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Big tech Companies are investing heavily into Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) research and this time it is none other than chip giant Intel. We talked about Apple’s acquisition of Turi, a start-up focusing of A.I. research, yesterday. Today we leaned of another start-up being acquired for a hefty sum of $400 million dollars. Nervana Systems, a California-based deep learning start-up has been acquired by Intel, which clearly shows the latter’s interest in development and furthering research into the fields of artificial intelligence, thus joining the ranks of Facebook, Google and Apple.

What is deep-learning?

Deep learning and neural networks are increasingly important concepts in computer science with great strides being made by large companies like Google and startups like DeepMind. It is the next big thing for machine learning and artificial intelligence. In a nutshell, Deep Learning is essentially built on a set of algorithms which promises general, powerful, and fast machine learning, moving us one step closer to AI.

Nervana Systems is a 48-employee strong company co-founded by two Indian origin entrepreneurs, Naveen Rao and Arjun Bansal. Nervana’s approach has some direct appeal to makers of chip like Intel in that the company has been working to bring machine learning all the way into the silicon, rather than simply making software that can run on top of anyone’s cluster of graphics chips. Nervana is led by former Qualcomm researcher Naveen Rao and has raised $25 million in venture funding and also has a contract to work with In-Q-tel, the U.S. intelligence community’s venture arm. Rao insisted that the deal didn’t reflect any hurdles in getting more capital to stay independent.

Although the financial details were not disclosed, according to the original article by Recode, Intel is paying more than $400 million to buy Nervana led by former Qualcomm researcher Naveen Rao. “We will apply Nervana’s software expertise to further optimise the Intel Math Kernel Library and its integration into industry standard frameworks,” Diane Bryant, Executive Vice President of Data Center Group at Intel, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Image by IndianExpress

Intel acquires Nervana Systems, a deep learning startup

Intel acquires Nervana Systems, a deep learning startup

The battle for artificial intelligence dominance is on. According to a report by Geekwire, the Cupertino tech giant Apple has taken hold of a startup named Turi, for a modest amount of 200 million dollars. Not only is it good for the future of A.I. research but it also puts Apple in the ranks with Google, Amazon and Facebook, who all have stakes in the A.I. field.

Apple is known to buy smaller companies and are particularly secretive about it. The company reportedly put out its standard statement, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” said Apple in a statement.

Turi, which was earlier known as Dato, is one of several Seattle-area companies developing machine learning and artificial intelligence technology. Some say the region is poised to be an epicenter for the emerging industry. Turi has several developer tools that help build AI solutions. However, it isn’t clear whether it’s the tools or talent that Apple targets with this acquisition. The Turi team will be working from Seattle.

Apple CEO Tim Cook had previously discussed a shift to newer techs like artificial intelligence and augmented reality during the company’s earnings call. Turi isn’t the company’s first step into the A.I. realm, they acquired VocallQ, a natural language-processing company and Perceptio, another startup developing technology to let companies run advanced artificial intelligence systems on smartphones. Other Apple acquisitions in 2016 include Emotient, a facial recognition startup; LearnSprout, an education startup; Flyby Media, a spatial perception startup; and LegbaCore, a firmware security startup.

Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted that the company was open to making a larger acquisition as iPhone sales decline. Apple reported $231 billion in cash in its most recent earnings report. “We continue to look and we stay very active in the M&A market,” Cook said at the time.

Image by Reuturs

Apple acquires Turi, an artificial intelligence startup

Apple acquires Turi, an artificial intelligence startup

Before Facebook, there was Orkut. Orkut was a social networking site, similar to Facebook but quite unique, was owned and operated by Google back in the early 2000s. Orkut was created by Orkut Büyükkökten and named after him, a Turkish software developer who worked for Google at the time. Now, Orkut is ready to unveil his next big initiative, Hello.

Hello is a mobile only social networking app that caters to the users of Android and iOS. Hello’s creator, Büyükkökten is even calling it the next generation of Orkut. “As a token of gratitude, I am making a new social network just for you. I’m not so good at goodbyes, so I’m calling it hello. hello is the next generation of orkut,” writes Büyükkökten in a blog post. “hello is the first social network built on loves, not likes. I designed hello to help you connect with people who share your passions. hello connects us all. Think about it: you can say ‘hello’ in any language and people will understand. ‘Hello’ is probably the most widely spoken word in the world after ‘Okay’. Aló, halo, ʾāllo, alô, hallo, alló, hello. Fear and hatred have no place when you make such a simple and friendly gesture to someone else. So come join me, and make some new friends. Say hello, and love your world.”

Old Orkut Courtesy PCWorld
Old Orkut                                                                  Courtesy PCWorld

So, Hello is based on “loves” instead of “likes”, just like Google+ has its +1. Although, it is great to see new platforms coming up to battle with social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, Hello is mobile only, which might seriously hurt its chances of adoption. To get started, Hello asks you to select five ‘personas’ that interests you from a curated list, which includes actor, animal lover, anime fan, architect, artist, among others. These personas can later be changed as well. Hello is about sharing your passions and meeting some new people along the way who share similar interests, so anything that a user posts on their profile, must be categorized under one of the five personas they choose.

Orkut Büyükkökten justifies the Hello name in his blog post. His post reads, “hello connects us all. Think about it: you can say “hello” in any language and people will understand. “Hello” is probably the most widely spoken word in the world after “Okay.” Aló, halo, ʾāllo, alô, hallo, alló, hello. Fear and hatred have no place when you make such a simple and friendly gesture to someone else. So come join me, and make some new friends. Say hello, and love your world.”

In 2014, Orkut met its demise and was eventually shut down by Google. It had the majority of its users from India and Brazil. In 2009, Orkut was redesigned and had a major overhaul in its UI and UX. Facebook’s wall was called Orkut’s scrapbook, and the posts were called scraps. After Orkut’s eventual end, Facebook took over and saw an exponential growth in its user base. Büyükkökten wants to capitalize on the once successful Orkut, but it is only a matter of time to see whether it falls flat or rises. The Hello app is currently only available in US, Canada, UK, France, Australia, Brazil and Ireland. Users from India along with Mexico and Germany are next on the list and the app should be available for all Indian users later this month.

 

Orkut Creator builds a new network: Hello

Orkut Creator builds a new network: Hello

Continuing our streak on security related articles, let us talk about Antiviruses today. More specifically, ‘free’ antivirus products. Ever since the first virus was created back in 1986, antivirus companies have been expanding, vowing to protect its users from almost all kinds of online threats. This includes generic viruses, trojans, malware, spyware, rootkits and other kinds of nasty threats lurking on the internet. As it turns out, just an antivirus isn’t enough to protect your system from all these threats, especially the new ones. There is a wide variety of security products available now, such as anti-malware, anti-spyware, internet security, anti-exploit, so on and so-forth. While these can be overwhelming even to a computer-savvy person, antivirus makers tend to exaggerate a lot, thereby coaxing you to get their products.

While major security vendors have a free antivirus offering alongside their paid security products, free antivirus aren’t what they used to be 10 years ago. Due to stiff competition in the virus killing business, free security vendors have now started to incorporate adware, spyware, toolbars, and other junk in their products, to make some fast cash. Many vendors treat the free product as advertising, nagging users to upgrade to their “pro” or “plus” editions. While there are awesome free antivirus products out there that are actually good, it is same deal everywhere – free antiviruses aren’t exactly free.

Why aren’t free antiviruses free?

Security vendors that offer “free” antivirus products have to make money, in order for their business to survive. They make money through ads and bundled third party applications in their products. While privacy policies for different companies is different, they all agree that they collect user data and use it in some form. While this is a scary thought, remember Facebook is doing the same thing.

Free Security Products make money by a number of different ways:

  • Changing Your Default Search Engine: Antivirus companies try to change your browser’s search engine to one of their own choosing. They then make money when you click ads on these search results pages. This may sometimes be branded something like “secure search,” but you’re actually just using an inferior search engine that makes the company money.
  • Changing Your Homepage: Antivirus companies also want to change your homepage, driving traffic to websites that make money by advertising to you.
  • Browser Toolbars: Toolbars are a thing of the past, but many antivirus programs want to installtoolbars. Some companies use a rebranded version of the Ask Toolbar with their own name on it, so it is better to stay away from any toolbars altogether.
  • Junkware: Antivirus companies add additional programs (or “offers”) to their installers that are automatically installed by default. They’re paid by the program’s creator if they can install the program on your system — as much as a few bucks per install.
  • Tracking: Antivirus companies track your browsing habits and other personal details about you. Many rent or sell this data to other third parties to make money, too.

 

Security Products downloaded for “free” from pirated sources: This is a terrible idea but if you ever visit a torrent site, chances are you’ve seen “cracked” versions of paid security products listed there. Getting “paid” products this way is one of the biggest mistakes you could do when it comes to computer security. These products often come with “key generators” or “activators”, which are itself a form of virus and you have no way of knowing whether it is silently installing a keylogger or malware in your system. Security software, specially antivirus programs need to download updates daily to keep itself up-to-date with new and known viruses. Pirated versions of these antivirus programs often have updates disabled by default, which defeats the purpose of an antivirus altogether. There is also a high risk of your antivirus getting deactivated by its maker, as companies have ways to track unauthorized installations of their products.

The most powerful antivirus is your brain. If you stay away from shady websites and downloads, even a free antivirus will do a great job. Free options such as Avast Free, Avira Personal, Panda Cloud Antivirus Free etc are all good options with minimum hassle. Read the terms of conditions of every security product you install. If you’re running a Windows 10 PC, activate Windows Defender and Windows Firewall, both of which are free, and you’re good to go.

Image by geckoandfly.com

There is no such thing as a “free” Antivirus

There is no such thing as a “free” Antivirus

Another day, another milestone for Android. This time the open source mobile operating system run by Google has reached a massive 97% market share in India. A study done by research firm Strategy Analytics reveals the state of Android in the second quarter of 2016.

Their current report reveals that 97 percent of all smartphones in India, runs the Android operating system. Keep in mind, this includes various versions of the OS. Currently, manufacturers are busy updating their devices to Marshmallow, while Android Nougat is out of developer’s preview and slated for release in October this year. 2015’s second quarter saw Android taking over 90% of the smartphone market in India. Apple iPhone sales took a nosedive of 35% in Q2 2016, with just 2.4% market share in India. But the overall The market has overall grown by 19%, making India the the world’s third largest smartphone market, after China and the US.

Rajeev Nair, Senior Analyst at Strategy Analytics, said, “Total smartphone shipments in India grew a healthy 19 percent annually from 25.8 million units in Q2 2015 to 30.7 million in Q2 2016. India is currently the world’s third largest smartphone market, after China and the US. India is growing quickly due to low smartphone penetration rates, an expanding middle class with more disposable income, and intense competition among major vendors, retailers and operators.”

