🤑 Meta needs WhatsApp to make money
The latest venture in India seems like a good idea, though I fear whether it's the right market for this experiment.
👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.
❗️ Programming note: This newsletter is taking a planned break next week to welcome a new family member.
In this edition
WhatsApp wants to be the place where Indians buy groceries
DALL-E is making waves again with Outpainting
How Amazon is giving Rivian an edge in the EV industry
Meta + Jio Platforms = ???
It’s not a secret the Meta-owned WhatsApp isn’t a huge money maker. Even though it has over 2 billion active users worldwide, the social messaging network is monetized just barely.
The latest big bet on WhatsApp monetization has been the pivot to turn the platform into a kind of Customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Now, Meta is partnering with JioMart, an e-commerce venture between Reliance Retail and Jio Platforms, to launch a grocery shopping service on WhatsApp in India.
Reliance Jio is a big force by any means in India. It has more then 421 million subscribers, plans to spend $25bn to launch a 5G network in October 2022 and expand to “every town” in India by the end of 2023.
Thanks to the Meta deal, customers in India will be able to browse JioMart’s entire grocery catalog on WhatsApp, add items to a cart and make the payments. All without the need to leave the app.
All that sounds very compelling, some are even calling it WhatsApp’s pivot to become WeChat, the Chinese super app. I see mainly two problems with this experiment - location and timing.
So far, plans to launch something in India and make it a huge business have not come to fruition.
Take the streaming wars. The subscriptions are so low, that the companies aren’t making any money and it’s dragging their ARPU growth.
Also, online grocery shopping is something that is still just taking off in more developed digital markets (with all due respect to India). Sure, WhatsApp has a large userbase in India, but is it the right market to test at this point of its digital evolution?
I understand why Meta wants this to be successful, Zuckerberg needs revenue to fund his metaverse dream that is by all accounts decades away. And, of course, Jio Platforms will be seen as innovator and continue taking customers from its competitors.
🎨 Artists are using DALL-E 2 in all kinds of way, even directing fashion shows where the AI has generated hundreds of dresses. This is truly fascinating and will only keep getting better. [Fast Company]
ALSO: OpenAI introduced Outpainting, a new feature which helps users extend their creativity by continuing an image beyond its original borders — adding visual elements in the same style, or taking a story in new directions — simply by using a natural language description. Outpainting takes into account the image’s existing visual elements — including shadows, reflections, and textures — to maintain the context of the original image. [OpenAI]
😶 Twitter's whistleblowing report actually seems to confirm Twitter’s legal argument, while pretending to support Musk’s. It all comes down to the difference between MAU/DAU and Twitter proprietary mDAU (monetizable daily average user). Mudge, the whistleblower, is speaking of all users and the amount of spam which is irrelevant as Twitter uses mDAU, where those spam bots are largely already filtered out. [Techdirt]
BUT(!): As Matt Levine writes, Musk’s lawyers could spin the lawsuit of him not buying Twitter into a fraud case, which has a very high bar of proof, but seems more actionable than the current “bot approach”. [Bloomberg]
AND: Twitter will roll out the long-awaited edit button to paid subscribers.[Reuters]
OH, AND THIS: Twitter killed its OnlyFans competitor because of the ongoing struggle to remove child sexual exploitation material from the platform. [The Verge]
📉 Snapchat is not doing great, it’s cutting its staff by 20% and discontinuing the production of most of its original programming. [Reuters]
😐 An interview with Meta’s Tom Alison, who runs the Facebook app. It was less boring than I expected, but not news breaking by any means. Still, had some good moments, especially when Alison zoomed out and looked on how FB kept changing, what’s ahead and that it is basically entering its third decade of existence. Yep, we are getting old. [The Verge]
⚡ Auto companies are designing ways to build a car’s fuel cells into its frame, making electric rides cheaper, roomier, and able to hit ranges of 620 miles. [Wired]
AND: Tesla founder Elon Musk said he aimed to get self-driving Teslas ready by year-end and hopes they could be in wide release in the United States and possibly in Europe, depending on regulatory approval. Let me just say, we’ve been here, we heard that and still. nothing happened. Wouldn’t get your hopes up (also, are we 300% sure the technology is solid, like, 300% sure?). [Reuters]
SPEAKING OF: How Amazon is giving Rivian an edge in the EV industry. Really nice explainer.
