Sep 02

Advertisers seize on images shared via social media

SAN FRANCISCO — When Kristyn Fernandez uploaded a photo of herself with her arm slung over a guy in a Jack Daniel’s t-shirt, it caught the eye of more than just her Twitter followers.

Software that scans millions of photos on social media flagged the image, operating on the principle it might hold value for Jack Daniel’s or its competitors. Such a photo could show the kinds of customers who favor Jack Daniel’s, reveal how consumers interact with the whiskey brand or even inspire future advertising campaigns.

Brands covet such information, but it doesn’t come cheap. Social networks can charge millions for easy access to user photos and information. Increasingly, it is part of the social media business model, analysts said.

But what makes this service so appealing to businesses also raises concerns among privacy advocates and the consumers who happen to find out. Fernandez had no idea that Ditto Labs, based in Massachusetts, scanned her photo – the company does not inform social media users of its actions.

“Without letting me know wherever they took the picture from, it’s kind of creepy and a little inappropriate,” she said.

Ditto scans publicly shared images on Twitter and Instagram and recently added Tumblr. It says it does not need to notify consumers their images are being sent to its clients because the pictures can be viewed by anyone online. Ditto says it abides by social networks’ terms of service, and insists its software is less invasive than search-based ads, which track users’ e-mail messages and web-browsing habits. The firm doesn’t pull images from Facebook because many users only share photos with friends.

“It’s not based on what you’re searching, it’s based on what is on your public social channel,” said Mary Tarczynski, Ditto’s chief marketing officer.

Ditto has collected data for brands such as Kraft Macaroni Cheese, Coca-Cola and Nissan. Its software identifies products within photos and can tell when people are smiling or frowning. The company says its findings help brands understand how people use products, whether it’s the surprising number of people who put Chobani yogurt in the cup-holders of cars, or the fact that some people top broccoli with French’s mustard.

“It’s a real-time focus group,” said Ditto’s CEO David Rose. “This is evidence-based marketing.”

Ditto’s software operates by scanning for logos. When Ditto finds a match, it stores the image and adds the user’s social media account to a database, which is available to clients starting at $2,000 per month.

Each day, Internet users share more than 1.8 billion photos, according to venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield Byers. For advertisers, the social media posts that include those photos are more valuable than those with just text because pictures reveal how consumers act “in the wild.”

“You have a window into their world,” said Duncan Alney, CEO of Firebelly Marketing in Indianapolis, which uses Ditto Labs’ service.

Alney, whose firm represents a beer company, learned from Ditto that people drink beer not just with pub grub but also with healthier snacks like hummus. And that consumers who favor mainstream beers also consume craft brews.

Other companies use it to interact with fans. Nissan North America found a photo on Twitter of a baby peeking out from behind a cardboard cutout of a Nissan racecar driver. Nissan got the Twitter user’s permission and reposted the photo on the company’s account.

“It’s showing us opportunities where fans are expressing their passion for our brand and excitement,” said Rob Robinson, a senior specialist in social communications at the automaker. “We can harness that energy and share it with our fans.”

Ditto Labs has what’s called a “firehose partnership” with Tumblr, an industry term that generally guarantees access to all publicly available user content. In such deals, third-party companies typically pay social networks for access. Those third-party companies hope to make that money back by analyzing the data and selling it to other businesses. Ditto has more limited deals with other social networks, and pays a different third-party company for access to Twitter content.

Ditto isn’t the only company that tracks public data on social networks, said Rob Enderle, a principal analyst with Enderle Group. Most social networks allow such arrangements, and inform users of them in their terms of service, Enderle said.

“If you are a user of a free service, you have to understand how that service is generating revenue and generally they are generating revenue on you,” Enderle said. “If you’re not (comfortable with that), you shouldn’t be using that service.”

The problem, according to privacy activists, is that some consumers don’t know it’s happening. “It sounds to me like yet another way the digital world is spying on people,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project. “(It’s happening) in ways that the average consumer does not understand.”

