Will Apple Pay play in the UK today?

(Try saying that title several times quickly).

If you are a follower of technology news you will, undoubtedly, have seen somebody writing about Apple Pay. If you haven’t seen anything about it, do let me know how your hibernation was. Of course, you can read and watch all about it on Apple’s page.

There’s been a positive reaction to this new way to pay and lots of discussion. And, of course, lots of people writing-up their experiences. Engadget have a good piece comparing Apple Pay and Google Wallet to using a credit card.

Of course it’s only available in the US so all the experiences you read about are there. But here, I think there will less of a ‘WOW’ when the system is, eventually, launched. Using the tap/wave approach to paying may be new but the UK has had contactless payments for some time. Suitably equipped phones – while few and far between – have been able to do this for a while. In 2008 (6 years ago, in case you aren’t counting) my bank, Barclays, started issuing contactless cards that allowed a tap payment for amounts under £20 (no PIN, no signature, no handing over your card).

I’ve been happily paying contactless for a while to the point where I don’t really notice it anymore. But, I thought I’d pay attention today and see how easy it is. For, if it’s already easy, are solutions like Apple Pay and Google Wallet going to make a big change to payments here in the UK?

This morning I took the train into Waterloo Station in central London. A smart-card ticketless system, Oyster, has been in place for years. But recently contactless card payments have been accepted by those little yellow readers. I took my Oyster card out of my wallet months ago and tap on the gates with a credit card. This morning, my wallet comes out of my pocket, I tap on the gate, I get to the train. The card didn’t come out of my wallet. No pressing of any buttons on any device. I don’t think it could get much easier.

And, from today, that tap on the station ticket gates also donates a penny everyday to the Mayor’s Fund for London thanks to the Penny For London initiative. No change coming out of my pocket into a tin and I feel a little better doing it.

On my way to the office I buy my breakfast, Porridge and a coffee if you’re interested, from one of the massive number of Pret A Manger stores in the city. I order, my pots are in a bag and I tap my card. This time I do take it out of my wallet. No fiddling with change.

My colleagues are not in the office at lunchtime so I go for a short walk. It was a very short walk because, today, the tourists seem to be crowding the streets around my office more than normal. I pop my head around Tesco’s front door and see the queue to pay is much shorter than normal at this time of day. A salad and spicy popcorn is paid for at the self-checkout with a tap of my wallet (again, I don’t even get the card out). The biggest hassle here is bagging my lunch.

On the way home it’s tap in and tap out at the station. I’m going to the gym so I get off a stop earlier. Contactless payment on London’s transport system is really simple & adoption seems to be picking up. Because I’m writing this piece I logged on to the system’s website. I’ve registered my card so I can download my payment and journey history if I want to. I check the statement and I notice that there were two occasions recently when my tap on the reader didn’t register properly and I am charged a higher journey fee. I update the records and click ‘apply for refund’. I’ve never had a problem getting a refund in the past. I can also see that capping has been applied because the sum of the individual journeys was higher than the equivalent daily travel-card price. I don’t do anything for this to be applied. They also operate a weekly cap but I don’t seem to spend enough with them to hit that very often.

On the way home I walk past The Hand & Racquet, a pub on Wimbledon Hill Road. I had a couple of pints there last night with a former colleague and, yes you guessed it, a round of excellent bitter was paid for at the bar with a tap on the handily placed card reader. Not for me the pockets full of change you invariably end up with after an evening in a pub.

Dinner, tonight, was already in the fridge but I wanted to pick-up some vegetables to go with it. The Co-operative near my house allows me to pay the £3.30 by tapping. In fact, the hardest part here was having my Co-op membership card swiped. The plastic on that card is separating so it doesn’t go through the reader very easily.

And that’s my day. Lots of small transactions all done without cash. In fact, so many of my days are like this I often forget to check I have cash with me so when I do need it, it can be a bit of a surprise.

