Plex Acquires Video News Service Watchup

WatchupMedia streaming platform Plex has announced the acquisition of Watchup, a streaming video news service, as it works to bring the world all the media. The fee was not disclosed but the deal will see all of Watchup’s employees becoming part of the Plex team.

Watchup, founded in 2012, aggregates news content into a single app from news sources including CBS, CNN, Bloomberg, Vox, Sky News, Fox News, Washington Post, Financial Times and others. It lets people choose TV channels and content to build a custom news feed.

“For the better part of a decade, we’ve been working obsessively and tirelessly to craft the best media platform on the planet (before it’s destroyed in a tweet gone wrong),” Plex said in a blog post announcing the acquisition. “If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that news is a very important part of our media diet. Especially as a cord-cutter, as many of you are, it can be challenging to find that nourishment, like when you hide kale from a hipster.”

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84 Per Cent of Consumer Time Spent in Five Apps

marketo coverConsumers use an average of 27 apps per month, but 84 per cent of that time is spent in just five apps, demonstrating the crucial importance of designing an app that appeals to your target audience and using re-engagement tactics to develop a strong user base.

This figure comes from Marketo‘s latest whitepaper, which explores best practices for mobile marketing, with a focus on acquiring, engaging and retaining users. With 75 per cent of US citizens over the age of 13 owning a smartphone, and the number of mobile devices in circulation closing in on the global population, mobile has become the primary channel for marketers to reach the widest possible audience.

Consumer use of mobile has consistently outpaced brands and marketers, so firms need to make a concerted effort to meet the expectations their audiences now have for quality mobile messaging.

Even more importantly, marketers need to reach users across the mobile customer lifecycle, adapting their strategies to acquire, engage and retain customers over a long period of time and gain the maximum possible lifetime value from every consumer.

Marketo’s whitepaper provides marketers with solutions and advice for each step of the  mobile lifecycle, and gives even the most veteran mobile marketer information that could be crucial to optimising their campaigns.

Download Best Practices for Mobile Marketing: How to Acquire, Engage, and Retain Users for free now.

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Nintendo’s Mobile Games Help it Towards Q3 Profit

Nintendo LogoNintendo posted its first quarterly profit in a year, as its mobile gaming division began to bring in revenue versus its struggling console sales.

For the period of October to December, Nintendo’s profit reached 32.3bn yen (£228.9m) – down 3.7 per cent year-on-year (YoY) but ahead of predictions.

Super Mario Run and Pokémon Go both helped boost Nintendo’s revenues in the third quarter. Nearly 5bn yen from the 7bn yen earned from mobile gaming and related merchandise came from Pokémon Go, despite only receiving a portion of the Niantic game’s revenues. Meanwhile, Super Mario Run, although being downloaded around 78m times, has seen only 10 per cent of users pay for full access to the game.

The company’s next mobile game title, Fire Emblem: Heroes, is set to be released within the next few days but that has meant pushing back the mobile version of Animal Crossing until at least April to focus on the new title and Super Mario Run.

Nintendo is also set to release its latest console, the Switch, in March – with plans of shipping 2m units by the end of the month.

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EU Must Keep Promise on Roaming Charges, Says EU Digital Chief

eu flagThe European Commission’s vice president and commissioner of the digital single market has said that any failure to abolish roaming charges in June would bring into question its credibility.

EU member states and lawmakers are today (31 January) holding the final round of talks to set caps on roaming charges across the bloc.

The Union’s dedication to removing roaming charges comes with added significance following the UK’s decision to leave the bloc last year. Many voters believed the EU does not cater to the needs of ordinary people.

In an open letter, seemingly taking shots at the UK, commissioner Andrus Ansip wrote: “Our common effort to decrease and finally eliminate roaming charges has been one of the European Union’s most visible and tangible benefits for Europeans. Our work on roaming is also highly symbolic of how the European Union can underpin rights that bring these benefits.”

Despite the effort shown by the EU to remove roaming charges, there is still yet to be an agreement between itself and its member states as to where an initial cap should be set. As a result, Ansip urged for ‘significant flexibility’ from both parties in order to reach an agreement.

He wrote: “If no political compromise can be achieved next Tuesday [31 January], people will rightly question our common will and ability to deliver on our promise to them. That is a risk we should not run.

“Time is running out. We have to keep our promise.”

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Investment Round: Appsflyer, SoundHound, Button and Amplify

Funding rounds and investment aren’t just the lifeblood that keeps technology firms alive and growing. They’re also fantastic indicators of which ideas and technologies are catching the interest of the business world and have the potential to impact the mobile marketing industry as a whole.

Investment Round is our weekly update on which firms have secured new funding, which areas are seeing the most financing, and who is putting up the cash that enables these firms to pushing the capabilities of mobile marketing further.

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Four Venture Capital Firms Invest $56m in AppsFlyer
Marketing data analytics startup AppsFlyer has secured an additional $56m (£45m) in its latest funding round, led by four global venture capital firms, as it plans to strengthen its existing business in Asia and develop its products.