Mr. Nair is accurate on many fronts about the current Indian market. The low smartphone penetration rates and rising middle class with more disposable income, not to mention the vast price range of Android devices, from budget all the way to premium handsets has led to such an immense growth for Android in India. Apple, on the other hand has failed to capitalize on that, which has led to such a dangerous drop for Apple products, something which the company might never recover from.

Apple’s premium pricing strategy makes the latest iPhones an expensive deal for the average Indian customer. Add to the fact that there is a severe lack of network carrier subsidised plans. Apple’s 4-inch iPhone SE failed to find any takers, despite its corporate leasing program, starting at a monthly fee of Rs. 999. Apple’s attempt to gain a big entry into the Indian smartphone market with refurbished iPhones fell flat as well, a move that was blocked by environmental agencies and local manufacturers. Overall, it isn’t looking pretty for Apple, given how massive the competition has become. The Indian consumers have spoken – Apple devices are not value for money.

While Android has been dominating in India, it is not all good news for the major manufacturers in India. Samsung’s market has seen a 4% in sales, but the company is still holding the top positions alongside Micromax. Chinese vendors during the quarter grew at the expense of local vendors with heavy marketing investment for their value for money devices. They continue to flood the market with flagship level features and specifications, at almost half the price of premium handsets from Samsung and HTC. This strategy has worked, as the shares of Chinese smartphone brands in total, increased from 21% in the last quarter to 27% in Q1 this year. Windows Phones are nowhere to be seen in the report, very likely they have been filed under “Others” which have a market share of 1 to 1.5 percent in the Indian market.

Image by TheStack

97% of all smartphones in India run Android

97% of all smartphones in India run Android

The Indian cloud computing market has seen a critical increase these past couple of years, so much so that Google is trying to capitalize on India for its Google for Work, a set of cloud-based offerings for enterprises, to raise productivity and internal collaboration.  According to Google, the country has become one of the fastest going market for the Search Giant, with increasing internet access and rising smartphone penetration, plus growing cloud adoption. A recent Gartner report says the Indian public cloud services market will reach $1.26 billion by the end of this year.

Start-ups and small & medium businesses (SMBs) remain key focus areas for Google. “We are seeing most start-ups in India adopting Google Cloud. SMBs are also showing a lot of momentum to get on cloud. Even for large enterprises, which have been engaged with other cloud service providers and are bound by a contract to continue the partnership for two-three years, we are letting them use Google Apps for free for the duration of that contract period,”  “To drive adoption of Google for Work Apps, apart from making the services work in poor network areas, as well as in offline mode, we are focusing on lightweight apps, and are re-engineering the applications so that they consume 90 percent less data,” said Rajan Anandan, vice-president for Indian and Southeast Asia at Google.

The other core element of Google for Work portfolio is Google Cloud, which it is aggressively promoting. To push the cloud adoption, while the company is focusing on start-ups and SMBs, it also works with global and local system integrators, which enable large and small companies to get on the cloud. “Building and scaling up the partnership system is another focus area,” said Pande.

Vishal Tripathi, research director at Gartner, said: “Google is primarily perceived as a consumer-oriented company, due to its Gmail and Android offerings. What they are trying to do is enter the enterprise market with Google Cloud, wherein they will be offering big data analytics capability, in which they are well positioned, among other things. In India, they are trying to position themselves as a serious contender to the top four here — Microsoft, IBM, Amazon and Oracle.”

Google wants to capitalize on India’s Cloud Computing market

Google wants to capitalize on India’s Cloud Computing market

It can happen to the best of us. We see a news story, video, or picture on social media and we immediately want to share it with the rest of our friends. It can be something heartwarming, anger-inducing or life-affirming. It may fall in line with our political identity and we just have to pass it on to our friends and loved ones in our social circle. Unfortunately, a great deal of what we see being shared by our friends and family isn’t true at all. The internet has a humorous way of letting unbelievable things pass on as believable.

The above paragraph, if you didn’t already realize, is about hoaxes. The term hoax was coined in the late 18th century as a contraction of the verb hocus, which means “to cheat”. Until recently, the term was occasionally used in reference to urban legends and rumors.

Modern Hoaxes

Hoaxes come in various shape and form. Some are deliberately funny and meant to be passed off as jokes, while others are meant to deceive and perpetrate false information. In this digital age, hoaxes have become more prevalent because of the Internet

1: Email Hoaxes: At any one time, there is likely to be many thousands of completely bogus hoax messages travelling via email. Some are new creations. Others have been circulating in various forms for years. Most commonly, people start hoax emails simply to see how far, and for how long, their nonsensical messages will spread. If they create a hoax that regularly has recipients clicking on the “Forward” button, they may feel “successful” and get inspired to create more. By pulling the wool over the eyes of a substantial number of Internet users, these pranksters may feel that they have “made their mark” on society.

2: Social Media Hoaxes: The rise of the social media platforms have made hoaxes and pranks a fairly common place on the internet. Not only is it easier to create hoaxes, but it also has the potential of spreading like wildfire and going viral. Hoaxes are spread throughout Facebook (mostly) and Twitter via memes, fake news and even status updates. Due to the recent incident of people’s news feed getting flooded with fake news and hoaxes, Facebook has been proactively cracking down on these posts. It now allows an user to report fake news . The Share feature on social media platforms, which allows people to share posts instantaneously to others or on their news feed is one of the main culprits that allows hoaxes to spread far and wide, almost instantly. If a certain hoax is believable enough, it might reach the “trending” status, thus allowing the hoax to spread further.

3: Messaging Hoaxes: SMS

SMS hoaxes are as old as e-mail hoaxes. These remain a very popular way of spreading hoaxes, even today. The successor to SMS hoaxes are now referred to as “WhatsApp hoaxes”, where hoaxes are spread via WhatsApp messages, which can be broadcasted to other people or posted in WhatsApp groups.

Psychology of Hoaxsters / Hoaxers

Hoaxes prey on people’s natural instincts. “People are hard wired to respond to fear,” says Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center. “People feel very vulnerable to Facebook because it’s turning into Google. It’s becoming big and powerful. Facebook is making something that you feel you have to do and people feel powerless—and when they feel powerless, they’re scared. … We share these things to get comfort; if we’re in it with others we feel less afraid. It normalizes our experience and we also have the hope of it being wrong.”

Trending topics on social media outlets also tend to be shared more. And by sharing this warning, despite its veracity, people can join the discussion. Some have postulated that spammers deliberately create hoax emails as a way of subsequently collecting email addresses. Certainly, messages that get forwarded many times can accumulate a great many email addresses and spammers may well harvest these addresses for use on spam lists.

Hoaxes have been part of our life ever since we were born. So, it is not going anywhere, especially when the Digital age is upon us, where has made the spreading of hoaxes with just a click of a button. There will always be people who would fall for these jokes and believe it to be real, and thus accelerating its spread. There will also be people who enjoy creating these hoaxes, trying to make it as believable as possible. The best possible defence against being fooled by these pranks is to verify the information before deciding to share it with others. A search engine is your best friend is this regard, just look up the information. Chances are, if something is real, other people would be on top of that news.

 

Hoaxes: Where, how and why?

Hoaxes: Where, how and why?

Smartphones have become an integral part in our daily lives, making us ever-connected and defining our online identity. As a result, care should be taken to ensure and safeguard that identity against any wrongdoing, online or offline. If you are not careful, losing your smartphone may become a much bigger problem than just losing your contacts or phone number. We’re talking about your social media accounts, your synced files, important documents, your emails, photos and messages.

Android, by itself is a fairly secure mobile platform. But once it is connected to a network, it becomes less than 100% secure. Our online presence is constantly under threat from hackers, cyber-criminals, viruses, malware etc. Hence the responsibility falls on the user to use that device carefully and intelligently. Failing that, you run the risk of handing over the keys to your digital empire to some criminal on the internet. Your entire information is traceable and downloadable and may be shared all over the World Wide Web if you are not careful enough.

Cyber crimes have recently been on the rise where people are complaining about the theft of personal data that they used while accessing a website. In our previous article, we wrote about a dangerous malware infesting over 1 million Android devices in India. There is no one better to protect your own data, than you. We hope these tips will help in that effort.

1: Strong Passwords – A minimum 6 letter combination of Numbers and Letters

A strong password refers to a minimum of a six letter combo of alphanumeric keys. Anything less than that is considered weak and is often rejected by many websites (Gmail, for example). Longer passwords make it difficult to guess by snoopers and provides a strong obstacle against brute force attacks (breaking passwords using computers and algorithm). Use strong passwords for everything, from your lockscreen to your email, to your app logins. No password should be simple to remember or enter. You’ve probably heard this numerous times, but it is always worth repeating. In case you smartphone gets stolen, a lockscreen password is your first line of defense. So, make it as strong as possible. Android provides three options for this: PIN, PASSWORD or PATTERN. Pin is just like an ATM PIN, only it can be much longer than 4 digits. Pattern lock allows you to draw a pattern to unlock your phone, so make it as complicated as possible. The more complicated your passwords, the harder it will be for others to get to your data.

2: Do use two-factor authentication, whenever possible

Two-factor authentication or 2FA provides an extra layer of security. Use it for Google, Facebook, Amazon: They all offer two-factor authentication. When these accounts get hacked, user data is compromised. Two-factor authentication can go a long way toward preventing this from happening—and it’s not difficult to do.

3: Lock Apps on your Smartphone

It is essential to lock your apps, specially the ones that hold private information, to keep away from prying eyes. Lock apps like Facebook and WhatsApp or even your smartphone gallery app, if you so desire. This provides a second layer of security to prevent anyone from using your lost device particularly if they have managed to bypass your locked Android. Free apps like App Lock are available on the Google Play Store for this exact purpose. It is not necessary to lock even single app, just the ones containing sensitive information.

4: Use a password manager

Password managers are a boon to this new digital age. They store all your passwords in a secured encrypted vault, leaving you with only one master password to remember. Make this master password as strong as you possibly can. Instead of saving the passwords on the app itself, use a solid password manager (like LastPass, DashLane or 1Password). There is also a completely free, open-source alternative called KeePass.

5: Understand the importance of app permissions

Before you begin installing an app from Google Play, a list of requested permissions will pop up to show you what permission the app requires. Apps require permissions to do things but not all of them are necessary. Always read through the permissions to make sure they make sense and correspond to what the app actually does eg. an alarm app does not require a permission to access your text messages. This is a real important step because not all apps in the Play Store are safe.

Keep these few tips in mind and try to apply every single one of them. Bookmark this page, so you can refer to it whenever needed. Your smartphone is only as secure as you want to make it. If you ever lose or get your phone stolen, chances are rare you’ll ever get it back. So make it as hard as possible for strangers to break into your phone and access your data.

Image courtesy: cutimes

Harden Security on your Android Device – here are some tips

Harden Security on your Android Device – here are some tips

Security analysts at Check Point Software, a security firm has uncovered a set of particular disturbing news. A nasty family of Android malware has successfully infected more than 10 million Android handsets around the world, and around 1.3 million infected devices are from India alone.

