The Connected Home – The New Frontier for Advertisers and Subscription Services?

Content brought to you by Joseph Sanborn, Managing Director and Head of Technology, Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc. (JEGI)            

My dream of being treated as king of the castle in my home may finally become a reality, as connected devices offer the potential for a very friendly 24/7 concierge to pamper me as if I were a guest in a luxury hotel… but it will all come at the price of potential loss of privacy and more monthly bills.

One of the more recent noteworthy deals was Samsung Electronics’ acquisition of SmartThings for a rumored $200 million. SmartThings is a home automation company with the vision of “making everyday objects around us do more to make our lives better.” The SmartThings hub enables a simple mobile phone app to connect with a variety of sensors that are deployed around the home to monitor everything from temperature and water leaks to lighting and appliance controls—it can even let parents know when their children are at home or some repairman is napping in the den.

The Samsung deal follows Google’s move earlier this year to acquire Nest Labs, a maker of “smart” thermostats and smoke alarms for homes, for $3.2 billion. As competition heats up to be “the platform” for the connected home, expect to see a real debate about who owns the data, as well as wildly divergent views on how advertisers can, or should be allowed to reach homeowners in their homes. How much will advertisers pay, for example, to know when a consumer’s refrigerator is almost empty or the patterns of when and why one is going to the store?  And who will determine whether advertisers are allowed to have access to this data?  Will consumer product goods companies and large Internet players (like Google and Yahoo) be willing to subsidize appliance purchases by consumers, in exchange for access to this data?  

The rise of the connected home will also enable companies to offer a wide range of new services to consumers. In January, for example, Samsung’s CEO BK Yoon stated bold ambitions for the connected home at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: “Imagine getting a health check from your doctor through your TV. Imagine your family watching a TV show in the living room while you cook…this is streamed directly to a screen on your kitchen appliance. Imagine taking a call from your refrigerator without picking up your smartphone. These are all glimpses into the home of the future.”

If a consumer is already willing to pay $7.99 a month for Netflix and $29.99/month for home security, it is not hard to envision a family paying a subscription fee to have virtual wellness visits for their children or remote management services for maintaining their home network.    

Once the home is “connected,” we can expect “smart technology” to help us communicate with our home in a “Siri-like” way. Companies in this space will face a major challenge in attracting and retaining top engineering talent to develop the applications consumers will need to easily interact with their connected homes. To that point, two of the six acquisitions completed by Google this past month—Jetpac and Emu—were primarily acqui-hires of teams with artificial intelligence and related experience.

Jetpac focuses on “deep learning” technology, an emerging field in machine learning research. It leads to artificial intelligence by leveraging photos and other sensors to help applications learn more about their environment and users. Emu, a new mobile messaging application, incorporates a virtual assistant to automate tasks based on contextually understanding your conversations (e.g., scheduling appointments to your calendar, setting reminders, making restaurant reservations, etc.). Not surprisingly, the technology behind both companies had deep Silicon Valley ties to Google and Apple (in the case of Emu).

Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss any topics related to JEGI’s Tech Coverage or your company’s M&A strategy.

Understanding Your Audience’s Habits and Needs

Who are your readers? Who is your audience? And are you talking to and monitoring them enough? Alison Gow, editor of digital innovation at Trinity Mirror Regionals in the U.K., has some answers.

“I think newsrooms [or publishers] have taken a long time to move from talking about readers (as in, people invested in what we produce) to audience (as in, the potential pool of people who we could attract),” Gow (pictured here) told WAN IFRA’s World News Publishing Focus. “Taking it down a further layer to thinking of individual behaviours within that mass is the next step.”

Gow believes we are “hung up” on platforms and responsive design. “I agree that design is important, but actually, understanding our audiences is more important,” she said. “Fail at that, and your platform can be as beautiful and responsive as possible—but it will be a vacuum.”

Last week, Matt Bailey, an author and speaker on the subject, told me something similar: “Analytics is the heart of marketing; it’s where you learn. So many companies don’t ask that next question or they may not be talking to [their audience] correctly.”

