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My 2013 Digital Habits

It's an annual geeky, blogging tradition: share those products and services that have made their way into your daily routines. It's a simple reflection on those experiences that have become meaningful, those that have become less relevant, and those that others find interesting and useful. Mike Arrington used to publish an annual, very simple list of "Products I Cannot Live without": 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. And like many others, I did the same. It's fun to revisit them and see which habits have stuck and, much more likely, what's changed.

So continuing the tradition - here is a simple, incomplete version of those products I use habitually in 2013... and notice that most of mobile focused and freemium models.

Personal, Work, Utility

Spotify (Premium) I've been a paying subscriber from day one and have always thought that their pay-for-mobile-model is brilliant... it allows users to get hooked through the desktop & web (their web product is a little-known gem), build playlists & favorites on the best and biggest screen available, and then roadblocks mobility. Smart.

Side note: Sean Parker's Hipster International is a great lesson in the power curation. Forbes has a great piece on it.

spotify

Evernote (Premium) Organize the web, your email, images, and so forth. The Chrome extension is fantastically done. And their mobile application suite gives quick access to important documents from any device, anywhere.

Dropbox (Premium) Like Evernote, it's a product that I use multiple times a day - personally and professionally. And like Evernote, it becomes more powerful (and habitual) as I move between different devices and locations. Between products like Evernote, Dropbox, SpaceMonkey, iCloud, Gmail, etc - I could purchase a new computer tomorrow and be fully setup / connected minutes later.

MobileDay Such a simple, time-saving app: one-touch dialing into conference calls.

MobileDay_–_One-Touch_Dial_Into_Any_Conference_Call_On_Your_iPhone_Or_Android

Nike+ Running I have used all of the wearable devices (Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband, Fitbit) - but, while each is impressive in its own way, I haven't made one part of my daily routine. I continue to come back to the old-reliable Nike+ Running app. The app is well done, relatively accurate, social and fun.

MyFitnessPal Simply and effectively monitor your eating habits and caloric intake. The interface (on iOS and Android) is simple and many foods can be uploaded through bar code scanning. And while MyFitnessPal is part of my daily routine - the power of the application is that it changes your routine. (Note: I am an investor)

ESPN SportsCenter Of course it's a biased habit, but I use the SportsCenter application several times a day for scores, news, and video.

StoryBots This is less about my daily habit - and more about my three-year old son's... but Dillon uses the StoryBots suite of mobile applications almost daily. Their digital books and learning videos are fun and smart. StoryBots is created by JibJab and has a premium, monthly subscription. A great, related read: the New York Times' Babes in Digital Toyland piece over Christmas weekend. (Note: Polaris is an investor)

storybots

Amazon Prime (paid) Our house runs on Prime... and has for years. From diapers to foods to gadgets. And based on holiday 2013, 20m other households now run on Prime too.

Also: Amazon's Instant Video (free with Amazon Prime) is a remarkably under-the-radar, under-appreciated service. The library rivals that of other services and the kids content is really expansive.

TestFlight (paid) A necessary, efficient tool to provision access to application builds. We use TestFlight internally and externally - from testing to PR. Similarly, I use TestFlight to test and play with friends' or portfolio's applications.

Proto.io (paid) There are several tools available for quick prototyping... About a year ago I played around with Proto.io and have been actively using it since. Really intuitive and simple way to craft quick prototypes, distribute them and collect feedback. Excellent product.

Proto_io_-_Silly-fast_mobile_prototyping_

Jot Pro I do a lot of light-weight product sketching on my iPad and have gravitated to the Jot Pro stylus by Adonit. It's sturdy, accurate, and cheap. I tend to use the Noteshelf iPad application... but anything will do. Side note: Adonit and Evernote have teamed up on a new stylus... I have not played with it yet, but it looks intriguing.

Skitch (an Evernote Product) I use Skitch multiple times per day - almost always via the the Mac OS app - although the Chrome Extension does the job as well. It's a simple, effective way to do quick screenshots, light-weight editing, and sharing. The Evernote integration easily saves images to specific folders (although it can be a memory hog if you're not a premium user).

