Wednesday, March 16, 2016

This is Not the Age of Information: Twelve Years of ContentBlogger Comes to an End

This is not the age of information.

While this may seem like a disconnect from twelve years of blogging about content and technology, the human aspects of what I have tried to do through Shore Communications Inc. have been the real constant of my practice. What creates value for humankind? What connects us to one another in ways that are life-sustaining? Ultimately, this the essence of the art and science of human communication.

Data is dead - in the sense that it is not, in itself, life-giving, but also in the sense that the very notion of "information" belies what content - and life - is about. Data has consequences for flesh and blood, for the very air that we breathe. The semantic processing revolution that we're engaged in today points to this strongly - it's not just that we want to crunch data more effectively, it's that crunching alone no longer cuts it. The objective is losing, and the human is winning.

The corollary of this is that mass media is dead. As publishers have retreated ever further into extending copyright to the point that the notion of public domain is considered an anomaly, they have lost their moral imperative to increase the wealth of all people through their arts and sciences. In spite of Open Access, Creative Commons, and a host of other constructive paradigms for making information accessible and usable on a fair basis, most of the world's most creative information is dark for entire generations.

In ancient times, a slave was someone who could work to get their freedom within their lifetime - an indentured servant. Today, content is enslaved for generations via copyright - life plus seventy years in the U.S., even more in many countries, in spite of the Universal Copyright Convention suggesting life plus twenty-five years. The world creates its own content value outside of copyright as the result of these efforts to enslave knowledge - and yet the enslavement of many essential published works goes on.

This is not the age of information. The world screams out for social context and influence through publishing, but in spite of the rise of social media, much of the world's publishing capital languishes in companies that are just minding the moats of their copyright castles. The Signal Economy is taking off like a rocket, and yet often we still fail to respond to the world's most fundamental needs through these signals. We focus on new-shiny solutions rather than the gut-wrenching issues of fundamental human survival, dignity, and worth.

We can do so much more, so much better. And yet, sadly, too often, we don't.

My work is done here at ContentBlogger. I am moving on. I must respond to my innermost callings to do things that are of more fundamental worth in life.

I am grateful for all of the people and organisations that have supported my career in this industry for so many years, and I still count many of you as my friends. I wish you all the best in your careers, and in what lies beyond your careers. I am especially grateful for all those people who encouraged me to speak at various events, and to develop a broader vision for what content is about through my book Content Nation.

I would not be taking the path that I have chosen in life without the lessons and encouragement that so many of you have provided me. You all helped me to see who I really was. If that was not always what you may have hoped me to be for you, I am sorry for that, but I am not sorry to be who I am. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been of service to you, no matter what. You have been generous, kind, and good.

I will still be using the lessons of my experience in the content and technology industries for years to come, as I transition to a new career, and, who knows, I may yet surface in a new role as I pursue that career. So this is not a farewell, but simply a reflection on what it means to see a new path, to take it, and to invite you to join me in a new journey - if it interests you. Be well, be whole, be at peace always. Thank you, and may God bless you all.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Google+ Collections: Kind of a Big Deal

If you counted up all of the views of  "Google+ is dead" posts over the past four years, they'd probably add up to the current count of people actually using the service actively, which is generally about the same number as use Twitter on a good day - and, perhaps, even more pretty soon, thanks to a new +Google+ feature announced today called Collections. Collections is kind of a big deal - because it could completely change the game of how people publish and select content to follow in social media.

Collections allows you to publish content on a specific topic that gets posted to the Streams of people who follow it on Google+ using their Web or mobile app. That's the simple description of it, and details on the "how-to" are here in my All Things Google Collection, but the implications are far-reaching. A lot of the tech press has compared this feature to Pinterest and blogs, and that's certainly a big part of what this is about. If Collections had been in Google+ at or near its launch, then Pinterest may have never happened. But now that Collections is here, it can become, as Pinterest is already, a great way of focusing people on topic-based content without having to tune in everything that someone posts on a range of topics - or settling for the noise of online groups, forums and communities. This can be quite a boost to both personal publishers and marketers (a Collection for how-to videos and another for coupons, anyone?). Instead of having separate profiles and services for separate purposes, you can segregate your content by topic as well as have a general-purpose stream of content - and have it all credit to a common following count.