Analysts from the company claims this class of malware installs more than 50,000 fake apps each day, displays around 20 million fake and malicious ads, and generates revenues crossing $300,000 per month. Older versions of Android are the main victims of this malware, which exploits vulnerabilities that have been left unfixed. The malware is particularly devastating because of its ability to gain administrator rights by silently rooting the targeted phones. The researchers at Check Point named it “HummingBad”, which belongs to a class of auto-rooting malware called Shedun.

Over a period of five months, Check Point researchers have observed the China-based advertising company behind HummingBad with discretion, in several ways, including by infiltrating the command and control servers it uses. The researchers say the malware uses the unusually tight control it gains over infected devices to create windfall profits and steadily increase its numbers. The malware does this by silently installing promoted (and possibly fake) apps on these infected phones, defrauding legitimate mobile advertisers, and creating fraudulent statistics inside the official Google Play Store. Discretion is one of the major characteristics of HummingBad, by performing malicious activities without the user having any kind of clue, while reaping profits in the background.

The analysts at Check Point pointed out, “Accessing these devices and their sensitive data creates a new and steady stream of revenue for cybercriminals…Emboldened by financial and technological independence, their skillsets will advance–putting end users, enterprises, and government agencies at risk.” 

Users affected with HummingBad (Shedun) Courtesy: Check Point Software
Users affected with HummingBad (Shedun). Courtesy: Check Point Software

The pie chart above shows that the majority of the 10 million infected phones are running old versions of Android and are used by people in China (1.6 million) and India (1.35 million). Indian smartphone users are targeting mainly because of running older versions of Android (JellyBean and Kitkat) which has these security loopholes left unfixed. Companies like Samsung, LG and domestic companies like Micromax, Lava, Intex often release devices which come with old versions of Android (you can still find some KitKat devices on Indian e-commerce sites) and those are rarely updated to the latest versions, mainly because of the lacklustre support provided by these companies. Although, to be fair, Samsung and the other companies are closing the gap between latest android versions and are trying to provide timely updates.

In the mean time, people with older versions of Android – this message is for you – get a security or antivirus app like Lookout Security and scan your system, if you suspect that your device has been compromised. Steer clear of fishy apps on the Play Store, read the reviews, especially the negative ones. Only proceed after you feel confident with the app. Lookout said in its own blog post that its threat detection network has recently observed a surge of Shedun attacks, indicating the scourge won’t be going away any time soon.

Image by Phandroid

Nasty Malware infects 1.3 million Android users in India

Nasty Malware infects 1.3 million Android users in India

There is a tussle going on with media publishers and its readers, regarding adverts, or ads. While on the surface it sounds pretty silly and trivial, but things have been heating up and it has reached a point where major media publishers have actively started blocking readers who avoid seeing ads.

In case of print (physical) media such as magazines, newspapers or tabloids, there are ads on pretty much every page. A) While these can be annoying, it didn’t hinder you from reading the content. And B), even if you find the ads to be annoying, you cannot do anything about it, other than to stop reading the said media. But ads are a necessity, to keep the media house running. Writers, journalists, editors, photographers needs to be paid and the publishing houses need to make a profit. Also, ads keep the cost of the newspaper down, allowing it to reach to a massive audience. Without ads, the cost of an ad-free daily newspaper or tabloid will skyrocket, thereby defeating the purpose of print media. These are all valid concerns, but things get a lot more interesting when the same content is taken to the web.

In case of digital content and publishing, users have the option to disable ads on a page. This can be done through various softwares, such as browser plugins or extensions, which can be found for almost any browser available on the internet. However the more people use adblockers,  the less is the revenue generated for media publishers, since content on the web is freely readable for anyone. However, like most things in life, it is just not that black and white. There is a reason that even the not-so-tech-savvy users are actively seeking out ad blockers. Below is a screenshot of a typical TOI page taken from a post on Reddit:

The red boxes are ad content, blue boxes are other news from TOI, while the green boxes is the actual content that the article is about. Source: Reddit

This is pretty much the same layout used by the major Indian news and media publishers, with minor changes. Some are less ridiculous than Times of India. The problem isn’t that there are ads, the problem is that there are way, way too many of them. It has reached a point where the ads mess with the actual content of the page. When it reaches to the point where your readers actively seek out ways to block ads on your page, you know you’ve messed up somewhere down the line.

It is not just about ADS. It’s a serious invasion of privacy.

Ads are not the only reason which are pushing users towards ad-blockers. The amount of tracking cookies injected into each page. Take a look at these images:

toi-cookies ht-cookies
Cookies help in trying to identify where you have been on a particular site, it also stores information about you in your computer (in little text files). This helps the website identify you the next time you visit and serve you content that is relevant to you. Tracking cookies, on the other hand, track you from site to site, analyse your browsing patterns, shopping habits and target you with adverts accordingly. This is how Amazon or Flipkart or any other online shopping sites show you ads based on the products you’ve been looking, and it shows up randomly on any web page you visit which serves ads.

A typical TOI tech news page tracks you with around 28 different cookies, while it’s a whopping 43 on a Hindustan Times page. Clicking on that blue underlined text shows you the site which is currently tracking and where all the information on your computer is stored. HT-cookies-2

 

The media publishers are all (most likely)aware of such serious invasion of privacy and intrusion. So what is the course of action taken by the media publishers to rectify this? Instead of addressing their readers’ concerns, they have begun actively blocking users with ad-blocking mechanisms. Sort of like this:

TOI detects Adblocker. Notice how courteous they are...
TOI detects Adblocker. Notice how courteous they are…

Ads are a necessity, to keep digital media publishers and journalism alive. But there is a point of tolerance which has been long crossed by these publications. Due to the miscommunication (between publishers and readers) and a lack of understanding about how content on the internet works, has led to something called anti-ad block killers (kills blockers which kill ad-blockers). Yes, it is not made up, and yes, it has reached such a point. The less invasive and intrusive the ads are, the more people will gravitate towards the actual content and not adblockers.

 

Media Publishers at war with Ad-Blockers. What went wrong?

Media Publishers at war with Ad-Blockers. What went wrong?

E-wallet or mobile wallet service is a relatively old concept that was started by PayPal, way back in 2001 in the United States. A mobile wallet, in simple terms, is a virtual mobile-based wallet where one can store cash for making payments through a mobile phone, either online or offline. Mobile wallets are still in an early stage of market introduction in India, where dozens of companies have cropped up to offer their services, which are more or less identical. Some have even tied up exclusively with banks, catering specifically to customers associated with those banks. According to an ET article, analysts predict that mobile wallet services will see a 30 percent growth by 2019.

Mobile wallets, sometimes referred to as prepaid wallets by Indian companies, is essentially a digital wallet where you store your digital cash, which can be filled with a help of a bank account (Debit Cards, Net Banking). This virtual cash, in turn, can be used for utility payments like electricity, gas, water, DTH, phone bill, broadband etc. or it can be used to top-up prepaid mobile balances. Mobile wallets can also be used to book bus tickets, plane tickets and rail tickets. These are called services, which are offered by most of the companies out there. A digital wallet which offers no services is useless and should be generally avoided.

How do Mobile Wallets work?

Mobile wallets provide valuable access but also require protection. Your personal information are digital values stored in a mobile wallet which can be represented in a number of forms, depending on the company. These values contain the user’s sensitive personal information, which means that storage of these values require strong security, which is a major issue for mobile wallets. Therefore security features are important for a mobile wallet vault.

Selecting a Digital Wallet service

Selecting a prepaid wallet service is challenging, especially when there are dozens of companies trying to woo you with huge cashbacks and hefty discounts. The key is to select a wallet based on the number of services it offers and tie-ups with third parties it has.

Paytm

PayTM is one of the biggest mobile wallet service providers around in the country. Launched in 2010, PayTM works on a semi-closed model and provides all the necessary benefits of an e-wallet. Their services range from making bill payments, topping-up prepaid mobiles, paying for DTH, transferring money to your mobile contacts or bank account, book trains, flight, bus, purchase movie tickets, pay utility bills such as water, gas, electricity , telephone, the list goes on. Capitalizing on the scope and growth of India’s education market segment, Paytm recently partnered with premium educational institutions in India and now offers cashless payments for fees.

 

If you are a frequent user of cab services such as Ola and Uber, Paytm’s mobile wallet allows you to pay via their Wallet app. It also has a full-fledged shopping portal for electronics, clothing, accessories etc. Occasionally, you get cashback for bill payments , which gets transferred to your wallet. MobiKwik is another alternative to Paytm, which offers similarly vast array of services. The company has recently raised 50 million US Dollars in investments and has a huge list of retailers under its belt.

Image by dqindia

 

What are Mobile Wallets and how do they work?

What are Mobile Wallets and how do they work?

The long awaited priority delivery and subscription service from Amazon, known as Amazon Prime has recently been made available for Indian buyers.  Users can sign up for Amazon Prime via the Amazon website, starting with a 60-day free trial. As an introductory offer, Prime subscription will be available for 449 Rs. per year (after the free trial) instead of 999 Rs. However, it is the barebone version of the original Prime subscription, focusing just on product delivery, for now.

As of now, Prime comes with unlimited one-day and two-day delivery with no minimum order size and early access to some deals on Amazon, as well as some Prime-members only deals. This is great if you frequently buy from Amazon. The Prime subscription available in Europe and America includes Amazon Video and Amazon Music, not to mention it costs $99 a year in the US. However, Amazon has confirmed that Amazon Video will be launched soon for Indian users, which does offer more bang for your buck. US subscribers also enjoy other features like access to over a million e-books via Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and free unlimited photo storage, in addition to Music and Video.

However, A statement from Gree Greeley, Amazon’s VP of Worldwide Prime hints that the systems for Amazon Video might actually be ready and all set-up, they are just waiting for the numbers on paying Prime users after the free trial. But this is just speculation at this point. The quote(s) reads,
“Since its inception in every country, Prime continues to evolve as we add millions of additional items that can be delivered incredibly fast and free,”
“We have also introduced unique digital benefits like Prime Video featuring Amazon Original Series and Movies – you’ll be hearing more about that in the coming months.”

It’s worth noting that Amazon Prime members won’t qualify for free delivery on ALL products – this benefit is available only on products with Prime badge next to them. But for all intents and purposes, most of the ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ products should qualify for free Prime delivery.

According the an NDTV article, Amazon charges Rs. 40 for ‘standard delivery’ (between 2-10 days, depending upon the product) unless the order contains ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ products worth Rs. 499 or more. One-day and two-day delivery are charged Rs. 100 and Rs. 80 respectively. Amazon Prime members can avail these delivery options for free without any minimum order and will need to pay Rs. 50 for same-day, morning, and scheduled deliveries, against a charge of Rs. 150 for non-Prime members.

