Music Sales Down, But Streaming Is Up

It’s a good time for music streaming services, but not necessarily the industry in general.

Subscription services such as Spotify and Pandora have seen a general increase in its listener base, while the general music industry revenue managed to drop down 3.9 percent in the last year.

The global revenue for the industry managed to total $15 billion, but even with that large amount of money, it’s still shown a drop. Meanwhile, digital revenue through streaming sites showed quite an increase, soaring 51 percent and passing the $1 billion mark for the first time, according to a report put together by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Meanwhile, in Japan, an even sharper drop of 16.7 percent in worldwide recording industry revenue was reported, between establishing digital services and declining CD sales. Still, the report suggests it could have been much worse.

“Even accounting for the difficult situation in Japan, the global recording industry is in a positive phase of its development,” said Frances Moore, CEO at London-based IFPI. “Revenues in most major markets have returned to growth. Streaming and subscription services are thriving.”

Source: Adage

Analyst: Record Q1 iPhone Sales

Apple continues to make huge strides when it comes to iPhone sales, according to new statistics from data compiled by Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty.

Her “AlphaWise” smartphone tracker report indicates that the company is on its way to shipping 42 million iPhones during the first quarter of 2014, trumping a previous record of 37.4 million iPhones, which was set last year.

The demand for iPhones continues to be quite strong in nearly all geographical regions, with main interest stemming from special promotions held through certain carriers.

The only country that seems to be in the negative is China. Although exact numbers weren’t reported, Apple has seen its fair share of struggles in that country, even with launching the new iPhone 5s/5c devices last year. A partnership with China Mobile as a partner is offsetting the loss a little bit, but not enough to turn the results positive just yet.

Source: Mac Rumors

WeChat Savors Huge User Base

While WhatsApp continues to be the world’s leading messaging app with over 450 million active users, its rival, WeChat, isn’t too far behind.

Tencent released its latest earnings report this week, indicating that the combined monthly active users between the domestic WeChat app and its Chinese counterpart Weixin have reached 355 million active users by the end of 2013. That’s a 121 percent year-on-year increase, and also a six percent rise from quarter-on-quarter.

While Tencent didn’t provide a breakdown of where users were active depending on region, it did report that it doubled its international reach to 100 million users within a three-month span last year. For good measure, it also passed 100 million downloads through Google Play earlier this year.

No doubt those numbers will continue to rise, making it an even closer race between WeChat and WhatsApp.

Source: The Next Web

‘The Last Of Us’ Wins More Awards

After winning several other awards through BAFTA and DICE – not to mention selling over six million units at retail – Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us continued to clean house this week at the 14 annual Game Developers Choice Awards in San Francisco.

The game took home three awards out of the five it was nominated for, including Game of the Year, Best Design and Best Narrative.

In addition, some indie favorites also won big at the event this week. The Fullbright Company’s Gone Home won Best Debut, while the quirky Papers, Please managed to win Innovation Award and Best Downloadable Game. Kerbal Space Program managed to win the Audience Award as well.

Source: Polygon

Browser Gaming Supercharged

There’s plenty of buzz about virtual reality at this year’s GDC, with the Oculus Rift introducing a new development version of the headset, Sony’s Project Morpheus VR headset, and Sulon Technologies introducing a headset. It’s not at all clear that VR headsets costing hundreds of dollars will ever become a large gaming market. Another technology announcement at GDC, one that’s been largely ignored by the gaming press, is likely to have a far bigger impact on the gaming business in the years ahead.

The Khronos Group, a non-profit consortium with over 120 members (including some of the largest tech companies) announced several major updates to their APIs, including OpenGL ES 3.1, WebCL 1.0, SYCL 1.2, Open CL 2.0, and EGL 1.5. It’s a lot of alphabet soup and detailed technical specs for programmers, but the important part is what this will do for browser-based games on desktop and mobile systems: Provide near-native performance for browser-based games in a way that’s easy to program. In other words, games running in a browser could deliver nearly the same graphics or 3D performance as a game written for that platform.

