Julia Cagé’s Kolkhoz Media Dream



French economist Julia Cagé has built an intellectual contraption that made her the wonder child of French media elite. While she opens interesting avenues to explore innovative media business models, her work is unfortunately filled with flaws and sometimes willfully disconnected from reality.

Julia Cagé embodies the new French elite. At 32, she is the offspring of the most selective segment of both French and American educational systems: Ecole Normale Supérieure and Harvard where she got her PhD in economics in 2014. She is the kind of gifted person who speaks with the magisterial infallibility French culture grants to a alumni of such major institutions. She openly adheres to the most traditional ideas of the French Left, more pre-World War II Jaurès than 21st Century Emmanuel Macron. This is what frames her media industry work. Armed with her glowing academic record and her political affiliation, she enjoys open access

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Tesla: 3 Model 3 Questions



Silicon Valley’s one and only car company (so far) just announced a low-cost vehicle. Today, we look at the key challenges Tesla will face on its way to the pinnacle.

Elon Musk is on a roll. Last week, Space X, Musk’s space exploration and transport company, managed the feat of putting a NASA payload into orbit and getting the rocket’s first stage to come back and gracefully land upright on a barge at sea.

A week earlier, Musk announced the Tesla Model 3: Five seats, 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds, a range of 215 miles, and, of course, the company’s advanced electronics inside and elegant trademark style outside…all for a reasonable $35,000.

325,000 people paid $1,000 each for a place in the delivery queue:

412_queueCustomers wait in line to be the first to sign a wait list to own the new Tesla Model 3

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Paid Or Ad-Supported: Pick One Model, And Stick With It



Playing both sides of digital models is becoming increasingly perilous. Legacy media struggle to combine ads and subscriptions, but pure players entering the game tend to be way more decisive in their choices.

The digital media sector has become unforgiving for unclear business models. Publishers of legacy media often like to play on both sides of the game: They want to imitate pure players natively designed to collect ads while preserving their legacy paid-for model.

Problem is: compromise breeds weakness, no choice is often the worst choice.

This trend is rooted in memories of the ancient print press revenue system. Twenty years ago, 8 dollars out of 10 came from commercial and classifieds ads; the rest was drawn from subscriptions and newsstand sales. In America, national or metro newspapers were picked-up at street-corner metal boxes for just a quarter (in Europe, the revenue structure was more balanced.)


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Early Apple Retail Adventures



This week, as we contemplate Apple’s first 40 years, we’ll take an early eighties dive into the company’s counter-intuitive retail development in France. 

I’ve always loved retail, and retail has loved me back – in unusual ways, as we shall see.

Born, raised, and living in France for the first 41 years of my life, I witnessed the rise of large retail chains and how Distribution became all powerful, oppressively so. I saw how Carrefour, the chain that coined the word hypermarché, treated a respected yoghourt maker: We’ll tell you the flavors and quantities we want you to make, we’ll set the delivery schedule, dictate the marketing and branding arrangements, define the return privileges and, of course, we’ll let you know what we want to pay for your product — and when we want to pay it.

As a kid in boarding school, I couldn’t stomach

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Clickbait Obsession Devours Journalism

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Collecting eyeballs is a diversion of publisher resources. As the ad model loses steam, focusing on page views generates less and less value and leads to commoditized, lowest common denominator news content. It’s time to look for alternate models.

Whether you read tech or media news through a RSS reader, or by directly accessing websites, you end up flipping through the same headlines. In the news business,  duplication and commoditization have reached unprecedented levels.

As an example, take Techmeme’s aggregation of Microsoft’s A.I. Twitter Bot snafu shown in the image above. For this subject, Techmeme harvested no less than 70 specifics URLs (as measured Sunday at about 2:30am PDT). And this is just a small slice of total coverage, for a story which certainly isn’t this year’s biggest. This explains the traction of a service like Nuzzel which, among other things, de-deduplicates similar treatments thanks to a clever

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40 Years Later: Apple 3.0

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Maturity doesn’t have to be boring. The 40-year old Apple doesn’t lack the challenges it needs, both external and internal, to stay interesting.

