Tag Archives: apps

The Predicament of being a News Publisher

I was talking with a friend who works at a news publisher and he cried foul on how Google had started showing cricket match scores on the search result page (SERP) itself and how that’d translate into lower traffic on news sites like his.

First Fold of Google’s SERP for a query on Cricket Match score.

The information shared here is sufficient for someone who wants to follow the match score updates. In case the user wants to know more details they have two options ‘Click the downward arrow’ or ‘Click the first search result’.  Which one do you think are users likely to click more?

Screen upon clicking the more/downward arrow just below score card on SERP

For a user following match score one gets most info on Google’s SERP itself. Only in case when the user wants more details (like who is batting, bowling etc) they’d need to click one of search results. Also, if one needs to just see the basic scorecard (updated real time), that has also been taken care by Google.

Notice the green bar under ‘1st Innings’. It polls for updated score every second

The implications for such changes for media/publishers are obvious 

What: Google just shaved off top of the funnel traffic searching for match scores from news/sports sites.
Why: The match score is a “Commodity” which is updated on numerous websites and almost all of them have extremely poor user experience especially for someone who just wants to just know the match score.

Thus, Google decides to serve the customer a better experience by bringing score on Google’s SERP itself.

Google Eyes News:
News is important for a lot of people, though how they consume news has changed thanks to the internet and subsequently mobile revolution. 

While earlier one had to wait for the morning newspaper, radio or TV update to find out news, with Internet, news has become a 24/7 event available to everyone realtime. 

Like me, a lot of people consume news through Social Media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Messengers such as Whatsapp. Another way to find out news (over going directly to say news website) is to Google it. 

The importance of news for Google can be judged by the fact that the  ‘Google News’ product is around 16 years old
(Trivia: An Indian named, Krishna Bharat created Google News)

Googling stuff is a much engrained and ever green way to find stuff you need to know. This coupled with facts like

– A lot news is just commodity
– Most news publishers have poor user experience 
– Google wants their users to spend more time on their platform so they can collect more data about them (Most important one)

means that Google would want to serve its users with as much news content as possible (all commodity content) without them ever having to leave their property

Google Eats News

Enter Mobile and the game changes significantly.  Unlike on web, folks on Mobile don’t instinctively open Google.com or start typing their search query on address bar when they need to find something. 

Also, opening the browser to log on Google or opening Google Search app  to find out news and bits like match score isn’t the most efficient way.

Results on Google Search App 

So what do people end up doing instead? 

NEWS APPS: People who follow news tend to use mobile apps by their favourite (assuming they have one) news publisher which they can nibble news on while in the restroom or waiting for their coffee, uber etc.

The fact that most people are spending more time on their mobile (over desktop) and the fact that Google doesn’t enjoy the same share of user habit as it does on web is serious threat to Google. 

Google Drops the Bomb

Google News App (iOS)

In May’18 on their famed I/O event, Google announced launch of the revamped and AI powered news app. Now the thing about Google is, if they say something is powered by AI, it is best for everyone to believe them (as they know what they are talking about).

Some reviews for the revamped ‘Google News’ App

A snippet from Techcrunch on the revamped Google News app

A snippet from Verge on the revamped Google News app

The News app was launched on Android and iOS devices in 127 countries.  

I’m not a news person by any means. I had no news apps on my phone but when I heard about ‘Google News’ app on Twitter recently, I decided to give it a spin. My experience can be summarised below,

“I don’t think I’ll ever download another news app again”

What’s so great about the Google News app deserves a separate blog post.

That aside, IMO it’s a death siren for other big/horizontal media houses or news publishers. While publishers were trying to plan on how to win small battles on the web, Google dropped the nuclear bomb on mobile.

This is a very tough spot to be in for News Publishers.

Whether and how to partner with Google when it competes with them for user attention/usage and this is a great predicament for them.

The Rise of Mobile SDKs

The last 2 engineers I spoke to who had quit their jobs to do a startup are working on building 3rd party solutions for app developers. There is clearly a trend of more folks trying to build services for various apps. From Analytics to payments, ad networks to notifications, there our services for everything, even Emotion Tracking and Augmented Reality.

