Branding: Mark Cuban Shifting from Facebook to Smaller Sites

  • Goodbye Facebook, hello Twitter. Tech billionaire Mark Cuban says he’s moving his business away from the top social network to smaller sites because, “it now appears that to extend beyond minimal reach is going to cost brands more money,” Cuban told ReadWrite.
  • “That’s because in September Facebook changed the algorithm that controls which messages get through to which members,” the article explains. “The result is that some brands a sharp dropoff in the reach of their posts — as much as 50 percent in some cases.”
  • Facebook says the change was directed at reducing the spam in users’ newsfeeds — not getting more money from brands.
  • Cuban, however, is unconvinced. “I think this is a reflection of Facebook searching for more revenue since going public and the more it costs to reach followers on Facebook the lower the value to the brand of being on Facebook.”
  • Cuban owns the Dallas Mavericks, and recently Facebook wanted to charge him $3,000 to promote a post to one million of the Mavericks Facebook fans.
  • “The big negative for Facebook is that we will no longer push for likes or subscribers because we can’t reach them all,” Cuban says. “Why would we invest in extending our Facebook audience size if we have to pay to reach them? That’s crazy.”
  • Cuban says he won’t be abandoning the social network altogether but wants to reach followers first on other platforms. “In addition to Myspace, Twitter and Tumblr are both ready, willing and able to support brand activation without holding followers hostage for additional revenue.”
  • “I get that they want to reduce the speed at which news scrolls off of people’s Facebook pages. The more stuff, the less you see; the less you see, the less you engage. All good points by Facebook,” Cuban admits. “But it’s a reflection of overall design and strategy weakness.”

Are Shoppable YouTube Videos the Walkmans of Ecommerce Ads?

  • Earlier this spring, YouTube began testing a feature that embeds links to external sites within videos and advertisements. Right now, the feature forces the video to pause when you click on the links, which is disruptive and similar to using a Walkman versus an iPod.
  • “This is the Sony Walkman of ecommerce and video,” says Darrell Whitelaw, executive creative director at IPG Media Lab. “The thinking is spot-on, but the execution is just awful.”
  • YouTube recently teamed up with Juicy Couture for a fashion ad that links directly to the product pages of the clothes seen in the video. Juicy Couture says the technology shows strong ROI potential.
  • Other brands like Gucci have created similar shoppable videos for YouTube with third-party technology, “but this is the first time an advertising platform the size of YouTube has enabled shoppable videos and video ads,” Fast Company writes. “Advertising creatives say it’s a move that hints at — but doesn’t quite encompass — the future.”
  • In the coming years, media experts envision shoppable ads that enable consumers to purchase within videos by clicking any product in the video and buying it.
  • “Every evolution starts with something like this,” Whitelaw says. “I’m not taking away from the quality of it. It’s amazing that someone actually did it and got a client to say yes, let’s jump in and do this new thing. But you still have to look at the fact the next one — that perfect, beautiful experience — that’s going to be the one that gets people to buy.”

Q3 Global Report: Streaming Video on Tablets Jumps 90 Percent

  • Tablets are no longer just a second screen, according to the recently released Q3 Global Video Index report from video analytics group Ooyala.
  • “Tablets are redefining the way we watch TV, and are often used as the ‘first screen’ people turn to when streaming TV shows, movies and sporting events,” indicates the report.
  • Ooyala studied 200 million unique viewers from more than 130 countries. The post includes an infographic of the findings, which VentureBeat summarizes:
  • “Tablet owners spent 71 percent of their total tablet video viewing time watching videos 10 minutes or longer,” while “30 percent of total tablet viewing time was spent watching content over an hour long.”
  • “The overall share of tablet video viewing grew 90 percent in the past two quarters,” notes the report. “The amount of time users spent watching live video on gaming consoles more than doubled in Q3,” and “Desktop viewers tuned into live video for an average of 40 minutes.”
  • Additionally, the report found the share of tablet viewing jumped 26 percent after the iPad 3 was released in March. Currently, 29 percent of U.S. adults own a tablet or e-reader compared to the mere 2 percent in 2009.
  • These numbers are not surprising in light of the many affordable tablets recently launched, such as Google’s updated line of Nexus tablets, Amazon’s new Kindle HD, Barnes & Noble’s Nook HD and the new iPad mini.
  • “With more tablets hitting the market every day, video publishing and monetization strategies must adapt to this new reality of Tablet TV,” suggests Ooyala.