Already OpenGL is used daily in over 1.5 billion devices, according to Khronos Group. It’s the most widely used API by an order of magnitude. This latest update enables many more features of current processors out there, and brings a number of desktop features to mobile devices. Such things as physics simulations will become easier and more powerful on mobile with the adoption of this new standard. Core game engines like Unity, Unreal and others will be adopting these standards, and other Khronos Group members like ARM, Google, Samsung, and others are expected to follow.

This is the breakthrough that HTML 5 has been waiting for. We’ve heard for years about games being written in HTML 5, meaning they would be able to run on any mobile device or desktop without any need to port the code. The problem has always been the limited performance of HTML 5, which even on the most powerful devices limited games to very simple graphics — and even those often weren’t as smooth as could be. Now, using these new APIs, HTML 5 games could be performing like they were written specifically for the device. Games using fast action and 3D graphics could be run right from the browser with no extra effort.

There’s some other attractions for game developers in these announcements. The SYCL spec allows the use of all C++ tools for OpenCL, meaning programmers can immediately use all the tools they are familiar with to create games for a variety of platforms. The WebCL spec gives programmers access to all of the hardware — CPUs, GPUs, DSPs, and other such processors — in order to optimize computing power in a given device. That’s especially useful in a mobile device, where you can efficiently use all of the horsepower in service to creating a great game experience.

Still, it’s not all as easy as that. Browsers will have to be revised to incorporate these standards, so it won’t happen right away. And the dark cloud on the horizon is that in some cases it may not happen at all, or in a very limited fashion. Why Consider the situation on iOS devices. Right now, if you want to have a game appear on iOS, it has to be an app which is sold in Apple’s App Store. Apple takes 30 percent of the price, and 30 percent of any future in-game transactions. If, however, you could create your game in HTML 5 and anyone on an iOS device could get to it via the Safari browser, Apple wouldn’t get any share of the revenue. Clearly, Apple has a strong incentive to keep browser games crippled on iOS, which they can do simply by not adding these new capabilities to Safari.

“That is a dynamic,” admitted Neil Trevett, President of the Khronos Group and also a vice-president at Nvidia, when the [a]list daily questioned him about it. “The one developer that’s not as into WebGL and exposing it to developers is Apple. I think in the end the Web is the one platform that no vendor can really bet against.” Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research agreed. “The other aspect is it’s also the gateway to cloud data. You can’t hold all the data on your phone, and you have to go somewhere to get it. How are you going to get it there They’re not going to have any choice.”

Apple just introduced an 8GB version of the iPhone 5C in certain countries, allowing them to reduce the retail price by $50 or more in order to boost sales of iPhones. With only 8GB, though, the device will be far more dependent on streaming services. Getting the best performance from streaming is going to require supporting technologies like WebGL. In the long run, Apple may be forced into this support whether or not it has a damaging effect on App Store revenues.

Devices and browsers that do choose to support these new technologies will have a distinct advantage, and one that will be readily apparent to consumers as applications use the technologies to provide a better experience. Game creators need to keep a close eye on this technology, which could bring an additional 30 percent of revenue in while making games available on a huge number of devices. Trevett said that over 1.5 billion devices right now use OpenGL every day, for instance. These new standards could see similar widespread adoption, delivering a massive audience to game developers.

The impact on game finances and how games are marketed could be enormous. Game makers, HTML 5 and browser-based games may finally get their moment in the spotlight, and it could make business both easier and more lucrative.

Data And The Digital Shift

AdAge recently published an article concerning the distribution of data between marketers, agencies and Google. You can read the full version here, but the gist of it is that marketers make the obvious assertion that their first party data is highly valuable and they are reticent to share this asset with agency and publishing partners. They are wondering about the value proposition of exposing such a highly prized commodity to outside parties. Deep Focus makes the point  that agencies are great at taking existing customer data and finding new customers. Google promises that connecting a marketer’s first party data to the larger data ecosystem makes the marketer’s data more valuable.

