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Re-Imagination Continues: 2014 Key Internet Trends

Although the year-over-year growth rate of the overall internet users has declined but the developing markets such as India, Indonesia, and Nigeria, which were thought to be more difficult to monetize have seen a sharp rise. Internet advertising remains strong.

Mobile usage continues to rise. In the space of smartphones, although the growth has slowed down, compared with the previous period, there is still a lot of upside, with a minimum base of 30% of the 5.2 billion mobile phone users. The fastest growth occurred in some underpenetrated markets, like China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia. The “Made in USA” smartphone systems (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) have accounted for 97% of the global smartphone operating systems. Mobile app revenue has trumped mobile ad revenue; mobile data traffic has experienced accelerating growth, with the application of video being the strongest driver. Tablets have grown faster than PCs for the first time. At a relatively early stage, this area has seen a unit growth rate of 52%.

Growth in the digital universe stays robust. Global over-the-top messaging systems, such as messaging ecosystem players WhatsApp (USA), Tencent WeChat (China), Line (Japan), Kakao Talk (Korea), Snapchat (USA), Viber (Israel), etc. have attracted over 1 billion users over the past four plus years. The evolution features a transition from broadcasting fewer messages to large audiences (Facebook: $FB) to frequent interactions with smaller group of close contacts (WhatsApp, Snapchat, and WeChat). Image and video sharing have risen sharply; visual web social networks, such as Tumbir, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat have seen unique visitors trend since the March of 2011.

At the Big Data level, uploadable or shareable real-time data and sensor use have risen sharply; Apple iPhone 5s (2013) has 5 sensors, while Samsung Galaxy S5 (2014) has 10 sensors. Beyond that, processing or compute costs, global storage costs, bandwidth costs, and smartphone prices fell dramatically, while the Cloud and accessibility are rising.

More advances can be seen from the beautiful new user interfaces (Airbnb, Yelp, Uber, Waze, Spotify, Amazon Fire TV), data mining/analytics tools (Jawbone, Dropcam, AppDynamics), early emergence of data and pattern-driven problem solving (Google Voice Search, Nest, Zepyhr Health).

On average, over 1.8 billion photos are uploaded and shared per day via Flickr, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp, according to KPCB. Instant sharing and communication of things have the potential to make world a better place. Mining rising volume of data can yield patterns that help solve previously unsolvable problem, but meanwhile, it may have potential impact to personal privacy and create new challenges related to individual rights.

I was never a big TV fan, until I realized the trends of TV:

  • Screens proliferation – media engagement rises with screen usage.
  • Traditional remote controls are disappearing. As smartphones eclipsed feature phones, smart TV adapters and smart TVs indicate a transition to internet-enablement of screens.
  • Apps are replacing channels and Internet TV are replacing Linear TV. ESPN, BBC iPlayer, and HBO GO are gaining popularity as on-demand apps. YouTube–Search Bar and Comcast–X1 Guide are replacing TV Guide, of which 40% are mobile.
  • Younger consumers love Best Ads, Social Video, Social TV, and they vote for personalization and on-demand video.

9 out of the Top 10 global internet properties are “Made in USA” but 79% of users are based outside America, with the Chinese market having the fastest-growing demand. A recent report has pointed out that China is absolutely leading the global mobile commerce innovation. Take Tencent WeChat for example, the 400 million active chat users are increasingly using payments and commerce to order taxi (Didi Taxi), distribute New Year Lucky Money (Alipay Yu’E Bao), and find restaurants and buy daily deals (Dianping). In addition to these creative features, WeChat services have already integrated Personal Banker, Shopping Assistant, Private Chef, and Grocery Getter.

People always say that getting education right is crucial for future success. Although the graduation rate has risen, real education results are often subpar – some education has not prepared graduates well for employment; in terms of costs, the expenditure of both secondary school and higher education remains high. The successful revolution in this space is the emergence of personalized education and different options offered by internet. Not only does online education have its own terms, it also offers low cost and real-time feedback for students. The two most influential players, according to most recent stats, Duolingo has approximately 25 million users; Coursera has 7 million users. Comparatively, Coursera is gaining in more popularity among the schools and students in Asia.

What do you think about these internet trends and what they represent for the future? Join the discussion here. Also, be sure to check out Choosing from Beta Strategies: Bettering Your Investments with a Smarter Exposure.

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Chenjiazi Zhong is a portfolio management professional responsible for portfolio structuring, optimization, asset allocation, and fund due diligence. Prior to this function, Chenjiazi worked as an investment banking analyst at Lehman Brothers. Chenjiazi published the book “Alternatives Thinker: Endowment Investment Philosophy to Active Portfolio Management” in 2013. Serving as a guest writer, my weekly column, “Investment Conversations with Chenjiazi”(now “Market Recap with Jiazi”), sponsored by SprinkleBit Holdings Inc., is published on Sunday at 8:00am EST, covering topics of weekly economic update, market recap, outlook, interpretation of global markets and political events, advice on dynamic optimization of asset allocation strategies, and how to adjust asset classes in a portfolio context to actively manage risk. Chenjiazi holds a Ph.D. in finance, an MBA in finance from University of Miami, and a BBA in finance from École Supérieure de Commerce (ESC). Chenjiazi writes in English, French, and Mandarin Chinese.

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