Globalization of Cyberspying: No Longer Domain of Nation States

  • Researchers at Norman Security discovered a cyberespionage campaign that targeted Israeli and Palestinian organizations for more than a year, suggesting “cyberspying is a global phenomenon and no longer mostly the domain of massive nation-states like China,” reports Dark Reading.
  • “The discovery of this latest operation highlights just how popular and easy it has become to execute cyberspying. Thanks to ease of access and use of remote access Trojan (RAT) tools and reliability of social engineering, you don’t need nation-state backing to conduct these types of targeted attacks.”
  • “RATs traditionally had been associated with Chinese-based attackers, but that conventional wisdom is shifting as other nations and politically motivated attackers move to cyberspying via these tools to more efficiently gather intelligence on their marks,” the article continues.
  • Norman’s report did not draw conclusions on who was behind the attacks, but confirmed it was the same hacker for both.
  • “We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg,” says Einar Oftedal, deputy CTO at Norman, referring to the global potential of cyberspying. Oftedal says the attack was not “too advanced.”
  • “I believe that next year we’ll see more actors from different nations” conducting cyberespionage, says Aviv Raff, CTO of Seculert. “I think such efforts are already in place, and [we] saw that with last year’s attacks. The way I see this is that next year, more of such attacks will be discovered — meaning they are taking place as we speak but go under the radar.”

Addressing Copyright Issues by Turning Pirates into Customers

  • As MP3s became ubiquitous, the music industry failed to “distinguish between average fans and professional pirates, and embittering a whole generation of users,” reports paidContent.
  • Now with increased popularity of photo-sharing sites, the copyright problem has surfaced in the photo world and one image owner is taking a new tactic to enforce copyrights.
  • Major image owners like Getty have mimicked the music industry, attacking violators with lawsuits that have become a significant source of revenue.
  • “The problem is that, in most cases, there’s little connection between the harm and the damages,” the article notes. “When a blog or a small business or a Tumblr user posts a picture, they don’t deprive the owner of thousands of dollars but are simply using an image that could, in most cases, be replaced with many others.”
  • The Getty argues that simply using the DCMA copyright takedown process does not adequately compensate photographers for the use of their images, but the article suggests it is likely “most of the money Getty collects goes to the company and lawyers, not to the photographers.”
  • Micro-stock agency Dreamstime has come up with a different approach to dealing with copyright infringements, which is “much more sensible,” the article notes.
  • “Unlike other image owners, Dreamstime does not sic lawyers on people who like its photos. Instead the company, which claims to have more than 5 million users, responds by sending them a notice to take the image down or else to buy a license at the going rate which can be as low as $8.”
  • “We want to respond to copyrighted images but we want to do it in a different, non-heavy-handed way,” says CEO Serban Enache. “This is very successful way of turning unauthorized users into customers. Once they learn of the license, they often obtain larger licenses.”

Droid DNA: HTC and Verizon Wireless Unveil 1080p Smartphone

  • Often overshadowed by Samsung and Apple, HTC is teaming up with Verizon Wireless to offer the Droid DNA, which will be sold for $199 this holiday season.
  • “The 5-inch phone, which will run Android 4.1, stands out because of its 1080p Super LCD 3 display, which shows 440 pixels per inch, more than any other smartphone in the U.S. market,” writes GigaOM.
  • “The display also features a wide 80-degree viewing area, can handle blurry action better and is reportedly 50 percent brighter than the Samsung Galaxy S III.”
  • The Droid DNA will undoubtedly draw attention with its impressive display and quad-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor. However, there is some question regarding whether consumers will notice the added clarity and whether the screen will drain the battery.
  • The Droid DNA will provide 2GB RAM and 16GB of storage, but it will be difficult “to explain why every day consumers will need all that power,” suggests the post.
  • Other features include wireless charging, an ultra-wide lens for the front-facing 720p camera, Beats Audio profile, two amplifiers for headphones and speakers.
  • Whether this powerful phone can signal a shift for HTC remains to be seen, but “the phone is beautiful, very sleek and elegant,” GigaOM writes. “It’s a phone that looks good coming out of your pocket and feels good in your hand.”

