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THE NEWS WRAP: Uber one step closer to making its first public acquisition

3:30PM | Wednesday, 4 March

Uber is close to making its first public acquisition, eyeing off San Jose-based mapping startup deCarta.   A spokesperson for the ride-sharing service told TechCrunch the acquisition will help improve the company’s mapping services.   “A lot of the functionality that makes the Uber app so reliable, affordable and seamless is based on mapping technologies,” they said.   “With the acquisition of deCarta, we will continue to fine-tune our products and services that rely on maps – for example UberPOOL, the way we compute ETAs, and others – and make the Uber experience even better for our users.”   Uber is currently valued at around $40 billion. Social network Nextdoor raises $US110 million Nextdoor, the US-based social network for neighbourhoods, has announced $US110 million in funding in order to accelerate its growth.   The round was led by Redpoint Ventures and Insight Venture Partners, bringing the startup to a valuation of more than $US1 billion, according to The New York Times.   Chief executive of Nextdoor, Nirav Tolia, said in a statement more than 35% of US neighbourhoods rely on the service and the investment represents a significant milestone for the company.   “Every year at Nextdoor has been better than the last, and we are just getting started,” he said.   “Whether it’s finding a great babysitter, selling a used couch, or coming together in times of crisis – we are honoured that Nextdoor has become an essential lifeline to the neighbourhood.” Instagram launches click-through links for sponsored posts Instagram will start introducing click-through links for the first time in a bid to woo more advertisers to the platform.   TechCrunch reports the click-through ads are aimed at e-commerce companies after it initially launched advertisements on the platform in 2013.   The links will be part the social network’s new ‘Carousel ads’ feature, which allows people to view a number of sponsored images.   “Carousel ads give brands more flexibility in telling their stories by allowing people who view their ads to swipe left to see additional images and link to a website of the brand’s choice,” Instagram said in a statement. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 110.90 points, falling 0.61% overnight to 18,092.47. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at around 78.22 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Reddit cracks down on nude photos

2:46PM | Tuesday, 24 February

Popular social network Reddit is cracking down on users posting photos and videos of people naked or engaged in sex acts who have not given their prior consent.   Co-founder and executive chairman Alexis Ohanian told The New York Times the company is committed to protecting people’s privacy.   “I really want to believe that as we enter the next 10 years of Reddit life, essentially the most trafficked media site on the internet, the opportunity is here to set a standard for respecting the privacy of our users,” he said.   The update to the site’s privacy policy follows a storm of criticism last year after hackers stole nude photos from celebrities and uploaded them onto Reddit and other sites. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.   Reddit was founded in 2005 and now has more than 170 million users worldwide.   Apple introduces diverse emoji   Apple will introduce diverse emoji for its latest iOS and OS X update, according to The Next Web.   The changes will mean users will be able to select a different skin tone for their emoji. Currently, emoji representing people are all white except for one character who has a turban.   Users will also be able to choose from more diverse emojis to represent families – including same-sex couples and their children.   In addition, there are more flags to choose from and the watch and phone emoji have been updated to look like an Apple Watch and iPhone 6.   Australian venues want to put a stop to selfie sticks Venues and festivals around Australia are cracking down on selfie sticks, with Soundwave the latest to crack down on the international craze ahead of this weekend’s music festival in Sydney.   Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah told Fairfax he had had enough of people illegally recording sets and inconveniencing other audience members.   “It is just the ultimate expression of narcissism,” he said.   “It is insane that people don’t have enough courtesy to care about the people around them. Just don’t bring them.”   Stadiums including Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and Perth Arena all refuse entry to people carrying ‘photography aids’.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.57%, rising 103.24 points to 18,220.08. The Aussie dollar is currently trading at 78.32 US cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Reddit to give more than $82,000 to charity

2:31PM | Wednesday, 18 February

Reddit is asking its users to vote on which 10 charities should receive 10% of the startup’s advertising revenue for 2014.   Ten charities chosen by the Reddit community will each receive $82,765.95.   Ryan Merket, product manager at Reddit, said in a statement one of the things that helps everyone in the company get “out of bed every morning” is the knowledge they are helping people around the world.   “For 2014 we decided to ‘decimate’ our ad revenues to support the goals and causes of the entire community,” he says.   “That means for every $10 in ad revenue we received, we would be splitting $1 equally between 10 charities selected by our community. We closed the books on 2014 and our total revenue was $8,276,594.93. Meaning we are donating $827,659.49.” Indiegogo testing ways to refund money Crowdfunding platform Indiegogo is working on a way for its users to receive a full refund should a project they give money to not go ahead.   TechCrunch reports the option is called Per Insurance and costs between 10-20% of the pledge amount.   The coverage is currently available for three projects and refunds a customer the full amount of their pledge – minus their insurance – should their perks not be delivered within the estimated timeframe. Uber expands funding by $1 billion Popular ride-sharing service Uber has expanded its Series E round by $US1 billion to $US2.8 billion.   The New York Times reports the additional strategic investment was led in part by Chinese internet giant Baidu.   Uber is currently valued at around $US40 billion. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.19%, rising 33.62 points to 18,013.96. The Australian dollar is currently trading at 78.24 US cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Why technology hasn’t made life more stressful; Meet the woman who wants to make the “Starbucks of nail salons”: Best of the Web

