June 17, 2024

A Japanese Social App Contacts New Shores

They do it to activate Line, a two-year-old messaging application that lets people exchange information, send silly stickers and play games with their friends. It already has 230 million monthly users — a milestone that Facebook did not reach until it was five years old.

And it has not even penetrated the United States yet. Most Americans have never heard of its parent company, NHN Corporation, of South Korea.

But hundreds of millions of smartphone users in Asia and patches of Europe and Latin America are spurning Facebook or Twitter, preferring instead to use Line to tell their friends about a new job, boyfriend or breakfast cereal. Now Line, not content with being the latest “big in Japan” craze, wants to transform itself into something bigger — the first global Internet company from Asia.

“We would like to turn Line into a common language for the world,” said Akira Morikawa, chief executive of Line. “Our plan is to become the No. 1 online service.”

Bigger than Facebook? Bigger than Google? Yes, Mr. Morikawa said, in an interview at the company’s headquarters on the 27th floor of an office tower overlooking the chaos of Shibuya Crossing, reputedly the busiest pedestrian intersection in the world.

Mr. Morikawa’s claims might sound like boastfulness, the pipe dream of any upstart hoping to be the industry’s next big thing. But the company’s growth is impressive, even if it still has only a small fraction of Facebook’s billion-member network of users.

American Internet giants may dominate social media, but Line has a critical advantage, Mr. Morikawa said. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and even Google Plus, Line was originally conceived and created for smartphones, which already account for most of growth in Internet users. So the company does not have to wrestle with designing software that can leap from desktop computers to mobile devices.

Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, need only ask his sister Randi about it. She wrote in a blog post after visiting Tokyo this year that “all the cool kids are using Line.”

Noriko Suzuki, a 22-year-old office worker in Tokyo, said she feels that way. She said she sent about 50 messages a day via Line — including reports on her summer vacation, plans for an evening out and pictures of her lunch.

Like other Line users, Ms. Suzuki often adds a digital “sticker,” a cartoon image that could be anything from an exuberant teddy bear to a grimacing rabbit. It communicates feelings hard to convey in a text message. “If I’m angry, happy or crying, there’s always a sticker,” she said.

Some of the stickers feature Line’s own characters, including a bear named Brown and a rabbit named Cony, who engage in activities as varied as hugs and flatulence. Others show well-known cartoon figures like Hello Kitty or Marvel Comics heroes.

Line says its users send more than 1 billion stickers per day. Facebook has taken notice; recently it added a sticker function to its messaging application. So has the rest of Silicon Valley. A number of messaging start-ups, including Path, MessageMe and GroupMe, have added stickers in recent months.

“If any app can make a giant like Facebook rethink their strategy, then that is the surest sign of the potential power of these services,” said Neha Dharia, an analyst at Ovum, a telecommunications research firm. Ovum estimates that messaging apps will cost telecommunications companies more than $32 billion in lost revenue worldwide this year.

The stickers may seem silly, but they were the first step in Line’s plan to expand beyond cheap communications and turn itself into a broader media and entertainment platform. Many other companies’ mobile applications, messaging and beyond, have yet to generate any revenue in the United States. Line gives some stickers away; others cost 170 yen (about $1.70) for a pack of 40. Sticker sales alone make about $10 million a month in revenue, Line says.

Games are Line’s biggest moneymaker, accounting for about $25 million a month in sales, or slightly more than half the company’s revenue. Though games were added only about a year ago, offerings like Line Pop and Line Bubble quickly moved into the Top 10 lists on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Joshua Hunt contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/technology/a-japanese-social-app-contacts-new-shores.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

To Match Its Rivals, Facebook Adds Video Sharing

That’s the maximum length of the videos on Vine, a mobile application owned by Twitter that has grown like one of those creeping plants, to close to 20 million users since it sprouted five months ago.

On Thursday, Facebook introduced its own short-video service, built into Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app that Facebook bought last year. The new feature, which is available now, allows users to record up to 15 seconds of video, enhance it with filters and post it immediately.

“We’ve worked a ton on making it fast, simple and beautiful,” said Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, at a news conference at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “What we did to photos we just did for video.”

The move underscores how video has increasingly become critical to companies like Facebook, which is seeking ways to keep its 1.1 billion users entertained and engaged — particularly on their mobile devices. Video also represents a lucrative and fast-growing area of online advertising, with revenue in the United States expected to top $4 billion this year, according to the research firm eMarketer.