Amazon Prime delivery benefits will be available to customers in 20 cities across India. For deliveries to cities not yet eligible for one-day or two-day delivery, members will receive free delivery with no minimum purchase.

At this moment, Amazon Prime offers very similar, if not identical benefits to Flipkart’s Priority Delivery service, Flipkart First. The latter costs 500 Rs. a year, although Amazon Prime’s Exclusive Video Content does sound more worthwhile in the long run, for users who prefer the added services beyond just product deliveries. An in all, Amazon’s trial offer for Prime sounds great and you can cancel just before your trial ends, so no harm is trying, right?

Image by Time

Amazon.in launches Prime subscription and its free for 2 months

Amazon.in launches Prime subscription and its free for 2 months

There is no faster, more efficient source of news in the modern day than the Internet, but, as we all well know, not everyone is interested in telling the truth. In fact, it’s easier than ever for a prank or a hoax to go viral in the age of the Internet, and the more channels we have in which to communicate, the faster this nonsense can spread. Most of the hoaxes are promptly swept under the rug, especially as the Internet audience becomes more savvy, but there are plenty that have been propagated by countless sources as genuine news. You probably remember at least a few of them: Waterproof iPhones?

1. Eating Bacon Will Automatically Kill You

It can be very simple for scientific health reports to devolve into an internet hoax. In 2015, a report by the World Health Organization revealed that eating two slices of bacon every day can possibly raise a person’s risk for developing colon cancer by six percent. Of course, many internet news outlets blew the study way out of proportion, making it seem as if the very act of enjoying a strip of bacon or two only once was tantamount to instant death.

2. Miley Cyrus Is Dead

On December 18, 2015, someone thought it would be hysterical to hack into Miley Cyrus’ Facebook page and post a phony death announcement. Naturally, millions believed the hoax was real. I’m surprised that it wasn’t Bill Cosby again, since most of the free world wanting him to drop dead.

3. An Onion Can Charge An iPod

The video of an inion charging an iPod went viral when it demonstrated how to charge an iPod using nothing but an onion and Gatorade and the best part people found it plausible and were frustrated when their attempts to connect their iPod into veggies turned futile.

Cortesy: Makezine
Cortesy: Makezine

4. Obama gives $195 million to Syria in honor of Muslim holiday

A right-wing web site recently posted a recycled story in which it accused President Obama of providing $195 million to Syria “in honor of their Muslim holiday” Eid al-Fitr. The money was spent in aid to Syria in 2013, but the President did not break out his check book and cut a “Happy Eid al-Fitr” check from the U.S. Treasury to the Syrian people.

The aid package — it consisted mainly of food and other supplies — was approved by congress and had nothing to do with the Muslim holiday.

5. 15 Days of Darkness

In July, stories began circulating on social media that between November 15 and November 29, the Earth would be shrouded in darkness. The story, originally published on a less-than-reliable “news” site, said: “The event, according to NASA, hasn’t occurred in over one million years.”

Of course, the story was fake, and the sun rose as normal on Nov. 15, but that didn’t stop some from panicking on Twitter.

6. Phuc Dat Bich

In November, the saga of Phuc Dat Bich, an unfortunately-named Vietnamese-Australian man who allegedly had his Facebook account deactivated multiple times, went viral. After fooling newspapers and media organizations in the U.S. and Europe, the story was revealed to be a hoax.

“What started as a joke between friends became a prank that made a fool out of the media and brought out the best in the people who reached out to me,” said a note, signed Joe Carr, on the man’s Facebook page.

7. Bill Gates Wants to Give You Money

This is one of the older ones. It’s true that Bill Gates does want to give some people money via his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But it’s not true that you’ll ever get any money by forwarding a chain letter as part of the beta test for a new Microsoft-powered email tracking program. This persistent hoax has been circulating since 1997 in one form or another, and is still making the rounds today.

The basic come on is that Microsoft or AOL (or both) is testing a new email forward tracking system, and if you forward the email, you’ll be paid based on how many times your email gets resent by your friends (their new software will keep track of it all, of course). Another variation of this hoax is that every forwarded email will raise money for some charitable cause.

8. Stanley Kubrick and the moon landings

A web site recently reported that Stanley Kubrick, well-known American filmmaker, confessed just before his death to helping NASA fake the moon landings. There is even an alleged video of “Kubrick” admitting to the fraud. But the interview is alleged to have taken place in May 1999 — two months after Kubrick’s death.

Additionally, the man on screen, partially shrouded in shadows, is referred to as “Tom” by the interviewer, who coaches him on what to say. Still, many web sites reported the interview as proof of a moon landing conspiracy.

9. Photograph of Nathuram Godse shooting Gandhi

This photograph was believed to be clicked just moments before Nathuram Godse assassinated M.K. Gandhi. But as it turns out, no photograph exists of that day and all we have are eyewitness accounts. This picture is a scene from a 1963 British movie called Nine Hours To Rama. The character playing Godse is German actor, Horst Buchholz.

Courtesy: ScoopWhoop
Courtesy: ScoopWhoop

10. Swiss Bank statement to India

This was believed to be a leaked Swiss Bank document and it did the rounds on the Internet for quite some time. But on closer inspection, there are so many errors on the document that it’s amazing that anyone believed it. For starters, the Swiss Bank operates in USD, Euro and GBP, not INR. The telephone code mentioned is 0044 which is in the UK while the code for Switzerland is 0041. The bank manager has signed on the right side of the document but if you follow the European system, the signature is always at the bottom left. Photoshopped work, this!

Cortesy: ScoopWhoop
Cortesy: ScoopWhoop

10 of the best Internet Hoaxes

10 of the best Internet Hoaxes

Google Maps is slowly being rolled out with the Wi-Fi only mode. The new update also introduces new notifications for mass transit related delays. These new features come with the map version 3.92, so keep an eye out. As these updates are being rolled out in stages, it might take a while before everyone gets the update.

The new Wi-Fi only mode is a welcome new feature with people with limited mobile data usage and can be toggled via a toggle in the app’s settings. When enabled, the feature disconnects the Maps app from the cellular or data network. When Wi-Fi only mode is turned on for the first time, it will show a quick reminder that Google Maps may still use a small amount of data during operation. As long as the switch is turned on, a small bar will appear across the top of the screen to make the status obvious.

Along with this new addition, Google has introduced notifications for mass transit delays. These can be helpful for commuters who travel via buses or trains frequently. The app will update users of any service disruption to the transit mode(s), provided they are in the same area. The initial rollout has been confirmed, but its starting audience will be limited, meaning you might not get notification delays until some time. Google recently introduced multi-route directions with the single search query feature to its Maps app, which provides the best route for more than two points of a journey, a feature that was earlier available only on the Google Maps website until now.

Image by AndroidPolice

Google Maps add Wi-Fi only mode and mass transit delay alerts

Google Maps add Wi-Fi only mode and mass transit delay alerts

A new photo filter app called Prisma which has been taking the iOS user base by storm, is finally out of beta and available for Android users on the Play Store. The app, for now, is free for all users of Android 4.1 and up, with no in-app purchases. Prisma has successfully created a name for itself around the world within weeks of its release despite being available for just one platform – iOS – till now.

nexus2cee_prisma_thumb
Courtesy: Android Police

What sets Prisma apart is not only a set of clever algorithms, but the filters itself; a series of “artistic” filters that when applied to users’ photos (from Gallery, Camera, Google Photos), creates a stunning resemblance to paintings. The ‘enhanced’ photos, can then be shared on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp etc.

Prisma is different, which is what sets it apart from the likes of Instagram and such. The filters are extensive and dramatically alter the appearance to every photo it’s applied to. A few of the filters are even named after the artists that inspired them. The app makes images look like paintings “using the styles of famous artists: Munk, Picasso as well as world famous ornaments and patterns,” as the description on its Google Play page goes.

The Russian-made app uses “unique combination of neural networks and artificial intelligence” to tweak the photos with 36 different filters. Interestingly, the same filter may appear different for different photos. This happens due to the clever machine learning algorithms at work. So every time you click a photo the cloud AI analyses it, recognises different objects in the photo, and “paints” it accordingly. The entire process runs on Prisma’s servers, so be patient, it might feel slow at times due to millions of users trying to turn their photos into a painting.

According to an article from India Today, Prisma is expected to add video support feature in the coming weeks. The app, for now, also lags at times and lacks a few basic features like locally saving a photo. The coming versions are expected to sort these issues out. Filter strengths can be adjusted with a swipe gesture, though Prisma is designed to be pretty basic and simplified. The app has a built-in camera, albeit bare-bones and has the functionality to import photos from the phone’s gallery or Google Photos.

As with every successful app these days, the Play Store is filled with fake Prisma apps, some of them even go by the same name and others just posted iOS screenshots of the original app itself! Get the app from their authentic Play Store link here.

Featured image from Trak.in

Prisma out of beta, arrives on Google Play Store

Prisma out of beta, arrives on Google Play Store

Twitter verification or “blue ticks”  is now open for everyone and anyone. A Twitter verified accounts provides you a certain “in” with Twitter and in addition you get the blue ticks of authenticity. The company this week opened the verified account designation up to all users and put some rules in place for consideration. Majority of Twitter’s 300+ milion users do nt qualify for a verified account, but the company is making the whole invite-only available for anyone.

Twitter’s Vice President of User Services, Tina Bhatnagar, had this to say in her statement:

“We want to make it even easier for people to find creators and influencers on Twitter so it makes sense for us to let people apply for verification…We hope opening up this application process results in more people finding great, high-quality accounts to follow, and for these creators and influencers to connect with a broader audience.”

Twitter was the first micro-blogging & social media service to introduce account verification, starting in 2009 and currently has close to 187,000 verified accounts. “The designation is largely symbolic, but also a defensive move against the untold number of impersonators, satirists, trolls and hatemongers who roam freely on Twitter. Oftentimes the dynamic between fans and celebrities or public figures on Twitter is only rewarding if the authenticity of the user being followed is endorsed. Trust matters on Twitter and that’s exactly why anyone who wants to be verified should take steps to do so. If you carry any impact in your community, field of work or areas of heightened awareness and visibility, a verified account will let your followers know you’re the real deal.” says an article from PCWorld.

To be able to verify your account with Twitter, the user needs to fill up a form. To be able to complete the form, your account must have the following:

  1. A verified phone number
  2. A confirmed email address
  3. A bio
  4. A profile photo
  5. A header photo
  6. A birthday (for accounts that are not company, brand, or organization accounts)
  7. A website
  8. Tweets set as public in Tweet privacy settings

Twitter confirms that it will respond to all verification requests via email, and users who get denied can submit another request 30 days later.

