ZEITGUIDE TO THE BIG FALL QUESTIONS
Welcome back, ZEITGUIDE readers!
While we took an August break from our Sunday newsletter, we were still actively tracking the most critically important stories to know across the business, tech, media, cultural and consumer landscapes. It’s what we do every day to keep our clients and readers up-to-speed and to guide them through our constantly changing culture.
Fresh off our end-of-summer exploration, we’ve synthesized the main story arcs to follow with the following three major questions to track for this fall. The answers to these point to critical next steps business leaders need to take in order to stay competitive and relevant; how our relationship with the tech giants is changing in light of possible future regulation; how the business-to-consumer connection continues to evolve; and how business and culture will continue to transform globally.
Enjoy, and #GetSmartQuick, as we take you through what’s ahead in the zeitgeist.
ZEITGUIDE To Three Big Fall Questions
With Amazon surpassing $1 trillion in value, is there any hope for competitors?
Not simply content to possess 49 percent of the U.S.’s ecommerce market, Amazon is expanding its online advertising business, investing heavily in Twitch as a competitor to YouTube and creating a free, online TV service.
Competitor Walmart has weathered the Amazon storm with its own aggressive investments into the ecommerce and media spaces. Smaller ecommerce outfits, meanwhile, are simply trying to avoid Amazon altogether, focusing their efforts on driving direct traffic through social media shopping features. As other tech giants respond to Amazon, might that mean more ecommerce options, like Instagram shopping, for retailers wary of this behemoth etailer?
Will backlash against the tech giants mean anything?
Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg faced Congress this week to answer questions on issues like election interference and political bias on their platforms (leaders from Google declined to attend). It was another sign that regulation, or efforts to break up the tech giants, may be on the way.
Jeff Bezos’ ascent to richest person in the world brought attention to conditions for his company’s warehouse workers, who endure a difficult environment to ensure Amazon’s famed two-day delivery. For their troubles, many Amazon workers make so little as to qualify for food stamps, a fact that inspired a proposal from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to place an additional tax on companies whose employees qualify for public assistance. And workers at Amazon-owned Whole Foods are attempting to unionize.
What will matter more in the media business: Engagement or quality?
Netflix’s approach emphasizes the time users spend watching content on the service above all else. “Watch time has a (much) stronger impact on retention than quality,” writes Matthew Ball in Redef.
AT&T is considering a similar strategy for services like DirecTV Now and WatchTV, with a model that would pay channel owners fees linked to the time audiences spend watching them.
Not every media company is ready to embrace engagement over quality. “We want to be in the quality game,” says Disney chairman Bob Iger. Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke has echoed a similar sentiment. “We want to reach a lot of people, but we don’t want to compromise on quality,” said Salke this summer.
It may prove to be a prudent approach. No one can touch Netflix on content spending, but by making fewer, and smarter, bets, its competitors can be more focused with their promotional efforts and may yet manage to create just as many hits.
Want to learn more about ongoing business and cultural transformation?