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Mary Meeker’s famous annual Internet Trends presentation was yesterday.

Although never presented very clearly (in a creative sense), this is one of the most important milestones of aggregating trend data in our industry each year.

In the next week you will see countless digital and advertising trades recutting and summarizing this data in their coverage. And insights held in this presentation will serve as a reference point throughout the rest of 2017.

Some key takeaways from a quick skim (summarized from Recode/TechCrunch/Adweek):

  • Almost everyone who wants or needs a smartphone now has one.
  • Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. Twenty percent of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016, while accuracy is now about 95 percent.
  • In 10 years, Netflix went from 0 to more than 30 percent of home entertainment revenue in the U.S. This is happening while TV viewership continues to decline.
  • Global interactive gaming is becoming mainstream, with 2.6 billion gamers in 2017 versus 100 million in 1995.
  • Wearables are gaining adoption with about 25 percent of Americans owning one, up 12 percent from 2016.
  • Ad spend on Internet will soon surpass TV, but there’s a gap in mobile ad spending that’s a $16B opportunity
  • Ad blocking, especially on mobile, continues to increase, with nearly 400 million devices using ad blockers last year. But desktop ad blocking seems to have slowed—around 240 million devices are using similar software
  • Incentive-based and skippable ads were preferred over other formats, with mobile-app pop ups and preroll ads being the least desirable.
  • User-generated ad content often performs better than branded content (up to 6.9x higher engagement)
  • YouTube is losing mobile video share, as Facebook and Snap’s short-form and vertical-video content grows

See all 355 slides in their ugly glory here.

As both a student of how humans use digital and social tools AND as a parent, this TED opinion piece by Alexandra Samuel about the different ways in which parents handle their kids’ use of technology is fascinating.

I’m an almost-40 digital native, thanks to my parents investing thousands of dollars they didn’t have on computers, dial-up service, new modems and classes for me. But how I enable my children isn’t the same, and nor is it the same for every parent and child across the globe.

My kids have grown up with their own personal iPads, a VR lab at dad’s office they can use anytime they want, and all three have YouTube channels. Meanwhile, they have many friends whose parents limit screen time. And other friends whose parents don’t let them access a single computer or video game device. We’re all over the place as a society, and this is creating new classes of kids that defy the “digital native” label that worked for Millennials.

In fact, Samuel says parents today are creating three new types of tech users: orphans, exiles and heirs…

Digital orphans have grown up with a great deal of tech access — but very little guidance. They’ve been raised by parents who’ve given them near-unlimited access to technology, yet their mothers and fathers have had few conversations with them about what they’re learning, seeing and experiencing and why it matters. So orphans might end up prioritizing online networks over face-to-face interactions, leading to shaky interpersonal skills. While they’ll probably grow into adults who feel at home on the Internet — they’ll suggest organizing cleaning duties with their roommates via a scheduling app, for example, rather than hashing it out over coffee — they might not think a lot about what kind of home they want it to be. And without reflecting on the consequences of technology, they could end up bringing some of the worst of the Internet into offline society (think: trolling, flaming), instead of actively working to elevate on- and offline life.

Digital exiles are at the opposite extreme — they’ve been raised with minimal technology. Their parents’ goal has been to limit their children’s access in order to delay their entry into the digital world until their teens, if possible — the age when kids are least likely to listen to their parents’ advice. Many exiles will throw themselves into their online lives with a vengeance, and they may struggle with finding a balanced approach to technology. They’ll become intense social networking users, as well the ones likely to get into various forms of online trouble. Other exiles, however, could continue following their parents’ lead and mature into neo-Luddites. This might lead to conflict — while society is willing to smile upon the grandparents who’ve yet to embrace texting, it’s unclear if this tolerance will extend to the young people who explicitly reject technology. Will governments and corporations be willing to offer face-to-face service options for citizens who reject digital channels ideologically? That’s the kind of question these exiles will force us to answer.

Digital heirs have impressive tech skills, thanks largely to their parents and teachers. Their adult mentors have encouraged and directed their tech education, enrolling them in classes and having conversations with them about being a responsible Internet user. By the time they go to college, they know how to build websites, and film and edit video. I believe they’ll bring this tech-savvy “maker” orientation into their consumer, social and political encounters, demanding digital and programmable products and services, like online publications that let you choose what content you’ll see (and where and when you’ll see it); products that go beyond customization into co-creation; and communities that enable citizens to create services by providing data, open online platforms and hack spaces. Due to their higher levels of tech understanding, heirs could face challenges in dealing with their less knowledgeable peers so they’ll need a little charm and flexibility to get along.

Samuel goes on to say that because how we use the Internet — what we pay attention to, what we ignore — determines the content and experience of the Internet itself, we are toward a clash of digital knowledge we haven’t yet seen.