Social

FaceTime From family to work calls and candidate interviews, FaceTime is tremendous and far preferable to a phone call. But when video is not an option: try FaceTime audio. It's digital over wifi (so saves minutes) and the quality is remarkably crisp.

Photography Suites (paid) So many applications and photo tools - it's impossible to list them all... but I'll try with those that I use regularly: - Path, I still consider Path's lenses and filters to be the best - Camera+, great for shooting photos on iOS - Instagram, the quality of the content stream is remarkable. From friends to special-access accounts like Duke Basketball - Photoshop - Apeture, lightweight editing and management - Skitch, less around photos and more around screen caputres

duke bball

Facebook & Facebook Messenger More and more of my communication has shifted to Facebook messages... and much through the Messenger application.

Hardware

Apple TV & ChromeCast Each TV in our house is connected to either an Apple TV or a ChromeCast. With Apple TV, you have iTunes Radio and the immediate accessibility of movies, Netflix, Watch ESPN, etc. ChromeCast is remarkably simple and priced perfectly. And if you have a ChromeCast, here are 10 tips to get more out of it.

iPad Air I use my iPad Air more than any other device - including my laptop. It is so light and so fast. The most incredible part: it is as powerful as the original Macbook Air (2008). And if you cannot get over typing on the iPad, get a <$100 ultra-thin bluetooth keyboard.

Google Nexus 5 Not enough attention is given to this device. It is cheap ($349 unlocked), fast, light, and runs on native KitKat. I love the form factor and the Google Now / OK Google integration is fantastic.

nexus5

NiteIze Gear Ties These things are brilliant and I go through them like candy... simple way to keep your cables organized. With daily use, they last 6-12 months and are an easy add-on to any Amazon order.

geartie

Facebook Extends Mobile Ad Units from Likes to Installs to Downloads to Purchases

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Facebook's mobile "Install" ad units now driving movie downloads. Over the Christmas holiday, another format arrived: "Shop Now". The unit itself is the same: a glossy, mid-stream ad that asks users to "Shop Now" (rather than "Install" or "Download"). Clicking the units keeps you inside the Facebook Application - which is a little confusing since it is an App Store icon and says "open in app". The landing page is a gift store for iTunes gift cards - like other Facebook digital gifts.

The interesting point is less around the unit / action itself... rather, it is that Facebook has successfully created single in-stream, mobile-only unit that is flexible enough to drive "Likes" (purchased by brands), drive Installs (purchased by developers), drive Downloads (purchased by media) and now drive sales (purchased by e-commerce companies).

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Facebook's Mobile App Install Ads Now Driving iTunes Movies, Downloads

Facebook's mobile app install units are a hit. In spring 2013, Facebook had announced that 25 million app downloads had been driven through the iTunes App Store and Google Play. At the time, over 40 of the top 100 top grossing apps for both iOS and Android were leveraging Facebook's mobile install units.

The unit's success makes sense because:

1) those applications are natively integrated with Facebook (so it's efficient, familiar and easy) 2) they are social and data rich (ie "150 friends are using the application") 3) ... which in turn means that the game / application itself is inherently social and welcoming

Yesterday, I saw the following unit for the first time, which is a natural extension of the install unit... but driving traffic around media. The unit promotes the movie Elysium and links directly to iTunes. As Facebook experiments more and more with ratings, reviews and public content (ie hashtags, celebrities, etc) - this becomes more and more engaging.