Samsung Reportedly Working on Flexible OLED Displays for Mobile

  • Samsung has been developing flexible plastic displays for mobile devices, and according to a person familiar with the project, the technology will be released in the first half of next year, although it may be sometime before they are commercially available.
  • “The key reason for Samsung to use plastic rather than conventional glass is to produce displays that aren’t breakable,” says Shinyoung Securities analyst Lee Seung-chul.
  • “The technology could also help lower manufacturing costs and help differentiate its products from other rivals,” he adds.
  • It is uncertain how much Samsung has invested in the venture, but the company can afford investment, the Wall Street Journal suggests. Samsung’s display business profits have soared, rising 91 percent from a year ago.
  • The new displays incorporate OLED technology; using plastic instead of glass will make displays more durable and light.
  • Many companies have developed flexible OLED prototypes, but “manufacturers haven’t been able to commercialize them or use them in devices due to technological barriers in mass production,” notes the article. “Samsung hopes it will be first to bring the product to the market.”
  • According to analyst Julius Kim at Woori Investment & Securities, “Samsung is still busy making the original glass-type displays for its latest Galaxy S III smartphones and Galaxy Note II devices, so profit-wise the new displays don’t seem to be that attractive.”

Vimeo Readies Pay-Per-View Platform: Offers Six Streaming Movies

  • As a precursor to Vimeo’s launch of a pay-per-view platform early next year, the site is offering six paid-streaming titles, some of which will be available for up to two months.
  • “The movies, which include ‘We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivists’ as well as the LCD Soundsystem concert movie ‘Shut Up and Play the Hits’ are meant to preview different features that will be available to all content producers once Vimeo rolls out pay-per-view in earnest early next year,” GigaOM writes.
  • Some of the titles include access to exclusive extra content. Vimeo allows content producers to set regional restrictions and pricing.
  • Viewers can access the titles on PCs, iPads, mobile phones and select over-the-top devices such as Apple TV, Boxee and Roku, notes the post.
  • “Vimeo first announced pay-per-view as an additional monetization option in September, when it also rolled out tip jars for content producers,” explains GigaOM. “It’s not the only video site offering pay-per-view: YouTube has been offering select partners the option to charge for their streams for some time.”

Long Awaited Google Fiber Goes Live in Kansas City at 700Mbps

  • The $70/month gigabit home Internet service Google Fiber has been highly anticipated, and after the service finally went live in Kansas City Tuesday, the verdict is in: “It’s unbelievable,” one user remarked.
  • Mike Demarais is the founder of Threedee and has been staying in Kansas City’s Startup Village, “an informal group of entrepreneurs who have clustered around homes immediately eligible for Google Fiber,” Ars Technica explains.
  • “We just got it today and I’ve been stuck in front of my laptop for the last few hours,” Demarais said. “I’m probably not going to leave the house.”
  • “Demarais said that on an Ethernet connection, he’s seen consistent Google Fiber speeds of 600 to 700Mbps, with Wi-Fi topping out around 200Mbps,” the article states. “Even at the slower wireless speeds, that’s more than an order of magnitude faster than what most Americans have at home.”
  • The entrepreneur, whose company aims to add to the growing 3D printing industry, said he was partly driven to Kansas City by Google Fiber’s offering. “Wherever I go after this, my Internet speed is going to be ruined.”
  • Demarais’ other draw was being able to live for free in the “Homes For Hackers” in the Startup Village. Web developer Ben Barreth bought the house to nourish Kansas City’s tech community, offering free housing for three months to entrepreneurs.
  • “People are too quick to discredit the value of a free-rent environment with like-minded people. KC needs to separate itself from the other scenes,” Demarais said. “Why here? Fiber is not enough. I think you need to have a dense startup community, and if young people are not moving here and trying to start startups, you need to artificially create that flow.”

