September 6, 2013

Weekly Roundup: ‘Dematerialization,’ geek power and listicles

Posted by: in North America

Due to Labor Day office closures, this double-edition roundup covers items from the past two weeks.

Find our roundups collected in magazine form on Flipboard, the iOS and Android app; download the app to view this week’s edition here: http://flip.it/J6FjO

-A Salon columnist examines “dematerialization” in the digital age as physical possessions come to mean less to younger consumers.

-More people are starting to question our immersion in technology, writes Nick Bilton, spotlighting the viral hit “I Forgot My Phone.”

-The Guardian examines the “rise of the new geeks,” arguing that nerd culture has moved into the mainstream.

-A New York Times columnist examines, “Who will prosper in the new, increasingly automated world?”

-The Economist takes a look at the rise of robots designed to work collaboratively with humans.

-The New York Times examines France’s struggle to halt the country’s decline while retaining its beloved way of life.

-The Wall Street Journal reports that Mexico has started a public-health battle against sugary sodas, akin to Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign in New York.

-The Economist examines how 3D printing is becoming integrated with mainstream manufacturing.

-A New York Times opinion column examines “How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class.”

-A Pew survey finds that when it comes to online privacy, Americans are more fearful of hackers and marketers than government monitoring, as The Guardian reports.

-A columnist for MIT’s Technology Review takes a look at the next wave of cyber security startups.

-The FT discusses the wealth of technologies that are helping parents keep better track of their kids.

-The AP spotlights how cars are becoming vulnerable to hackers.

-The Economist spotlights the revival of diesel engines as they start giving electric and hybrid cars a run for their money.

-McKinsey examines how cities can prepare for the coming decades of urbanization.

-The Economist looks at how data-based services may revolutionize cities (or not).

-The New York Times reports on how Big Data is coming into play in fashion forecasting.

-“The Future of Journalism Is Data-Driven,” argues the editor of ReadWrite in SayDaily.

-The New Yorker addresses the growing ubiquity of the “listicle,” arguing that “the list is the signature form of our time.”

-Time spotlights “sharecations,” which are enabled by the rise of peer-to-peer services.

-With smartwatches due from Samsung and Sony. USA Today ponders whether consumers will take to these wearable devices. “The Future of Computing Is Not on Your Wrist,” writes one naysayer in New York. The L.A. Times says smartwatch brands can probably count out Millennials.

-Adweek surveys the startups that are giving used luxury apparel a second life.

-The L.A. Times reports on the new wave of personal stylists at mid-tier fashion stores.

-NPD finds that Millennials are less likely than older shoppers to leave brick-and-mortar stores with a purchase in hand, via the L.A. Times. A new survey examines how wealthy U.S. Millennials shop, per Adweek. And MediaPost spotlights a study on Millennials’ brand attitudes, shopping habits and preferences.

-T. Rowe Price Insights reports that young, self-made shoppers traveling to Europe from emerging markets are changing the face of luxury.

-The Wall Street Journal reports that online sales remain surprisingly small for many retailers.

-Mobile Marketer examines whether Twitter could become a mobile commerce powerhouse.

-Bain & Co. forecasts that China will become the world’s biggest e-commerce market this year, reports Reuters.

-As Millennials dine out less, an NPD study takes a look at how they’re eating at home, via MediaPost.

-A Nielsen chart spotlights consumers’ growing willingness to spend more on products from socially responsible companies.

-MIT’s Technology Review analyzes how technology has changed the advertising model, turning “mad men” into “math men.”

-comScore finds that online penetration is soaring in India, via Warc.

-Pew examines broadband penetration in the U.S., finding that a few holdouts still use dial-up connections.

-Nielsen research covers how teens are using entertainment.

-A global study on TV viewing trends from Ericsson finds that more people are watching linear TV than in 2012, per MediaPost.

-Time takes a look at a new crop of job-focused startups inspired by matchmaking sites.

-Chobani’s success with Greek yogurt spotlights the weakness of big food firms when it comes to innovation, according to The Economist.

-The Wall Street Journal looks at how Greek yogurt is squeezing out an array of other products previously found in the supermarket dairy case.

-A Harvard Business Review blogger looks at how CEOs are succeeding in Africa.

-Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the rise of China’s wedding industry.

-The World Health Organization finds that life expectancy for women age 50 and up is growing, via The New York Times.

-After dropping for years, America’s fertility rate is stabilizing, according to new data, via The Wall Street Journal.

