Online Shopping Spikes, Amazon Hires 100,000 New Workers

As the coronavirus fuels a rise in online sales, Amazon plans to hire 100,000 more workers and raise pay for all employees in the U.S. and Canada by $2 an hour. The company’s starting wage is currently $15 per hour in its U.S. fulfillment centers. In the U.K., wages will rise £2 ($2.45) per hour and approximately €2 ($2.24) an hour in many European Union countries. At end of 2019, Amazon employed almost 800,000 full-time and part-time workers. Other companies are also seeing increased online sales as a result of COVID-19. Continue reading Online Shopping Spikes, Amazon Hires 100,000 New Workers

Walmart Tests Paid Membership Program, Vying with Amazon

Walmart is preparing to publicly test a paid membership program, dubbed Walmart+, to complete with Amazon Prime. According to eMarketer, Walmart accounts for five percent of all U.S. online retail sales versus Amazon’s 40 percent. Currently, more than half of Walmart’s top spenders are also Amazon Prime members. To distinguish itself from Prime, Walmart plans to offer features that Amazon cannot, such as text messaging to place grocery orders. Walmart+ is expected to launch as a rebrand of the company’s Delivery Unlimited service. Continue reading Walmart Tests Paid Membership Program, Vying with Amazon

Revl Raises VC Funds, Vimeo Introduces Magisto Video Editor

San Francisco-based Revl, which uses artificial intelligence to power its video-stitching Revl X platform, raised $5.2 million in a Series A round led by Nimble Ventures and joined by Tuesday Capital, Silicon Valley Data Capital and Luma Pictures. Meanwhile, Vimeo introduced Vimeo Create, its short-form video editing platform aimed at social media. The new service was built out from Vimeo’s acquisition last year of Magisto for a reported $200 million. Backed by Qualcomm, Magisto also relies on AI for stitching videos together. Continue reading Revl Raises VC Funds, Vimeo Introduces Magisto Video Editor

Amazon Tests AI Customer Support Agents, Opens Go Market

Amazon is testing two AI-powered systems as customer support agents, one of which will automatically field customer calls without human intervention and the other which will help human service agents respond more quickly to requests. Amazon applied-science manager Jared Kramer said the AI agents rely on machine learning and refer requests they can’t handle to human agents. Amazon also debuted its cashierless “Go” technology in a large grocery store, in advance of possibly licensing the system to other retailers. Continue reading Amazon Tests AI Customer Support Agents, Opens Go Market

Amazon Reports Booming Sales, Profits, and Share Prices

Amazon broke previous records with its Q4 sales, and shares skyrocketed 10 percent in after-hours trading, adding $100 billion to its market value. Profits rose 8 percent to $3.3 billion during the holiday quarter, after suffering a 25 percent decline in Q3 due to the expenses of one-day shipping for Prime members. Q4 revenue rose 21 percent to $87.4 billion from the same period a year earlier.  A FactSet survey showed that earnings per share were $6.47 whereas analysts had predicted $4.04. Continue reading Amazon Reports Booming Sales, Profits, and Share Prices

YouTube, Facebook Step Back From Their SVOD Strategies

Although YouTube made a splash announcing its plans to produce scripted entertainment, the platform is pulling back from that ambition, which it once saw as the tip-of-the-spear for its $12-per-month ad-free YouTube Premium. The arena of Subscription VOD has become more crowded than ever, as Apple, Disney, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and, next year, NBCUniversal’s Peacock join stalwarts Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and HBO. YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl calls the sector “as crowded as L.A. traffic.” Continue reading YouTube, Facebook Step Back From Their SVOD Strategies

Netflix Still Avoids Ads, But Heats Up Its Brand Partnerships

Netflix, which makes almost $16 billion in annual revenue from its 158 million global subscribers, prides itself on being free of advertising. But the company also is $12 billion in debt and facing increasing competition in the streaming video sector from rivals including Apple and The Walt Disney Company. According to eMarketer, Netflix’s “days at the top may be numbered,” and many experts believe that Netflix will eventually have to turn to advertising. Even without ads, however, Netflix is increasing brand engagement. Continue reading Netflix Still Avoids Ads, But Heats Up Its Brand Partnerships