Twitter now opens Verified Accounts for everyone

Twitter now opens Verified Accounts for everyone

The world’s largest torrent site has been effectively put out of business by the US Government. The alleged owner of KickassTorrents, Artem Vaulin, a 30-something Ukranian individual has been arrested in Poland, where the Government is trying to extradite him to the States, according to TorrentFreak. He has been charged with criminal copyright infringement and money laundering. On top of that, the federal court of Chicago has authorized the seizure of all the assets operating under the KickassTorrents (KAT) domain names.

Courtesy: TorrentFreak
Courtesy: TorrentFreak

The complaint further reveals that the feds posed as an advertiser, which revealed a bank account associated with the site. It also shows that Apple handed over personal details of Vaulin after the investigator cross-referenced an IP-address used for an iTunes transaction with an IP-address that was used to login to KAT’s Facebook account. The complaint reads, “Records provided by Apple showed that tirm@me.com conducted an iTunes transaction using IP Address 109.86.226.203 on or about July 31, 2015. The same IP Address was used on the same day to login into the KAT Facebook.” 

Kickass Torrents has been accused in distributing over a billion dollar in pirated files. KAT’s .com and .tv domains are soon to be seized by Verisign. Also for the main Kat.cr domain seizure warrants will be sent soon.

According to the complaint statement, “Vaulin is charged with running today’s most visited illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials.”

“In an effort to evade law enforcement, Vaulin allegedly relied on servers located in countries around the world and moved his domains due to repeated seizures and civil lawsuits. His arrest in Poland, however, demonstrates again that cybercriminals can run, but they cannot hide from justice.”

Unlike many other torrent portals, KAT has been compliant with DMCA takedowns, removing majority of the links which received takedown notices. At the time of writing, the official site for KAT is down as well as the KA status page.

KAT – The World’s largest Torrent site shuts down

KAT – The World’s largest Torrent site shuts down

Microsoft’s aim to get Windows 10 running on a billion devices by 2018 has crashed and burned after a July 15 announcement, where Microsoft conceded to ZDNet that it will not reach its goal to have the operating system installed on 1 billion devices by mid-2018, as originally planned. The current tally of overall Windows 10 installations is something close to 350 million.

The majority of Windows users are on Windows 7, some completely giving Windows 8.1 a skip while some going back to the more trusted desktop operating system. Microsoft has hoped to upgrade these hundreds of millions of users so that there aren’t millions of PCs running Windows 7 in January 2020 when its extended support commitment ends. On July 29, Microsoft’s 1-year offer of free upgrade to Windows 10 will expire. In theory, the Windows 10 offer should be a no-brainer: This $119 operating system that’s packed with new features is free of charge—if you upgrade by July 29. But Microsoft’s strong-arming tactics into pushing Windows 10 on its older Windows customers under the guise of a security update has led to a serious breach in public’s trust.

In all fairness, Windows 10 is liked by many users, and it’s understandable if others are hesitant into getting the upgrade. Most new PCs and laptops in the market come pre-loaded with Windows 10 already, and by October 31, 2016, OEM sales of new PCs with Windows 7 will officially end.

Windows 10 or not?

Users who are heavily reliant on certain applications to managing finances, archiving music, or editing video, though, the upgrade makes little sense. If those apps are incompatible with Windows 10, chances they are probably not going to work. The operating system does have a Compatibility Mode feature to accommodate older apps, but you’re better off knowing your favorite app will function before you take the plunge. Users with an unreliable or limited bandwidth internet connections can also skip Windows 10, given how all the updates are automated and silently bog down your internet speed in the background. Users with an old PC or laptop should skip this upgrade as well. Even though the hardware can run Windows 10, the OS might end up providing a sluggish user experience. Older hardware might not even get driver support for Windows 10, which would effectively render those components useless.

According to Microsoft, you can give Windows 10 a try without any remorse, as the company allows restoring to the previous operating system within 30 days of the new upgrade, at no extra cost. However, it isn’t a simple flick of the switch, which is not surprising, given how Microsoft wants it’s users to keep using the latest OS. But a rollback is still possible. However, backing up all user data is recommended before attempting any kind of upgrade. The only good thing out of all this is that if you ever upgrade to Windows 10 and decide to rollback, the new OS is yours to keep forever, (or until Microsoft decides to not be so benevolent).

Windows 10 free upgrade ends on July 29, is it still worth the risk?

Windows 10 free upgrade ends on July 29, is it still worth the risk?

Facebook app users for Android have started spotting a “Saved” video section in the app, meaning that videos can be now taken offline and play at a later time, any number of times. The feature has now reportedly started rolling out to users via the Facebook version 85 and 86 (beta) for Android. Yes, the feature is still in beta, though not for long. Facebook has been testing this feature in India as well as some other countries with limited infrastructure.

The app lets users save videos in the ‘Saved’ section inside the app itself. This can be done by tapping on the ‘Save video’ option from the drop down menu for a certain post. However, the saved video can only be viewed from the app itself, which means that you won’t be able to play it in any other app. This is unlike YouTube’s Offline system, where saved videos can be played using any third party video playing app such as VLC or MX Player. Android Police seems to think this is so that users don’t take the video and upload it themselves.

Saved videos can be watched offline once saved and removed at any time. It’s nice if you have a couple of videos that you want to hang on to or just don’t have a good connection, but bear in mind that the saved video adds to your already bloated Facebook application, which has a notorious reputation of slowing down smartphones. Publishers of the videos do have the option of choosing whether to make their videos available offline or not. This is also quite similar to YouTube, where uploaders can make their videos “Available for Offline”, which is turned on by default.

The “save” option is showing up in versions 85 and 86 (beta) of the Facebook app.

 

Now save videos from Facebook’s Android app

Now save videos from Facebook’s Android app

Copyright holders continue to overload Google with DMCA takedown requests, targeting “pirate links” in the the search giant’s search results. They have asked to Google to remove more than half a 500,000,000 alleged content infringing links from the search engine in 2016 itself. That number nearly equals the number of takedown notices received by Google for the whole of 2015, and we have barely crossed the half year length this year. Google disagrees, but rightsholders see the surge as an evidence of a failing system.

In recent years the number of notices has exploded, breaking record after record. Data analyzed by TorrentFreak, a publication that reports on copyright and privacy, reveals that Google recently received its 500 millionth takedown request of 2016. If the same rate continues throughout the year, Google will process a billion allegedly infringing links in 2016, a staggering number and a new record for the company.

Google’s takedown count, courtesy TorrentFreak

According to Google, roughly 98% of the reported infringing URLs are indeed removed. However, according to copyright holders, this is still not enough and they wish Google would do more. Entertainment industry groups such as the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) have pointed out multiple times that many files simply reappear under new URLs.

This week Google addressed the concerns in its updated “How Google Fights Piracy” report. In it, the company provides an overview of all the efforts it makes to combat piracy while countering some of the entertainment industry complaints. According to Google, the increase in successful takedowns show that the system is working and the company notes that it takes less than six hours to remove said infringing content.

“The growing number of notices sent to Google by an increasing volume of different copyright owners and enforcement agents demonstrates the effectiveness and success of the notice-and-take-down system.” 

Google is clearly aware of the staggering rise of copyright notices it gets every day and the anticipates that it will increase in the near future. “As the internet continues to grow rapidly, and as new technologies make it cheaper and faster for copyright owners and enforcement agents to detect infringements online, we can expect these numbers to continue to increase,” Google adds.

Still, rightsholders continue to demand a tougher stance from Google when it comes to piracy. Several of the industry-heads are now hoping that the Government will intervene at some point. Whether that will happen has yet to be seen but in the meantime, rightsholders will continue to report millions of pirated links per day.

Google removes Half a Billion links in 2016

Google removes Half a Billion links in 2016

Facebook has finally added support for its Instant Articles feature to its Messenger platform. The feature will let users loads Instant Articles in a separate Messenger window, instead of a third-party browser, to save users’ time and data. For the publishers that don’t support Instant Articles, the articles will open up normally in the smartphone’s default browser. Currently, the feature has only been rolled out for Messenger app users on Android. iOS users will get it sometime in the coming weeks. The feature will be added to the Android app via the Google Play Store, so be patient if you haven’t received it yet.

In simpler terms it means that when a friend shares an article link with you in Messenger, it will load almost “instantly”, which given the slow mobile data speeds here in India, is a blessing in disguise. However, the catch is that only publishers which support Instant Articles, only their content will be delivered to you (instantly), for that you won’t be switching apps, just a separate page on Messenger. The ones that do not support Instant Articles, which is the majority of content publications as of now, the articles will open as usual, in your browser window. The social media giant first teamed up with a few content houses, and then made it available to all publishers. The feature will work in the same manner, as it did on the Facebook app. Publishers who signed up for Instant Articles, had their stories show up ‘instantly’ in a new app window, instead of a browser. The content which supports Instant Articles comes with a lightning bolt sign on top right.

Instant Articles works by achieving faster loading speeds by pre-loading the articles beforehand. The article therefore has already been loaded in the background, and hence photos pop up instantly when you tap the link, and videos start playing the moment you scroll on it. Think of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, which works almost the same way.

Android users can look out for the Messenger update with Instant Articles now, while iOS users can expect it sometime soon.

Instant Article, courtesy Facebook
Instant Article, courtesy Facebook

Now read articles instantly through Facebook Messenger

Now read articles instantly through Facebook Messenger

Fire up your social media network or sift through the pages of Google News, chances are you have seen atleast one mention of Pokemon Go, an augmented reality smartphone game owned by Nintendo, and developed by Niantic – a game about catching pocket monsters, or Pokemon. Pokemon needs no introduction, as it has been a rage ever since the 90s and the early 2000s. Those same people are the target for Niantic, reaping their nostalgia for profit (the game is free-to-play, with in-app purchases). Even I have downloaded the game, just because of the nostalgia factor, to see what it’s actually like.

What Pokemon GO has demonstrated so effectively is that augmented reality games can be extraordinarily viral if developed in a certain way. It doesn’t mean the game has to be good, just needs to go viral. And it has worked, so much so that Niantic has started referring to itself as “The Pokemon Company”, as evident by the loading screen of Pokemon GO.

Question is, IS IT any good?

For now, the game is a little barebones. Its developer currently makes money from the optional power-ups and virtual items that can be bought within the title. But Niantic is already in talks with various companies who want to buy sponsored locations within the game.
This is a new kind of revenue stream for a games developer and, at a time where traditional income routes are somewhat challenged, is something that will certainly turn heads if successful. As a result, Nintendo’s share prices have skyrocketed in the just a matter of weeks.

On social media, thousands of players are posting images of Pokemon creatures dwelling in random locations and historical landmarks. Its millions of players have effectively become walking advertisements by shuffling through busy streets with their smartphones held aloft, in the hope of catching their next creature. Popular sightseeing locations, such as New York’s Central Park, as well as more obscure ones, including an Australian suburb, have been bustling with crowds of players looking for rarer and elusive Pokemon.