1:06AM | Friday, 23 January

Among New Year’s resolutions this year unplugging digitally seemed to be almost as popular as losing weight and quitting smoking. It is all in response to the notion that digital technology — like round-the-clock email and friends’ envy-inducing Instagram photos — is stressing us out and making us unhealthy.   As Claire Cain Miller argues in The New York Times, ‘Technology Has Made Life Different, but Not Necessarily More Stressful’.   Miller cites research which shows frequent internet and social media users do not have higher stress levels than those who use technology less often. And for women, using certain digital tools decreases stress.   Meet the woman who wants to make Miniluxe the “Starbucks of nail salons”   Fragmented industry? Ripe for disruption? Tick and tick. In this FastCompany interview, Lydia Dishman speaks to Miniluxe chief executive Sue Thirwall about her plans to roll out nail salon franchises across the United States.   Thirlwall aims to elevate the hasty, daub-and-dry experience found at many a corner shop. That includes new level of individual attention, even for walk-ins, and hyper-vigilant hygiene.   The best digital business models put evolution before revolution Your business doesn’t need to be like Apple or Uber, according to Didier Bonnet and George Westerman in the Harvard Business Review.   The pair say business model innovation is hard. But they argue managers make it harder when they think about it only as radical industry reinvention. While revolutionary business model changes can be valuable, you don’t necessarily need to transform your industry.   You don’t need to destroy your current business model. There is another way to make money from business model innovation. Sometimes it’s better to think a bit smaller so you can set yourself up for big results. Image credit: Flickr/ mtaphotos Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Founder of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter says site made five-figures in sales within 24 hours

1:08PM | Wednesday, 14 January

The founder of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter, an Australian startup that took the internet by storm yesterday, says his website is for sale after turning over five figures in less than a day.   Mathew Carpenter – who also founded the Bye Rupert web browser extension – took to Twitter to say he was willing to sell his website which allows people to send enemies glitter in the mail for $10.   Everyone from The New York Times to Mashable ran stories on the startup after the website was featured on Product Hunt and Reddit.   Carpenter claims the website received one million visits, 270,000 shares on social media and made six figures from glitter sales within one hour. ShipYourEnemiesGlitter with 1m visits, 270k social shares, $xx,xxx in sales, tonnes of people wanting to order. 24 hours old. For sale. — Mathew Carpenter (@matcarpenter) January 14, 2015 Facebook unveils Facebook At Work Facebook is making the leap into the enterprise market with the launch of its new Facebook At Work product.   TechCrunch reports the platform will allow businesses to create their own social networks among employees in a manner that looks and operates just like standard Facebook.   Facebook At Work is available on the iTunes and Google Play stores, and will also be accessible through the company’s main site. Employees can create separate accounts for the work accounts; however, they can then link this to their personal profile. Online education company Lynda raises $186 million Online education company Lynda.com has announced a $186 million capitals raise to accelerate acquisitions and new content initiatives.   The capital raise was led by global investment firm TOG along with existing investors Accel Partners, Spectrum Equity and Meritech.   Chief executive of Lynda, Eric Robison, said in a statement the investment was a “tremendous vote of confidence” in the company’s ability to empower people through learning.   Lynda.com offers thousands of online classes and video tutorials to its users in English, French, German and Spanish. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 172.43 points, falling 0.98% to 17,441.25. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US82 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

An online ‘erasure service’ for California minors – but can it work?

