The Internet, from The Economist

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Marketing in the digital age: A brand new game

27 August 2015 - 10:43am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The Great Fall of China Fly Title:  Marketing in the digital age Rubric:  As people spend more time on social media, advertisers are following them Location:  SAN FRANCISCO Main image:  20150829_WBD001_0.jpg EARLIER this year BMW advertised on WeChat, a popular messaging app in China with around 550m monthly users. But its ads were shown only to those whose profiles suggested they were potential buyers of expensive cars. Others were shown ads for more affordable stuff, such as smartphones. The campaign bruised a few egos. Some of those not shown the BMW ad complained, referring to themselves as diao, or (putting it politely) losers. The carmaker’s experience shows the complexities of advertising today, when it is so easy for dissatisfied customers to make their voices heard. But it was also an example of how marketing chiefs are struggling to find the right way to reach consumers on new ...

Alibaba: Clicks to bricks

13 August 2015 - 10:49am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Xi’s history lessons Fly Title:  Alibaba Rubric:  The Chinese online giant is looking for new sources of growth Location:  SHANGHAI “IN FIVE years, we will sell one trillion dollars.” That is the bet that Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba, made with American businessmen on a recent trip to Chicago. The Chinese firm is already the world’s biggest e-commerce outfit. But now Mr Ma thinks he can more than double the volume of sales on his firm’s online-sales platforms by 2020. First, he must win over investors. The firm’s shares have fallen sharply from their peak of $119 late last year, though at around $74 they remain above the $68 price at which they (or rather, shares in a “variable interest entity” linked to Alibaba, and registered in the Cayman Islands) were floated last September. On August 12th Alibaba unveiled its latest results. Its quarterly revenues grew by 28% year on year to 20.2 billion yuan ($3.3 billion), and profits rose by 23% to 10.6 billion ...

The future of Google: What's in a name?

11 August 2015 - 11:43am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  The future of Google Rubric:  The internet giant has announced a new corporate structure IT MIGHT sound like the name of an imaginary firm designed by the characters on “Sesame Street”, a popular children’s programme, but on August 10th Google’s founders announced that they have chosen to rename their firm “Alphabet Inc.” In recent years Google, the giant internet firm, has started to look like its own Alphabet soup of different businesses, as it has expanded beyond its core business in online-search advertising to invest in building self-driving cars, wearable devices, smart cities and other ambitious but unprofitable projects. The new corporate structure could help streamline Google’s businesses and make shareholders calmer about how much Google is spending on its “moonshot” projects. Alphabet will serve as a holding company for the new Google, which will comprise all its advertising and internet businesses, such as YouTube, while other business units will run separately under Alphabet. Google, which has built an extremely profitable internet business by serving up instantaneous ...

Israel’s computer-security firms: Cyber-boom or cyber-bubble?

30 July 2015 - 11:08am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The $1-a-week school Fly Title:  Israel’s computer-security firms Rubric:  Internet security has become a bigger export earner than arms Location:  TEL AVIV Main image:  20150801_WBD001_0.jpg ISRAEL’S arms exports fell last year. Cutbacks in the defence budgets of many Western countries pushed the global sales of Israeli weapons systems down to $5.7 billion, $1 billion less than in 2013. Unexpectedly, another security-related industry took up the slack. For the first time, the country sold more cyber-wares than arms. According to figures published recently by the cyber-task-force in the prime minister’s office, in 2014 Israeli companies sold around $6 billion of internet-security software, equivalent to about a tenth of the entire worldwide sales of such stuff. A big chunk of that came from Check Point, best known for its ZoneAlarm antivirus software for home computers, and a provider of a ...

Daily chart: Expanding America's broadband reach: Connect more

22 July 2015 - 9:03am
A DECADE ago, an internet connection capable of streaming a film or transmitting a video call was considered a luxury. Today, for much of the world, it is a necessity. On July 15th, President Barack Obama launched an initiative that he hopes will bring this necessity to more low-income American households. The program, called “ConnectHome”, is a partnership between government, tech companies and non-profit organisations that will provide low-cost broadband internet, digital literacy programs and other resources to 275,000 public-housing developments in 28 locations across the country.ConnectHome is the latest White House effort to bridge the so-called “digital divide”, the gap in IT access and know-how between the rich and the poor. America's digital divide has narrowed in recent years but is still large for a rich country. In 2013, for example, approximately 67% of households in the Bronx borough of New York City had a broadband internet subscription; 5% had an ultrahigh-speed fibre-optic connection. In Manhattan, just across the Harlem River, the figures were 80% and 9%, respectively.Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, once famously tweeted "this is for everyone" of his creation. If ConnectHome proves successful, that sentiment—for Americans at least—may be on the way to becoming a reality. 20150722 13:03:30 ...

