As the media pays tribute to Steve Jobs, Apple is left with the challenge of how to continue to grow and innovate without its lead visionary. Jobs, after all, revolutionized not just the computer industry, but the way in which we consume media. "The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come," said Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in a statement. The question now is whether Apple can move forward and continue to innovate. "The response to whatever Jobs has put out over the last decade showed Apple capable of making its products more equal than others," wrote MarketWatch's Rex Crum. "What the company does next will determine whether it can remain more than equal -- and whether Jobs has left behind a company that is truly built to last." Still, other companies have survived without their iconic leaders. As John Connors, a venture capitalist at Ignition Partners, told Bloomberg, "The good Lord created one Steve Jobs, but he only created one Phil Knight and Nike is still an enormous success … I am sure the world will see in the next several years that (Apple CEO) Tim (Cook) is a very uniquely gifted guy and Apple will be wildly successful under his leadership."
But Apple's most recent launch event, which happened just before Jobs' death, wasn't exactly a good sign of things to come, although that could have been the result of a company rattled by the absence of its iconic leader. Most industry watchers were expecting to be wowed by the company's first unveiling without Jobs. Instead, the iPhone 4S left many feeling disappointed. While faster and boasting a better camera and voice commands, the new smartphone is not an iPhone 5. Meanwhile, the debut of Newsstand, a new section for buying and organizing magazine and newspaper apps, left many in the media industry shrugging their shoulders as well. Newsstand has drawn in a decent array of titles including the New York Times, Wired and National Geographic, but as Poynter's Jeff Sonderman noted, it further locks publishers into using the iTunes payment system and lacks a fresh approach to digital content. "Sure, there is a little more convenience for the user, and a little more discoverability for the publisher -- but nothing here is a game-changer," he wrote.
It wasn't much of a surprise when Amazon came out with a new tablet. Even before the company announced the Kindle Fire, Forrester Research predicted that the online retail giant could sell up to 5 million of the devices in three months. But then, the real kicker came. The full-color touchscreen tablet that's optimized for movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, apps, games and web browsing, costs just $199, half the price of the cheapest iPad. Some quickly claimed that Apple had finally met its match in the tablet wars. Forbes' Benoit Raphael pointed out that unlike other iPad competitors, Amazon understands that tablets aren't a replacement for laptops. "Amazon’s business is not a computer business; it’s a content business," he wrote. But others believe the tablet is nowhere near to being an iPad killer. "The bottom line is that Amazon will be successful -- at least more successful than Motorola or HTC -- but it won’t come at the expense of Apple's iPad or Samsung's Android-based tablets," said GigaOm's Om Malik.
The one thing most industry watchers seemed to be in agreement with is that the device opens up a bevy of new opportunities for marketers and content providers. It bears mentioning that the Fire tablet is so cheap because it comes loaded with a layer of advertising and e-commerce. Amazon is hoping that by tying in its huge selection of e-books, music, TV shows and Android apps, it can get a leg up on its rivals. "I think of it as a service," CEO Jeff Bezos told the New York Times' Jenna Wortham and David Streitfeld. "Part of the Kindle Fire is of course the hardware, but really, it's the software, the content, it's the seamless integration of those things." The tablet also gives users access to a virtual newsstand that includes content from magazines and newspapers. And, as paidContent's David Kaplan explained, the "promise of cross-title, cross-device advertising offers real value to publishers as interactive advertising is sold at a premium."
But while it's a boon for media companies to have a new rival in the tablet market, dealing with Amazon could put them "in the same boat they're in with Apple," GigaOm's Matthew Ingram speculated. "They provide the content, but the platform owner controls the relationship."
Not long after Yahoo ousted the fiery Carol Bartz as CEO, rumors began swirling that the company was thinking about putting itself up for sale. The list of potential bidders quickly began to lengthen as Silver Lake, Russia's DST Global, and Alibaba, Yahoo's Chinese partner, emerged as potential bidders. The latest possible suitor to be engulfed in swirling rumors and conflicting reports is Microsoft. Reuters' Peter Lauria and Nadia Damouni reported that Microsoft is considering a bid and may even seek a partner to go after Yahoo. But AllThingsD's Kara Swisher called the Reuters report"ridonkulous." According to her sources, "throughout this entire process Microsoft execs have taken pains to make it clear that they are not going to be among the bidders in any significant manner." Meanwhile, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma has made no bones about his interest in Yahoo, saying during a forum at Stanford University, "We are very interested."
But make no mistake about it, Yahoo is feeling pressure to do a deal, said the New York Times' Michael De La Merced and Evelyn Rusli. While the company's board searches for a replacement for Bartz, many analysts "expect Yahoo to let its review of its business take precedence," they explained. "And Yahoo’s value may take another hit when it reports third-quarter results on Oct. 18." So what will a potential buyer get out of a deal? That's hard to say, particularly when it comes to Microsoft. While rivals such as Google and Facebook have flourished, Yahoo has struggled to remain competitive in a changing digital landscape. "The tie-up would probably not make much of a dent in the rising display share being taken by Google and Facebook," noted paidContent's David Kaplan. Nevertheless, he added, as both Yahoo and Microsoft "struggle against trends that favor their rivals, merging still seems like the only viable answer to declining market share." But the Wall Street Journal's Martin Peers questioned if Microsoft would have any better luck than Yahoo's past management in turning around the company. "If it failed to turn around Yahoo, both its investment in the buyout and its search investment would be at risk," he wrote. "A better option might be for Microsoft to back someone else with better prospects of fixing Yahoo."