On the blogging side, Collections can help to amplify what is already a strong "plus" for Google+: social media comments integrated with blogs. You may notice that the comments section on my blog is integrated with Google+, which enables comments in Google+ related to this post that I share there to appear in the comments of the blog post also. By posting blog posts into Collections, you're reaching a more general audience on that topic who you can feed with little snippets in your topical Collection who are going to be eager to read your blog post - and more likely to contribute to its comments more effectively. You can do this only much more crudely though other services that will not integrate comments in the place where they can do your brand great credit - in your blog posts.

Will this change how the world views Google+? In the short run, perhaps not - the tech press is almost inexhaustibly convinced that the third largest social media network doesn't exist - but I think that in the long run this major re-commitment to the vibrancy of Google+ is going to have an important shift in how people perceive and use the platform. Already it is a strong community for in-depth discussions and great photo sharing, for both public and private content. Communities makes it much more possible for social media content to find its right audiences, for those audiences to focus on what matters most to them, and to encourage people that they can share things with the right people at the right time with both rewards and lack of discomfort. In a world of megatweeters and way too many baby photos from the wrong people, that's not something to be ignored.

So both on amplifying and refining, Collections gets a huge +1 from me - and is worth investigating in more detail.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Google's Project Fi: The “Why” and the “What’s Next”

Certainly most folks who follow tech are plenty aware of Google’s new Project Fi, a new multi-carrier virtual network operator (MVNO) that combines signal from T-Mobile, Sprint and WiFi networks with Google Voice-like multi-device dialing to create a very affordable and powerful mobile phone experience. But, what’s this really all about, and what is really starting to happen? Here are a few interlocking pieces to consider.

First and foremost, Google needs more revenues - they revealed pretty good performance in their last earnings report, but nothing dazzling. Google is doing great, but getting hammered in two key areas where they are plateauing: mobile ad revenues and mobile device market share. Read on for some intriguing connecting of the dots from all of the information available today.

More Web Use, More Google Bucks

Yes, Android has rebounded as always from the usual holiday Apple sales bump, and yes, Google’s doing a lot better in its mobile strategy in general. Certainly the recent “mobilegeddon” changes to their search prioritisation algorithms are a clear sign that they’re committed to making the Web produce revenues for them on mobile platforms more effectively. But the big picture is that the mobile carriers and phone makers have done a wonderful job of balkanizing the mobile experience that it’s very hard at times for Google to make the mobile Web work well enough to generate them more revenues fast enough to replace income from more profitable Web ads seen through desktop and laptop browsers.

Getting More Mobile Web for Less Means More Ad Revenues

So, Project Fi. There have been MVNOs deployed before with a similar general design, but Project Fi is the first to combine a global marketing plan with top-rated mobile devices and pricing plans that can scale to finally put pressure on the business models of carriers, U.S. carriers in particular. U.S. carriers are experts at overcharging people for both heavy data use and low data use, using this pricing to put as little pressure on them as possible to upgrade the performance of their networks (see good analysis of this at: Project Fi provides a model that will reward that networks that enable the most data use cost effectively - without forcing consumers to switch carriers to find that “sweet spot.”

WiFi Comes of Age

Using WiFi is a key link in this strategy, as many people are often within range of usable WiFi at home or in town. In addition to our home WiFi networks and networks in offices, stores and restaurants, cable companies and telephone companies have been deploying WiFi networks for their customers aggressively also. Most of that capacity is vastly underutilized, since drive-by signals are hard for older phones to switch to seamlessly. If you start a phone call on your mobile phone via a WiFi service and then start driving away, for most typical phones you’re hosed. The MVNO concept, combined with the latest and greatest mobile phone hardware and software, all of a sudden makes those underused public and cableco wifi hotspots usable in little driveby chunks, lowering your mobile data bill byte by byte. So the apparent costs of the Project Fi service plan are actually likely to be far lower than you think.

But You Need the Right Phones...

