Apple’s future for iPhones: All wireless, no connectors
Let there be a mighty phone accessories business.
👋 Welcome to the FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.
In this edition
📱 New iPhones
🐭 What can media learn from Disney’s restructuring
💬 Other tech, media, audio & podcasting news
New iPhones & a new magnetic business
📸 by Apple
If you haven’t watched Apple’s iPhone 12 event, here is a video recap in 12 minutes.
If you rather read, here are the 7 biggest announcements. In short: Apple introduced four different new better and faster iPhones with 5G, better displays, and other perks. Also, there was a HomePod mini for $99 which now can compete head to head with Amazon and Google (let’s be honest, the expensive original HomePod never stood a chance).
Also, I loved this analysis by Inside Business:
The highly anticipated event was expected to launch the iPhone into the 5G era with a redesigned look and unique innovations. Instead, it was a walk down memory lane as the company repackaged Steve Jobs' greatest hits. The MagSafe feature on the new iPhone was available on Apple's computers from 2006-2017. The color scheme dates back to Jobs' revolutionary "flavors" of iMac G3 starting in 1998, while a smart speaker incompatible with Spotify is reminiscent of the software battles fought with Microsoft.
Now, after some consideration what was my biggest takeaway (apart from the HomePod mini which was my favorite part of the event) I must settle on the new accessories ecosystem Apple is building around the revived MagSafe magnetic feature brand.
All the new iPhones have built into their backs a magnet and NFC identification system.
It’s no surprise it is all proprietary, as The Verge reminds us:
Noted on the tech specs page for the new iPhone 12 line is a clearer breakdown that lists 15W for MagSafe charging and 7.5W for standard Qi wireless charging. Every iPhone since the iPhone 8 in 2017 has been capable of wireless charging in accordance with the Qi open standard, but the iPhone has never been able to tap into charging speeds up to 15W — until Apple revived MagSafe, that is.
It’s worth noting that any brand could in theory make a magnetic Qi charger for the iPhone 12. But if the company wants access to the faster charging speeds and the NFC identification system for recognizing accessories, it’ll need to work with Apple.
The smartphone accessories business has grown to a billion-dollar industry over the years and it’s no surprise Apple wants in. Right after the event the original Apple accessories built upon the MagSafe system have gone online in the Apple eshop.
As mentioned, in theory anyone can start building their own accessories for MagSafe. Though they will need an Apple license if they want them to compete head to head with the originals.
This is yet another step for Apple business diversification and I bet it will pay off.
What can news media businesses learn from Disney’s restructuring
There is one scene in the Titanic movie I always come back in my mind whenever anyone talks about transformation or reorganisation. It’s the iceberg collision scene and it’s the perfect three-minute summary of a catastrophic failure. At least in my mind.
They should have seen the iceberg (at least in the movie) sooner but once they did it was too late even though everyone on the crew gave it 300% to avaid the collision. It just couldn’t be helped.
I realize this is a super dated analogy and there are better examples, such as Nokia’s failure to keep the dominance of the mobile market or Yahoo’s inability to recognize Google’s threat. Or, the news media’s lazyness to innovate in the ad market and get their lunch eaten by tech giants.
But the Titanic example portrayed in the movie is so vivid I just can’t unsee it.
Disney’s strategic reorganization
This week, The Walt Disney Company announced yet another strategic reorganization of its media and entertainment businesses.
In order to further accelerate its direct-to-consumer strategy, the company will be centralizing its media businesses into a single organization that will be responsible for content distribution, ad sales and Disney+.
The change comes as the global coronavirus pandemic has crippled its theatrical business and ushered more customers toward its streaming options.
Disney+ is in the centre of the reorganisation. The company’s “cash cow” which until the pandemic has been the parks and resorts division, and has recently laid off 28,000 people as a result of park closures.
You might not remember, because 2020 feels like a century, but this is Disney’s second reorganisation in the last three years. The last one happened in 2018.
At the time, The Wall Street Journal wrote:
Walt Disney Co. is reorganizing its operations in a move that positions two top executives as potential successors to Chief Executive Robert Iger.
