Posts Tagged ‘yahoo’

In Search of a Virtual Keyboard App

October 16, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Q: I’m a former BlackBerry user who has been struggling with the virtual keyboard on his Droid for years. I considered the new BlackBerry, whose virtual keyboard you praised, but want a phone supported by more app developers. I would appreciate your advice on which keyboard app is easiest to operate now. A: The keyboard app I personally find best on Android is called SwiftKey , which replaces the stock keyboard on Android wherever it appears. It does a particularly good job of learning your writing habits and predicting what word is likeliest to come next. It can even sync these personal predictions across your Android devices. Q: With iGoogle going away in a few weeks, what is your recommendation on a good replacement site? A: There are a number of sites which, like iGoogle, aim to be your browser’s home page, consolidating personalized selections of news, weather, sports, stocks, calendar, search and more. My personal choice would be My Yahoo , which even has instructions for importing your settings from iGoogle. To find others, do a search for “iGoogle replacements.” Q: I don’t like the redesigned calendar app in Apple’s iOS 7 for my iPad. Is there a way to restore the old calendar? A: Not that I know of, but there are many alternative calendar apps for iPads and iPhones, which can be found in the app store by searching for “calendar.” Email Walt at

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Foursquare Opens Up Its Self-Serve Ad Platform

October 14, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Asa Mathat / If you want to be a big Web/mobile company that makes money selling advertising, then eventually you need to give small advertisers the ability to buy ads from you without talking to another human. Facebook built this kind of self-serve ad business a few years ago, and Twitter is building one, too . Google makes a ton of money from self-serve. And now Foursquare has one , too. If you’re a Foursquare user, you probably won’t notice any change to the service, but if you look very carefully, you may see more local shops and restaurants pitching you in places where Denny’s used to buy ads. The change is on the flip side, where Foursquare has built a platform that lets a local bar or restaurant buy an ad without ever picking up the phone. Foursquare started testing the software this summer , and says it has tried it out with a thousand buyers so far. Now anyone can buy an ad on a cost-per-action basis, as long as they’re willing to spend at least $50 a month. If Foursquare is going to be a standalone business, self-serve will be important. If it eventually ends up selling to someone like Apple or Yahoo, presumably for the value of the data it has built up over the last four years, its ad platform won’t really matter that much. What still matters a lot to Foursquare is whether more people are using the once-buzzy discovery service

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Life Is But a Stream at Yahoo These Days — But Will It Revive Ad Revenue?

October 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

If you look on any major destination content property on Yahoo these days — Finance, Sports, News — you get the picture pretty quickly. The presentation is a slightly numbing and decidedly robotic experience, a major shift away from Yahoo’s formerly edited and livelier content pages, removing almost all feeling that humans touched the page and underscoring that computer algorithms are now firmly in charge. Other than changing topics and different color schemes, the key properties all look exactly alike, an endless scrolling feed of news, now mostly from outside sources, with in-stream ads inserted periodically that look very similar to the content. It’s the ads, in fact, that are the real point. Arriving in April, these “Stream Ads” are now everywhere across the Yahoo universe, even in Yahoo Mail. The sponsored and targeted content is akin to those you might experience in Facebook’s News Feed, which has always looked this way. The move to embrace this native ad format — which Yahoo claims “matches the content and context of the pages” and works across all devices, especially mobile ones — is CEO Marissa Mayer’s big gamble on turning around what has become a very dicey situation for the Silicon Valley Internet company’s ever-declining advertising business. “This IS her big play on the ad side,” said one person familiar with the efforts with in-stream ads at Yahoo. “Everything else is just a sideshow to her.” That sideshow is largely referring to the depressing and persistently declining trends in Yahoo’s display business. While Yahoo has been upping its premium efforts — such as a billboard unit that drops down on pages with noisy movie trailers or flashy smartphone come-ons — many inside the company acknowledge that this is unlikely to turn the tide. Consider: In the last quarter, display ad sales dropped fell 12 percent from a year ago, with overall revenue dropping seven percent to $1.14 billion. And Wall Street analysts do not expect any dramatically improved results in the third-quarter results, set to be announced Tuesday after the markets close. While online advertising performance across the industry, including at rivals Facebook and Google, continues to rise strongly and in double-digits, it is expected that Yahoo will show little to no growth in its core business. Analysts are estimating that Yahoo will have 33 cents in adjusted earnings on revenue of $1.08 billion, compared to 35 cents on $1.09 billion in the same period a year ago. Mayer, who has been in the job 15 months, has acknowledged the problem in several earnings calls so far, noting that she is first focused on building up talent and products, before any being able to show any lasting improvement in revenue. Helping her out massively to bridge the gap is the gift that keeps on giving from China, in the form of a large Yahoo stake in the Alibaba Group. Its upcoming and ever-rising IPO valuation has kept Yahoo shares rising dramatically. Eventually, of course, the impressive work of Alibaba execs will not provide the lift for Yahoo, which is where in-stream ads presumably come in. Yahoo execs, who declined to be identified due to Mayer’s stringent no-leaks policy, said that Mayer has hopes that native ads will be a “third marketplace” for the company and, in time, its greatest driver of new revenue.

