Tag Archives: blockchain

Digital Marketing Trends in 2018

Digital Marketing Trends in 2018

ipad tablet technology

Almost everyone will be affected by the digital marketing changes

happening in 2018. Businesses need to keep up with latest trends to be competitive. Online readers are already witnessing changes in the way information and ads are being delivered. Some of the current trends to pay attention to are the evolution of chatbots, how personal data is used and potentially misused, video on demand, and voice search that actually works well.

Specialized Marketing

Digital marketing tactics are getting more specialized and high-tech in 2018. Marketing used to be about serving ads in mainstream media. Now some of the marketing careers people pursue may include digital marketing manager, search engine optimization (SEO) specialist and social media manager. Marketing experts are training in fields that allow them to reach online audiences. Internet users don’t necessarily subscribe to newspapers and magazines; instead of using search and social media to be informed and entertained.

Chatbots Taking Over

The latest digital marketing trends in 2018 point to a scenario where brands are increasing rely on semi-intelligent chatbots for user engagement. Even though chatbots have been around for a long time, they have recently undergone some major changes in the form of artificial intelligence. Brands are working towards using bots in their marketing strategies, and in providing customer support. Their future is looking bright, with more firms incorporating them into their day-to-day operations.

EU Crackdown in Data Collection

The European Union is expected to get more serious about firms collecting customer information. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is expected to go into effect on May 25, 2018. Businesses should be preparing for this already. The GDPR primarily provides EU citizens with more control over their personal data. A company will now need to have explicit consent from a consumer before it can collect information.

This data can be anything from the consumer’s email address, location, to their name. Additionally, the company will also need to inform the consumer the kind of data they intend to collect, and how they will use it. If a company is found to be non-compliant, there are consequences. The business can be faced with an EU fine not exceeding 4 percent of its annual global turnover or be forced to pay up to 23 million US dollars.

Video On Demand, In Demand

For social media users and online readers, nothing is as captivating as good video content. Whether a company wants to market on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube, it seems like social video engagement stats will hit the roof this year. Videos can take on a broad variety of formats, from live streams to 360-degree videos. Videos give marketing teams flexibility and reach when doing a campaign. The vast majority of views happen on mobile devices. It’s anticipated that Facebook Watch could take over YouTube as the world’s largest video platform. According to Brendan Gahan from Mashable, this will happen because Facebook has a huge audience and is pushing the video format.

Foreseeing A Future in Voice Search

Many people are already familiar with the voice search concept, partly thanks to the introduction of Siri by Apple for its iPhone users. This concept is now a part of the future as far as digital marketing trends are concerned. Audiences are using voice search to make it easier to find things on the web. It’s expected that the voice search method will change the way communications, and data is processed. Digital marketers are starting to respond by creating content that’s optimized for voice queries. They are inserting natural sounding questions in online text, such as “What are the major digital marketing trends in 2018?” and providing clear answers.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

 

Industries That Blockchain Will Radically Transform Publishing

Industries That Blockchain Will Radically Transform Publishing

The term “cryptocurrency” is a misnomer.

A common misconception, held by many newcomers to the blockchain world, is that the technology’s potential lies solely in the banking and financial industry. In fact, the recent suggestion of the Indian government to rename cryptocurrency as “crypto assets”, and Warren’s Buffett’s belief that Bitcoin is not in any way a currency, are perhaps closer to the true nature of cryptocurrency than the commonly held belief that it is simply digital money. Cryptocurrencies should not be seen as just money, but as tools. Blockchain technology, which underpins cryptocurrency, has potential in many more forms than just as a medium of exchange and store of value.

The application of this technology to industries as varied as supply chain management, fashion and publishing is a result of the innate flexibility of blockchain. The nature of a platform can be programmed to suit a variety of needs. The sooner an investor realizes this, the sooner they will see how exactly it might be applied to different industries, giving them a degree of clarity with can help them measure the potential of a project to disrupt a particular industry. Given the immense potential of blockchain, we take a look at 25 industries that will be upended by its imminent commercial arrival.

Publishing

An example of a rather unexpected application of blockchain,

the publishing industry too can benefit from decentralization. Today’s publishing industry is largely in the control of a small group of publishers. It can be difficult for a yet unrecognized writer to break into the industry, and their success is dictated by the whims and fancies of these publishers. Digital publishing and the internet has made it easier for writers but even then, the scale and recognition of traditional publishing is still lacking.

A platform like Authorship is set to overturn the current system, where influence is in the hands of publishers, by using a tokenized system that recognizes the work of any writer. Publishers can choose to digitally publish writers and print their books, should they feel convinced of their quality and should demand exist. The token system ensures that writers get their fair share of pay. Writers can also write and publish without the assistance of publishers. Translators will also receive payment and approval from publishers if they choose to translate a work. The lesson here is, in whatever industry financial mechanisms favor one party over the other, blockchain can come in to equalize the system and ensure that everyone gets their fair cut.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Industries That Blockchain Will Radically Transform Financial Services

 Industries That Blockchain Will Radically Transform Financial Services


The term “cryptocurrency” is a misnomer.
 
