about when Apple heard from the community of people with limb differences — whether they’re missing an arm, or unable to use it reliably, or anything else — that as much as they liked the Apple Watch, they were tired of answering calls with their noses.
The research team cooked up a way to reliably detect the gestures of pinching one finger to the thumb, or clenching the hand into a fist, based on how doing them causes the watch to move — it’s not detecting nervous system signals or anything. These gestures, as well as double versions of them, can be set to a variety of quick actions. Among them is opening the “motion cursor,” a little dot that mimics the movements of the user’s wrist.
Considering how many people don’t have the use of a hand, this could be a really helpful way to get basic messaging, calling and health-tracking tasks done without needing to resort to voice control.
Speaking of voice, that’s also something not everyone has at their disposal. Many of those who can’t speak fluently, however, can make a bunch of basic sounds, which can carry meaning for those who have learned — not so much Siri. But a new accessibility option called “Sound Control” lets these sounds be used as voice commands. You access it through Switch Control, not audio or voice, and add an audio switch.
The setup menu lets the user choose from a variety of possible sounds: click, cluck, e, eh, k, la, muh, oo, pop, sh and more. Picking one brings up a quick training process to let the user make sure the system understands the sound correctly, and then it can be set to any of a wide selection of actions, from launching apps to asking commonly spoken questions or invoking other tools.
For those who prefer to interact with their Apple devices through a switch system, the company has a big surprise: Game controllers, once only able to be used for gaming, now work for general purposes as well. Specifically noted is the amazing Xbox Adaptive Controller, a hub and group of buttons, switches and other accessories that improves the accessibility of console games. This powerful tool is used by many, and no doubt they will appreciate not having to switch control methods entirely when they’re done with Fortnite and want to listen to a podcast.
One more interesting capability in iOS that sits at the edge of accessibility is Walking Steadiness. This feature, available to anyone with an iPhone, tracks (as you might guess) the steadiness of the user’s walk. This metric, tracked throughout a day or week, can potentially give real insight into how and when a person’s locomotion is better and worse. It’s based on a bunch of data collected in the Apple Heart and Movement study, including actual falls and the unsteady movement that led to them.
If the user is someone who recently was fitted for a prosthesis, or had foot surgery, or suffers from vertigo, knowing when and why they are at risk of falling can be very important. They may not realize it, but perhaps their movements are less steady toward the end of the day, or after climbing a flight of steps, or after waiting in line for a long time. It could also show steady improvements as they get used to an artificial limb or chronic pain declines.
Exactly how this data may be used by an actual physical therapist or doctor is an open question, but importantly it’s something that can easily be tracked and understood by the users themselves.
Among Apple’s other assistive features are new languages for voice control, improved headphone acoustic accommodation, support for bidirectional hearing aids, and of course the addition of cochlear implants and oxygen tubes for memoji. As an Apple representative put it, they don’t want to embrace differences just in features, but on the personalization and fun side as well.
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As Apple hosts their annual Worldwide Developers Conference, Instagram and Facebook chose this moment to pilot their first-ever Creator Week. This three-day event is geared toward aspiring and emerging digital creators, complete with 9:45 AM virtual DJ sets and panels on “Algorithm Mythbusting” and raising “zillions for a nonprofit you care about.”
During the first day of the event, Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement introducing new ways for creators to make money. In the coming months, Instagram will start testing a native affiliate tool, which allows creators to recommend products available on checkout, share them with followers and earn commissions for sales their posts drive. When creators make these posts, the text “eligible for commission” will appear beneath their username in the same way that sponsored content labels appear.
Available immediately, creators will be able to link their shops to their personal profiles, not just business ones. By the end of the year, eligible creators in the U.S. will be able to partner with one of Instagram’s merchandise partners (Bravado/UMG, Fanjoy, Represent and Spring) to drop exclusive product launches on the app.
During live Instagram videos, viewers can tip creators by sending them a Badge, which costs between $ 0.99 and $ 4.99. Facebook Gaming has a similar feature called Stars, in which one Star is valued at $ 0.01. Starting this week, creators can earn bonuses for accomplishing certain challenges, like going live with another account. In a promotional image, for example, Facebook offers a bonus of $ 150 for creators who earn 5,000 Stars, the equivalent of $ 50.
“To help more creators make a living on our platforms, we’re going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take.”