Photo Dec 05, 9 16 27 PM

Photo Dec 05, 9 16 35 PM

Hello SportsCenter App & 8 Takeaways

On Thursday, we launched the new SportsCenter Application, an update to ESPN's existing and popular ScoreCenter application. With 50m downloads and millions of daily users, ScoreCenter is certainly successful and our hallmark application. We didn't set out to replace it; rather, we set out to expand the experience and better present the vast array of content that makes ESPN so special: video, articles, imagery, television clips, social activity, statistics, and more. You can get it here: - for iOS: http://es.pn/scapp - for Android: http://es.pn/scappandroid - Or, dial **SC from your cell phone

sportscenter app

A handful of product highlights

- Scores / News / Now: ScoreCenter delivered scores and stats... SportsCenter does that alongside News (video, highlights, articles, analysis) and ESPN Now (tweets and live scores) - SportsCenter's Best Of: The SportsCenter Tab is the best stuff of the day (games, breaking news, analysis), merged with your favorite team scores. - Personalization & Inbox: The focus of the app is on delivering a personalized experience through alerts, favorite teams, and the new Fan Inbox (which is a personalized feed of your favorite teams' news, highlights and scoring alerts). - Clubhouses: My favorite enhancement is the introduction of Team Clubhouses. Fans can quickly access each team's scoreboard, newsfeed and social feed... and set alerts directly within the Clubhouse.

Here is a screenshot of the Duke Football Clubhouse which is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it is relatively long-tail content that would not elevate to the national level - but it is important to me. Second, the content is fantastic. These are in-game highlights, streaming live into the feed seconds after they occur on the field. It's a tremendous experience that is highly personalized.

duke clubhouse

That's the new app. I hope you download it, enjoy it and pass along feedback. I also thought it would be worthwhile to share some takeaways:

It's a Mobile World

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about ESPN's recent digital patterns. September was a record month for ESPN in three ways: 1. we saw record overall traffic 2. during that period, more fans accessed ESPN via mobile than desktop 3. over 36% of users accessed ESPN exclusively via mobile

It's a mobile world. The focus on re-imagining ScoreCenter was predicated on better serving our fans in an increasingly mobile world. And if you haven't done so already, read Benedict Evan's Mobile is Eating the World deck.

It's a Native Mobile World

It's a mobile world... but it's also a native world for applications. Long gone are the days or porting a single app from platform to platform. Users don't want this... and neither do the platforms themselves. Experiences have to be built and designed specifically for the platform and the device portfolio. The challenge of course is to maintain brand familiarity and consistency while also designing differently and specifically for each platform. It's a difficult but critical balance.

Native also applies to platforms beyond the mobile operating systems (ie iOS, Android, etc). For instance, we took care to make sure that the application leverages native integrations with Twitter and Facebook - both within the application and within their own platforms. This, for instance, is a screenshot of the new Twitter Card integration:

twitter cards

Disrupt Yourself

AllThingsD wrote a nice piece on the SportsCenter launch entitled: "ESPN ScoreCenter App Is a Hit, but It’s Getting an Overhaul Anyway: New Name, More Video, More Stuff". It's an important mentality: don't wait for something to break before considering / forcing change. The world changes too fast - technology, platforms, standards, habits - to sit still.

Scaled, Pre-launch Distribution and Usage

Between services like TestFlight and Google Beta, it is relatively painless to distribute pre-launch builds and collect usage data / feedback from large numbers of relevant users. It's the purest form of user-testing and user-feedback. For SportsCenter, somewhere around 1,500 fans played with the application ahead of launch. Others like Facebook are doing that at grand scale using the Google Beta program:

facebook google play

Press as Pre-Launch Users

My friend Matt Schlicht of Hipset recently wrote a nice Medium piece about driving press for your startup. My strong opinion here: treat everyone as a user and a fan. SportsCenter received some excellent coverage and those writers had access to the test builds of the application for several days (or more). That translates into more organic coverage (good or bad), deep insight, and some unique perspectives. It is also how pieces like Ryan Lawler's on TechCrunch get written - where he had a fantastic, in-depth usage video.

Advice: trust that your product is high-quality and give users and writer's full, early access.

