Category Archives: Technology

WTF Are You Thinking, Snapchat?

Snapchat founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged but I’m just a little outraged at the moment and I need to let it out.  Snapchat’s 23-year old co-founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel, gets offered $3 BILLION (with a B!!) in cash from Facebook, and the kid turns it down?  Who do these kids think they are?

I don’t even understand how this kid is eating and paying bills now.  Even with millions of users, Snapchat has yet to make a single dollar of revenue, and it has not shown any clear strategy of how they plan to be profitable.  The company’s founders are also in a controversy over whether they did or did not cheat a friend out of his fair share.

Spiegel’s obviously holding out for a bigger payday, as Snapchat has been getting some serious attention from other investors and potential acquirers, such as Chinese e-commerce company Tencent Holdings.  Tencent supposedly offered to lead an investment that would’ve valued Snapchat at $4 billion, but Spiegel might be waiting for something even bigger than that.  According to anonymous sources, “Evan Spiegel, will not likely consider an acquisition or an investment at least until early next year. … Spiegel is hoping Snapchat’s numbers … will grow enough by then to justify an even larger valuation.”

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has tried to acquire Snapchat.  Last year Facebook reportedly offered Snapchat a $1 billion buyout.  After they were denied, Facebook took a stab at creating its own ephemeral messaging app- anyone remember Poke?  Probably not, as it was a flop.

I certainly respect holding out for what you think you’re worth to a certain extent.  But when Mark Zuckerberg offers you a room full of cash-filled suitcases, you take the money, say thank you and move the fuck on!  Go travel the world, kid.  Buy your parents a nice house.  Start a new project.  What is $4 billion really going to buy you that $3 billion can’t?

Some people say that we shouldn’t be calling Spiegel and the guys at Snapchat crazy for turning down Facebook’s cash offer. A writer at CNN thinks the company was smart to hold out because it has something other social media services don’t: erasable messages.  So what?  Snapchat’s erasable messages are cool today, but next week something else will be the hot new thing. After all, it is the teens and young people who use the app, and we all know how fickle this age group is.  I think it’s a pretty big gamble for Spiegel to wait until next year, especially when this is $3 BILLION (again, with a B!!) at stake.

It might be possible for the guys at Snapchat to get more money from the competition between prospective investors and would-be acquirers, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk of overplaying their hand and crashing and burning.  Either way, it should be an interesting next few months for Snapchat and I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

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Is Working For a Startup Company Right For You?

Office birthday parties, free bagel Fridays, a corn hole game set up in the middle of the office and holiday company cruises to the Bahamas- “Is this how all internet marketing companies work?” I wondered to myself when I joined a startup team fresh out of college.

The answer is no, this is not how most companies operate, but this environment is fairly typical if you happen to work at a tech startup where your CEO is 29 years old and more than half of your co-workers are under the age of 33.

My company is growing rapidly and we are constantly looking for good people to join our staff.  I get emails and Facebook messages all the time from random people (most that I haven’t talked to since middle school) who want a job.  They ask if BMI is as fun as it seems and I tell them all the same thing.

Working at a startup has its perks, and while it can be a lot of fun at times, there is also a lot of hard work that’s put in.  We definitely work hard to play hard around here.  In the last two years I’ve seen people thrive in this environment and do really well for themselves, and I’ve seen others, some who have years of marketing experience, completely crack under the pressure.

If you’re wondering whether you’ll fit in at a startup company, here are a few things to consider.

Are you a good at multi-tasking under lots of pressure?

Believe me when I say it’s highly unlikely that you’ll wear just one hat at a startup company. I think this is the main reason why many people don’t work out.  They get hired for a certain position and are shocked when they’re expected to do things beyond their job description.  My official job title is a search marketing project manager, but I’ve also served as the office decorator, copywriter, public relations contact, executive assistant, receptionist, blogger, events coordinator, t-shirt designer and the executive producer of my boss’ radio show (there’s probably more that I can’t rattle off the top of my head).

“That’s not my job,” is a response that would not go over well with my bosses.  Startups usually only have between 10 to 100 employees. That being said, everyone must carry their own weight in their respective positions and then some.  I’m not alone- we all wear multiple hats and don’t really get paid more for doing more.  But on the plus-side, I’ve learned many valuable lessons and skills that I could always put on the resume, and I believe hard work is recognized and rewarded.  I’ve been told by co-workers that busting their asses paid off, so I’ll keep doing my thing and doing whatever I can to make it all worth it.

Do you easily adapt to change?