My experiences here are genuine, I didn’t specially pick the shops to write this. If I’d gone to the sandwich shop for lunch then I would have needed cash. Many pubs don’t have the handy card reader and, of course, all my transactions were under £20 which allows the tap and pay. I know many of the mobile payment systems allow larger value payments but, today, I wouldn’t have needed them.

I love the advantages of tap-to-pay. With these transactions there’s no automatic receipt and I usually decline them so I’m not stuffing my wallet with ‘a useless paper receipt’ (as I once called them) and, of course, there’s no change lost down the sofa.

Internet Ad Spend will Overtake TV Spend in …. Yawn.

A couple of months ago, the same data from the PWC Global Entertainment & Media Outlook popped-up a couple of times in my Twitter feed. I meant to write about it then but I’ve got around to it now as part of my BEWA plan.

The most re-tweeted factoid stated that, “By 2018, Internet advertising will be poised to overtake TV as the largest advertising segment” and concluded with the line “We are approaching a major tipping point in the advertising universe“.

I’ve made a career out of Internet advertising for more than 17 years. I delivered my first online ad a couple of years earlier as an online companion to a traditional radio spot. When we first started these kinds of comparisons were helpful, not only to reassure us that we’d made the right career choice, but also to convince our bosses that this really was a growing market and they might help us by employing another person to help us figure out what to do.

As an industry we were pleased when online ad-spend eclipsed various forms of print, billboards and even those radio ads I’d spent years working with.  I acknowledge it’s an interesting barometer and makes for some nice graphs for somebody’s next ‘speaking opportunity’.

But, today, comparing the vast opportunities of ‘Internet Advertising’ as a single place of ad-spend while breaking down ‘offline’ spend into it’s component segments doesn’t feel right to me. The IAB (using US-centric data) tells us that, in 2013, 43% of Internet advertising spend was search. Classifieds make-up 6% of the Internet spend. There seems very little point in comparing these numbers to television.

(Much more significant for TV is the kind of spend-shift outlined in a Bloomberg piece about Nike, but that’s for another day).

Surely, it’s connected vs non-connected advertising. The tipping point is coming but it’s not when Internet spend passes TV spend. It’s when spending on connected advertising surpasses non-connected advertising.


I don’t have access to the whole PWC Outlook which may very well put these numbers into a more subtle context that 140 characters can not convey.

My BEWA project resulted in a post about one of the stars of the the Australian television show Neighbours; an entry about writing the perfect technology RFP that allows companies to better work with you; a follow-up post about better user design and this about internet (or connected) advertising figures. Place your bets on if there will be a post next Wednesday,


Improved By Design

A couple of months ago I wrote a thing about receipts and the utter pointlessness of P, T and M on that piece of paper. Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting piece of writing was it? On the other hand, it appears I’m not alone with this line of thinking. Jack Dorsey, you know one of the chaps that invented Twitter, apparently spoke at the US National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show conference (I suspect they are, close to what I thought was, a receipt industry) about this problem and ways the receipt can be better used as a communication tool to customers. If I was so inclined, I’d claim credit. You know, something along the line of how smart people follow my thinking. But, that’s pretty much a long-shot huh?

A little digging is a fascinating thing. It seems all sorts of pieces of paper could be improved with a small amount of design expertise. I was drawn to the idea of improving the receipt during an extended attempt to claim expenses for a recent trip. That trip included a train, a flight and several taxis. I know taxi paperwork is being improved: Uber and Kabbee do a great job of just emailing you the receipt after the journey – no more scribbled bits of paper that are incomplete. How many times have you had to add information to a taxi receipt yourself so that it was obvious what it journey it was for? They’re clear on where I have been and how much the journey cost. And email makes them easy to retrieve when it’s time to claim those expenses from the people that sent you there.

Peter Smart's Boarding PassAs it turns out there are plenty of other people who think train tickets and plane boarding passes could also be improved. These are a bit more complex as, unlike many taxi receipts they have to be shown while the journey is in progress. To that end they contain lots of little nuggets that mean nothing to you and me but might be crucial to the ticket inspector or air stewardesses’ ability to quickly interpret the ticket. I like Neil Martin’s version of the British Rail ticket (others have had a good go too). But for some innovative thinking, take a look at Peter Smart’s version of the airline boarding pass. If you’ve ever had to look twice at your pass to see which terminal/gate you’re going from then this redesign couple be really helpful.