A common misconception, held by many newcomers to the blockchain world, is that the technology’s potential lies solely in the banking and financial industry. In fact, the recent suggestion of the Indian government to rename cryptocurrency as “crypto assets”, and Warren’s Buffett’s belief that Bitcoin is not in any way a currency, are perhaps closer to the true nature of cryptocurrency than the commonly held belief that it is simply digital money. Cryptocurrencies should not be seen as just money, but as tools. Blockchain technology, which underpins cryptocurrency, has potential in many more forms than just as a medium of exchange and store of value.

The application of this technology to industries as varied as supply chain management, fashion and publishing is a result of the innate flexibility of blockchain. The nature of a platform can be programmed to suit a variety of needs. The sooner an investor realizes this, the sooner they will see how exactly it might be applied to different industries, giving them a degree of clarity with can help them measure the potential of a project to disrupt a particular industry. Given the immense potential of blockchain, we take a look at industries that will be upended by its imminent commercial arrival. The shown here is as folows:

Financial Services

Without a doubt, the most popular application

and the launchpad for cryptocurrency into the global economy is the financial industry. The issue with today’s banking systems, as sophisticated as they are compared to decades past, is that they lack inclusion and fairness. Interest rates and transactions are heavily lopsided in favor of financial companies, and customers gain little from their interactions with banks. The situation is made worse when one notes that banking services are absolutely necessary. Individuals are forced into unfair deals. Additionally, there are billions in the world who have no access to a bank at all, which is an even worse circumstance to be in.

Cryptocurrencies and blockchain can universally rectify the situation. With a smartphone and an internet connection, both of which are widely available, anyone can bank, start a business and receive payments. With incorruptible ledgers and no centralized authority for oversight, financial services on the blockchain would place power back in the individual’s hands, offering solutions without exorbitant interest rates and middleman fees. The banking industry even suggests that up to $20 billion can be saved by eliminating infrastructure and middleman costs.

Bitcoin has first mover advantage, and we need only look at the news to see how Bitcoin has disrupted the financial industry. Ripple comes from a different angle – it seeks to work with banks and not do away with them. Ripple has drawn attention for its notable partnerships with many banks, most recently with Saudi Arabia’s central bank. Its emphasis on speed for large global scale transactions between banks and its growing network of participating banks has made Ripple a true disruptor.

Another cryptocurrency to keep an eye on in this space is OmiseGo. It is an Ethereum-based platform that has one very clear goal: to offer the full range of financial and payment services to any individual. They have an eye on the developing world, where many citizens are without a bank account. Their platform is designed to be agnostic between currencies – it does discriminate between fiat and cryptocurrency usage. A secondary objective is to help people transition from fiat usage to cryptocurrency usage.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Here’s How to Calculate What’s Working When You’re Marketing on Lots of Channels

Here's How to Calculate What's Working When You're Marketing on Lots of Channels

Determining which channel moved the customer to purchase is tricky when your marketing runs the gamut from Facebook ads to direct mail.


Long gone are the days of blindly spending marketing dollars

without a data first mindset to clearly calculate and prove you are driving a return on your marketing investment (your “ROMI”). This previously linked post demonstrates how to track your ROMI at the 30,000 foot view, based on your overall business revenues vs. costs, or at the unit level of an average transaction. But, if you want to really fine tune your efforts to maximize your ROMI, the best marketers turn to marketing attribution tools to help optimize marketing within every sub-channel of their business. Let me explain.

What is marketing attribution?

Your customers are interacting with your business in many ways. Let’s say you are a retailer, and one customer may be visiting your store, your website, your mobile app, your direct mail catalog, etc. Marketing attribution helps assign value to which of those channels (if not all) should get credit for the sale. So, when you go to calculate your ROMI for that business unit, you are fairly matching revenues with marketing costs.

Calculating attribution is hard.

The above makes it sound like marketing attribution is a relatively straight forward thing to calculate. It could be if the customer only visited one channel, but what happens when they concurrently visit multiple channels? The calculation becomes much harder.  Let’s say a customer receives a catalog in the mail, goes to the website to learn more, then purchases the product in the store. Which gets the credit? The answer: they all should get partial credit, and that is where marketing attribution tools come in to help you calculate that.

Which should get the most credit?

Determining who gets the most credit for a sale is the big debate. Should the first touch point get the most credit, since the transaction most likely started there? Or, should the last touch point get the most credit, as that is where the customer actually pulled out their credit card and purchased the product?

The arguments can clearly be made both ways (especially by the marketing managers in each of those respective departments). I tend to bias toward the first touch point (e.g., the catalog that arrived in the mail), to help me assess if I should keep spending on that specific tactic. But, oftentimes, I simply split the credit evenly between each channel that touched the customer during that sale cycle.

Marketing attribution tools

Many companies turn to sophisticated software packages to help them. Some of the more sophisticated tools are found in expensive enterprise grade solutions from Adobe and others. But, there are others that serve the SMB market, as well, including Bizable, Bright Funnel, LeadsRx, Looker, Track Maven, Active Demand, Tealium, ABM Analytics and Attribution, to name a few. You can learn more about those products from their websites, or the marketing attribution sections of software user review sites, like G2 Crowd or Capterra.

You can calculate it own your own.

