The Ticker: Modern business life

Have we finally found the right price for Australia’s high speed rail network? A John Oliver primer on how to make viral videos and Facebook still has a way to go in monetising its Australian users.

On today's blog:

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3.15pm - Jetpack maker plans Australian IPO

By Dow Jones Newswire, BusinessNow

At $US200,000, a Martin Jetpack will likely be too expensive for the average consumer. But its New Zealand manufacturer says investors will have the chance to profit from the next generation of air travel through an initial public offering.

Martin Aircraft Co. Ltd. is looking to raise up to 25 million Australian dollars through a December listing on Australia’s securities exchange. The money will be used to fund further development of its jetpacks – described as “motorcycles in the sky” and designed to carry people or objects at up to 7,000 feet in the air at speeds of 50 miles an hour.

Martin Aircraft plans to offer between 20 million and 50 million ordinary shares priced at $A0.50 through most of November, ahead of a December 8 listing. The company is expected then to have a market value of somewhere between $A97.6 million and $A112.6 million, according to the prospectus.


2.50pm - Facebook still has a way to go in monetising its Australian users

At face value, Facebook’s results look pretty good. Advertising revenue is up, its user base is growing (albeit at a slower pace) and the network appears to be fully capitalising of the rise of mobile ads. 

This focus on advertising was well and truly apparent in Australian MD William Easton’s comment on the results. Here’s what he had to say: 

“The momentum in Australia for Facebook really mirrors the global results.”

“We are seeing increased numbers of people on the platform and there is strong demand from advertisers both large and small. Our investment in new advertising tools Atlas and Liverail, plus our recent launch of video products and Instagram ads, offer Australian marketers exciting opportunities throughout Q4 and into 2015."


We don’t exactly know how Facebook’s Australian arm is performing, as it is reported as part of Asia -- a market with a raft developing internet economies. But if those figures are any indication, Facebook still has a way to go in monetising this market. Take a look at the graphs showing average revenue per user below. First off, here’s Facebook’s best market: the US and Canada.

And here’s Asia’s performance. 

And for comparison, here’s the global average. 


12.25pm - A John Oliver primer on how to make viral videos

A couple of years ago while riding the train home, a senior editor at a leading Australian news organisation asked me “how to make a video go viral?”. He assumed that because I was young, I would know. At the time, I couldn’t give him an answer. Now, I would point to US comedian John Oliver.

Oliver’s witty news-related takedown videos can be best described as a web traffic machine. Unlike one hit wonders like Kony, Oliver’s videos consistently generate interest and traffic. But how does that machine work? Well, this graph from Jack Mirkinson on Medium offers some insight. 

As you can see, Oliver’s virality on the web is actually being driven by the mainstream press.

It’s a cycle. The online media run Oliver’s videos as a means of generating interest from their existing pool of readers. Then, over time, that traffic spreads away from these sites and towards the original source, John Oliver’s YouTube page.

Of course, it all starts with quality content. Oliver’s team produce the show --  and the monologues that often go viral -- on a weekly basis. This means they spend a week fine-tuning the show and -- more importantly -- the delivery.

If you watch enough videos, you’ll also notice that the Oliver’s team usually bases the clips around surprising topics, and write the content so that it invokes laughter and in some cases, awe. These are the very same emotions an earlier study from Buzzsumo found most likely evoke a share response from a user in a study earlier this year. 

Be warned though – as Upworthy noted last year, most of its virally-geared content falls flat.  Producing this kind of content isn’t as simple as it sound. 


10.45am - NASA’s Antares Rocket explodes

By AP News, BusinessNow

A commercial supply ship bound for the International Space Station has exploded moments after lift-off.

Orbital Sciences Corp.’s unmanned rocket blew up over the launch complex at Wallops Island, Virginia, just six seconds after liftoff.

The company says no one was believed to be hurt and the damage appeared to be limited to the facilities but flames could be seen shooting into the sky as the sun set.

The Cygnus cargo ship was loaded with 5,000 pounds (2,267 kilograms) of gear for the six people living on the space station.

It was the fourth Cygnus bound for the orbiting lab; the first flew just over a year ago.

NASA is paying the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences and the California-based SpaceX company to keep the space station stocked in the post-shuttle era.

This is the first disaster in that effort.


10.30am - Bomb threat causes evacuation at Lend Lease development

By Chris Kohler, BusinessNow

Workers have been evacuated from the $6 billion Barangaroo South development in Sydney due to a bomb scare.

The developer of the precinct, Lend Lease, was informed by police this morning that a bomb threat had been made in regard to the site, leading construction workers and staff to be ordered to leave the area.
There have been a number of work delays on the site this year due to a fire and industrial disputes.

“We have been working closely with the NSW Police since they notified us of the bomb threat this morning.  As safety is our priority, we have taken the precautionary step of evacuating the site,” said a spokeswoman for Lend Lease.


10.05am - Have we finally found the right price for Australia’s high speed rail network? 

Higher… higher… lower… Image: AAP

Australia’s ongoing quest to plan and design a high-speed rail network up and down the eastern seaboard has actually devolved into a game of The Price Is Right.

Originally, the network was expected to cost tax payers $124 billion. The government came to that conclusion last December, when it released a report into the matter.

Then, a report from the University of Melbourne revised that cost down to $84bn. Now, a new report from the Australasian Railway Association (ARA) claims we can build the network for $63 billion. That’s right, just under half the amount originally concluded by the federal government.

The ARA claims that based on trends in global construction, the original federal government report grossly overestimated the cost per kilometre for construction. They believe Australia could build the network for a budget $35 million per kilometre. That sounds expensive, but it’s actually the peak price China paid for the construction of its high-speed rail network. 

The ARA has a point, when you look at it from a global perspective. The only problem: each country is unique and has its own set of work conditions, wages and overhead costs. The Productivity Commission summed this up in its own report on infrastructure project costs back in 2012. 

Regardless, this high-speed rail cost guessing game will likely continue into the future. The idea has been around since the 80s and it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. 


9.05am - Interesting reads from around the web

The winners and losers of cheap oil. The hardest hit? Venezuela.

Ten says next year’s The Biggest Loser will be given a Masterchef-style” makeover. Expect tears, tantrums and crushed dreams.

Is Facebook dictating your news agenda? Why newsrooms are wary of getting too involved with the social media giant’s content ambitions.

Don’t underestimate YouTube stars. How one make-up tutorial instructor turned her video series into an $84 million per year business.  

A new study has found that a component in chocolate can reverse memory loss. Curb your enthusiasm; it only works with the elderly.

A long time in the making. Why it took 15 years for Apple to launch Apple Pay.  

And in case you missed it: Tech’s biggest names are talking at the WSJD conference today. You can view yesterday’s talks (including a fascinating chat with Apple’s Tim Cook) here.

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