London Inc. Weekly 08 • 03 • 2018

Diply reduces staff as it grapples with Facebook algorithm changes

ACCORDING TO A report in The Logic, a news site dedicated to in-depth reporting on Canada’s innovation economy, viral content publisher Diply has laid off 40 employees at its London-based headquarters and its Toronto and New York offices.

The staff reduction is a reaction to a steady decline in traffic to the Diply website, due primarily to a number of content algorithm changes by Facebook. The most recent change, made in January, substantially decreased the amount of space given to publishers on users’ news feeds.

The story cites web traffic numbers from internet research firm SimilarWeb, which reports total visits to Diply’s website fell about 85 per cent between July 2016 and June 2018. The site generated 110 million visits in July 2016, but according to the firm’s data, that number fell to just 13.7 million in June 2018.

The story, which includes excerpts from a memo to staff from CEO Taylor Ablitt, states that Diply relies heavily on Facebook sharing to circulate its content—the Facebook network accounts for over 90 per cent of its desktop social traffic, according to SimilarWeb.

Earlier this month, The Logic reported on declines in Diply’s web traffic and social shares, as well as an earlier round of layoffs in February. It also points to other viral internet publishers experiencing hardship since Facebook’s algorithm changes. Viral Thread, ViralNova, 9GAG and Bored Panda have all seen traffic reductions, while the website LittleThings closed down entirely in February and blamed the changes.


Student-industry partnership produces unique robotic solution

A ONE-OF-A-KIND ROBOT is hard at work thanks to a research collaboration between London-based A&L Canada Laboratories and Fanshawe College.

A&L, one of the province’s largest agricultural and environmental laboratories specializing in soil, plant tissue, fertilizer and water testing, approached the college with a specific problem related to the automation of their soil sampling. A&L was at capacity with its equipment and needed to develop a new way to analyze its organic matter to increase productivity. 

“The robot is one-of-a-kind that enables us to now do about five to six thousand samples a day, in an eight-hour day,” says A&L president, Greg Patterson. He says Fanshawe’s geographical proximity, as well as its competences in engineering and computer programming, were both crucial to this applied research project.

The student-industry collaboration, funded through the College and Community Innovation Program, promotes skill development aimed at resolving specific problems while strengthening college-industrial relationships. The partnership also includes guidelines pertaining to intellectual property (IP).

“The great thing about the college is that we are all very IP friendly,” says Lindsay Engel, community and industry research chair with Fanshawe’s Centre for Research and Innovation. “We’re not interested in selling the idea, or moving it forward as an institution. We want the IP to reside with the company, and it is theirs to sell and commercialize. This is really important, as our goal is to be an economic contributor by helping to increase profitability within our community.”


London-area home resale market posts strengthening numbers in July

THE LONDON AND St. Thomas Association of Realtors announced yesterday that 1,000 homes were sold in July, down 1.8 per cent over the same time last year. July 2018 marked the third best July for home resales since the Association began tracking sales data in 1978.

“The numbers tell us we’re experiencing a very healthy summer for home resales,” says Jeff Nethercott, 2018 LSTAR president. “This is the third consecutive month of at least 1,000 homes being sold and the resale activity remains above the 10-year average. Inventory remains at a 10-year low, while we continue to see an increase in average sales price.”

By geographic area, London East continues to make the largest gains, with the average July sales price at $288,648 up 14.3 per cent from July 2017 and up 40.2 per cent compared to July 2015. The average sales price in London North was $441,035 up 8.0 per cent from July 2017 and up 35.9 per cent compared to July 2015. Meanwhile, the average sales price in London South was $370,399, up 10.9 per cent from July 2017 and up 32.2 per cent from July 2015.

Overall, the average July sales price across London and St. Thomas was $360,068, up 10.3 per cent from July 2017 and up 34.2% from July 2015. Going back further, it’s a 68.2 per cent increase compared to the average sales price 10 years ago.

