Users are exposed to a number of platforms in the digital world. Each platform has it’s own quirks.
The typical strategy from a creator/publisher point of view is to create a core piece of content. Modify it for different platforms and publish them strategically. There are services that allow you to do this fairly simply.
Then there are open protocols in this space like RSS which enable sharing of text based content. Podcasts also follow a standard format allowing a creator to publish to different podcast players at the same time. Spotify announced an OpenAccess platform that will allow creators to publish their paid audio content on Spotify while still maintaining their direct relationship with their audience.
The need from the user point of view is quite clear here. We have preferences between different types of content. Some might like to read a full-fledged article or watch a Youtube video on the topic, or read a condensed twitter thread or, listen to it as a podcast form. While the underlying content is the same, the delivery channel is different.
The ways in which the user can interact with the content is also different in each case. In twitter they can retweet it or comment/like a twitter thread. While a blog post can be shared with others over email or any messaging social media app they use.
Monetization is different in these platforms as well. In Youtube the primary forms of monetization is either through the built-in AdSense or having In-Video sponsors. While the monetization for a blog/podcast could be a direct subscription model with individual users.
One use case that will for sure be filled with cryptocurrencies like Ethereum in the coming years is that of internet money.
Just like we had an era of web-first applications and shops, which then became mobile-first. Internet-first money is yet be fully realized. Money that is not tied to a physical entity per se, but at the same time can store and be a medium of exchange of value over the internet.
Money, Paypal credits, Credit are all good forms of value individual users or businesses use to transfer wealth between each other. This can be done via online too but the underlying mechanism is still tied to bank accounts and balance ledgers maintained by different banks. The internet only acts as a proxy for the transaction.
Internet money, on the other hand has the capability to sustain the transaction and it’s underlying mechanism end-to-end within the internet. Imagine if API’s wanted to exchange money and not users or businesses. Internet money would be the default way to do it.
By the looks of it, cryptocurrencies are the most poised to fill in this use-case.
InterPlanetary File System(IPFS) is a protocol that can be used to store and share data in a peer-to-peer system. Similar to HTTP, the protocol on the internet to share and store information. One problem with HTTP is that the computer requesting for a webpage has to directly establish connection to the server storing it. Therefore transactions are serial and singled-out.
IPFS on the other hand can download a file from the network from multiple sources. IPFS creates a a cryptographic hash for all the blocks within a file. These blocks can be stored in multiple and different locations. IPFS uses a decentralized name server IPNS (equivalent to DNS for HTTP) to map human readable filenames to these cryptographic hashes. This allows a the requesting node to download several pieces of the file simultaneously from different locations.
IPFS essentially decouples the content from the addressing on a network. This would allow the requesting node to download a file from the nearest possible location instead of being bottlenecked to one location.
What the internet together with the smartphone has now done is that it democratized accessibility. Any website, article, tweet, video, image, product, service on the web can be read by anyone in the world. But this has taken out the geographical localization from the experience of buying something or experience a product.
In most cases it is more efficient to just order for food in an app rather than to physically go to a restaurant and pick up an order. The same applies to e-commerce, flight and hotel booking etc. Businesses that rely on the hyperlocal aspect for its business still need a network of employees to run its operations. Whether it is a delivery/logistic arm of Amazon or distributed pockets of people who are ready to rent out a space to strangers.
The scalability of such systems on top of a stack like the internet is huge. Nothing new here. But what that means is that, for a given reward structure, a biggest fish WILL have to emerge in almost every pond. Not completely extinguishing it’s competitors. But leaving enough room for bespoke peers in the market.
An example is Amazon followed by all these niche e-commerce websites. Like Google followed by the rest.
An ultra niche is a niche within a niche. A minority within a smaller group. The outliers of the pack. The internet makes it possible to cater to such ultra-niches in a viable manner.
A piece of software that solves a particular problem for 100 people. Only 100. They would be ready to pay for the product since it is the only product or the best product that solves their exact problem. The amount they would be willing to pay depends on 2 things. First, how much of a pain the problem is for them. Secondly, how much value can be created for our users by solving this problem. What “potential” is being unlocked by solving this problem and how big of a “potential” is that. It can be in the form of freeing up their time or helping them do something more efficiently.
If the problem is recurring, they would be willing to pay in a recurring way.
Finding the exact 100 people with this problem is the hard part. Maybe forums, reddit, fb groups, twitter all are ways to find people within a niche. Of which to filter again to find the 100 in our ultra-niche.
Super Apps, a term that became mainstream thanks to a 2015 podcast by Andreessen Horowitz. A super app is a closed ecosystem with multiple apps and services that work together seamlessly. They offer a wide range of options to users within this ecosystem.
WeChat is the classic example of a super app. WeChat started out as a messaging app. Which then branched out to be a social media app. Eventually, they integrated financial services that allowed users to send money to each other, order services, order in restaurants and use WeChat as a default payment method.
AliPay took a different path. They began as a payment app. And then integrated other features.