I’ll begin with a bit of the personal history that colors my views of Apple.

I was born a geek. In 1955, I salivated while looking at the first OC 71 transistor in the Prefect of Discipline’s office at the very Breton boarding school where I was sent to quell my agitation. In June 1968, many clandestine radios and other electronics projects later, I got the biggest break of my business life: HP put an end to years of psychological moratorium by taking me off the streets and giving me the dream job of launching their first desktop computer on the French market. I saw HP’s rise to dominance in two personal computing genres: pre-microprocessor desktop machines (the 16-bit 9800 series), and  mobile, pocketable devices

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DeepMind Could Bring The Best News Recommendation Engine

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Reinforcement Learning, a key Google DeepMind algorithm, could overhaul news recommendation engines and greatly improve users stickiness. After beating a Go Grand Master, the algorithm could become the engine of choice for true personalization.

My interest for DeepMind goes back to its acquisition by Google, in January 2014, for about half a billion dollars. Later in California, I had conversations with Artificial Intelligence and deep learning experts; they said Google had in fact captured about half of the world’s best A.I. minds, snatching several years of Stanford A.I. classes, and paying top dollar for talent. Acquiring London startup Deep Mind was a key move in a strategy aimed at cornering the A.I. field. My interlocutors at Google and Stanford told me it could lead to major new iterations of the company, with A.I. percolating in every branch of Google (now Alphabet), from improving search to better

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Barack Obama’s Careful Encryption Stance

Oct. 1, 2015
"I focused on the detail of the Resolute Desk as the President was talking with two aides in the Oval Office." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House. < p class="p1">

In the FBI v. Apple fracas, the epithets that have been hurled at President Obama range from hopeless naïf to devilish schemer, to name but the more polite. Indeed, he may be “scheming”, but not in the way that many people think.

When weighing the current “encryption problem,” our sitting president must appear strong on Law and Order while defending our Civil Liberties. It’s a fine line that’s complicated by an awareness that he also must appear “modern”, fully aware of technology’s power and limits. All things considered, I think he’s more than up to to the challenge.

Let’s start with a few assumptions.

Our Constitutional Law President understands that  encryption resides on fundamental mathematical truths that cannot be outlawed. These Universal Truths, known as the Factoring Problem, are The Constitution on which various Unbreakable Encryption Laws are based.

As the computer literate Leader of The Free

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Google AMP Is Also A Mobile Ads Revolution 


The staff of Relay Media working on AMP-ignited ads (photo: Nasa)

by Frederic Filloux

Beyond contents, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages also impact mobile advertising. Next summer, we might see the first “AMPlified” advertising campaigns. For ads, converting to the new AMP system is complicated task given the ecosystem’s diversity and conservatism. This is an opportunity for startups to play a key role in spreading AMP.

For the digital a content industry, the rampant mediocrity of mobile ads has become an embarrassment: poorly designed ads whose resolution is not adjusted to the phone screen; painfully heavy banners; failing to load properly and thus leaving a blank space in the scroll… As another example, see repeated interstitials on Politico’s mobile site, they eat half of the screen, over and over, at every single page, with the same advertiser. (The mobile app is fine and features branded content.):


Here is the result,

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Vote For The Crook. Sure. But Which One?


Image: Trumpdonald.org

by Jean-Louis Gassée

Just this once, a digression into our unusual 2016 presidential campaign. On the Republican side, voters are distancing themselves from an Establishment they have grown to distrust – with potentially dire consequences for the party.

Soon after I joined HP France in 1968, I determined that I would move to the US and live in the heart of the tech world, a dream that was fulfilled when I landed in Cupertino 17 years later. In 2001, I become a citizen in my adopted country. This makes me bi-cultural, my kind of fun: I’m equally happy and frustrated in my two countries. My Left Bank drinking companions at the Café de Flore call me a dirty capitalist because I belong to a venture firm, while here I’ve been called a Socialist for my belief, among other heresies, that no one should be without healthcare.