12:20AM | Thursday, 18 December

Privacy is often thought of as the right to be left alone. Yet, our lives are embedded in relationships – with people, with corporations, with government, and with technological devices – that can’t be pursued without some amount of privacy loss.   Sometimes that loss is unexpected, large scale, and with unpredictable impact. Donald Sterling thought he was having a private conversation. Edward Snowden unveiled the government’s trove of corporate data. And everyday tech devices are ubiquitous collectors of our personal information - with analysts predicting 2.5 billion global smart phone users by 2015.   On the whole, consumers say they want their data to be left alone – but only sometimes. The New Yorker recently published a story about an artist who offered chocolate chip cookies during an arts festival in Brooklyn in exchange for personal information, such as a mother’s maiden name, home address, the last four digits of a Social Security number, or even fingerprints. Surprisingly, nearly 400 people gave up sensitive personal information in exchange for a cookie.   If our own behavior is inconsistent with preserving privacy, how can we expect laws to effectively protect it? This contradiction is particularly problematic for privacy laws that seek to balance the government’s interests in surveillance and protecting the country against terrorism with a citizen’s right to be left alone. And judges are noticing.   During a recent conference at Georgetown University Law Center, Judge Margaret McKeown of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reportedly offered the following view: “With much of US [Fourth Amendment] privacy law based on a reasonable expectation of privacy, it’s difficult … to define what that means when people are voluntarily sharing all kinds of personal information online.”   This contradiction is also problematic for privacy laws that seek to balance society’s interest in preserving and analyzing posted content with an individual’s right to information privacy.   The rules, regulations, and best practices for companies dealing with obligations to “erase” data are no less seamless than the imperfectly reconcilable desires of consumers. That is because there are different privacy requirements for different age groups under both federal law and state law. And even within state law, there are so many qualifiers around what content does not need to be erased that it’s unclear that the law will protect much privacy at all.   An “erasure service” for minors   Take, for example, the new California Rights for Minors in the Digital World Act, which comes into effect January 1, 2015.   This new law gives minors, defined as users under the age of 18, the right to remove or request removal of content and other information, including images, from online or mobile application postings. Although the new law protects only California minors, it applies broadly – including to companies outside of California.   More specifically, the law will apply to any company that owns a website or mobile application that is either: (i) directed to minors – meaning it was created for the purpose of reaching an audience that is predominantly comprised of minors; or (ii) directed to a general audience if the company has actual knowledge that a minor is using the site or application.   This new law, which essentially mandates an “erasure service for minors,” also requires that companies provide notice to minors that the removal service is available as well as clear instructions on how to use it.   Sounds straightforward. Yet, it’s not. Protecting 13 to 18 year olds   Longstanding privacy rules and regulations, such as the 1998 federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) have been designed to protect the privacy of minors within a certain age group – those under age 13.   COPPA gives parents control over what information is collected from their children online including, for example, by requiring that companies obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information online and by essentially prohibiting companies from disclosing that information to third parties. COPPA also gives parents access to their children’s personal information so they may review or delete it.   The new California erasure law, however, is designed to protect the privacy of everyone under age 18. Former California Senator Darrell Steinberg, the sponsor of the law, proposed the extension of COPPA-like protections to teens under age 18 because he believed that these teens are more susceptible to revealing personal information online before they comprehend the consequences.   Information privacy laws have long been comprised of an irregular patchwork of federal and state rules and regulations. But the new California law will further complicate corporate compliance for those companies that want to balance a corporate or social interest in preserving and analyzing big data with an individual’s right to information privacy.   Come January 1, 2015, companies such as General Mills and McDonalds will have to continue to comply with COPPA for users under the age of 13 while simultaneously working with a different privacy regime under the new California state law for California users under the age of 18.   Under COPPA, for example, companies must provide parents a mechanism to access and delete personal information about their children under the age of 13. Under the new California law, companies must provide users who are under 18 a mechanism to remove or request themselves the removal of content and information – but only if they themselves have posted it.   Corporate compliance under the new California law is further complicated by several qualifiers around what content must be removed.   For example, the law does not require companies to remove content copied or posted by a third party. So if an Instagram user posts an embarrassing image of a fellow Instagram user who is fifteen years old, Instagram would not have to honor the fifteen year old’s request to remove the embarrassing image because she did not post the image herself. And even if the embarrassing image was originally posted by the fifteen year old and then reposted by another Instagram user, Instagram would still not have to remove the image.   Confusing? That’s not all. The new law does not require companies to remove content posted by a minor for which the minor was paid or otherwise compensated. It doesn’t make companies remove content if they are able to de-identify it so that the minor could no longer be identified with the content. It doesn’t ask companies to remove the “erased” data from their servers, so long as they delete it from their websites and/or mobile applications.   The California Rights for Minors in the Digital World Act is going to be, in other words, one difficult law to implement. And as applied it won’t necessarily always result in any meaningful erasure of content, let alone provide enhanced privacy rights for the minors it was designed to protect.   As The New York Times reported in 2013, there are certainly good reasons to provide enhanced privacy rights to users between the ages of 13 and 18. Take this case as an example:   The rash revelations by a Texas teenager, Justin Carter, on Facebook last February — a threatened school shooting his family insists was sarcastic, made in the heat of playing a video game — landed him in a Texas jail on a felony terrorism charge for nearly six months.   However, when privacy rules and regulations lead to inconsistent outcomes, privacy rights can, as seen in the Instagram example, be compromised — even for those who only sometimes want to be left alone.   This article was originally published at The Conversation.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Symantec researchers uncover spook malware’s reign of surveillance