Ditto and its rivals insist consumers will benefit from their photos being shared with brands – they argue the service will someday result in more relevant advertisements, and perhaps improved products — say a yogurt container that perfectly fits in a car’s cupholder.

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Sep 01

SAP head wants to simplify company’s product line, message

PALM BEACH, Fla. — When Bill McDermott became SAP’s sole CEO in May, it helped clarify who was ultimately in charge of the world’s third-largest software company.

Now, McDermott intends to make clear the company’s enterprise product line and marketing message.

“Run simple. That’s it,” says McDermott, who is briefly luxuriating in south Florida where he lives part of the year, after a board meeting in late August. A window behind him frames the Atlantic Ocean and palm trees rippling in the breeze. (McDermott spent most of the summer in Germany, where SAP is based, at his other home in Heidelberg.)

The 53-year-old, who has been with SAP for 12 years, personifies a less-is-more philosophy. In a 90-minute interview, his first extensive sit-down in the U.S. since becoming SAP’s majordomo, McDermott told USA TODAY the company is transforming itself in an era of cloud computing, mobile devices and the ubiquitous Internet of Things.

His message is simple: Make it easier for corporate customers like Under Armour, ConAgra Foods and the NBA to simplify their technical operations and improve efficiency. Indeed, “Run simple” is the tag line of a major marketing push that is in the midst of a “soft launch” with a TV/digital/print campaign set for early 2015.

“We want to make the S in SAP stand for ‘simple,’” says SAP Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Becher. “We haven’t gotten there yet.”

SAP has rightly earned its reputation — not to mention billions of dollars in revenue and market value — as a trusted purveyor of business software. Yet it finds itself at a crossroads, competing against upstart software-as-service companies like, NetSuite and Workday.

The cornerstone, called SAP Hana Enterprise Cloud, is a managed-services version of its popular enterprise app suite on HANA (High-Performance Analytic Appliance), a database-management system. It is capable of quickly churning through massive amounts of information. SAP also offers public cloud apps for key lines of business such as human resources, sales, marketing and procurement, an alternative to software-as-service vendors such as NetSuite, and Workday.

The most intractable challenge for a CEO today is complexity, McDermott says, waving a sheet of statistics to highlight his point. An Economist piece in 2010 said 90% of executives think business is becoming more complex; 40% of executives polled by McKinsey worry their organizations can’t keep pace.

“When Leonardo Da Vinci said that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, he didn’t mean doing simple things,” McDermott said in a May 21 note to SAP employees after his promotion. “I think he meant doing complicated things simply.”

McDermott says he’s counting on the leadership change to accelerate decision-making at the Germany-based software maker and fuel revenue growth in the face of withering competition.

Tough sledding for legacy software

The changes come amid some tough sledding for SAP, whose stock price has dipped this year on slower revenue growth. The company is also in the process of slicing 3% of its 67,000-person workforce.

“Anything they can do to simplify their product and organization is fine. But have SAP’s changes come too late?” says Fred Laluyaux, a former SAP executive who is currently CEO at Anaplan, a cloud start-up that competes with SAP. He oversaw financial products at SAP from 2008 to 2012.

“What they’re dealing with is a lack of patience from CIOs dealing with expensive, complex software,” Laluyaux says. “Many customers are bailing on barbaric, legacy software and moving to cloud and mobile solutions.”

SAP is attempting to navigate the difficult transition from designing financial, manufacturing and human-resource software for businesses’ data centers to delivering applications online. Revenue this year is expected to increase 4% — the same as last year — to $24 billion, according to financial analysts. Under McDermott and former co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe, SAP’s growth surpassed 10% from 2010-13.

McDermott and Snabe oversaw a four-year winning streak of revenue and profits, and a bump in SAP’s stock.

It’s the constant management changes that have investors worried. McDermott’s promotion in May coincided with Snabe’s appointment to SAP’s supervisory board and the abrupt resignation of Vishal Sikka, who headed SAP’s tech efforts in Silicon Valley.

“Investors will become increasingly worried if other changes occur in the near future,” Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Laurent Daure said in a note to clients.