Plans tend to change rapidly in startup companies. The BMI Elite that I work at today is completely different than the BMI Elite I worked at on this day one year ago.  In one year we’ve had two offices, I’ve held three different job titles, had my desk moved about 5 times and seen about 50 people come and go.  We’ve added new services and taken some away.

If routines bore you and you like the excitement that comes with change, you may really enjoy working for a startup. If you prefer predictability, working at a startup will likely just increase your stress to new levels.

Are you okay with working crazy hours?

If you like showing up to work at 9 a.m. and leaving right at 5 p.m. every day, a startup is not the place for you.  Regular hours- what’s that?

In order to accomplish everything that we need to do, many of us often come in early, work through lunch or happy hour, and sometimes show up to the office on weekends.  I think this crazy schedule has a lot to do with why most of our employees are young, unmarried and have no kids.

Do you believe in the company?

This is major, as it’s really hard to put up with the multi-tasking, long hours and pressure of working at a startup if you don’t believe in the company and its product(s).

Before joining a startup, I recommend doing your research to get a clear idea of its products, values, goals and long-term vision.  What do they do to stand out among their competition?  Startups surface and die every day, so use your best judgment when trying to guess if your position could be long-term.

When working at a startup company, you never really know what’s going to happen.  The industry is ever-changing and even the most solid companies are at risk.  However, some startups thrive and the rewards become worth the risks- think huge financial returns, invaluable experience, getting to work with incredibly smart people and of course the excitement that comes with it all.

If you’re up for the challenge, working for a startup can be a life-changing experience.  Just make sure you’re prepared and are able to handle it first.

Will Google Profit From Reading Our Minds?

Google has been banking for years by charging advertisers based on users’ actions- we’ve all heard of pay-per-click, and the recently patented “pay-per-gaze” technology, which, through an eye-tracking device, would charge advertisers any time a Glass user physically looked at their ad.

It’s probably going to take a few years for Glass to build up enough of a user base to make pay-per-gaze really profitable.  In the meantime it’s been said that Google is already working on the next level of this technology, in the form of charging advertisers not based on users’ actions, but… wait for it… their reactions/emotions.

“Pay-per-reaction” is the closest that Google has gotten so far to reading users’ minds.  It sounds so futuristic, but it could be right around the corner, as it is currently in beta.  With this technology, advertisers would no longer be charged based on users’ actions (clicks or gazes), but rather their thoughts.

How does this “pay-per-reaction” work, you ask?  In addition to gazes, Google can measure the level of a user’s pupil dilation and thus gauge his/her emotional response.  Let’s say you look at an ad through the Glass- the advertiser would be charged.  But if the ad interested you and your pupils dilate- the advertiser would be charged even more.

While I’m still figuring out what exactly the purpose of making advertisers pay more for reactions is, I do believe that this new technology could give advertisers a much better understanding of consumer reaction to marketing.   This insight will likely make them want to work harder on the emotional pull of their ads, but they would also be paying more for these ads if they’re successful.  Will these ads with more emotional pull lead to an increase in sales or conversions is the big question.

One thing I do know is that if “pay-per-reaction” happens, Google will make tons of money off of advertisers whose ads feature pretty shoes, juicy cheeseburgers and cute baby animals.

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Instagram Gets Videos!

Today is a rough day for Vine, as Instagram has finally caught up.  Instagram, owned by Facebook, announced today to its 130 million users that it has introduced a video functionality.

Vine, which is owned by Twitter, was great for a few months, but like many other short-video services, its video time is limited.  Instagram’s videos are limited as well, but at 15 seconds long they’re more than twice the time of Vine’s.  Unless Vine extends their video time to longer than 15 seconds and comes up with some cool new features, I don’t see a way that they could keep up.  But I do have faith in them.

According to Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, the 15-second limit was chosen after testing different times.   He called it the right balance “between not too short that it constrains your creativity” and not so long that you have to wait a while for a file to upload.

Instagram’s video-sharing feature was widely expected and has excited many users.  Described Systrom as “everything you love about Instagram — and it moves,” video is designed around three core principles:

  • Simplicity — It needs to be easy to use and edit
  • Beauty — “We need to do to video what we did to photos.”
  • Community — Instagram continues to look and work the same way when it comes to sharing and viewing content.

Here’s what else we know about Instagram Video so far:

  • The videos can be between three and 15 seconds long and include any number of individual video clips
  • It came to iOS and Android at the same time and supports 13 custom filters, created by an artist specifically for Instagram video
  • Users can edit the frames of their videos and remove segments of the footage
  • A mode named “Cinema” acts as a way to stabilize footage
  • Users can choose a cover photo for their videos, which will appear in the stream as a regular photo
  • For now, videos can only be shot from within the Instagram app.  There is not yet a way to upload existing video from your phone’s camera roll

To get the video function, update your existing Instagram app.