Gow said that we often look at “our readers” or “the audience” as an entity. “An audience is not a shoal. It’s comprised of individuals who do things at specific points in their day, just like we all do. Understand that, layer it into your audience data…and suddenly you start to see a much more intricate picture of who you create stories for. From that, you can learn how you should create those stories and what formats they need to be presented in.”

Call it inside-out marketing. Instead of “We’re creating this webinar or white paper on this platform for what we think our audience wants and where we think they will be,” you get, “We conducted a focus group or have studied the data and found out they want to learn this, this and that, and they’re hanging out here. Thus we’re creating a MOOC-type course, a new webinar, or a new niche community on LinkedIn based on that.”

Metered paywalls can also serve to discern audience preferences. If The New York Times allows me to read 10 articles a month, they’ll quickly know my main interests. U.K.’s The Telegraph started their paywall at 20 free articles and then reduced it to 10. “The paper probably has a much better understanding now of what triggers users to subscribe and has real-time data to support its decisions,” said Valérie Arnould, part of WAN-IFRA’s Global Advisory entity. “It is up to the Telegraph now to leverage that knowledge.”

In a wide-ranging interview with WAN IFRA, Arnould also pointed out a publisher that barely keeps the paywall in place, believing they have converted those who can be converted.

“Les Echos is a financial newspaper in France that at the end of 2012 initiated a metered model at 15 free articles and five more if the user agreed to register,” Arnould said. “It is now at five articles per month plus a few more in return for registration. In this case the loyal users are already converted and the paper is reaching for the higher-hanging fruit. It is already in its paywall 2.0 phase, in which creative offers (marketing events; special content and offers; new apps, etc.) are necessary to grow reader revenue.”

If you’re worried about an initiative being unsuccessful, Gow might scoff. “If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. Learn from it, move on,” she said. “Understand not all ideas will fly, but if you don’t experiment you’ll never succeed in doing something extraordinary. And if you’re editor of a brand with digital platforms, you have to advocate harder for online innovation and experimentation than anyone else…because everyone will be looking to you for their lead.”

Gow has been impressed by BuzzFeed for its “sticky, shareable content with their lists, and are now doing some excellent original journalism.” She also praised Quartz and for the way they portray what online audiences look for: “snappy information but also greater context and an element of discovery that leads to pleasing surprises.”

And she applauds the work of her company, Trinity Mirror, as well, for its immersive storytelling via Shorthand “In my role, I want to take live reporting and real-time content on to the next level in our newsrooms, and we have some plans for that and to bring the Internet of Things into our journalism. I also can’t wait to get Arduino workshops on a newsdesk.”

For Bailey, any steps up to that next level must involve testing. “People that test get great results and can point to why. They make time,” he said. “It comes down to ultimately creating a culture of testing. You can start small, so people can see the results [and why you are] trying to produce a data-centric culture. Before we can get anything, what does the data say?…What is a good third-party way to look at my data, to test in a low-impact, high yield way?”

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

Tips to Keep Subscribers Renewed and Feeling Special

“I think as we’re struggling to connect in this world of digital, the tendency is to flail and do a lot of one-offs and I’ve found it’s very successful to create frameworks where we can explore an ongoing relationship.”

You might think that the above quote emanated from a prominent newsletter publisher, but it came from Anya Grundmann, director and executive producer of NPR (National Public Radio) Music. She was speaking from the Next Radio Conference in London—as reported on the excellent site.

Specifically, Grundmann was talking about the ultra-successful Tiny Desk Concerts that NPR has aired since 2008. The cd-filled shelves and desk area of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen provide the intimate setting. The musicians who perform are incredibly diverse in every way, from Adele (more than 2 million views), John Legend and Nickel Creek to Suzanne Vega, Rodney Crowell and Afro Blue.

The concerts are under 20 minutes, feature a smattering of applause from NPR staff, and usually inspire you to hear more. They also add up to quite an archive. “The idea was to create ‘something spontaneous, that they won’t hear anywhere else, that feels really special’ explained Grundmann.”