What I particularly like about both of the examples I’ve shown is the removal of industry speak. Those little airport codes, you know LTN to WAW, are really London Luton to Warsaw Chopin in real, human, understanding. Why not just say that? Unless the product is a business-to-business tool where the people using the system speak the language of the industry it’s never a good idea to confuse with codes and jargon; and even in industry-specific systems I’m not always convinced. In the airport the departure screens don’t show WAW so why should the ticket?

There will be those who think a digital ticket/boarding pass is the solution but that experience needs improving too. My British Airways mobile phone app once showed a partner airline’s flight number for the journey – so the on-board crew were very confused – and I’ve known people who have stood at the front for five minutes or more rebooting a crashed phone so they can show a ticket and take their seat. Paper may be around a while for those things.

Now I just need an original idea for something to redesign.

Further Reading: This post is a follow up to I Don’t Want A Useless Paper Receipt and is also the third in my BEWA posts. The first a rather random post, BEWA: Sound the alarm! All the letters have been taken. Last week’s post was Elsewhere: Writing the perfect RFP.

Elsewhere: Writing the perfect RFP

One of my former colleagues, Louis, has written a piece on LinkedIn about the process some companies go through when putting together a Request For Proposal (RFP) for a major technology purchase.  His essential point, that the process – especially in the larger corporates – doesn’t really lend itself to the best outcome for the ultimate system users, is well made. I’ve been meaning to write something about this process for some time because, so often, it’s a process that prevents a technology seller working closely with the buyer to tailor the response (and, therefore solution) to meet the ultimate business goal. This is done in the name of fairness and transparency which is, of course, a laudable process but if it doesn’t get the best outcome, is it the right one? Although he’s writing in the context of marketing analytics, the words could just as easily be written for the ad tech industry and – probably – for any major modern technology purchasing decision.  Most of today’s tech solutions are complex and can be used in whole (or in part) in many ways as well as being integrated closely with existing systems. What this means, of course, is that there really isn’t a single solution to a customer’s problem from any vendor but a number of approaches that are best discussed and evaluated beyond a series of ‘compliant/not compliant’ statements in a document. Louis suggests some initial stages which are much more discussion than Q&A. I’ve seen – and been involved in – pitches where this works very well.  So, if your putting together any kind of technology RFP then it’s worth reading to make sure you’re giving yourself – and your tech partners – the best chance of success. Here was my small addition to the conversation:

Great advice.  The RFP process in many areas is broken.  I was once part of a team that was begged to complete an RFP for which we were not a good fit by a prospective client: a process that benefitted nobody but a procurement checklist. I really like your alternative suggestions. But, do you really think that your alternative approach requires a lot more time upfront? I don’t think it does but it needs a different kind of relationship with vendors.  In many organisations there’s already a large team putting an RFP together and it’ll go through many iterations before finally being issued so your alternative is just changing the way people evaluate the market: it needn’t take that much more effort. Having said all that, sometimes it’s best to accept that the RFP is the beginning of a process not the end. You may lose an individual RFP but that can mean the start of a business relationship.

Further Reading This piece was written in response to ‘Writing the Perfect RFP‘ by Louis Fernandes and forms the second in my BEWA series. The first was BEWA: Sound the alarm! All the letters have been taken.

BEWA: Sound the alarm! All the letters have been taken.

Sound the alarm! All the letters have been taken. It’s impossible to come up with a new acronym for anything anymore. BEWA, for instance. It’s been used. At least twice. It’s the British Equestrian Writers Association and the Business Educators of Western Australia Inc. It is also a Singaporean fashion brand and a village in Jamtara district of Jharkhand state of India. And I just wanted to start a meme. Not that I really have the ability to do that but, you know, it was an idea.

