Tag Archive | media

Amazon Mines Its Data Trove to Bet on TV’s Next Hit

In May, a dozen Amazon.com Inc. executives, including Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, gathered in a Seattle conference room to select the first original TV shows the company would produce for its streaming video service.

A group of 14 “pilot” episodes had been posted on the company’s website a month earlier, where they were viewed by more than one million people. After monitoring viewing patterns and comments on the site, Amazon produced about 20 pages of data detailing, among other things, how much a pilot was viewed, how many users gave it a five-star rating and how many shared it with friends.

Those findings helped the executives pick the first five pilots – winnowed down from an original pool of thousands of show ideas – that would be turned into series. The first will debut this month: “Alpha House,” a political comedy about four politicians who live together, written by Doonesbury comic strip creator Garry Trudeau.

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Yahoo’s Mayer on the Talent Hunt for Tech Journalists (Even From AllThingsD!)


This weekend, a Yahoo recruiter tried to poach two of our fine AllThingsD reporters for what was described as a “new initiative within our Tech Vertical.”

According to the recruiter, who used LinkedIn for the outreach, the effort had the “backing of [Yahoo CEO] Marissa Mayer, as well as many of our executives, and will be the first of many of these types of editorial models that we expect to roll out globally within the next year.”

As I had previously written, Mayer is pushing a new content effort that will focus on bringing big content to Yahoo, including the recent splashy hiring of the New York Times’ gadget reviewer, David Pogue, also for the tech effort. She has also been in talks with well-known television news star Katie Couric about an interview-type show that would appear on the homepage.

Among many execs in the Web space, Mayer has always been more attracted to the flashier media scene, having struck deals for Google to buy content properties like Zagat while she was there. But, let’s be clear, none of her efforts there were particularly successful.

Additional efforts to up Yahoo’s content business will require the hiring of a top media exec to replace recently departed media chief Mickie Rosen. Internal sources said that Mayer has said she is aiming to hire a top television exec for the job, to underscore the company’s commitment to video.

For now, it seems, tech is just the start, according to the email from the Yahoo recruiter, without any reference to a very similar previous Yahoo effort called Tech Ticker, which petered out many years ago. And, years before that, there was another content effort, called Finance Vision.

In other words, Yahoo has been no Netflix in its many efforts to jump into the content space, save for a series of light Web shows like “Primetime in No Time.”

One show, though – “Burning Love,” created and commissioned under former media head Ross Levinsohn – has generated a lot of buzz and traffic.

Mayer seems to have even bigger plans, though, using tech an some sort of “anchor.”

“The initiative is a news website, focused on technology, that is extremely social friendly and another way to drive significant traffic back to our platform,” wrote the recruiter. “We have identified this endeavor as a key anchor of our media strategy and a high growth opportunity for the media organization.”

It’s nice to see Mayer finally acknowledging the importance of what tech journalists do, even if it means she is trying to fish in our pond.

(Marissa, bygones on the poaching, as I see it as a compliment to our excellent work at AllThingsD! So, let’s have a just-us-media-ladies lunch, and I can explain how a tech blog works and stuff.)

Here’s the full email to one of our staffers this weekend:

I am the North American Recruiting Lead for Yahoo’s Global Media and Commerce organization.

We are currently looking for strong editorial professional to join the staff running a new initiative within our Tech Vertical. This venture has the backing of Marissa Mayer, as well as many of our executives, and will be the first of many of these types of editorial models that we expect to roll out globally within the next year. The initiative is a news website, focused on technology, that is extremely social friendly and another way to drive significant traffic back to our platform. We have identified this endeavor as a key anchor of our media strategy and a high growth opportunity for the media organization. I was hoping to connect with you as I thought your background was quite interesting for the opportunity.

Please understand that we are operating under a very quick timeline – Would you be open to discussing the role?

I’d welcome the opportunity to discuss your background and Yahoo! in more detail.