Former Pixar Talent to Launch Toy Talk: Raises $16 Million in Funding

  • Artificial intelligence startup Toy Talk, which is targeted toward kids and entertainment, has raised a total of $16 million in funding after recently collecting $12 million in a Series A funding round.
  • Former Pixar CTO Oren Jacob is leading the venture. “Jacob worked for Pixar on ‘Toy Story,’ ‘A Bug’s Life,’ ‘Toy Story 2’ and ‘Finding Nemo,’ and fellow co-founder Martin Reddy, who worked on artificial intelligence at SRI International, also worked at Pixar on films including ‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘The Incredibles,’ ‘Cars,’ ‘Ratatouille,’ and ‘WALL-E,'” GigaOM reports.
  • As of now, Toy Talk remains in “stealth mode,” the post states. The company released a teaser video to demonstrate the concept, which has been described as “Teddy Ruxpin meets Siri.”
  • “Toy Talk is the name of the company — I think it should be pretty obvious what we’re trying to do,” Jacob said at GigaOM‘s RoadMap conference.
  • Investors include Charles River Ventures, Greylock Partners, First Round Capital, True Ventures and multiple angel investors. Toy Talk will launch in 2013.
  • The post includes the one-minute trailer.

AdTrap: Kickstarter Project Provides Tool for Blocking Internet Advertising

  • Three innovative thinkers from Palo Alto, California want to block all Internet ads — meaning no more website banners, no commercials in video streams, and no pop-ups in mobile apps.
  • To do so, the team created AdTrap, a $120 box that sits between a cable modem and wireless router.
  • “AdTrap is basically a small computer running the Linux operating system, programmed to recognize and block every sort of ad its creators could identify,” Quartz explains. “Many people already have ad blockers on our web browsers, but AdTrap’s combination of simplicity and comprehensiveness are reasons it could take off.”
  • Right now, the project has collected $20,000 in funding on Kickstarter, but the device won’t ship unless it gains $150,000 worth of pledges by December 8th.
  • There are Internet purists who would be very attracted to AdTrap, but Quartz suggests the average consumer might not be willing to pay $120 to remove what has simply become background noise.
  • If the project is successful, however, it could spell trouble for some websites.
  • “AdTrap is ‘open and very hackable,’ which means that it could be updated to block new kinds of advertisements,” notes the article. “It also promises to block the user tracking that many Internet advertisements engage in. Advertisers will hate that, of course, and so will the websites that depend on them.”

Content Distributor Discovers Niche DVD Market Alive in Streaming Era

  • “A lot of people are falsely calling for the demise of the DVD business,” says Bob Emmer, co-founder of content distributor Shout! Factory. In fact, DVDs are still a vital source of revenue, he adds.
  • “Emmer explained that while overall DVD sales have declined, there is still enough demand for niche products, such as classic TV shows and movies, to serve a loyal constituency,” reports MarketWatch. “Some of this content hasn’t been released, or was issued in a perfunctory manner early in the life of the DVD format.”
  • “I don’t have to sell 3 million units,” Emmer says. “We’re okay with far fewer unit sales because we don’t have a lot of overhead, and the numbers bear that out. We’ve been on the incline with this type of product over the last seven or eight years.”
  • His company Shout has released complete-series DVD sets of “All In The Family,” “Leave It To Beaver,” “Route 66,” “Barney Miller,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “The Larry Sanders Show” and “My So-Called Life.”
  • Some of the series were previously released but were abandoned following weak sales. A few studios and other distributors have also started re-releasing DVD sets of TV shows.
  • “There’s a market out there for almost anything,” Emmer says. “People don’t always consider how many consumers are out there who don’t have a high-speed Internet connection.”

