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Third time’s the charm: Google is trying to be a phone company, again

Today, Google officially announced something that the tech world has known for months: it’s launching a pair of high-end Pixel-branded smartphones, killing the Nexus program, and competing more explicitly with Apple and every other company that’s making and selling Android phones.

Google is definitely pushing itself as a hardware company like it never has before. But this is hardly the company’s first effort to get into the smartphone hardware business. The first was the Nexus One, which drew iPhone comparisons when it was launched. But low sales almost killed the brand—Eric Schmidt said in 2010 that the Nexus One “was so successful [in helping Android along], we didn’t have to do a second one”—before it was resurrected and pointed at the developer-and-enthusiast niche.

The second and more serious effort began in 2011, when Google bought Motorola for $12.5 billion. After clearing out the old Motorola’s product pipeline, in 2013 and 2014 the company introduced a series of high-end and midrange Moto phones that were critical darlings for their price tags, their focus on fundamentals, and their fast Android updates. These were three non-broken things that Lenovo promptly “fixed” after it bought Motorola from Google for just $2.9 billion three years later.

Google made no mention of its Motorola experiment onstage today, even though the same guy who ran Motorola is now running Google’s hardware efforts. But the sense that all of this has happened before is just one of the contradictions of Google’s new mobile strategy. More importantly, the company’s actions and stated goals contradict one another, to the extent that I wonder just how committed Google is to its hardware plans and, on a related note, just how good its chances of success are.

Google’s sales pitch for its new phones is distinctly Apple-esque: Pixels are the first phones designed from the ground up by Google, which gives Google the opportunity to tailor the hardware to better suit its software and vice versa. This is a departure from Google’s Nexus strategy, in which Google slapped Nexus branding on existing or near-complete products that one of its partners was already working on.

Except, well, the Pixel phones are pretty Nexus-y. FCC filings show that they were clearly built by HTC, and as our own Ron Amadeo pointed out they appear to share components with HTC designs like the One A9.

“Designed by Google” and “built by HTC” don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I don’t doubt that Google blessed each component and design choice individually or that it became involved in the design process much earlier than it normally would for a Nexus phone. And even if the Pixels are HTC phones with Google logos on them, that’s becoming an increasingly common move. HTC can make phones, but the mass market doesn’t care about its brand. Google has a mass-market brand but maybe didn’t want to start from zero to design a new phone. Fine.

The trouble is, Google has actually designed some quality hardware all by itself. The Pixel Chromebooks were both lovely, though they were priced out of reach of anyone but ChromeOS die-hards. And even though the Pixel C tablet’s software has been rough, its hardware has the benefit of at least looking and feeling good. Chromecast is a Google effort, too, as are Daydream View and Google Home.

Google can design its own hardware, and it says that it does. But the Pixel phones aren’t as Google-y as some of Google’s other devices, and they definitely don’t have the signature design touches of the other Pixel products (including the lightbar and the boxy-yet-still-appealing curves). This may be a springboard, the first step in a transition from the Nexus era to a new Pixel era. Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh says that he’s already seen photos from next year’s Pixel camera, so at a bare minimum Google has a roadmap that it’s in control of. But the way Google is hitting the “#MadeByGoogle” drum so hard is odd, given the Pixel’s obvious lineage.
Exclusive features don’t mesh with Google’s business model

Google’s hardware contradictions are puzzling but easily explained. The software contradictions are more troubling.

One of the reasons Apple can get away with keeping iPhone prices the same every year even as Android phones get cheaper is that the company really is in full control of its hardware, software, and ecosystem. The iPhone is the only place to get iOS, it’s the only phone that offers tight integration with the Mac and other Apple products, and it’s the only place where you can get iOS apps.

Few players in the Android market, Samsung aside, can do the same thing, since the primary differentiator is often price rather than any particular gimmick or spec. Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer believes there’s room for another player in the high-end, high-margin phone market. That may be true, but when asked what Google intends to provide that other Android phone makers won’t or can’t (beyond intangibles like brand value), his answers were vague.

Clearly, the Pixel is going to get a lot of things first: Android 7.1 will come to the Pixel before it’s even available as a developer preview for older Nexus and Pixel devices, to say nothing of OEMs who haven’t even started shipping Android 7.0 updates. The Google Assistant and Google’s new Pixel Launcher are both Pixel exclusives, at least for now.

But Android’s success is built in part on how widespread it is, and Google’s business is built on casting wide nets that can collect lots of data. It might make sense to keep the Pixel Launcher exclusive to the Pixel phones to give Google’s phones their own unique look and feel and tighter integration with all of Google’s services. But the Assistant will almost certainly be available for other Android devices eventually, just as Google Now and Google Now On Tap (two services that have plenty of overlap with the Assistant anyway) already are. The Daydream VR platform is already open to other phone makers as long as they’re using Android 7.1.