Let’s say you spend $10,000 on a direct mail piece, and you get 100 of those people — 1 percent —  to buy a $200 product from you. Fifty purchase through your call center and 50 through your website. You know the website orders were tied to the direct mail piece, because the user needed to enter a unique promotion code to redeem the offer in the mailer. 

I would attribute 50 percent of the 50 web orders to the catalog and 50 percent of those web orders to the website, as they both equally played a role in the sale. So, the catalog gets credit for 75 orders ($15,000 in revenues) and the website gets credit for 25 orders ($5,000 in revenues) from this one campaign.

Then, you need to carry that logic through to expenses. You need to allocate 75 percent of the mailer costs ($7,500) to the catalog division and 25 percent ($2,500) to the website division. And, in reverse, if the website has costs to operate, let’s say $10 per transaction (or $250 in total web orders from the mailer), you need to add those costs to the catalog division’s total campaign costs. The call center costs of $25 per order (or $1,875 in total catalog orders) will be incurred entirely by the catalog division, as the call center was not used by the website orders.

So, totaling it all up from this campaign, the catalog had: $15,000 in revenue less $7,500 in mailer costs, less $1,875 in call center costs, less $250 in website costs. For a total profit of $5875 and a total ROMI of 2x (ignoring product costs). And, the website had:  $5,000 in revenue less $2,500 in mailer costs, less $750 in website costs, for a total profit of $1,750 and ROMI of 1.54x. Voila! Both divisions that participated in the sale, sharing in the sale credit in a fair and equitable way.

620{P}tential pitfalls in your calculations.

There are many instances that create calculation challenges. For example, which gets credit for a repeat sale, the channel that began the customer relationship or the channel that got the repeat order? I bias the most recent channel, but give credit for the lifetime value calculations of the first channel.

What happens when the tracking data is incomplete and you are not sure who should get credit for the sale? In that case, allocate the untracked orders pro rata in the same percentages as the tracked orders. For example, if your website accounted for 50 percent of your clearly tracked orders, there is a good chance it represented 50 percent of your untracked orders, as well. So, add those untracked orders to each respective tracked channel. This is as much an art as it is a science, so it will take time to set your rules and optimize them over time.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Hopefully, you now better understand what marketing attribution is, and why it is so important to track:  it helps you to fine tune your ROMI calculations by marketing channel to make sure you are optimizing your marketing spend by channel. The better you understand your customer behaviors (e.g., touchpoints) with a customer-centric omni-channel mindset, the better you will be able to truly take your marketing efforts to the next level.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

This startup is creating the cultural cryptocurrency for museums and institutions

This startup is creating the cultural cryptocurrency for museums and institutions

Cultural tourism is a big segment of the wider travel and tourism industry.

While large online players like TripAdvisor provide a huge amount of information for travellers about museums, landmarks, and historical sites, there is still a need for innovation in the space. For example, the EU has a working group for digitally capturing, preserving, and exploring cultural heritage through new technologies. Austrian startup Cultural Places believes it has an answer by bringing cultural heritage and blockchain technology together. It wants to reinvent every aspect of the cultural industry, from ticketing to fundraising.

At its core, Cultural Places is a social network for artists, curators, and patrons, built by Oroundo, whose founders developed the concept over the last three years, which is creating a cultural ecosystem connecting customers and suppliers. The first version of the app has already been deployed with more than 30 institutions and landmarks including the Stephansdom cathedral in Vienna and the Borobudur Buddhist temple in Indonesia. But now it is moving on to its next phase – the Cultural Coin. The token is the platform’s dedicated cryptocurrency for purchasing tickets to museums and theatres or supporting galleries and exhibitions. Cultural Places will be running an ICO to raise financing for further development and deployment of the platform. Long term, the founders envision Cultural Places as the go-to platform for discovering and booking trips.

Streamlining ticketing

Traditional ticket booking is dogged by high fees, sometimes up to 30 percent, not to mention the high levels of fraud and ticket touting on the secondary market. On Cultural Places, tickets are handled via smart contracts on Ethereum, which removes the need for intermediaries. Smart contracts also allow for sharing and reselling of tickets to avoid anyone being ripped off. Customers get reasonably priced tickets and artists know that their tickets are being sold to actual fans rather than ticket touts.

This has been a massive pain point for ticketing across numerous industries and several startups are trying to solve it with the blockchain but Cultural Places is one of the first to design a blockchain solution specifically for this industry.

Social network & crowdfunding

Cultural Places aims to be all-encompassing. It will be a social network for travellers and culture buffs where users can build connections with others that have similar interests and shop on marketplaces for physical and digital goods. The platform helps institutions to collect and analyse user data to refine and hone the content they share to users. Furthermore, this data will inform more precise advertising compared with other social networks. Cultural institutions, like museums, will be able to build offerings using Cultural Places’ API and receive payments using the Cultural Coin cryptocurrency. Beyond that, the platform allows institutions and bodies to digitally represent and spread awareness around their work.

All content in the app is created by the institutions themselves so it’s always up to date and accurate. Museums for example are already able to integrate beacon and NFC technology in their buildings with the app to act as a walking tour guide when you’re actually at the location. Furthermore, the crowdfunding feature will help cultural businesses and artists to raise funds in a transparent way amid an environment where cultural investments are under strain. Much like ticketing, the startup claims that the crowdfunding process will be more transparent for all parties. This may be contributing to the costs of running an exhibition or helping to fund an archaeological dig.