All this is great, but if Project Fi gives a cruddy experience, people aren’t going to love it, right? Hence, Fi is launching with one single phone for starters - Google’s Nexus 6 flagship “pure” Android phone. Nexus phones have always featured carrier-independent models in the U.S., and, so it’s the logical choice to get Project Fi off the ground - no hidden clauses in carrier contracts for other phones that would trip up its use in Google’s own network, and software that’s completely in Google’s control. If a carrier sells a Nexus phone, they know that they’re competing with Google’s carrier-independent strategy. Hence, the carriers may sell them, but not push them, typically. However, T-Mobile and Sprint have been far more Nexus-friendly than Verizon and AT&T in their support of Nexus devices, so they are logical partners for these unencumbered phones. They’re also companies that are in the number 3-4 slots in market share, so Nexus has been at least a plus for them as a niche product.

...And the Right Modems...

But Google's +Nexus 6 is Project Fi’s leadoff phone offering for another important reason: it’s modem chip. If you’re on T-Mobile networks in particular, you need modem chips that can support the latest and greatest radio frequencies that are being used for their advanced LTE networks rolling out this year. The only carrier-independent phone in the Android universe that does this perfectly well at the cutting edge of U.S. network technologies is the Nexus 6, which is equipped with a Qualcomm MDM9625 modem chip. Ho hum, so what? Well, an interesting thing about the Project Fi intro video ( - it’s filled with all sort of feel-good, mushy, generalizations about Project Fi, but features a shot of this Qualcomm chip that stays in focus for a few seconds. It’s the only specific piece of technology mentioned in the whole video.

Obviously this modem chip is the key to Project Fi’s rollout. It happens to be a chip that’s used in many leading phones, including the iPhone 6. Earlier Qualcomm modem chips are used in the Nexus 5 and iPhone 5, so it appears that Project Fi will grow up on the latest and greatest hardware available to maximise its U.S.-wide coverage. In this way, Project Fi is a bit like Google Fiber for mobile - it’s a market force using leading-edge technology that they will use to force carriers to give consumers more Internet coverage and bandwidth for less. Focusing on this chip means that Google wants to completely reset the table stakes for mobile Internet access.

...And More Phones...

Of course, the Nexus 6 is a big, pricey phone, which, as great as it is, has disappointed even Google in its slow sales. In this sense, Apple did a great job with its iPhone 6 launch by offering both a 5-inch and 6-inch model. Google skated through with just the 6-inch model last fall, and wound up disappointing lots of Nexus fans who wouldn’t - or couldn’t - spend that kind of large just to be a Google loyalist. It was a repositioning of the Nexus brand that was ahead of consumer expectations, you might say. The need to close this market gap sooner rather than later may combine with Project Fi’s need for a smaller and more affordable cross-network phone with the right modem chip to force the introduction of a new Nexus 5 phone sooner rather than later - and, who knows, perhaps even a “bargain” Nexus 4 model. Huawei and Motorola Mobility have both been rumored as the likely producers of this next Nexus phone, based on snippets in Project Fi support videos and leaked Web page images.

It’s hard to say which rumors are really true at this point, but the need to get a dead-certain piece of hardware out the door to support both sagging Nexus sales and more affordable devices for Project Fi argues for a mid-year intro for a new Nexus model. That would be six months ahead of their usual rollout, which would mean using a slightly upgraded or existing phone model with the right Qualcomm chip as a new Nexus phone. Given that Google is testing a Workshop phone customisation Web site for Nexus phones, and given that the 2014 Moto X sports the MDM9625 Qualcomm modem chip, and already has phone customisation via Moto Maker, I am leaning towards the camp that’s suggesting a Nexus 5 being announced (and perhaps handed out) at Google I/O 2015. However, I wouldn’t rule out Huawei entering the mix along the way with a Nexus 4-like model, which, given that they’re established as a “value” brand, would make sense. Whatever the case, it seems that Google will move quickly towards Project Fi supporting any phone with the right modem and software as soon as possible.

...And More Networks!

Finally, let’s remember that although Project Fi is very U.S. oriented, it has a global marketing plan - you can look up any postal code or municipality in the world that’s on Google Maps and get a sense of what Project Fi’s coverage will be. Even nations like Ghana are covered in Project Fi’s mapping. Why does this matter? Yes, it’s part of Project Fi’s global data roaming programme, courtesy of alliances via T-Mobile, and yes, WiFi will work globally as well, thank you very much. But let’s not forget one key factor - Google’s +Project Loon switched from Super WiFi wireless technology to LTE technology a while back, technology that’s likely to use the same radio frequencies supported by those Qualcomm modem chips. So, in places where Project Loon gets deployed, an affordable phone equipped with the right modem will get Project Fi access, probably - including poorly covered rural zones in the U.S., no doubt.