Wireless Charging Tech Expected to Take Off, Despite Standards Issues

  • Procter & Gamble is looking to launch its Duracell Powermat wireless charging technology in Madison Square Garden, giving away 5,000 iPhone smartphone cases to New York Knicks season-ticket holders. The arena will be outfitted with 550 charging spots and the venture will cost P&G millions.
  • “Although the consumer demand is potentially huge,” Businessweek writes, “wireless charging has been slow to take off. There are currently fewer than 10 million devices in circulation in the U.S. able to charge wirelessly, mostly phones and accessories, according to researcher IHS.”
  • The firm projects the global shipments of wirelessly charged devices will jump to almost 100 million in 2015 compared to the mere 5 million units this year.
  • “Without one accepted standard, though, companies run the risk of investing in products that may be obsolete in a couple of years,” the article states.
  • Currently, there are three main competing platforms. The Duracell Powermat supports the PMA standard as part of the Power Matters Alliance. LG Electronics, Energizer and Nokia are all members of the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC) that offers a different technology called Qi. The Alliance for Wireless Power has yet another standard, backed by Samsung and 19 other companies.
  • WPC is PMA’s greatest threat; the consortium has agreements with car manufacturers to install Qi charging stations in North American cars.
  • “To hedge their bets, some automakers and other companies are testing multiple standards. Others are embedding several technologies into their gear,” Businessweek writes. “The ultimate winning standard of wireless charging may not emerge until at least 2014, says Jason dePreaux, principal analyst at IHS. What could tip the scales is the maker of the world’s most popular smartphone, Apple, which has yet to back a standard.”

Microsoft Translation Software Converts English to Chinese in Real Time

  • At an October presentation in Tianjin, China, Microsoft’s chief research officer Rick Rashid demonstrated a software “that translates spoken English into spoken Chinese almost instantly, while preserving the unique cadence of the speaker’s voice — a trick that could make conversation more effective and personal,” reports Technology Review.
  • Already, the technology has attracted significant interest, and Rashid’s presentation has spread across Chinese social media sites.
  • “The system works by recognizing a person’s words, quickly converting the text into properly ordered Chinese sentences, and then handing those over to speech synthesis software that has been trained to replicate the speaker’s voice,” the article explains.
  • “The software requires about an hour of training to be able to synthesize speech in a person’s voice, which it does by tweaking a stock text-to-speech model so it makes certain sounds in the same way the speaker does.”
  • AT&T and Google have also made translation prototypes. However, neither can match a speaker’s voice.
  • Microsoft’s system is based on neural network technology that mimics the processing pathways of brain cells. Rashid says the technique vastly improves recognition accuracy.
  • “Rather than having one word in four or five incorrect, now the error rate is one word in seven or eight,” he wrote in a blog post about the demonstration.
  • “We don’t yet know the limits on accuracy of this technology — it is really too new,” Rashid says. “As we continue to ’train’ the system with more data, it appears to do better and better.”

Emerging Trend: Professional Ads Turning to User-Generated Photography

  • “User-generated content — the feel and the actual images — is very intimate, and that visual language is very familiar to people,” says David Gelb, a documentary director. Advertisers are starting to take advantage of this by incorporating simple smartphone pictures into their top-brand ads.
  • Already, there has been notable traction. Two pictures of the same mirrored chrome nail lacquer were posted on the e-commerce site theFancy.com. The traditional product shot by Barneys was liked or “fancied” about 1,400 times. The second photo taken on an iPhone was fancied 9,000 times, even though Stacey Bendet, who posted it, has around 9,000 fewer Fancy followers than Barneys.
  • “Our customer doesn’t want to be sold to all the time,” says Bendet, who designs her own clothing label. “She is moved by the real thing.”
  • Taco Bell made an ad for its Doritos Locos Tacos using customers’ Instagram pictures. The online dress-rental company Rent the Runway features real women wearing its clothes on the home page, rather than showing traditional images with professional models.
  • “The point is to manufacture glamour that doesn’t seem manufactured. Consumers ‘like’ your ad, share it with friends, and soon it has a life of its own, bouncing around social media sites at no extra cost,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • While companies still work up professional glossies for magazines, the use of smartphone cameras and street-style photography is becoming increasingly popular, even among haute couture companies.
  • “The photos that are resonating online are the ones that come from our phones,” says Stacy Mackler, Lancome USA spokeswoman.

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