Lower costs for the user

Cultural Places promotes its model of transparency and lower fees compared to incumbents in the marketplace but its chief business model is still revenue from transactions like ticket booking. All purchases made on Cultural Places will incur a six percent fee. Of this, three percent goes to Cultural Places and other three percent is distributed across the community: One percent will be returned to the user in Cultural Coins as a sort of loyalty program. Another one percent of the transaction will be distributed to all Cultural Coin token holders as a reward for being part of the ecosystem. And a final one percent will be distributed to all institutions to encourage further participation.

The Cultural Coin

The company is holding an ICO for the Cultural Coin, which is supported by the digital marketing agency Digitalsunray. The  Cultural Coin is a utility token that will be operational across the platform, though payments will also be available in fiat.  In the sale, 1.5 billion coins will be generated, with 900 million (60 percent) of these coins being made public in the sale, concluding on April 5 with all unsold tokens being destroyed. 150 million coins (10 percent) will go into a stability pool; 30 million (two percent) will be reserved for a bug bounty program; 75 million (five percent) will be distributed among existing Oroundo shareholders; and 345 million (23 percent) will be held for other early stakeholders, team members, and advisors in the project.

The sale is taking place in five phases: a pre-ICO and four separate sale phases with the value of the coin going up at each phase. In the pre-ICO, the coins are valued at €0.015 and will then increase to €0.018, €0.021, and €0.024 before finishing at €0.030 on the final phase. Unlike many ICOs, the company has already launched a working product with iOS and Android versions of the app. The funds raised by the ICO will help further development of its blockchain features and growing its partner networks. It is working with startup Flashboys for the blockchain implementations. Flashboys is the creator of Wizzle and will list the Cultural Coin on its exchange. Cultural Places is also working with customer satisfaction rating company RateMyTate.  The startup will first integrate the blockchain ticketing system this year with a view to building out the payments and crowdfunding features in 2019.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

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Payment Provider Fleetcor to Pilot Ripple’s XRP Cryptocurrency

Payment Provider Fleetcor to Pilot Ripple's XRP Cryptocurrency

Workforce and fleet payments provider Fleetcor Technologies

has become the latest to trial Ripple's xRapid product, which utilizes its custom cryptocurrency XRP. New York-based financial consultants Cambridge Global Payments, which Fleetcor acquired last year, will also be part of the partnership, a Ripple spokesperson said. Cambridge has been a Ripple client since 2017, though it has largely used the startup's xCurrent product.

Stepping back, the news comes over a month after telecom provider IDT and payments provider Mercury signed on to pilot xRapid. Similarly, MoneyGram soon after revealed it was piloting the same product to test its speed and efficiency for international payments, as previously reported. At present, the companies must use pre-funded bank accounts in various countries in order to facilitate transactions. Cuallix, a Mexican financial services company, has been using XRP as an alternative since last year, and noted in a recent blog post that the liquidity provided by xRapid helps it process direct payments between the U.S. and its southern neighbor both quickly and cheaply.

Various other companies have also signed on with Ripple in recent months, using its blockchain technology stacks, but not XRP, to ease cross-border transactions. Over the past few months, Abu Dhabi-based UAE Exchange, China-based LianLian and the UK arm of Santander Bank have all signed on to use xCurrent. At the time, the companies largely announced they were looking to lower the cost and time required to send funds across borders.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Mexican Lawmakers Pass Cryptocurrency Regulation Bill

Lawmakers in Mexico have reportedly advanced a bill

that was drafted to regulate fintech, including cryptocurrencies, in the country. According to Reuters, the bill was passed by Mexico's Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of its legislature, on Thursday and currently is pending signature from Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto before it goes into effect as law. The latest legislative move follows a previous green light from the country's Senate in December 2017 that cleared the way for the bill, which is aimed to bring certainty on the status of cryptocurrency, as well as to prevent use of the tech in illicit activities such as money-laundering.

As reported by CoinDesk, the framework aims to set out that cryptocurrencies are not legal tender in Mexico, a stance in line with comments from the country's central bank in early 2017. In a local report, Agustin Carstens, the then-governor of Banco de Mexico said bitcoin should be considered a commodity, not a currency. In addition, the bill also seeks to put the operation of cryptocurrency exchanges under oversight of the country's central bank.

The Reuters report, though, indicates that the bill, drafted in general terms, will also see further development of a secondary law by other financial regulators such as Mexico's securities commission, the central bank and the finance ministry in the coming months. The changes are expected to bring rules on activities such as fund-raising by cryptocurrency firms.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Micro-Influencers: The Marketing Force Of The Future?

Micro-Influencers:
The Marketing Force Of The Future?


When one thinks of social media influencers, who comes to mind?
Is it a group of the most highly-followed social media stars with millions of followers or is it someone more approachable and relatable, with a smaller, yet immensely dedicated following? If it’s the latter, they are likely micro-influencers.