Israel-based venture capital firms Qumra Capital and Pitango Growth, US-based firm Goldman Sachs Private Capital Investing and German private equity and venture capital group Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners are the key new investors in this round of funding for the Israeli startup.

The company, which has secured a total of $84m in funding so far, plans to invest in new products and innovations with this latest round of investment, helping clients connect and measure their business data, including mobile, web, television and offline activities. It also plans to support its existing partnerships and operations in Asia, and explore merger opportunities.

“This funding round will help us continue to expand our capabilities and partnerships, especially in Asia Pacific, and to continue delivering the most efficient and powerful measurement platform for marketers,” said Ronen Mense, vice president for Asia at AppsFlyer.

“In the past two years, we delivered some game-changing products that fundamentally make marketing more accessible, measurable and predictable,” said Oren Kaniel, CEO and co-founder at AppsFlyer. “This funding round will continue to fuel our product development and advance our strategy to build the ultimate measurement platform for marketers.”

SoundHound Secures $75m to Power Conversational AI Platform
Audio identification and interaction firm SoundHound has raised a $75m round from strategic investors including Nvidia and Samsung Catalyst Fund to help it develop a massive conversational AI platform similar to Amazon’s Alexa.

The company’s eponymous audio detection app has already been downloaded more than 300m times, and last year the firm launched Hound, its voice-powered assistant for iOS and Android, and Houndify, which enabled other developers to integrate the technology into their own apps quickly and easily.

SoundHound’s grand goal is to build a voice-based AI that can understand complex queries in natural speech. The app already enables users to include multiple data points within a single query, allowing for longer questions and requests rather than relying on back-and-forth follow-up questions.

Since the firm launched Hound and Houndify, conversational interfaces have exploded in popularity, and providing companies with a simple third party voice control solution that also enables them to retain access to user data could well see the firm’s clients grow exponentially.

Series B Funding Round Raises $20m for Button
Mobile monetisation firm Button is approaching its third year in operation, and is celebrating this birthday with a $20m Series B round of financing, led by new investor Norwest Venture Partners, as well as existing investors Redpoint, DCM, and Greycroft.

The funding will enable Button to continue investing in products and partners, expanding its global footprint beyond the 30 languages and 70 countries that it already operates in. It plans on using the cash to invest in its team and fuel growth opportunities, using mentorship, coaching and skills workshops to ensure its employees are fully equipped and able to grow in their roles.

“With every round of funding, I try to take time to reflect and celebrate some of our accomplishments, but to also forge on with a renewed outlook on how we can best serve our partners,” said Michael Jaconi, co-founder and CEO of Button. “Button as a company, the people behind the product, has also grown and continues to bring me more pride than anything else.”

Startup Accelerator Amplify Closes Third Round of Investment
Amplify, the LA-based startup accelerator, has has received $10m in its latest round of funding to help fuel its mission of nurturing local tech firms in the greater Los Angeles area. The company has already invested $12.6m in 50 different startups over the course of its five years of operation.

The new funding will go towards continued investment in local talent, as well as operating the accelerators’ campus in Venice, California, where companies of various early stages stay for five months on average, meeting with investors and receiving mentorship. On average, the firm takes a 10 per cent stake in each company in exchange for advice, introductions and seed funding of between $100,000 and $250,000.

With LA’s most famous startup, Snap, expected to undergo its IPO in the next few months, the LA tech scene has never had a higher profile, and Amplify plans to build on this. Three of its portfolio companies have closed Series B rounds in the last year, including on-demand storage firm Clutter, wine club Winc and flower delivery firm The Bouqs. Its newest investments include Ledge, a community lending platform and medical transportation network SafeRide Health.

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India’s Government to Bring Free Wi-fi to Over 1,000 Villages

Indian-family-using-phone-smaller.jpgThe Indian government has said it will provide free wi-fi to 1,050 villages across the second most populous country in the world.

Under a new project, called ‘Digital Village’, each of the 1,050 villages will get its own tower-mounted wi-fi hotspot over the next six months. Villagers will be able to connect using their mobile phones.

Aruna Sundararajan, an official at the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, told CNNMoney that the program aims to “provide basic development services to rural areas using digital technology”. Sundararajan added that these services would include interactive education, medical services and basic internet access.

The initial phase of the program is expected to cost around $62m and will eventually be extended to other parts of the South Asian nation.

Google and Facebook have been two global tech firms that have seen the unconnected population of India as potential targets in the past.

Google has installed a free wi-fi service at over 100 rail stations across India, while Facebook attempted the ‘Free Basics’ initiative – to provide free limited internet access to hundreds of millions – which was shot down by India’s telecoms regulator for violating principles of net neutrality.

Connectivity no longer just means mobile. It spans everything from Bluetooth beacons to smart home assistants, and offers brands a whole new set of ways to target and engage with consumers. To find out the challenges and opportunities this brave new world of technology offers, book you place at our Connected Consumer Summit, 16 February 2017 in London.

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Warner Bros. Teams with Photo Editing App Werble for Live By Night

Werble + Warner Bros Live by NightWarner Bros. has teamed with Werble, a mobile photo editing app, in its promotion of its US crime drama film Live By Night – which is in cinemas now starring, directed by and co-produced by Ben Affleck.