11:26PM | Sunday, 23 November

Computer security researchers at Symantec say they have discovered a Trojan piece of malware likely built by a nation-state, which has spied on business and governments since 2008, Re/code reports.   While the origin of the sophisticated piece of malware, dubbed “Reign”, is unclear, a shortlist of capable countries would include the United States, Israel and China.   Researchers say Reign has an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target. It provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance and has been used in spying operations against government organisations, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers, and private individuals. Yahoo acquires photo startup Cooliris Photo app-maker Cooliris has announced that it has been acquired by Yahoo, TechCrunch reports.   Founded in 2006, the startup was originally known for creating a 3D wall for navigating photos and other media content. It also created a platform for mobile ads called Adjitsu, which it sold to Singtel’s Amobee division in 2012.   Recently the company shifted focus to a mobile app that allowed users to browse photos from across services like Facebook, Flickr, and Dropbox.   “Yahoo has a clear vision and unwavering commitment to making mobile an intuitive and effortless experience,” the company says in a statement on its website.   “This makes Yahoo the perfect partner for Cooliris, and we are excited to come together to bring indispensable products to a worldwide audience.” The secret life of passwords Passwords don’t just protect data; they reveal our hopes, dreams, secrets, fears and memories, The New York Times reports. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 91.06 to 17,810.06. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Meet the startup trying to create the Spotify for media content

11:38AM | Thursday, 20 November

Australian startup inkl is the latest attempt to solve one of the media industry’s biggest problems – how to make people pay for online content.   Take, for example, the content paywall that surrounds Fairfax mastheads The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. According to inkl founder and chief executive officer Gautam Mishra, who as former director of Strategy at Fairfax built that paywall, it converts just 2% of readers to paying customers.   “And that’s widely seen as one of the best paywalls in the world,” Mishra says.   “It’s ahead of most publications. The question that needs to be worked out is what to do with that other 98%.”   So Mishra founded inkl, a web platform that will soon be available as an iOS and Android app, that gives users access to content from some of the world’s major news publishers in one place. A $15 per month subscription fee gives unlimited access to inkl’s catalogue of news content, in the same way Netflix or Spotify do for the music and entertainment industries. For those that don’t want to subscribe, they can access content for 10 cents per article. Inkl keeps a portion of the revenue generated and shares the rest with the publishers.   Inkl launched on Wednesday with content from seven of the world’s major news publications including The Guardian (Australia, UK and US editions), The Sydney Morning Herald, the South China Morning Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post and Indian business publication Livemint. More partners will be announced in the coming weeks.   Mishra says 10 years ago the music and entertainment industries were struggling to get people to pay for content too, but the launch of the Netflix, Spotify and similar platforms changed that.   “I think we need to build the same model for news,” he says.   “There’s about 200 million people using news sources globally, and there’s probably only 2-3 million paying for news online.”   Mishra bootstrapped the startup from its creation at the beginning of the year, up until August when he received seed investment led by North Base Media, a media focused investment firm co-founded by former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, and former executive editor of the Washington Post, Marcus Brauchli. Mishra was not willing to disclose the amount of seedfunding inkl has raised.   “A really important part of inkl’s purpose is to help ensure that high quality journalism continues to be financially sustainable,” he says.   “As the trend towards mobile news consumption continues, publishers need innovative business partners who can help them find new ways to grow revenue. inkl generates 50 or even 100 times as much revenue per page as most readers earn from mobile ads, and still delivers a very cost effective solution for readers.”   inkl isn’t the only startup trying to solve media’s big problem. Last month, the New York Times invested in Dutch startup Blendle, which allows individual articles to be purchased for a price set by the publishers, between 10 euro cents and 30 euro cents for news articles, and up to 80 cents for longer features. Mishra says it inkl is avoiding that magazine style content, instead preferring to focus on news articles that are best consumed on mobile devices.   “(Blendle) is an amazing business and we really like them and their model, but ultimately it’s being setting up to do something a little different,” he says.   “They’ve taken the view that the value in journalism is largely around print products in a digital medium. They’ve got a web interface and a virtual kiosk for picking articles. That sort of experience is fantastic for evening use, when people are using tablets and other devices.   “We’re really focused on your morning and daily news.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber hopes Spotify deal will be music to its riders’ ears

11:27PM | Monday, 17 November

Transportation network startup Uber has partnered with Spotify to allow those catching a ride with its service to select songs that will play during their trip, Engadget reports.   Riders will need to connect a Spotify paid streaming account to Uber’s mobile software to access the feature.   It’s set to launch on November 21 in Sydney, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Stockholm and Toronto, with a widespread rollout in the weeks that follow. Uber drivers will need to connect their phone to the car’s stereo, if the driver chooses not to play music, Spotify won’t show up as an option in the Uber app. Shark Tank backed GrooveBook sold for $14.5 million As Network Ten prepares to release its own Shark Tank, GrooveBook, a startup on the popular US version of the show, has been acquired by photo printing giant Shutterfly for $US14.5 million ($AU16.7 million).   GrooveBook is a photo-printing app and subscription service that creates personalized photo books with up to 100 of your photos, that is shipped monthly.   The startup received a $US150,000 investment from Shark Tank investors Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary for licensing rights only. Airbnb launches Pineapple Sharing economy startup Airbnb has launched its own print magazine, Pineapple.   According to the New York Times, Airbnb will formally unveil the new magazine at a convention in San Francisco later this week. The first issue carries no advertising and contains features on San Francisco, London and Seoul, which are popular cities among Airbnb hosts and guests. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 13.01 to 17,647.75. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Nothing lazy about Slack’s $US120 million funding round

