Why Chipotle Gets All My Business and McDonalds Gets None

I should be the typical McDonald’s family.  I have two kids, live in the suburbs, and typically in a rush on the weekends from errand to errand.  In the 1980s my parents would bring me to McDonalds at least twice a month, heck we even had birthday parties at McDonalds.  If you had asked me back then if I’d be going to McDonalds as an adult I would have definitely said “YES!”  The truth….I haven’t been to McDonalds since 2002 which is two years BEFORE Supersize Me came out.

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I spent my time on the McDonald’s Playground

So what happened?  I didn’t stop eating burgers, I love Five Guys, Shake Shack and In-n-Out (so much so I shared my secret LAX layover tip on the blog).  When I had kids, my first child had dairy, egg and peanut allergies.  This certainly presented a challenge when going out to eat.  We definitely gravitate to restaurants who have their menus and ingredients online.  And this brings me to why I stopped going to McDonalds even though I am in their target demo.  Ever try to figure out what McDonalds puts in their food?  Let me present a 16 page PDF.

Now compare that to the simple Chipotle menu.  Chipotle gets it, especially compared to McDonalds.

Simple Chipotle Menu

Simple Chipotle Menu

The peace of mind we have taking our kids to Chipotle versus McDonalds, its just one of many reasons why McDonalds may not be too big too fail.

Has Bill Simmons Departure Hurt Grantland?

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An article last week on Deadspin caught my eye about what ESPN is going to do with Grantland.com.  If you remember Grantland founder and Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons was told his contract was not going to be renewed back on May 8th and effectively it was his last day at ESPN.

I’ve been reading Bill Simmons since he was writing for Digital Cities AOL back in 1999 and I followed him to Page 2 on ESPN to his penultimate move when he and ESPN created Grantland.  A cadre of writers came on board, some well known others who would become well known after writing on the site for a while.

So the question Deadspin asked was what will happen to the site, but I’ve been curious what’s happened to the site since Simmons was fired.  Here is what Alexa and Quantcast show:

Quantcast Data

Quantcast Data

Alexa Data

Alexa Data

Clearly traffic has dipped since Simmons stopped working on the site, but part of that might be seasonal.  The NFL season ends in early February, and as the weather warms people spend less time thinking about sports, but that doesn’t fit what Grantland likes to write about.  Bill Simmons is a huge NBA fan and writes about it extensively all the way through the playoffs which wrap up in June.  Then there is the pop culture part of the site which covers May sweeps and summer movie season.

When I tried to compare the social engagement of Grantland, two things stood out.

  1. Social engagement on the site dropped 51% in the first 6 months of 2015 as compared to the first 6 months of 2014.
  2. Since Simmons stopped working on Grantland on May 8th social activity is down 53%.

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So does this spell the end of Grantland?  I hope not, there are terrific writers there and they’ve been a big contributor to the resurgence of podcasts, but as Deadspin notes if the writers depart when their contracts are up, they don’t have the same momentum heading into 2016 as they did heading into 2015.

How Hackathons Turn Into Products

Today is the 12th hackathon I’ve done since joining AddThis back at the start of 2011.  While I definitely spent many all nighters working on AIM in its early days, I never got the chance to work on projects not related to my day to day job.

Earlier this spring we released a major new product called Audience Discovery, and the dev team that works on the product crushes it.  But before we started investing in the product, there were the hackathons.  While I joined AddThis to run our publisher web tools, during my interview I was exposed to all of the fun side projects that we built on top of our data.

So how did we get from a hackathon project to a product used by Fortune 500 companies?  Here are some screen shots showing how a simple hackathon project evolved over time.

Hackathon Fall 2011

Hackathon Fall 2011 – Excel outputs, heaven help me

Hackathon Winter 2012

Hackathon Winter 2012 – An early test of search data and flot.js output

Spring 2012

Spring 2012 – More flot.js output using free form inputs

Hackathon Summer 2012

Hackathon Summer 2012 – Who could forget our London Olympics Project

Hackathon Fall 2012

Hackathon Fall 2012 – County Level Candidate Data.  We predicted every county and state correctly except Arapaho County, CO

Hackathon Spring 2013

Hackathon Spring 2013 – Using D3.js to output new Audience Interests data type

Hackathon Spring 2014

Hackathon Spring 2014 – Using NVD3 to output bar charts on new data types and analysis

Audience Discovery Spring 2015

Audience Discovery Spring 2015

None of this could be done alone, and a big thanks goes out to all the engineers, designers and dev ops who helped along the way.