Those are three pretty good goals for a digital publisher. I asked Lindsay Konzak—former vice president of content for Gale Media, frequent and popular speaker at SIPA conferences and now the founder and president of 3 Aspens Media—how she worked to achieve those goals at Modern Distribution Management, which is published by Gale.

“It would have been very easy to give in and publish the same content our competitors published day after day online,” Konzak wrote me in an email. “…but if our publication followed suit, we would become a commodity. No longer would we be able say we were worth the price of a subscription.

“That philosophy drove our editorial decisions. So while newspapers and other publications struggled to put up a paywall, we never tore ours down. We continued to up our game so that when we said we were offering content our subscribers couldn’t get anywhere else, we meant it. We started promoting our publication as ‘original, in-depth, research-based content.’

“That content included annual research on various topics, including e-commerce and the industry outlook,” Konzak continued. “Readers started to look forward to those annual updates. As a result, we were able to build relationships and trust with our readers that they didn’t have with other publications. Though we never referred to them as such, they’d often call me and say they were a ‘member’ when asking for help on something. That just goes to show how MDM has been able to make their subscribers feel as if they were in the inner circle, so to speak.”

MDM uses a number of tools to keep readers engaged and feeling special:
- Thank you cards signed by editors for subscriptions and renewals; also included is the editor’s phone extension which subscribers use;
- Renewal letters signed by the editors;
- Content enhancement. Readers would call with questions on content and be directed to one of the editors. This is a core value for MDM.
- Frequent online surveys of readers and ongoing references to that data in blog posts; they also send those survey results from an editor to all respondents.
- Editorial Advisory Board, a group of readers that participates in quarterly calls about key topics in the industry, as well as provides feedback on products;
- Extra content for premium subscribers on a monthly basis.

Those fit squarely in making your audience feel special and giving them unique content. But what about spontaneity? I’ve suggested making webinars feel more like live events rather than rehearsed readings with short Q&As. The tendency might be to become complacent because your webinars are doing well. But from what I’ve read, audiences like to know they are in a “live” setting. So stopping for a question or two early or going “off-script” would help convey that feeling.

Having one of your writers/bloggers host an online chat to follow up an article could also work. NPR tries to engage their local communities with things like an Austin Music Map. SIIA has our INFO locals. Most B2B publishers are less locally oriented although the word “community” remains something everyone strives for.

“One opportunity for spontaneity for publishers is in using social media more effectively on both the editorial and marketing fronts,” Konzak wrote. “There’s still a lot of untapped potential to use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to make surprise announcements (promos to thank your loyal followers?), push out analyses of a big news story or engage followers in a conversation. Perhaps this is more like planned spontaneity, but using these platforms as a vehicle to engage readers in a less formal way can have a big impact when done effectively.”

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.

SIIA Previews: Showcasing Innovative Companies Transforming the Information Industry

SIIA will be holding their 10th annual Previews at the Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) November 10-12 in Miami, Florida.

SIIA Previews seeks the most innovative companies who are currently transforming the information industry. Selected companies are given the opportunity to present at BIMS to over 400 leaders from the business information and media industries. Previews presenting companies present to secure funding, strategic partnerships, new customers or even an exit.

“Over the years we have seen some of the most innovative companies present at SIIA Previews,” said Larry Schwartz, Newstex President and Chairman of SIIA Previews. “We are looking forward to integrating SIPA and ABM companies into the Previews and taking the program to Miami.”

As a result of presenting at Previews several alumni have received investments or have been acquired. Over the years SIIA has featured 100+ companies during the Previews program at SIIA Conferences.

  • Pubget: was acquired by SIIA Member company Copyright Clearance Center.
  • Associated Content: closed $6 Million in Series C Funding
  • FeeDisclosure: purchased by Bankrate
  • Generate, Inc.: purchased by Dow Jones
  • Keibi Technologies: purchased by Lithium Technologies

To see the full list of Previews Alumni updates visit our Alumni page.

How to Apply:

B2B content, information and media companies (publishers, aggregators, and technology plays) with under $10M in revenue should apply to present. All SIIA Previews application submissions must be made from companies that provide content or content technology products or services, have received no more than a Series A round of financing, generate no more than $10 million in sales, and have actual customers.