The NYT’s Nick Bilton Talks About His Book on IPO-Ready Twitter (Video)


I always like to indulge in a little logrolling in our own time, but this video interview I did with New York Times columnist Nick Bilton about his new book is pretty fun.

“Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” officially comes out on Tuesday. But it is already being reviewed and munched over by many for its controversial stories about the founding of the San Francisco-based social microblogging phenom.

Including: Former CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey fired! Former CEO and co-founder Evan Williams hired! Dorsey returns! Williams fired! Current CEO Dick Costolo hired! Costolo almost fired!

Essentially, it is like a Spanish telenovela over there at Twitter, except it’s all dudes falling in and out of bromances.

Bilton noted to me that it reads like a mystery novel, akin to the game of Clue. As in: Board member and VC Peter Fenton in the server room with a virtual hammer!

Since Twitter is going public this week – ya might have heard – Bilton’s timing could not be better.

Here’s my interview with Bilton, who showed up at my house in the Castro on Halloween night. (It is an annual costume apocalypse in my neighborhood, so this guy really wants to sell that book!)

Here’s the interview:

IGT Not Deterred by Zynga Scrapping Real-Money Gambling Plans


In its Q2 earnings report earlier this week, Zynga said it has abandoned its plans to pursue real-money gambling in the U.S. But Nevada-based IGT, which makes both physical and virtual casino games, said its plans are unaffected.

“What Zynga’s finding out is that breaking into real-currency wagers is a difficult thing,” said executive VP Robert Melendres, who heads IGT’s interactive division. “They built their business as more of a causal social gaming business. We are well situated to take advantage of [real money], just as we’ve done in Europe.”

Melendres’s goal is “convergence”: Bringing the experience someone might have playing, for example, a Wheel of Fortune slot machine (which IGT develops and manufactures) with the separately branded games of its social casino product DoubleDown Casino. In addition to getting cleared by regulators, he said part of the challenge is in the gameplay itself: Offering the same odds and the same “thrill” (his word) of risking real money that one gets in Vegas.

IGT acquired DoubleDown for $500 million in early 2012, one week before Zynga announced its now-scrapped casino ambitions. The Facebook-integrated site now offers roulette, blackjack, video poker and 37 slots games, which – like many of the innumerable competing social/mobile casino games – encourage users to purchase virtual currency, which is then what’s (legally) wagered.

According to its Q3 earnings report, the company’s social casino gaming revenue is up 105 percent year over year to $61.4 million, and monthly active users increased 28 percent from 5.2 million to 6.7 million in the same time frame. But Melendres said he is confident that IGT will be part of the “first meaningful wave” of real-money gambling for players in states that have legalized it, expecting to have a foot in the door by Q1 2014.

The real-money online gambling market, which H2 Gambling Capital said currently grosses about $30 billion worldwide, already surpasses other forms of social gaming and is expected to keep growing, as shown in this chart from Betable.

SETT Is A New Blogging Platform That Has Community At Its Heart

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 8.22.30 AM

Although blogging is nearly as old as the Internet, it still feels like something is amiss.

From Dustin Curtis’ Svbtle to Ev Williams’ Medium, there is a feeling afoot that existing platforms for blogs and long-form content still need a lot of improvement. Five years ago, early platforms like Blogger gave way to micro-blogging and networks like Tumblr.

Now we’re seeing the pendulum swing back with platforms for longer-form stories and media.

SETT is a blogging platform that’s looking to emphasize community, so that new users can find a right audience immediately and long-time bloggers can interact with higher-quality commenters and contributors.

Aside from features that are now standard these days like a news feed of content and WYSIWYG editing, SETT has a top bar where it’s easy for bloggers to track comments or even private messages from others in the SETT community.

From the start, when new users sign up for an account, SETT refers readers to your site. It has a word-matching system internally that compares posts to one another. If a reader happens to like a post about one topic, the platform will recommend other similar ones to them.