📈 A good overview of where Big Tech companies are investing money - ads, healthcare, enterprise software, cloud and TV. [Axios]
📮 Substack announced a ton of new features for writers including audio previews for paywalled audio, group subscriptions and is preparing an Android app. [Substack]
👨💻 Coursera’s 2022 Global Skills Report is out. As workers re-skill, the most popular skills in the last year in the technology and data science domains, respectively, were theoretical computer science along with probability and statistics. Europe leads the world in skills proficiency. Seven of the top 10 performing countries in this year’s report are located in Europe. In addition, for the second year in a row, learners in Switzerland achieved the highest level of aggregate skills proficiency. Slovakia ranked 48th globally (down 4 places from last year). [Coursera]
🐉 Episode 2 of “House of the Dragon” drew in 10.2 million viewers across HBO and HBO Max. This marks a 2% increase from the premiere episode, which was viewed by nearly 10 million people. [Variety]
🗞️ The Washington Post isn’t doing great and is on course to lose money in 2022. Internally, some blame Post CEO Fred Ryan. He has, for example, monitored how many staff members come into the office and pulled records on which days employees held video-conference meetings, as a way to judge production levels. The Post aims to reach 5 million subscribers by 2025, now it has less than 3 million. [NYT]
ALSO: The Washington Post is selling its IP in Hollywood. It already has 4 projects in development. [Vanity Fair]
🧑💼 Adobe’s Future of Creativity study shows that there are 165 million new creators around the world since 2020. That’s a 119% increase in just two years. Most of these creators (42%) are Millennials, Gen-Zs make up only 14%. Less than one-third of surveyed creators said they are motivated by money, while 48% cited freedom of expression as their goal. [Adobe]
📺 Good analysis of the current state of the streaming wars, budgets and the question of whether we are about to hit ‘peak TV’. A lot of interesting charts in the piece, especially when looking at Amazon and how much it is going to outspend upstart peers like Apple or even Disney+ and might become the streamer with the second biggest budget spent on originals only after HBO Max. [Financial Times]
😲 Disney is exploring a membership bundle similar to Amazon Prime that could include streaming, parks and merchandise offerings. [WSJ]
🤨 In an interview, the new CEO of Medium tries to explain where the platform is headed. He did acknowledge Medium no longer wants to produce original journalism, which is fine. But its future is murky, to say the least. [Nieman Lab]
😳 Meta is planning more paid features for Facebook and Instagram. A new team will be tasked with building paid experiences across Meta’s apps. [The Verge]
🤔 Twitter is letting some news publishers post customizable cards. Tweet Tiles are “a new, customizable way to expand the creative surface area of a tweet” that could give news publishers a way to stand out in feeds. [Nieman Lab]
😎 What happened when they disabled Google AMP at Tribune Publishin. Shockingly little. “Given the higher page RPMs and subscriber conversion rates of a non-AMP page, pulling the plug on AMP looks like an easy win for both programmatic and consumer revenue. And most importantly, we regain full control of the user experience. And that’s perhaps the biggest upside.” [Medium]
📥 The five types of indie newsletter business models: Analyst (like Stratechery), Curator (like this newsletter), Expert (SEO for Google News), Reporter (Platformer), Writer (Men Yell at Me). This is a very useful guide with a ton of advice if you are thinking about starting a newsletter. [Inbox Collective]
FROM THE FIX
1️⃣ When was the last time you tested the performance of your subscription offer page? An analysis of top outlets
2️⃣ Five upcoming media events for the autumn of 2022
3️⃣ “Making sure that we are reaching new audiences”: How publishers are innovating with audio
[ 📬 Get The Fix newsletter. Sign up here > ]
🗣 The biggest podcast conference, Podcast Movement, took place in Dallas. Some takeaways: everyone is talking about YouTube Podcasts, and no one is 100% how it’s going to go; don’t forget to send out a press release when you launch a new podcast; big brands arrived to podcasting and signal it’s not niche anymore. [Bloomberg, Pacific Content: part 1, part 2, part 3]
👻 In the US, comedy continues to be the most popular podcast genre, followed by news, society & culture, true crime and sports. [Edison Research]
💸 Since June 2021, the number of Apple Podcast subscribers has gone up by more than 300%. Over 25% of the top 100 shows in Apple’s “Top Shows” chart now offer a subscription. Apple declined to share exactly how many subscriptions or subscribers it has on Apple Podcasts. Still, I think the trend is clear (set up a subscription for your podcast!) and because of Apple’s super simple checkout, the conversion rates will just get higher. I wish YouTube Podcasts would leverage the same seamless payment for Android users once it arrives and evolves. [Digiday]
📊 Spotify says there are 5,290,396 podcasts on its platform. Podcast Index counts 4.1 million. and Apple Podcasts 2.5 million. In the last Q2 earnings, Spotify said it had 4.4 million podcasts on the platform. [John Spurlock via Twitter]
👍 I have recently discovered Soundstripe, a service that claims to be the best royalty-free music for video (and podcasts). It’s of course subscription-based, but you can keep using whatever you downloaded, just not for new projects. [Soundstripe]
😯 The NY Times is launching a new podcast with the same name Michael Barbaro used to host before The Daily. The Run-Up launches September 6th and promises to “take you beyond the horse race”. It aims to cover the mid-terms for more than the political-insider set. [Vanity Fair]
🤓 Here's what it takes to produce a good podcast — at any level. Advice from "HowSound”, the long-running podcast from PRX and Transom that gives listeners the backstory to great audio storytelling. [PRX]
❓ Poll: Would you like to have a super app like WeChat, which you could use for almost everything?
Last poll results: What would you say is your No.1 entertainment platform? 58% YouTube; 15% TikTok; 12% social media; 9% Netflix; 6% Disney+ or other VOD.
🙏 And big thanks to Celine Bijleveld who helped me edit this newsletter. You can follow her on Substack here.