Apply now.

Be sure to register for SIIA Previews by September 25. Check out our full schedule and networking opportunities. Click here if you would like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities. Stay up-to-date on BIMS news by following us on twitter #BIMS14.

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SIIA Launches Online Platforms to Connect High Tech Companies & Provide Resources on Latest News and Trends

SIIA today announced the launch of SIIA Communities. Created by the SIIA Software Division, these online forums serve as an innovative new platform for connecting and informing companies involved in the software and digital content industries.

Open to companies that are members of SIIA, these seven separate communities focus on big data, Internet of things, finance and more, while a specially-designed CEO Network community provides tools and resources to help chief executives improve effectiveness and gain competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In addition to delivering news, event information and industry updates, each SIIA Community features an ISV Connect form – which allows participating companies to request introductions to other members – as well as a resource section featuring market research and other assets submitted by SIIA or the member community. SIIA is also creating advisory boards to help develop and guide each community.

Even in this time of pervasive social platforms, many high tech leaders told us there’s no effective digital platform for staying up to date, learning, and meeting others in their fields. SIIA Communities fill this void by providing unique online sources for education, networking and news. Participants will have access to nontraditional networking opportunities, along with highly-focused, issue-specific platforms for news, research and other resources.

The following SIIA Communities were launched today:


  • Rhianna Collier is VP for the Software Division at SIIA. Follow the Software team on Twitter at @SIIASoftware.

Intellectual Property Roundup

Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks to the Supreme Court (Vox)
The practical consequences of the Supreme Court’s June ruling on the patentability of software is now coming to light as a series of decisions from lower courts show the pendulum of patent law is now swinging in an anti-patent direction.

HarperCollins Now Uses Invisible Watermarks to Combat Ebook Piracy (Slash Gear)
HarperCollins’ new tool to battle piracy involves using Digimark technology to tag their ebooks with an invisible and traceable watermark.

Alibaba Has a Major Counterfeit Problem (CNN)
Alibaba has been on a mission to rid its virtual shopping malls of counterfeit goods as it cleans house before a massive initial public offering, but industry experts and company executives say that fades skill flourish on Alibaba’s popular platforms.

Jury Finds CBS Infringes Podcasting Patent, Awards $1.3 Million (Ars Technica)
A jury in Texas found the infamous “podcasting patent” was infringed by CBS’s website and said the TV network should pay $1.3 million to patent holder Personal Audio LLC. The verdict form shows the jury found all four claims of the patent infringed, but awarded substantially less than what Personal Audio was seeking.

UK Copyright Cops Crush 34 Pirates and 3,000 Sites in First Year (Recombu)
The City of London Police’s anti-piracy squad PIPCU has arrested 34 people and shut down nearly 3,000 illegal file-sharing sites in its first year.

Keith Kupferschmid is General Counsel and SVP, Intellectual Property Policy & Enforcement at SIIA. Follow Keith on Twitter at @keithkup and sign up for the Intellectual Property Roundup weekly newsletter here.

Webcast: Drive Higher Growth Through Metrics

Tracking performance is done by most companies today. However, by successfully applying the metrics in the decision-making process, executives improve performance and efficiency.

Lauren Kelley, CEO of OPEXEngine, presents key software and SaaS industry benchmarks from OPEXEngine’s comprehensive financial and operating benchmarking report, developed in partnership with the SIIA. Learn to be effective at using numbers to change and improve performance in your company. You will take away:

  • The latest benchmarks from OPEXEngine’s eighth annual “Software and SaaS Financial Benchmarking Survey”
  • Key SaaS KPIs, their underlying drivers, and why they matter
  • How successful companies use benchmarking to identify problem areas in company performance that need focus
  • Best practices to communicate and collaborate with operating managers, executive teams and boards to drive higher performance

Listen to this webcast to learn how to capitalize on the power of “management by metrics” in your company.

Lauren Kelley

Michael Bayer
CFO, HealthWyse

Download OPEXEngine’s presentation


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