Vote For The Crook
Florida March 15th Rep Primary
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I Have A Dream: Medium Acquires Nuzzel (Or Vice-Versa)


What a great match these two products would make. Medium is an amazing repository of great writing —whose accumulating mass makes it untidy, increasingly difficult to manage. Nuzzel, on the other hand, is one of the cleverest engines able to extract useful signal from the social noise.

Last week, I spoke with Nuzzel CEO Jonathan Abrams. I wanted to write about his company, not for their numbers (still relatively low, about a million users), but because I kept bumping into people who, like me, use Nuzzel and love it. A lot. The praise is always the same:

“…It’s great. It scans my Twitter feed for me. It saves me a great deal of time. I no longer miss anything important. It provides me personalized stuff.” And above all: “…It sends me relevant information.” 

This is why Nuzzel shot up into my top five apps, and my

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Watching Apple’s First Fiscal 2016 Quarter


No predictions, just a few things to watch and possibly interpret in the numbers. And, at the end, a question: Will the iPhone gain market share in a saturated market – just like the Mac stubbornly does?

Apple is circumspect about the details that go into its quarterly numbers, so we have to rely on conjecture. We’ll start with the Apple Watch: Estimates for the latest fiscal quarter range from a low of 3M units to a high of more than 10M (numbers compiled by Philip Elmer-DeWitt):


If the actual number lands in the 5 to 6M neighborhood, the Apple Watch business would yield about $3B (we’re assuming an Average Selling Price of around $500 — $529 according to Wristly). That’s no small piece of change, even for a quarter expected to yield more than $75B in sales. Notably, this is an entirely new revenue category, one that

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Google’s AMP Poised To Take The Lead From Facebook’s And Apple’s Walled Gardens


Photo: Nasa

By the end of February, Google will deploy at full scale its Accelerated Mobile Pages project by sending search results to amp-html pages. Because it integrates all monetization instruments —advertising, analytics and now subscription systems— Google’s AMP is likely to rally scores of publishers.

Over 5000 developers registered to the Github repository of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) program. Some are just sniffing around, others actually work for large or small organizations and are truly committed to build something.

In a few weeks, Google will open the floodgates connecting AMP to its search engine. Twitter and Pinterest will follow. A request from a mobile phone will call a AMP-coded page (when available) that will load at blazing speed. That’s the plan. For a glimpse of what it will look like, try the demo version from your mobile, or add “/amp” at the end of any Guardian page’s URL.

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Apple Car Challenges: Sobering Thoughts


Credit: Jannik Selz / Unsplash

Horace Dediu sobered me up. Last year, my initial skepticism of Apple’s rumored car project gave way to more hopeful thoughts. But Dediu’s numbers show how insignificant electric cars still are.

Imagine an Apple electric car that’s as accomplished in its category as the iPhone is in the world of smartphones. Fantasize about the confluence of design, hardware and software attributes, manufacturing technology, and distribution strategy that will make the putative vehicle a perfect object of desire (putative, but less and less so as months go by).

While I’ve tried to maintain an equilibrium about the subject, I haven’t been immune to the virus that has enfevered so many. Looking back over the past year, I see that I’ve written about the Apple Car in no fewer than five Monday Notes musings.

At the outset (The Fantastic Apple Car – February 15th, Apple Car:

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Inside La Presse+ Decisive and Final Move to Digital


The 132-year-old Canadian newspaper has dumped its weekday paper. From now on, its only vectors will be its iPad app and the Saturday paper. This move is the culmination of a process started five years ago.    

In 2010, Management at the Montreal daily La Presse came to a conclusion: the traditional paper was doomed. The publishing group, created in 1884, enjoys a stable and patient shareholder, the Groupe Gesca, a subsidiary of the industrial conglomerate Power Corporation of Canada. They durably supported La Presse’s management, a team characterized by a mixture of vision, strong leadership and quiet resolve.

Since January 1st, La Presse only relies on its tablet edition, “La Presse+”, and on its thick Saturday paper, typical of the North American market with its 10 sections enjoyed around households every weekend.