“Our goal is to be the best platform for creators like you to make a living. And if you have an idea that you want to share with the world, you should be able to create it and get it out there easily and simply — across Facebook and Instagram — and then earn money for your work,” Zuckerberg added during Creator Week.
Creators may be drawn to experiment with these affiliate and shop features, since for now, they won’t lose a cut of their profits to Instagram. But platforms like TikTok and YouTube offer monetization strategies that extend beyond e-commerce.
Last July, TikTok announced its $ 200 million TikTok Creator Fund, which allows popular posters to earn money from their videos. It’s unclear exactly how TikTok determines how much money to dole out, but it depends on the number of views, engaged views and other factors. In August 2020, the YouTuber-turned-TikToker Hank Green estimated that he would bring home about $ 700 from 20,000,000 TikTok views in one month, averaging to about 3.5 cents per 1,000 views.
Meanwhile, YouTube announced a $ 100 million fund last month for top creators on YouTube Shorts, its TikTok competitor. The platform pointed out that over the last three years it has paid $ 30 billion to content creators. Snapchat has been paying $ 1 million per day to creators on their own TikTok competitor, Spotlight.
For users who don’t have millions of followers, these creator funds might not pay the rent. Still, it offers an income stream based on views, outside of e-commerce or viewer tips. For now, Instagram can’t say the same.
The European Union has been digging into the competition implications of AI-powered voice assistants and other Internet of Things (IoT) connected technologies for almost a year. Today it’s put out a first report discussing potential concerns that EU lawmakers say will help inform their wider digital policymaking in the coming years.
A major piece of EU legislation introduced at the back of last year is already set to apply ex ante regulations to so-called “gatekeeper” platforms operating in the region, with a list of business practice “dos and don’ts” for powerful, intermediating platforms being baked into the forthcoming pan-EU Digital Services Act.
But of course applications of technology don’t stand still. The bloc’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, has also had her eye on voice assistant AI technologies for a while — raising concerns about the challenges being posed for user choice as far back as 2019, when she said her department was “trying to figure out how access to data will change the marketplace”.
The Commission took a concrete step last July when it announced a sectoral inquiry to examine IoT competition concerns in detail.
It’s now published a preliminary report, based on polling more than 200 companies operating in consumer IoT product and services markets (in Europe, Asia and the U.S.) — and is soliciting further feedback on the findings (until September 1) ahead of a final report due in the first half of next year.
Among the main areas of potential competition concern it found are: Exclusivity and tying practices in relation to voice assistants and practices that limit the possibility to use different voice assistants on the same smart device; the intermediating role of voice assistants and mobile OSes between users and the wider device and services market — with the concern being this allows the owners of the platform voice AI to control user relationships, potentially impacting the discoverability and visibility of rival IoT services.
Another concern is around (unequal) access to data. Survey participants suggested that platform and voice assistant operators gain extensive access to user data — including capturing information on user interactions with third-party smart devices and consumer IoT services as a result of the intermediating voice AI.
“The respondents to the sector inquiry consider that this access to and accumulation of large amounts of data would not only give voice assistant providers advantages in relation to the improvement and market position of their general-purpose voice assistants, but also allow them to leverage more easily into adjacent markets,” the Commission writes in a press release.
A similar concern underlies an ongoing EU antitrust investigation into Amazon’s use of third-party merchants’ data which it obtains via its e-commerce marketplace (and which the Commission believes could be illegally distorting competition in online retail markets).
Lack of interoperability in the consumer IoT sector is another concern flagged in the report. “In particular, a few providers of voice assistants and operating systems are said to unilaterally control interoperability and integration processes and to be capable of limiting functionalities of third-party smart devices and consumer IoT services, compared to their own,” it says.
There’s nothing very surprising in the above list. But it’s noteworthy that the Commission is trying to get a handle on competitive risks — and start mulling potential remedies — at a point when the adoption of voice assistant AIs is still at a relatively early stage in the region.
In its press release, the Commission notes that usage of voice assistant tech is growing worldwide and expected to double between 2020 and 2024 (from 4.2 billion voice AIs to 8.4 billion) — although only 11% of EU citizens surveyed last year had already used a voice assistant, per cited Eurostat data.