“Sharing video is inherently mobile,” said Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray. And Facebook needed to get into the game, he said, adding that the company had to “check that box to remain relevant to their users.”

Although neither Vine nor Facebook’s service are currently offering advertising, it would be easy to sprinkle a sponsor’s video ad into the legions of user-generated videos, much as both services do now with text ads in their users’ feeds.

Jan Rezab, chief executive of the research firm Socialbakers, said that online viewers had a high tendency to engage with video ads, especially if they were deftly inserted into a stream of other content.

“You could actually monetize Vines and the Vine channel by introducing sponsored Vines. Every 10th Vine could be a sponsored Vine,” he said. Facebook could do something similar.

If the short-video format proves to be more than a passing fad, a great deal of advertising revenue could be at stake. YouTube, Google’s longer-format video service, brings in billions of dollars a year in advertising.

Facebook already gets about 30 percent of its advertising revenue from mobile, according to its last quarterly earnings report. If the company could figure out how to aim the video content that individual customers want, it could significantly increase the revenue it is able to make from mobile advertising.

Video holds a promise that goes beyond what static images and nuggets of text can offer. It tends to engage even the most distracted users, particularly when the snippets are easily digestible.

Vine-length videos are ideal when scrolling through a Twitter feed on a smartphone, Mr. Rezab said. Videos tend to be funny, and “you don’t have to hit the play button. The sound kicks in as you’re scrolling over it.”

“The six seconds is just magical,” Mr. Rezab said.

That sense of ease and simplicity was what the Vine team was striving for when it built the app, said Michael Sippey, Twitter’s vice president of product, in an interview.

“We wanted to make mobile video without a start or stop button,” he said. “If you give people simple tools to tell stories, they’ll tell really great stories.”

Some will be funny or trivial, but others will record momentous events, he said, such as this week’s Vine of the protests in Brazil.

The Instagram team sought much the same thing, although it added other features, such as the ability to delete portions of a 15-second video and rerecord them. It also included an image stabilization feature to reduce the choppiness that often comes with hand-held recording.

The simplicity of both apps — press your finger to the screen to record, lift it to stop and click to publish — makes it nearly as easy to share a video as it is to post a photograph. And the form seems aptly suited to modern vanities and attention spans — people peek at their smartphones in line at the grocery store but may also feel moved to document the visit.

Vine has caught the fancy of everyone from the White House, which recently filmed President Obama pedaling a stationary water filtration bicycle, to marketers like Burberry, which this week compressed its entire runway show of men’s fashions into a six-second blur.

Vine, which is operated as a separate service, has drawn new users to the Twitter microblogging platform, Mr. Sippey said. However, “we think that they are potentially separate networks. You may love my tweets but hate my Vines.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/technology/personaltech/facebook-starts-a-short-video-service.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bits Blog: Google Seeks Permission to Publish Data on Security Requests

Google's motion with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday is the company's latest move to control the public relations crisis that has resulted from revelations of government Internet surveillance.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press Google’s motion with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday is the company’s latest move to control the public relations crisis that has resulted from revelations of government Internet surveillance.

Google on Tuesday filed a motion with the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, asking permission to publish data on national security requests that were made to it and authorized by the court.

The motion is the company’s latest move to control the public relations crisis that has resulted from revelations of government Internet surveillance. It is an escalation of Google’s efforts to publish the data. Last week, it sent a letter to the director of the F.B.I. and the director of national intelligence, asking for the same thing.

By law, recipients of national security requests are not allowed to acknowledge their existence. But with the permission of the government, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple have in the last few days published aggregate numbers of national security and criminal requests, including those authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Google has not, because it said that would be less transparent than what it had already published. Its transparency report has since 2010 broken out requests by type, and if it agreed to the same terms the other companies did, it would not be able to publish the report that way in the future.

In the motion, Google argued that it had a First Amendment right to publish a range of the total number of requests and the number of users or accounts they cover.

Google said that its executives had responded to allegations — that it cooperated with the government in Internet surveillance — as best they could, given the government’s restraints on discussing them. But the company said that it wanted to do more for the sake of its reputation, business and users, and for the sake of public debate.

