Spencer Bradley

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This is my biggest worry with Fitbit’s strategy. I’m unconvinced that the data that Fitbit is generating is really accurate, and whether they are in fact delivering the savings. I think their biggest strategic challenge is to get their data and accountability good enough that they can get insurers to believe the results. Easier said than done!


On November 20, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Digital News and The Washington Post :


To your first point–I totally agree that there’s conflict here. That’s not a real concern if we’re talking about positive reviews of the Kindle Fire, but, as you point out, Amazon is more and more involved in public policy, and that’s certainly an issue. I don’t think we should underestimate the fiercely independent newsroom cultures, though, and the difficulty Bezos would have in directly influencing coverage of Amazon, even if he wanted to.

On subscriptions–here’s an article about the Post’s focus on digital subscriptions (light on hard numbers, but it indicates that subscription revenue is a big part of their strategy):

The NYT likely has a similar model, and we can see their numbers since they’re public. It looks like their digital-only subs revenue is still pretty small–but is growing fast.

Those absolute numbers are smaller than I’d expected, but I definitely think they’re onto the same issues with advertising that you mention–and are hoping digital subs can make up some of the difference.


On November 20, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Should Central Banks Issue Digital Currencies? :

Sotaro, thanks for the post! How worried are you about privacy concerns here? I see all of the benefits of digital currency–but think that there are major benefits (as long as major downsides) to the ability to perform untracked and untraceable transactions. Do we feel comfortable with allowing the government to see all of our purchases?

I’m also very very curious about the role of culture in these transformations. For example, I know Scandinavia has been extremely fast to adopt digital payments–but Germany, right next door and similar in many respects, is still a heavily cash-based economy. What causes these differences? And how will this impact the roll-out of digital currencies going forward?


On November 20, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Lights, Camera, Cannibalization? The NetFlix-ication of Broadway :


Thanks for the post, about a subject you know so well. If I’m understanding the situation correctly, you believe that BroadwayHD and other similar products are great advertising FOR THE INDUSTRY but unlikely to boost any particular show. As we’ve discussed in marketing, industry-wide advertising can make sense when one company dominates (most of the profits will flow to them); but in a fragmented market like this, no one is incentivized to do these general investments.

Is there a trade association or other type of group that can play this role? My favorite example is the Milk association in the US, which aggregates money from all the dairy farmers to run pro-milk ads. No one company would ever invest in this, but the association provides the coordination that enables them to act together. Could something similar work for BroadwayHD?


On November 20, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Digital News and The Washington Post :

Great post! I love this industry, and think it’s really, really hard. Let me push back about a few points here from the comments section:

As I read it, you guys had two main concerns about the Post under Bezos:
1. The Post might be more of a stalking horse for Amazon–a way to gather data.
2. The Post under Bezos won’t be objective, favoring Amazon.

I think I disagree with both arguments–I’m a lot less cynical here.

1. If you look at the scale of data and customers that Amazon has vs the Washington Post, it seems like a really unlikely theory. Is there any chance that buying a newspaper is the best way to acquire customer data? Amazon has the best data already, and can buy more from service providers who do just that.

Additionally, the Washington Post is not part of “Amazon”–it’s owned directly by Bezos. The businesses are run separately, with very little overlap of staff or strategies.

2. The checks and balances within newspapers are extremely robust. At the Washington Post, Marty Baron is an extremely strong editor who came into the Post with decades of experience (he’s the main editor from the movie Spotlight). The business side–Bezos and the revenue people–have almost no ability to influence even the tone of coverage, and can never influence journalists about how they cover specific groups, like Amazon. I know this is hard to believe (we’re right to be critical and a bit cynical!) but I truly believe this is how it works.

Some of these concerns are widely shared (in particular by Trump, who has been making similar arguments all year); I’d be cautious, though, about taking those arguments at face value.

Unfortunately, these arguments solve the business problems not at all! One thing I’d add here, NC; digital subscriptions is a huge revenue lines for them that are growing quickly. Much of their “Free” strategy that you employ is really more like “freemium”, offering some content free to grow the front-end of the funnel and improve conversion to paid products.


Steve, thanks for the post–great read. I really liked how your article pointed out the complexity of agricultural ecosystems, and of the varied impacts of our scientific interventions. Some uses of science increase yields in the short term but cause long-term problems such as weed resistance; others are more long-term solutions, even if harder in the short-term. Some new technologies hurt the environment, others help. I loved the specificity with which you discussed particular impacts.

One other corner of this market, which I’ve been looking at a bit, is the companies that do satellite measurement and tracking of agriculture–another way to get at the same idea of more finely tuning agricultural interventions (as opposed to, for example, spraying out of planes!) The Monsanto subsidiary ClimaCorp, for example, is doing very interesting work in this space. I’d be curious about your opinions here; is this satellite-based approach a promising one, or is on-the-ground robotics and machine learning superior? Or will they both work?