Google’s stuck in a place where it needs to give its own Android phones unique features to differentiate them from the crowd, which is doubly true since they’re being sold at iPhone and Galaxy prices instead of Nexus prices. But it makes most of its money by building out large userbases and making its products and services as available to as many people as is realistically possible. In that tug of war, Google will ultimately be pushed to do whatever is best for its bottom line, something that may damage its nascent phone business.

Which kind of Google experiment will the Pixel phones be?

Are we missing a part of Google’s strategy? The so-called “Andromeda” project, that long-rumored collision of Android and ChromeOS, could be part of it. But this whole hardware shift could just as easily be one more experiment from a company that loves to try new things without always committing to them.

Gmail, Android, Chrome, Chromebooks, the Chromecast, and of course the search engine that forms the core of the company are all solid successes that Google is obviously committed to. Motorola, the Nexus Q, the Android Update Alliance, the Google Play Edition program, Google Hangouts, the OnHub, Google Buzz, Google Wave, Google+, Project Ara, Google Glass, Google TV, Google Reader, and any number of other initiatives swept under the rug during a “spring cleaning” phase were all eventually canceled or dramatically scaled back as the company’s strategy and personnel have changed.

Source: ars Technica , article by Andrew Cunningham (http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/10/googles-phone-strategy-is-a-study-in-contradictions/)

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Snapchat Unveils Video-Recording Sunglasses

Available in the fall for $130, they’ll record 10-second video clips.

Meet Snap, Inc., a Venice, Calif.-based startup that’s behind the popular ephemeral messaging app Snapchat.

Snap, Inc. is Snapchat’s new corporate name because the company now has a second product: A pair of sunglasses equipped with a video camera, marking its entry into the hardware business. The glasses record 10-second clips that are synced to the user’s smartphone so they can be shared via Snapchat, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Earlier on Friday, news site Business Insider published a video clip showcasing the sunglasses, which also displayed the company’s new name at the end.

The sunglasses, called Spectacles, will be available this fall for $129.99, in black, teal, and coral, according to the Journal. Its camera uses a 115-degree-angle lens and records video in a circular frame instead of the typical rectangle to make it more akin to the human wearer’s vantage point. This is no surprise considering that many Snapchat users document their day-to-day lives using the app’s Stories feature, a temporary collection of photos and videos.

The new glasses are reminiscent of Google Glass, the search giant’s short-lived connected eyewear product that was discontinued in early 2015 after it failed to catch on widely. Its failure was largely attributed to common concerns over privacy if a wearer filmed people without their consent.

Snapchat began in 2011 as an app for sharing photos and short videos that disappear after the recipient has viewed them, an answer to growing teenage anxiety about the permanence of online social networks potentially haunting them later in life. Since then, it has added a media hub to its app where users can read short news articles from publishers like People, Vice, and CNN. It also features Stories and Memories, an album for saving certain photos and videos users wants to keep.

Snapchat’s ambition of becoming more than a startup with a photo-sharing app has been clear for quite some time. It’s been fostering relationships with major publishers and expanding its advertising products in a clear bid to be a media company.

But there appears to be more. According to the Journal‘s interview with Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s co-founder and CEO, he thinks of Snapchat as a camera company. He draws comparisons to the histories of Kodak and Polaroid, whose cameras helped shape the trajectory photography took from people posing for photos in a studio, to carrying camera nearly everywhere.

Rumors that Snapchat was working on a wearable device began to emerge over the past year or so as the company quietly hired experts in hardware, eyewear, augmented reality, and other related areas. In June, Business Insider also reported that the sunglasses Spiegel was photographed wearing while on vacation a year prior were an early prototype of Spectacles.

Source: Fortune, article by Kia Kokalitcheva (http://fortune.com/2016/09/24/snapchat-video-sunglasses/)

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Tools to Help You Track Your Startup

When you’re busy building a startup, there isn’t always time to keep track of what people are saying about your company. Luckily, there are a bunch of great products to make tracking your startup easier than ever.
We put together a list of six different tools to help you monitor when your startup is mentioned online, as well as track companies, markets, and people you care about. Read on for the full list.
1. Index
Keep track of companies & markets you care about

Index, created by the team at The Next Web, uses public content on the web and turns it into structured data on locations, industries, and private tech companies around the world.
There are a lot of cool uses for this tool. You can use it to keep an eye on potential investors, competitors, or markets. You can also create custom lists to track the investments, acquisitions, and other updates you care about while filtering out the news that isn’t as important to you.
If you sign up for the “Pro” or “Expert” versions of this tool, you’ll get access to even more features, such as: weekly digests, advanced search, CSV exports, and a daily investment newsletter. This tool is certainly worth the investment if you‘re looking to more efficiently keep track of what matters to you and your company.