“Google’s reputation and business has been harmed by the false or misleading reports in the media, and Google’s users are concerned by the allegations,” the motion said. “Google must respond to such claims with more than generalities.”

The tech companies have been pressing to be able to publish the number of government requests largely to prove that the requests cover a tiny fraction of users. Though the other companies said they were also pushing the government for permission to publish more detailed data, they said the aggregate numbers were useful to control speculation by setting a ceiling on the number of requests.

Other tech companies affected by the government’s surveillance program, called Prism, have considered going to the secret court, an option that is still on the table, according to two people briefed on the discussions. So far, the companies have been individually negotiating with the government instead of acting in concert.

Still, even if they are allowed to publish more detailed numbers, it would leave many questions unanswered, including details of how Prism works. Also, the number of people affected by FISA requests could be much larger than the number of requests, because once the government makes a broad request, it can add individuals and additional search queries for a year.

Google’s motion also revealed that two of its top lawyers, Kent Walker and Richard Salgado, have security clearance, which FISA requires for handling classified legal orders and materials. It was filed on behalf of the company by Albert Gidari, a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie who has earned a reputation in tech and legal circles as the go-to man on surveillance law.

A version of this article appeared in print on 06/19/2013, on page B9 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Google Asks Court to Allow Data Release.

Article source: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/google-asks-secret-court-for-permission-to-publish-national-security-request-data/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Greek Workers Strike to Protest Shutdown of State Broadcaster

The nationwide walkout shut down tax offices, left hospitals on emergency staffing and was due to disrupt international flights for several hours in the afternoon. Ferries remained moored in ports and trains at depots. Public transit was also disrupted, though workers were running a reduced service to allow Greeks to join a protest rally.

Instead of gathering outside Parliament in central Athens, as they have done for anti-austerity protests since the country’s debt crisis began in the spring of 2010, demonstrators met on Thursday outside the headquarters of the now-defunct Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, or ERT, northeast of Athens. Former employees and supporters have gathered there since Tuesday night, when the authorities pulled the broadcaster off the air.

Private television channels continued with a news blackout begun on Wednesday while newspaper staff members walked off the job, too, leaving Greeks to depend on blogs and online social networks for updates on developments.

Though criticized for overspending and, like many European state broadcasters, for compromised independence, ERT was widely valued for its in-depth news coverage, documentaries and cultural programs. Until the government sets up a new, leaner replacement — which officials said should happen during the summer — Greeks must rely on the many private channels that operate around the country. Most of them are owned by wealthy entrepreneurs who are widely believed to influence news decisions in line with their political beliefs.

Six channels provide nationwide coverage and 13 others cover Athens, with more than 150 provincial stations. The quality of their fare varies, though most national channels offer a mix of news coverage, talk shows, cooking programs and films.

People also tuned in to online video channels and social networks like Twitter and Facebook for updates on reaction and followed coverage by dismissed ERT workers who continued to operate an underground broadcast of Greek news through satellite streams.

The country’s two main labor unions, which represent some 2.5 million workers but have seen their influence wane in recent months among Greeks worn down by three years of wage and pension cuts, called on workers to join them in condemning an “unprecedented and provocative” initiative by the authorities.

The civil servants’ union, known as Adedy, accused the government of “methodically and autocratically annihilating the rights of workers and citizens, one by one, for a long time now,” noting that its only aim was to satisfy the demands of Greece’s three main foreign lenders: the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Envoys from the lenders, knows collectively as the troika, did not comment on the ERT shutdown. On Wednesday, the European economic and monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, said there had been no pressure from Brussels for Athens to close its state broadcaster.

“The commission has not sought the closure of ERT, but nor does the commission question the Greek government’s mandate to manage the public sector in Greece,” Mr. Rehn said.

In an address to a business conference on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras criticized labor unions for “striking every time something significant and positive happens.” He defended his decision to shut down ERT, saying that that the organization would soon be replaced with a new, more streamlined and more accountable broadcaster.

Describing ERT as “sinful” and “an emblem of lack of transparency and waste,” he said the new state broadcaster would mimic “the most modern international prototypes.”

Referring to angry protests by ERT employees, he said, “What we are seeing today are the final spasms of a status quo of privileges which is collapsing.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/world/europe/greece.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Campaign Spotlight: Bringing New York City Dance Into the Limelight

The campaign, scheduled to get under way this week, is being sponsored by Dance/NYC, a nonprofit organization that was spun off in January from the national organization Dance/USA. The campaign, which is being created internally at Dance/NYC, carries the theme “New Yorkers for dance.”

