Variety is Key: Why There Should Be No Need for a Best Social Network

  • Founder and CEO of MyLife.com, Jeff Tinsley suggests social networks should focus more on helping users live their lives and less on trying to serve as the most popular network.
  • “The staying power of social networks — big and small — proves that there needn’t be a ‘best’ social network, or even a ‘most popular.’ Instead, there ought to be a bit more social networking diplomacy,” he writes in Mashable. “While the public battle for ‘most liked’ social network carries on, trends point to a far more satisfying outcome: diversity of choice.”
  • A new comScore report found that people spend 16.6 percent of their time online using social networking sites. In December, the average user spent 151 minutes on Tumblr, 80 minutes on Pinterest and 423 minutes using Facebook. Twitter also saw 37.5 million unique visitors while Google+ had 20.7 million.
  • “Users will embrace a variety of sites, each of which excels at its unique method of connecting, sharing and more,” Tinsley writes. “For the future of social networking, that means tolerance is key, and integration and management tools will have essential roles to play. Those that succeed will offer users simple, comprehensive solutions to maintain their connections and make new ones.”

South By Southwest: Start-Ups Attempting to Resist Reliance on Facebook

  • In the past, companies like Zynga had great success building their offerings around the Facebook platform, using the social network’s user base and personal data.
  • However, this may change in the near future. Start-ups at the South By Southwest conference this week say they are trying to reduce their reliance on Facebook, fearing that the company “may eventually demand steep tolls for using the social network to reach end users with software and services,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Many services use Facebook accounts to sign in on their apps and some popular start-ups that incorporate Facebook don’t pay the company anything for the extra traffic or data.
  • For Facebook, this could spell trouble for the upcoming IPO if it can’t monetize these offerings to other services — like it did with Zynga, which pays Facebook 30 percent of sales on the site.
  • For start-ups, the “profit-oriented” Facebook could eventually place large charges on access to user data, driving the desire to reduce reliance and build out their own platform and independent services.

New COO Says Intel Chips are Ready to Tackle the Mobile Market

  • Qualcomm and Texas Instruments have gained the edge in the handset and tablet market, using ARM technology to manufacture chips for a good portion of mobile devices. However, Intel is trying to challenge that.
  • Intel’s new COO Brian Krzanich tells Reuters that he has improved turnaround times in the company’s factories to meet the expected demand for chips in mobile devices.
  • “Intel is betting its lead in manufacturing technology will help it win more ground from rivals, and it is speeding up the rate at which it uses its most advanced factories to make mobile chips,” Reuters reports.
  • Intel’s new Medfield chip will be used in upcoming smartphones from Lenovo, Motorola Mobility and others, which Wall Street sees as a good start.
  • “What have I brought to manufacturing? Speed and agility,” Krzanich says. “That’s exactly what the PC business and exactly what the phone business will need.”

HBO May Be Close to Relaxing iCloud Ban on Fox and Universal Movies

  • Apple TV took an early hit when Fox and Universal’s movies weren’t available for streaming from the iCloud. The two studios have pre-existing agreements with HBO that protected an exclusive window for the cable channel.
  • “Fortunately, the cable channel is already entering into negotiations with the studios to relax that rule for people who have already bought their movies — having already done so for stablemate Warner Bros. A settlement is expected to be forthcoming in the next few weeks,” Engadget reports.
  • “HBO isn’t planning to give up its exclusive windows, for which it pays hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and which allow it to beam movies to its online service HBO Go as well as to its traditional TV channels,” notes the Wall Street Journal in a related report. “But HBO is relaxing terms to let users of iCloud and other services send movies they already own to other devices during those windows, an HBO spokesman said.”
  • “The issue highlights how behind-the-scenes conflicts between the digital and traditional media worlds affect consumers, often without their knowledge,” adds WSJ. “For years, online retailers have offered some newer movies for sale or rental, only to have those offers disappear again within a few months.”

Aereo Files Countersuit Against Broadcasters, Plans to Launch Tomorrow

  • After prominent broadcasters including ABC, CBS and NBCUniversal filed lawsuits against Aereo regarding its online television service, the company is fighting back with a countersuit.
  • The New York-based company, backed by Barry Diller, believes its plan to retransmit broadcast signals is not illegal and notes that the broadcasters did not send Aereo any formal notice inhibiting the service’s March 14th launch.
  • “Consumers use the Aereo technology to do no more than what they are entitled to do: access local television broadcasts on the public airwaves using an individual antenna; create unique copies of that broadcast content for their own personal use; and play back their unique recordings to their televisions or other viewing devices for their personal use,” the company stated in the filing.
  • According to Reuters, Aereo “advertises itself as a ‘potentially transformative’ service that would complement Google Inc’s YouTube, Netflix Inc and other services that let viewers watch programming online… Broadcasters, however, counter that Aereo’s planned ‘antenna farms’ deprive them of their right to retransmission fees from cable and other companies that rebroadcast their programs.”