The site is the brainchild of a long-time blogger named Tynan (who declines to use his last name online ever) and Todd Iceton, a developer who worked for Nutshell Mail, the company that was acquired by e-mail marketing giant Constant Contact.

Tynan has been actively blogging for six years but found that it was a bit of a slog for any new user.

“For people who are just starting out, their biggest hurdle is just getting that community first,” he said.

There are other features meant to enhance a reader’s relationship with a blogger like a simple, one-click e-mail subscription system. Subscribers get notified of new posts and new comments on posts they’ve decided to individually follow.

Readers can also start their own independent discussions about posts in a community section, where they can see who is online and which posts are being actively read by a lot of users.

The site has had about 100 or so active blogs in beta form, but they’ve opened it up since. Some of the more popular voices on the platform are entrepreneurs like Dick Talens, who co-founded 500 Startups-backed Fitocracy and blogs about how to stay in shape.

The bootstrapped startup earns revenue through premium or subscription accounts that range from $12 to $99 per month in cost. At the higher-end of the range, users get more image-hosting space, subscribers and customer support.

As for the competition, Tynan and his co-founder Todd say that, while they have respect for the other platforms, Svbtle doesn’t encourage commenting. In any case, they agree that something needs to be done to update outdated blogging formats – even if starting a web-first blogging platform in 2013 seems a bit anachronistic.

“Both are expressing frustration with the standard format. The WordPress model hasn’t changed in 10 to 12 years,” Tynan said. “Their model is kind of broken.”

How Social And Primary Sources Affect Online Media Brands


Editor’s Note: Semil Shah is a contributor to TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter at @semil.

Throughout high school and college, I took a heavy dose of political science and history classes. As a result, those teachers and professors stressed the importance of investigating primary source documents and analyzing them on their own merits versus secondary sources (like textbooks, for instance), even though we were all issued textbooks, essays by subject matter experts, and a range of other interpretations. Eventually as college ended, the courses focused more on the primary source and our own interpretation of it.

Fast forward to today. At least in the world of startup technology news, which moves too fast to be captured by textbooks or print-versions of magazines, primary sources remain important, but social sources – at least for me – trump all. Of course, in early-stage, private companies, obtaining primary sources is difficult. In my world of tech news, like many, Twitter is my main source of information and how I surf the web. Specifically on Twitter, however, I do not follow any “news sources” directly. There is too much information out there. As a result, I try to follow people who’ve I’ve grown to trust who read and share articles or random blog posts.

In order for me to read something, I need a social signal to trigger and capture my attention. “Who” shares it with me matters. The “source” matters still, just not as much. And, in some cases, the source online can be propped up by a brand and hold power in its distribution. Real estate to create content online is infinite. There is no barrier to entry to create information, to build an audience, to generate page views, and to peg those against ads. Therefore, at least in my small world of online tech news, social sources reign supreme.

I’m guessing many of you reading this may feel the same way. The social signal from following a friend or trusted industry source motivates me to gain interest in a link, to read the story, or save for later. The most critical piece of information in that decision is not where the link originates from and resides, but rather who has shared this link. In a way, the tweet itself, as a unit of social currency, is more important than the source itself. One product which demonstrates the pervasiveness of this Flipboard. Yes, Flipboard has dedicated media channels for sources, but on their social feeds, the author of a piece of content is nearly greyed out so that the reader can focus on “who” shared the content with them over “who” created it.

The point of view I’m sharing obviously isn’t new or earth-shattering. The idea of “social news” has even collected dust. We all know it to be true. However, I believe this has big, long-term implications for online media brands. In my college history experience, book publishers spent time aligning with universities, professors, and other beacons in that world in order to make sure their materials were picked as sources. Fast-forward to today, those kind of tactics may not be as effective. Instead, media brands are forced to think critically about the quality of their loyal, core audience, because it is those individuals who will, as social sources, share and discuss the content, information, facts and myths with their own friends and audiences. This is where real, sustainable distribution lies. For media companies online, the social source trumps the primary source – it is the realization that who shares information online is oftentimes more important than what that information is. And for many media brands, that is a fundamentally – and at times scary – new reality.