EU lawmakers have certainly learned lessons from the recent failure of competition policy to keep up with digital developments and rein in a first wave of tech giants. And those giants of course continue to dominate the market for voice AIs now (Amazon with Alexa, Google with its eponymous Assistant and Apple’s Siri). So the risks for competition are crystal clear — and the Commission will be keen to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Still, quite how policymakers could look to tackle competitive lock-in around voice AIs — whose USP tends to be their lazy-web, push-button and branded convenience for users — remains to be seen.
One option, enforcing interoperability, could increase complexity in a way that’s negative for usability — and may raise other concerns, such as around the privacy of user data.
Although giving users themselves more say and control over how the consumer tech they own works can certainly be a good idea, at least provided the platform’s presentation of choices isn’t itself manipulative and exploitative.
There are certainly plenty of pitfalls where IoT and competition are concerned — but also potential opportunities for startups and smaller players if proactive regulatory action can ensure that dominant platforms don’t get to set all the defaults once again.
Commenting in a statement, Vestager said: “When we launched this sector inquiry, we were concerned that there might be a risk of gatekeepers emerging in this sector. We were worried that they could use their power to harm competition, to the detriment of developing businesses and consumers. From the first results published today, it appears that many in the sector share our concerns. And fair competition is needed to make the most of the great potential of the Internet of Things for consumers in their daily lives. This analysis will feed into our future enforcement and regulatory action, so we look forward to receiving further feedback from all interested stakeholders in the coming months.”
The full sectoral report can be found here.
Update: Amazon reached out to send the below statement, responding to the Commission’s report:
There is intense competition from many companies in the smart home sector. There will not, and should not, be one winner. We recognized this from the beginning and designed Alexa accordingly. Today, Alexa is compatible with over 140,000 smart home products, and we make it easy for device makers to integrate Alexa directly into their own products. We also founded the Voice Interoperability Initiative — now 80 companies strong — which is committed to giving customers the choice and flexibility to access multiple voice services on a single device.
Honeywell, which only recently announced its entry into the quantum computing race, and Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQ), which focuses on building software for quantum computers, today announced that they are combining Honeywell’s Quantum Solutions (HQS) business with Cambridge Quantum in the form of a new joint venture.
Honeywell has long partnered with CQ and invested in the company last year, too. The idea here is to combine Honeywell’s hardware expertise with CQ’s software focus to build what the two companies call “the world’s highest-performing quantum computer and a full suite of quantum software, including the first and most advanced quantum operating system.”
The merged companies (or ‘combination,’ as the companies’ press releases calls it) expect the deal to be completed in the third quarter of 2021. Honeywell Chairman and CEO Darius Adamczyk will become the chairman of the new company. CQ founder and CEO Ilyas Khan will become the CEO and current Honeywell Quantum Solutions President Tony Uttley will remain in this role at the new company.
The idea here is for Honeywell to spin off HQS and combine it with CQC to form a new company, while still playing a role in its leadership and finances. Honeywell will own a majority stake in the new company and invest between $ 270 and $ 300 million. It will also have a long-term agreement with the new company to build the ion traps at the core of its quantum hardware. CQ’s shareholders will own 45% of the new company.
“The new company will have the best talent in the industry, the world’s highest-performing quantum computer, the first and most advanced quantum operating system, and comprehensive, hardware-agnostic software that will drive the future of the quantum computing industry,” said Adamczyk. “The new company will be extremely well positioned to create value in the near-term within the quantum computing industry by offering the critical global infrastructure needed to support the sector’s explosive growth.”
The companies argue that a successful quantum business will need to be supported by large-scale investments and offer a one-stop shop for customers that combines hardware and software. By combining the two companies now, they note, they’ll be able to build on their respective leadership positions in their areas of expertise and scale their businesses while also accelerate their R&D and product roadmaps.
“Since we first announced Honeywell’s quantum business in 2018, we have heard from many investors who have been eager to invest directly in our leading technologies at the forefront of this exciting and dynamic industry – now, they will be able to do so,” Adamczyk said. “The new company will provide the best avenue for us to onboard new, diverse sources of capital at scale that will help drive rapid growth.”
CQ launched in 2014 and now has about 150 employees. The company raised a total of $ 72.8 million, including a $ 45 million round, which it announced last December. Honeywell, IBM Ventures, JSR Corporation, Serendipity Capital, Alvarium Investments and Talipot Holdings invested in this last round — which also means that IBM, which uses a different technology but, in many ways, directly competes with the new company, now owns a (small) part of it.
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