How Will Digital Distribution Deals Impact TV Ratings and Ad Revenue?

  • Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott predicts distribution may trump content in the near feature.
  • “A handful of media companies have become overly dependent on digital licensing deals that increasingly have the potential to disrupt ad revenue for all players, including those that have been reluctant to license content to Netflix,” Wible wrote in his report. “In essence, we believe we are nearing a tipping point where distribution is gaining an edge over content.”
  • Even though entertainment industry executives deny that Netflix has affected TV ratings, Wible suggests that fixed pricing for digital deals is hurting media companies.
  • Fixed pricing reduces the companies’ ability to vary the price of ad revenue, which then promotes competition from other networks. These competing networks help to lower ratings and further drop ad revenue. As a result, content producers turn to digital licensing to compensate lost ad revenue.
  • He estimates networks could be losing nearly $9 of ad revenue per home per month and only earning back 35 to 75 cents of monthly revenue with digital licensing deals.

New Internet TV Network to Go Global Backed by Mexican Billionaire

  • Carlos Slim Helú is a Mexican billionaire who owns the largest wireless company in Latin America, América Móvil. His latest venture is an Internet television network called Ora.tv that is recruiting Larry King for a new program similar to “Larry King Live.”
  • “It will have a slate of shows of varying lengths and will stream them via the Internet to computers, phones and television sets in the United States, Latin America and elsewhere, bypassing traditional television distribution systems,” reports The New York Times.
  • King is a co-founder of Ora.tv. His new show will include his wife for a style/celebrity interview segment. His prominence is expected to attract Internet viewers and on-air talent.
  • “Ora.tv and companies like it are trying to reach the growing number of video consumers on computers, tablets, phones and Internet-connected televisions,” the article states. “Google is seeding dozens of on-demand channels that are starting this year on YouTube. Netflix and Hulu are starting original shows. And Amazon is believed to be getting into the business.”

With Emerging Original Content, YouTube Channels Seek Advertisers

  • Back in October, Google announced its plan to spend over $100 million on channels that provide original content as part of “an escalating battle among Internet platforms like Hulu, Netflix and AOL to capture more of television’s advertising dollars,” according to The New York Times.
  • Some of these channels are now starting up but it is uncertain whether a large enough audience will subscribe — the first requirement in acquiring higher ad revenue.
  • According to research firm eMarketer, ad spending for online video is expected to increase about 55 percent this year to $3.1 billion. However, that figure represents a fraction of the $60 billion currently spent on television advertising.
  • “The eventual payoff for the channels is unclear,” explains the article. “YouTube has exclusive rights to the videos for at least a year, and it has not said whether it will continue to finance the channels after those rights expire. (The channel producers own all their content.) A hit channel might bring in enough ad revenue to justify continuing the production, and Google’s standard advertising agreements give content owners a majority share of advertising revenue.”

Google Demands that Developers Use Google Wallet Payment Service

  • Google is requiring app developers for the Android Market, now called Google Play, to use Google Wallet for payments in order to simplify transactions.
  • The Google Wallet payment service charges more per transaction than other services like PayPal, Zong and Boku. The company hopes to compete with the seamless payment system Apple uses for its App Store.
  • Developers have been told that their apps will be suspended from Google Play if they do not comply. From the start, Apple incorporated its own payment system for consistent payments for all content. When the Android Market debuted, it did not have a universal platform for payments.
  • “The initiative is important for Google. While Android Market has been a hit in terms of the number of smartphones using the platform, there has not been a commensurate increase in purchase activity by users,” explains Reuters. “This is partly because the buying experience has been varied and confusing for users — reducing the chance that they will go through with a purchase, something known as conversion.”

Companies Defecting from Google Maps Due to Fees and Advertising

  • Originally free, Google began monetizing its Google Maps service in October: “Lightweight usage was still free — subject to terms of service, of course. However, significant load volumes would begin to incur charges: basically, services and applications that generated more 25,000 map loads per day would be charged $40 to $10 for every additional 1,000 map loads. For folks using styled maps — the most intensive and customized option — the initial threshold is 2,500 maps per day,” reports Digital Trends.
  • For average users, this is of little effect. But for big companies like Foursquare and Apple that have incorporated the service on their various products, the pricing is too much.
  • Some companies have made the switch to UK-based OpenStreetMap, a free non-profit service reliant on users providing geographic data — similar to Wikipedia.
  • “OpenStreetMap data can differ from Google Maps in many significant ways. First, while it often has great coverage of cities and heavily populated areas, parts further afield can present some challenges. It also lacks niceties like satellite imagery and Google’s Street View,” the article explains.
  • Possibly more off-putting than the fees are Google’s ever-expanding advertising efforts on the Google Maps platform. Although providing its map service for free enabled Google to be fairly ubiquitous, the reliance on their service may subside. Apple might even look into developing its own map service.