Why are they becoming more popular? From a user point of view, super apps can tie in different services and offer user experiences that other conventional apps just cannot. A single app is perhaps better at keeping the attention of the users. Less context switching.
This is also a direct outcome of API’s fueling digital growth. Most companies would like to build a brand and business around a service or a product. Some companies are better off with just offering an API and letting other businesses figure out the rest of the value chain. Getting features/integrated to a super app is like getting featured in the front page of reddit, but for API companies.
Even though these kind of apps are most common in Asia, there is growing interest for super apps globally. Google is probably at the right place at the right time to capitalise on such a service. They already run a tight ship with their suite of apps. But packaging them into a coherent set of features of a super app might not be that far away.
Media in the past were limited by the medium. News by physically printing newspapers. The music industry by CDs. Television by cable with limited channels that could be programmed. Distribution in these mediums were inherently limited. The internet and smartphone duo breaks this.
Until then services were usually bundled. You didn’t have to subscribe to Sports News, World News or Business News separately. They all came as a bundle. The same goes for television. The unit economics made sense to bundle these even if not all customers are interested in each product or service. However with the internet it became easier for services to offer these individual products with no additional cost. And now we are seeing the great unbundling as Ben Thompson wrote in a 2017 article.
There are two problems from the customer point of view. Today there are just too many subscriptions. According to Forbes, as of mid-2019, the average American subscribes to 3.4 streaming services. Managing subscriptions, payments, logins and being able to find the right content for you to consume is often a task in itself. Secondly, most customers have a monthly subscription budget. Which means that they have to choose what they would like to subscribe to.
Recently, there is a great influx of individual creators trying to carve out a space for themselves. Substack has popularised and hyped that anyone with a mailing list could start creating a content and put some of it behind a paywall. Creators focus on niches to gain some ground initially but eventually they too diversify and spread out. Which is not a bad thing, but is it enough to justify the monthly paid subscription even then? Probably yes, because by then readers are not only buying into the content but also the brand around it.
A possible solution where this is headed to is another wave of bundling. The great bundling of niches. An app store of sorts that can provide a wide array of content ranging from Netflix to Substack newsletters, from News shows to sports. There could even be sections for individual creators, journalists and writers. Customers can then mix and match what they would like to subscribe to.
One subscription to rule them all.
In the beginning of the 20th century, industrial revolution was beginning to kick business activity into pace. The economy began to gain momentum from the newfound productivity from all the machinery. That created a shift from organizations that were until then more family-run to enterprises. This trend spread across the globe. In the second half of the century, air travel became more and more prevalent. Globalization began. It became easier to do business across borders just like it became easier to travel. This led to the strengthening of conglomerates and monoliths of the corporate world. They had access to resources and capital that enabled them to expand globally.
In the last 20 years, we can see a similar trend that is fuelled by the internet. Internet companies were fragmented after the dot-com bubble. But they were in a position of advantage to get a sense of the scale of the internet early on. Those companies went on to become internet giants. Newer technology like the blockchain and trends like higher social media adoption is kickstarting a new wave in business cycles.
In the coming 20 years businesses will become more remote and decentralized. They can be owned, managed and operated in a distributed manner that was not possible before. Now the technology exists. Incentives to build on such platforms are limited but expanding. The true potential of decentralized businesses is still not known. We are in a state of early adopters moving to the peak of the hype.
Content is abundant. Thanks to the internet which has created an economy of abundance. Curating content is becoming a prominent niche in the creator economy. The realization that most people don’t have time. And curating is an easy, low barrier to entry way to save time for other people, i.e. your audience. Saving time for others is a form of value that you can exchange. You don’t even have to be an expert in a field to curate. Spending some time on related websites and forums can help you identify what is part of the trend. Stumbling upon content that is “interesting” becomes more easy that way. The tricky part is to identify if that meets the minimum-value-proposition, whether it is engaging and whether it should be curated or not.
Getting it out to the world has never been easier. A lot of platforms exist that could help you kickstart a newsletter. Platforms like Curated are focused on curation as it’s main form of content for newsletters.
Saving pieces of content and capturing information and data is almost free thanks to technology. Hoarding information in the form of bookmark managers that are not tended to and overflowing to do lists are more common. Simply because we are exposed to more content than we have time for. In such a world, our attention becomes the new currency for social transactions (liking a post, sharing a tweet etc.) on the web.
We live in a time where a decent internet connection can bring the world’s knowledge to our fingertips. Smartphones together with that has created this new medium where most of human attention is spent on. And knowing what users are looking at and what their preferences are is a game-changer. Well, knowing in itself is not the game-changer but the scale is. We have the possibility to look at a lot of data before making decisions. However, even with access to data, we tend to take a decisions based on our gut feeling or on someone else’s opinion (on a personal and an organizational level). Simply because that’s how we normally do it. There are lot of decisions that we have to make that can be done in a much informed way like choosing an employer, finding an apartment, deciding a vacation spot or even buying a car.
So even though we are quite into this new medium we haven’t started to fully utilize the potential it brings. In this new medium, we don’t have to physically show up somewhere to get paid. The content we create can do that for us, across the globe.