How these 3rd party services tend to be used across various apps is by integrating their SDKs (essentially including code libraries from other providers into your apps).
Let’s consider an example of an e-commerce mobile app. Here are some of the features/attributes
which might be needed

SDK

SDK

  1. Accepting Payments
  2. Analyzing usage (clicks, pageviews, conversion funnels etc)
  3. Sending notifications (push notifications about offers/promotions etc)
  4. Campaign Management (to track installs and their behaviour from various paid install campaigns)
  5. A/B testing
  6. User Engagement/Rewards
  7. Messenger/Chat and so on

This list would vary from app to app and the developers have two options, Build each one of these functionalities or integrate existing solutions (Mobile SDKs that provide one or more of these services).  While the benefit of integrating an SDK to do say user behaviour analysis is immense (and in most cases the only option and you can’t possible build this functionality on your own) it is where the problem starts and one wonders, “how will this scale?”

SDK overload

SDK overload (via @WahWhoWah)

 

How many SDKs can you possibly embed in your app? The performance and maintenance issues are plenty. While from app developers perspective the challenges are obvious (which ones to choose, how to migrate data from one to another in case of switching, how to attribute any problem to one SDK in case of multiple SDKs etc), what worries me is how upcoming start-ups with their business model built around offering SDKs to developers will come about.

Distribution, is possibly the most important thing for a startup and I foresee getting various app developers to use your SDK (and not building a cool service) as the biggest barrier to entry/success.

I’m sure you might have built a great user analytics/customer lifecycle management/campaign management etc SDK but how many SDKs can a developer possibly try and integrate?

Concluding Thoughts
1) Building an SDK that offers to replace an existing/prevalent one like Flurry or Mixpanel though comparatively easier to build will be extremely tricky to distribute/sell
2) Building an SDK that offers to replace multiple existing/prevalent ones (Flurry, Testflight, Admob etc) though extremely difficult to build will be comparatively easier to distribute/sell
3) Mobile platforms (Apple/Google etc) might improve their offerings around various fundamental needs and start including them into the platform APIs like iOS did with Facebook and Twitter. A native Analytics/campaign management service will be difficult to compete with
4) Some app developers might be privy to share their data (for say Customer Lifecycle Management SDK)

This space is quite exciting and I’m really interested to see how it shapes up. What do you think?

 

 

 

My experience with Pebble: The smart watch

I’ve been longing to buy a watch for quite some time now but wasn’t sure which one to buy. But, when I got to know about Pebble, I kinda knew that this would be it. A smart watch which does more than telling time and looks good/different was enough for me to make the purchase, plus I also wanted to experience the wearable tech market first hand and this was the cheapest way in.

Pebble and Skinomi
Thanks to the lovely friend who got it for me from the Amazon US.

Otherwise priced at 150$, along with the Skinomi cover it costed me Rs 11063/-. I got the watch some 10 days back and here’s my experience with it so far

1) Look & Feel – As someone wise said people buy watches not because they tell time but because of their fashion/design appeal (Apparently the watch market is worth $ 80 bn). The watch looks great and is comfortable to wear. It’s shape and finishing makes it stand apart

2) Integration – Pebble connects with your phone (Nexus 4 in my case) using Bluetooth. All one needs to do is to install the Pebble app in your phone and detect/connect it with the watch. Do this and you are done.

3) Frills: Watch faces and Shake to lighten up – Using some apps you can create/install new watchfaces. My current favorite is the “Breaking Bad” watchface. Another cool thing is that you just need to shake the wrist a bit and the watch lightens up

Breaking Bad - Pebble

4)  Features – Pebble comes with a few default features

a) Music – You can play/pause music on your phone using pebble (Though a cool thing, I am yet to find a real/proper use case). Though I did a fun thing once by playing music on phone which is connected to the car’s audio system using pebble (Bluetooth ahoy !!)

b) Alarms – You can set alarm on the watch (I am not much of an alarm person anyways)

c) Watchfaces – You can choose from various existing watchfaces and upload new ones

d) Notifications – The core offering of Pebble and few other watches is the Notifications part. The underling thought behind all this being, that the smart watch in it’s current avatar is not a replacement of phone but an extension of it. Some of the use cases being in situations where you can look into your watch before deciding whether you need to take that call or reply to the sms etc.