Given the game’s nature of real-life walking and exploration, criminals have also seized the opportunity to make some cash. Armed robberies are being reported almost everyday by US state police departments and dangerous driving has resulted in “Dont Pokemon GO and drive” signs to appear of highways. The game has also started to display warning and cautionary messages for players to be mindful of their surroundings.

Courtesy: driven.co.nz

Pokemon GO: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Pokemon GO: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

From time to time we like to write on the current on-goings in the tech world in India that we feel are important, since that’s where we come from. Recently search giant Google announced the launch of its Android Skilling program in India that will aim to train two million mobile developers. The company unveiled a slew of initiatives to skill up, educate, and certify millions of students and developers in Android development and training. It announced the launch of a specially designed instructor led training program on Android Fundamentals. This will be made available across public and private universities and training institutes of the National Skill Development Corporation of India. The in-person training module integrated into the course curriculum will be introduced within this calendar year at no additional fee.

The VP and Production Management at Google Caesar Sengupta, had this to say,
“India is expected to have the largest developer population globally, overtaking the US, by 2018, with four million developers. But today only 25 per cent of developers are building for mobile. We believe India is uniquely placed to innovate and shape the Internet experience of billions of users who are and will come online on the mobile platform.” Caesar was responsible for the development of Android One smartphones first initiated in 2014, bringing wifi access to train stations in India, and making Google’s Maps and Youtube accessible offline.

The Android Fundamentals course will also be available, gratis, on NPTEL (an initiative of the IITs and IISc) as part of its online Mobile Computing course starting 18th July 2016. Additionally, Google has tied up with training partners like Edureka, Koenig, Manipal Global, Simplilearn, Udacity and UpGrad who will operate as authorised Android Training Partners in India. Google will train their trainers and update their Android courseware to prepare students for the Android Certification and a career in Android development. They also announced the launch of its globally recognised job-oriented Associate Android Developer Certification-a performance-based exam that will help successful candidates to get an entry-level Android Developer jobs in the Industry. After training, aspiring candidates can log on to the Google Developer training website and take the certification exam priced at Rs 6,500.

“We introduced the Android Nanodegree program in India last year with Udacity, and today, we have over 11,500 students in India enrolling every month in our Android courses. For university students we have now-for the first time-introduced a instructor led Android Fundamentals course to be incorporated into university curricula in India,” said Peter Lubbers, Head of Google Developer Training.

Google will also open-source all Android Developer Fundamentals practicals and courseware and make these available to everyone for free. Infact, its already available at https://developers.google.com/training/programs/india/.
Jump right in and get started.

Google wants to train 2 million Android Developers in India and its free!

Google wants to train 2 million Android Developers in India and its free!

Facebook is experimenting with a new design for the desktop version of Pages that drops right side ads from the page, among other changes. Apparently, this time it is another redesign of its desktop Pages that omits the ads that normally appear on the right-hand side of the page. Based on two experimental layouts, Facebook seems to have four ideas in mind of how it wants to change the current look of its desktop Pages: separate the profile photo from the cover photo, move the navigation menu to the left side of the page, move the page information boxes to the right side and remove the right-side ads altogether.

According to MarketingLand, this was inevitable and they are a bit skeptical about the whole deal. Writer Tim Peterson says,

“The seeming inevitability of Facebook removing ads from its desktop Pages may not be that big of a deal. For starters, even if Facebook does pull them from desktop Pages doesn’t mean it’ll pull them from its desktop homepage or people’s profile pages. And ads on its desktop Pages may not bring in enough money to justify them crowding the page when Facebook might prefer to free up that room to make Pages even more of a hub for businesses, publishers and celebrities, as it’s doing with the mobile version of Pages.”

Facebook’s desktop ad business remains a significant, if small, revenue stream, and the right-hand ads are the smallest part of that supplementary stream. In the first quarter of 2016, 18% of Facebook’s overall ad revenue came from its desktop ads. But Facebook is serving up fewer desktop ad impressions than it used to, and the likely majority of the ones it is serving are news feed ads, the company’s cross-device cash cow that rakes in more money per ad than the seemingly endangered desktop-only right-hand ads. Given that the majority of Facebook’s audience and business is mobile heavy, i.e. the rest 82% of its revenue comes from mobile users, this small change would be welcome by its desktop users, with relatively less ad revenue loss to the company.

One of the experimental layouts, courtesy MarketingLand

Image Courtesy: Wired

Facebook to introduce ad-free Pages on desktops soon

Facebook to introduce ad-free Pages on desktops soon

Digital marketing offers startups an unrivaled opportunity to reach their customers at a fraction of the cost of any other media. Yet a recent survey of startups in India revealed gaps in understanding that could lead to a stormy relationship between the two. The survey, aimed at marketing professionals in the startup ecosystem, received 129 responses; 63 percent of responses came from marketing and digital marketing practitioners and CMOs, while 27 percent came from founders/cofounders and CXOs.

The survey states that mobile is now almost equal to web as a traffic source. This is not surprising given the vast majority of internet users in India connected via mobile devices. The average amount startups spent on digital marketing tended to be fairly low. Nearly 70 percent of the respondents report spending less than $1000 a month on digital marketing activities. Interestingly only 10 percent of those polled said their marketing activity was digital-only, and 24 percent say digital accounts for between 25-50 percent of their total marketing spend. The reasons for their diffidence towards digital marketing has less to do with the efficiency of the channel as it has to do with their inability to understand how to leverage digital platforms.

A whopping 82 percent of those surveyed find a scarcity of talent or a lack of digital marketing as one of the major problems facing them. Combine this with the fact that most startups prefer to do their own digital marketing highlights the real reason why digital marketing is yet to take off among startups. With increasing mobile and internet penetration and the rise of a tech-savvy generation of consumers, digital media is seen as a potent tool to disseminate information and engage a target audience. Even though digital marketing is still in a nascent stage, both large and small organisations are looking to execute digital marketing campaigns with greater intensity.

The founder of Mcounts, a cashback site, Braj Chaturvedi puts it quite accurately. He said, “You send out emails – because you have something to offer to a set of clients, you don’t create an offer because you have to send an email. You create a YouTube channel because you have a product to demo, or client testimonials to share. You don’t create stuff because every company needs to have a YouTube channel. It is important for marketers to clearly define the problem statement and identify the digital marketing requirements.”

Download and read the kstart survery (PDF) report here.

Indian startups facing knowledge gap in digital marketing

Indian startups facing knowledge gap in digital marketing

After the recent unfortunate shootings of two coloured individuals in the United States, and a technical glitch on Facebook’s side which resulted in the live video being temporary unavailable for quite some time. The temporary removal raised questions from bigshots such as BuzzFeed, TechCrunch and other outlets about Facebook’s roles and responsibilities on hosting citizen journalism content that could be controversial or graphic.

TechCrunch’s John Constine spoke to Facebook to get some clear answers on its exact policy of its Community Standards regarding graphic content, and when violations lead to censorship. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  1. Facebook’s Community Standards outline what is and isn’t allowed on the social network, from pornography to violence to hate speech. The same also apply to Live video the same as to recorded photos and videos.
  2. The policy on graphic content is that Facebook does not allow and will take down content depicting violence if it’s celebrated, glorified or mocks the victim. However, violent content that is graphic or disturbing is not a violation if it’s posted to bring attention to the violence or condemn it.
  3. Users can report any content, including Live videos in progress, as offensive for one of a variety of reasons, including that it depicts violence. Live videos can be reviewed while they’re still in progress if reported, and Facebook can interrupt and shut down the stream if it violates the social media platform’s standards.
  4. Facebook’s Community Standards team reviews even a single report flag on a content, which operates 24/7 worldwide. These team members can review content regardless on whether it’s privately or publicly shared. The number of flags does not have bearing on whether content is or isn’t reviewed, and a higher number of flags will not trigger an automatic take-down.
  5. There is no option to report content as “graphic but newsworthy,” or any other way to report that content could be disturbing and should be taken down. Instead, Facebook asks that users report the video as violent, or with any of the other options. It will then be reviewed by team members trained to determine whether the content violates Facebook’s standards.
  6. There are three possible outcomes to a review. 1) The content does not violate Facebook’s standards and is not considered graphic, and is left up as is. 2) The content violates Facebook’s standards and is taken down. 3) The content is deemed graphic or disturbing but not a violation, and is left up but with a disclaimer. The black disclaimer screen hides the preview of the content and says “Warning – Graphic Video. Videos that contain graphic content can shock, offend, or upset. Are you sure you want to see this?” These videos do not auto-play in the News Feed, and are typically barred from being seen by users under 18 years of age.
  7. If Facebook’s team believes a person depicted in shared content is a threat to themselves or others, it will contact local law enforcement. It will also encourage users flagging the content to contact the authorities.

Facebook’s censorship rules focus on the glorification of violence, such as videos posted to promote or celebrate terrorism. The policy does not make distinctions about the cause of death, the relationship between the video’s creator and its subjects or the involvement of law enforcement. As with all content posted on Facebook, the creator retains ownership.

Facebook Explains Policy on Graphic and Violent Content

Facebook Explains Policy on Graphic and Violent Content

A sufficient amount of link authority is needed before any search engine ranks your site. Obstacles are bound to arise in any SEO effort, but many of these are avoidable. If it seems that despite all your content marketing efforts, the needle just isn’t moving in the SERPs, then you’re probably making one of these five avoidable SEO mistakes:

1. Misplacing content

Remarkable content needs a home where it will attract the most links to your main site, where the links lead directly to your site and not through an intermediary site with lots of links to other folks’ sites, and where the links to your site won’t be nofollowed.

Thus, a social site like YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook is a less-than-ideal home for your content because external links are nofollowed. Even a third-party site like Huffington Post or BuzzFeed can be less than ideal, since you are at the mercy of their editorial guidelines and the number of competing links on the page.

2. Targeting the wrong audience

This can be tough to wrap your head around, but you already blew it if your content marketing campaign is laser-targeted to your ideal customer. From an SEO perspective, your most important audience isn’t your customers, it’s the linkerati, i.e., the online influencers who have the most authority in the eyes of Google. Yes, you are going to get the most out of your campaign by targeting those who can link back to you from trusted, authoritative, important sites. If you are only writing content pieces for your customers, you are missing the boat. Now of course, relevance is still a factor here. If you’re getting a link from a big player in the game design community and you sell yoga clothes, it isn’t going to necessarily be as helpful to you.

To target the linkerati, it becomes as simple (and as complex) as creating content that people want to link to. That sometimes means you’re going to need to think outside the box and branch out a bit from your traditional approach to content. Simply being helpful, useful or educational is not going to cut it. You need to create remarkable content — content worth spreading.

3. Hustling for likes instead of links

Your social strategy is completely misaligned if you aren’t incorporating SEO goals into it. SEO must underpin your social media strategy. It’s not the likes, retweets, shares and plus-ones that are going to prop you up in Google; it’s the links. As such, getting influential bloggers to link to your site should be a primary raison d’être for your social campaigns.

