After shepherding a billion riders to and fro since its inception, Uber tells us in a blog post Tuesday, it came up with a new idea: “What if developers could also offer users of their apps new ways to enjoy themselves — or get stuff done — while they’re on the road?” And so it is rolling out Trip Experiences, “which is a fancy name for mobile notifications and content from third-party services,” writes Kia Kokalitcheva for Fortune.
“The idea is that while you’re in an Uber car on the way to your destination, other apps and services can push you content to consume during your ride,” Kokalitcheva explains. “And because these third parties are connecting to you through Uber’s application programming interface, or API, the content can be customized to your trip since data about the destination and duration can be accessed.”
If that seems like techy mumbo-jumbo, “some examples of what Trip Experiences could offer include a music playlist timed for the length of the ride, a five-minute news update, reviews of a restaurant you’re about to visit or a reminder to turn on the heat when you’re on your way home,” reports Selina Wang for Bloomberg Business. (My editor is already working on a guided tours app.)
“Of course, these are just the benign possibilities for Uber's Trip Experiences,” suggestsThe Verge’sAndrew J. Hawkins. “Others may see this as an opportunity for brands to inundate users with ads and irritating notifications during their Uber rides. Putting your code in the other companies' hands is a slippery slope. Maybe there's a McDonald's nearby your drop-off location. Here's a McDonald's ad to help remind you of that fact.”
“But,” as the subhed over Hawkins' story points out, “only if you let it.”
As Uber product manager Chris Saad writes in the company's post: “Users will be in complete control. They will need to give permission before any app can connect to Uber and access their trip details. And if they find it’s not useful, users will be able to turn off the feature on an app by app basis.”
Over in Bengaluru, India, Dmitry Shevelenko, head of business for Uber developer platform, announced the launch of Trip Experiences in person at the company’s first hackathon in the city, Shalina Pillai reports for the Times of India.
“We value the time of our riders and are always seeing new ways to maximize the enjoyment and utility of their time in an Uber,” he told the assembled developers. “From media to gaming to IoT, it creates new opportunities for developers to build Uber integrations that enhance the user experience while on an Uber trip.”
Uber announced July 31 that it would invest $1 billion over the next nine months in India alone to increase daily ridership from about 200,000 to a million, as Aditi Shrivastava reported in the Economic Times. Uber began operating in India in Bengaluru in October 2013.
“Uber's estimated valuation may be bigger than the economies of many countries, but the ever-expanding San Francisco-based startup, now operating in 58 countries, still faces its share of challenges: opposition from traditional taxi companies, competition from Lyft and others, battles with its drivers over whether or not they're employees, negative press about alleged assaults by drivers,” CNET’s Katie Collins reminds us. “By providing services that cater to the lifestyles of its highly connected customers, Uber can stay on top of its game and continue to endear itself to users.”
Meanwhile, The Informationgot its hands on confidential documents issued by Uber as part of financing efforts last year that disclose that its “losses grew to nearly a billion dollars in the first half of last year, nearly 50% more than its full-year losses in 2014.”
The takeaway of Amir Efrati’s piece is: “Uber is losing money to gain market share in emerging markets that have fierce incumbents, but overall, it’s increasing the percentage of money it keeps from rider payments. And one projection shows the company could generate $14 billion in profit from developed-world markets during the next four years, as more cities turn cash-flow positive.”
Scanning the information, Forbes’ Brian Solomon discovers that “sales and marketing, Uber’s largest expense category, registered $246 million for 2014. The category expanded to $295 million in the first half of 2015, and more than doubled just from the first quarter ($98.2 million) to the second ($196.8 million).”
Advertising as we knew it may be on its way to the morgue, but there are still a lot of marketing dollars out there looking for a cheap and efficient ride.