“One of the biggest trends in 2018 is the lack of inventory,” Nethercott continues. “In July, there were 1,721 active listings, down 10.9 per cent from this time last year and down 55 per cent from July 2015. The sales-to-new listings ratio was 78.9 per cent, which the Canadian Real Estate Association says represents conditions in the marketplace that favour sellers—a ratio between 40 and 60 per cent is generally consistent with a balanced market. In London East, the sales-to-new listings ratio was 89.1 per cent, while in London South it was 81 per cent.”


The Park Hotel London unveils $5-million renovation

THE PARK HOTEL London, located at 242 Pall Mall Street, has pulled the curtains back on a $5-million renovation of its 126 guest suites.

The work to the all-suite hotel, which began in January 2018, followed a rebranding from the StationPark Hotel to The Park Hotel London. The hotel has also been accepted into membership of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, a referral network that represents more than 650 hotels, resorts, residences hotel groups across 85 countries.

Updates includes sleek, minimalistic furnishings, mid-century modern elements and a palette of greys, blacks and beiges with pops of vibrant colours.

“The feedback we are getting from our guests is just amazing,” says general manager, Jeffrey Dennis. “Also, having the ability now for our guests to collect I-Prefer Points and/or AeroPlan Miles is a real benefit that we couldn’t offer before. This rejuvenated landmark hotel will serve our guests for many years to come.”

The independent boutique-style property was opened in 1990 by London-based Decade Group Inc. and was the city’s first suite-style hotel. Today, the property is owned Mississauga-based Westmont Hospitality Group, one of the largest hotel operators and managers in Canada with over 100 brand names in its stable, including Marriott, Delta, Sheraton, Hilton, Holiday Inn, Best Western, Comfort Inn, Quality, Radisson, Ramada and Travelodge, as well as a number of unique independent hotels.


Social enterprise Textbooks for Change hits major milestone

TEXTBOOKS FOR CHANGE (T4C), a social enterprise that collects and repurposes used textbooks from college and university students across Canada, has achieved a major milestone, delivering 250,000 textbooks to university libraries across East Africa.

T4C was founded in London by Ivey School of Business graduate Chris Janssen. In 2013, he travelled to East Africa and saw that many university libraries were essentially bare and the books they had were old and tattered. He knew students had piles of high-quality textbooks that were just collecting dust in Canada, and founded T4C in 2014 to address the problem.

The agency collects used textbooks from college and university students across Canada. About 50 per cent are donated to East African university libraries; 30 per cent are recycled; and 20 per cent are resold at affordable prices to students across North America.

During the past five years, T4C has also has distributed over $250,000 in donations to student clubs, non-profits and in micro-loans to deserving entrepreneurs. The agency has received “Best in the World” honours as one of the top social enterprises and B-Corporations worldwide for three years.

Janssen now resides in Kenya and is working on growing his next social enterprise, eLengo, a digital education platform which will provide entrepreneurs the tools they need to launch and operate small businesses.

Community members can donate used post-secondary textbooks (published during the last 15 years) to T4C drop boxes located across Ontario. Drop box locations can be found at here


Business Events Calendar

Featured Event:

Dundas Place Arts Festival

Dundas Street businesses are throwing a party celebrating their street, the arts, and unique downtown experiences. The street will be programmed by participating businesses, buskers, artists, and entertainment.

Upcoming Events:

Ontario Summer Games: August 2-5, 2018

SBC Accounting Advice: August 7, 2018

SBC Open for Business: August 9, 2018

Business Acceleration Workshop: August 9, 2018

Forest City Beer Festival: August 10-11, 2018

Dundas Place Arts Festival: August 11, 2018

Dropship Ecommerce with Shopify Meetup: August 11, 2018

Careers and Volunteers That Give Back: August 13, 2018

Canadian Beef Industry Conference: August 14-16, 2018

Grant Seekers Guide to the Galaxy: August 15, 2018

Open 4 Business: August 16, 2018

Propel Entrepreneurship PSI 2018 Demo Day: August 16, 2018

London Chamber Business After Five: August 16, 2018