-USA Today reports that the teen birthrate in the U.S. has reached a historic low.

-The Atlantic wonders whether the stay-at-home dad trend is overhyped.

-Thanks to “beard-loving hipsters,” razor sales are declining, Time reports.

-The Cut reports on how the pill is no longer synonymous with sexual liberation for women.

-The Atlantic reports that “interning at 60 is the new retirement plan.”

-The Economist reports that casinos are proliferating in the Asia-Pacific region.

-Normally seen but not heard, more models are expressing themselves on social media, per The Wall Street Journal.

-Oxford Dictionaries Online is adding “more voguish vocabulary,” including “twerk,” “selfie” and “FOMO,” reports Quartz. In the FT, author Doug Coupland creates some words we need to describe new conditions.

-Female athletes are starting to “score more commercial goals,” reports The Economist.

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Things to Watch

  • Uniqlo, H&M and Retail As the Third Space
    April 15, 2014 | 4:30 pm

    “Retail As the Third Space,” one of our 10 Trends for 2011, is rapidly accelerating: As digital commerce becomes habit for consumers, brick-and-mortar is increasingly focused around experiences, unique environments and customer service, giving shoppers new reasons to visit retail spaces. Uniqlo’s flagship in New York is a good example. A newly renovated floor incorporates a Starbucks (a favorite brand among teens) and, as MarketWatch reports, “lounge sofas, tables and chairs and an iPad station, allowing shoppers to stay and mingle.” Thanks to a partnership with the nearby Museum of Modern Art—resulting in a range that uses images from famous artists—the floor’s design is museum-like, with T-shirts in framed display cases.

    Another recent example in Manhattan is H&M’s flagship, which opened in late 2013, which one writer dubs “The most retail fun you can have with your clothes on.” For more on Retail As the Third Space, find our 2103 report Retail Rebooted here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Uniqlo

  • Bitcoin middlemen
    April 10, 2014 | 2:45 pm

    Given its volatility, security issues and legal concerns, merchants interested in accepting bitcoin have a lot to worry about, especially with the possibility (as some see it) that looming regulation could upend the entire system. To mitigate the risk and open merchants up to new revenue streams, startups such as BitPay and Coinvoice make it easier for companies to accept the cryptocurrency.

    These payment processors act as middlemen: A shopper pays in bitcoin, but the merchant can decide whether to be paid in bitcoin, fiat currency, or a combination. This allows companies to shield themselves from the uncertainty of the currency or to dip a toe into accepting it as payment. Until bitcoin becomes more stable and regulated, payment processors such as these will be a safer option for merchants. (For more on bitcoin, see also our post on the Inside Bitcoins conference.) —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: BitPay

  • Delta’s Innovation Class
    April 3, 2014 | 2:15 pm

    Delta’s new Innovation Class allows the influencers of tomorrow to spend a flight with a current industry leader—the airline calls it a “mentoring program at 35,000 feet.” The first mentor was Pebble smart watch creator Eric Migicovsky, on his way to Vancouver for the recent TED conference, who was paired with visual artist James Patten, a 2014 TED senior fellow. The next flight, in May, will feature chef Sean Brock as he heads to the James Beard Awards.

    While Innovation Class isn’t the first such initiative, it’s the first to leverage existing social networks on LinkedIn, where potential seatmates apply to Delta. The program illustrates creativity in using the plethora of touch points marketers have access to and can leverage to create valuable experiences both online and off. —Matt Goldenberg

  • Virtual reality rugby
    March 27, 2014 | 1:00 pm

    While the Oculus Rift headset doesn’t yet have a launch date, brands are already using the virtual reality platform to amaze consumers. To promote Game of Thrones, HBO made fanboys’ dreams come true at this year’s SXSWi with an experience that took viewers on an immersive trip up the show’s famed “Wall.” And U.K. phone company O2 has created “Wear the Rose,” a rugby training experience that combines footage from GoPro cameras with an Oculus headset to give fans the experience of training with England Rugby.

    “Rugby balls are thrown at you to catch, charging players run at you to teach you tackles, and at one point you find yourself in the middle of a scrum,” writes Eurogamer. O2 recently debuted “Wear the Rose” at a stadium match and will showcase it in select U.K. stores starting in June. —Aaron Baar

  • Security as a USP
    March 20, 2014 | 12:45 pm

    As we note in our wrap-up of SXSWi, security is fast becoming a unique selling proposition. Rather than treating it as an afterthought and scrambling to compensate if user data is compromised, more tech companies will build highly secure environments for their users from the start—selling security as a point of differentiation until it becomes a right of entry.

