Power Off: Voluum

Ahead of MWC, we asked Voluum MD Gavin Stirrat what he expected to see and hear at the show. As it drew to a close, we asked him how closely it had met his expectations

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Google Highlights Accelerated Mobile Pages in Search Results

AMP Accelerated Mobile PagesGoogle has begun to highlight web pages in its search results that make use of its Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) simplified HTML coding, which aims to reduce load times and provide a more seamless browsing experience for web users.

The open source project, which was announced by Google in October last year, mirrors Facebook’s Instant Articles technology and hopes to dramatically improve load times for websites that make host a lot of rich content (or have a heavy amount of ad tech integrated).

The project is a response to some of the most common complaints by ad-blocking advocates, who have argued for the adoption of content blockers based on how advertising technology can slow down load times, especially on browsers relying on a cellular data connection.

The technology launched last week, and from today, mobile search results that include AMP-enabled pages will include a label and tiny green lightning bolt icon, much in the same way Google already highlights “mobile friendly” websites. Among those already making use of the AMP coding are the New York Times, BuzzFeed, the BBC, ABC News, the Financial Times, Vox Media, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek.

At the moment, AMP is focused on accelerating news sites, with a carousel-style display at the top of search results similar to when searches produce Twitter results. While Google is doubtless eager to get websites to adopt this new technology, how keen publishers will be to force their content into AMP’s more limited frameworks and strip out some of their ad measurement and analytics technology remains to be seen.

David Murphy writes:
IBT Media, which publishes Newsweek and International Business Times, is among the launch partners for the AMP project. Earlier today, I spoke with the company’s head of digital product, Simon Phillips, about why the company had decided to get involved with AMP. He told me: “We want to use very channel at our fingertips to get our message out there and Google is an important channel for us.”

IBT Google carousel tablet & phone HIGH RESHe added that for IBT, AMP was about providing a better user experience, and that in implementation terms, it had not been one of the company’s bigger projects. But he suggested also that it would be wrong to think of AMP at this stage in its evolution as a faster-loading replacement for a publisher’s entire current mobile web offering. “The way it’s been implemented, it is an extension of Google news,” he said. “We still have our mobile site, but for people who use Google News, AMP offers instant loadability.”

IBT’s AMP pages include all the news articles a reader would find on the company’s mobile site, but there’s no home page as, in Phillips’s words, “it’s tricky to build a home page in AMP.” They are also, as per the AMP specifications, stripped of a lot of the third party ad tags that can make mobile pages so slow to load. Certainly, the AMP page links I followed today after searching for ‘The Oscars’ were impressively fast to load and made me realise how slow the typical full-fat mobile web page is by comparison.

Implementation has been fairly painless, Phillips said in conclusion. “It’s a learning process for everyone; two weeks before launch there was no solution round ads, but then it came through, so in the end it was not a problem. Early results are promising; there has been a growth in traffic from Google News but one swallow doesn’t make a summer.”

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WhatsApp Drops BlackBerry Support

Whatsapp.jpgIn a story that could be seen as a microcosm of the evolving state of mobile, Facebook-owned over-the-top messaging service WhatsApp has announced that it will be ceasing support for a number of smaller mobile operating systems over the next year, including all versions of BlackBerry.

Back when WhatsApp first launched in 2009, BlackBerry was a world-leading mobile manufacturer. Today, BlackBerry lays claim to barely one per cent of the global market, while WhatsApp has just passed 1bn monthly active users.

Along with BlackBerry, WhatsApp is ending support for the Nokia S40 and Symbian S60, Windows Phone 7.1 and Android 2.1 and 2.2.

“When we started WhatsApp in 2009, people’s use of mobile devices looked very different from today,” said a WhatsApp spokesperson in a blog post. “The Apple app Store was only a few months old. Mobile operating systems offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft – which account for 99.5 per cent of sales today – were on less than 25 per cent of mobile devices sold at the time.

“This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family and loved ones using WhatsApp. We recommend upgrading to a newer Android, iPhone or Windows Phones before the end of 2016 to continue using WhatsApp.”

