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Gary Schwartz
Author: Mobile Technology & Shopper Behavior
Author: Mobile Technology & Shopper Behavior

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At the end of 2014, publishers began turn mute on with reader's comments. Within a few weeks of each other, Recode, Mic, The Week, and Reuters all announced that they were closing down their comment sections.


Popular Science succinctly wrote: "Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself."

A vocal minority of commenters shape public opinion. Flamers, spambots and trolls influence the content on the page. This minority can alter the general readerships opinion. This in turn impugns or even kills the editorial voice of the publication.

So how do publications manage the growing social voice of their readership? if they retreat into a editorial citadel, are they not afraid of becoming marginalized?

There are safe and structured ways of balancing social with editorial content. One way is to embed published content into social. This is what Facebook has advocated in their Instant Articles program. Content lives in Facebook.

Publishing Instant Articles Directly From Your Content Management 
Using Facebook as a publishing partner can be a slipper slop for an editorial publication. While it maybe a quick (or instant) fix on audience reach. It is difficult to repatriate those eyeball balls back to the safety of your news portal.

Many pundit would go as far as saying that editorial is an artifact of the past. Alexis Lloyd at The New York Times wrote boldly that the concept of an “article” maybe outdated.

Alexis writes: "Creating news ... means considering the time scales of our reporting in much more innovative ways ... documents should have ways of reacting to new reporting or information; and we should consider the consumption behavior of our users ..."

How can you balance the new social behaviour of readers and the expert editorial voice? Storify and other platforms allow social to be "cherry picked" and added to editorial. Is this the answer?

It is a safe content strategy but it is simply using social media as another journalistic source. This does little to promote the audience's voice or the reach of the publication.

I want to go back to Alexis article in the NYTimes. She advocates three solutions to reboot editorial content.

ENHANCED TOOLS: to go beyond hyper links and add encoded, tagged, embeddable, contextual information into an article. "An article could contain not only its top-level narrative, but also a number of entry points into deeper background, context or analysis."

SUMMARIZATION AND SYNTHESIS: If you treat articles as singular monolith, it’s very hard to combine knowledge or information. How do you "make [news] accessible, reusable, and remixable after the fact."

ADAPTIVE CONTENT: How to develop omni-channel content? Full form features through to one-liners on a Apple watch. The article need to be deconstructed into parts of a whole.

Unquestionable, incumbent media is challenged. Alexis Lloyd correctly points this out. So what is the future of the article? What tools take use beyond the existing format?

We need to evolve the traditional beginning, middle and end of a news story. We need to retain control of the content but allow for this content to be broken into module. These modules need to work as social hooks to drawn in audience.

We cannot let the social parts (which lead to content fragmentation) adversely effect the integrity of the story. But we need the social parts to allow for audience participation on key ideas.

Nate Silvers' website FiveThirtyEight facilitated micro-blogging among multiple journalists. This was one narrative presented in bite sized social portions. Each post could be discussed on Twitter or Facebook.

This allows for the reader to have a voice in social media without hijacking the editorial media on the site.

The final challenge is to allow all the micro-content to then act as a promotional channel to drive the social audience back to the structured content on your site. Move them from micro-discussions to a macro view of the story.

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“Mobile apps that succeed to drive reach and frequency own their verticals,” said Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of Impact Mobile. “Facebook, Amazon and Uber are hero examples. These apps know their core value proposition and then expand their offerings like a bell curve to stay relevant and further monetize their traffic.

“Nike’s immersive app provides sport lifestyle access as well as competition and training functions; this drives product stickiness and community.”

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“Increasingly the car (axle and four wheels) is becoming commoditized,” said Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of Impact Mobile. “The ambient interior can be carried as a profile on your smartphone. It can be entered in your connected car dashboard.

“If I can move my identity (movies, music, books, temperature and lighting preferences) between vehicles, the car becomes less valuable than my profile,” he said. “This is increasingly the case in a shared economy.

“If car manufacturers do not create a sticky digital play that is modular, they will lose value and positioning.”

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“I recall one of the first North American QSR mobile promotions fifteen years ago was around Valentine’s Day and pizza,” said Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of Impact Mobile, New York. “The call-to-action was SMS your ‘cheesiest pickup line.’

“With Snapchat and Facebook Live, there is richer media integration, but the goals remain the same: viral sharing. Valentine’s Day is a couples’ celebration and a tremendous opportunity for the brand that can facilitate, or even accelerate, communication to a partner and then to its extended community as an ‘Aaw–shucks’ share.”

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This past week, the media happily announced that Echo was "all grown up.” An astounding adulthood spurt given that Echo is mainly relegated to kitchens and has the key functionality of telling you the weather and managing your Spotify account while your fingers are full of cookie dough.

On a lazy Sunday with my Echo and americano, I thought I would ask a few questions about my listening friend.

Echo is a latecomer to world of personal assistants.  The voices of Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana had already personalize data and become synonymous with search. They truly opened up the world to thick-thumbed, car-bound, errand-challenged consumers. They made assistants increasingly central to our connected home, self-driving car and fast-growing Internet of Things-enabled universe.

As author Anthony J. D’Angelo wrote, “Always be nice to secretaries. They are the real gatekeepers in the world.”  

A digital butler or personal assistant’s prime goal is to anticipate our needs. To service their master, they need to understand every whim, every idiosyncrasy. While each artificial intelligence system has its own approach, there is only one winner: data.

Siri sass

Smart voice recognition was always an aspirational feature for Apple. In 1987, Steve Jobs’ team developed a prototype sketch called the “Knowledge Navigator” that gave a prescient glimpse of a voice-driven world: an ideal blend of computer meets human.