2. Notify
Get notified in Slack when your startup is mentioned online

There are so many things you can do with this Slack integration, and setting it up is super easy. You can create alerts for anything you want to be notified about, like when your startup or competitors are mentioned anywhere online, when a specific person is mentioned, or when something gets published about an event or topic you want to track. You can also select sources you want to read notifications from (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Blogs, Product Hunt, Medium, News Sites, etc.).
If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of anything important to you, Notify is a no-brainer Slack integration (But yes, you do have to be a Slack user).

3. App Review Monitor
App Store reviews delivered to Slack and your inbox

This tool, created by the LaunchKit team, is a free service that notifies you when your app receives a new review in the App Store. You can keep your team up-to-date with alerts sent via email or Slack. You can also have App Review Monitor automatically tweet about your five-star reviews.
Of course, you won’t always receive perfect reviews. One of the most important elements of great customer service is finding and communicating with customers who are underwhelmed by your app. With this tool, you can easily forward a less-than-awesome review to your support team and find the reviewer online so you can start a direct conversation with him or her.
We’re big fans of any tool that makes a normally tedious task easier—and this one certainly fits the bill!

4. Mattermark for iOS
1 million+ companies in your pocket. Absolutely free.

Mattermark is one of the most beloved tools in the startup world. Venture capitalists and salespeople are willing to pay $6,000 a year for the data and insights this product offers.
Mattermark for iOS, however, is completely free. Using the mobile app, you can learn more about over 1 million companies, share profiles and news with your network, and stay on top of daily funding events and important company news.
This is a must-have app for any startup enthusiast.

5. Startup Tracker 2.0
Keep tabs on up-and-coming startups

Startup Tracker is like Rapportive for startups. If you’re reading an article about Shyp, this tool will show you a summary of the most important information about the company without you ever needing to leave your browser.
Startup Tracker scours leading data sources like Beta List, CrunchBase, Product Hunt, Facebook, and Twitter to compile detailed company profiles. You can use it to search across over 400,000 profiles and discover new and trending startups. This is a fantastic way to learn about and keep track of your favorite companies.

6. Monitor Backlinks
Track backlinks for any website

If you want to improve your website’s SEO, backlinks matter—but they are often difficult to keep track of. This product makes it so much easier. After a quick setup, you’ll get access to a dashboard when you can monitor new backlinks, SEO progress, and organic traffic driven by search engines as a result. You’ll also have insight into your keyword rankings, links with social interaction, Nofollow vs. Dofollow links, and more.
This is a fantastic way to strengthen SEO and keep tabs on your competitors. A great tool for marketers and anyone else who nerds about about website growth.

Source: Medium (https://medium.com/@producthunt/tools-to-help-you-track-your-startup-1214d572044#.ymqvxert7)

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Why content marketing should be part of your strategy

There are numerous studies showing that up to 90 per cent of clients research their buying decisions online before speaking directly to a salesperson. Yikes.

The challenge for advisers therefore is to create awareness of your services with potential clients you haven’t shaken hands with yet. It means focusing more of your sales efforts on building awareness and influence. Thankfully, ‘content marketing,’ with the help of the internet, is proving a valuable way for businesses to create awareness and influence targeted client groups.

What is content marketing?

The Content Marketing Institute describes content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” In layman’s terms, this means providing potential and current clients with access to valuable information (aka content) free of charge, which can educate them about, or simply pique their interest in, the value of professional planning advice.

Ultimately, content marketing is deemed to be a ‘soft’ sales method by marketing types. This means that through a content marketing campaign, you’re not directly selling to clients in a traditional “sales” sense in the same way as an advertisement in a newspaper does, or that persistent English backpacker knocking down the door with the latest and greatest telephone plan. Rather, with content marketing, you’re building a relationship with clients through quality content, whether it’s a blog or a video, which builds awareness of your business and its expertise.

Examples of content

Blogging is the most common way businesses deliver content today. Also called ‘thought leadership’ by the marketing cognoscenti, this is the process of providing regular, consistent commentary or opinions. Blogs are mostly delivered through your website, social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook, or an industry publication such as Professional Planner.

Content is not simply limited to blogging, and it can take many forms, such as video content, inbound marketing, public relations, infographics, interactive image content and webinars. This is not an exhaustive list, and ultimately any accessible content that has a connection to your brand is a form of content marketing.

