miércoles, 31 de enero de 2018

Fake news: The problem is the measures we are not taken

It´s official now. There is a race for regulate the so-called fake news and other harming content between the Brussels bureaucracy and the big European capitals. After the approval of German law, it is the turn for France for rushing before the European Commission presents its own initiative. One of  shared objectives of the three mentioned initiatives is safeguarding democracy from misinformation. However, although there are a positive side on the part of the initiatives, there could be also unforeseen consequences.

On the bright side we have the push for transparency of some the ideas put forward by the French President. Including transparency regarding sponsored content would make clear to the users who is posting some of the pieces of information that are flowing on the network. However, the almost certain consequence is less sponsored content, so the social networks are beginning to reorganise their business model before the proposal be an actual law.

But we should be cautious with other part of these measures against harmful content. On the heart of them there is also the promotion of a more responsible behaviour of platforms. Although I´m in favour of the idea of demanding a bigger liability of platforms, this demand should not be only for the retirement of harmful content within a certain timeframe, there should be also a counterbalance of fines in case the alleged harmful content retired was not such. Otherwise, the consequence would be an excess of caution that would harm freedom of expression, as we are beginning to see wit the application of the German law.

Unfortunately, what it is missing in all these initiatives are measures for facing the enemy at the the real battlefield: the user. Because the real problem are not the fake news but having an audience that gives credit to the news. And this battle is far to be win according with recent polls. So the problem are not only the measures that are being adopted against fake news, but those that nobody are taken.

miércoles, 24 de enero de 2018

Net cynicism

On the end of 2017, the battle on net neutrality was reawaken. Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers must treat all data on the Internet the same, and not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication. The FCC decision to repeal the Open Internet decision approved in 2015 that ended the enforcement on net neutrality was welcomed by network operators and  criticised by digital platforms. 

The rationale behind those defending net neutrality is the need to guarantee equal opportunities to compete between those who use the internet resources, wether or not they are network providers. Imposing a ban on establishing preferences for the apps using the network prevent that internet providers could act as gatekeepers for the digital economy.

But this is not just another article on net neutrality, but an article on net cynicism. To begin with, let´s done some changes on the definition on net neutrality and start talking about app neutrality. App neutrality is the principle that digital platforms must treat all apps within their environment the same and not discriminate or charge differently by user, design or purpose. The about app neutrality is the change on the subject who is obliged to respect it, which are the digital platforms who call for net neutrality. 

The problem with the enforcement of app neutrality is the subtle forms of some of its violation. For instance, we all agreed with the idea that data is valuable, therefore taking advantage of the full knowledge of app activity on a platform is an indirect charge on the app developer. So the business model of Facebook would violate the app neutrality principle unless the platform provide with an open API to access all the information about any app activity to all the apps developers at the same cost that Facebook use this API for its services.

Something similar could be applied to app stores run by Apple or Google. Both manufacturers have established rules for including apps in its distribution system. The impact of these rules is appreciated with any slight change of them, however there is not a report published regularly of the apps that are banned and the reasons for it. Furthermore, there is not transparency on the results of the acceptability tests for the apps developed by the owner of the appstores.

None of the questions on app neutrality are put on the table by digital platforms jointly with the debate on net neutrality. That is what I called net cynicism.

miércoles, 17 de enero de 2018

Digital breathing air is diminishing

According with the available data, in 2017 among the top 6 companies by market capitalisation 5 are ICT companies, 4 of them close to the concept of "digital platform". These companies are Amazon, Alphabet (Google), Facebook and Apple, the GAFA. Only Google was among the top 20 companies in 2009, Apple was below the 30th post in the 2009 ranking, neither Amazon nor Facebook were in the top 100 companies.

The phenomenal growth of the GAFA is not completely understood yet today. However, it is sure is that working for more thatn a decade in an innovative and not tightly regulated sector has had a big influence in the current situation. The bigger the space you have to breath free of any other living being in the surroundings the more you can expand yourself. But suddenly, the space has started to decrease.

The breathing air for digital platforms is composed by two main elements: the usage of connectivity infrastructure deployed by other companies and contents created by third parties. The connectivity is used in the same conditions as other users without taking into consideration its role as producers and the content is exploited in an indirect manner without any charge for its intermediary role. Both of these elements are on the road of getting more expensive for platforms, and therefore, diminish the space for the benefit obtain from its usage for business purposes.

Starting with connectivity, US Government repealed Net Nutrality regulation. From now on, telcom operators can negotiate paid deals with websites for so-called fast lanes to consumers  as long as they disclose those practices to the public. This could mean in the future higher prices for those (as digital platforms) which are traffic sumps on the Internet, that could be forcedto pay more to have better access to consumers.

On the content side, there are two pressures towards more expensive contents. Firstly, the governments are looking for a bigger control of contents by the digital platforms in order to suppress extremist messages as soon as possible. More control means more humans analysing each piece of content, and, therefore, the need to pay more salaries. Secondly, some content producers are asking for tools to obtain a bigger piece of cake of money obtained for services by platforms built around their news, videos and so on.

So platforms are facing a new challenge: showing that the business model is healthy in spite of the diminution of benefits and the increase in expenses. A change on the landscape that could change the balance of forces in the digital ecosystem.

miércoles, 10 de enero de 2018

Omnichannel: Brick-and-mortar is not dead but the cog of a more complex mechanism

Christmas is over. There are no more gifts under the tree and even the tree has been dismantled. Online sales may have reached a new peak and its for sure that its growth has surpassed once more the growth of brick-and-mortar sales. Back in September, Deloitte forecasts a growth of holiday sales growth of as much as 4.5 percent while e-commerce sales would increase 18 to 21 percent. Taking into account these numbers you may be tempted to close your physical store and you will make an error if you do so.

Although it may look so, the future of sales is not the Internet. At least is not only the Internet. The combination of offline and online shopping is not a provisional stage but a permanent one. According with a survey, in the last Black Friday/Cybermonday campaign in USA while over 58 million shopped online only and over 51 million shopped in stores only, over 64 million shopped both online or in stores. However the future of shopping is also beyond multichannel, it lays in what someone calls omnichannel.

What's the difference between multichannel and omnichannel? Basically, it is a question of customer experience. While in a multichannel strategy a shop print a range of lightly connected options to the shopper, in an omnichannel strategy there is a seamless continuity of the actions done by the shopper through the different channels. For instance, the shopper is free to start the relationship with the commerce through one channel and end it in a different channel.

The implementation of the more basic cases of omnichannel strategies is growing. The US merchants offering omnichannel services as buy online/pick-up in the store or ship to store doubled from 2015 to 2016. But more complex cases are already being implemented. My favourite one is the "My Disney experience" that allow you to start planning your trip to the magic kingdom from your PC to fully enjoy your days with SnowWihite, Peter Pan and the rest of the troop.

So in the end it looks that it could be true that digitalisation will not be the end of jobs but the start of a new breed of them. Omnichannel is the first step in that direction on the retail world.
palyginti kainas