Financial Times CEO John Ridding explains how to make people pay for media

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Financial Times CEO John Ridding

Techies pooh-poohed online subscriptions a decade ago. My, how things have changed.

When the Financial Times began putting its online content behind a paywall, John Ridding recalls that reactions in the tech world ranged from skeptical to “pretty hostile.” After all, the conventional wisdom of the time went, “the internet wants to be free.”

“Which I always thought was kind of weird and a little ridiculous because, clearly, the internet doesn’t want anything,” Ridding said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. “It’s a channel.”

Now the CEO of the FT is feeling vindicated: Subscriptions to online reporting from the Nikkei-owned London-based business newspaper start at $ 350 per year, and readers are buying. Ridding said two-thirds of the FT’s 900,000 subscribers are digital customers, and subscriptions have overtaken advertising as the chief source of the company’s revenue, also representing about two-thirds of the total.

“A lot of the industry was too quick to dismiss the ability to charge for content. My view is that if you have something that differentiates you, something that makes you special — it could be a brand identity, it could be a columnist, it could be a sector of coverage — you have the ability to charge.”

“If you don’t have anything that is any way different or special, you’ve got some bigger questions to ask,” he added. “What are you doing?”

You can listen to Recode Media on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Ridding talked about the resistance the FT had faced from some of the big tech platforms that were intent on distributing content for free, noting that now he hopes they might start to be “more helpful, in terms of subscription model development.” One of the big fights was with Google, which used to insist that readers clicking on a link in search results should get the “first click free” — meaning they would be guaranteed to not see a paywall right away.

“We felt all along that the throttle, the terms of access, should be down to the publisher,” Ridding said. “There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, and Google came to accept that position.”

He also discussed how the FT’s own thinking has changed over time. Rather than giving readers a certain number of free articles per month — the “metered” business model practiced by the New York Times, the Washington Post and Wired, among others — it has shifted in recent years to just give them unfettered access for free for the first month.

“We thought, what do we really want to do?,” Ridding recalled. “We really want to achieve the habit in digital that people used to have in print. A metered model kind of goes against that because you’re, by definition, rationing … Ideally, you spend a month with the FT, you get to appreciate it, you become a subscriber.”

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, also hosted by Kara Swisher, answers all of the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events, such as the Code Conference, Code Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on Apple Podcasts — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Peter. Tune in next Thursday for another episode of Recode Media!

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Massachusetts halts five ICOs for defying financial rules

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It's not just the feds concerned about sketchy cryptocurrency fundraising. Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin has ordered a halt to the sale of five initial coin offerings (18 Moons, Across Platforms, Mattervest, Pink Ribbon…
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The World’s First AI Financial Advisor to be Showcased at SXSW

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MMW has learned today that Pefin has been nominated and selected as a finalist in the interactive innovation category under New Economy, which honors those redefining the exchange of goods and services, from the sharing economy, to virtual currency, to micro-finance, to mobile-device-payment systems, and beyond.

If you’re not familiar, SXSW was founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas and is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries.

Pefin’s proprietary technology helps users navigate the important decisions that impact their long-term financial well-being — from buying a house to starting a new job to saving for a child and retirement. It also provides personalized, actionable investment strategies that are tied to specific financial plans. Pefin’s patent-pending AI platform provides the same level of intelligent guidance as a human advisor at 1/20th of the cost and is powered by over 2 million data points assuring that information is real-time. All of this for the cost of a few cups of coffee. Founder, Ramya Joseph, CEO, Catherine Flax and CTO, Jay Gopalakrishnan will be attending the festival and available to answer questions and provide demonstrations.

Pefin’s goal is to inform attendees at SXSW on how to help people live their best financial life, regardless of age, gender, income, wealth, financial expertise or past mistakes.

To learn more, click here.

The post The World’s First AI Financial Advisor to be Showcased at SXSW appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.


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Stitch Fix made a big addition to its business that won’t show up in its Q2 financial results

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The new feature — called Extras — signals where the company is headed.