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ShopRunner’s Scott Thompson: We’re Building So Much More Than An Amazon Prime Competitor

October 12, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Earlier this week, ShopRunner, the two-day online retail shipping service, said it had raised a giant $200 million-plus investment from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and American Express. With the investment, Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai joined ShopRunner’s board. The investment size was surprising for many reasons, but mostly because of how large it was and how seemingly cost-effective ShopRunner’s current model is. What in the world does ShopRunner need all that money for? ShopRunner partners with retailers and brands such as Brooks Brothers and Calvin Klein to provide free two-day shipping to ShopRunner members who shop at the partners’ online stores. ShopRunner members pay $79 a year or $8.95 a month for that privilege. The brands and retail operations handle all the packing and shipping, with ShopRunner plugging into their backend systems to make sure its members are getting their orders when promised. ShopRunner takes two to five percent of each Shop Runner-eligible purchase a member makes on partnering e-commerce sites. In return, the company attempts to prove to its retail partners that it is bringing them new, repeat customers who will spend more than non-members. I spoke this week with ShopRunner CEO Scott Thompson, who’s making a run at a redemption after after the controversy over inaccuracies on his resume forced his departure from Yahoo where he was briefly CEO. Here’s an edited version of our conversation. That’s a huge investment. Why Alibaba and why so much money? Scott Thompson: Think of this as a growth-equity type infusion. We are at right at this point where we know the product is solid, know the experience is real good and getting better by the day, we’ve launched our mobile apps and are beginning to see some early traction on that. And this month we’ll cross a million members [including some non-paying ones who’ve signed up through an American Express partnership]. With this infusion of cash, this is the perfect time for this business. I hate to say it because every startup does, but we’re at this inflection point

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How to Make Lots of Web Video, Really Fast: Get Rid of (Most of) the Humans

October 2, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Heads up, professional video-makers: Robots may be coming for your jobs. We’ve already seen that software can replace human beings who used to write and edit news stories . Now Wochit , an Israeli-born startup, is trying to do the same thing with thing with video news. And it’s quite possible you’ve seen some of their work already: Wochit’s stuff is running on big portals like Yahoo , and on many smaller sites, via distributors like Grab Media. Wochit can takes pre-written stories from outlets like Reuters and turn them into videos, by assembling an appropriate mix of images, clips and narration. Human beings touch the video twice during a production — once, when a “moderator” quickly scans the clip to make sure the basic elements are in the right place, and once when someone reads the voice-over copy. Wochit says the entire process takes an average of 10 minutes, and that lets the company make hundreds of clips a day. The results have been getting better throughout the year. Now they’re quite passable. Here’s how Wochit handled a story about President Obama and the Too Big to Fail banks this morning: No one’s going to mistake this stuff for a “60 Minutes” report. But depending on the use case, it may certainly be good enough. Wochit is aimed at Web video, where lots of people are looking ad-friendly clips that users might also click on. But in the not-so-distant future, I can see this stuff working on conventional TV too. Eventually, Wochit CEO McAllister says, the company wants to set up a self-service system where anyone could feed it text and get a usable video. If a brand like, um, All Things D wanted to add our own narration (or whatever), we could do that too. This is likely worrisome for some human beings who currently get paid to edit and produce news videos

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The Birth of Art Tech: How a Centuries-Old Tradition Is Being Adapted for Today’s Always-Connected Consumer

October 1, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Change is not a word usually associated with the art market. When we think of the Christie’s and Sotheby’s of the world, we are transported to the traditional auction house, frozen in time with wooden paddles, charismatic auctioneers and distinguished attendees bidding on the world’s finest art. But times have changed. Today, as the rest of the world has grown dependent on digital tools to discover new products, so too have galleries and art buyers. In response, a new market has emerged, made up of companies that leverage technology to drive the purchase of art objects. You might call it “art tech.” This new market is fueled not only by changed consumer behavior, but also by significant funding from the world’s top investors. As opposed to other industries, art has had a relatively slow journey to the digital era, but it has definitely arrived. Even in the case of high-ticket items, consumers today are willing to purchase art online more often than not. According to a 2013 Hiscox survey , 64 percent of collectors have previously purchased art through a website with little or no interaction with the seller

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Meet the NSA’s Own Social Graphs, Comprised of Americans’ Data