On November 20, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Is EZ Pass Poised to Take a Toll on Your Privacy Rights? :

Great post here–and one that has serious implications not just for privacy, but, perhaps more importantly, for the extent to which this time-saving technology can be adopted. When we talked about parking meters in Marketing this week, I immediately thought how much EZ Pass could improve the payments process. And, as “Operations 2016” notes above, Mass is pulling out tool booths and replacing them all with electronic readers. The time savings will be huge, and the technology exists. The biggest barrier to realizing this significant benefit is popular opinion and consumer behavior–will we accept this new technology? Much of that will depend on the transparency with which government deals with these issues.

One thought, per “FCF”‘s note above; you can in fact turn off your EZ-pass. You can buy sliding boxes–open to have your EZ-Pass read, close to not have it read. So, it’s possible. Small solutions like this might go a long way to assuaging some of these concerns.


On November 6, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Climate Change and Colombian Floriculture :

Great post! I always love learning about the industry.

It seems that there are two different, although overlapping, goals; “sustainable” growing of flowers and adaptation to climate change. One is consumer-driven and the other production-driven. Going forward, I’d be very interested to see how these two factors interact; whether they end up requiring similar or different sets of actions.


On November 6, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Climate Change and Winter Storms: the Cost of D.C.’s Snowzilla :

Thanks for this post! This is a really tricky problem to solve. In many similar cases, a robust contractor market could grow up to surge resources that are rarely needed. One of the big issues here, though, is that the storms will hit the entire eastern US at the same time, meaning that the market can’t just maintain a fleet of plows and move them around when once-a-decade storms happen. There may be no avoiding keeping fleets of equipment in each city.

I’ll keep an eye on this story going forward; as a native of Washington, DC, I’m vested in how this plays out!


Fascinating article here–thanks for this. I think you reveal the central tension in many sustainability enterprises. When a company performs an action to move one metric of sustainability, there’s often a corresponding non-sustainable impact. My favorite example is ethanol-based fuels, which are great at replacing petroleum-based fuels–except that lots of petroleum-based fuel is used in the manufacture of the ethanol! Similarly, in this case, you re-use materials–while at the same time emitting incinerated waste.

I’m not sure how to compare the environmental impacts of different types of interventions. Is there one metric or one standard that allows us to compare these impacts? Or is it all Apples and Oranges?

On November 6, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Bare Slopes: The Profitability of Ski Resorts in a Warming World :

Thanks for this post! Your overall recommendation here–which I’d summarize as a move towards non-ski activities to correct for a shorter skiing season–makes total sense.

I’d be curious, though, about whether there’s still hope for regular skiing seasons through snow-blowing and other artificial snow technologies. Right now, as you note, it has to be cold enough outside for snow blowing to work. But is this necessarily true going forward? Do we have any potential chemicals or technological breakthroughs that could make “snow” that wouldn’t melt at temperatures a few degrees warmer?

I know the answer is likely no–but here’s to hoping we don’t have to resign ourselves to snowless futures just yet!


On November 6, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Traveling to Iceland? Perhaps think twice. :


Thanks for this post! Like many at this school, I’ve travelled hundreds of thousands of miles in recent years, with little thought to the emissions implications. Thanks for bringing this to my (our) attention.

If i’m summarizing, I’d put your potential solutions into two categories:
1. Limit travel (think twice about traveling to Iceland, don’t fly flights that aren’t full, etc)
2. Mitigate the impact of travel (carbon offsets, better fuel efficiency, etc)

I’d be curious about where you see the bigger potential for improvement. Is decreasing the amount of travel that takes place really a feasible option? Or should we assume people will travel as they want, and focus on mitigating the impact of that travel?


On November 6, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Coral Bleaching Threatens Luxury Travel Company :

Hi Paige, thanks for this analysis–and for the passion you bring to it.

It seems there are two main strategies here; one to help climate change overall (decreasing their own carbon footprint), and a second one to help reef health more directly. On that second strategy, I have a friend from college who is doing interesting work, through a company called CoralVita. http://www.coralvita.co/

They try to re-grown coral reefs directly by incubating coral in coral farms and then transplanting it into existing/dying reefs. They focus on growing types of coral that are more resilient.

I’d be curious what you think of this option, and whether re-growing coral can be part of the solution.

Thanks Paige!


On November 6, 2016, Spencer Bradley commented on Venice: Keeping The ‘Floating City’ Afloat—For Now :

Raphael; thanks for this interesting post on such a life-or-death issue for the city.

I thought your discussion of time-frames and useful lives was particularly interesting. So far in business school, we’ve been discounting future states and future investments–with the effect that things occurring more than, say, 30 years in the future have little impact on decision-making today. This likely isn’t the right framework to use for civil engineering projects like this one, though. Of course it matters whether Venice sinks in 35 years!

I’d be curious to learn more about what kind of future-state discounting is appropriate for this type of decision making.

Thanks Raphael!