Stitch Fix posted another profitable quarter with revenue of $ 296 million that beat analyst expectations, but the most interesting company development received just a passing mention in the earnings announcement for the second quarter of its 2018 fiscal year.

That’s because the new Stitch Fix feature, called Extras, just launched three weeks ago so it hasn’t yet impacted the company’s financial performance. But its existence points toward the ambition the personal styling company has to grab more of the money its customers spend on clothing outside of their relationship with Stitch Fix.

Let’s back up for a second. Stitch Fix’s core offering uses a mix of personal stylists and algorithms to select five clothing and accessory items to ship to a customer at a time. Customers pay for and keep what they want, send back what they don’t. But they aren’t selecting what goes in their own box from the start.

The new Extras feature, however, allows customers to choose from an assortment of undergarments like bras and underwear to add to each box of five items their stylist has chosen for them. This might seem like a subtle addition, but it signals a big move by the company to supplement its main business built around discovery and serendipity with a more traditional retail shopping experience.

“By forcing them to go to another retailer to buy socks, there’s a chance they can be lured to buy other things at that retailer,” Stitch Fix CEO Katrina Lake said by way of explaining part of the rationale of the offering to Recode on Monday.

Lake didn’t specifically call out Amazon as “another retailer,” but that e-commerce giant happens to be one of the online companies that has gotten very, very good at selling apparel basics like socks and underwear. And Amazon also has been showing off its ambition in fashion beyond basics by unveiling a wide variety of in-house brands hawking everything from denim to women’s workwear. They are a threat.

Lake cautioned that the “personalization and … the surprise” at the core of Stitch Fix’s offering won’t be going anywhere. But it’s clear the company is thinking hard about the right way to balance the model on which it built its success with the model that will allow it to grab as much market share as possible.

And for good reason. A study from the research firm SecondMeasure found that Stitch Fix customers actually spend more at other top fashion retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom in the 12 months after they become a Stitch Fix customer than they did in the 12 months prior.

For the second quarter of its fiscal year, Stitch Fix net revenue grew 24 percent to $ 296 million, beating out analyst average estimates of $ 291 million. The company also beat estimates on adjusted Ebitda, but its net income came in below expectations thanks to a one-time tax hit related to the Trump tax plan as well as the re-measurement of preferred stock.

Stitch Fix also issued sales guidance for its full fiscal year of $ 1.19 billion to $ 1.22 billion in net revenue; analysts were expecting around $ 1.2 billion. It also said its full-year Ebitda would come in at $ 45 million to $ 55 million; analysts were estimating $ 51 million for the full year.

Stitch Fix went public at $ 15 a share in November; as of Monday morning, its stock price had risen 52 percent since its IPO.


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FreedomPop moves into financial services, in partnership with Prudential

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 Ahead of a big fundraising to fuel its mobile ambitions, “free” mobile service startup FreedomPop is taking an unexpected strategic side-road to expand into a completely different area: financial services. The company is licensing its customer conversion platform to Prudential, which plans to use it to up-sell existing customers to more of its products. FreedomPop itself is not… Read More
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LeEco’s website goes down as the company’s financial troubles worsen

Chinese tech giant LeEco tried to enter the US market in late 2016 with a variety of Android-powered phones and TVs, but the company expanded too quickly. Just two days later, the CEO admitted that in a leaked memo, and two months later the company halted trading of its own stock due to massive losses. LeEco tried to sell its Silicon Valley property in March, it pulled out of buying Vizio, and 70% of the US workforce was let go.

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Bitcoin could face new regulations in the U.S. after top financial cops and lawmakers raise new fears about virtual currency

A hearing Tuesday in the Senate could be a preview of what’s to come.

Leading U.S. financial regulators expressed an uneasiness Tuesday with the rapid rise of bitcoin — and signaled that new regulation of virtual currency could be on the horizon.

For lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee, their hearing this morning elucidated a fresh sense that federal law may not be fully equipped to deal with a virtual currency that’s now valued at around $ 113 billion — not to mention the potential for theft and fraud and the arrival of so-called initial coin offerings, which are essentially fundraising rounds that rely on digital tokens.