On the surface, it seems as though an influencer’s total following matters more than anything else. And while the overall following numbers do attract attention, engagement is the key factor in an influencer’s ultimate success when it comes to commercial viability. Brands and marketers are now focusing on the interaction between influencers and their audiences and that is measured by likes, comments and the ultimate trust followers have in the influencers they are following. Micro-influencers often have very high engagement with their fan-bases and are often over-looked by brands in the social media campaigns they are pursuing.

Who Are Micro-Influencers?

Although the range of the number of followers an influencer must have to qualify as a micro-influencer is subjective, I believe that it is someone who has anywhere between 10,000 and 500,000 followers on social media channels. It's not necessarily the number of followers as much as how engaged that audience is. Micro-influencers have specific niche audiences and are deeply connected to them.

Some Examples of Micro-Influencers and Their Niches

Micro-influencers can be found in almost any sector: they could be focused on health and wellness, food and cuisine, entrepreneurship or fashion and beauty to name a just a few prominent categories. An interesting example of someone in the health and wellness world is Alexandra Lerner, who posts about her work as a yoga and wellness influencer on instagram. Allie Lerner writes about her passion in her blog (http://www.alliemichellel.com), writes and publishes books, has her own podcast and collaborates with like-minded brands like the yoga-inspired apparel manufacturer Spiritual Gangster. In the beauty and fashion world, Marta Pozzan (https://www.instagram.com/martapozzan/?hl=en) is a globe-trotting influencer who travels from fashion week to fashion week promoting brands from Kenzo to Bulgari and beyond.

How Can Micro-Influencers Help Brands?

Micro-influencers are people who have already built the audience a brand looking for, and they’ve already established trust with them. This post on social selling by Hiloipa.com, a CRM built for multi level marketers, reminds us how important it is to tell a story, rather than blatantly sell to audiences. Influencers have established relationships with their followers through their stories. And when they’re willing to share a brand’s story, their followers are ready and willing to listen. When you consider that 40% of Twitter users have made a purchase as a direct result of a tweet from an influencer, it’s easy to see why many brands use influencers to spread their message.

Working with Micro-Influencers for the Best ROI

For a brand to achieve the best possible ROI on a campaign, it’s ideal to hire a group of micro-influencers. Micro-influencers will not have the same reach as the macro influencer celebrity, therefore, working with a group of micro-influencers is necessary to increase the reach of a campaign. The concept that an influencer must have millions of followers to be valuable to a brand is misleading. The reality is that the larger the following an influencer has, the lower the engagement rate is. Hiring a combination of micro-influencers and celebrity influencers may raise the ROI of a campaign and lower the overall marketing spend.

How to Find Micro-Influencers to Work With

The first thing a brand should do is to look through its own followers on its social media channels. Who is the brand already associated with that might be a potential representative? Who is interested in telling the brand’s story and is already talking about it? This can help to find the micro-influencers that match the brand. The best way to establish and build relationships with micro-influencers is to engage with them, follow them and show appreciation for their content. When micro-influencers receive direct messages from brands, this will help to make them more likely to reply when an actual campaign is being built.

Ways to Work with Micro-Influencers

There are a number of ways to work with influencers. Sometimes speaking with them yields the best results in determining the best way to build a mutually beneficial relationship. For example, the influencer can take over a brand’s social media account for a fixed period of time.

Brands also send micro-influencers product to sample and take photos of to post on their social media accounts. Content that shows product in organic, real-life situations resonates with followers and consumers. Micro-influencers can also create content on their social media channels such as videos and blog posts. Brands can then share the content on their own social media channels with branded hashtags so followers can keep track of it all. Micro-influencers are accessible to businesses of all shapes and sizes. When a brand doesn’t have the budget to work with a celebrity, it can still get the benefit of working with influencers and watch the brand grow on social media.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Is Bitcoin a Waste of Electricity, or Something Worse?

Is Bitcoin a Waste of Electricity, or Something Worse?

 

Tom Pillsworth, right, whose company operates and maintains Bitcoin machines

located at a former paper warehouse in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times  WASHINGTON — A manufacturing start-up recently announced plans to move into a shuttered aluminum factory in upstate New York, taking advantage of abundant cheap electricity from the St. Lawrence River.

Instead of smelting aluminum, however, the company plans to turn that power into Bitcoins. Money is supposed to be a means of buying things. Now, the nation’s hottest investment is buying money. And the investment rush is raising questions about whether one reason for the slow pace of economic growth in recent years is that the nation is busy distracting itself. While Bitcoin mining may not be labor intensive, it diverts time, energy and capital from other, more productive activities that economists say could fuel faster growth.

“It appears that much of our evolving digital infrastructure is devoted to activities, like the proliferation of cybercoins, that are worse than frivolous,” said James McAndrews, the former head of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. By a wide range of measures, America has a productivity problem. The economy is growing slowly, and almost 20 percent of adults in their prime working years are neither working nor trying to find work. Americans who do have jobs are less likely to start their own companies. Even the most basic kind of production is in decline. Americans are having less sex and making fewer babies.

Some economists see evidence that people are playing video games instead of going to work, logging on instead of getting it on, and plowing a growing share of their time, capital and natural resources into virtual products like social media, games and the latest fad: virtual currencies. Bitcoin, the largest virtual currency, is a particularly voracious consumer of resources because new Bitcoins are distributed in a kind of lottery where each ticket is purchased with electricity.