Then there are things beyond SAP’s — or anyone else’s — control.

Among the company’s challenges are political tensions in Eastern Europe, and the escalating sanctions Russia faces from the U.S. and European Union.

Although recent EU sanctions on Russia could lead to longer sales cycles, McDermott has told shareholders SAP is “confident” any impact could be counterbalanced by global sales.

Oracle, meanwhile, is reviving efforts in a federal appeals court to win more than $1.3 billion in damages from SAP over a 7-year-old copyright-infringement suit.

McDermott leans forward to make his point. “I’ve been CEO for five years,” says the Flushing, N.Y., native who got his start owning a deli as a teenager, and is the only American CEO in SAP’s 42-year history. “I make sure to walk the walk and talk the talk.”

“The new team around Bill is very strong and while innovation is at the core of our worldwide engineering, they also focus on a radical simplification in all areas of the company,” says SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner.

An incongruous goal?

But is the new SAP at odds with what made it a multibillion-dollar company?

McDermott’s goal — first broached at SAP’s annual Sapphire Conference in Orlando, Fla., in June — is an audacious, some might argue contrarian, promise from a company known for its complicated enterprise applications.

The irony isn’t lost on McDermott, who acknowledged SAP’s technology has been “too complex.”

SAP’s cloud technology can be simplified in two ways, according to McDermott. First, you won’t have to deal with hardware and systems-management issues. Second, you gain performance and simplification advantages. SAP itself runs on this cloud, and it collapsed its data footprint from 11 terabytes to 2 terabytes.

“Think of Hana as the great simplifier,” he says.

The questions remain: Do customers want this type of cloud, amid promises of simplifications and performance gains?

Yes, says Bernd Leukert, head of products and innovation at SAP, who is sitting on a sun-splashed patio at SAP’s Silicon Valley campus in Palo Alto, Calif., last Thursday night. He argues simpler, more-efficient products allow corporations to consolidate tech operations, which lead to cost savings and investments in innovation.

Two of SAP’s largest customers have made the technological transition to streamline operations and get more creative.

“Our partnership with SAP powers our stats site — they have been an enabler for us,” says Michael Gliedman, chief information officer of the NBA, one of several major professional sports leagues that assiduously use Hana to slice and dice data. A program developed by SAP, SportVU, records every movement and action of a basketball player during a game.

ConAgra Foods, an SAP customer for 15 years, has leveraged Hana to simplify its financial closing and forecasting. Managers at the multibillion-dollar conglomerate will soon be able to model business decisions in forecasts for things like advertising dollars and material costs at a detailed level to maximize profit margin.

“The technology was the easy part,” says Mindy Simon, vice president of information technology at ConAgra. “The hard part was opening your imagination.”

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Aug 31

At Logic PD, the ‘Internet of Things’ means more than remote controls



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    Logic PD CEO Bruce DeWitt, left, Chief Technology Officer Scott Nelson and marketing VP Jason Voiovich at the company’s office in Minneapolis.

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    One of the buzz phrases of the moment in high-tech is the “Internet of Things” (IoT) — most simply explained as hooking up items such as your garage door or thermostat to the Internet so you run them from your smartphone or computer. But the possibilities to transform products and businesses go far deeper.

    A Minneapolis company called Logic PD, with offices at a former Studebaker carriage factory in the North Loop, is at the edge of helping other companies figure that out.

    The designers and engineers at Logic PD have helped manufacturers around the Twin Cities area and the country develop products and bring them to market since the early 1960s.

    The company started as a spinoff from General Mills, when the food giant had a small business making kitchen appliances. Through the years, Logic PD has migrated from designing toasters to designing cabinets used on Control Data computers to creating the circuitry used in med-tech devices.

    Most recently, it helped a firm design a basketball that connects to the Internet. The basketball sat on a table executives gathered around to discuss their work.

    Q: How did this company get from pressure cookers to this basketball?