How do you approach screen time, privacy, safety and emerging technology for your kids? Do you project those same values and assumptions on other kids? Good questions we should all be asking…

Source: Forget “digital natives.” Here’s how kids are really using the Internet –

If you haven’t bought an Echo or Google Home yet, I’m sorry but you’re an abject failure of a 2017 marketer. And I don’t mean “have you tried Alexa at the store or your friend’s house?”

I mean, “have you bought an Echo, lived with Alexa listening to you, forgot you had an Echo, left it unplugged for a week, plugged it back in and forgot about it, used it only to listen to music and then, oh and then, one day you use it for something extremely useful and IT CLICKS THAT THIS IS A COMPLETE GAME CHANGER?”

Start with an Echo Dot. It’s $50. And you won’t feel like you broke the bank when you need to upgrade later this year.

In Cory Doctorow’s new book, Walkaways, the people of the near-future have an A.I. powered home assistant that not only can order groceries or provide answers to basic questions, it also syncs with appliances, controls entertainment devices, and uses light to highlight chores that need to be completed. Which is basically possible today using the existing infrastructure of Alexa and Google Home. Of course, Doctorow throws in a working sim of your dead lover as the protagonist A.I., but that’s why it was a good novel. And not possible today. Yet.

So assuming you’ve already bought into the serendipity and early brand opportunities with these A.I.-powered assistants, it’s critical we spend some time thinking about next-gen brand opportunities. Specifically, the new Echo Show that debuted this week — featuring not only a screen, but a camera to go along with the microphone.

Chris Messina calls this The Fifth Family Member, pointing out it’s design fits a familiar invisible technology pattern. Not beautiful but not ugly. Something you buy and set-up and forget about. Until you find a few things that make it invaluable. “By reducing the importance of appearance, Amazon can emphasize function over form, keep its prices anticompetitively low, and drown the market with products that offer access to its AI voice assistant.”

Meanwhile, Scott Galloway at L2 is musing about these next-gen brand opportunities higher in the sales funnel and consumer purchase cycle than the conversion — the brand itself.

Voice…will expedite the decline of brand equity as a vehicle for sustaining healthy margins. There is an arrogance in academia and business that a focus on brand building will always be a winning strategy. No, it might not.

Of the 13 firms that have outperformed the S&P five years in a row (yes, there’s just 13), only one of them is a consumer brand — Under Armour. Note: it will be off next year’s list.

At L2 we’ve been running tests (barking commands at Alexa) to glean insight into the Seattle firm’s strategy. Some findings:

1. It’s clear that Amazon wants to drive commerce through Alexa, as they are offering a lower price, on many products, if ordered via voice vs. click.

2. In key categories like batteries, Alexa will suggest Amazon Basics, their private label, and play dumb about other choices (“Sorry, that’s all I found!”) when there are several other brands on

Retailers often leverage their power and custody of the consumer to swap out brands for their own private label. That’s nothing new. Only we’ve never seen any retailer this good at it.

Death, for brands, has a name … Alexa.

Source: “Alexa, How Can We Kill Brands?” | No Mercy No Malice | Scott Galloway | L2



Will voice-enabled devices and ordering kill brands? No.

But they will certainly impact how the public interacts with them. Especially commodity products and those that aren’t unique enough in marketplace ecosystem to stand out (ie. the battery example above).

All the more reason to jump in and start familiarizing and experimenting with this space now.

As new smart devices continue to emerge and as consumers embrace new, more natural ways to interact with those devices (like voice commands), the micro-moment behaviors mobile kick-started will only multiply.

And as data and machine learning become more sophisticated in enhancing everyday consumer experiences, the expectations for relevant, personalized, and assistive experiences will continue to skyrocket.

We’re heading toward an age of assistance where, for marketers, friction will mean failure, and mass messages will increasingly mean “move on.”

Source: Micro-Moments Are Multiplying—Are You Ready for the Future of Marketing? – Think with Google

I’m only at 354 of 975 total pages of the digital copy of Cory Doctorow’s new book, Walkway.

Yet I’m highly enjoying the paradox between the haves and have nots, impacted mostly by those who are excited about thinking differently and embracing new technology — and those who are not.

Here’s how one of his characters classifies this natural resistance to change in the book…

“Anything invented before you were eighteen was there all along.

Anything invented before you’re thirty is exciting and will change the world forever.

Anything invented after that is an abomination and should be banned.”

–Excerpt From Cory Doctorow’s “Walkaway.”

To be clear, this isn’t how I think. But it’s how a lot of people think — consciously or not.