The media in Singapore: Zip it

23 June 2015 - 10:39pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  The media in Singapore Rubric:  Feisty bloggers face trouble Location:  SINGAPORE Main image:  20150627_blp905.jpg IT IS not often that a criminal trial involves a prosecutor pushing for rehabilitation and appropriate counselling", and a defence lawyer urging the judge to jail his client. But that is what happened at a hearing on June 2nd for Amos Yee, a 16-year-old Singaporean blogger found guilty of circulating an obscene image and insulting Christians. The rub, in this case, is that the prosecutor was arguing for Mr Yee to be sent to a Reformative Training Centre, a heavily structured programme for young offenders involving military-style training as well as counselling, which can last up to 30 months. Mr Yee’s lawyer was pushing for a short jail term. As it turns out, both sides will need to wait. At a hearing on June 23rd Mr Yee—who uploaded a cartoon which depicted Singapore’s founding prime minister, the late Lee Kuan Yew, and the late British ...

Mobile telecoms: Change is in the air

18 June 2015 - 10:48am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  My big fat Greek divorce Fly Title:  Mobile telecoms Rubric:  “Wi-Fi first” technology will be great for consumers, disruptive for mobile firms IN TECHNOLOGY the next big thing usually starts small and scrappy. Incumbents ignore it, trapped in their ways of doing things, until it is too late. This is what happened with Skype. Telecoms carriers at first dismissed the internet-telephony service, but it has taken a chunk of their most profitable business: last year users made 248 billion minutes of international calls on Skype, compared with 569 billion minutes on conventional networks, according to TeleGeography, a market-research firm. A string of wireless startups are hoping to trigger a similar disruption. Their bet is that over the next few years mobile phones will switch to sending most calls, texts and data via Wi-Fi hotspots, relegating the cellular network to being a mere backup. If this eventuality comes to pass, it could change the economics of the industry and cut users’ bills drastically. Going “Wi-Fi first”, as ...

Social media intern

17 June 2015 - 8:19am
UK Only Article:  standard article THE ECONOMIST is seeking three interns to help with the newspaper's social media. The internships are available for at least six months and can be extended for up to a year. A stipend of £2,000 a month will be paid to the successful candidates, who may also opt in to The Economist's benefits packages. The positions are based in London. Applicants should send a CV, cover letter, three examples of published journalism and an article of no more than 400 words suitable for publication in a specified section of The Economist to The successful candidates must be able to start in early September and should have the right to work in the United Kingdom without sponsorship. The closing date for applications is Thursday July 30th. Published:  20150608 Source:  Online extra Enabled

Apple and the music business: The second revolution

11 June 2015 - 10:51am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Watch out Fly Title:  Apple and the music business Rubric:  Having transformed the music business once, Apple is trying to do so again Location:  SAN FRANCISCO WHEN Apple bought Beats, best known for making brightly coloured headphones, for around $3 billion last year, many wondered what the technology giant had in mind. They now have their answer. On June 8th, at Apple’s annual gathering for software developers in San Francisco, it revealed a new music-streaming service, based on one it had acquired as part of Beats. Tim Cook, Apple’s boss, promised that, “It will change the way you experience music forever.” Others on the stage called it “revolutionary”. Apple led the way in popularising the legal downloading of music, with the launch of its iPod player in 2001. But as music fans have taken to streaming songs in a big way over the past few years—in effect, renting them rather than owning them—downloads have started to decline (see chart 1). Apple’s ...

Apple and the music business: The second revolution

8 June 2015 - 5:13pm
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Apple and the music business Rubric:  Apple, having already transformed the music business once, is trying to do so again Byline:  A.S. Location:  SAN FRANCISCO Main image:  20150613_fnp502.jpg WHEN Apple bought Beats, best known for making bright-coloured headphones, for around $3 billion last year, many wondered what the technology giant had in mind. They now have their answer. On June 8th, Apple held its annual gathering for software developers in San Francisco, where it revealed a new music-streaming service, based on one it had acquired as part of Beats. Tim Cook, Apple’s boss, elected not to do a soft sell. “It will change the way you experience music forever,” he promised. “Revolutionary” is how several others described it on stage. The new service, called Apple Music, is based on Beats’, but takes it a few steps beyond. It will be available at the end of June for Apple ...