Bitcoin miners compete for the coins by submitting answers to difficult math problems. Instead of solving the problems, miners use computers to submit a flood of guesses. This can be lucrative: Each Bitcoin is currently valued at about $10,550. Believers insist it is a worthwhile endeavor. They describe Bitcoin as a superior currency that will eventually come into wide use, and they predict even broader applications for blockchains, the digital bookkeeping method used to record ownership of Bitcoins and to verify transactions.

Currently, the average price of one Bitcoin is about $10,715, according to Blockchain.info, a news and data site.But Bitcoin remains so hard to use that a major Bitcoin conference in January had to stop accepting Bitcoin. It is, in practice, a speculative investment, like gold. And Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason University, said mining gold was a better use of resources, because even if it lost value, it could be used to fill teeth. “Once the Bitcoin power is burned, it is never coming back,” he said.

Colin L. Read, the mayor of Plattsburgh, N.Y., also sees it as a public nuisance. The city was guaranteed a fixed supply of cheap electricity as part of the construction of power-generating dams on the St. Lawrence in the 1950s. Bitcoin mining companies are plugging into that power supply like a swarm of hungry mosquitoes. Mr. Read said that Bitcoin mining now consumes about 10 percent of the city’s power, and that is forcing Plattsburgh to buy a growing amount of extra electricity on the open market, at rates up to 100 times higher than its base cost.

Mr. Read, who is also an economics professor, said he would rather sell the city’s supply of cheap power to companies employing large numbers of people. Mold-Rite Plastics, which makes bottle caps, also uses about 10 percent of the city’s power, but it employs about 200 people. The mining companies? “They hire a security guard,” he said. “And a guy who comes when something breaks.” David Bowman, who describes himself as Plattsburgh’s first Bitcoin miner — “I started a long time ago, around 2014,” he said — started with a handful of computers. Now he has 20 machines.

Mold-Rite Plastics, a maker of bottle caps in Plattsburgh, N.Y., uses the same amount of electricity as Bitcoin miners, but employs about 200 people. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times Bitcoin companies have begun moving into space at an old paper mill in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Credit Jacob Hannah for The New York Times  A few years ago, he rented a room in an old paper warehouse, where he runs the specialized hard drives around the clock. They sit side-by-side on wire racks, fans whirring to dissipate the heat. About half a dozen other mining companies have since moved into the same building.

Mr. Bowman, who is from Plattsburgh, said he sympathizes with the mayor’s concerns. He is the only employee of his company, and he is presently a full-time medical student on the Caribbean island of Grenada. But Bitcoin mining paid his college tuition and it is paying for medical school. And he doesn’t see that Plattsburgh has better options. “The place needs all the jobs they can get,” he said, although his company employs no one beyond him. He does pay fees to an investor-owned company that operates and maintains the machines and has one employee.

Other governments also are grappling with the merits of virtual currencies. Enel, the largest European power company, said earlier this month it would not sell electricity to a virtual miner, citing environmental concerns. “Enel has undertaken a clear path toward decarbonization and sustainable development and sees the intensive use of energy dedicated to cryptocurrency mining as an unsustainable practice that does not fit with the business model it is pursuing,” the company, partly owned by the Italian government, said in a statement.

Some Bitcoin miners emphasize their reliance on renewable energy, but the energy they use might otherwise be put to other purposes. Consider the example of Quebec, one of the world’s largest producers of hydroelectric power. Local demand has flatlined, leading the province to consider exporting electricity to Massachusetts, which is seeking to increase the share of current power consumption generated by sustainable sources. But Quebec is now weighing that possibility alongside a wave of proposals from mining companies.

David Bowman owns a Bitcoin mining company called Plattsburgh BTC in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Credit Luvnish Karnani for The New York Times  Some American utilities, too, are hungry for new customers. Domestic demand for electricity is in decline as power-hungry industries, like aluminum smelting, have moved to other countries and households are increasingly using LED light bulbs. “They’re thankful that anyone still wants to use energy,” said Robert McCullough of McCullough Research, an Oregon energy consultancy. And plenty of places are hungry for jobs — even the relatively few jobs that virtual mining brings.

Massena, the town with the shuttered smelter, is about two hours from Plattsburgh. It also enjoys a guaranteed supply of cheap electricity, but it has lost several of its major employers, including the smelter and a General Motors factory. The New York Power Authority reserves 490 megawatts of low-cost power for industrial users in Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties, the northern tier that includes Massena. The decline of local industry means only 52 percent of that power is currently committed, which is why officials were delighted when a company called Coinmint proposed to install 16,000 computers in the old aluminum building.

The company, which is still negotiating contracts, told the power authority it would employ 150 people. Employers historically have created 30.5 jobs in exchange for each megawatt of low-cost electricity, according to the power authority, while Coinmint is proposing to create just new 10 jobs per megawatt. But 10 is more than none. “The plan is to get anybody here that you can,” said Steven D. O’Shaughnessy, Massena’s town supervisor. “I have said all along, I’ll take whatever I can.”