As a student of how people are influenced, this topic fascinates me. Looking forward to finishing Walkway soon…

I love studying retail ups and downs, and the fact you can still go walk around a Sears or Kmart today while they decline is a special, real-time gift for those of us in retail marketing to witness an unprecedented decline in this brick and mortar legacy.

If you haven’t lately, I highly recommend you spend a Saturday afternoon just walking through your local shopping mall and be sure to walk through the Sears anchor — if there still is one. I call it “The Prescient Marketer’s Field Trip.”

It’s not that I’m rooting for these companies to fail. It’s that I’m energized at disrupting, and then self-disrupting once you’re on top. And today we can see the real-world impact of category disruption at work more clearly than in recent decades.

Be sure to stop at the Payless Shoe Store, too.

Once, Sears was the disruptor—not the disrupted.

When the Sears catalog first appeared on doorsteps in the 1890s, it fundamentally changed how Americans shopped. Back then, much of the population lived in rural areas, and they bought almost everything from little shops at rural junctions. These general stores had limited selection and charged exorbitant prices. They were the only game in town.

“The Sears catalog had an even bigger impact in 1900 than Amazon has had today,” said Robert Gordon, a professor at Northwestern University and author of The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Like today’s e-commerce powerhouse, the Sears catalog provided shoppers more choice than ever before, and at lower prices. Sears freed shoppers from the tyranny of the local general merchant and improved their living standards.

“The cost of living went down the minute Sears became available,” said Gordon.

Searching for parallels of Sears’s fall through business history, Gordon could find none.  “There is nothing like the decline of Sears and Kmart,” he said.

Source: The Long, Hard, Unprecedented Fall of Sears – Bloomberg

Meanwhile, we’re seeing innovative retailers expanding their offering beyond straight retail. In fact, I have a client who is treating their shopping mall experience as a destination in some really smart ways. And this is why the Scheels taking over the Sears footprint at my local mall will have a 65 foot tall indoor ferris wheel and 16,000 gallon aquarium…

“Unlike a typical sporting good store or department store, the new Eden Prairie Scheels will be a collection of entertainment venues, specialty shops and boutiques staffed with experts who focus on their passions. The 240,000-square-foot Scheels Retail Shopping Adventure will showcase Minnesota’s largest selection of sports, fashion and footwear under one roof,” according to a news release.


What American shopping malls looked like in 1989


Abandoned Malls Look Like Sad, Empty Video Games

“Playlists are Spotify’s answer to product innovation,” – industry analyst Mark Mulligan.

Source: The Secret Hit-Making Power of the Spotify Playlist

And the results are fascinating

Source: Superintelligence and Public Opinion – NewCo Shift

My friend Tim Brunelle recently gave a speech on creativity and the age of A.I. and automation. He wrote a 11 min read Medium piece on it that is so rich and full of quotes, it takes a couple reads through to realize its breadth and impact.

For starters, I love his point about how idea people are agitators that can be perceived as troublemakers. This is something I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past few years…


As Idea People, we are also agitators.

I’ll paraphrase Robert Grudin, who describes us in his book The Grace of Great Things, “Many [Idea People] initially are seen as troublemakers simply because their vigorous and uncompromising analysis exposes problems that previously had been ignored.”

Grudin warns that, “Creativity is dangerous. We cannot open ourselves to new insight without endangering the security of prior assumptions. Creative achievement”—and that’s what I believe all of us Idea People are all about — “Creative achievement is… an adventure. It’s pleasure is not the comfort of the safe harbor, but the thrill of the reaching sail.”

So onward we sail.

Tim goes on to discuss the problem of A.I. and automation stealing our jobs, and then his simple premise that rather than resist and fight it, we should learn how to enhance our own creativity using these new tools..

So I’m curious — what if you editors, you publishers, writers and designers thought of yourselves as technologists? How might your product evolve, what new products would emerge — from curious Idea People seeking to apply the benefits of AI to the sustained, periodic shipment of words, images and motion to subscribers?

I must admit I am not a scientist. I am not a software developer. I can’t spool up an artificial intelligence on Amazon Web Services. But I can ask questions and I can learn. In learning about AI and automation I’ve found I am not afraid of the future of Idea People. I’m bullish on our abilities to derive opportunity from the evolution of technology.

I believe the long term, passionate, purposeful thinkers in this room will discover unique, robust and profitable ways to benefit from automation and artificial intelligence. If we remain curious.

I think this is cogent advice for anyone in the creative industry or a role that requires any semblance of problem solving. Embracing emerging technology and learning to use it today pays long-term dividends.

Don’t fight the A.I. Become it’s master. 


“The AI neither hates you, nor loves you, but you are made out of atoms that it can use for something else.”

–Eliezer Yudkowsky, A.I. theorist