An Exciting Picture

None of this came from peeking at a whiteboard in a Google office, mind you, but it seems like the logical landscape of what Project Fi starts to bring together. It will be interesting to see how this all pieces together in the months ahead. If I get more of this right than not I am none the better for it personally, probably, but hopefully I’ll at least enjoy one “told’ja” along the line.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Earth to Mainstream Media: Please Stop Blaming Google for Your Own Problems

I have been blogging about the content and technology industries for more than ten years, and there seems to be one constant theme that crops up again and again: publishers see the Web as the enemy. It's too open, it devalues their content, they have to settle for "digital dimes" - or pennies - on their former dollars of income, it has made a travesty of copyright, etc., etc.  Frankly, I have gotten tired of hoping that publishers would ever come around and understand in a big way how to survive and thrive in a digital world. If I can write a 370-page book on how to adapt and mainstream media companies still try the same old tricks to "outwit" the Web, then I really don't hold out much hope for them.

The latest rinse-and-repeat tragedy can be seen in the European Union, where the Spanish Newspaper Publishers Association (AEDE) has pushed through a law in Spain forcing companies like Google (mostly Google in the E.U.) to pay a "link tax" for news items listed in search results, because piracy, because copyright, because whatever. Google's response: fine, we'll just shut down our Spanish search business. The AEDE's response: we'll get legislation passed forcing you to stay open. Say again? Apparently the publishers behind this heavy-handed legal tactic thought that blackmail would be sufficient to have Google submit to a false notion of piracy. As Google has done many, many times in the E.U. and elsewhere, they called the AEDE's bluff. The response this time, though, is rather shocking - it's an attempt to force the Web to subsidize publishers above and beyond the free link referral traffic that search engines already provide them. In essence, it's trying to nationalize Google's operations whilst allowing publishers to pull the strings on them via the Spanish government.

Getting a government to do the bidding of big media companies is nothing new, of course. Lately, though, it's taking on historic levels of brazenness as media companies try to map out a survival strategy for controlling the message of what's news and what's worthy entertainment in a Web-driven world that seems to make those choices fairly well on its own. Disclosures from the leaked cache of emails from Sony reveal that a consortium of companies have been working together to lobby U.S. states' attorney generals to prosecute what they see as Google's proliferation of copyright violations through its search engines. Having had their punitive Stop Online Piracy Act thwarted at the national level, the media industry is apparently following the example of many corporations and pushing through its will at the state level in what they feel is a more business-friendly government environment.

Everyone has a right to protect their business practices in a fair court of law, of course. but this constant trickery to turn the tables against the Web's ability to promote consumer choice (the real issue), whilst at the same time crowing about the rights of a free press, is downright sickening. It's bad enough that media companies want to lock up the public's access to knowledge and artistic material in life-plus-seventy copyright laws that give them the capital to keep them in the game without creating worthy new content in a more competitive marketplace. If you want a free market, then have it - live or die by the market, which means that you need to come up with a superior method of offering consumers choice than companies like Google offer. The answer so far from mainstream media giants: no thanks, we'd rather limit choice, because, well, easy profits and power.

Google may have its pluses and minuses, but it's the only major company out there which has focused consistently on offering consumers the best possible global choices for media and services, regardless of their branded sources. In the meantime, media companies continue to focus on limiting consumer choices. Which model represents free markets? We may have opinions about how that notion plays out, but the trickery of media companies to manipulate governments in order to tilt the playing field against consumer choice argues strongly against them from any number of standpoints. If I think of London's Fleet Street today, for example, the former bustling centre of news publishing in the U.K., you could shoot a cannon on that street today and hardly brush up against a single publisher. That diversity now thrives on the Web. There's no need to subsidize or over-protect large media companies - either they can make it in a free market or they can't. The smart ones know that, and act accordingly. I love helping companies that want to innovate their way to success, but please - no more crybabies and poor sports.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