One Image That Captures The Inequalities of the Bay Area

Playing around with Google Maps tonight I noticed by searching for two of the world’s most popular brands, Whole Foods and Walmart and comparing it to home prices, it paints a very clear picture of who the brands customers are.

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The darker the colors on the map below the higher the house prices.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 8.02.52 PM

 

I have a feeling we’d fine this same scenario in many other cities across the US.

Atlantic City’s Next, Best Bet…

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Yesterday morning Trump Plaza closed its doors for the last time.  Trump was already planning to close the Trump Plaza next week, but now the Taj Mahal is at risk of closing in November.  This news in conjunction with the Revel closing earlier this month preceded by the Showboat casino closing leaves 7 casinos left open, if Taj Mahal closes in November.

I wrote a few years ago about the blight of Atlantic City and how surrounding states like Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York have reduce the amount of day trippers going to AC.  Hurricane Sandy in 2012 did the Jersey Shore no favors and so here we are today.  Seven casinos left without much hope, except…

Enter sports gambling!  This is the last best hope for New Jersey gambling revenues and it is the bet (pardon the pun) that Governor Chris Christie is making.  This was put to a vote a couple of years ago, and it passed.  The federal government has blocked New Jersey’s efforts and the NCAA and professional sports leagues have joined in.

Governor Christie has had enough, the casinos are closing and consumer behavior is forcing his hand to ignore the federal government and allow race tracks and casinos to start taking sports bets immediately.  Putting aside the legal issues, let’s assume this starts.  Here is how New Jersey benefits:

  1. Sports gambling brings in huge handles for the casinos 25 weeks of the year.  All 17 NFL regular season games, 4 playoff and Super Bowl weekends, 3 NCAA tournament weekends and Kentucky Derby weekend.
  2. The average annual handle (what the casinos earned) in Vegas for each NFL season since 1969 is $41.7M.  This doesn’t include all the ancillary revenue they bring in from people just being in Vegas.
  3. Over 200MM people worldwide gamble online and of those people living in the US they do so illegally.  Those people are making over $380B in bets each year.

Christie’s bet is a winner not just for the casinos but also for the bettors themselves.  Instead of betting off shore with the fear that their money will be stuck overseas, Americans can now cash their tickets and pocket the money.
SportsBook
I’ve been going to Vegas for 15 years for the March Madness tournament and would love to give AC a try as soon as the books are open there.

Southwest Airlines Rolling Out New Colors and Maybe First Class

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This week Southwest Airlines rolled out new colors and paint jobs on their airplanes, but after taking a 40 minute survey it appears they are testing the waters on a modified first class as well or deciding what to do with the AirTran business class seats.

Most of the questions involved whether I was interested in having reserved seats with extra leg room or reserved seats with the seat next to me blocked.  The latter reminds me of the type of business class found in Europe.

The survey also asked questions about inclusive pricing versus a la cart.  At least none of the questions were about charging for carry on bags.

Southwest is no longer a low cost carrier.  It is flying to major metropolitan airports, flying internationally, and appealing to business travelers with A-List and Rapid Rewards.

Why Apple Products Change the World

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I recently gave a talk at Syracuse University’s Greenberg House in DC about the future of social media.  Part of the discussion touched on how devices like the iPhone and iPad changed forever the way we engage with each other.

The iPhone was a tipping point in the smart phone market.  While Blackberry was first, it was Apple that changed how we use our phones for browsing, music, video, and of course interaction with each other.  It has opened up amazing business opportunities thanks to the application marketplace and in extreme situations a $19B acquisition.

Today, Apple is going to try to change the world again with the iWatch.  Whether this device has transdermal health technology or is just a fancier version of a Nike Fuel Band, doesn’t matter, it will definitely be a hit.  Why will the iWatch succeed while the Samsung Galaxy Gear and LG’s G Watch struggle?

1) Apple has perfected the introduction of products.  While the leaks have grown since the early days of the iPhone, I have to believe some of them are purposeful to generate excitement.

2) Apple makes it easy for all buyers.  Early adopters pre-order on the website, but it is the store that gets people the mainstream buyers.  Mainstream buyers need to feel the product and test it.  Early adopters, aka, Fanboys, are going to buy no matter what Apple releases.

3) Apple has a knack for holding back features from their products creating a fervor for the next version of their products.  Near Field Communications is something that was rumored to exist in the iPhone since 2010, but only today do we get it.

The iWatch is going to be a game changer and thanks to this build up of news and leaks combined with the store and “new” features that have been perfected over time, the iWatch and iPhone 6 are going to be a huge hit.