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Montes / Flickr Creative Commons

YouTube-rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video-recording app to encourage user-generated content

video1 520x245 YouTube rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video recording app to encourage user generated content

French video-sharing service Dailymotion has launched a video-camera app for iPhone users, as it looks to encourage more users to upload their own content.

The Paris-based company claims to be the second biggest video-sharing service on the Web behind – you guessed it – YouTube. Following the collapse of a much-rumored Yahoo acquisition earlier this year, France Telecom’s CEO promised to invest 30-50m in Dailymotion, a company owned by France Telecom’s subsidiary Orange.

Whether a dedicated recording app was always on the cards isn’t clear, but it’s an interesting move from the company and brings it into line with YouTube which also has a Capture app.

How it works

Dailymotion Camera was designed in-house and, given its simplicity, it’s clearly aimed at everyone – even those with a rudimentary grasp of smartphone technology.

It has a record/pause/resume button which does exactly what you’d expect, and when you’re done you click the ‘tick’ button.

Photo 25 07 2013 11 16 10 220x330 YouTube rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video recording app to encourage user generated content

Photo 25 07 2013 11 17 30 220x330 YouTube rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video recording app to encourage user generated content

You can then trim the clip to your desired size, choose a filter (if you want), and then upload. You will of course have to connect your Dailymotion account, while you can also connect your Facebook and Twitter profiles too.

d7 220x391 YouTube rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video recording app to encourage user generated content

d21 220x391 YouTube rival Dailymotion launches a standalone video recording app to encourage user generated content

You can manage multiple video clips recorded separately, which can be ordered into a final deliverable. You can also access videos directly from your camera roll.

“UGC [user-generated content] is an important part of our video library, but many of our 115 million users have not had the skills or tools to document their worlds – preferring to view content than create it,” says Cedric Tournay, CEO of Dailymotion.

“We want to encourage this to change by providing a free, simple tool for any user – UGC and professional – to easily produce and upload top quality video content.”

Dailymotion Camera is available to download for free now, and this is in addition to the existing app for viewing videos. An Android version is in the pipeline, we’re told, but no definitive date has been set for that.

Dailymotion Camera | App Store

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Feature Image Credit – Thinkstock

SmartThings Raises $12.5 Million to Internet Some More Things


SmartThings, the open platform for powering home-automation efforts, has received $12.5 million from Greylock Partners and Highland Capital Partners.

The Washington, D.C.-based startup said it would use the money from its Series A funding to improve its products and increase distribution.

SmartThings, which began as a Kickstarter initiative, had previously raised $3 million. It sells a starter kit for close to $200 that lets consumers control various things in the home – from lighting to climate or security – via a mobile application. That includes actions such as detecting motion or closing a garage door.

These kinds of products are often referred to under the meme of the “Internet of Things” – a much overused term in tech right now – which is essentially digitizing and connecting an ever wider variety of devices.

As part of the transaction, SmartThings said Greylock’s Josh Elman and Highland’s Manish Patel will join its board of directors.

As Lauren Goode wrote when SmartThings demoed at the 11th D: All Things Digital conference in late May: “The notion that one’s home appliances could all be connected in some way – and respond with a simple tap, swipe or voice command – was once only a reality for the very wealthy or the very nerdy. Now, anyone with a Wi-Fi router at home can automate their appliances.”

At D11, Alex Hawkinson, the creator of SmartThings, showed its Rise and Shine app, which turned on the lights, raised the shades and made the connected coffee pot start to brew.

SmartThings is an open platform, which allows a wide variety of developers to create different applications for it.

Here is the video of SmartThings at D11:

European Commission accepts Penguin’s proposals to scrap Apple ebook agency agreements

154977547 520x245 European Commission accepts Penguins proposals to scrap Apple ebook agency agreements

The European Commission has accepted book publisher Penguin’s proposals to scrap all of its existing ebook agency agreements – including its deal with Apple, most importantly – and refrain from adopting any similar partnerships for the next five years.