Netflix and Apple TV Deal: First Step Toward New Business Models?

  • The new software update for Apple TV enables users to subscribe to Netflix and MLB.tv directly from the device, using their iTunes account for payments.
  • This upgrade resembles Apple’s in-app subscription model on iOS that earns Apple a 30 percent revenue cut on magazine and digital service subscriptions.
  • For Netflix, this model could be used for their potential cable partnerships. “Most modern cable boxes would be capable of working with Netflix with an appropriate firmware and software update (or, cable companies could rent new Netflix-enabled boxes to those users who don’t already have Netflix built into all of their home theater devices), with the added advantage of offering TV content from one box,” Mashable suggests.
  • For Apple, this could be the first step toward its own subscription television service. “If Netflix sees success with the offering, perhaps other subscription services — either over-the-air (OTA) or cable-back — could come to Apple TV as well,” the post predicts. “An a la carte offering of premium content that is billed through one party and viewable on an array of connected devices could be a good start at disrupting the current cable business model.”

Insiders Suggest Sprint Planning to End Deal with Falcone’s LightSquared

  • Sprint had an agreement with LightSquared to build and operate its national wireless network for 11 years. In return, LightSquared agreed to pay Sprint $9 billion and another $4.5 billion in service credits.
  • However, according to two sources familiar with the project, Sprint could be quitting the partnership as billionaire Philip Falcone’s LightSquared gets hung up with the FCC.
  • Concerned over interference with global-positioning systems, the FCC said it would block LightSquared’s wireless venture. While the company looks for a resolution, Sprint’s activities have been on hold.
  • Sprint received an advanced payment of $310 million for start up costs and it will keep about $236 million if the partnership falls through.

Infographic Highlights Emerging Trends and Outlook for Mobile Commerce

  • Online retailer CultureLabel offers a compelling infographic that illustrates the mobile commerce industry outlook, noting in particular the massive growth of smartphone adoption.
  • According to the statistics, 87 percent of the world’s population currently has mobile phones, while smartphone sales have risen 63.1 percent from 2010.
  • About a third of cell phone users spend 27 minutes on communication (Skype, telephone, SMS) and over half of consumers spend 40 minutes per day on the Web.
  • Social networking accounted for an impressive 50 percent of all page views last year.
  • CultureLabel notes that 71 percent of mobile searches occur as follow-up to advertisements from TV, online or print ads — and 90 percent of searches result in action such as a purchase or store visit.
  • Mobile commerce is estimated to see a 99 fold increase in six years (from 2009 to 2015). By 2015, mobile Web surfing is expected to overtake desktop Web use.

Will New Samsung Galaxy Pocket Compete with the Nokia Lumia?

  • Listed at $140, the new Galaxy Pocket from Samsung could be sold for as little as $20 or $30 with a two year contract.
  • It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, has an 832 MHz processor, 2-megapixel rear camera and 320 x 240 resolution for its 2.8-inch display.
  • The Pocket is likely a response to Nokia’s less expensive Lumia brand that runs Windows Phone OS.
  • “For the Galaxy Pocket to truly compete with that, it would need a bit more power under the hood,” TG Daily writes, “although if it does manage to strike a free-phone deal with a major carrier in the U.S., it could be a significant growth opportunity not only for Samsung but for the entire Android platform as a whole.”

Apple Unveils New iPad Featuring Retina Display, A5X CPU and 4G LTE

  • Apple introduced the third generation of its iPad yesterday.
  • The new 9.7-inch Retina display boasts 3.1 million pixels and improved color saturation. The tablet is outfitted with an A5X processor and quad-core graphics chip.
  • Similar to the new camera in the iPhone 4S, the new iPad has a 5-megapixel iSight camera capable of shooting 1080p video.
  • Available for LTE, the new software also enables the iPad to be used as a portable Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Although Siri isn’t fully integrated, a new voice-dictation feature is included, allowing consumers to speak instead of type.
  • “The new iPad will be available March 16th, starting at $499 for the 16GB WiFi model and scaling up to $829 for the 64GB version with 4G,” reports Engadget.

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