I hear you cry, “A meme? Are you sure?” And you would be right but indulge me for a moment.

I just paid the hosting fee for curnow.org to the folks a Dreamhost again.  I host my own site on some rented server space there. It’s been with them since 2002 and I can’t remember the company who did it before but I don’t think they are around anymore. The idea was simple: own my own space so I am not at the whim of a dot com business that might not be there tomorrow (this was 2002 and web 1.0’s bubble had well and truly gone bang).  I think I was inspired by Phil Gyford’s website and the idea of collecting all my own web content in one place.

I once wrote that the reason for building a site like this was because, “The ideals of a less censored form of communication, open and available to all, appeals to some deep belief I have in the basics of human community”.1  Of course those are the wild ramblings of an Web 1.0 idealist and you only need looks at the comments on any newspaper website to see how utterly nonsensical I was being.

But, having paid for another year I began to think about why I cough up this money given I don’t really write a great deal here when I could host a simple site for free in many places. Go and check out the beautifully simple curns.me for something along the lines of my original plans for this site.

Then, on Monday, somebody asked me about Google search and websites. I know very little about this. So I did a bit of research and looked at the search terms that got people to curnow.org. So, hello all you Ashley Paske fans (for the kids, he was Matt Robinson in Neighbours sometime in the the last century). There’s a reference to him here and it seems to drive people to look. And the picture isn’t there anymore so I will have to look at that and fix it one day.

So much for the more worthy stuff I wrote about personalised radio and why we should all stop thinking that news is something that can be easily defined.

All this lead me to think that I ought to try and add some new ramblings here just to justify the payment and get people here for some other reason. Which lead to my big idea – BEWA: Blog Every Wednesday in August. Catchy, don’t you think? And so I will try. Don’t hold your breath.


1 Originally written in a post entitled ‘Reasons‘, July 2000

Thank You aiMatch

aiMatch logoAlmost four years ago, on a blistering hot Sunday afternoon in North Hills, Raleigh, North Carolina, I sat listening to a group of passionate technologists outline a vision for ad-serving aimed at digital publishers that would – before the world had got so hung up on big data – show that there’s much more business insight in the ad-server data than just clicks and impressions.

Just over 18 months later that bootstrapped startup, aiMatch, was acquired by the world’s leading analytics company, SAS: validation that the publisher advertising technology space needed more than just delivery technology and that, in order to compete, publishers need quick insights into how advertising is performing and impacting their business. There’s so much more to come in that area.

Today, however, marks my last day with SAS Intelligent Advertising for Publishers; I’ve accepted a job with another company in the ad tech space but I wanted to do two things before I return my pass to HQ. In the coming weeks, to serve as my own aide memoir, I’ll write the 10 things about the publisher ad space, and its evolution, that I have learned over the past four years. I am not yet sure if the challenge will be to get to 10 unique points or restrict it to 10. We’ll see …

Right now, however, I want this to serve as a very public thank you to the entire aiMatch team, past and present, in the US and the UK who made the past four years possible. I joined the company before the first customer had served an ad and now, as I leave, billions & billions of decisions are made for customers across the globe and growing at a rate that, back then, we could only have dreamed about.

It may be a cliche to say, but it is true, that everybody in that team played their part in growing the business. I can’t call them all out individually but thanks must go to Jeff, Guy and Ryan for having the vision and the will to get aiMatch going. A self-funded technology start-up isn’t easy but they delivered for customers around the world and I will remain very proud of the whole team because of that. Of course, I’ve worked with Steve here in the UK, in a number of companies, for more of the last 15 years than I haven’t and he probably deserves some kind of award for that. It was his idea that we hire that cinema in Soho – the outcome of which was the first UK customer – in spite of my fear we wouldn’t be able to fill the space.

When we came into the SAS family we met many great people who helped take the product to the next level. There’s a whole world of them but I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the Australian team who’ve been entirely responsible for my jet lag, resulting grumpiness and bad eating habits over the last 18 months. They’re one of the best teams in the business.