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L.A.’s real estate industry enters the age of bitcoin

L.A.'s real estate industry enters
the age of bitcoin

 

As bitcoin becomes a realistic way to pay for homes,
 
buyers, sellers and Realtors are finding ways to adapt. (Dreamstime / TNS) A little over a year ago, in a first for Southern California, a buyer used roughly 3,300 bitcoins to buy a Cape Cod-style mansion in Manhattan Beach for $3.225 million. Had he waited a year, that same number of bitcoin could've bought multiple beach houses, a few penthouse condos and a private island in the Caribbean. So it goes in the volatile get-it-while-you-can nature of cryptocurrency deals in the real estate industry.

Bitcoin is an open-source digital currency that, through its peer-to-peer exchange system, avoids the need for banks. Its value has increased tenfold in the past year, leaving investors scrambling to make a profit off the tumultuous chaos.A bitcoin real estate transaction is the confluence of two extremely bubble-prone fields. Although the technology is still in the early stages and few people are actually buying goods with the currency, real estate presents a compelling use case for bitcoin in the real world— even though spending it to buy a home can lead to a legion of unforeseen frustrations.The U.S. broke records in 2016 with 19 separate flooding events – the most in recorded history, according to USA Today – and this year’s wildfires continue to…

"Within the context of real estate, it makes sense to use cryptocurrency in those types of transactions," said Neeraj Agrawal, director of communications at cryptocurrency-focused think tank Coin Center. "Cryptocurrency is a way to send large amounts of money pretty easily with relatively low fees and little interference from middlemen."Given the advantages of cryptocurrency compared with cash, Agrawal said that if it does catch on, it'll likely be used to buy things like homes or cars rather than inexpensive goods like Metro swipes or cups of coffee. Brands including Subway, Microsoft and Overstock.com accept bitcoin.

In San Diego, a company brokering the sale of two multimillion-dollar homes in the affluent community said this month that it would accept bitcoin as payment. The custom-built homes are listed for sale for $19.8 million, the equivalent of roughly 1,750 bitcoins. Sellers will also accept cash."We realized there is so much new wealth in the crypto space," said Andrew Canter, chief executive of real estate brokerage and investment firm Canter Companies. "There are a lot of new buyers and a lot of people that have seen their wealth fluctuate over the last year."

Canter is selling his own home and his friend Alan Ezier's. He said accepting the bitcoin for the purchase was a different way of marketing the homes by getting the properties in front of an untapped group of potential buyers.If the buyer pays in bitcoin, Canter said the sellers plan on taking steps to manage the potential risk. He said they will likely use an investment bank that will write a futures contract to lock in for several months whatever bitcoin is valued at when a sales deal is struck. Futures are a contract to buy or sell an asset at a specific date for a specific price.

"It's a personal preference when it comes down to it," Canter said. "I don't think we can speak to a financial benefit here or there. Obviously, the chance (bitcoin's value) goes up is just as much as it goes down right now."There is no real tax advantage to selling a home for bitcoin, said accountant Vincenzo Villamena, a New York-based expert in digital currency. If the seller then resells the bitcoin, they may have to pay capital gains taxes so it cuts into money earned on the sale, he said.Villamena said anyone involved in the transaction looking for secrecy would have trouble because home sales are rigorously documented.

"If you think (bitcoin) will go to the moon, then sell a house and the coin might be worth 10 times that in the coming years," he said. "If you (as the buyer) think it will go to zero, then you might have gotten yourself a free asset."One of the first reported single-family homes purchased with bitcoin took place in September in Austin. When Kuper Sotheby's International Realty facilitated the sale, bitcoin was worth $3,429. The firm said it converted the bitcoin to dollars in 10 minutes to give to the seller.In that case, the bitcoin buyer missed out on a substantial price increase in the coming months. Bitcoin hit a high of $19,343 on Dec. 16 and has since slid back to $10,319 as of late Wednesday, Coindesk said.

Similar scenarios played out in Manhattan Beach last year.

At the time of the January 2017 purchase, it cost 3,300 bitcoins to buy the home for $3.225 million. At its value a year later, 3,300 bitcoins equals around $34 million – which is likely a hard pill to swallow for both the buyer and the seller, who had the bitcoin immediately converted into cash, according to Mike Michalski of RE/MAX Estate Properties, who co-listed the property with Sachi Fujita.In late April, when the price of one Bitcoin hovered around $1,400, a buyer paid roughly 1,285 Bitcoins for a 1960s custom-built home in Manhattan Beach for $1.8 million. Today, that same amount would buy a home worth $13.3 million.One challenge with using bitcoin is that it's still so new that many companies involved in a typical home-buying transaction are unfamiliar with how to process deals involving crypto.

Justin Miller, a Realtor whose agency, Beach City Brokers, represented the buyers in both Manhattan Beach deals, wasn't sure where to start when trying to incorporate bitcoin into the sale."I started asking around to different escrow and title companies to see how I could put the deal together, but I was getting the door shut on me," Miller said. "No one wanted to deal with bitcoin. They didn't understand it."Usually, these companies hold and regulate the payment between the buyer and seller, but with the ambiguity and rapid fluctuation of bitcoin, some refuse to get involved.