Advertisers Turn to Streaming Services For More User Data

As streaming services proliferate, so does the technology that tracks their viewers. AT&T, Roku, and ad giant Publicis, among others, are harvesting viewers’ email addresses and the devices they use to stream content. Privacy advocates are concerned, with Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeff Chester calling the practice a “digital daisy chain of data-gathering on viewers.” But advertisers find the opportunity to gather the specific data available with streaming services too appealing to pass up. Continue reading Advertisers Turn to Streaming Services For More User Data

Facebook Agrees to $40 Million Fine for Incorrect Ad Metrics

Facebook agreed to pay a $40 million penalty for providing incorrect metrics for average viewing time of ads on its platform. In 2016, Facebook admitted to the problem, and a group of small advertisers sued in California federal court, in part claiming that Facebook knew about the problem long before it admitted and fixed it. Facebook countered the impact was minimal because it doesn’t bill advertisers based on watch-time; plaintiffs disagreed, saying it is a “common indirect barometer to guide ad-buying decisions.” Continue reading Facebook Agrees to $40 Million Fine for Incorrect Ad Metrics

Pinterest Becomes a Visual Discovery Engine for Shopping

Pinterest is now promoting itself as a “visual discovery engine,” where its 300 million global monthly active users can not only browse billions of images but also purchase the items they find there. For most of its users, Pinterest is a go-to place for home décor, gardening and personal style, allowing users to “pin” or post photos to create inspiration boards. According to Pinterest, its AI technology can accurately pinpoint 2.5+ billion objects in photos, millions of which can be purchased by clicking on the item. Continue reading Pinterest Becomes a Visual Discovery Engine for Shopping

Latest Facebook Pitch to Publishers Offers Licensing Fees

Facebook, in preparation for a news section due to launch later this year, has offered news outlets as much as $3 million to license headlines and article previews. According to sources, Facebook has pitched Disney’s ABC News, Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones, The Washington Post and Bloomberg, for deals that would last for three years. Google already offers AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) allowing articles to load quickly on smartphones, and Snapchat has revenue-sharing deals with publishers on its “Discover” tab. Continue reading Latest Facebook Pitch to Publishers Offers Licensing Fees

Apple Revenue Rises via iPad/Mac Sales, Services Growth

Apple’s revenue rose 1 percent to $53.81 billion despite a 12 percent decline in iPhone sales, for the quarter ending June 29. Profit also slumped for the third straight quarter — 13 percent to $10.04 billion. At the same time, per-share earnings of $2.18 surpassed analyst predictions. Apple was able to achieve positive revenue despite lagging iPhone sales by growth in iPad and Mac sales as well as App Store sales, mobile payments and device insurance, which rose 13 percent to $11.46 billion. Continue reading Apple Revenue Rises via iPad/Mac Sales, Services Growth

More Marketers Test Targeted Ads on Streaming Platforms

The automobile recommendation site Cars.com used to run its advertisements on TV, aimed at a broad swathe of consumers. But since early 2019, the online company began running its ads on streaming TV platforms such as Amazon Fire TV and Roku to target their ads more precisely to people shopping for cars. Targeted advertising is taking off as a trend because many factors now make it possible to more narrowly aim them to relevant viewers. Some of the data now available includes income, purchase history and web-browsing behavior. Continue reading More Marketers Test Targeted Ads on Streaming Platforms

Facebook Unveils First Design Changes to Enhance Privacy

Under the dark cloud of various privacy-related scandals, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the first of a series in design changes meant to shift the social media platform away from town square-style communication and toward more direct, private communication between users and groups. On Tuesday at Facebook’s annual developer conference, the company showcased a redesign of its mobile app and desktop site, both of which add new features to promote group-based communication rather than a focus on the News Feed.

Continue reading Facebook Unveils First Design Changes to Enhance Privacy

Two Facebook Groups Are Developing New Voice Assistant

Social giant Facebook confirmed a report that it is working on developing its own voice assistant. Originally, two former Facebook employees described the plans to CNBC, which broke the news. The company has been developing its own voice assistant since early 2018 in its augmented reality/virtual reality group based in Redmond, Washington. Facebook Assistant and AR/VR director Ira Snyder leads a team that has been “contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain,” according to sources. Continue reading Two Facebook Groups Are Developing New Voice Assistant

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