The campaign seeks to stimulate interest in and increase awareness of the New York dance community through short video clips being uploaded to YouTube, which feature a cross-section of figures from the New York dance community, including Robert Battle, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; the ballet star David Hallberg; Virginia Johnson, artistic director of Dance Theater of Harlem; the choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones; Sara Mearns, a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet; the Broadway star Bebe Neuwirth; and even the Rockettes.

The subjects they discuss include the importance of dance, the city’s pre-eminent place in the dance world, what dance has meant to them and the need for dance artists and companies to receive the financial and other types of support they require.

Also appearing in the brief YouTube videos are familiar New Yorkers from outside the world of dance who discuss how dance has enriched their lives. They include the designer Isaac Mizrahi, who says he is a New Yorker for dance “because I love legs,” and Vin Cipolla, president of the Municipal Art Society.

The campaign is to begin with a handful of video clips, with more to be released in the coming days and weeks until there is a total of 35 or so available at youtube.com.

The campaign also includes the Dance/NYC Web site, e-mail and a presence in social media like Facebook and Twitter. The thrifty budget is being estimated at less than $10,000.

Plans call for the campaign to be formally introduced on Tuesday at a fund-raiser for Dance/NYC at the Ailey Studios and Joan Weill Center for Dance at 405 West 55th Street at Ninth Avenue. Some of the videos are to be shown at the event.

The campaign is indicative of how recent successful efforts for political candidates and ballot initiatives, which appeared primarily online and in social media rather than in traditional media like television, are influencing other forms of advertising.

Lane Harwell, executive director of Dance/NYC, tips his hat to New Yorkers for Marriage Equality, an initiative by the Human Rights Campaign that was centered on dozens of video clips featuring residents of New York State, famous and otherwise, urging support for same-sex marriage rights in the state. The video campaign was cited as a reason the state approved same-sex marriage in 2011.

“We wanted to adapt technologies and strategies that are working well for other causes to expand the online footprint for dance,” Mr. Harwell says.

“We had the right assets” for such a campaign, he adds, listing “our growing online presence at dancenyc.org” along with “a community of artists with meaningful stories to share and a desire to connect.”

“The idea for the campaign has been hanging around a while,” Mr. Harwell says. “I took it off the hanger when Dance/NYC became an independent nonprofit.”

“It’s difficult to describe the work a support organization like ours is doing; you get blank stares,” he adds. “But when we say, ‘New Yorkers for dance,’ people get it.”

“We’ve always had a great following inside the dance community,” Mr. Harwell says. “This is an opportunity to have a more public face and connect with New Yorkers.”

“I would describe the campaign as a springboard for audience engagement,” he adds. “We want New Yorkers to see themselves in the stories.”

In the video featuring Mr. Battle of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, he extols dance as “the most primal of the performing arts.”

Asked why he is taking part in the campaign, Mr. Battle writes in an e-mail: “Dance is a universal language that brings people together. That’s particularly true here in New York — our home — where the heart of dance beats so loudly.”

“We need to recognize how dance positively impacts all of us in the city, individually and collectively,” Mr. Battle says. “We’re a part of a community that is moving forward, and I’m happy to be a New Yorker for dance.”

Ms. Mearns of the New York City Ballet, in her video, says she calls herself a “New Yorker for dance” because “it allows dreams to come true for boys and girls from all around the world that make dance their communication and their expression,” adding, “I’m a living example of that.”

Asked why she is participating in the campaign, Ms. Mearns replies in an e-mail: “Dance is a freedom of expression that everyone takes part in, whether it be in the shower or on a New York stage like myself. Professional dancers are the peak athletes of the world and I believe should be seen in the same league as any sports athlete you watch on the field or TV.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/business/media/bringing-new-york-city-dancing-into-the-limelight.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Campaign Spotlight: Grape-Nuts Wants You to Climb Every Mountain

A venerable cereal brand is using an anniversary as a way to reintroduce itself as well as to introduce a line extension meant to appeal to more contemporary tastes.