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Interesting Internet Facts

  • If the Internet were a country, its population would be greater than North America, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East combined.
  • There are more devices connected to the Internet than people on Earth.
  • In one month on Facebook, 30 billion pieces of content are shared.
  • After Usama Bin Laden was killed, a computer programmer in Pakistan tweeted the military raid on his compound hours before any news sites reported it.
  • After an earthquake hit the east coast people in New York City read tweets about the quake 30 seconds before they felt it.
  • North America is the continent with the highest percentage of Internet users, followed by Australia and Europe.
  • The average American spends 66 hours a month on a computer- NOT including computer time spent at work.
  • 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
  • 210 billion emails are sent daily.
  • China is the country with the most Internet users.  Barbados has the fewest.
  • There are more internet users in China than there are people in the U.S.
  • A number of countries, including Estonia, Finland and Spain have declared access to the Internet as a legal right for citizens.
  • The global number of users doubled from 2005 to 2010.
  • China, Taiwan and Korea recently accepted Internet Addiction Disorder as a psychological diagnosis.  In 2013, the U.S. will mark it as a real disorder too.
  • Apple’s sales in 2011 were $128 billion
  • About 50% percent of consumers think a brand’s Facebook page is more useful than a brand’s website.
  • Since 2003 Google has answered over 450 billion new unique queries.
  • Instant previews on Google load in 1/10th of a second on average.
  • The 29 poorest countries in the world must combine their revenue in 2010 to equal the $29.3 billion dollars that Google earned from advertising that year.
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The Newest iPod Nano is Sweet!

My mother is pretty much the last person at the gym, aside from a few 80 year olds who go there to use the pool, who doesn’t listen to music while she works out. My brothers and I decided to buy her her first iPod (ever) for Christmas this year.  I went to the Apple store and bought her a Nano in her favorite color, purple, and then realized that my mom will have no clue how to set it up herself.

So I took it out of its package and hooked it up to my iTunes so that I can load it up with music, playlists and photos.  I haven’t felt the need to have an iPod Nano since the iPhone came out, so it’s been a few years since I’ve held one.  As I played with it, I couldn’t get over how different and cool the new ones are.

This seventh-generation Nano is the thinnest ever and roughly the size of a credit card, but its display screen is almost twice the size of the previous model.  Even though the screen is small, the photos that I loaded on it still look good. And, thanks to the accelerometer, photos auto-rotate as you go from portrait to landscape, which was nice.

The new Nano has a touch screen and is the first model to have a tiny home button, just like some of its bigger siblings. It has five buttons in all- a slender power button on the top and a three-way volume rocker that allows you to adjust the volume and, by pressing it in the middle, play/pause music or skip tracks.

Because my mom will be using the device while working out quite often, I will advise her to use the Nike+ function, which has been made better by having everything built-in.  Her Nano can track her walks and runs, and she can even connect a Bluetooth heart monitor wirelessly.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the new design of the Nano.  I think it’s the best yet, bringing lots of functionality in a tiny package.  I look at it as $149 well spent, and I’m excited to give it to my mom and watch her fall in love with her first Apple product.

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Target Is Playing Catch Up in the Digital Marketing Game

There has been much speculation that the internet will dominate in holiday shopping this year. With this said, Target is switching up its game in an effort to make sure they won’t fall behind in the digital market.

Last holiday season, many shoppers went to Target just to scan product barcodes and then made purchases from online retailers such as Amazon, instead of actually buying the product for full retail price. Target wants to prevent this from happening again, so they will match the prices of various online retailers between November 1 and December 16. They will even match prices from the online prices of Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Toys R’ Us and Babies R’ Us. Target has matched local competitors in the past, but never online retailers due to the inconsistency in prices.

Target is really trying to prevent a trend called “showrooming,” which is when consumers go to retail locations to test products and then go online to buy it. For example, I know people who have gone to Best Buy, found the exact television that they want, and bought it online. Generally, online stores like Amazon offer cheaper and exclusive internet prices.

Target is also lending out QR codes in stores to help people shop and navigate through their website.  According to Target, they are trying to improve their online marketing to become more personalized and integrated with consumers. If there is a particular item that is sold out, people will be able to scan the QR code on the tag and order the product on Target.com. For example, the top 20 toys will have QR codes on them. This is very beneficial for consumers because all they would have to do is scan the code and they will be lead to the product. Then, they can buy the product and chill out while thousands of consumers are impatiently waiting in long lines.  If people are worried about using up data on their smartphones, Target will provide free Wi-Fi to help access the codes that were scanned.