11:23PM | Sunday, 2 November

Slack, an enterprise collaboration platform, announced it has closed a $US120 million ($A137.3 million) round of funding.   The capital round values the company at $1.12 billion, shortly after the startup pivoted from an earlier incarnation as a games company called Tiny Speck. It’s an incredible growth in valuation in the first eight months of its new product’s launch.   According to TechCrunch, while such valuations might look like a bubble, it actually represents a fundamental change in the way venture capitalists perceive investments. Tinder users open app on average 11 times per day Dating app Tinder is rapidly approaching 50 million users, The New York Times reports.   And those users are engaged. The startup says on average people log into the app 11 times a day. Women spend as much as 8.5 minutes finding matches during a single session, while men spend around 7.2 minutes.   That equates to almost 90 minutes on Tinder per day. How can the tech industry get more girls to code? Journalism academic Jay Rosen interviews his 17-year-old daughter in an effort to find out why she’s not that into coding.   The answer, as it turns out, is partially her digitally aware father’s fault. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 195.10 to 17,390.52. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Twitter sues US Government

10:12PM | Tuesday, 7 October

Twitter is suing the US government, alleging that the Justice Department’s restrictions on what the company can say about government national security requests for data violate the company’s First Amendment rights, The Washington Post reports.   Earlier this year five other technology companies, including Google and Microsoft, reached a settlement with the government on the permissible scope of disclosure.   Twitter vice president Ben Lee says it is the company’s belief that it is entitled under the First Amendment to respond to its users’ concerns and to the statements of US government officials by providing information about the scope of government surveillance.   “We should be free to do this in a meaningful way, rather than in broad inexact ranges,” he says.   Blockchain raises $30.5 million   Bitcoin wallet provider and software developer Blockchain is expected to announce it has closed a $US30.5 million ($AU34.6 million) fund-raising round, led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Wicklow Capital, The New York Times reports.   The investment, raised from Blockchain’s first round of outside financing, is one of the biggest in the digital currency industry to date.   Microsoft to hold cloud media event   On October 20, Microsoft will be holding a “What’s ahead for Microsoft’s Cloud” event in San Francisco.   Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella and executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group Scott Guthrie will be both presiding during the one-hour event for press and analysts.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 272.52 to 16,719.39. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: VC Marc Andreesen warns big-spending startups could get caught “swimming without trunks on”

9:19PM | Sunday, 28 September

Prominent venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has warned that startups with high cash rates will burn out should the market turn, The New York Times reports.   Andreessen took to Twitter on the weekend to warn against excessive spending by startups that have attracted capital from investors.   He says new founders from the last 10 years have only been operating in an environment where money has been easy to raise at higher valuations, a circumstance that will not last. When that change occurs, he says “we will find out who has been swimming without trunks on”.   Alibaba purchases stake in hospitality tech company   E-commerce giant Alibaba has purchased 15% of Chinese hospitality technology provider Beijing Shiji Information Technology Co Ltd, for $US458.66 million ($A523.73 million), Reuters reports.   The transaction is the company’s first big investment since raising $US25 billion in its record-breaking initial public offering recently.   The deal is expected to allow the company to develop its Taobao travel business alongside Beijing Shiji, including back-office services, while helping to migrate customers to Alibaba’s website.   Secret unveils Ping   The startup behind the anonymous secret-sharing app Secret, has unveiled another app, Ping, Re/code reports.   Ping works by allowing users to select topics they wish to follow like “trending on twitter” and then sends notifications when new things pop up from that specific category.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 167.35 to 17,113.15. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple investigators say celebrity photo hacks highly targeted

9:21PM | Tuesday, 2 September

The celebrity photo leak was a very targeted attack on specific accounts, Apple says in an update on its investigation into the incident.   Apple engineers have been working for more than 40 hours in an attempt to find the source of the leak.   “We have discovered that accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the internet,” the statement says.   “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud or Find My iPhone.   “We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.”   UberPop ride-sharing service banned in Germany   A German court has banned Uber’s most popular service from operating in the country until a hearing this year is completed, The New York Times reports.   The hearing will examine whether or not the service unfairly competes with taxis.   UberPop allows people to use their smartphones to book rides with freelance drivers. Uber Black is unaffected by the ruling. Uber says it will continue operations and appeal the ruling.   Ouya in acquisition talks   Ouya, the maker of a low-cost Android-based gaming console of the same name, is in preliminary acquisition talks with a number of big players in China and the US, including Xiaomi, Tencent, Google and Amazon, sources have told Re/code.   Those sources say the acquisition is related to company’s staff talent, rather than the Ouya console.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 30.89 to 17,067.56. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

Amazon buys Twitch for almost $1 billion: Five things you need to know about its latest purchase