NumberGo: A Publishing Platform for The Signal Economy

As I speak and write about The Signal Economy - the transition of general economic growth to those who know how see and act on patterns in big data rapidly - one thing is crystal clear to me: most publishers and consulting services providers are behind the curve when it comes to taking advantage of signals from data of all kinds. Yes, there are niches such as financial services where companies have set the trends in signal detection and rapid actions, but even in finance the average newsletter producer or sales specialist has pretty scant tools for sharing good data analysis with their clients. And in turn, those clients generally have to sweat through some ugly time of massaging data from a provider to see their own patterns in the tea leaves of complex data sets. We talk a big game on the importance of data, but do we really know how to tell stories with interactive data sets profitably and effectively? Not so much.

Enter NumberGo, a young company started by data publishing veterans who have come up with a simple-to-use publishing platform that enables interactive graphing and charting views into data sets of all kinds. I was a bit skeptical of NumberGo's capabilities when I first heard about them, but as I have seen their platform develop over the past several months, I have been increasingly impressed by its ease of use and the power of getting from raw data to cloud and offline published data views that can be easily tailored by a client into their own analysis. Doable in spreadsheets? Sure - but messy, and often a barrier to both usability and revenue management. A publisher wants to share its best data on a subscription basis, often, and spreadsheets are just not publisher-friendly from that perspective. The typical alternative of the graphics department coming up with jazzy interactive stuff is just not cost-effective and often limits the data's story-telling capabilities for sophisticated B2B audiences. Internal business intelligence tools might do more, but at a huge cost - and typically with very limited options for interactive sharing of personalized views in a Web publishing environment.

Long story short, NumberGo makes this all easy to do for publishers and data consultants. Upload data easily from one or more sources - including multiple spreadsheets, complex databases and big data tools - and you get to pick fields for analysis in NumberGo's interactive graphing charting tools. Save a view, and publish it via NumberGo's cloud platform with your own micro-portal branding and subscription controls - or enable offline viewing via NumberGo's PC client software. Either way, your clients using this data can use the same charting tools to develop and save their own custom views of your data, without having to muck with exports into spreadsheets and, if you allow it, to share those custom data views with others. You can also embed NumberGo data views in your own publishing platform, providing additional value to your editorial content where your quest for audience engagement may appreciate it most.

If this reads like a plug, it is - I am helping out NumberGo with sales referrals, and would be glad to discuss their product with you and to arrange for a private demo. I am doing sales referrals for NumberGo in part because I believe that they have invented the right product at the right time for the right people. The publishing industry is stymied in many ways by how to make money from text-based analysis and limited in its options for making money from clear analysis of complex data sets that can be published rapidly for today's decision-makers. NumberGo may not be the right tool for these needs in many instances, but I do think that it's the sort of mid-range publishing solution that's likely to be both affordable for the vast majority of publishers and easily implemented with very little disturbance to existing publishing technology operations. In other words, you can make money with NumberGo now - not later.

If content in The Signal Economy is moving more towards the stories that your data can tell, then I encourage Shore's clients and followers to consider a tool like NumberGo as one key way to get a leg up on the opportunities in data publishing and data consulting as soon as possible. There is value - and money - being left on the table, and I'd hope that NumberGo can help you to pick it up as soon as possible as you create a more satisfied client base.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Big Publishing Adjusts to Self-Publishing's Rise on Amazon - But Not Really.

While cries of "books are dead" are probably at least as old as shouts of "print is dead," the truth is that books are doing pretty well in the Internet era. It just happens, though, that the winners are not necessarily established publishers. It turns out that what YouTube did to video production and consumption Amazon is now doing for book publishing - enabling anyone to put a book out that can find an audience effectively and inexpensively. And as TV and movie producers sidestepped the impact of YouTube's emergence, the strength of self-publishing was politely ignored or finessed by many publishers for many years.

Now, however, data is beginning to show that a tipping point is indeed upon us for self-publishing ebook sales via Amazon, the best proxy for the ebook industry in general, to be sure. Author Earnings has published some new stats on the types publishers selling ebooks through Amazon, which show that leading self-published titles now outnumber titles from the big publishers comfortably (25% vs. 16% of available ebook titles on Amazon) and total unit sales for self-publishers are doing pretty well also - 31 percent of unit sales for self-publishers and 38 percent for the big publishers. Revenue-wise, the bigs still rake in the lion's share of income with 57 percent of Amazon ebook sales revenue, while self-publishers are trailing at 17 percent.