4. Being activity-focused

Many SEO practitioners, unfortunately, are task-oriented. They believe that just because it’s a “best practice,” it deserves to be on the to-do list. I challenge that thinking. I’d argue you probably have items on your SEO to-do list that aren’t worth doing and should be removed; they simply aren’t going to move the needle enough. Or they may be a second-order activity for when you have time after finishing all the first-order activities. Meta descriptions would fit in that category. They don’t influence your rankings, thus they don’t deserve to be prioritized up there with title tags.

5. No help from a power user

Power users are a link builder’s secret weapon. Power users are bloggers, social media mavens, journalists or celebrities with a huge following on social media, and thus, huge reach. The amplification that power users can provide is game-changing. You don’t need an army of them. All you really need is one power user in your hip pocket. It can be a challenge to recruit that power user, but once you do, that power user can provide the initial push that starts the snowball effect you need to go viral.

Common SEO mistakes to watch out for

Common SEO mistakes to watch out for

The word “Search Giant” is applicable only to Google, because their none other that even comes close to it. So much so that it is the first site we tend to open when we fire up our browser, or we want to look for something. It could be argued that businesses and marketers have little value optimising their sites or promote their products for other search services, since Google averages to roughly 70% percent of all the searches by users throughout the entire world. But the search giant is not leading in every country around the world and the other 30% is not appearing out of thin air. I, for one, am pro-google all the way, but it is nice to have options and take a break from an omnipresent company to see what else in out there. Specially since, Google is not equal to the entire World Wide Web.
Let us have a look at our options.

Bing

Bing is Microsoft’s answer to Google. Bing powered searches also continued to have a higher “success rate” compared to Google, with more users clicking on the resulting links. Like Google services, Bing has its own email client, videos, maps, toolbar and an array of tools (Finance, Health, Translator etc.). According to netmarketshare, Bing’s market share is currently at 11.31%.

Yahoo!

Although Yahoo is largely powered by Bing, it is still an important service that has been present since the old Google days. Yahoo Search provided the ability to search across numerous vertical properties outside just the Web at large. These included Images, Videos, Local, Shopping, Yahoo! Answers, Audio, Directory, Jobs, News, Mobile, Travel and various other services as listed on their About Yahoo Search page. Yahoo! is also immensely popular in Japan and is used more than Google search. Netmarketshare puts Yahoo’s desktop market share at 7.68%.

DuckDuckGo

This is an interesting one and has been my personal favourite for quite a few years. This one is less about market shares and more about the search aspect, which DuckDuckGo does pretty efficiently. Unlike other search engines, DuckDuckGo claims to not track user searches and provides link and ads developed through their open source community, which guarantees a certain level of transparency. The search engine also claims to not bias search results, something Google has been accused of multiple times. It reached a landmark on 2015 of 10 million searches per day. DuckDuckGo has been the de facto search engine in many Linux distributions, but sadly netmarketshare lists it under other, which is standing strong as 1.63%.

Baidu

Baidu is a Chinese web services company headquartered at the Baidu Campus in Beijing. Think of it as the Chinese alter-ego to Google, with plenty of controversies to its name. Baidu’s global market share on desktop is around 8.8%, according to netmarketshare, which puts it over Yahoo! and Google (in China). It has a similar advertising program to Google’s AdSense and displays ads in search results, just like Google. The company is currently competing with Apple Music by offering its own service called Baidu Music, which already has around 150 million monthly active users.

 

Next best search engines after Google

Next best search engines after Google

Google is all about making our digital world a better place, atleast that is what the company wants us to believe, and so far has done a pretty good job. The company’s new advertising policy is a pragmatic mix of good policy and self-interest, the new tools give users more control and enable more sophisticated ad targeting. About a year ago Google introduced “My Account,” a centralised privacy and security center where users could manage their data and information used by Google. A few days ago, the company began a global rollout of a new panel within My Account, called My Activity.

My Activity extends the benefits of My Account and gives users a more holistic view of their search and browsing histories. This is the first time that Google has brought together all the activity data it has on individuals in a single place. You can view the history of videos watched, topics searched and other content consumed across Google, and across the web via Chrome. Particular topics or queries can be removed from your history across Google properties. For example, users can now remove all mentions of “Clash of Clans” or “Samsung smartphones” searches to avoid seeing ads or content recommendations tied to those topics.

Any particular item of history from any property can thus be deleted. Google issues a cautionary note users against deleting data, but that’s about it. In parallel with My Activity, Google is introducing “Ads Personalization.” This is an evolution of the older “Ads Preferences Manager” and newer “ad settings” manager, which allows people to influence the types of ads they see by indicating areas of interest or disinterest or by entirely opting out.

What is the new Ads Personalization?

This functionality is turned off by default and must be activated by users.Google will expose users to the new personalization option and invite them to turn it on. The company promises better and more relevant ads from opting-in. Google hopes Ads Personalization will not only improve the ad experience but give users a better sense of control over the ads they see — across devices.

While an argument can be made against Google’s renewed privacy intrusion, that is a topic for another day. Offering enhanced targeting and simultaneously instilling greater user confidence and opt-in participation through more transparency and control over data. In a broader context, these tools are part of a larger Google project to improve ad quality and the overall ad experience, to combat the rise of ad blocking and increasing consumer ad avoidance.

Google’s new Ad Policy gives user more control over ads

Google’s new Ad Policy gives user more control over ads

The Theory of Search Engine Optimization tells us that any member of the Searchable Web Ecosystem can use or apply algorithms to influence the predictable content and quality of search engine results according to the chosen criteria of the optimizer. Michael Martinez puts it beautifully, “Those who champion the Art of SEO as a shield for basing their practices on favored opinions in no way invalidate the Science of SEO.”

Let us start by talking about search engines. A search engine is any searchable database or index of documents. A search ecosystem operates within three perspectives: Publishers, Indexers, and Searchers. That is, each member of the search ecosystem has a set of objectives and priorities that determine the arbitrary criteria he uses when participating in the ecosystem. A Publisher’s perspective is unique and distinct from the perspectives of the Indexer and Searcher. One of the primary laws of SEO states that anyone in the search ecosystem may reorganize or optimize the search engine according to his own perspective. Publishers do this by changing content. Indexers do this by (excluding or including content, changing indexing structures, adjusting ranking mechanisms, etc.). Searchers do this by changing the way they search.

Building on that foundation we can show that the fundamental Laws of Search Engine Optimization are easily discernible. These laws have nothing to do with techniques. They don’t weigh in on the various debates about what has more influence. The laws of search engine optimization are not concerned with shoring up people’s opinions about what is morally or ethically preferable; nor do they favor links over content or content over links. Rather, the fundamental laws of search engine optimization simply explain how things work in a searchable ecosystem. If it isn’t clear upto this point, the web marketers are not the only people optimizing search — the search engineers optimize search and the searchers optimize search.

It can be argued that in the scenario of modern Web search engines, that the Indexer has almost becomes the Publisher, which is actually something that is not far from the truth. Google, for example, seeks to provide “answers” to searchers by aggregating information it finds on the Web. Wolfram Alpha is another search engine that seeks to aggregate Web information to provide answers. But we can use Google as a calculator, a dictionary, a currecy converter or it may be that a query that doesn’t require us to click on any result — we simply want to “know” what the results for a query may be (such as when you compile rankings reports).

How does the Searchable Web Ecosystem Work?

How does the Searchable Web Ecosystem Work?

One Theorem is a digital marketing company which provides all solutions for your digital needs. Digital marketing is a process through which any product or creation can easily reach to the target customers within very short span of time at a minimum cost. For an instance, a company which has launched a new product, will try to bring the products under customer’s consideration within a very short time period. In early days, sales persons used to go door-to-door and push the products to the potential customers. This process consumes time and labour and it is also non-economical. But in recent days there is no need for this kind of lengthy processes. Digital media is the best way for doing so. Digital media means Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, website, blog etc.

One Theorem provides various services that fulfill digital needs of any business entrepreneur with the help of SEO, SEM, ORM, Website Development, Email Marketing, Content Marketing, etc. These online marketing activities can easily turn the potential buyer into future consumer.

A business firm must require a website. It plays a vital role in its business because it takes the organization and its products to a larger audience. Companies introduce their new products in public through their websites. A customer gets idea about the product and company as well. So how to develop a website, how to manage it, how to bring it to the first page of relevant Google searches, all these are very much important and should be handled with care. One Theorem provides all these services for your website and business.

One Theorem – An Overview

One Theorem – An Overview

 

Cheers all around for the content developers and creators all around! Facebook has finally brought to life its new feature – Instant Articles. Its a service where “Facebook hosts content for publishers and serves it up to readers in a fast, mobile-friendly setting while still allowing publishers to monetize their content.” (MarketingLand)

What are Instant Articles?

If you still haven’t grasped the concept, that is alright. It is a feature more beneficial for your favorite content creators, bloggers, e-news portals. It essentially allows the developers, creators and portals to earn from their content from Facebook its users. The content is present to you in a mobile-optimized setting, meaning better readability and faster loading times.

According to Facebook,
“An Instant Article is a HTML5 document optimized for fast mobile performance, rich storytelling capabilities, branded design and customized visual display. Through this guide, you’ll learn how to create an Instant Article and use a standardized markup language (similar to XML) to make your stories come alive with custom styles and interactive functionality.”

Getting Started

If WordPress is your CMS and you’re interested in publishing your content via Facebook’s Instant Articles program, there are some intricacies to the whole process that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with first.

The process itself is pretty straightforward:

  1. Sign up for Instant Articles.
  2. Install and configure the WordPress plugin.
  3. Submit your feed for review.
  4. Start publishing.

Advantages – according to Facebook

  1. Better Experience for Readers. Instant Articles displays stories as much as 10 times faster than conventional mobile browsers, while also providing the kind of fluid, high-quality experience and interactivity readers want.
  2. New Creative Tools. Instant Articles introduces a suite of creative tools that allow publishers to bring their stories to life in new ways, with high-resolution photos, auto-play videos, interactive maps and audio captions.
  3. Built for Publishers. Instant Articles keeps publishers in control. Publishers decide what to share on Facebook, with article templates that mirror the look and feel of their brands. Publishers can even automate their workflow by using an RSS feed or API to publish Instant Articles directly from their existing content management systems.

Reality Check

According to MarketingLand, setting up Instant Articles is not without its fair share of bumps. There are tons of minor issues to deal with, which varies depending on the WordPress setup, plugins that are used and the individual’s own publishing process.
The reality check? – The WordPress plugin for Facebook Instant Articles remains very much a work in progress.