8:18AM | Tuesday, 26 August

E-commerce giant Amazon has splashed out, paying close to $US1 billion ($A107 billion) for live video gaming platform Twitch.   Amazon said on Monday it will pay $US970 million in cash for the platform, which had previously been rumoured to have fallen into the hands of Google. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year.   “Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month —from The International, to breaking the world record for Mario, to gaming conferences like E3. And, amazingly, Twitch is only three years old,” said Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos in a statement.   “Like Twitch, we obsess over customers and like to think differently, and we look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community.”   Twitch chief executive Emmett Shear said in the same statement the acquisition will allow it to “create tools and services faster than we could have independently”.   “This change will mean great things for our community, and will let us bring Twitch to even more people around the world,” he said.   So what is Twitch and why did Amazon fork out the big bucks to purchase it?   Here’s five things you need to know about the platform. 1. Twitch allows gamers to live stream their gameplay Twitch enables game lovers to broadcast their gameplay sessions on PC, Xbox One or PlayStation 4 to viewers online, essentially turning what was once a solitary pursuit into a spectator sport.   Users typically see the screen of the person playing the game, as well as a video feed of the player’s face and a window that allows they to chat with the player and other viewers.   2. It is used by millions of gamers Twitch has more than 50 million monthly active users and more than 1.1 million members who broadcast videos each month.  In a typical month, Twitch users will watch more than 16 million minutes of gameplay.   The platform has grown exponentially since it was launched in June 2011 with 3.2 million active users.   3. The platform started out as something called Justin.tv   Twitch was founded by Justin Kan and Emmett Shear, who also co-founded Justin.tv, one of the first websites to host livestreaming user-generated video.   Twitch was born as one part of Justin.tv, which the duo launched in 2007 and allowed users to broadcast their own video live streams.   But Business Insider reports Twitch soon took over Justin.tv, so much so that Justin.tv changed its name to Twitch in February this year. Justin.tv officially closed earlier this month, with Twitch becoming the business’ sole focus.   4. Twitch allows advertising   As with most other online social platforms, Twitch does share advertising revenue with those who broadcast their videos on the platform. And there is little doubt the advertising potential in the platform is at least part of Amazon’s attraction.   According to the New York Times, most Twitch broadcasters, which can include businesses and content publishers, currently earn very little from the platform, although there are some said to be earning more than six figures a year.   5. It may expand to include live concerts in the future   While Twitch’s users are dedicated gamers, the platform has experimented with live music concerts, raising the possibility of the platform morphing into a live equivalent of YouTube.   In July this year, Twitch hosting a free broadcast of a concert by musician Steve Aoki. According to The Verge, Twitch said at the time it had received feedback that 80% of its users would be interested in watching live concerts.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple looks at sapphire screens but cost is a factor

8:34PM | Thursday, 14 August

Apple is considering using its sapphire unbreakable screens in more-expensive models of the two larger iPhones it plans on unveiling later this year, if it can get enough of the material, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.   Analysts estimate that a sapphire screen costs Apple about $16 to produce, compared to just $3 for Gorilla Glass, the heavy-duty glass used in current iPhones   Sapphire is already used to cover the iPhone’s camera lens and fingerprint reader. It doesn't crack or scratch as easily as glass, withstands high temperatures and resists corrosion.   Using sapphire would lead to fewer broken screens and Apple would save money in warranty costs, but analysts estimate those savings wouldn’t offset the higher cost of sapphire and, as such, would lead to smaller profit margins or higher prices for Apple products.     Robin Williams’ daughter bullied off Twitter   Twitter has vowed to improve its policies after trolls bullied Robin Williams’ daughter off of Twitter and Instagram just days after her father’s death, The Washington Post reports.   A handful of Twitter users sent Zelda Williams messages on Twitter that blamed her for her father’s death, as well as pictures of her father altered to show bruises around his neck.   Twitter says it will not tolerate abuse of this nature and a number of accounts have been suspended relating to the issue.   Ask.com buys Ask.fm   California-based Ask.com has announced it has acquired Ask.fm, a popular question-and-answer website, the New York Times reports.   Formerly known as AskJeeves when it began as a search engine in 1995, this is Ask.com’s first significant push into social networking.   Ask.fm has 180 million regular monthly users, 40% of whom are younger than 18.   Terms of the deal were not disclosed.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 61.78 to 16,713.58. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