Marketing content

Every good marketing strategy needs content as a component. For example, clients are always at different points in the buying cycle. Some clients are ready to engage now, while others are not yet ready to purchase. If a prospective client is researching “financial advice” or “financial planning”, providing valuable and consistent content is the perfect way to grab attention and build awareness of your business. To illustrate, lets’ say you write a blog about your “Five top super tips for the Over 40s.” By giving clients access to this information, you’re helping to educate and engage them. More importantly, they are not hassled by an overactive sales person. If the content is valuable, brand loyalty will start to build.

Getting started with content

If you’re not sure where to get started, be aware that there’s a million and one content gurus who’ll spruik their services to you. However, content must add value by educating your prospective clients, which is the best tip I can give you. This means ignoring the trap of writing about yourself or your business – prospective clients can already work out what you do from your website.

Consider topics that will resonate with your clients and provide valuable content around these themes. If you’re giving them free advice such as my “Five top super tips for the Over 40s” theme, you’re educating them in a way that engages them with the concept of financial planning and your brand simultaneously.

Source: Professional Planner, article by Anthony O’Brien (https://www.professionalplanner.com.au/featured-posts/2016/09/19/why-content-marketing-should-be-part-of-your-strategy-49392/)

 

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Is Your Firm Failing at Content Marketing?

It happens. You look at your Google Analytics traffic and the traffic to your blog is sad. No one is downloading your white papers and ebooks. You can’t get anyone to publish your guest blog articles. Your social media posts just sit and want for engagement and likes. No one in your company has the time or bandwidth to write a meaningful blog post. You feel like this whole content marketing thing is a hoax.

Don’t give up on content marketing just yet. If you feel like your firm is failing at B2B content marketing, there are several things you can do to turn it around.
Evaluate Your Strategy

Take a good look at your marketing strategy and your content plan. Wait, you don’t have a strategy? Check out Why Bother with a Content Marketing Plan before you go any further. If you have a strategy in place, look it over again. Is it too ambitious? Does it need more structure?

You can easily revamp your strategy by asking for input internally, especially from sales and customer service. Both sales and customer service work with prospects and clients on a daily basis and will have great input regarding common questions, typical objections, and what content would help close deals or educate clients. Also, make sure that your strategy has the resources and support to be properly executed.

Look at Your Competition

Check out what your competitors are doing with content marketing. In many cases, you may get some ideas from what they are (and aren’t) doing. We do not suggest copying anything that your competition is doing, but if they have a particular blog or white paper that has a lot of comments, questions, or likes – take that as a cue that your audience is interested in that particular topic.

Looking at your competitor’s B2B content marketing tactics can also help you to articulate what makes you different and what you should include in your content. For example, if they spend a lot of time discussing pricing and budget, focus on your value proposition of real-time customer service and long-term partnerships.
Get Help & Internal Buy-In

You can’t do this alone and you shouldn’t. Effective B2B content marketing typically takes a group effort to be effective. As a marketing professional, you know your product or services, but your engineers or support team may be better able to discuss how it works and/or solves a problem. Tap into internal resources, even if it’s an interview, to get the educational information you need to write a great blog post, ebook, or case study.

Internal support is essential to prioritizing content marketing. If your internal team doesn’t really believe in the effectiveness of B2B marketing, it will be difficult to get external interest. Share these B2B marketing statistics with the key influencers in your organization to get everyone on board with your content marketing strategy.
Pay to Promote Your Content

One of the main failures of content marketing is a lack of promotion. Social media is getting to be a “pay to play” space, meaning you’ll need to allocate part of your budget to promoting your blog posts, ebooks, guides, and case studies. The good news is that on many platforms – like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – once you pay to promote your post, the organic exposure goes up as well!

Many marketers create great content and then fail at putting that awesome content in front of their target market. Paying to promote your content marketing pieces is a surefire way to make sure your ideal prospect or client is seeing the valuable information you are sharing.
Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

We are quickly reaching a point of saturation with B2B content marketing. More and more firms are creating content and pushing it out on the internet. You don’t need to create more content to compete, you need to create better content. Make sure every piece of content you create is well written, offers new information, and has valuable insights for your target audience. Take the time to create irresistible content. Lastly, make sure it isn’t overly promotional. No one wants to read a 500-word advertisement.

Remember: content marketing is a long-term strategy, not a quick win. Invest the time, resources, and thought into creating a B2B marketing strategy that positions your firm as a thought leader and entices prospects to engage with your content.

Source: Business 2 Community, article by Jeremy Durant (http://www.business2community.com/content-marketing/firm-failing-content-marketing-01653439#yQcEFqBSSuY1jcGw.99)

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