Five Takeaways from the Venture Beat Summit 2015

Some of the mobile industry’s top thought leaders gathered at the VentureBeat Mobile Summit to discuss challenges facing businesses and brands today. Five major themes emerged:

  1. There’s money buried in mobile data: Foursquare’s Steven Rosenblatt spoke about how the company has grown tremendously in the last three years simply by using mobile data to generate marketable ideas.
  2. Mobile isn’t limited to messaging: Hilton now allows its HHonors loyalty program members to check-in, choose their room, and get their room key digitally, all through their mobile device.
  3. Young people want what they want, when they want it—or else, forget it: Brian Wong, founder of Kiip, and MC Hammer stressed that mobile must align with the right moments to capture young consumers and satisfy their immediate wants and needs.
  4. Measurement is essential: Jeremy Wascksman of Zillow stated that the company now has more data scientists and economists than performance marketers because of the intense need to uncover mobile attribution.
  5. Omni-channel provides consumer insights for both big and small companies: Amielle Lake, co-founder and current CRO of Tagga, explained how smaller companies with lower budgets could take advantage of tracking consumer experiences through email, SMS, social engagement, mobile engagement, and websites, allowing them to compete with national chains.

YouTube’s March Towards Sophistication

With over 1 billion users, YouTube has held onto the top spot for video sharing on the Internet since its founding a decade ago. Since then, YouTube has steadily grown and matured, slowly but surely transitioning from a pure video-sharing website into a sophisticated video platform with diversified content and a corresponding monetization system.

Music has long been one of the most popular content categories on YouTube, and in fact, a mid-2012 Nielsen study reported that two-thirds of U.S. teens used YouTube as their primary choice for streaming music. Not surprisingly, YouTube has been building out its music business, beginning last February when it started promoting curated playlists in search results and culminating in YouTube Music Key, its own Spotify-like subscription-based music service in late November.

However, this newfound focus on music hasn’t stopped YouTube from diversifying its content. In fact, earlier this week, the company released a brand new family-friendly mobile app showcasing its kid-friendly content and easy parental controls. The movie rental feature it introduced back in 2011 has also been gaining traction lately, thanks to the online release of controversial movie The Interview. Moreover, it has been credited with revolutionizing modern journalism by reducing entry barriers and the video game industry by enabling streaming commentary.

YouTube is also developing a correspondingly sophisticated monetization system. Besides offering advertisers guarantees on views and chances to purchase Nielsen ratings, its unique Content ID system helps content creators and media owners monetize all videos containing copyrighted material, which accounts for over a third of the monetized views on YouTube. Recently, the company has been criticized for aggressively pushing its monetization system on users and allegedly strong-arming indie musicians into strict contracts, adding to the many growing pains for YouTube on its road to online video domination.

Newspapers Test The Waters On Instagram

While visual brands have gained traction on Instagram, newspapers have been more reluctant on the platform that boasts over 150 million users. A lack of embedded links and no form of monetization are likely the detractors so see if Instagram will begin to support these on the brink of their advertising debut. For the time being, a host of publishers like the NY and LA Times are beginning to use it for their lifestyle stories supplementing with short form video.

The Eyeballs Will Be Monetized

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Much has been made of Google’s newly-awarded Pay-per-Gaze patent for a mysterious “head mounted gaze tracking device which captures external scenes viewed by a user wearing the head mounted device,” (I wonder what they can be referring to), which would monitor the pupils of those wearing the device to infer emotion and track what ads they are looking at.

If it’s not too wild a presumption to think they are referring to Google Glass – and while there are certainly a few technicalities they need to work out first – it seems to be the obvious delivery mechanism for the patented technology.

At the Lab, we’ve been in the business of “monetizing eyeballs” for years using eye-tracking technology and other attention and emotion-detecting technologies to benchmark the ad effectiveness. With the prevalence of webcams, and the advanced sophistication of biometric software in the past year, we’ve been able to amass sample sizes in the thousands in our research studies.

Being able to do this with Glass, and gauge consumer sentiment to stimuli out in the real world, is an extremely exciting proposition for research.

Considering how invasive it is, the key is to have consumers opt in, and have a pretty good incentive to do so. We imagine just a sample of the population would participate, as in a large scale research study or Nielsen panel. Or perhaps, consumers at large will be paid to have their personal data tracked, possibly paving the way towards a data economy where consumers receive micro-payments in exchange for sharing personal data, as envisioned by Jaron Lanier in his book “Who Owns The Future?”


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DirecTV Invests in FreeWheel, Monetizes Online Content

DirecTV is making big moves towards the standardization of monetized online video content.  This week they announced their strategic investment in video ad company FreeWheel in an effort to improve monetization of its new digital platforms. FreeWheel dynamically inserts ads in on-demand and live video streams, and has already been used by such big names as AOL, ESPN, FOX, NBC and VEVO.  They also provide monetization rights management technology, ensuring the right content providers are paid for the monetization of their streamed shows.