The cereal is Post Grape-Nuts, which has been around since 1897. The brand and its siblings like Alpha-Bits, Great Grains, Honey Bunches of Oats, Pebbles and Shredded Wheat are sold by a company named Post Foods, spun off last year from Ralcorp.

By now, most consumers probably know that a package of Grape-Nuts contains neither grapes nor nuts, but rather crunchy nuggets made of wheat and barley. (There is also a variety with flakes in place of nuggets, Grape-Nuts Flakes.)

Grape-Nuts has long been marketed as a healthful and natural cereal, predating the current popularity of pitches that play up those qualities. It was even a favorite among explorers, who took it along as part of their supplies for expeditions.

Among the adventurers who were fueled by Grape-Nuts was Edmund Hillary, who in 1953, along with Tenzing Norgay, was the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest. The 60th anniversary of the Hillary ascent is the centerpiece of a campaign for Grape-Nuts and the new variety, Grape-Nuts Fit, which carries the theme “What’s your mountain?”

The campaign, with a budget estimated at more than $10 million, is created by an agency in Toronto named Birthplace, which is part of the Grey Group division of WPP. Hunter Public Relations in New York is also working on the campaign.

The campaign includes a commercial, promotions, events, sampling, a mobile app, content on the Post Foods Web site and Patch.com and a presence in social media like Facebook.

Among the events is one scheduled for Wednesday — 60 years to the day that Mr. Hillary achieved his feat — in Herald Square in Midtown Manhattan, which is to feature a 30-foot rock wall for passers-by to climb. The climbers can plant at the top of the wall pennants in purple — a Grape-Nuts color — that ask “What’s your mountain?”

Also on Wednesday, free samples of Grape-Nuts Fit will be distributed to climbers and hikers at various peaks and trails around the country.

The “What’s your mountain?” theme is intended to serve as a kind of mantra, wake-up call or clarion cry, encouraging consumers to tackle challenges and achieve goals the way Mr. Hillary did 60 years ago. The Grape-Nuts Facebook fan page asks, “What mountain are you conquering today?”

In the commercial, an announcer describes how Grape-Nuts — “packed with protein and nutritious grains” — helped Mr. Hillary get to the peak of Mount Everest.

“Now, the highest point on earth is a long way from the breakfast table,” the announcer continues, “but if Grape-Nuts cereal helped Hillary reach the top of his mountain, just imagine where it could take you.”

Grape-Nuts is not alone in seeking to engage consumers with pointed questions about fulfilling their potential. For instance, Hennessy Cognac introduced a campaign early last year that personified the quest to achieve by asking, “What’s your wild rabbit?” and concluding, “Never stop. Never settle.”

“The Grape-Nuts consumer is free-spirited and independent-minded,” says Mangala D’Sa, who as the brand director for what Post Foods calls its healthy brands oversees Grape-Nuts along with Great Grains, Post Raisin Bran and Shredded Wheat.

Grape-Nuts consumers are also “demanding a lot from their food in terms of nutrition,” says Ms. D’Sa, who is based in Parsippany, N.J., and have a lot in common with the buyers of Shredded Wheat, who “are looking for simple ingredients” in what they eat.

The current Grape-Nuts buyer tends to be “more of a boomer, 50-plus crowd,” Ms. D’Sa says, referring to the baby-boom generation, so to help the brand attract new customers the campaign is intended to appeal to a somewhat younger audience.

Also intended to reach a younger audience is Grape-Nut Fit, which contains nuggets that are “lightly crunchy,” as the package proclaims, meaning less crunchy than the original Grape-Nuts nuggets, which detractors have likened to gravel or pebbles — not Pebbles, as in its sibling Post cereal, but as in small rocks.

Grape-Nuts lovers are “very passionate about the crunch,” Ms. D’Sa says, “but a lot of people find it intimidating in that it is very crunchy.” So Grape-Nuts Fit offers what she calls “a fluffier nugget,” along with added ingredients like granola, cranberries and a vanilla flavor, none of which are found in Grape-Nuts.

The “What’s your mountain?” theme is found on the backs of packages of Grape-Nuts Fit as well as Grape-Nuts. Both declare, “From Everest to the everyday, Grape-Nuts has the power-packed nutrition you need to reach the top!”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/business/media/grape-nuts-wants-you-to-climb-every-mountain.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Yahoo to Move Into Old New York Times Headquarters

Yahoo, the giant Web company that agreed on Sunday to buy Tumblr for $1.1 billion, is moving its New York headquarters to the former home of The New York Times, on 43rd Street, east of Eighth Avenue, where it plans to expand.