The decision will come as a blow to BlackBerry, which has been fighting hard to be viewed as still relevant in the current mobile market. The company’s most recent device, the Priv, abandoned the firm’s own operating system in favour of Android, while John Cho, CEO of BlackBerry, famously called for all apps to be available on all operating systems, saying it was against net neutrality principles for developers to do otherwise.

While the move is unlikely to affect WhatsApp users in the US and Europe, the lack of support for certain operating systems, in particular early Android, could have an impact in emerging markets, where earlier smartphone models and older OSs are still more widely used.

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UK Publisher Digital Revenues Grow to £416.2m in 2015

UK publishers saw digital revenues increase once again in 2015, with £416.2m spent overall, up 5.2 per cent year-on-year, according to new figures from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) and Deloitte.

While display advertising remains the largest single revenue category, accounting for 46 per cent of all revenue, online video and mobile were two of the largest drivers for growth, with increases of 27 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

Digital display advertising actually saw a slow but steady decline throughout 2015, while mobile now accounts from over 10 per cent of total revenue, thanks largely to increases in smartphone display advertising and larger screen smartphones.

“Sustained growth over a seven year period demonstrates how online publishers have continued to adapt to a rapidly changing online environment,” said Richard Reeves, managing director at AOP. “This can be seen from the rise of video ad formats in 2015. In addition, the sharp increase in sponsorship revenue demonstrates publishers’ desire to introduce more dynamic and meaningful formats, in response to advertiser demands.”

“New third party distribution platforms, as well as the emergence of mobile ad-blockers, were just some of the challenges faced by online publishers in 2015,” said Howard Davies, media partner at Deloitte. “Yet, on average, mobile device revenues demonstrated double-digit growth each month throughout 2015.

“This is a clear indication that the UK’s online publishers are adjusting their business models in order to develop mobile-optimised content.”

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Amazon Signs Deal with Morrisons to Distribute Groceries

morrisons delivery vanSupermarket chain Morrisons has signed a deal with US online retailer Amazon that will see the company supply groceries to customers through the Amazon Prime Now and Amazon Pantry services.

Morrisons will supply fresh, frozen and non-perishable goods through the services, starting later this year. Amazon Pantry launched in the UK last year, but has not previously offered fresh food.

The deal with Amazon complicates Morrisons’ existing 25-year agreement with Ocado, which currently runs the supermarket’s online delivery service. The deal was signed by Morrisons’ previous chief executive, and current CEO David Potts has been looking for ways to leave the arrangement. Following news of the deal, Ocado’s shares fell 6.2 per cent, while Morrisons stock rose 4.4 per cent.

As part of the deal, Morrisons will take additional space in Ocado’s new Customer Fulfilment Centre in southeast London, while Ocado will provide Morrisons with a store pick solution built using its technology.

The partnership represents the first deal between Amazon and one of the UK’s ‘big four’ supermarkets. Morrisons has previously lagged behind in terms of constructing its own online and mobile retail presence, relying on firms like Ocado to build an infrastructure instead. The deal with Amazon enables it to compete on a higher level, while also giving Amazon a solid foothold in the UK groceries industry.

“Today’s agreement is built on Morrisons’ unique strength as a food maker,” said Potts. “The combination of our fresh food expertise with Amazon’s online and logistics capabilities is compelling. This is a low risk and capital light wholesale supply arrangement that demonstrates the opportunity we have to become a broader business. We look forward to working with Amazon to develop and grow this partnership over the coming months.”

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Innovation Lab: MWC 2016 Special

At Mobile Marketing we’re proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions, whether it’s on our website, in our magazine or at our Mobile Marketing Summits. Giving a platform to companies that are breaking new ground in their market brings audiences one step closer to the ideas and developments that will shape tomorrow.

In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world’s innovative ideas. This week, we take a look back at some of the most interesting companies exhibiting at Mobile World Congress, including Akyumen, Ivyhealth, Elliptic Labs and the IEEE.