A couple other pieces: - TechCrunch: ESPN’s SportsCenter App Combines News And Highlights With New Personalization Features - AllThingsD: ESPN ScoreCenter App Is a Hit, but It’s Getting an Overhaul Anyway: New Name, More Video, More Stuff - PandoDaily: ESPN Launches Personalized SportsCenter Feed Web App, Proves It Just Gets Digital - AdAge: This Is 'SportsCenter'...on Your iPhone

Twitter As Real-Time Customer Service

This is obvious for most: Twitter is immensely powerful as a real-time insights and customer support platform. During launch, we were seeing 50+ tweets per minute. Between sentiment tracking, bug monitoring and usage habits - we had an immediate understanding of how fans were engaging and interacting. This isn't shocking to anyone... but one point worth noting: I have spent a lot of time responding to tweets of all ranges: positive, negative, open questions, etc. Users were almost always happy to hear from someone connected to the product. Feedback was universally helpful and, even when a user was unhappy, the outcome was positive.

It's Iterative

There are things we got wrong. There are things we had to cut due to time. And there are things we didn't get to but are on the roadmap.

It's an iterative process. It has to be... in part because user feedback will dictate changes and time won't allow for everything to built. The challenge is determining what viable release requirements are... and communicating iteration to users.

I'm Old

Along with the core team, we read every single tweet. The big lesson: my vocabulary is very out of date, emoji are king, and I'm clearly old.

twitteremoji

ESPN Digital Traffic, by the Numbers: The Mobile Tipping Point

The month of September was noteworthy for ESPN's digital properties for a few reason. First: scale. Not only did ESPN reach a record 72.7 million unique visitors - it marked the the largest monthly reach ever within the entire sports category. ESPN accounted for 30% of all sports category usage - more than the Nos. 2 and 3 sports properties combined (Yahoo! Sports and NBC Sports Network, and NFL Internet Group). Second: this was the first month in which more unique people visited ESPN mobile (mobile web and applications) than ESPN.com (47.4m vs. 46.1m). As technology, habits and our product portfolio changes - this trend will continue. And if this shift in usage hasn't yet occurred on your properties... it's a matter of time.

Third: related to the above point, ESPN saw 26.5m users exclusively access ESPN via mobile.... an even more pronounced shift in usage.

More: - ESPN Media Zone - MediaPost - Poynter

Google's Moto X: Hardware + Software Customization

I am a big fan of personalized products like NikeID (including both my running sneakers and golf shoes) and their corresponding web / application experiences. The latest Google Android device - the Moto X - combines hardware and software customization in a way that only Google can do. It's very well done. The Moto X can be purchased online at Google's Play store (Moto Maker). There, users customize three aspects of the phone: styling (color, shell, etc), features and accessories. The hardware customizations are relatively obvious - but also fun in a way that is similar to shopping on NikeID.

The unique part: users can attach their Google ID by authenticating their Google login. This then enables users to customize the software (ie backgrounds and welcome messages). It also enables Google to deliver an authenticated phone already connected with a user's synced apps, contacts, etc. In effect: once the user inputs his / her password, it's a fully custom phone from appearance to application / content.

motox

motox2

Introducing the Watch ESPN Live Toolbar

We just released a major update to the WatchESPN app on iOS for iPhone and iPad. The latest WatchESPN version introduces several new enhancements, including Live Toolbar, which enhances content discovery and introduces more interactivity. Live Toolbar – available for iPad only – is designed with three main tabs across the bottom scroll of the screen.

- Live TV Lineup – an interactive channel guide that allows fans to easily navigate between ESPN live programming without exiting video - Scores – allows fans to navigate between live, upcoming and concluded games with scores, stats and video highlights - Top Videos – robust on-demand video offering of the latest news, highlights and analysis. Fans are able to watch Top Videos in spilt screen mode simultaneously with live programming Additional enhancements to the update for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch include:

- Access to ESPN3 for college students and military personnel on the WatchESPN app via on-campus (.edu) and on-base (.mil) Wi-Fi networks - App to app linking to the WatchABC app which enables easier navigation to view ESPN on ABC events

You can download the WatchESPN application here.