Yahoo is talking to city officials about erecting a large illuminated sign with its name on the cupola at the top of the building, where The Times once had its own sign.

The move, announced on Monday, illustrates the rapid growth and importance of the technology industry in the city’s economy.

Yahoo, which has signed a long-term lease for the 9th through 12th floors in the 15-story building, is joining two other tech tenants there: 10gen, which makes database software, and Citysearch, the local search engine.

Yahoo is based in Silicon Valley. The company, which now has about 500 employees in three buildings in New York City, said it expected to expand its work force in the city to 700 within the next couple of years, particularly in the engineering area. Microsoft is moving to 11 Times Square and Facebook is nearby.

“For a while now,” Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s chief executive, said, “Yahoo has been looking for a home here in New York. We have several hundred employees spread across several offices. And I’m proud to say that we’ve found it.”

The company’s New York employees currently work at 1065 Avenue of the Americas (at 40th Street), 1540 Broadway (at 45th Street) and 11 West 19th Street.

Lately, Ms. Mayer has focused on reinvigorating the company, armed with billions of dollars in cash from the sale of half its interest in the Chinese Internet company Alibaba. On Sunday, Yahoo agreed to pay cash for Tumblr, a blogging service.

Tumblr’s 175 employees work from offices at 35 East 21st Street, and they will not move to Times Square. In order to attract employees, Yahoo plans to install the kind of amenities at the former Times building that are common at tech companies, including outdoor terraces and a cafeteria with an extensive menu of free food.

It would be similar to the setup at Google, which paid $1.8 billion for a building in Chelsea, at 111 Eighth Avenue. Google now has about 3,000 employees in the city.

“Since the Lehman Brothers collapse, tech has been carrying the New York City economy,” said Jonathan Bowles, director of the Center for an Urban Future, a research organization. “It’s been an engine of growth and has helped diversify New York’s economy beyond Wall Street. They’re creating jobs and eating up more real estate.”

The fortunes of the former Times building have closely followed the rise and fall of the real estate market. Tishman Speyer Properties bought the property from The New York Times Company in 2004 for $175 million, after The Times announced plans to build a new headquarters several blocks away, on Eighth Avenue between 40th and 41st Streets.

Less than three years later, Tishman Speyer sold the building to Africa Israel USA for $525 million. The buyer spent $100 million on gutting and renovating the property in an effort to transform it into a first-class office building.

But the real estate market went into a tailspin, and Africa Israel was crushed under the weight of $711 million in loans. The company scrapped plans for wooing office tenants, and instead signed deals with Bowlmor Lanes, an upscale bowling alley, and Discovery Times Square, an exhibition hall, for the lower floors.

In 2011, the Blackstone Group, an investment firm, bought the bulk of the building, the top 11 floors, for $160 million. Blackstone abandoned plans for luring financial institutions and other corporations to the building, focusing instead on the growing tech sector.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/21/nyregion/yahoo-to-consolidate-new-york-headquarters-in-times-square.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Yahoo to Buy Tumblr for $1.1 Billion

The deal, which is expected to be announced as soon as Monday, would be the largest acquisition of a social networking company in years, surpassing Facebook’s $1 billion purchase of Instagram last year.

For Yahoo and its chief executive, Marissa Mayer, buying Tumblr would be a bold move as she tries to breathe new life into the company. The deal, the seventh since Ms. Mayer defected from Google last summer to take over the company, would be her biggest yet. It is meant to give her company more appeal to young people, and to make up for years of missing out on the revolutions in social networking and mobile devices. Tumblr has over 108 million blogs, with many highly active users.

Yet even with all those users, a basic question about Tumblr and other social media sites remains open: Can they make money?

Founded six years ago, Tumblr has attracted a loyal following and raised millions from big-name investors. Still, it has not proved that it can be profitable, nor that it can succeed on mobile devices, which are becoming the gateway to the Internet. Even Facebook faces continued pressure from investors to show it can increase its profits and adapt to the mobile world.

“The challenge has always been, how do you monetize eyeballs?” said Charlene Li, the founder of the Altimeter Group, a consulting firm. “Services like Instagram and Facebook always focus on the user experience first. Once that loyalty is there, they figure out how to carefully, ideally, make money on it.”