Some of the notifications that work with Pebble are

1) Gmail
2) Whatsapp
3) SMS

Read SMS on Pebble
4) Calls

5) Integration with other apps – This one is very interesting. Pebble for one integrates seamlessly with Runkepper. Unlike earlier, now I don’t need to keep checking my phone to see how much I have run or calories I burned. The phone can stay in pocket while Pebble can tell me all the needed details.

6) Installing third party apps – The most exciting bit is you can install apps developed by others on your pebbles to further exploit the device and it’s functionality. Here are some of the features you get access to using these apps

a) Reading and replying to SMS – Limited to a few template replies at the moment
b) Weather information
c) Calender
d) Utilities like “Find my phone”

I have few more apps which I plan to explore and also I am eagerly awaiting the launch of Pebble’s App Store for Android (They recently launched one for iOS).

If you own a Pebble, what has your experience been like?

 

 

 

DON’T Click That Link!

I am an addict. I am addicted to browse my Twitter timeline, facebook newsfeed or email and click tons of link about anything that smells even remotely related to my topics of interest which again are almost as wide as Amazon’s product catalog.

As you might have guessed, it is not a particularly good thing to keep clicking link after link, opening browser window after window and then shuffling between the read/unread links and your work. This behavior is equivalent to having your arteries clogged with cholesterol only to be waiting to have a heart attack except it’s not the heart attack that kills you but the daily grind of too many links begging for your attention and the overloaded/ever slowing system.

Despite wanting to get over this stupid habit of reading more and more for some time now I couldn’t fix it, but something in me clicked yesterday when I decided to close all the open links on my laptop. Since they were all choicest articles/site discovered accidentally( or with planning ) over weeks I decided to save them temporarily in a google docs spreadsheet. By the time I was done, the spreadsheet had some 131 links. Exactly. WTF?

While doing this it occurred to me that *MAYBE* it would have been nice to have a “link saving/queuing” website/app. Here’s I think would be a nice utility to have(at least for me)

Problem: I need a service that let’s me save/hold all the various links that I find everyday, which look interesting and I’d want to read/skim them over free time.

Solution: A link buffer

How it works: A browser bookmark or a URL based utility which can be used to put all these seemingly good links in temp memory(stored unless you choose to delete).

Random Execution Work Flow: Spotted a link that you’d like to archive for future reference?

Append  the url to a predefined url format for ex: http://savemylinks.com/mayankdhingra/newlink=”insertlinkhere”

PS: The site will redirect you to the login page if you aren’t signed in already.

So now whenever you are free, you can go to savemylinks.com to see what all links you had saved and browse them. Based on your preferences you can choose to send them to delicious or anything bookmarking site or post it on Twitter/Facebook.

But by the time I or someone else builds this app. It might a good idea to archive these links in a notepad or google docs spreadsheet and read them later when you have more time.

Update: Apparently there’s a site called instapaper.com which does just that. (Thanks @guglanisam for the tip)

Getting Real: A smaller, faster, better way to build software.

Here’s a goodie for all software developers(especially web). The mavericks at 37signals have compiled their thoughts on software development in form of a book aptly titled “Getting Real“.

What is getting real ?

  • Getting Real is about skipping all the stuff that represents real (charts, graphs, boxes, arrows, schematics, wireframes, etc.) and actually building the real thing.
  • Getting real is less. Less mass, less software, less features, less paperwork, less of everything that’s not essential (and most of what you think is essential actually isn’t).
  • Getting Real is staying small and being agile.
  • Getting Real starts with the interface, the real screens that people are going to use. It begins with what the customer actually experiences and builds backwards from there. This lets you get the interface right before you get the software wrong.

http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ch01_What_is_Getting_Real.php

Another amazing thing about this book is that its FREE in web version(HTML) and if you want it in pdf or paperback you can buy it too . I recommend you to check the book out. Click here to get started