I learnt many things along the way. It’s clear setting up something from scratch in a competitive space isn’t easy but it’s worth trying, it can work out well but you will never know if you don’t jump in. Executing a plan that’s constantly moving is a fun challenge even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. Working closely with your customers is the best way to succeed. But parking the CEO’s car in the tiny remaining parking space in a concrete parking lot in Wilmington in 40-degree heat is the most nerve-wracking challenge of them all.

If you’re a publisher and you want something better from your ad-technology stack then I recommend SAS Intelligent Advertising for Publishers as a very good place to start looking. And, when you see it, remember that the killer feature you’re going to love was all my idea, don’t let anybody convince you otherwise!

Elsewhere: Will The Money Trail Drive Radio Innovation?

A couple of weeks ago, I received a tweet from an Australian chap called Anthony Gherghetta (@wheredidgogogo) who, based on my previous writings about a personalised radio service, suggetsed I consider adding some of them to a collection he was curating over on the writing platform, Medium, about The Future of Radio. I thought about this for a while but, while I was in Melbourne recently, local news about audience figures and money got me thinking about how such a personalised product would be funded. So I wrote Will The Money Trail Drive Radio Innovation? over on Medium (which, I have to say, is a lovely writing platform). As always, I also keep my own copy here but I do suggest you head to Medium to read it!

In the introduction to his 1979 book, The Piccadilly Story, Philip Radcliffe tells how Piccadilly Radio’s broadcast frequency – back then expressed as 261 metres, medium wave – was so ingrained in the Manchester community that shopkeepers would, at a bill of £2.61, simply ask their customers for ‘Piccadilly, luv’.1

For some reason, this – I have always assumed apocryphal – story popped into my mind when sat in a Melbourne coffee shop this week reading about Kyle & Jackie O’s latest audience figures.

By way of a quick summary, last Wednesday’s news was all about the top-rated Sydney breakfast duo who switched stations at the start of the year and, when the first audience figures were released, seemed to have carried most of their listeners to their new morning home. An astonishing switch that generated discussion on my Twitter feed of UK radio pundits. In itself, this has much to say about the power of broadcast radio and why the personalised radio future I envisage, maybe a way off yet.

While there was plenty of commentary about the audience numbers there was, in many ways, a more interesting number buried towards the end of The Australian’s piece on the news. The move had wiped $350 million off the share price of the duo’s former employers Southern Cross Austereo.

Both of these stories – some 35 years apart in their origins – tell of audience scale and it’s relationship to money. Historically, for entertainment media, the two are undeniably intertwined. And this relationship got me thinking, how would the finances of a personalised radio service stand up? In some ways scale and personalisation are not natural bedfellows but does that mean a personalised radio product would struggle to find revenue? In a previous musing on this topic I suggested that sponsored content blocks, mixed with a listener’s own music selection, might be a way forward. But when the audience is combining a unique mix of content selections, can this work? After all, what would the advertiser be buying and can it be sold at a profit?

To help answer that question, and in parallel to any thinking about a future radio product, we have to consider the funding. Is audio content suited to a subscription model so that a radio equivalent of the paywall could be erected? SiriusXM might suggest that it is. But are there many other countries where substantial audiences pay for radio content? None spring to mind. Perhaps there’s a smartphone subscription app-model that may work. But I don’t think that there’s precedent for profitable apps in-car (quite yet) or on kitchen radios. Which leaves us with advertising as the primary revenue model.

There’s a shift in media buying that’s being driven by the connected world whereby advertising space is increasingly traded in real time. On the web, a publisher may offer up an advertising spot to the market in the milliseconds before the advertisement is shown in the browser. One of the leading players in this space, The Rubicon Project, suggested in September 2013 that an average of 40% of online display advertising was traded in this way. In April last year Forrester suggested that almost 25% of online video advertising will be traded programatically by this year.2 The latter figure is important, because this automated trading will become an increasingly important way to generate revenue from television content when consumed online. And if TV goes there, why should we assume radio won’t?