In response, regulators at two key federal agencies — the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — sought to strike a delicate balance in their testimony to the Senate panel. They acknowledged there are gaps in consumer and investor protections but stressed their interest in sparing a new, innovative market from too much early regulation.

Still, Democrats and Republicans alike continued to return to the same question: Is a new law governing bitcoin buying, selling and enforcement necessary?

“We may be back with our friends from Treasury and the Fed to ask for additional legislation,” said Jay Clayton, the leader of the SEC, referring to the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.

To be sure, bitcoin isn’t totally unregulated. By definition, the SEC regulates all securities — including bitcoin in cases where the virtual currency doubles as an investment vehicle, such as a stock. At the CFTC, meanwhile, the agency determined back in 2015 that bitcoin qualifies as a “commodity” that it can monitor under federal law.

But they do face limits in their oversight, which the agencies’ leaders acknowledged Tuesday. Neither entity has oversight when it comes to so-called “spot markets,” for example, or hubs like Coinbase where consumers can buy and sell bitcoin directly. Those largely are regulated by the individual states, and in the eyes of some critics, perhaps not very effectively.

“The spot market for bitcoin is not a regulated marketplace,” said the CFTC’s leader, Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo. Federal enforcers can pursue “fraud and manipulation,” he said, “but we don’t have the ability to set the standards in those markets.”

For that to change, it would fall to Congress. While lawmakers on Tuesday didn’t offer any specific proposal to regulate bitcoin, many Democrats and Republicans came armed with a litany of concerns or criticisms about cryptocurrency — and the government’s ability to handle it.

Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown and Jack Reed, for example, expressed doubts the federal regulators have enough technologists on hand to grapple with the rise of bitcoin.

For GOP Sen. Richard Shelby, the fear is “where the bottom is” when it comes to the value of virtual currency, which has whipsawed over the last few months — and lost as much as half its value in just weeks. After trading as high as $ 20,000 last year, it was worth under $ 7,000 as the hearing came to a close.

To Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, the cybersecurity of bitcoin platforms remains a challenge. His comments came on a day that South Korean officials alleged that North Korea is behind a major new theft of bitcoin.

Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly pressed regulators on what they were doing to help “retail” investors — average Americans who have seized on bitcoin mania. In response, the CFTC’s Giancarlo said his agency and others had sought to arm libraries — where bitcoin is among frequent searches — with information about the industry.

Fellow Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised the recent trend of companies adding “blockchain” to their names to squeeze out more market value. Federal officials shared her complaints.

And many expressed their doubts with initial coin offerings, or ICOs. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren sought to point out that none of the roughly $ 4 billion so far raised through ICOs had registered properly with the SEC, potentially depriving investors of information that might affect their decision making.

In recent weeks, the SEC has taken explicit aim at these ICOs, warning some and penalizing others. “Experience tells us that while some market participants may make fortunes, the risks to all investors are high. Caution is merited,” warned SEC and CFTC leaders in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last month.

On Tuesday, the agency’s leader, Clayton, stressed to the Senate: “We’ve made it clear what the law is.”

For now, though, committee leaders signaled they’d be interested in legislation that might address some of these ills. But Sen. Mike Crapo, the panel’s Republican chairman, suggested to the financial regulators who testified that they had to come to him with a proposal first.

“I would ask you to get back to me on recommendations … legislative system and whether we need to provide further clarification from Congress,” he said.


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Apple Reports Record Financial Results: $88B Revenue, $20B Profit

Apple profits have risen despite the fact that the company sold less iPhones than it previously expected in the final months of 2017, according to reports.

During the last three months of 2017, iPhone sales dipped slightly when compared to 2016 numbers, but the tech giant made $ 20 billion in profit.

It’s believed that higher prices resulted in this profit growth. As well as this, Apple achieved strong growth numbers throughout Europe and Asia.

During the period, Apple shipped 77.3 million iPhones, which is a decrease of 1 percent compared to 2016. Shares in the company slipped initially too, but they grew by 3 percent after the announcement.

