The Internet, from The Economist

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Chinese internet firms: Clubbing together

8 October 2015 - 5:05am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Eradicating disease Fly Title:  Chinese internet firms Rubric:  The merger of Meituan and Dianping could herald a bigger consolidation Location:  SHANGHAI Main image:  20151010_WBP504.jpg GROUP buying—in which discounts are offered on goods and services once a certain number of consumers have signed up—may be falling out of fashion in many countries, with even America’s pioneer, Groupon, slashing over 1,000 jobs last month, but it is still doing well in China. According to Analysys International, a research firm, bargain hunters there rang up 77 billion yuan ($12.1 billion) in sales through group-buying websites in the first half of this year. That is a rise of 168% on a year earlier. Even more striking is news this week of a merger between the two biggest Chinese firms in the business, which may herald a broader consolidation in China’s internet sector. Groupon has flopped in China, just ...

The Balkanised web: New EU privacy rules could widen the policy gap with America

5 October 2015 - 9:59am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  The Balkanised web Rubric:  A court ruling on October 6th could alter the way data flow around the internet Main image:  20151010_BLP501.jpg   Updated October 6th 2015: EUROPE'S highest court today struck down the safe-harbour agreement, arguing that "legislation permitting [American] public authorities to have access on a generalised basis to the content of electronic communications must be regarded as compromising the essence of the fundamental right to respect for private life." The judges also ruled that national data-protection authorities within the EU do have the right independently to examine firms which transfer personal data across the Atlantic. In its initial statement the court did not mention a grace period that would allow companies to adapt to the ruling. LAWYERS who specialise in data protection have been much in demand in recent days. Their clients are scrambling to understand the possible implications of a ruling expected on October 6th from the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Depending on what ...

Retail trends: Popping up everywhere

1 October 2015 - 10:46am
UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  Dominant and dangerous Fly Title:  Retail trends Rubric:  Amid a great migration online, a few e-retailers open real-world outposts Main image:  20151003_BRP506.jpg THE conventional wisdom has been that an increasing volume of business will inevitably be done online, and so bricks-and-mortar shops are surplus to requirements. The shuttered remains of video stores and out-of-town supermarkets are testimony to the swathe that the internet has cut through Britain’s retail sector. And there was further evidence of the trend this week when the discount supermarket chain Aldi announced that on top of its 600 or so stores it will start selling goods online next year. This will add to the pressure on its rivals such as Tesco and Morrisons. Their sales have been battered by Aldi’s cheaper prices, and one response has been to close stores, in order to save costs, and sell more online. But it’s not all one-way traffic in favour of internet shopping. Indeed, in some ...

E-commerce in India: Snap, flip and crackle

1 October 2015 - 10:46am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Dominant and dangerous Fly Title:  E-commerce in India Rubric:  Flipkart and Snapdeal vie to be India’s answer to Amazon and Alibaba Location:  MUMBAI Main image:  20151003_WBP005.jpg NARENDRA MODI, India’s technophile prime minister, this week spent a good part of his visit to America, the second in a year, hobnobbing with Silicon Valley’s great-and-good. India has long been a supplier of talent to America’s tech firms. Its business-process outsourcing firms are a vital source of export earnings. But for years India has been an untapped market for consumer-facing technology firms. That is now changing. The rise of mobile-internet access has sparked interest in the potential of e-commerce in India. Bricks-and-mortar retailing is very fragmented. A trip to the mall can be an ordeal because of congested roads. In such difficult terrain, e-commerce may easily blossom. Two home-grown ...

E-commerce in India: Stack and deliver

10 September 2015 - 10:49am
UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Exodus Fly Title:  E-commerce in India Rubric:  Urban Ladder’s rise shows the potential for online selling in India Location:  BANGALORE Main image:  20150912_wbp506.jpg ASHISH GOEL, a founder of Urban Ladder, an online furniture retailer, is fond of the story of Rose Blumkin, who in 1983 sold a big stake in her furniture store to Warren Buffett, a fellow resident of Omaha, Nebraska. Mr Buffett’s deal with “Mrs B” was set out on a single piece of paper, notes Mr Goel with admiration. The term-sheets of the four rounds of capital-raising Urban Ladder has been through in its short life were probably not so simple. Mr Goel is struck by another contrast. The Omaha Furniture Mart that Mrs B started has more floorspace than all of India’s registered furniture retailers combined. Retailing of the bricks-and-mortar sort is a highly fragmented business in India. Only around 2% of the grocery trade, ...

The music business: The dry stream of musicians' royalties

4 September 2015 - 10:30am
IN NOVEMBER last year, Taylor Swift withdrew most of her music from Spotify, complaining that the music-streaming service made her music available to all users, not just paying subscribers. She had previously called Spotify’s payments to musical artists—on average less than a penny per song—stingy. Nor is Spotify the only one to attract Swiftian scorn: she has withheld her latest album, "1989", from Apple's new music-streaming service, describing their free, three-month trial period, in which artists would get no royalties, as "shocking" and "disappointing" on Tumblr. 20150903 13:52:33

Luxury e-commerce: Natalie Massenet resigns from Net-a-Porter ahead of its merger with Yoox

3 September 2015 - 9:10am
UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Luxury e-commerce Byline:  K.S.C. THE resignation of Natalie Massenet, the executive chairman of the Net-a-Porter group, was revealed to the public on September 2nd. The colourful founder and boss of the luxury online fashion firm that dared to mix editorial and advertising together to sell its wares came as a surprise to many. The announcement came in the middle of a merger with Yoox Spa, an Italian e-commerce rival, which is due to be completed in October. The merger suits the two firms, if not Ms Massenet perhaps. Both companies were founded in 2000, at a time when few believed the luxury industry had an online future, but have since taken different directions. From the beginning Net-a-Porter has specialised in luxury retail coupled with an emphasis on editorial content—both online and in print. Porter, the company’s glossy print magazine, launched at the beginning of 2014; Net Set, an app intended to bridge the gap between e-commerce and social media, went live in May. It announced record sales in its final full-year results in June, with revenues of £654m ($1 billion). Yoox, ...

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 ...