THE NEWS WRAP: Uber hits back at Lyft with counterclaims of wrongdoing

8:31PM | Tuesday, 12 August

Transportation network startup Lyft recently claimed Uber employees had requested and cancelled more than 5000 Lyft drivers, and now Uber has shot back.   According to The New York Times, Uber has accused Lyft of doing the same thing.   In a statement, Uber denied Lyft’s allegations and claimed that Lyft’s own drivers and employees, including one of Lyft’s founders, have cancelled 12,900 trips on Uber.   “But instead of providing the long list of questionable tactics that Lyft has used over the years, we are focusing on building and maintaining the best platform for both consumers and drivers,” the statement says.   “These attacks from Lyft are unfortunate but somewhat expected. A number of Lyft investors have recently being pushing Uber to acquire Lyft. One of their largest shareholders recently warned that Lyft would “go nuclear” if we do not acquire them. We can only assume that the recent Lyft attacks are part of that strategy.”   OnePlus launches weird, sexist, smartphone contest Startup OnePlus recently launched its first smartphone, the One, and to deal with production issues, it’s been letting people buy them by invitation only.   According to The Verge OnePlus began supplementing that system with a contest dubbed Ladies First.   It asks women to draw the OnePlus logo on their body, or a sheet of paper they’re holding, take a photo of themselves, and then post it on the OnePlus forums.   From there the 50 most well liked will get a free T-shirt and the option of buying the phone.   Following widespread backlash, the startup removed the Ladies First contest page from its forums, but offered no further comment.   Apple releases diversity report Apple has released its diversity report which shows that seven out of 10 of its workers globally are male, and in the United States 55 per cent of its workers are white.   The company says the numbers represent a work in progress and it hopes to achieve more diversity over time.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 9.44 to 16,560.54. The Australian Dollar is currently trading at US93 cents.

iPhones still Apple’s bread and butter as profits reach $US7.7 billion

7:01AM | Wednesday, 23 July

The iPhone is still Apple’s bread and butter gadget, as the tech titan reports strong quarterly profits led by its iPhone sales.   Apple’s good news comes after its biggest rival in the smartphone market, Samsung, recently reported quarterly guidance far weaker than expected.   Apple reported its fiscal third quarter (April-June) results overnight in the US, posting a profit of $US7.7 billion ($A8.19 billion), up from $6.9 billion for the same quarter last year, and a quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion.   Apple sold 35.2 million iPhones during the quarter, compared to 31.2 million in the same period a year ago.   According to The New York Times, the quarter ending in June is traditionally a slow time of year for smartphone sales industrywide, as many consumers hold out until the holiday shopping season to buy new phones.   The highly anticipated release of the iPhone 6 with a larger screen, slated for later this year, will likely see the product remain the jewel in Apple’s crown.   The tech giant’s Mac computers were its second best performing product, selling 4.4 million units in the quarter, up from 3.8 million the same time last year.   “Our record June quarter revenue was fuelled by strong sales of iPhone and Mac and the continued growth of revenue from the Apple ecosystem, driving our highest EPS growth rate in seven quarters,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.   International sales drove 59% of the quarter’s revenue.   Tablets let the company down, with iPad sales shrinking to 13.3 million from 14.6 million last year.   Apple shareholders will be satisfied with the results, with Cook announcing the company returned over $8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the quarter.   Apple also provided a guidance for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter, estimating revenue between $37 billion and $40 billion and a gross margin between 37% and 38%.   This article originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Winners announced for the inaugural Walkley Grants for innovation in journalism

6:45AM | Wednesday, 25 June

Three innovative journalism projects will share a pool of $40,000 in seed funding through a partnership between The Walkley Foundation for Journalism and Google Australia.   Unique to Australia, the new Walkley Grants for Innovation in Journalism are an investment in the future of the industry and encourage experimental approaches to journalism.   A statement on the winners says the program is central to the Walkley Foundation’s mission to encourage and support innovation in Australian media, as well as celebrate and encourage great journalism.   Brisbane journalist and academic Skye Doherty was awarded $25,000 to develop an online platform for her unique storytelling concept “NewsCube”, while Tim Dunlop and Hugh Martin, from Melbourne, got $10,000 to build a business and content strategy for “The News Franchise”.   “Youth Bytes”, a project by Stephen Turner, will use a $5000 grant to run a pilot program in Turner’s Coonabarabran high school, introducing students to the world of journalism.   More than 120 people from around Australia applied for the inaugural grants, judged by:   James Kirby, Eureka Report managing editor and Walkley Advisory Board member Ramin Marzbani, leading technology, internet and financial services analyst Aron Pilhofer, The New York Times former associate managing editor of digital strategy Jacqui Park, The Walkley Foundation director   Kirby said all judges were impressed with the creativity and passion on display in the shortlisted projects.   “Starting a media business in the current climate offers exceptional challenges and the chance of excellent rewards,” he said. “The hardest phase of financing a new media business will always be the ‘first phase’ funding, and we hope these grants can act as a catalyst to both reveal and promote new media projects across Australia.”

THE NEWS WRAP: Top secret NSA facial recognition program revealed

6:26PM | Sunday, 1 June

America’s National Security Agency has been collecting millions of images as part of its facial recognition program, according to top secret documents obtained by The New York Times.   The NSA’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly in the past four years and the agency has turned to new software to exploit the mass of images included in emails, text messages, social media, video conferences and other communications.   Pirate Bay co-founder arrested   Peter Sunde, one of the co-founders of popular file-sharing website Pirate Bay, has been arrested in Sweden to serve an outstanding sentence for copyright violations after being on the run for nearly two years.   Sunde was sentenced to prison and fined by a Swedish court in 2012 for breaching copyright laws.   Games get girls interested in coding   Some educators believe that gaming could be the way to get girls interested in coding and increase the number of girls participating in science, technology, engineering and math.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 18.43 to 16,717.17. The Australian dollar is trading at US93 cents.