A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment. A representative for Tumblr did not respond to requests for comment.

If the deal is approved, Ms. Mayer will face the challenge of successfully managing the takeover, given Yahoo’s notorious reputation for paying big money for start-ups and then letting the prizes wither. Previous acquisitions by Yahoo, like the purchase of Flickr for $35 million and a $3.6 billion deal for GeoCities, an early pioneer in social networking, have been either shut down or neglected within the company.

Because of this, Ms. Mayer will face pressure to keep Tumblr’s staff, led by its founder, the 26-year-old David Karp, who dropped out of high school as a 15-year-old programmer. It is unclear whether all of Tumblr’s 175 employees, based in New York City, will move over to Yahoo.

At the same time, analysts and investors are likely to question whether buying a site that has struggled to generate revenue makes sense.

“This is not an inexpensive acquisition, but they’re willing to pay to get back some of what they’ve lost,” said Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Partners. “They want to be hip.”

In her short tenure as chief executive, Ms. Mayer has bought a string of tiny start-ups. Most of those were aimed at buying engineering talent that could help freshen Yahoo’s core products, like mail, finance and sports, as well as build out new mobile services.

Ms. Mayer has had ambitions to hunt bigger game, armed with $4.3 billion in cash from selling half of Yahoo’s stake in the Chinese Internet titan Alibaba.

She has had conversations with a number of other big-ticket targets, like Foursquare, a mobile app that lets users find nearby restaurants, stores and bars, and Hulu, the video streaming service, according to people with knowledge of those discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Tumblr brings something that Ms. Mayer has sought for some time: a full-fledged social network with a loyal following. The start-up claims more than 100 million blogs on its site, reaching 44 million people in the United States and 134 million around the world, according to Quantcast.

But in some ways, Yahoo isn’t pursuing users — it already claims 700 million, one of the biggest user bases on the Web — but products and services that would again make it a central destination. Once the biggest seller of display ads in the United States, Yahoo has lost market share to the likes of Google and Facebook. Its share of all digital ad revenue tumbled to 8.4 percent last year, from 15.5 percent in 2009, even as total advertising spending grew, according to eMarketer. Google now claims about 41 percent.

Andrew Ross Sorkin and Jenna Wortham contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/technology/yahoo-to-buy-tumblr-for-1-1-billion.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Giants Chase Online Ads With Original Shows

Digital and traditional media companies, including newspapers and magazines, have for years been building a video presence on the Internet. But until now the offerings have largely been low-budget, single-camera affairs featuring talking heads.

Last week, however, major media companies like Condé Nast, The Wall Street Journal and Univision presented ambitious slates of original programming to advertisers for the first time.

Companies that were already producing Web content, like Yahoo and Hulu, also announced greatly expanded offerings.

As a result, viewers are being bombarded with an array of new Internet programs — 11 from Yahoo, 14 from AOL and a whopping 30 from Condé Nast, including one that will let viewers watch a Vogue editor, Hamish Bowles, as he shops around the world.

Hulu’s four new original offerings include one called “Behind the Mask,” a show it describes as a “comedic docu-series,” which looks at the world of sports mascots.

These companies are moving rapidly because they believe viewers are now so accustomed to watching programs on devices like mobile phones and tablets that the lines between traditional television and Internet video will blur.

But the companies are also acting out of desperation because many of them can command higher prices for video ads than traditional online banner ads, which are increasingly being undermined by fast-paced algorithmic buying technologies.

Advertisers are also shifting dollars from traditional display advertising to sites like Facebook that can deliver huge audiences. Media companies were wooing ad executives in New York last week during an advertising event called Digital Content NewFronts that is trying to imitate the success of the network television upfronts, which are being held later this month. At lavish open-bar parties, companies not previously known for programming tried to convince advertisers to sponsor shows, or better still, whole channels.

Yet even with the amount of so-called premium content booming, it is not clear ad dollars are following. According to data from the research company eMarketer, spending on digital video — while growing — is expected to reach only $4.14 billion in 2013, a far cry from the $66.35 billion expected to flow into the television market.

Many advertisers say they worry that with so much new content being thrown at the market on so many different platforms, audiences for individual shows will become even more fragmented and microscopic than they already are.

