Harvard Friday Five

Friday Five round-up: our top five tech and comms stories from June 2017

Lee Menzies-Pearson

07 Jul 2017

Every Friday we send out our weekly ‘Friday Five’ newsletter rounding up the latest tech news and trends that we think are worth shouting about. June was a busy month, so we’ve pulled together our top five stories to keep you up to speed with all things tech and communications. If you like what you see,  sign up to our Friday Five newsletter and get more like this in your inbox every week.

Mary Meeker publishes 2017 internet trends slides

Every year the venture capitalist Mary Meeker publishes an "internet trends" presentation, covering all the key facts and figures about how technology is changing. This year's presentation was published Wednesday 31st May at the Code conference. At 355 pages, it's not a quick read, but it's full of digital stats and insights that are worth your time. What jumped out to us was the rise of voice (rather than text) as a key interface for the future - 20% of mobile queries are now made by voice, apparently, and the accuracy of these devices is now reaching 95%, roughly the same as the average human. If you don't want to wade through the whole report, excellent summaries can be found here and here.

Spectacles arrive in the UK

In June Snap’s Spectacles finally arrived in the UK, six months after they launched in the US. This was very different from the kind of big-bang launches that most consumer tech businesses have organised in recent years. Snap chose a deliberately lower-key method: a pop-up vending machine situated behind the London Eye, letting information mostly spread by word of mouth on social media. The Harvard team have spent the month playing with Spectacles and we blogged about our views here. These are not a mass-market item – sunglasses will never be a year-round product in the UK – and are clearly “version one” of a technology that has a long way to develop. But for all that, they’re very impressive and lots of fun to try out.

Amazon moves into retail in a big way

Amazon made headlines during June with its acquisition of US retailer Whole Foods. Clearly parking its tanks on the lawn of bricks-and-mortar retailers, Amazon's move had an instant impact on the share price of legacy firms. The firm was buying more than just 400 upmarket grocers, though. It was buying a readymade Apple Store network of luxury, urban emporia, that could be used as sales, distribution and customer experience hubs in the years to come. As if in preparation, this week it also secured a patent aimed at preventing customers from comparing online prices when inside its own bricks-and-mortar stores. The patent enables the retailer to intercept network requests like search terms and then respond by offering vouchers, suggesting alternative products or even blocking content outright. Clearly the battle over the high street still has a long way to go.

WhatsApp rises as force in news

This June Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism published its annual research report into people's digital news habits around the world. This is one of the most robust surveys into how people get and consume news and is full of fascinating stats. From a UK perspective the report found that there had been a big drop in levels of trust in the news media (down from 50% to 43% in a year), perhaps because of the divisive Brexit referendum. Meanwhile one in 20 of us have used a messaging platform like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to read news in the last week. Check out the Twitter threads below for more findings from the report

Was it social media that (nearly) won it?

Almost every general election result is followed by a heated debate about what impact the media had on shaping the outcome. From the 1980s onwards, this tended to be about the influence the tabloid newspapers had on how their readers voted. But more recently the debate has focused on the influence social media is having, and whether that’s eroding the traditional power of the tabloids. It seems hard to reach a verdict on this issue with any degree of confidence. The tabloids were crucial in swinging votes in both 2015 and 2016 – have they really lost their sway in just 12 months? That said, data released in the last week has shown that The Sun, at least, seemed to have misread its readers’ attitudes, with just 28% of them voting the way it urged them to (in fact, the majority of Sun readers didn’t vote at all!). But perhaps the researchers at the LSE put it best: “because of the acceleration of the news cycle and the increasing number of sources, mainstream media brands are losing power over the agenda and their gatekeeping role for information and trends.” Sign up to our Friday Five newsletter to get stories like these in your inbox every week