Given the significantly higher and well-protected price for the average big-house book, though, that's actually not such a huge gap in revenues. If you consider the net revenues actually paid out to authors via ebooks for self-publishing versus the relatively scrawny income that most receive from royalty income via big publishers, your average successful self-publishers is well ahead of what they'd likely receive from any large publishing house for their ebook sales. In other words, self-publishing is growing not just because it's easy, but because it's how to make money most effectively as an author now.

Major publishers are certainly aware of these trends, and they all have their own tools and programs for self-publishing to one degree or another. But publishing programs is not the same thing as a publishing platform that consumers are aware of or desire. Today's reader appreciates the universal search and recommendation capabilities of a service like Amazon or Google for finding today's ebooks, making the rationale for self-publishing through a major publisher harder to justify. Hence the debut of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited subscription all-you-can-eat ebook service, which provides access to 600,000 ebook titles for a $9.99 monthly fee. Notably absent from the new Kindle programme so far: the big five publishers. So what Netflix has done for videos, Kindle Unlimited now promises to do for books - make the discovery of popular and niche "long tail" content far easier, and build up the brands of both mid-tier publishers and self-publishers. It's paid advertising for books, you might say, as well as incremental revenues.

OK, so the big publishers don't want to bite on Kindle Unlimited, What's their solution for better ebook marketing? Well, HarperCollins, for one, wants to push sales from its own Web portal more strongly for both ebooks and print books - something that's not likely to make retail bookstores very happy, nor portals like Amazon, but it's certainly fair game - and only about ten years overdue as a marketing strategy. Had book publishers agreed then on a good way to market books through their portals via search engines in a universal ebook format, then they would not be in anywhere near the pickle that they find themselves in now. They could have subsidized print-on-demand hardware and online cooperative marketing and reviews infrastructure for local bookstores and created a magnificent win-win scenario for book retailers. Didn't happen. Ah, well. Now the majors are just another name in the background at Amazon and other online retailers, with little to distinguish their offerings other than a handful of high-profile authors who are increasingly aware of self-marketing.

Book publishers are just one of many types of media companies trying everything they can think of to defend old distribution models and distribution channels - instead of doing everything that they can to adapt to and define the new ones to fit consumers' tastes. When they see new technology, they march out the old-skool dealmakers to try to tame it and pump out press releases that sound mighty impressive on the train home, perhaps, but mean almost nothing in terms of stemming the tide of publishing history. Empowering Amazon to protect book publishers from Google was Plan A: now Plan A turns out to be the primary source of competition for the old guard. Maybe in the decade ahead they'll give Plan B a real try - book marketing that really works in an open, mobile and signal-driven Web. We can only hope.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Seamless: At I/O 2014, Google Delivers Context-Driven Design for a Signal-Driven World

I opted for watching the Google I/O developers' conference online this year, not because I didn't think that it wouldn't be interesting but it seemed that the focus was going to be more on immediate deliverables - most of which were pretty evident. Smart watches, autos, TVs, Chrome/Android integration - you could see all of these coming. No big hardware expected, but lots of tech talks.

That seems to be how I/O 2014 rolled this year - a very seamless presentation of "you can do this now" capabilities, all tied to products and services that will be coming from Google in the next few months. That's not to say that there weren't some impressive and visionary deliverables mapped out in the keynote and workshop sessions, but gone were surprise keynote presentations from future-forward +Sergey Brin on technologies like +Google Glass that are work-in-progress tools not likely tied to new deliverables targeted for later this year, though a cute cardboard virtual reality goggle headset - a swipe at Facebook's billions spent on Oculus Rift? - seemed to be a statement that long-term development of new platforms will be kept press-quiet at events such as I/O until there are real opportunities for developers to rock product platforms. It also meant that media-oriented services like +Google+ that have no real hooks for developers didn't get a single keynote mention, even though Google+ services such as Hangouts are likely to factor heavily into fall product introductions.

