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Government report identifies six disruptive tech trends to watch

11:07PM | Sunday, 23 November

Mobile messaging apps such as Whatsapp are killing traditional text messages while multi-screening is going mainstream, according to an Australian Communications and Media Authority.   The ACMA paper, titled Six emerging trends in media and communications, attempts to identify disruptive media and communications trends that “strain the effectiveness and efficiency of existing regulatory settings”.   Here are the six media and communications trends identified in the report:   1. Communications go over the top   Consumers are increasingly rejecting carrier-based phone calls and text messages in favour of apps and online services such as Apple iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Snapchat and Microsoft’s Skype.   According to the report, revenues from fixed line phone services have collapsed by 34% in five years, from $18.296 billion in 2008 to just $12.045 billion in 2013.   Over the same time frame, the number of voice over internet protocol (VOIP) users has surged from 2.1 million to 4.6 million.   However, this extra data users has been good news to mobile phone carriers, which have seen their revenues surge from $15.967 billion to $20.014 billion.   2. Consumers build their own links It’s not just the number of communications apps that is booming. Australian consumers are using them with a wider variety of devices, which are connected over a growing number of network technologies.   Consumers now regularly switch between fixed-line internet connections, Wi-Fi, mobile broadband and – especially in remote areas – satellite connections, depending on the time of day.   The number of devices they use is also increasing, with the number of Australians owning a tablet, laptop and smartphone increasing from 28% in 2013 to 53% in 2014.   3. Wearables are set to boom   On top of smartphones, tablets and laptops, the report predicts wearables (including Google Glass, smartwatches and fitness trackers) are set to become increasingly common over the coming years.   The report suggests the number of wearables worldwide will grow from 22 million in 2013 to 177 million in 2018.   It also predicts that an increase in the number of devices running Google’s Android Wear platform, along with the release of the Apple Watch early next year, will lead this trend to accelerate.   4. Online content is going mainstream   The internet is not just disrupting the way we communicate.   According to the report, consumers are increasingly viewing a greater number of TV services (including pay TV, broadcast TV, streaming TV and catch-up TV) delivered to a growing number of devices, over a growing number of network technologies.   In a typical week, 97% of Australians watch a free-to-air or pay TV service. By contrast, one-in-two Australians have watched online TV over the past six months. This includes professionally produced catch-up or streaming TV services, pirated movies and content from video sites such as YouTube.   Meanwhile, people aged between 16 and 24 now watch more TV over the internet than they do from broadcast television services.   5. Multistreaming is now mainstream   In many cases, new forms are television are complementing, rather than replacing older ones.   The report shows 74% of Australians with internet access regularly watched TV and used the internet at the same time, up 25 percentage points from 2009. It is as high as 89% for people aged 25 to 34.   Overall, 71% of people still prefer to watch TV shows and movies on television, compared to on mobile phones (5%), tablets (4%) and computers (29%).   Meanwhile, user-generated content is mostly watched on computers (71%) or mobile phones (41%), rather than tablets (17%) and televisions (10%).   6. TV is still the one for news   Finally, when it comes to getting the news, the more things change, the more they stay the same.   The report shows that 92% of free-to-air or subscription television viewers watched a news or current affairs programs on television in 2014.   While newspaper circulation has dived 18% between 2009 and 2013, the drop has been a drop of just 10% from TV over the same time.   Image credit: Flickr/alvy   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Diversity is good, except as a business model