Kevin Mayer, the company’s longtime head of strategy who has specialized in acquisitions and digital investments, was named chairman of a new direct-to-consumer and international segment, while parks chief Robert Chapek added consumer products to his portfolio, giving him oversight of what would be the company’s biggest business unit by revenue and profit.
Today we know who succeeded Iger (Chapek) and who left for a brief TikTok CEO stint (Mayer). Of course, now we know that the first transition wasn’t easy as The Information recently reported and there was infighting between division chiefs. Anyway, that’s quite normal whenever a reorganisation happens.
The lessons for news media businesses
The most important lesson is how a Titanic-size business that is The Walt Disney Company (+200k employees) managed to adapt.
First, Disney needed to understand that renting all their best titles to Netflix is not a sound longterm strategy and decided to build their own streaming service. Then came the first reorganisation.
Now, with the pandemic attacking its most profitable business and the stellar success of Disney+ it was time for yet another reorganisation to cement the importance of the company’s digital efforts.
In his recent piece, Ben Thompson compares Disney to The New York Times and how the paper of record transformed its Page One meetings only concerned with the print paper with to, as NY Times put it: exclusively be a forum for planning coverage and for ranking items for digital display. One focus will be presentations for mobile devices, where more than half of Times readers now obtain their news.
The next lesson is in communication. First, the company needed to understand the ramifications of the 2018 reorganisation and adjusting on that could push the transformation to the next, perhaps final level - all hail digital. (Not meaning Disney+ becomes a cash cow for the company but rather an entry point and a communication platform for its customers, once the pandemic goes away, parks will start earning the most money.)
Both The NY Times and Disney gave a strong signaling towards their staff (also to the outer world) that digital is most important for them.
And the last lesson might be that a transformation within a company or a newsroom might not happen on the first try.
In a recent interview [in Slovak], Mark Thompson, the departing CEO of the NYT Company, confessed they did not get right the transformation of their digital product team and reorganized it three times. Then the coming CEO Meredith Kopit Levien got it on second try right. Imagine that, NYT failing four times.
As Thompson added later in the interview it was because they learned from their mistakes. Similarly, Disney recognised it had to further apadt and so it did.
It’s too late once you see the iceberg and have little time to avoid a fatal collision. It’s much better to expect icebergs all the time and adapt your course constantly.
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In other news
😶 Facebook will ban posts that deny the Holocaust. “I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the horror of the Holocaust,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. “My own thinking has evolved as I’ve seen data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence.” To remember, Zuckerberg got into trouble two years ago when he kind of defended the right of Holocaust deniers to spread their lies on his platform. It was during an interview with Kara Swisher on her podcast which she recalled in her recent column. [Bloomberg]
Side note: The new policy doesn’t apply to the denial of other genocides, such as the Armenian or Rwandan genocides -- only the Holocaust, Facebook said.
⏩ Audio startups on the rise. The Information reports, that dozens of startups are betting that consumers—tired of texting and suffering from Zoom fatigue—will embrace audio as the next social media feature. Thanks to Clubhouse’s $100 million valuation, as well as the rise of Discord, investors are trying to find the next audio star which means a lot of audio startups are popping up. So be prepared, there is an audio-app-wave coming. [The Information]
🖖 Google & Chrome split. The Justice Department and state attorneys general are considering forcing Google to sell the Chrome browser business to address concerns that the search giant is abusing its market power. This is quite an unexpected move as many suggested a YouTube selloff. [Politico]
👄 How Google trains employees not to use antitrust phrases. This is a fascinating story on how Googlers are regularly reminded that Google doesn’t “crush,” “kill,” “hurt” or “block” the competition. That’s because Google’s leaders have made it clear that antitrust is not a topic to be trifled with. [NY Times]
👨🦱 Google finally rolled out its haircut appointment booking. Google Duplex, its AI chat agent was demonstrated on stage in 2018 by CEO Sundar Pichai. VentureBeat reports, that it might have proved to be a technological challenge; post-reveal, Google seemingly shelved haircut appointment booking in favor of restaurant reservations, which launched in November 2018 for owners of Pixel-branded devices. But now it is expanding to the U.K., Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and Spain in languages including Spanish. [VentureBeat]
📨 Business Insider buys Morning Brew? The parent company of Business Insider is reportedly near a deal to buy control of the newsletter publisher Morning Brew. Morning Brew has 2 million free newsletter subscribers and was founded by two college students. A deal could value the five-year-old publishing company at more than $75 million. (Vox)
✍️ Looking for a media newsletter covering Europe? Sign-up to get The Fix Newsletter which is now weekly. Featuring also yours truly.