Text-only online advertising listings could be a thing of the past. Google, the company that redefined digital advertising, has introduced an ad format that takes a page from the flyer ads found in good old-fashioned Sunday newspapers. "Google is on a quest to make Internet advertising look more like the Sunday paper," wrote Bloomberg's Brian Womack. The search giant recently debuted a website that shows off the various ad formats it's testing, including Google Circulars, which are large-format, personalized ads based on location and search queries. As Nick Fox, Google's vice president of product management, said in a blog post, "What started as three lines of simple text has evolved into ads that are multimedia-rich, location-aware and socially-amplified." Google is working with advertisers such as Best Buy and Macy's to create the circulars, which are similar to the ad inserts included in newspapers. "Retail in general is a large category for us," Fox told Womack. "They're trying to understand what the answer is in the digital age to the offline print circular. They're trying to understand how to get their online visitors into their stores. And this is our answer to that."
Meanwhile, as Google looks to circular-style advertising, Facebook is keeping its eye on the search giant and wondering which ad strategy works best for social networking. At Advertising Week, Facebook announced a new ad unit and a set of metrics to help administrators create better brand Pages. It also introduced "expandable" ads, which assume that advertisements recommended by friends are more effective than display ads. "Facebook is adapting Google’s ad strategy to its social media," Mashable's Todd Wasserman noted. So even while Google and Facebook try to publicly one-up each other in social networking, what it really boils down to is advertising. Google+ isn't just about social networking; it's about giving Google new opportunities for personalizing information and serving advertisements. "In the future, digital ads will be highly personalized," explained Adweek's Erin Griffith. "If you want to share an ad with friends, you can, and if you want to skip it, well, go right ahead. That's Google's vision."
After many false starts (and hyperbole about the future), mobile advertising is finally hitting its stride. In fact, these days, mobile advertising is the way to go -- at least, that's what new numbers from research firm eMarketer indicate. U.S. mobile ad revenues will top $1 billion for the first time this year, up 65 percent from the $743 million last year, eMarketer said. By 2015, mobile ad spending will hit $4.4 billion. Both estimates are quite higher than previous eMarketer estimates, but Search Engine Land's Greg Sterling believes they're still on the low end. He explained that a year ago, Google announced its annualized mobile ad revenue was more than $1 billion. "That number is almost certainly higher today," he wrote. The increase, of course, goes hand in hand with the rise of smartphones. As more and more people snap up smartphones, and the cost of using them decreases, ownership of the devices is becoming the norm. (Exhibit A: The new free iPhone 3G.)
eMarketer forecasts smartphone ownership to reach 38 percent in the U.S. by the end of this year. In its study, eMarketer focused on the three main areas of mobile advertising (both on phones and tablets): display, search and messaging-based advertising. Search advertising saw the most growth, increasing its revenue to $349 million from $185 million in 2010. Display is also showing strong growth, and messaging grew the least but is still one of the biggest mobile advertising formats. But what we can't see from eMarketer's numbers, as paidContent's Ingrid Lunden pointed out, is how advertising distribution and consumption compares on smartphones versus tablets, and whether some platforms encourage more interaction than others. "Given that tablet penetration is still low compared to smartphones, it's likely that they are still carrying only a small part of traffic, but that they will be key to the rich media and larger (more premium) format growth over time," she wrote.
While Americans still lean most heavily on television as the way to get their local news, more and more people are looking to other outlets, according to a study from the Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation. A survey of news consumers found that while TV is the main source for topics such as weather, traffic and breaking news -- newspapers and their websites are the main source for 11 other topics, including crime reports, local government updates, and zoning news. Word of mouth, which most likely includes text messages and Twitter posts, according to the New York Times' Brian Stelter, is the second most common means of local news distribution. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they get their local news via word of mouth at least once a week. Compare that to 74 percent for television, 51 percent for radio, 50 percent for the local newspaper, 47 percent for the Internet, and 9 percent for a printed community newsletter.
"There really is a nuanced ecosystem here with very old and very new sources blending," Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which collaborated with Pew on the study, told Stelter. The study provides reason to be hopeful about new information platforms, but it also reveals "deep concern about the decay of local newspapers, and what that will mean for local government accountability," wrote O'Reilly Radar's Alex Howard. While many people still turn to their newspapers for local news, more than two-thirds of those surveyed said that if they no longer had their hometown paper, they'd still be able keep up with the news. The LA Times' James Rainey believes newspaper executives need to reconsider why their customers act one way but feel another. "They might market their durable, but challenged, product more aggressively," he wrote. "The audience still likes what they do. They just don't know they like it. So they need to be reminded why the newspaper and its web component -- even though reduced by budget restraints and staff cutbacks -- often remain the first, best hope for word of what's happening on the local scene."
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