A weekly round up of the big technology news, and developments in digital media. This week, we look at Google's growth, tablet users, social media users' attitudes, Facebook advertising reports, and more…
In their Q3 earnings call, Google announced a 25% growth in their year-on-year earnings to £651 million.
Enders Analysis have raised their forecasts for Google's total growth for 2011 to 22%. Due to their dominance of search advertising (which in turn dominates UK online ad spending), this pushes their overall forecast for UK online ad spend this year to 15%, with forecasts for 2012 remaining at 13% growth.
The earnings call comes along with what Google are calling their "fall sweep", as they shut down a number of services (including Google Buzz and Jaiku, the social features in iGoogle, and Google Labs), with a continued drive to focus on a smaller number of products – most notably Google Plus.
Globally, Google's results were even more impressive, with 33% year on year growth, markets in Asia, India and Brazil showing particularly strong growth, and mobile becoming and increasingly significant channel, growing by 2.5x over 12 months to a run rate of over $2.5 billion – which seems likely to increase as mobile is expected to play an important role in Christmas shopping.
Its worth noting that Google include tablets as a part of the mobile category, as this is a market that has shown phenomenal growth, with some very interesting implications for consumer behaviour.
Our Starcom MediaVest Group colleagues in the US have undertaken a research study in partnership with BBC Worldwide into tablet owners media behaviours and attitudes.
They have found that tablet owners are consuming a greater variety and volume of news on their devices, which is credited at least in part to the devices making the overall experience more enjoyable. More than a third say that they spend more time with media because of their tablets.
69% of those who have owned a tablet for a year or more agreed that "Tablets have become a seamless part of my daily life and routine"
They also found that two thirds of tablet owners frequently use their devices while doing other things, such as watching TV or spending time with friends; those who have owned a tablet for longer report that this habit is even more frequent. Benchmark levels of attachment to their devices, a significant number said that they would rather give up sports (47%), coffee (44%) or even Facebook (44%) before giving up their tablet news apps.
Check out ReadWriteWeb for more details of the findings.
A separate study by Nielsen in the US revealed similar findings; they report that 40% of smartphone owners and 42% of tablet owner are using their respective devices while watching TV on a daily basis. An additional 24% of smartphone owners and 28% of tablet owners say that they are using these "second screens" in front of the TV several times a week – bringing the total to a figure very close to the SMG/BBC findings.
Little difference was reported in using these devices during programs and commercials.
Usage of dedicated eReaders (like Amazon's Kindle) seem to be showing quite different patterns to tablet and smartphones, with 45% of eReader owners never using them while watching TV.
Dedicated devices for dedicated viewers, perhaps? Or is this simply a case of single-task devices being more suited to a pure consumption model (ie. reading books or longer form content, rather than emailing, social networking or general web browsing.)
Some more details about the study are reported by MediaPost
As we pointed out after the launch announcement, these sorts of figures highlight the difference between the sentiment expressed following the launch event and the actual actions that followed – indicating that the market for the latest smartphones like the iPhone 4S is no longer just about technology enthusiasts, but has moved to the mainstream.
Following the launch of the latest iPhone last week, Apple has announced 4 million sales in the first weekend – just 3 days after launch, with the heavy demand overwhelming activation systems for the networks
As Wired points out, this is half as many units as the Xbox Kinect (the best selling gadget in history) sold over the course of its first two months on sale, and equates to around $3 billion in revenue – more money in a single weekend than Google projects to make from mobile in a whole year.
Bear in mind that this is Apple's premium device; availability of the 3GS model at zero cost (on contracts) will no doubt have significant effect on the growth of the smartphone market.
BlackBerry network failure
It hasn't all been positive news for smartphones this week, with a highly publicised problem with BlackBerry's internet services affecting customers across the world.
The problems prompted a public apology from the RIM founder, with
Another report from Nielsen (and NM Incite) reveals some interesting attitudes towards brands for social media users.
Looking at social media users' preferred sources for finding product and service information, NM Incite found that consumer ratings (63%) and reviews (62%) were the preferred sources – rating higher than company websites (50%), call centers (47%) or email (45%.)
Among those who are using social media to "express their loyalty to their gavourite brands and products", at least 41% apparently say that they do so to receive discounts. (Which perhaps calls into question the kind of loyalty that they are expressing…) On the other hand, while 58% say that they write product reviews to protect others from bad experiences, nearly 25% say they do so to "punish companies."
But perhaps a more interesting area for businesses to explore is the potential for feedback and co-creation, with 60% of 18-34 year olds saying they want to give product recommendations.
Analysis from TBG Digital of over 255bn ad impressions on Facebook has shown that cost per click on Facebook advertising has fallen by 10.8%, while costs of impressions has risen by 7.1%. They report that their clients' brand spending has gone up by 6.7%, accounting for 53.7% of the agency's total Facebook spending. TBG attribute the increased effectiveness to refinements in Facebook's ad offering; in particular, an increased usage of Sponsored Stories ad formats.
However, Efficient Frontier have reported some differing analysis of their activity. They say that their total spend has increased by 25% in the past quarter alone, but found that cost per click prices had increased by up to 54%– which they attribute to the increase in the number of brands advertising on the site, and the increased competition that this has created.