The economics of the music industry: From rock to crock

4 June 2015 - 10:51am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Entangled Fly Title:  The economics of the music industry Rubric:  Two very different books analyse the troubles plaguing the music industry Original Rockers. By Richard King. Faber & Faber; 252 pages; £18.99. How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy. By Stephen Witt. Viking; 296 pages; $27.95. Bodley Head; £20. TWO months ago Geoff Barrow, the instrumentalist for Portishead, an award-winning British rock group, revealed on Twitter that 34m streams of his music had earned him precisely £1,700 ($2,604) after tax. He sarcastically applauded Apple, YouTube and Spotify, and his record label, Universal, for “selling our music so cheaply”. Some have quibbled with Mr Barrow’s figures, but no one has suggested the band has earned more than a tenth of a penny for each song streamed. What is more, few artists achieve Portishead’s level of success, which suggests that writing music has become a lousy way to make a living. Two new books present differing explanations of how ...

Monitor: Passé words

28 May 2015 - 10:49am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Flying into the future Fly Title:  Monitor Rubric:  Technology is finally making strides in reducing the need to remember lots of complicated p@s$w0rd$ Main image:  20150530_TQD002_0.jpg PASSWORDS are the bane of a life enveloped by information technology. And they are proliferating wildly as more and more devices and online services demand them. But passwords are easily lost, forgotten and stolen. Though cheerful reports of the password’s imminent demise have been made before (perhaps most famously in 2004 by Bill Gates when he was the boss of Microsoft), all have turned out to be premature. However, new ways are emerging to remove, or at least reduce, the reliance on tapping out awkward combinations of numbers, letters and symbols. The idea is to make greater use of a process called multi-factor authentication. The password is, as security folk put it, “something you know”. It can be made more robust by being paired with “something you have”, which could ...

Daily chart: Connected

27 May 2015 - 9:27am
THE internet—and with it the world—is rapidly going mobile. That is the main message of the annual “Facts and Figures” report of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Although prices have dropped sharply, fixed-broadband subscriptions have grown only slowly over the past 15 years, to 11% of households. By contrast, the share of individuals who use the internet and households with an internet connection has risen to 43% and 46% respectively. Yet their growth rate pales compared with that of mobile-broadband subscriptions, which will reach 47% of the population globally. If the figure stays on its current trajectory, mobile broadband will reach saturation even faster than the mobile phone before it. But this won’t mean that every Earthling will have a smartphone in his pocket. The ITU estimates that four billion people in the developing world still remain offline. And of the nearly one billion people living in the least-developed countries, 851m do not use the internet. 20150527 13:24:54 Comment Expiry Date:  Thu, 2015-06-11

Babbage: Home-brewed heroin

20 May 2015 - 7:29am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage Rubric:  How lab experiments got a step closer to yeast that can make morphine, and how app experiments by developers such as Facebook happen in New Zealand Byline:  The Economist Main image:  20150523_mma906_107_square.jpg Published:  20150520 Source:  Online extra Enabled

News companies and Facebook: Friends with benefits?

14 May 2015 - 11:17am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The great distortion Fly Title:  News companies and Facebook Rubric:  Facebook and several news firms have entered an uneasy partnership Location:  SAN FRANCISCO Main image:  20150516_wbp501.jpg “INSTANT ARTICLES” is a new service announced by Facebook on May 12th, in partnership with nine news firms, including the New York Times, the Guardian and National Geographic. Facebook users will be able to read stories from these publishers without leaving the social network, since it will host the articles rather than just providing weblinks that send readers off to the news firms’ websites. In return, newspapers will be able to sell advertising that appears next to their stories and keep all the revenue, or let Facebook sell the ad space, and give it a 30% cut. The nascent partnership highlights Facebook’s growing clout in the news business. Newspapers have become dependent on it to send ...

Freedom of speech in Bangladesh: The third casualty

14 May 2015 - 4:37am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Freedom of speech in Bangladesh Rubric:  Bloggers are being hacked to death, one at a time, while politicians look the other way Location:  DHAKA Main image:  20150516_asp502.jpg ANANTA BIJOY DAS has just become the third of three online writers to be set upon and slashed to death in Bangladesh this year. He was 32 years old and, like the two who were murdered before him, he was a “secular” blogger—in the sense that his writing made it plain that he was not in favour of politicised religion. Many other Bangladeshis have been killed on the streets in the past few months, some of them victims of political violence. But the deaths of this trio of bloggers mark a worrying new trend, one that seems to reflect a greater darkness on the political horizon. All three were science enthusiasts. They were bookish, educated men, poking their heads above the parapet to challenge various religious conventions. Avijit Roy, the first to be killed, was hacked to death ...