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Xendpay Rolls Out its Mobile Wallet in Tanzania and Burkina Fasso

XendpayOnline money transfer service Xendpay which operates a ‘pay-what-you-want’ model, where customers decide the fees, is expanding its international reach with the launch of new integrated mobile wallet routes across Tanzania and Burkina Faso.

Customers will be able to remit money through Xendpay’s mobile wallet platform to people in Tanzania in East Africa and Burkina Faso in West Africa, through a series of strategic tie-ups with two of Africa’s biggest fin-tech mobile network operator providers, M-Pesa-Vodafone in Tanzania, and Air Tel Money in Burkina Faso.

Recipients can use the money in their mobile wallet to pay for goods at local shops and businesses which are enabled to accept mobile money payments, and therefore remove the risk of having to carry large sums of cash around with them.

In addition to Xendpay’s activities in Tanzania and Burkina Faso, the company is also adding Nigeria to its portfolio of new currencies to bank accounts in partnership with NGN. Xendpay clients will be able to send Nigerian Naira on a real-time credit basis. Xendpay can receive funds from remitters via a number of methods, including by bank transfer from most EU countries.

Available online and via both iOS and Android apps, Xendpay allows users to send money to bank accounts and mobile wallets in over 180 countries and 48 different currencies around the world. Xendpay estimates that its ‘pay-what-you-want’ business model, could save customers $100m (£60m) million in fees over the course of the next five years. The cost of sending money within Africa is the second most expensive in the world with rates reaching as much as 19 per cent for every $200 remitted, according to a 2015 report from the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development.

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Baidu Apps Feature Significant Security Flaw

Baidu logoThousands of apps made using code that originates with Chinese internet giant Baidu feature a massive security flaw that enables hackers to easily access personal data from the users, including locations, search terms, sites visited and device ID numbers.

This data is being collected and transmitted insecurely due to code found in a software development kit users to design apps for Android and Windows phones, originally used by Baidu and now adopted by numerous other firms.

According to security researchers at Citizen Lab, part of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, millions of users, primarily in China, have likely been affected by the data leaks, which saw huge amounts of data sent without encryption and, in some cases, in plain text.

Among the apps designed using the faulty SDK are Baidu’s own web browsers for Android and Windows, as well as those developed by other companies. Altogether, apps and browsers made using the SDK have been downloaded hundreds of millions of times.

Baidu is one of the biggest tech companies in China, and operates the most used search engine in China, among other services. According to Alexa, the search engine homepage is the most visited website in China, and the fourth most visited website worldwide.

According to Citizen Lab, while some elements of the SDK have been fixed by Baidu after they were notified of the security flaws, some issues remain unresolved and Baidu currently has no plans to fix them, including the fact that the address bar contents can be accessed while being input.

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Facebook Canvas Set to Bring Full-screen Rich Media Ads to App

facebook canvasFacebook is launching Canvas, a new evolution of its mobile ad format that promises to let advertisers create multimedia ads that open up into full-screen rich media experiences when users click on them.

The ad unit uses the same technology as the company’s Instant Articles features, which enables the ads to load about 10 times faster than an advertiser’s mobile site, and will enable marketers to integrate videos, gifs or slideshows without fear of content failing to load due to weak connections.

“We made the creative community a priority when we designed and built Canvas,” said Chris Jones, head of creative technology at Facebook Creative Shop. “It’s a product that represents our commitment to creative craft and delivering the best mobile experience for businesses and people.”

The Canvas ads will also be priced similarly to current ads, with brands able to choose payment models based on clicks, conversion, reach or frequency, as Facebook increasingly transitions its mobile ad offerings to video and rich media options, as well as in-stream, native offerings that are less likely to run foul of ad blockers.

Facebook announced the launch of Canvas by sharing some of the test campaigns run by brand partners including Coca Cola, Burberry, ASUS, L’Occitane and Lowe’s. The ad format is now available globally for adverts running on Facebook’s Android and iOS apps.

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MWC 2016: The Industry Reacts

We asked some of the industry’s top figures what brings them back to MWC every February, how the show has changed over the years, and what made 2016 special.

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