Penguin, along with competitors Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette, Holtzbrinck, were all criticized for working with Apple and damaging the European ebook market by switching to an agency model.

This allowed the publisher, rather than the retailer, to set the sticker price seen by consumers in digital storefronts. Given that Apple takes a 30 percent cut of each sale regardless, this suited both the publishers and iBookstore vendor just fine. It also prevented other retailers, such as Amazon or Google, from undercutting these prices.

It differs from the wholesale model, whereby retailers are able to negotiate with publishers for the general rights to an ebook and then sell it at whatever price they like. The European Commission has concluded that Apple may have been trying to control ebook prices – a breach of antitrust rules in the European Union.

Under the new agreement, a two year “cooling-off” period will be instigated, by which all retailers will be able to discount Penguin ebook titles as they see fit.

The book publisher is also banned from using the so-called Most Favored Nation (MFN) clause – which meant publishers had to price ebooks on Apple’s services at least as low as the cheapest price offered by any other retailer – in all necessary renegotiations.

Joaqu n Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said: “After our decision of December 2012, the commitments are now legally binding on Apple and all five publishers including Penguin, restoring a competitive environment in the market for ebooks”.

A similar antitrust case in the United States came to a close in May this year when Pearson, Penguin’s parent publisher, confirmed it would pay $75 million in consumer damages. A US federal judge has since ruled that Apple truly did conspire to raise the price of ebooks across the market.

Apple has since confirmed that it plans to appeal the decision. “Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations,” company spokesman Tom Neumayr said. “When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.

“We’ve done nothing wrong and we will appeal the judge’s decision.”

Image Credit: LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

British broadcaster BSkyB launches £9.99 Now TV set-top box to make all TVs smart

sky 520x245 British broadcaster BSkyB launches   9.99 Now TV set top box to make all TVs smart

Days after Google unveiled its $35 Chromecast dongle to bring the smart TV experience to regular TVs, British satellite broadcaster has got in on the act after launching Now TV Box, a Roku-like set-top box.

The box is available for 9.99 and brings the benefits of Web TV to any television. Customers can enjoy ongoing access (sans contract) to BBC iPlayer, Sky News, Demand and the BBC News App. That’s in addition to Sky’s own Now TV service, which features notable channels like Sky Sports and Sky Movies.

Of course, the Now TV Box also brings Web services to TVs, so the likes of Facebook and Spotify can light up living rooms around the UK via the box.

The Box – which measures 8.4cm x 8.4cm x 2.4cm – plugs in via an HDMI cable and, once connected to WiFi, is up and running. It’s similarity to Roku, couple with Sky’s $11.9 million stake in the media company, suggests the device may be a white-labelled version of the Roku player.

now tv British broadcaster BSkyB launches   9.99 Now TV set top box to make all TVs smart

“Millions of people are switching on to the convenience and flexibility of on-demand TV, choosing when and how they want to watch,” said Director of Now TV Gidon Katz, Director of Now TV. “For under a tenner, the NOW TV Box offers the best terrestrial catch-up, plus pay-as-you-go access to must-see sport and the option to enjoy latest blockbuster movies on demand – all on the big screen.”

Sky has diversified its television offering from straight-up satellite in recent times, and the introduction of the Now TV Box looks like an interesting move to boost subscriptions of its Web-TV service.

Launched in 2012, Now TV offers Sky channels via a more flexible monthly subscription plan. It finally brought Sky Sports into the mix in March this year, letting users access all its main sports channels for 9.99 for 24 hours – a price that may not appeal to all but represents an alternative offering to a full-on Sky subscription.

The boxes are available to buy now from nowtv.com. The Now TV service itself can be accessed from the Web, devices running iOS and Android, Xbox, PS3 and Roku set-top boxes.

Headline image via BEN STANSALL / AFP / Getty Images