There are many attractions of buying advertising space this way but the ability to easily group audiences that are increasingly consuming fragmented media is one. It’s becoming just as efficient to reach these disparate audiences as it used to be to reach mass audiences by buying, say, Piccadilly Radio.

Interestingly, when researching this piece I couldn’t find numbers for the amount of audio media traded this way. There are companies who specialise in the automated trading of radio advertisements but, when compared to those in the digital display or video space, they appear forgotten. Then again, perhaps it’s not surprising. There are a few stations doing new and innovate things with radio commercials – in the UK, Absolute Radio’s In-Stream is a good example – but they are the exception and not the rule. Therefore where’s the market for the automated trading of radio ads?

It seems to me, radio is missing out. If the advertising world is shifting to more automated way of buying then that means, by necessity, they are buying a connected product. Yet much of radio’s connected offering is simply delivering the same old product in a slightly newer way. For revenue growth, and maybe even for revenue parity, the radio industry has to adapt to the connected world in more ways than just offering up a stream of the broadcast signal.

Undoubtedly, there are many hurdles before there are mass market personalised radio products. Kyle & Jackie O have shown the enormous power of today’s mass-reach broadcast breakfast radio product. Yet, also this week, the BBC announced plans to close the youth-oriented BBC Three television channel. While reduced finances are the reason behind the proposed closure, the channel was selected in part – according to the press release – because it’s young audience “are the most mobile and ready to move to an online world”. A trend that suggests future audiences have different expectations of their media consumption.

There’s a convergence here that the radio industry needs to see: an undeniable shift to consumption on connected devices. This represents opportunities for both sets of radio’s customers. With the right product, audiences will increasingly personalise their radio experience but, I believe it may not be listeners who are the drivers of such innovations. The advertising industry, increasingly looking for ways to better justify their media spend, is pouring an ever growing share of their budgets into automated buying. Radio needs a product to capitalise on this move.

So it maybe that the money trail is the driver of innovation in the radio space and it the advertising industry that pushes radio to reinvent itself for the connected world.

1 Radcliffe, P. The Piccadilly Story, Blond & Briggs, 1979. p9
2 Strictly 24.7% of video spending by 2014.

It’s My Station: 18 Months Later

Can it really be almost 18 months since a discussion, on Media UK, about an Apple patent spawned a piece of writing here? Feel free to customise this post by inserting your own reference to one of TARDIS, flying time, or a reference to clocks. I did mention the Olympics – by which I meant London 2012 – which now just makes it seem old.

I genuinely believe the substance of that post & discussion: that if somebody gets the user interface right (and that will be the hardest task) then It’s My Station (that was the post) is the future of a lot of radio listening.

Radio has, of course, changed in so many ways thanks to the Internet. Just last week there was a piece by James Cridland over on Jacobs Media Blog discussing the very use of the word radio: No, Pandora Is Not ‘Radio’ (which is totally worth reading for the way James can crowbar a beer reference into a conversation). There’s a lot to be said for the idea of making the ‘radio’ brand stand for something but, I fear, much like music, the press and television, it’s too late to make broadcast radio stand for something different – or just reclaim the brand – now. Time to face what’s next.

I think when radio in the traditional, broadcast, sense has lost people like me – who were once big fans of the medium – that last statement is important. My own listening is now mainly driven from iTunes and a dip into things around the world via TuneIn: this week it was Blake Hayes’ first week on Mornings at Coast 93.1 in Portland. Sorry to the good people of Portland but I had to look it up on a map. How did I end up listening to to that? Twiter. But that’s probably another post.

Which is why I was delighted to read that the Australian radio group, Southern Cross Austereo, have invested in a service which sounds similar to that I was arguing for in It’s My Station. I’m glad somebody has done it and only a little disappointed that it’s exclusively available to Australian users right now. After all, I’ll happily listen to Hamish & Andy mixed in with my music collection – they make great radio while you can argue about my musical taste.

It’s fantastic news that a radio group is in a position to be able to invest like this. Now, if only I’d actually done something myself with that idea.