    The secure-communication app Wickr is offering up to $100,000 to any hacker who can crack its defenses and is selling a suite of six privacy features to developers and apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. Another such app, Telegram, offers a bounty as high as $200,000 to anyone who can crack it. Meanwhile, the upcoming Blackphone is described as “the world’s first smartphone which places privacy and control directly in the hands of its users.” —Ann Mack

  • Watson, AI and customer service
    March 13, 2014 | 1:45 pm

    IBM has been promoting the commercial applications of Watson, its artificial intelligence service, with CEO Ginni Rometty announcing a Watson challenge for mobile developers at the recent Mobile World Congress. Rometty also noted that North Face is testing a website that incorporates Watson intelligence to answer customer queries, as seen in this video of an IBM demo at the MWC. Watson could serve as a “personal shopping concierge” for e-commerce brands, as Ad Age put it.

    At this week’s SXSW in Austin, where IBM has Watson powering a food truck to demonstrate its multifaceted potential, an IBM exec talked up Watson’s potential in the customer-service arena. We’re seeing the beginnings of a world where artificial intelligence powers (and personalizes) an array of brand interactions with consumers. —Marian Berelowitz

     

  • Spritz
    March 7, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    Slate may have to adjust the Minutes to Read feature on its articles. In line with our Age of Impatience trend for 2014, Spritz is a new reading app that uses a new visual technology to help people read at Evelyn Wood speeds or faster.

    Pinpointing the “Optimal Recognition Point,” at which the brain begins to recognize numbers and letters, the program highlights that space for each individual word and places it at the same place on the screen, reducing eye movement. The program can push reading speeds up to 500 words a minute. (You can see it in action here.)

    Sprtiz will be available on Samsung’s new line of wearable technology. —Aaron Baar

    Image credit: Spritz

  • Virtual fitting rooms
    March 4, 2014 | 11:45 am

    PhiSix, a 3D virtual technology company recently acquired by eBay, plans to bring more of the outside world into physical stores’ dressing rooms in an effort to increase sales. We’ve reported before on websites that offer 3D virtual try-ons at home and brick-and-mortar stores that have become living, breathing websites. But PhiSix’s technology takes the virtual fashion experience one step further, allowing shoppers to see how specific items of clothing look on them, in a variety of sizes and contexts, without actually trying them on. With PhiSix’s computer graphics, which will be made available to third-party retailers, shoppers will be able to enter a store dressing room and view themselves wearing clothing in a number of active settings (e.g., swinging a golf club, walking down the street). The technology also recommends other items to consumers, based on a few basic measurement inputs. Although virtual try-on technologies, which have existed for a while, haven’t succeeded in displacing trying on actual clothing, PhiSix’s sexy timesaver may draw more shoppers into physical retail outlets. —Alec Foege

    Image credit: PhiSix

  • Daily Mail’s Just the Pictures app
    February 25, 2014 | 3:15 pm

    The U.K.’s Daily Mail, whose digital content is dominated by photographs, is planning to release an app called Just the Pictures that strips out the text for smartphone readers—or non-readers, in this case—who are looking for snackable content while on the go. At a Mobile World Congress panel in Barcelona, Melanie Scott of the Mail Online said the app will be out in March. Per Scott, the Daily Mail’s current iOS app attracts about a million daily users in the U.K., and they’re opening it four or five times a day for 12 minutes at a time, largely for the pictures. 

    Just the Pictures is another sign of images replacing words in our increasingly visual culture, one of our 10 Trends for 2014. For more on how this trend is affecting the mobile platform, watch for our annual mobile-trends report in April. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Daily Mail

  • Full-fat comes back
    February 20, 2014 | 6:00 pm

    Bring on the brie! Last week NPR reported on two studies finding that “whole-fat dairy is linked to reduced body fat,” research likely to boost a recent shift away from lower-fat dairy products. Butter has been bullish lately: Annual sales in the U.S. have increased 65 percent since 2000, with per-capita consumption reaching a 40-year high. And while milk sales in the U.S. declined in 2013, full-fat fared relatively well (with sales declining 0.8 percent vs. 4.1 percent for reduced-fat). 

    The trend ties into a growing preference for foods that feel less artificial or newfangled, as well as the ongoing urge to Live a Little (one of our 10 Trends for 2012).  —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: liz west

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