Three social media trends every startup should know about

4:30AM | Tuesday, 15 April

There’s a golden saying that networking is about getting someone else’s business card, not giving away your own. When you meet someone you want to connect with; someone who inspires you, a potential business partner, a future employee; your mission is to intrigue them enough that they want to connect again with you.   Taking this advice on board, we recently packed our bags and headed to San Diego for Social Media Marketing World, the world’s biggest conference for social media marketers. With a bag of t-shirts, stickers, and a few business cards, we were off to meet and learn from some of the top social media experts from around the world. Without a sponsor booth or speaking session, our goal was to meet as many people as we could.   Unsurprisingly, social media is just like networking. You want to provide enough unique value that you stand out from the rest of the pack. The first time someone visits your page, you want them to give you permission to keep them updated – have them ask for your business card.   But what else can you do to spice up your social media presence? Here are some of the top things we took home from this year’s Social Media Marketing World conference.   Visual social media is growing fast   There’s no question about it, visual social media is on the rise. According to new research announced by Social Media Examiner’s Mike Stelzner, 70% of marketers plan on using more visual content in 2014. It’s really no wonder. The brain can process visuals faster than text. Visuals have the power to inspire an emotional reaction. They’re easier to understand and they’re shareable.   The biggest social networks – from Facebook to Pinterest, Google+ to Instagram – are all centred on visual content. Even Twitter has joined the visual game by allowing people to add embedded content to their tweets. In fact, Buffer found that tweets with images received 150% more retweets than those without. There’s more you can do to maximise the engagement of your social posts.   When considering your visual content calendar, aim to build consistency with your content. You can do this by using the same colours, fonts, brand photo filters and templates for different posts. Each time your content appears on a follower’s News Feed, it will stand out to your followers because it reflects a consistent brand. If you see a similar looking post from the same brand each day, it’s more likely to make an impact.   Slideshare expert and speaker Todd Wheatland suggested considering visual content as part of your brand’s marketing funnel. For example, if you’re releasing a big research report, break it down into bite-sized content that you can share across different social networks. Leverage your existing content by being strategic about the way you share on social media. Entice people to give you their email address by promising the full or extended version if they provide their email. You can also Facebook and tweet individual graphics with links to your Slideshare presentation or blog.   Good content must be shareable and snackable   That brings us to an important question: does good content exist if no one can find it? Well, it’s certainly not living up to its potential. Many of the speakers at Social Media Marketing World revealed that spreading their content was one of the most important things they do as a content creator. Good content needs to be put out into the world.   A good tip from Australian blogger Donna Moritz was to make your content shareable and snackable. If you’ve produced a blog post with social media tips, then take individual tips and share them as image posts on social media. You can share these bite-sized tips at different times over the course of a week, of course linking back to your original blog post.   So you’re wondering: how often can you tweet a tweet? There’s actually some interesting research that suggests repeating your tweet. As the New York Times found, sharing the content several times over a day or week generates more clicks and helps keeps your content in the feed so people don’t miss it.   Another thing to consider is making sure you’ve included shareable content in all your blog posts. Did you know that more than 80% of content on Pinterest is re-pinned? That means people are looking for content they can re-share on their own Pinterest page. Pinterest is also one of the top traffic drivers on the Web. In your next blog post, try including a few of the taller Pinterest-style graphics in your posts that people can easily share.   The customer is the hero of your story Don’t forget that social media is, well, social. The best online relationships are just like any offline relationship. It’s important to invest time and energy building relationships with people in your industry. If there’s a topic you’re interested in, whether it’s social media or fashion, there’ll be a community online that you can tap into. Figure out how you can contribute.   Razor Social’s Ian Cleary advocated spending time building a network of influencers. Over time this network of people in your industry will be useful as a second opinion for new ideas, and can also help you get content out to the world. Focus on building relationships with people in that community. You never know what potential there may be for you to work together. You truly do need to “go offline to build online.”   We set up a simple Google Spreadsheet to use during Social Media Marketing World to keep track of people that we met. Every time we were given a new business card, we added that person’s details to the spreadsheet and make a note about anything we talked about as well as ways in which we could help them out or work together. This made it a lot easier to follow up after the event.   Tools like Grouphigh, Littlebird and Mention can be helpful to find people talking about particular topics online. Tapping into conversation in your industry is a great way to build relationships with the right people. Put simply, it all comes back to having a coordinated plan for any marketing activities you undertake, whether they’re online or offline. Seek out influencers, produce great content, and invest time in getting the word out there.   It’s important that you look at your startup’s objectives when planning your social media strategy. Good content takes time. Are you trying to attract new users or build a community for your existing customers? What topics does your brand need to be talking about online? Knowing the answers to these questions will help get started on the right track.   How are you incorporating these trends into your startup’s social media strategy? Share your suggestions below.   Zach Kitschke is head of communications at Canva.com.

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