Learning about streaming, Part 2: ubiquitous streaming from the cloud

A few blog posts ago, I wrote about streaming and tried to clarify what this involves. One of the upcoming digital trends of 2011 is cloud-based streaming of music. Good examples of this new trend are Apple’s iCloud service and Amazon’s Cloud Drive, but also the likes of Spotify, Pandora and Google are now very active in this area (see overview below).

I’m sure that this field will further evolve in 2011 with existing providers solidifying this revenue stream and new providers jumping the bandwagon. These are some of the things that I have learned so far about music streaming:

  1. The service – On-demand streaming is all about delivering tracks and albums, providing users with easy access to online music across a number of platforms (web, mobile). With the cloud component, there’s also the option of user storing all their music. Apple’s iCloud for instance scans all of user’s music (including digital downloads not through iTunes) and matches it with the music catalogue in the iTunes Store and automatically stores it in iCloud.
  2. The business model – This kind service is either free (totally free or to an extent), supported by advertising or a paid-for model (with users subscribing to the service and providers offering basic and premium packages).
  3. Changed consumer behaviour? – I guess the long-term success of music streaming will very much  depend on whether consumers are happy to pay just for access to music (instead of downloading and owning the music). A recent US survey found that that more than half of respondents preferred to purchase music files online, the top way of consuming music.Only 13% of online music consumers preferred to pay for online streaming (see survey results below). Another recent survey indicated that streaming services discourages music purchasing, which is the kind behaviour that might well only apply to those converted to music streaming and access.

Main learning point: it will be interesting to see how providers of music streaming services will shape their business models to generate sustainable revenue from streaming. In terms of consumer uptake, will it be case of only select group of people willing to pay for streaming and the large majority of users to stick with free music (streaming)?

Profile of Select Cloud-Based Digital Music Services , 2011

Method of Purchasing or Listening to Music According to US Online Music Consumers, Sep 2011 (% of respondents)

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Pinterest – Another social media miracle?

Over the last couple of months Pintrest seem to have become talk of the town in social media land and has been hailed as the latest great social media success. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that lets you organise and share are all the things that you are interested in.

A simple example of how Pinterest works is the picture of a model wearing some summery looking dress that a user saw on a fashion site and pinned to the “i’d wear that” board on Pinterest. Comments by other users on this ‘pin’ vary from “such a cute dress” to “It looks like the brand is Dahlia. If I find it, I will post a link.”

I came across this infographic which is meant to give marketeers and business a whole load of compelling reasons as to why Pinterest should be part of their social media strategy. I know I’m not a marketeer but I wasn’t convinced by the majority of stats included in this infographic. However, two metrics in there did intrigue me. Firstly, the enormous increase in unique visitors – nearly 3,000% – since Pinterest launch in May 2011 and, secondly, Pinterest’s steady increase in referral traffic percentages, especially compared to its much more established peers like LinkedIn and YouTube.

This is what I make of Pinterest:

  1. It’s all about sharing – When I first spotted a pinned image of very expensive looking velocity wood grain bike wheels, I wondered who on earth would be interested in this. I quickly learned that a decent number of people on Pinterest are interested; this image of bike wheels got 54 repins and 32 likes.
  2. Don’t forget about the discovery element though – The bike wheels were pinned on a board by a Pinterest user who is clearly passionate about bicycles, evidenced by the 81 pinned images all to do with bikes (varying from bike saddles to helmets). The board appeals to a significant target audience,  given the nearly 200,000 followers of this particular board.
  3. It’s not about people, it’s about things – Compared to Facebook, THE benchmark of social media success, Pinterest is a lot less about sharing experiences with your friends but much more about sharing and discovering ‘things’ with or through people who have similar interest in common. Pinterest is clearly doing really well in allowing users to build interest or communities around objects of their liking.
  4. A welcome tool for consumer brands? It feels like a bit of a deja-vu when you see sites like Mashable and ReadWriteWeb talking about “how businesses are using Pinterest’ or ‘5 ways to use Pinterest to boost your consumer engagement.” Suggestions like creating brand contests or using Pinterest to sound out customers on products; we have seen and heard it all before. I feel that this will eventually dilute the appeal of Pinterest to users who come to it because they are genuinely interested in something specific and wish to discover more or to share this passion and not be bombarded by all kinds of nifty marketing campaigns instead.
  5. Will Pinterest continue to grow at such an incredible pace? The question arises how scalable Pinterest is; so far its growth has been very rapid, but will continue to grow at the same pace? A recent ComScore study showed that 80% of Pinterest activity is by women. I guess the question with these kinds of early social media successes is whether it will reach ‘critical mass’, i.e. a significant number of users and degree of regular user activity to make it a viable business success like Facebook or LinkedIn. In other words: will the novelty soon wear off?
Main learning point: apart from the seemingly phenomenal early success, it is interesting to see that Pinterest is already showing showing some of the symptoms that have been associated with other social media wonders. Warning signs like consumer brands jumping the bandwagon need to be taken seriously, just as much as Pinterest making sure that it continues to grow at a sustainable pace without alienating its early adopters and ‘pin enthusiasts.’ Despite these things to be aware of, I feel that Pinterest has got the right ingredients to become a lasting social media success.

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Slicing and dicing your online receipts

Do you know that feeling when you have gone a bit crazy buying things online!? Not knowing what to do with all the receipts, delivery emails etc.? If these kinds of experiences sound familiar, Slice might be able to help you out (if you’re in the US that is – Slice is currently only available in beta in the States):

  1. Link your email inbox to Slice – Users can link their inbox to Slice and all your purchase notifications will automatically be picked up by Slice.
  2. Track your purchases – Once you’ve linked your inbox to Slice, it will processes the shopping-related emails in your inbox (e.g. order confirmations and shipping notifications) after which you can start tracking your purchases through Slice.
  3. Manage your purchases – I guess that the main selling point for Slice is that it allows you to keep a visual history of all your online purchases. I haven’t yet had a chance to test, but I can imagine that the ability to ‘slice and dice’ your receipts and order information (e.g. by date, item or status) will be very helpful to a lot of consumers.
Main learning point: I can see the potential of an online receipt aggregator and organiser like Slice. It will no doubt improve consumers’ experience of buying and tracking products or services online, and I can imagine that the underlying technology and logic that Slice uses will be of interest to large online retailers. Especially with the recent launch of its iPhone app, I can see Slice but also its competitors Lemon, Shoeboxed, Expensify and KEEBO (which also lets you scan in your physical receipts) doing really well in this marketplace. Not only will be the question be around the number of consumers subscribing to Slice and similar services but also around any of the established online retailers getting interested in the underlying logic used by these online receipt aggregators.

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