#️⃣ Google introduced Journalist Studio, a suite of tools for (not only) investigative journalism. Beginning the week of October 20, the Google News Initiative training also kicks off a six-part series focused on tools for reporters in seven different languages across nine regions. Sign up and join us for these online events to learn more. [Google Blog]
The first tool is Pinpoint. Pinpoint helps reporters quickly go through hundreds of thousands of documents by automatically identifying and organizing the most frequently mentioned people, organizations and locations. Pinpoint is available now and reporters can sign up to request access. The tool enables journalists to upload and analyze documents in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portugese and Spanish. The second tool we’re launching is a beta preview of The Common Knowledge Project, a new way for journalists to explore, visualize and share data about important issues in their local communities. Reporters can create their own interactive charts from thousands of data points in minutes, embed them in stories and share them out on social media.
👥 The Membership 101. The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and The Membership Puzzle Project are introducing an online training program for newsrooms considering membership. You can learn more about the course and apply here. The deadline to apply is Oct. 23 and the first session will be Nov. 6. [Lenfest Institute]
AUDIO & PODCASTING
🗣️ Newsroom Strategies: Audio & Voice. Next week (20-22 October) the next News Impact Summit kicks off with my favorite main topic - audio & voice. It will be online due to the pandemic and it’s free for anyone to watch, you just need to register. The program is already online and if you look at Thursday, you might see a familiar name talking about podcasting in Slovakia at 15:45. [News Impact Summit]
🎓 Upcoming Podcasting Webinars. The first starts on October 20th. [Google Podcasts creator program]
🎓 New MOOC: The Power of Digital Audio Storytelling: From podcasts to voice assistants. Knight Center's new free online course promises to that during this four-week course, you'll gain an understanding of why one of the oldest storytelling forms is having a renaissance thanks to technological changes. You will explore the fundamentals of great audio storytelling, podcasting, voice assistants, how to get audio to your audiences, and more. [Journalism Courses]
🔎 How to optimize your podcast for Google? The search giant has you covered with a list of improvements you can do. [Google Support]
📊 Podcast search data now available directly in the Google Podcasts Manager. Podcasters can see impressions and clicks for Google Podcasts results that appear in Search, as well as top discovered episodes and search terms that led to their podcast. [Google Podcasts Manager]
🌍 How podcasting is developing in Africa? Read this deep dive into the African podcasting landscape. [The Media Online]
🎙️ Spoken word audio is on the rise in the US. According to The 2020 Spoken Word Audio Report by NPR and Edison Research, the share of spoken-word audio has increased by 30% since 2014 while music listening decreased by 8% over the last six years. The most significant change is among the age group 13- 34. Also, interestingly, podcasts represent 19% of overall spoken-word audio consumption, 55% is via AM/FM radio. [NPR - The 2020 Spoken Word Audio Report]
🎙️ How Spotify is Killing the Open Podcast Ecosystem. That’s the title of a super-comprehensive look at Spotify’s podcast strategy with a lot of data and charts. A must-read. [Kay's Blog]
📺 Twitch is big, like really big. About 2.7 million people are streaming Twitch live at any given moment. That’s more than all but four cable networks in the U.S., though it is a global number.
🕹️ Microsoft might go the Amazon Luna way on iOS. By now everyone knows that cloud game streaming platforms are not available on iOS devices because of App Store policies. Amazon managed to work with Apple to make its new streaming service working on Safari as a progressive web app (PWA). Microsoft now seems to be thinking to go the same way. [Business Insider]