12:25AM | Monday, 2 December

When you were young, your grandfather always warned you not to put all your eggs in one basket. Well, when it comes to launching a business, your grandpa was wrong – and here’s why.   Back in the 1970s and 1980s, not putting your eggs in one industry basket was the business wisdom of the day. The end product was the diversified conglomerate.   In the US, Gulf and Western, a predecessor to Paramount Pictures, also sold clothing (Kayser-Roth), auto parts (APS), zinc, sugar, financial services, video games (Sega), bedding (Simmons) and tool manufacturing services (Thomas Ryder and Sons). They also owned a stadium (Madison Square Garden) and a couple of sports teams (the New York Rangers and New York Knicks).   Aside from oil, BP got itself into petrochemicals (including some it bought off Union Carbide), coal, minerals, seeds, fertiliser, livestock feed and sold pet food under the Purina brand.   In Australia, the worst offender was Pacific Dunlop. Among many other things, it sold clothing and footwear (Pacific Brands), rubber gloves (Ansell), tyres, auto parts, pacemakers, cochlear implants, tyres, dairy products (Yoplait, Peters), processed vegetables (Edgell, Birds Eye), baked goods (Four n’ Twenty Pies), tyres, fibre optic cables, healthcare products, bedding and ran auto stores.   Then there was Mayne Nickless. They were a trucking and air freight company that also offered pathology labs, IT and payroll services, computer networks (Maynenet), security services (MSS), non-prescription medications (including Cenovis and Nature's Own), ran retail pharmacies (Terry White and Chemmart) and owned 25% of Optus.   And when it comes to Christopher Skase’s Qintex and Bond Corporation, the less said the better.   Of course, there are good reasons why diversified companies usually end in tears. Just ask former coal, horse racing and rugby league mogul Nathan Tinkler.   Looking at these lists, many of these products don’t have the same customers, meaning there’s little benefit in cross selling or upselling products. There was really little way Mayne Nickless could have cross-sold next-day home delivery with a 24-hour pay TV sports channel on Optus Vision. And here’s a Four n’ Twenty pie – do you want a pacemaker with that?   Many of these products don’t share any common ingredients. While pet foods sometimes use questionable ingredients, you hope BP’s dog food didn’t share too many ingredients with its motor oil.   There’s also little advantage when it comes to branding. After a century of marketing “Dunlop” as a brand of tough rubber, would you really want a nice bowl of Dunlop ice cream? With sprinkles?   And underperforming businesses can fly under the radar with cross-subsidies for inefficient business models, where the management of a standalone company would be forced to act. There’s a reason why Christopher Skase’s three-time wooden spoon winning AFL team, the Brisbane Bears, were nicknamed the Koalas from Carrara.   Meanwhile, while there are plenty of executives who could effectively manage a medical implants firm market ice cream to 12-year-olds, the pool of people who have experience with both is a lot narrower.   It’s better to have a highly focused management team overseeing one business than it is to have a big bureaucracy overseeing a clutch of unrelated, poorly performing businesses.   Now don’t get me wrong. It’s great to be ambitious, to expand your business and to grow. But remember what your company’s core competencies are. Focus on doing what your business does well and then expand on it – but don’t go chasing millions in an industry you know little about!   So are you thinking of growing your business? If so, think long and hard about what you’re good at before you choose a path for growth. After all, you don’t want to end up like Bond Corporation!   Get it done – today!

THE NEWS WRAP: Bernanke announces slowdown in quantitative easing, US stimulus to end next year

6:28PM | Wednesday, 19 June

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has announced a slowdown in its bond buying program in the latter part of this year, saying the stimulus could end in the middle of next year.   However, any changes would be subject to moderate economic growth and a steadily improving jobs market.   “The committee currently anticipates that it will be appropriate to moderate the monthly pace of purchases later this year, and if the subsequent data remain broadly aligned with our current expectations for the economy, we will continue to reduce the pace of purchases in measured steps through the first half of next year, ending purchases around mid-year,” Bernanke said.   News Corp begins trading as two separate companies   Rupert Murdoch-controlled media conglomerate News Corp has traded for the first time as two separate entities as part of the company’s separation.   The entertainment and television assets of the group, now known as 20th Century Fox, traded at around $30.53, giving it a market capitalisation of $70.3 billion.   Meanwhile, New News Corp, which primarily comprises of its publishing interests, along with the company’s 50% stake in pay TV operator Foxtel, saw its non-voting shares trading at around $14.30 for a market capitalisation of $8.1 billion.   IBM could cut 1500 local jobs   IBM is looking to shift some of its Australian operations offshore to Asia and New Zealand, in a move that could see the loss of between 1200 and 1500 jobs.   Sources within the IT giant claim senior management were told about the cuts via a teleconference in March, though there has been no official confirmation of the job losses.   The company is estimated to employ between 12,000 and 14,000 staff in Australia.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 1.4% to 15112.2. The Aussie dollar is down to US92.85 cents.

ACCC attacks “unscrupulous industry practices” in door-to-door selling

8:39AM | Friday, 17 August

The consumer watchdog has issued a warning about widespread unscrupulous industry practices in the door-to-door sales industry, but the industry says many of the practices raised by the ACCC have been addressed.

THE NEWS WRAP: Budget surplus under threat amid declining tax base

3:17PM | Wednesday, 28 March

Treasurer Wayne Swan says the Federal Government will need to cut and cancel whole spending programs to return the budget to surplus next financial year, as it fights a structural decline in the tax base that will keep revenue at depressed levels for years.

Footytips deal highlights value in online communities

8:07AM | Monday, 15 August

Start-ups are being encouraged to build online communities as part of their CRM strategies, after the owner of social tipping site Footytips was acquired by sports giant ESPN International.

Apple’s changes a win for media app developers

6:31AM | Friday, 10 June

Media app developers stand to benefit from changes to Apple’s App Store policies, which will make it easier for publishers to sell subscriptions on its iPad and iPhone.

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