Twenty years later, Apple found its voice-recognition based personal assistant. It was a small startup called Siri, a humble download from the App Store powered by Nuance’s speech recognition engine that had successfully integrated to Yahoo Local, Yelp, OpenTable and MovieTickets. It was an Echo-type service that helped you find a taxi and reserve a meal as well as a ticket for the after-dinner movie show.

When Apple bought the startup voice recognition software company, it disappeared from the App Store and reappeared as a “super app” bundled on a voice-driven search and dictation features directly into the new smartphone. 

Inspiring Spike Jonze’s movie “Her,” there was a pop-cult bond to Siri. We all fell in love with Scarlett Johansson: a voice that really understood and personalized our needs.

What Apple launched, Google has advanced.  

Since July 9, 2012 appearing in Android's Jelly Bean operating system, the Google Now voice assistant proactively delivered to users information that it predicted. 

Google Now could successfully anticipate, in a human way, based on the wealth of data Google had on its consumer via calendar entries, email content and search behavior. The new assistant was so much on its game in its first year that Popular Science named Google Now the "Innovation of the Year.”

The Google assistant's success was not only attributed to technology but to its command of data.

Marty says, “Data rules”

Google’s edge is that it can leverage its Knowledge Graph project that provides a semantic-search algorithm based on a wide and widening array of sources. 

The Knowledge Graph seeks meaning and connections between its users’ common locations, repeated calendar appointments, search queries as well as public alerts, nearby photos and activity summary.

This universe of smarts is growing. 

In January 2015, Google Now opened up to third-party applications including Airbnb, eBay, The Guardian and Lyft, allowing these partners to inject personal content – or info "cards" – into the semantic search. This graph becomes an artificial intelligence leviathan.

My friend, Marty Cooper, who is considered the "father of the cell phone,” conceived the first handheld mobile phone in 1973 and led the team that developed it and brought it – affectionately named the Brick for it size, weight and shape – to market in 1983. 

I asked Mr. Cooper about the future of the phone, communication and data in this interview. 

Mr. Cooper said, "Our society is overwhelmed with data. Intelligent and strategic analysis of data makes the difference between success and failure. 

“The future cell phone will be a collection of personal devices and personal applications specifically tailored to its owner,” he said. “It will be distributed on optimum locations on the user's body and will automatically and continuously optimize its configuration and yet, there are only so many megapixel, megabits per second and megaHertz that can be useful to people.”

According to Mr. Cooper, we do not have the time or ability to ask Siri, no matter how smart she is, the right questions. Data needs to be customized and tailored to our needs. 

Mr. Cooper said information needs to be "automatically and continuously optimized” to make it accessible and, importantly, useful.

Echo: Q&A, Q&A, Q&A

Amazon has data. It commands our one-click checkout. It owns our commerce trust and has a wealth of purchase behavior stored in its data bank. 

However, all Amazon’s data forays outside of commerce have flopped. Fire Phone was a two-time quiet failure. Moreover, we do not calendar or email with Amazon. 

When Echo launched as a personal assistant in 2014, it had the Siri bravado. It adopted a persona, Alexa, and bundled an SDK hoping the developer community would build value for the startup.  

With the failure of the Fire Phone, it played on Echo's independence from the smartphone community. It opted for the kitchen and the living room as opposed to the consumer's jean pocket.

Niche, but nice. Echo makes perfect sense as an artificial intelligence control for your music and on-demand questions related to weather or sports. 

Spotify, Uber and Domino’s make sense. However, without deep and smart data, Echo is an also-ran Siri without the omnipresence.

As Apple, Google and Amazon vie for a clientelling relationship with their customers, each can leverage it to their strengths. 

Amazon will play its premium streaming service for the home. Along with its Dash for impulse purchases, Echo becomes a home utility. Its on-demand nature makes it a strong Internet of Things contender for the connected home. 

For this reason Echo has become a best-selling electronic product on The device has more than 30,000 reviews with a fan rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

While I love this connected speaker, its owner, Amazon, is data challenged and ultimately will lose its edge as the home becomes smarter and less gimmick driven. 

GOOGLE IS ultimately positioned to win the trust of the consumer because it can anticipate the answer before the user needs to ask the question.

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Marty Cooper is considered the "father of the cell phone". He conceived the first handheld mobile phone (distinct from the car phone) in 1973 and led the team that developed it and brought it to market in 1983.

Marty talks with me about the future of the phone and communications.

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Google’s self-driving car AI can qualify as a driver.

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“For as long as I have been in the mobile marketing world, Time Square has been its mobile circus ring,” said Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of Impact Mobile, New York. “From asking a VW car questions via SMS to Forever 21 and the Disney store competing for augmented reality crowd engagement off their billboards.”

“Of all the hot or not ideas, I think this campaign is perfect for the brand, it has an authentic cultural spin and drives loyalty for existing users and adoption for those who want a chance at ‘Lucky Money.’”

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“Whenever you gamify a promotion, you drive repetitive consumer engagement,” said Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of Impact Mobile. “This, by definition, becomes an omni-screen and thus a mobile experience.

“Bracketology, like its NCAA patriarch, drives needed brand viability with fans. Dog fans are as fanatical and will drive this same gaming loyalty.”

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“In Quaker's omnichannel digital promotion, Twitter is relegated to a simple media buy,” said Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of Impact Mobile. “Quaker, like many CPGs, is using Twitter's customer targeting services (keyword, demographic, intent, etc.) to generate click-through. 

“However, brands need to tackle each channel as a separate engagement opportunity. While uniquely customizing each channel is not easy and requires more brand resources; the ROI justifies this added effort.”
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