WatchESPN_iOSAppUpdate_LiveTV_081513-730x547

WatchESPN_iOSAppUpdate_TopVideos_081513-730x547

More:

- Todd Spangler / Variety: Fox Sports TV Everywhere Service Is No-Show, as ESPN Beefs Up iPad App - Peter Kafka / AllThingsD: Multitask Nation: ESPN Lets iPad Users Call Up Scores, Clips, While they Watch Live Video - Ryan Lawler / TechCrunch: ESPN's WatchESPN iPad App Adds A Live Toolbar With Scores, Stats, And On-Demand Clips - Jordan Golson / MacRumors: WatchESPN Updated With - Split-Screen Live and On-Demand Viewing for iPad [iOS Blog] - Jordan Kahn / 9to5Mac: WatchESPN app updated for iOS 7, adds ‘Live Toolbar’ that lets you stream two videos at once - Janko Roettgers / GigaOM: Good news, college students: ESPN now lets you stream for free to the iPad - Paul Sawers / The Next Web: WatchESPN for iPad now serves up stats, scores and on-demand clips via a live toolbar

ESPN Fantasy Football 2013: Live Drafting on Mobile

The NFL is upon us and ESPN is yet again your home for fantasy football. You can create or reactive your league here. Notably new for 2013: the ability to perform live and mock drafts directly from your iPhone and iPad. It's a terrific experience and screenshots are below.

You can download the ESPN Fantasy Football applications here: - iPhone (5 stars) - iPad (5 stars) - Android

fantasy football ipad app

And finally, here is one of ESPN's new Commish video units:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcrZ51O14Xc

Facebook Premium: It's in the Product Experience

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, took to Medium this week to share some thoughts on Facebook: "Now that I use Facebook more regularly, I started having some ideas for the service—here’s one... They could offer Facebook Premium. For $10 a month, people who really love Facebook (and can afford it), could see no ads. Maybe some special features too." First off, I like that he's doing this on Medium - a service / platform that I am really growing fond of... and a service / platform that encourages this kind of discussion from thinkers like Biz. (The other service I am enjoying: Branch, which enables discussion in a different, interesting way).

On Facebook Premium - it's the right idea, particularly for a service that so many users are so passionate about and dedicated to. At ESPN, we have a premium service called ESPN Insider that is sneaky-big itself and a combination of premium tools and content (ie Fantasy Football product enhancements and unique articles on recruiting, etc).

For me to pay a monthly subscription to Facebook - which I gladly would - I think it has to follow suit: it would have to be some specialized feature(s), enhancement(s), etc. My guess is that mobile and the mobile application are the biggest opportunities for those sorts of features.

And then there are single-use purchases as well: while Path is a much smaller community, my network has been gobbling up premium stickers ($1.99 each) to make conversation richer. And there are filters, etc. This is different than Facebook Gifts - which is really a one-to-one transaction rather than an enhancement that adds value to core product. Path's stickers, for example, have become mechanisms for comments / conversation... which of course has a viral loop.

The trouble with marking premium as ad-free is that it changes much of the Facebook experience. Sure there are ads that are not much different than traditional CPM advertising... but most are hybrids of advertising and social interactions. A couple questions arise including the central point that many of Facebook's units, while paid advertisements, are actually value-add to the consumer - for instance, the mobile application installer ('your friends are using xyz') is quite useful. What happens to the social and advertiser economy if certain friends pay to opt out? What happens to fans who want to follow brands onsite? Many brands are hybrids of paid and organic content, activity, etc. How does this effect Facebook's relationship with advertisers - whose network of users (and likely the most active, influential users) shrinks?

In short: if Facebook's ad strategy were solely traditional banners and units, it would be a far easier proposition to all (users, advertisers, etc). But the deep blending of advertising with social layers & interactions makes it far tougher. And that's a credit to Facebook because they are innovating on the ad experience. The premium opportunity better exists within premium features and products.

Path Stickers Facebook