“I don’t care how good your attention span is,” Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer of Group M, said of the crush of new offerings, “I think it becomes all a blur.” Group M is one of the world’s biggest media-buying and planning agencies.

Ben Winkler, chief digital officer of the advertising agency OMD, which represents brands including Pepsi and Nissan, called it “cable to the nth degree.”

“We are talking narrow, narrow television, niche television if you will,” he said. “If you are reaching just 100 people, is it worth our time and energy?”

AOL is one of the companies making a big bet on “premium video,” or video it hopes will generate greater ad revenue because of higher production values. Tim Armstrong, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview: “Consumers are adopting video very quickly: big investment in devices and networks, big investments by the most talented creative people to get involved in this medium; and big investment in measurement. So I think this industry is about to explode.”

Many online sites are citing the success of “House of Cards,” the Netflix series that drew critical praise this winter, as proof that the moment for video content has arrived. But “House of Cards,” with top-flight talent and sophisticated production values, was hugely expensive. And Netflix relies on subscriptions, not advertising.

For now, most digital companies are looking to produce programming that, while more expansive than one-camera fare, is still cheaper than TV.

Bill Carter contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/business/media/media-giants-chase-online-ads-with-original-shows.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Tool Kit: How to Sever Ties to Social Networks and Other Web Sites

First you’re smitten by a social network or Web service and can’t stop spending time on it. Then it starts asking how you’re feeling, what you like, where you are, with whom, and why you don’t share as much anymore.

Pretty soon, you’re ready to call it quits.

But trying to end your relationship with some prominent online services can be like breaking up with an overly attached romantic partner — they make it pretty hard to say goodbye.

And with good reason — more users are beneficial to a company’s bottom line, which often depends on generating revenue by selling you targeted advertisements. Possibly no social network understands this better than Facebook, whose chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, proudly announced last October that his site had surpassed one billion active users.

“Their business model is about getting users to create content,” said Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst with the Altimeter Group. “It’s users who are creating content, liking things, and, ultimately, a brand sees this and comes to deploy advertising dollars. The product is us.”

Still, not every site takes the “Never Gonna Give You Up” approach. Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of the social news site Reddit, said that if users wanted to delete an account, “they should be able to do that as easily as they signed up.”

“It puts the onus on us to keep delivering a great product, and not retaining users simply because they can’t find the exit,” he said.

And remember, even if you say goodbye, like Rick and Ilsa in “Casablanca,” you’ll always have Paris.

FACEBOOK Given Facebook’s history of privacy controversies — and its general tendency to occupy vast amounts of time — some people may eventually feel the need to leave, or at least take a break from the service.

To quit entirely, log on to your account and go to https://www.facebook.com/help/delete_account. After hitting the Delete My Account box, you’ll be asked to enter your password.

If you want to download a copy of your photos, posts and messages before leaving the service, you can do that from the account settings page, which can be quickly reached by clicking on that little round gear icon at the top right of the Facebook home page.

Unlike many sites, Facebook gives you 14 days to change your mind before your account is permanently deleted. The company knows it has hooked hundreds of millions of users, many of whom won’t be able to stay away and will come crawling back.

The site will also let you take a temporary break from the relationship by letting you deactivate your account. Unlike deleting, deactivating it will merely disable your profile, although some features, including sent messages, may remain visible to others. You can return at any time, with your information intact.

But Facebook makes it harder to put the relationship on hiatus than to leave permanently. Before you can deactivate your account, Facebook asks you to provide a reason for quitting. Choices range from “I spend too much time using Facebook” to “I don’t understand how to use Facebook.” For nearly all selections, the company pleads with you to stay. Don’t find Facebook useful? It responds by advising you to connect with more friends.

According to a Facebook spokeswoman, this is less about being clingy, and more about being consumer-driven by giving users “the power to decide what action is right for them.”

After selecting your reason for leaving, hit Confirm. You’ll have to re-enter your password, then hit the Deactivate Now box.

Not surprisingly, Facebook ends things by saying, “We hope you come back soon.” Which, let’s face it, you probably will.

GOOGLE PLUS Google tries to entangle you in multiple, distinct services like Google Plus, Gmail and YouTube — all connected. And it can track your activity across all of them and show you ads.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/technology/personaltech/how-to-sever-ties-to-social-networks-and-other-web-sites.html?partner=rss&emc=rss