    Bruce DeWitt, chief executive: We’ve always helped bring people’s products to market. Fifty years ago, it was toasters and pressure cookers. It was very mechanical back then. As products morphed over the years, it became more electronic. We had to move ahead of the product changes, and so we became very electronic-focused. We’re experiencing what we call the next revolution. We’re now 100 percent electronic, but we’re moving into connected electronics. And so now, our mix is probably 60 percent connected electronics.

    Scott Nelson, chief technology officer: This is an electronic product today [pointing to the basketball]. I was at Honeywell, which spun off [defense contractor] ATK, and Bruce was at ATK. So Bruce and I both know a lot about a device called the inertial measurement unit. We put them on everything from missiles to airplanes. Bruce and I joke about putting an IMU into a basketball.

    DeWitt: So that’s now part of what they call the Internet of Things, which is basically pulling data off some kind of product. That data then has some use and service.

    Nelson: We can do the electronics, but our legacy is two industrial designers out of General Mills. For 50 years, our business has had a continuous focus on users and user value. So we don’t see the Internet of Things as being about machines talking to each other. It’s really about changing people’s experiences.

    Q: What had to happen in technology to get to the stage where data from a basketball can be sent around the Internet?

    Nelson: One of the big changes is companies are starting to think like GE did when it went from selling airplane engines to selling flight time. Anytime a company makes a transition like that, they have to know everything that is going on with their product.

    Jason Voiovich, vice president of marketing: The cost of connectivity was a key driver. The cost to connect has dropped so far to the point where I can connect a light bulb economically. When GE began selling flight power by the hour, which was a Harvard business case a dozen years ago, it cost a lot of money to connect that engine. But as a proportion of the total engine cost, the cost was very small. Back then, if I took that same connectivity to an ice cream machine in a SuperAmerica, that was too much money as a portion of the total cost.

    Nelson: Smartphones also made a big difference. These things are made in such huge volumes that they are driving the costs lower for glass, sensors, connectivity and software. There’s an unbelievable amount of software development that these things created.

    DeWitt: There’s always a push and a pull. The tech push was exactly what you guys said: the connectivity capabilities, the low-cost of transmission, the software. What’s happening now is the pull. That’s the business side of the model. People who have been product developers in the past are converting to the subscription economy. Many of them just had a product and they would sell it once and not get any recurring revenue. How can you help them boost their revenue after they got that product in place? The obvious answer is to use the data that’s coming off the product as a subscription or value back to the customer.

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    Aug 30

    Wal-Mart Looks Online for Chinese Growth

    SHANGHAI—As Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. courts investors for a highly anticipated public offering next month in the U.S., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is busy trying to win over online shoppers in the Chinese e-commerce company’s backyard.

    Wal-Mart’s online arm in China—called Yihaodian, meaning No. 1 Store—has recently increased the number of products sold on its site, built up its supply chain and streamlined its mobile site in a push to…

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    Aug 29

    Power transmission products supplier Rainbow Precision Products goes online

    The web site, built by Ecreativeworks, will let engineers and buyers buy on its e-commerce site.

    Looking to expand its customer base, 22-year-old power transmission products supplier Rainbow Precision Products Inc. has launched a business-to-business e-commerce site.

    “The industrial buying process has changed,” says Joseph Laskoski, Rainbow Precision Products president. “Today engineers and buyers, like the rest of us, search online for what they need.”

    Launching an e-commerce site, with a focus on search engine optimization, should help consumers discover Rainbow Precision Products, he says.

    “SEO is key for us it because it helps the buyer find us at his peak interest,” Laskoski says. Since launching earlier this month, the site has more than 6,000 pages indexed by Google.

    Site developer ECreativeworks built the site using Catalog Data Solutions Inc.’s Catalog as a Service tools that include a range of B2B-focused tools, such as a shopping cart and request for quote system.

    For a free subscription to B2BecNews, a weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry, click here. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly trade magazine Internet Retailer.