Target has been recently trying to play catch up with other retail powerhouses with digital marketing strategies. It is part of their new project called Multichannel, which offers consumers various online-related services to make it more convenient to shop at Target and on their website. Although they are behind rival Wal-Mart, they feel it is never too late to implement strategies that others have already put to use. For example, they are also planning to test in-store pickups of online orders and home deliveries within hours, which is something eBay has implemented in some states. Target shouldn’t feel ashamed that they are using strategies that their rivals use. Pablo Picasso once said that “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

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The iPad Mini is Coming October 23

One of the worst-kept secrets in tech has finally been made official.  Following months of speculation and rumors, Apple has finally released press invitations for its next big launch: the iPad Mini. The event will be held at the California Theatre on October 23rd in San Jose, California.

The iPad Mini is expected to be much smaller than the current 10 inch iPad model. Rumors say that the iPad Mini will be around seven or eight inches, with fewer pixels than the current size. Some say the new device could tout a retina-resolution display, 3G connectivity, two rear speakers instead of just one and use the new lighting connector introduced with the iPhone 5.  Apple has no confirmed any of these reports, of course.

Although the company is traditionally secretive about product details and announcements, leaks have been spilling out of its factories and hitting the web more than ever before.  Just recently, iPhone 5 pictures and specs circulated the internet long before its official launch in September.

Steve Jobs famously opposed trimming the size of the iPad, saying the introduction of a seven-inch tablet would be “dead on arrival” and users would need sandpaper to shrink their fingers for an optimized experience.

“While one could increase the resolution of the display to make up for some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one quarter of their present size,” Jobs said.

Considering how popular seven-inch tablets have become in the past year, it was only a matter of time for Apple to step in. Companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google and Samsung are already competing for market share and the arrival of an iPad Mini would certainly shake things up.

So now everybody is busy getting ready for the iPad Mini’s release.  Manufacturers aren’t wasting any time ahead of Apple’s big announcement next week- screen protectors for the iPad Mini are already on sale.

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Shazam Can Now Tag TV Shows!

Shazam has been an awesome companion to the radio for almost a decade, tagging songs so that anyone can find out what they are listening to at any time and giving users the option to download tagged songs instantly.

Now Shazam is reinventing itself by breaking into the TV market.  The app has launched a significant update that will enable its 80 million users in the U.S. to tag any TV show on over 160 channels, with the exception of some local-only shows such as news broadcasts.

Here’s how it works: if a viewer is watching “Dexter,” they can tag the show to identify not only what the show is, but access cast information and celebrity gossip, play trivia, engage with other viewers on social media and identify the music being played.  If it’s a sports event, the app will show schedules, scores and statistics.  TV shows are tagged the same way you’d tag a song, by opening the Shazam app and tapping the big button.

In addition to expanding the TV functionality of its app, Shazam is also becoming more social.  Users will now be able to see what their Facebook friends are tagging, and to comment on and discuss those tags.  Users will also be able to socialize over Twitter and Google+. These features will be launched in the coming weeks.

With this update announcement also came the news that Shazam has been used (not just downloaded, but actually used to tag content) by over 250 million people worldwide.  Time will tell whether these millions of users are as interested in tagging TV shows as music.

The app is available free on all major platforms including iOS, Android and Windows Phone.  How do you feel about using it to tag TV shows to get information?

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GoDaddy Goes Down

GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain registrar and one of the biggest web hosts, is experiencing outages today, possibly taking millions of websites down as a result.

“Status Alert: Hey, all. We’re aware of the trouble people are having with our site. We’re working on it,” @GoDaddy tweeted.

While GoDaddy.com’s site is up and running, websites hosted by the company are still experiencing outages. If you are being affected by this, you might be interested in switching to a new registrar as soon as GoDaddy returns.  Here are the steps on how to do so:

  1.  Login to your GoDaddy account and click on the “Domain Management” section.  This will open a page that allows you to manage your domain names.
  2. Next to your listed domains are different icons that allow you to access certain domain features.  Hover over the “lock” icon to check the status of your domain.  If it is locked, follow the next step.
  3. Unlock the domain (it was locked by registrars by default so that nefarious parties can’t transfer the domain out from under the real owner, but in order to transfer a domain you have to unlock it).
  4. Uncheck the box next to “lock domains” and click OK.
  5. Get the authorization code (sometimes called an AUTH, EPP or ACK code) to bring to your new registrars.  Click on the domain name you wish to transfer and on the “Domain Details” page, scroll to where it says “Authorization Code: Send by Email.”  Select this option and then check your email for an authorization code from the site.  You can now give this information to your new registrar.
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Casey Kurlander, Search marketing Specialist, BMI Elite