What did get the spotlight were major upgrades to Google's Android operating system coming this fall in its unmascotted "L" release to succeed Key Lime Pie. "L" has a few key upgrades that are likely to help it to power Google's signal-driven services strategy in the years ahead. The key change to "L" is that Android's guts that drive software have been completely revamped, trading out its Dalvik just-in-time Java environment for a new software engine called ART, which will be able to drive 64-bit applications of many kinds on processors from ARM, Intel and MIPS that are expected this fall on a variety of platforms later this year. Android also got a nifty upgrade to its applications interface toolkit, dubbed "Material Design," which provides a slickness across all Android devices that's clearly on at least a par with anything Apple or Microsoft have assembled. So we can expect that the top-notch phones, tablets, and, now, Google Wear and Android TV devices coming out soon will be no-excuses top performers and crowd pleasers for visually appealing apps and games..

Web apps on these devices and on +Google Chrome browsers and Chrome OS devices get an updated looks also courtesy of Google's new Polymer development toolkit for Web apps, which will allow Chrome-launched apps to look very similar to Material Design-based Android apps. The seamlessness of the Web/mobile experience is enhanced by integrated notifications - get your SMS/battery updates on your Chromebook, for example - and by updates to the Googlecast engine that will now enable content to be shared from mobile apps to TV screens easily via Chromecast.

Web apps in general didn't get strong emphasis in the keynote, but workshop sessions highlighted more tools that make it easier to make Web-based apps on Android platforms, supplemented by the ability to launch native mobile apps from mobile Chrome browsers. We're not quite yet to the point of having a Chrome-first mobile device beyond Chromebooks, but you can see that this evolution is marching on. Also higlighted was a preview of Android apps running on Chrome OS - the popular Evernote and Flipboard apps were shown, indicating that Google wants to fill the gaps between Web apps and native Android apps with Android software on Chrome OS, but hopefully convince apps makers that the Polymer toolkit will eventually make Web-first apps the key to success on both Chrome and Android. It's also a way to close the gaps between Chrome OS and Windows 8 - now popular Android apps like Skype not available in a Web format could run on Chrome OS, eliminating potential Windows 8 advantages for enterprise and education customers. Add in a preview of editing native Microsoft Office documents in Google's Docs editor - and then saving them back to a native Office format - and Microsoft no doubt will continue to have Chrome OS market share nightmares for a long time.

In terms of new platforms and products, Google Wear and Google Auto took the spotlight this year, new capabilities which emphasize that context driven by signals from sensors and semantic analysis of people's on-the-go lifestyles is a key component in driving Google's plan for profitability in the years ahead. Android Wear smart watches from Samsung and LG are now available for shipping on July 7th and the choice of one or the other was the biggest freebie for I/O attendees - with a rain check also for the upcoming Moto 360 Android Wear watch expected later this year, probably to debut alongside the upcoming Moto X+1 smart phone.

Android Wear devices are compatible with any Android device rnnning 4.3 Android or higher, so most current Android phones are good-to-go with Wear. Wear apps are out-of-the-pocket oriented notifications and services with touch and voice commands, aware of what mobile devices are nearby that your actions on Wear devices can complement. For example, fire up a recipe app on Android Wear and your nearby Android device will display the recipe details in a larger format. Scroll through the details on Wear, and the phone follows along. +Chris Pirillo and I had an exchange on Google+ in which he complained that wearables are redundant, and he's right - but it turns out that Google understands that people want redundancy and coordination as a key platform feature. Android as a platform is now less about specific devices and more about multi-device, seamless, signal-driven contextual experiences. driven by common APIs, software and development standards designed to make it easy for developers to write apps that adjust to other Android-equipped platforms and contexts easily and, often, automatically. Android Fit is a new apps development programme that can also take advantage of this seamless, context-driven environment, enabling health gadget suppliers to be a part of the Android ecosystem more easily with signal-driven products and services.