September 28, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

The hottest, stealthiest social network won’t be found in any Silicon Valley incubator. It’s up and running. And you may already be a member. In an effort spanning the past three years, the United States National Security Agency has mined its massive stores of collected citizen metadata to create a series of social graphs, according to documents and confidential sources unearthed by the New York Times , mapping the large, interconnected web of connections between people. The graphs — which the Times claims details specifics as granular as citizens’ locations at certain times, personal connections with others, and traveling companions — were created piecemeal from vast public data stores, including (but not limited to) Facebook profiles, voter registration records, tax data and property records. The NSA acknowledged the program in a statement to the Times, but declined to state the number of Americans involved. Any data queries are required to have some sort of “foreign intelligence justification,” an NSA spokeswoman told the Times. The report is the latest in a series of revelations on the scale and depth of U.S. surveillance efforts, kick-started by the bombshell disclosures of former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden over the summer. Since Snowden’s disclosures, Silicon Valley Internet companies have issued vehement denials that the U.S. government had carte blanche access to customer data. The extent to which companies can explain how much data has been handed over to the government is limited, however, as current laws prohibit companies from disclosing certain details related to national security. It is unclear how much the NSA’s graphing efforts rely on data from Facebook, Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft or any other number of Internet companies that have complied with the government’s requests for private data. Read more of the Times’ in-depth account here .

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Top NBCU Digital Exec Lauren Zalaznick to Depart Company

September 27, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Well-known NBCUniversal exec Lauren Zalaznick, who has recently been working on the media giant’s growth into new digital arenas, is leaving the company, according to an internal memo. A longtime veteran of NBCU, who is also one of its most high-profile women execs, does not have a new job as yet. But, in a note that just went out to staff, NBCU CEO Steve Burke said Zalaznick would continue to “consult with NBCUniversal on digital media content and technology marketplace trends.” There has been speculation recently that Zalaznick might be in line to take over the empty seat at the top of Yahoo’s media unit, but she has not been tapped for that job as yet, said sources. Yahoo or another Web content company would make sense though, as a next move for her. Of all the top media execs at NBCU, Zalaznick has been the most interested and well known in Silicon Valley, having made a lot of efforts to reach out to the tech digerati. (That includes being interviewed for a Twitter board seat, said several sources, a spot that ultimately went to Peter Chernin.) Zalaznick started out her career as an independent feature film producer, coming to the company in 2004 via NBC’s acquisition of Vivendi Universal. Once there, Zalaznick took over the once-moribund Bravo cable network and launched a series of shows that became both hits and pop cultural icons, including: “The Real Housewives” franchise (yipes, Lauren!), “Top Chef” and “Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen (thank you, Lauren!). At different times, Zalaznick was also in charge of the Oxygen cable network, Telemundo, iVillage and the Women at NBCU effort. Earlier this year, in another management shift, in which all the cable properties were moved under Bonnie Hammer, Zalaznick was given the the title of EVP NBCUniversal and charged with focusing on innovation, digital, monetization and emerging technology. The amorphous job — digitally focused cross-company tasks at big traditional media giant are tricky (thankless, really), as you might imagine — still kept Fandango and Daily Candy under her purview. She also launched NBCU’s first data science team and created the NBCU Digital Council to coordinate its digital strategery. I had heard rumblings of Zalaznick’s impending departure over the last week, which sources said was pending. As it turns out, sooner than later. NBCU declined to comment, but here’s the entire note that Burke just sent out to the company about Zalaznick, which also outlines where all her minions (this is the company that owns the movie, “Despicable Me,” after all) are headed: Here is the I am writing to let you know that Lauren Zalaznick will be leaving NBCUniversal after 12 successful years working in a variety of leadership roles here. Those of you who know Lauren well know she is one of those rare executives that combine great creative instincts with a true business orientation. Her contributions to our company have been significant and far-reaching, from cable entertainment to Spanish-language broadcast, from digital initiatives to new marketing campaigns. Lauren also has been an important champion for many of our company-wide initiatives.

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Online Ad Big Shot Michael Barrett Joins Tremor Video’s Board

September 27, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Michael Barrett, the former Admeld CEO and Yahoo chief revenue officer, has been named to the board of Tremor Video, the video ad network that went public in June . Barrett, who also recently joined the board of privately held HookLogic, is replacing Laura Desmond , the CEO of ad agency network Starcom MediaVest Group.

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‘Saturday Night Live’ Launches YouTube Channel, But Blocks U.S. Fans

September 26, 2013  |  Variety  |  No Comments

Broadway Video Entertainment’s “Saturday Night Live” has set up shop on YouTube — its first official channel on the world’s biggest Internet video destination — but the free clips are not available to U.S. users, given the production company’s licensing pact with Yahoo for domestic auds. The ad-free international “SNL” YouTube channel is aimed at... Read more

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