I think this conversation is wrapped closely to the idea of barriers to entry. When TV stations dominated the media landscape only those with great means could launch a TV station or network. As media has become democratized any person with a voice and an idea has the opportunity to become their own media channel. The barrier to entry has been dramatically lowered to almost nothing.

In parallel media agencies have been important to marketers because they knew how to manage the complicated TV landscape through a strategic approach and economies of scale. As digital evolved into several disciplines and became a standard on the media plan the marketer’s in-house groups began to understand more about the medium. With the innovations collectively organized through ad tech and the programmatic approach barriers to entry to forge a direct path to consumers have dropped significantly.

We are seeing a shift into the digitalization of all media, in some way or another affecting TV, print, radio and OOH. Principles from the digital media ecosystem are becoming the characteristics of all media. Examples include the dynamic stratification of media, price discrimination and the rapid deployment and testing of data to derive performance.

All this is to say that it is easier than ever for marketers of a certain size to create in-house media strategy and activation practices. Data is a critical part of the decision making process.  It is a valuable asset and it is owned in-house at the marketer. Thus the first party ownership of data becomes an important catalyst for the move to an in-house media buying practice. With data being such a big opportunity for marketers, you can see how the activation of data almost takes precedent over the activation of media. In other words, the activation of media is really the acute activation of the right data, which then re-informs the decisioning process as new data is collected.

The points that Google and Deep Focus make about tying in-house data to the larger data ecosystem and finding new prospects are poignant. However, the programmatic approach makes it easier, and thus more likely that advertisers will continue to build agency-like (or agency-lite) in house media activation / data activation practices.

We are seeing the astute marketer create in-house programmatic media practices. Some examples of this include Netflix, Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, 1-800 Flowers, Electronic Arts and Guthy-Renker. Data is benefitting from the move toward automated activation, so data becomes another programmatically handled aspect of marketing, much like media is. So, I think to win the future (referencing Larry Page’s discussion at TED) marketers have to prepare for the continuing onslaught of data.  Matt Webb, CEO of BERG, in a recent Business Insider report about the Internet of Things (IoT), shares the following quote: “Connecting products to the Web will be the 21st century electrification.”  We are on path to generate and collect data from connected homes, cars, wearable devices (like my favorite the Jawbone Up), Connected TVs and who knows what else.  We’ll see smart offices, factories and cities. By 2018 there will be 19B connected devices globally.  Imagine what that number will be 10 years from now. It’s clear that data is valuable. There is more data and more variety data. The consequence is a future where data illuminates a (close to) real time view of our consumers and their usage habits.

Some marketers will create their own data and expand their data practice. Others will continue to forge strategic partnerships for data sharing co-ops; i.e. collecting second party data. We are still in the early stages of data application for media use in my opinion. As with any new technologies, methods or practices, those companies who get to practice early will generate a level of competency that will grow exponentially as time moves forward.

Image Source: Exchange Wire

Kicking Off ‘FIFA World Cup 2014’

While World Cup 2014 isn’t quite here yet, you can sate your appetite for the greatest soccer competition in the world with EA Sports’ latest FIFA game. This trailer sets an appropriately celebratory mood, featuring the song The World Is Ours by David Correy, the official Coca-Cola anthem of the brand’s World Cup 2014 campaign.


‘Peanuts’ in 3D for the First Time

The whole cast of the Peanuts comic strip is returning to the big screen for the first time in over 30 years. This time, the crew will be depicted in 3D in what looks to be a loving homage to Charles Schulz’s creation.



‘Breach & Clear’ Kicks the Door Down

Mighty Rabbit and Gun Media have a fancy trailer to celebrate Breach & Clear‘s release on the Steam platform. Using imagery that’d be right at home for a Tom Clancy title, they convey the major bullet points of the title, which is coming soon to Windows, Mac and Linux.


Role Reversal For Sexy Ads

BuzzFeed has put out a new video titled “If Women’s Roles in Ads Were Played By Men” swapping the gender for GoDaddy, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. and Doritos ads. The visual imagery is compelling, showing in nigh shot-for-shot reshoots why the cinematography is ridiculous to begin with, not unlike what the Hawkeye Initiative does for comics.