The move didn’t come as a surprise. On September 16th last year, La

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Fiction: Breaking Unbreakable Encryption


Modern encryption system rely on oxymoronic “random generators”. This could be the crack in a supposedly unbreakable system.

As discussed in a recent Monday Note titled Let’s Outlaw Math, electronic messages that are encoded with modern encryption techniques are truly indecipherable by interlopers, it doesn’t matter whether they’re criminals or governments. The latter have attempted to legislate backdoors that only they can use (to protect us, of course), but there’s a danger: These  “golden keys” could fall into the wrong hands. In any case, a backdoor only works where it’s been installed; unbreakable public domain encryption is available to everyone, terrorists and traffickers included.

So… Case closed, good guys and bad guys alike can “safely” use unbreakable codes?

Not so fast.

A fundamental feature of a properly encoded cryptogram is that it looks random, a sequence of (say) letters without any detectable pattern or meaning.

Consider the

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Apps We Live By


Image credit: BenHeine, DevianArt

by Frederic Filloux

What is it that makes a mobile app stick to one’s home screen for a year or more? And why does the bond sometimes fade? Today, we explore success requirements for a news app. And, this is new, we will ask for your opinion.

More than ever, the mobile apps business is a winner takes all playing field. We download a flurry of apps, kill the vast majority a few days later, and end up using just a few on a regular basis. It is difficult to assess the extent to which the Pareto principle (also known as the 80-20 rule) rules our app usage, but it might be reasonable to say that out of 50 to 100 installed apps, we only use half a dozen of utilities: flavors of messaging, email and collaborative tools, transportation-related apps (maps, navigation or car hailing), and

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2016: Just One Thing


by Jean-Louis Gassée

Today’s shortest-ever Monday Note was written under the hallucinatory effects of a lingering flu and various other abuses and delights: Traversing France on the magical TGV; wandering through the Left Bank’s mind-altering bookstores, restaurants, pastry shops, and other purveyors of Good Sin; and, to top it off, the summoning of an SOS Médecins at 10pm to staunch a stubborn nosebleed, for 60€. Read at your own risk.

I have my excuses; I could have stayed in bed…but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to wish you, the Monday Note readers, a well-lived New Year. The Note is a labor of love that’s free in the sense of Free Speech and free beer, and it gives me the opportunity to write about an industry I dearly love and have never tired of, even after more than 47 years. And now that I’m up…

I’m no fan of

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2015 Numbers, 2016 Outlook for Advertising, Mobile and Emerging Markets

To wrap up the year, here is a selection of notable shifts observed in 2015, and their expected impact in 2016 on digital advertising, mobile internet and trends  in emerging countries. 


It was a terrible year for digital advertising. No matter how media companies tweak their numbers, they won’t be able to hide the truth: the advertising engine is broken; fixing it will require drastic measures that only a few publishers will successfully undertake.

In past months, ad blocking has been all over the news cycle. The phenomenon is growing in every possible dimension. Across the board, the number of ad blocker adopters is rising quickly, especially in tomorrow’s key demographics: the young, tech savvy, likely to become affluent consumers are the ones who massively install ad blockers.

They vote with their mice to reject ads that have become unbearable.

Amazingly, all publishers I met over

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Apple App Stores: Now Phil Schiller’s Augean Stables

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Tim Cook just handed the keys to the Apple App Store to Senior VP Phill Schiller. Will Schiller bring order and intelligibility to Apple’s app jungle?

First, an apology: As advertised at the end of last week’s Let’s Outlaw Math note, I planned to make Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, Apple’s iPad Pro, and MacBook the subject of this week’s romp. For reasons soon to become apparent, toaster-fridges will have to wait.

While running last-minute errands before our Xmas family trip to Paris, I chanced upon Tim Cook in a Palo Alto clothing store. After a happy salutation, I hopped on my Apple App Store hobbyhorse and mumbled that while the Store is an immensely valuable asset, its aisles are poorly tended and in need of curation… and offered my services as curator.

Cook has heard my mumblings before: I had said pretty much the same thing three years ago during

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