The problem with streaming video to different devices—computers, tablets, phones, and whatever else—is that they all demand subtly different streams if they’re to look their best. If you’re Netflix, which streams to 900 different types of device, that leaves you with some work to do.
According to Netflix, it has to encode each and every movie it offers in 120 different ways. Add to that the crowd sourcing of subtitles, global variation in titles and formats, and an armful of other problems, and the work Netflix has to go to makes $8 a month seem even better value. The video above was used at a Netflix recruitment fair—but gives a decent insight into how its video wends its way from Hollywood to your tablet. [GigaOm]
The smartphone industry is at an interesting point in time. In 2007, Apple’s iPhone practically invented — or re-invented, if you will — the current smartphone age with a full capacitive touchscreen and support for mobile apps. Google Android followed in 2008 and although it was slow to catch up, is relatively on par with iOS in terms of usability and app support.
Can Microsoft and RIM succeed where others have failed?
These incumbents — Apple and Google’s Android partners — account for 89.9 percent of smartphone sales as of the third quarter of 2012, per IDC. Some alternative platforms, such as Palm’s webOS and Nokia’s Maemo software, entered the market only to disappointingly disappear: webOS is now an open-source platform and Maemo became MeeGo, which Nokia abandoned when it chose to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone software. Windows Phone has been around for two years but has relatively little in the way of sales to show for it.
- Privacy and Terms of Service Changes on Instagram Effective January 16, 2013, Instagram is updating its Privacy and Terms of Service documents. The new policies, which can be read on their blog, addresses sharing user information as a part of Facebook and new spam/abuse policies. The biggest change, found in the ‘Rights’ section of the new Terms of Service, gives Instagram the right to use your photos and profile information in ads without compensation. [Instagram Blog]
- Facebook to Launch Its Own Snapchat Competitor App Facebook is prepping to launch a service that will go head-to-head with Snapchat, a popular app that lets users send photos and short videos to one another—which are then automatically deleted after a brief increment of time. Facebook’s as-yet unnamed application will be, much like its Messenger and Camera apps, entirely self-contained and separate from the main Facebook app. Look for its release before the year’s end. [AllThingsD]
- New Rhapsody for iPad and iPad Mini: the Fastest, Most Visually-Stunning Rhapsody Experience Yet Premium music streaming service Rhapsody has released a new iPad app. Built for the ground up for the tablet with a visual-heavy interface, the Rhapsody app comes with a free 30-day trial for those looking to give it a shot. [Rhapsody Blog]
Mobile continues to drive Pandora’s ad business.
Mobile ad revenues for its fiscal third quarter were $66 million, up from an estimated $53 million a quarter prior. Mobile accounted for 62 percent of total ad revenues, compared to 59 percent in the second quarter.
Overall mobile revenues, including subscriptions, increased $15 million in the quarter to $74 million.
Pandora is a prime example of how mobile is transforming what were once Web-based companies. With 77 percent of usage now coming from mobile— not to mention a majority of revenues— Pandora is essentially a mobile company.
The daily deal world is in turmoil.
LivingSocial just announced the firing of 400 employees, which is about 8.9% of its total workforce.
What’s more unnerving is that over the past six months, Groupon reduced its workforce by 648 positions.
More than 1,000 reductions across both businesses is a huge deal. Those reductions aren’t all layoffs; some are through attrition.
To cap it all, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason’s job was in question all week, and he only received his board of directors’ seal of approval late Thursday.
So why isn’t anyone freaking out yet?
Arguably, this is a recession in the daily deal business.
It’s the industry’s first, given that it didn’t exist until about four years ago.
LivingSocial told Business Insider via email about the job cuts. “After two years of hyper-growth from 450 to more than 4500 employees, these moves will align our cost structure against our 2013 plans and will help us set the company on a path for long-term growth and profitability. Specifically, they will allow us to invest more in critical pr! iorities like marketing, mobile, and the hiring of additional technology staff.”
LivingSocial told CNNMoney that it is moving much of its customer service from its headquarters in D.C. to Tuscon, “so some job openings will be available in that area.” Sales and editorial, however, have simply been “streamlined.”
The job losses reflect the shaky economic underpinnings of the daily deal business, which Groupon and LivingSocial have yet to wrestle into control.
LivingSocial posted a net loss of $566 million in Q3 2012. $496 million of LivingSocial’s loss stems from a huge writedown of some of its acquisitions from 2011, the Washington Business Journal reports. LivingSocial’s revenue also fell to $124 million in the three-month period, down from $138 million in the second quarter.
As of market close today, Groupon’s stock price is currently sitting at $4.54, according to Yahoo Finance. The 52-week range is shocking: it reached a high of $25.84. That followed six months’ of shrinking total billings at the company. (Its American business is robust; the international arm less so.)
A Groupon spokesperson tells us that its layoffs were largely due to new technology the company invested in that made those jobs irrelevant. In fact, we’re told, Groupon has 200 job vacancies open across North America right now.
And, of course, the job cuts don’t mean that Groupon and LivingSocial are going to vanish tomorrow. They’re huge businesses after all. But they are cause for concern as they illuminate potential weaknesses in the daily deal ! business model.
The main problem is operational scale.
Both companies are dependent on large salesforces. It is very difficult for them to leverage operation scale: To sell more, they need to employ more people. Groupon historically has prided itself on the long-term relationships its salesforce builds with its merchants. They have struggled to leverage self-serve, turnkey sales the way Facebook has.
In fact, Groupon and LivingSocial aren’t even tech companies. Rather, they’re email companies. Although email is here to stay for a long time, the tidal shift among consumers is away from email to instant messaging, social media messaging, and mobile phone messaging. They need to pivot into alternate methods.
Groupon is trying just that, with Groupon Goods, which so far has been a success. And both companies need to do what Groupon says it is trying to do, which is replace human-to-human selling with tech that can increase each individual worker’s selling power.
Lastly, the downturn ask whether the daily deal business has hit one of its natural ceilings: new merchants. Both companies need a fresh supply of new merchants to offer more deals, or to re-up on repeated deals. It’s an open question that both Groupon and LivingSocial now have to prove: Is there enough new merchants or incremental repeat business from merchants for the sector to continue to grow?
A thousand-plus layoffs suggest that, for now, the question lacks a satisfying answer.
Don’t Miss: Groupon CEO Andrew Mason Keeps His Job!
This great graph, taken using a wearable sensor, shows a student’s emotional, physical, and mental arousal during all different phases of every day of the week.
The device measures what’s called Electrodermal Activity — which measures the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, best known to control the fight-or-flight response. It is activated by emotional arousal, increased cognitive workload, or physical exertion.
Spikes pop up during lab work, exams, studying, and sleep, but what’s stunning is how low activity levels were during this student’s classes. They must have been super boring.
Gripe and moan about it all you like, but public transport is a fundamental part of keeping any big city running—and this data visualization shows just how complex New York City’s public transit setup is.
Put together by YouTube user STLTransit, the video is a visualization of a single day’s public transit, between 4:00am and 4:00am. It’s made possible by the open source General Transit Feed Specification data from the MTA. Personally, I love the way that the routes become obvious as the city wakes up. [YouTube via Verge]
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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