The partnership has seen a filter pack, based on the movie, introduced to the app that enables users to ‘bring their photos to life with a touch of 1920’s glamour, art deco sophistication and gangster inspired action’ associated with the movie.

The company said: “It’s an absolute honour for our first movie collaboration to be with Warner Bros., a company whose roster of incredible science fiction films has literally been the bedrock of our creative inspiration over the years. We are beyond excited to release Werble into the world, to fuel imagination and to fire up creativity.”

Werble enables users to create living photos or ‘cinemagrams’, which are photos with additional animation components. Werble is currently only available on iOS but the company has plans to introduce it to Android in the future.

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AppNexus and Index Exchange Expand Heading Bidder Partnership

AppNexus + Index ExchangeAppNexus and Index Exchange have expanded their header bidding partnership to include the support of server-to-server integrations.

This expansion will see both works as partners in each other’s server-side solutions – following on from their agreement to support each other’s header-based wrapper in May 2016.

Server-to-server integrations run a unified auction in which supply side platforms act as demand sources and bid on publisher’s inventory. This auction takes places in the technology provider’s servers rather than the publisher’s header.

“We strongly believe that publishers should have unbiased and transparent access to every exchange, not just the one that comes with their ad server,” said Tom Shields, CSO at AppNexus. “Our server-to-server offering builds on our years of delivering fast, reliable server-side connections to hundreds of industry partners, and just like the open source prebid.js, allows publishers transparent access to the exchanges that work best for them.”

Drew Bradstock, SVP of product at Index Exchange, added: “Successful server-to-server connections depend on strong infrastructure and transparent reporting practices. Our solution will allow for full transparency into auction dynamics so media companies can decide which partners perform best client-side or server-side and whether mediation is the best fit for them.”

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Twitter Promises More Transparency in its Fight Against Abuse

twitter abuseTwitter will be taking a more transparent approach to how it handles abuse on the microblogging platform, the company’s co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey announced in a Tweet.

Dorsey’s statement was in response to his VP of engineering, Ed Ho, who admitted that Twitter did not move fast enough to combat abuse last year and that it was the ‘primary focus’ of the team to make the platform a safer place.

In a bid to fight abuse more effectively, Ho revealed that Twitter would be rolling out product changes in the upcoming days – some of which will be visible and some less so. He said: “We’ll listen, learn and keep shipping until we’ve made some significant impact that people can feel.”

Details of the changes that Twitter plans on implementing are vague at best, for the time being. Two changes that are due this week are the fixing of mute and block options, and how Twitter stops repeat offenders from creating new accounts.

The social network has been working hard to combat its abuse problem, already making several changes back in November last year. The changes introduced on that occasion included the ability to report abuse directed at others, an expansion of the ‘mute’ function and the retraining of support teams.

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Starbucks Bringing Voice Ordering to Echo and iOS

starbucks voice order
Starbucks is expanding its mobile ordering capabilities to include voice ordering within its iOS app and on Amazon’s Alexa platform, which is primarily accessed through the Echo smart speaker.

The voice ordering features act as an extension of Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay, which enables customers to place orders and pay for drinks and food prior to arriving at their coffee shop, and extends the barista/customer interaction into the digital ecosystem.

Select customers will now be able to order coffee with voice commands using ‘My Starbucks Barista’ on iOS, a conversational interface that is being integrated into the latest update for Apple devices. At the same time, a Starbucks Reorder Skill is being added to Alexa, enabling customers to order their favourite beverage by simply using their voice.

“The Starbucks experience is built on the personal connection between our barista and customer, so everything we do in our digital ecosystem must reflect that sensibility,” said Gerri Martin-Flickinger, chief technology officer at Starbucks. “Our team is focused on making sure that Starbucks voice ordering within our app is truly personal and equally important was finding the right partner in Amazon to test and learn from this new capability.

“These initial releases are easy to use, providing a direct benefit to customers within their daily routine and we are confident that this is the right next step in creating convenient moments to complement our more immersive formats. We expect to learn a lot from these experiences and to evolve them over time.”

61St9KWqFCL._SL1000_My Starbucks Barista was previously announced at Starbucks’ Investor Day event, and is an AI-powered messaging interface designed to enable customers to interact with the Starbucks app as if they were dealing with a real-life barista, either via text or, thanks to this latest innovation, voice. The feature enables customers to modify their beverage to meet their personal preferences, as well as order and pay for food in a more natural way.

My Starbucks Barista is currently being beta tested by 1,000 customers nationwide, with a continued phased rollout planned through summer 2017, along with a version for the Android app later this year.

The Starbucks Reorder Skill for Alexa also leverages Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay technology, enabling customers to order their ‘usual’ food and drink items simply by saying “Alexa, order my Starbucks” within listening distance of an Alexa-equipped device such as the Amazon Echo smart speaker.

Connectivity no longer just means mobile. It spans everything from Bluetooth beacons to smart home assistants, and offers brands a whole new set of ways to target and engage with consumers. To find out the challenges and opportunities this brave new world of technology offers, book you place at our Connected Consumer Summit, 16 February 2017 in London.

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