Josh Cincinnati, executive director of the Zcash Foundation, planned to buy a house in Virginia with some of the cash he'd accumulated through his bitcoin investments.His loan officer at Chase, however, told him that the bank wouldn't consider the money in his bank account as part of the liquidity required to approve a conventional loan because they weren't sure of its origins."The loan officer said the documentation I provided wasn't enough to prove that the amount deposited in my account was received from a legitimate trade," Cincinnati said.

To go above and beyond the two months of bank statements Chase required to approve the loan, Cincinnati provided a full history of his cryptocurrency transactions for the last two years ­– to no avail.Fearing the delays would threaten the home sale, he sought a loan from Fulton Mortgage instead. He received full approval there, but not before he was forced to renegotiate an extension of his mortgage approval stipulation in his purchase contract with the seller.That's not the only challenge the emerging payment form represents for the industry. How do you provide proof of funds when the funds don't physically exist?

"Proof of funds for a bitcoin sale literally requires the buyer to sit down with a smartphone, open a blockchain app that displays the total value of their bitcoin and show that to the seller," Michalski said."Both the buyer and seller wanted to make the deal happen, but this is all new," Michalski said. "There's just not a lot of understanding or documentation."With buyers eager to cash in on the historically high prices, and sellers offering up homes as a way to get a piece of the pie, deals are happening regardless of the hurdles.

Bloody Bay, a 13-acre slice of beachfront land in the Caribbean, is currently on the market for 400 bitcoins, with no cash offers being accepted.

In addition, websites are popping up that allow anyone to list a property for bitcoin.Homeowner Alex Bartilotti put his home in Portugal on the market for $1.2 million, but found no interest after two weeks. He updated the listing, adding that he'd also accept 100 bitcoins, and immediately received six inquiries about the home.Whether bitcoin will further integrate into the real estate industry is largely dependent on the markets. In the meantime, Miller's getting a head start.

His brokerage handled three bitcoin real estate transactions last year, and they had three listings with a bitcoin payment option hitting the market in February.Pointing to Amazon's new "no checkout" grocery stores, he said, "People are getting more savvy in the ways they pay for things. At the end of the day, if there's an easier and more efficient way, and if bitcoin is able to eliminate wires and banking fees, it will have a future."

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
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Helix, Competing With Ancestry And 23andMe, Raises $200 Million For Marketing War

Helix, Competing With Ancestry And 23andMe, Raises $200 Million For Marketing War

Matthew Herper , Forbes Staff covers science and medicine, and believes this is biology's century.

Helix, a the consumer genetics company spun out of DNA

sequencing giant Illumina, says it has raised $200 million from venture capitalists to aid it in its marketing battle with 23andMe and Ancestry, the leaders in that space. The fundraise, which shows that Helix is able to raise large amounts of funding despite criticism of its platform, shows the renewed interest in genetics as a market by big investors.

The round was led by led by DFJ Growth, with participation from all its founding investors which include  Illumina, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Mayo Clinic, Sutter Hill Ventures, and Warburg Pincus. Barry Schuler, Partner at DFJ Growth and former Chairman and CEO of America Online, will join the Helix Board of Directors. Robin Thurston, Helix's chief executive, says the company "exceeded" all of its targets in the fourth quarter of 2017 after a July launch. He says that the company, which has not done much consumer marketing yet, "certainly benefitted" from the four to five million genetic test kits that were sold in the last three months of the year, but won't give specific numbers.

Helix is different from 23andMe because, instead of just taking isolated snapshots of single letter changes in DNA using a technology called a genotyping chip, it goes the far more expensive route of using the next-generation DNA sequencing technology to sequence the code of all known genes, about 2% of a person's total DNA. But then, instead of giving that information back to people in one go, it partners with other companies that allow people to buy specific bits of information in an app store modeled on the one for Apple's iPhone. One big question about this market: would people who came in to buy a product to tell them about their ancestors from National Geographic, perhaps Helix's biggest partner, want to buy a health app from Mayo Clinic, an iffier app that gives you advice on diet (come on, where's the evidence?) or one that uses you DNA code to make you a scarf?

Thurston says so far the answer seems to be yes, and that more than 20% of customers who buy one product are buying a second. " The magical moment is not when you go buy the first product, the magical moment is when you go buy the second and you instantly get your data," he says.But are those apps delivering value? That's still an open question. Last year, Eric Topol, the Scripps Health cardiologist and genomics researcher, tweeted that it seemed possible to spend $1900 on Helix apps without getting any value. He noted apps dedicated to weight loss and nutrition, where there is no strong evidence that genetic information has any benefit.

James Lu, a Helix senior vice president and co-founder, said that he disagrees with Topol's assertion, noting that every app goes through a rigorous process of making sure they are safe for consumers to use and transparent in what they offer. (It should be noted: Helix apps have not gone through the rigorous FDA process 23andMe had to go through in reaching the market.) Lu says that scientists and consumers should remember what DNA can and can't do. The diet apps, he argues, can nudge people to eat better, with the DNA as a small but interesting facet that makes it more interesting. (For most people diet advice is similar regardless of genetics.) "I think if people are asking DNA to be a crystal ball that's a different framing than we're taking on these products," Lu says. "What we're about is helping inform people about themselves."

Chuck Reynolds


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