This combination of cross-platform integration, seamlessness and context was underscored in the debut of Android Auto, a new capability being integrated by more than 40 auto and device manufacturers starting with this fall's new car model introductions. Plug in your mobile Android phone or tablet into an Android Auto car an you get a screencast of travel-oriented apps and searches on to your auto's data display. Voice commands are activated by a button on Android Auto steering wheels, hopefully helping to increase safety while using and enjoying Android-delivered content. This is a very clever approach to auto integration, allowing auto-makers to use Chromecast-like screencasting to integrate Google-supplied content and services in their autos while allowing them to develop their own electronics independent of Google. Android's standard USB interface to auto electronics also means that a wide variety of cars and trucks will finally be released from the Apple-or-nothing mindset for smart phone integration - a key factor in global markets, including many places where Apple is less dominant than the U.S.

Speaking of global markets, Google SVP +Sundar Pichai announced the debut of Android One, a "pure" AOSP version of Android targeted for sub-$100 phones that are popular in developing nations. Like Google's premium +Nexus Android devices, Android One devices will feature regular AOSP updates directly from Google, helping to reduce the cost of developing software for these devices. However, unlike Nexus devices, Android One phones can be tailored to specific markets more easily, enabling Nexus One to enter countries where issues such as Internet filtering and banking regulations may affect how particular services are delivered. It will be interested to see if an intersection between Google's Project Ara modular phones and Android One creates new opportunities for sensor-driven services in these market that can drive economic opportunities.

The most media-intensive portion of the keynote was the debut of Android TV, the long-expected successor to Google TV. Android TV devices being introduced this fall will be equipped with a standard look and feel for both the command interface and the apps driving that interface - a much tighter regimen for development than exercised by Google TV. So although there will probably not be single, iconic devices such as Microsoft's Xbox One or Sony's PlayStation 4, there will be a similarly tight management of user expectations from the Android TV experience across devices from a wide range of manufacturers - including Sony, Philips and Sharp. Chromecast functionality is built in to Android TV, of course, and there's slick voice commands, cross-source content searching, curated content recommendations and drill-down information on movie stars and such courtesy of Google's Knowledge Graph search engine. If you saw screen shots of an Android TV prototype leaked earlier this year, there were few surprises overall

For folks who like remotes, this Android TV is a good package, though if you have a Chromecast already, there's not much you won't be able to do on your TV screen anyway, given Chromecast's new Android app screencasting. The main new factor in Android TV that could upset the content world is the ability of Android TV to support native multiplayer, multiscreen games via smart phones and tablets. The titles demoed at I/O were not heavy on fancy graphics, but with the graphics-intensive capabilities of Android "L" waiting in the wings and another demo of cutting-edge game graphics on Android "L" earlier in the keynote address, it's only a matter of time - and probably not much time - before game producers get more tuned into the Android bandwagon - just about the time that Apple will try to do likewise with its upgraded Apple TV offerings, no doubt.

There were previews of some other key upgrades to Google's cloud-based apps and storage services designed to appeal to enterprises and turnkey startups, and many of the sessions and workshops featured more future-forward topics such as robotics, but the overall focus of Google I/O 2014 was on helping developers to see the entirety of what Google offers them from the perspective of a seamless, signal-driven moble world of contextual services.

A short video from Google's Android team underscores how the seamless home-to-car-to-walkabout mode of today's consumers demands content and services to be aware of just what we're doing in a given moment - and to deliver us just what we want when we want it. This is very important to companies trying to reach these mobile markets, which still use Web pages to reach their audiences but which also have to grab people when they're most likely to research products or make a purchase. The Web is no longer just a scrollable catalog - it's a cross-platform, signal-driven probing tool to understand people and their needs in real-time, people who want to reduce wasteful interactions and to maximize interactions that matter most in the moment and in the context of a moment.

While much media production is still focused on flagging down our attention with mass-audience appeal, The Signal Economy driven off of platforms like those debuted at Google I/O this year pushes media in the exact opposite direction - towards minimizing interactions with distractions so that we can focus with what services like Google know through signal-gathering are important to us in the moment in the exact place that we need them - maybe even two places at once. Marketing conversations in this environment are much less about creating mindless social media streams and much more about "what kind of topping on your pizza?" popping from your smart watch as you're checking the traffic for the ride home. The "get to your gut" advertising approach in this environment gives way to sensors actually monitoring what's happening in our gut. More adjustments are head for publishers as more marketing spending moves into this signal-rich environment. Good luck, folks, it's going to be an interesting year ahead in media and technology! If we can help you sort out your strategies in The Signal Economy, do let us know.