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    Aug 28 Invites Fort Wayne Area Small Business Owners to be Its VIP Guests at …

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Aug 27, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE via COMTEX) —

    WWWW, -1.06%

    a leading provider of Internet services and online marketing solutions for small businesses, invites greater Fort Wayne area small business owners to join as VIP guests at the upcoming Tour Hotel Fitness Championship golf tournament. This exclusive VIP event will take place on Friday, August 29, 2014, at the Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Indiana. will provide local small business owners free tickets to attend the golf tournament with full access to the private VIP hospitality area. Through’s agreement with the PGA TOUR and as umbrella sponsor of the Tour, has developed a series of events to benefit small business owners in communities across the country.

    “In the greater Fort Wayne area, entrepreneurs and small businesses drive the growth of our local economy and are essential to our area’s overall success,” said Duke Butler, tournament director for the Hotel Fitness Championship. “Staying competitive in today’s ever-changing business environment is very important to small business owners and they must find better ways to drive the success of their enterprises. With the help of our corporate partners, such as, the PGA TOUR is pleased to help small business owners continue to grow and prosper.”

    This VIP event for small business owners includes:

    • Two tournament passes for admission
    • Exclusive VIP hospitality area
    • An exclusive opportunity to meet and greet Tour players
    • Free optional online consulting from Ambassadors to help optimize the small business website, Facebook Page, or online marketing efforts.
    • Food, beverages, contests, networking and more

    “As part of the commitment to give back to the communities we serve, we are pleased to offer this exclusive VIP event focusing on celebrating the efforts put forth by the country’s small business owners,” said Michael Young, vice president for Small Business Summits at “Every day, helps millions of small business owners address the challenges of successfully competing online to help their businesses grow.”

    Event Details:

    • Where: Sycamore Golf Club, 11836 Covington Rd, Fort Wayne, IN, at The Pavilion
    • When: Friday, August 29, open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
    • Cost: Attendance is free, but advanced registration is required at
    • Social media: @webdotcom and #SmallBizSummit

    For more information, contact or call 800-862-8718.

    About Group, Inc.

    WWWW, -1.06%

    provides a full range of Internet services to small businesses to help them compete and succeed online. meets the needs of small businesses anywhere along their lifecycle with affordable, subscription-based solutions including domains, hosting, website design and management, search engine optimization, online marketing campaigns, local sales leads, social media, mobile products and eCommerce solutions. For more information, please visit; follow on Twitter @webdotcom or on Facebook at For additional online marketing resources and small business networking, please visit

    About the Tour

    Founded (1990), owned and operated by the PGA TOUR, the Web.Com Tour continues to identify those players who are ready to compete and win on golf’s biggest stage. In an historic 2013 season, the Tour became the path to the PGA TOUR with all 50 available PGA TOUR cards coming through the Tour and the season culminating at the four-event Tour Finals. became the Tour’s umbrella sponsor on June 27, 2012. A 10-year agreement (through 2021) is in place. The Tour enters its 25th year of competition in 2014. Three out of four PGA TOUR members are Tour alumni. Tour alumni have won 371 PGA TOUR titles, including 18 majors and five PLAYERS Championships. The PGA TOUR, through the efforts of its three tours and their tournaments, sponsors, players and volunteers, supports over 3,000 local charities and is closing in on $2.0 billion in charitable giving. To learn more about the PGA TOUR and Tour and to follow the season-long quest for a PGA TOUR card, visit PGATOUR.COM, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

    Note to Editors: is a registered trademark of Group, Inc.

     CONTACT: Elaine Steinfeld Golin for 972.341.2585 

    Copyright (C) 2014 GlobeNewswire, Inc. All rights reserved.

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    Aug 26

    Free digital marketing workshops feature national expert

    Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 6:00 am

    Updated: 10:00 am, Tue Aug 26, 2014.

    Free digital marketing workshops feature national expert


    ​Keyflow Creative, a division of ​KPC Media Group​,​ is offering a series of free workshops ​on Sept. 10 ​aimed at small to medium sized businesses throughout northeast Indiana featuring ​Shannon Kinney, one of the nation’s leading Internet experts.

    These free ​90-minute workshops will help decision makers learn how to grow their business on the web by finding new customers online. ​Attendees will learn why they need to invest online and how digital will generate new business and maintain current business.