Overall, the company has posted “record” revenue of $ 88.3 billion, increasing by 13 percent from a year ago. Apple said international sales made up 65 percent of this number.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, praised his company’s financial performance. “We’re thrilled to report the biggest quarter in Apple’s history, with broad-based growth that included the highest revenue ever from a new iPhone lineup,” he said.

Despite slightly disappointing iPhone sales, Cook said the iPhone X “surpassed our expectations and has been our top-selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November.”

He added: “We’ve also achieved a significant milestone with our active installed base of devices reaching 1.3 billion in January. That’s an increase of 30 percent in just two years, which is a testament to the popularity of our products and the loyalty and satisfaction of our customers.”

Luca Maestri, chief financial officer of Apple, attributed these profits to “great operational and business performance”. He said: “We achieved all-time record profitability during the quarter, with EPS up 16 percent.

“Cash flow from operations was very strong at $ 28.3 billion, and we returned $ 14.5 billion to investors through our capital return program.”
The news comes as multiple analysts have downgraded Apple shares. As CNBC reported last week, Atlantic Equities downgraded  shares to neutral from overweight.

James Cordwell, an analyst at Atlantic, said he’s seeing “signs that iPhone demand is starting to soften, limited visibility into the potential for future iPhone cycles and emerging challenges to the smartphone’s dominance at the centre of consumer technology.”

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Samsung posts best ever financial results in 2017, with profits of $50 billion

South Korean electronics giant Samsung has revealed record-high sales figures for last year, with a total operating profit of $ 50 billion (KRW 53.65 trillion). The company released it’s Q4 results today, alongside numbers for the whole of 2017. In the last three months of the year, Samsung amassed $ 61.54 billion (KRW 65.98 trillion) in consolidated revenue, which amounted to $ 14.13 billion (KRW 15.15 trillion) in operating profit.

The headline sum is that $ 50 billion 2017 profit, which comes off the back of huge total earnings of $ 223.45 billion (KRW 239.58 trillion).

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Yet Another National Bank May Create a Centralized Cryptocurrency to Upgrade Its Financial System

Centralized Cryptocurrency

Creating a centralized cryptocurrency could be a way of reducing Israel’s black economy, and the Bank of Israel is considering giving it a go, Reuters reports.

Currently, 22 percent of Israel’s national output is estimated to derive from unregulated or illegal sources, a loss of approximately ILS50 billion ($ 5.76 billion) in tax revenues. The Israeli government has been trying to tackle the problem for a few years, and if the central bank were to give the go ahead, an anonymous source told Reuters, government officials would be ready to include the issue in the 2019 budget.

The Bank of Israel’s interest in a digital version of the local Shekel is not so much inspired by bitcoin’s recent popularity, which still leaves many highly skeptical, but by its potential to solve practical problems. As well as helping drain the black market, a digital payment system would speed up Israel’s booming economy.

Not a National Bitcoin

Compared to the decentralized blockchain system underpinning Bitcoin, a nationally-issued cryptocurrency would be centralized and less prone to price volatility. The digital coin would also comply with money laundering rules, creating a safer space for investments.

“For the past few weeks the Bank of Israel has been looking at this matter, which has various aspects to it, including monetary and legal,” the source said. “There are many central banks studying the subject. There is no operative plan at the moment and perhaps there may never be, but it is something the Bank of Israel is studying.”

But while a national digital currency is an appealing idea in several countries, including Sweden — which is considering launching a digital version of its Krona — and even Russia, it also has many critics. The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, recently weighed in on the issue, saying that the idea has “fundamental problems.”

Addressing the British parliament, Carney raised concerns about the financial stability of the system: “You create a situation where you can have an instantaneous run. So as soon as there were any concern, people can switch in their account at the Bank of England … There are many talents of the Bank of England, but I think credit allocation across the entire economy would not be a good idea,” Carney said.

For now, the future of nationally-issued digital currencies remains uncertain. But given they offer solutions to some of the modern economy’s practical problems — including tax evasion, money laundering and slow payment systems — governments and banks are keeping the option open.

The post Yet Another National Bank May Create a Centralized Cryptocurrency to Upgrade Its Financial System appeared first on Futurism.

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