    Shannon Kinney ​is the ​founder and ​client ​success ​officer of Dream Local Digital, a digital marketing agency that has worked with thousands of small businesses across North America. She has more than 15 years of experience in the development of successful Internet products, sales and marketing strategies and has worked on the teams developing successful Internet brands such as,, and more than 60 online media properties for newspapers all over the U.S. and Canada.

    Prior to that, she spent more than 10 years in media sales and sales management in Maine. Shannon is considered an expert in the field of online marketing and social media, and speaks regularly at conferences on the subject. She was recently named one of the Women to Watch in 2013, by Maine Biz Magazine.

    “KPC Media Group is pleased to sponsor these workshops featuring Shannon Kinney, one of the leading experts in the field of Internet marketing,” said Terry Ward, COO of KPC Media Group. “We are proud to offer these free workshops as part of our on-going commitment to assist small to medium sized businesses in northeast Indiana grow by providing high quality educational opportunities for those who wish to learn and better target their products and services to potential customers.”

    ​The workshops will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott Harrison Square in downtown Fort Wayne at 8 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10. Food and beverages will be provided.​

    Reservations are required ​ by Sept. 9​ . To reserve your seat call Keyflow Creative at (260) 203-0363 ​or email​ .

    KPC Media Group publishes the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly.


    Tuesday, August 26, 2014 6:00 am.

    Updated: 10:00 am.

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    Aug 25

    Amazon may dent, not kill, Google ads


    NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — When it comes to ads, don’t expect Amazon to knock Google off its throne just yet.


    AMZN, +0.73%

     is making strategic moves to more directly challenge Google’s online ads platform, including possibly developing its own internal software that would replace Google AdWords, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

    The platform would leverage Amazon’s treasure trove of consumer data, giving Madison Avenue access to even more targeted ads that are tied directly to shopping behavior.

    “That’s an incredibly powerful thing,” said Ajay Agarwal, managing director of Bain Capital Ventures.

    So powerful, in fact, it could dent Google’s

    GOOG, -0.41%

     $50 billion-a-year advertising business, said Larry Kim, founder and chief tech officer of Internet marketing software company WordStream.

    However, the shopping portal has a ways to go before it can materially nudge Google off its advertising throne. Ads comprised less than 5% of Amazon’s $74.5 billion revenue last year, a much smaller margin than Google, which raked in some $59.8 billion in revenue comprised more than 93% of ads. Amazon also operates on notoriously razor-thin margins, whereas Google’s veteran ad business is highly profitable amid robust demand from advertisers.

    Another potential disadvantage for Amazon is that it will likely only materially compete with Google on the e-commerce vertical, whereas Google also draws in major ad revenue from insurers like Progressive

    PGR, +0.81%

     and Geico, travel booking sites such as and Expedia

    EXPE, +0.85%

     , and for-profit educators like the University of Phoenix

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    “Don’t expect this to be a Google killer by any means,” Kim said.

    The Uber of shopping

    But it’s not a zero-sum game, said David Hirsch, managing partner at Metamorphic Ventures and former ad sales leader at Google.

    As Amazon doubles down on ads, Google is investing in e-commerce, including adding same-day delivery for Google Shopping Express and pinging Android users when they are physically near a product they searched online.

    Their business models continue to morph together in their battle to control the consumer, with the two now competing on various fronts spanning e-commerce, ads, mobile and gaming.

    Hirsch says this is leading toward a future where products find customers, rather than the other way around, as loads of consumer data coupled with predictive analytics enable Amazon and Google to retarget ads and push out recommendations to potential buyers.

    “The next version of search isn’t about people finding things, it’s about things finding people,” he said. “Google and Amazon are both in an interesting position to do this.”

    Hirsch likened this to what Uber did to taxi driving. Whereas people used to hunt down a cab on the busy streets of Manhattan, they now plug in a request and wait for a car to be delivered to them.

    In a sense, Amazon and Google want to similarly bring in-demand items to consumers, only they want to do it before the customer even realizes they want it.

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