Image by developmentlogics

Facebook’s new Instant Articles and what is it about

Facebook’s new Instant Articles and what is it about

According to Reuters, the Supreme Court of the Untied States has declined to hear an appeal from Alphabet/Google Inc.concerning an advertiser class action. The underlying litigation was filed on behalf of advertisers who used AdWords between 2004 and 2008. The original suit (Pulaski & Middleman v. Google) claims that Google deceived advertisers about where their ads would appear across the Google network. The plaintiff advertisers sued under California’s Unfair Competition Law and Fair Advertising Law. They claimed Google had deceived them by failing to disclose the possibility that their ads would potentially show up on so-called “parked domains” and error pages. The suit sought refunds and “restitution of monies Google wrongfully obtained.”
You can read the full Reuters news article here.

In 2012, US federal court Judge Edward Davila ruled that there wasn’t enough uniformity among the advertiser claims to justify certifying the case as a class action. In 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower federal court, saying that the conduct at issue was the same and that there was a Google-sanctioned formula in place to determine potential damages. According to federal court laws, a case can only be certified as class action if:

  1. The class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable;
  2. There are questions of law or fact common to the class;
  3. The claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class; and
  4. The representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

A Google spokesman informed that the company does not comment on pending litigation. The 2008 lawsuit accused Google of violating California fair advertising laws because it misled advertisers about where the ads would be placed. The Adwords service, as we all know by now, is an advertising service aimed at placing ads next to relevant Google Internet search results and websites/blogs. But the plaintiffs said Google should have disclosed that ads would also appear in undesirable places such as error pages and undeveloped websites known as parked domains. In 2012, a federal district court judge ruled that the case could not move forward as a class action in part because each advertiser would receive different damages. Each advertiser would have paid a different sum for the ads in question, the judge said. The appeals court reversed the district court, prompting Google to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

But under a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court precedent, which involved claims brought by employees against Wal-Mart Stores Inc, class actions can move forward only if each plaintiff has a similar claim and that claim can be resolved on a class-wide basis.

Image by searchenginejournal

Google AdWords caught up in a Court Battle with Advertisers

Google AdWords caught up in a Court Battle with Advertisers

Google recently launched a new small business-friendly tool at testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com that will show how mobile-friendly and speedy a site is. This new tool combines the functions of the mobile-friendly testing tool and the page speed testing tool into one and gives the small business owner a clean and understandable report they can forward to their website developer. Google’s goal with this tool is to help drive more mobile-friendly and fast websites.

Google wrote a blog post announcing the new tool, which was built in partnership with digital agency Huge,
“On average, people check their phones more than 150 times a day, and more searches occur on mobile phones than computers. But if a potential customer is on a phone, and a site isn’t easy to use, they’re five times more likely to leave.”

Thinkwithgoogle gives you three scores based on the results:

Mobile-friendliness;
mobile speed; and
desktop speed.
This is the first of its kind tool that scores a website’s mobile-friendliness. It also says just how mobile-friendly your page is.

Google says an average user leaves the site if it doesn’t load on mobile within five seconds, so if your site takes much longer than that, your lower will appear lower. Ironically, it does take more than three seconds for Google’s tool to complete the test, but it’s worth finding out how your site fares. You can also click a button to see where you’ve failed specifically to find areas for improvement. The tool works by taking your URL and measures it on a scale of 1-100 your mobile design and loading speed. It looks at things like CSS, HTML, scripts and images to see how long it takes for your website to load on both a desktop and mobile device.

If you need help optimizing your mobile site, Google links out to a handful of site builders it approves of to help you make your site mobile-friendly and fast, services included such as Wix, Duda, and Weebly, but skipped on including big names like WordPress or Squarespace.

Thinkwithgoogle: Google has a new tool for small businesses

Thinkwithgoogle: Google has a new tool for small businesses

A 2015 B2C study done by The Content Marketing Institute’s shows 77% of companies use content marketing, but only 37% believe they are effective at it. That indicates roughly 40 percent of  the brands out there are creating content they don’t deem to be effective. Those numbers reflect a feeling many brands and business owners have—they know content marketing can work, but they aren’t entirely sure how to implement or track it successfully. SearchEngineJournal listed a number of free tools that aim to solve the problem of the 37 percent out there – creating an effective content marketing.

Hemingway Editor
The Hemmingway Editor helps you create clear, easy to read content by highlighting areas that are too complex. Content that is easy to read and understand is more likely to be shared, and may even rank better in Google. If you worry you aren’t a good writer, this app can help.The editor is fully online, so there is no need to download or install it.  There is also a readability score that is auto-generated.

Grammarly
Editing your own work can be difficult. It is hard to see mistakes you made because your brain tends to see what it expects to see. This app has both free and paid versions, and will help you catch all those little grammar mistakes that spell check misses.

Buffer
Once you have written your posts, you need to share it with your audience. Buffer makes sharing on social super simple – just pick a day and time, then schedule your post to go out on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. They have both free and paid versions, but the free version will work just fine if you are only working on one social account per platform.

Google’s URL Builder
Google’s URL Builder allows you to create trackable URLs so you can tell where you audience is coming from. This allows you to figure out if your ads on Facebook are really driving traffic or if that sponsored post you paid for on another site really worked. Being able to tell if your content marketing strategies are actually working is vital to your success, and this free tool can help you do it.

Buzzsumo
Another great tool for coming up with ideas is Buzzsumo, a tool designed to help you find the most shared topics on the web. So, you can see if people are talking about the topic you want to cover before you waste a bunch of time creating the piece. Plus, you can see what gets shared the most and use that to inform what you create. Are infographics about industrial toilet papers super hot? Are people sharing the crap out of articles about the germs spread by automatic hand dryers? Buzzsumo will let you know.

Co-Schedule’s Headline Analyzer
If you want people to read and share your content, you need to start with a catchy title. This title analyzer takes a research-backed approach to helping you write better headlines. All the great content in the world won’t do you any good if no one reads it! This will help you write better titles that will make people want to read (and hopefully share!) your content.

IFFT (If This Then That)
Creating high-quality content is only half the battle – then you have to make sure people read it. IFFT (if this then that) will make your life so much easier by allowing to you to connect tons of apps you already use. You can use it to automate social sharing or help you keep up with all those ideas running through your brain. There are also tons of recipes to choose from.

Canva
Want to create beautiful images? Canva is the place to go. There are tons of images you can create for free, or you can choose to pay for upgraded (usually just a dollar or two) templates and images. It also saves images you have created, so if anything happens to your saved file, you can easily re-download.

Easel.ly
It is easy to get caught up in the mindset that content means blog posts. In reality, there are tons of different content types you can create – including infographics. In a perfect world, you would be able to hire a company to do all the research and create a slick infographic. That isn’t always possible, which is where Easel.ly comes in. They make it easy to create great looking infographics using templates. All you have to do is plug in your info and you are ready to publish.

Conclusion

Creating high-quality content doesn’t have to require a huge budget. All you need is a dedication to creating and publishing high-quality content that your audience will be interested in interacting with. If you know of any other such tools, feel free to drop a comment below.
Image courtesy: marccx

Free tools for effective content marketing

Free tools for effective content marketing

We have talked about search engine optimization multiple times in our blog. SEO helps small business owners create fast, robust, and user-friendly websites that rank higher in search engines, which in turn helps bring more qualified potential customers to their sites and eventually increases conversion rates. On top of that, SEO helps build brand awareness for your business as search engine users are more likely to trust a site that are on first page of search engine results pages (SERPs) than the brands who are not. Any small business owner can utilise SEO to build a strong web presence and bypass competitors to gain new customers and strengthen their case.
The benefits of SEO are numerous, especially for small scale businesses. Today let us list the top 5 KEY benefits of SEO for small sized businesses:

  1. User-Friendly Websites
    SEO will help small business owners create a faster, smoother, and user-friendlier website. Although most people still hang on to the old definition of SEO, thinking that it is only about optimising for the search engines, however, today SEO is also about improving user experience too. Well-structured, clean, and uncluttered websites compels a casual visitor to stay longer, thereby decreasing bounce rate and increasing page views.
  2. Increase in Traffic
    With Analytics and reporting tools, you’ll see a clear cut increase in traffic. This is a definite way to maximize your business efforts. SEO will give you results (not immediately but rather quickly) and as soon as you start your SEO efforts, traffic will increase at a steady rate. Using tools to track traffic to your site you can clearly watch as more people visit your site and sales go through the roof.
  3. Higher Brand Credibility, People Trust Google
    People trust that the first listing in google is a reputable company, by doing SEO, your website becomes THE brand name. You’re the guy the competitors want to beat. The further back you are in rankings on Google the more people are skeptical about your website. If google has a spot dedicated to you at the top especially if it is a top tier listing with other subpages listed below the main home page it gives your website credibility that no ad can top. Ads can often be seen as annoying and many people have ad blockers installed on their browsers.
  4. Better Conversion Rates
    Websites which are SEO-optimised loads faster, are easy to read and surf, and will display properly in almost all types of devices, including mobile and tablets. Websites that are easy to read and navigate are more likely to grab and hold attention from your readers or visitors – i.e. they’re more likely to become your loyal customers, subscribers, and returning visitors.
  5. Building Brand Awareness
    One of the benefits of getting higher rankings on the SERPs is building brand awareness. When your sites appear on the first page of major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, your potential customers are more likely to trust your brand when they search for a particular term rather than other brands that don’t have a strong web presence.That is why small businesses that want to build better brand awareness (either locally or expanding nationally) must invest in SEO and start gaining top rankings for the KEY terms related with their business. We’re not in the 90s anymore; search engines now play a significant role in making or breaking your brand.

Image courtesy: mediazeus

Five key benefits of SEO

Five key benefits of SEO

A few weeks ago, we published an article on content marketing and how it can be successfully implemented in your business that you can read about here. Let us talk about content strategy and does it really matter to have a well defined strategy in place?

Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content. Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place. Content strategy is also a key deliverable for which the content strategist is responsible. Its development is necessarily preceded by a detailed audit and analysis of existing content—a critically important process that’s often glossed over or even skipped by project teams. Think of a content marketing strategy as an outline of your key business and customer needs and a detailed plan for how you will use content to address them.

While there are no definitive “templates” for building a content marketing strategy — there are five components that they commonly include:

  1. Your business case for innovating with content marketing: By communicating your reasons for creating content, the risks involved, and your vision of what success will look like, you are much more likely to gain executive support for your strategy — and to get permission to make a mistake here and there as you figure out what works best for your business.
  1. Your business plan for content marketing: This covers the goals you have for your content program, the unique value you are looking to provide through your content, and details of your business model. It also should outline the obstacles and opportunities you may encounter as you execute your plan.
  2. Your audience personas and content maps: This is where you describe the specific audiences for whom you will create content, what their needs are, and what their content engagement cycle might look like. You may also want to map out content you can deliver throughout their buyer’s journey in order to move them closer to their goals.
  3. Your brand story: Here, you characterize your content marketing in terms of what ideas and messages you want to communicate, how those messages differ from the competition, and how you see the landscape evolving once you have shared them with your audience.
  4. Your channel plan: This should include the platforms you will use to tell your story; what your criteria, processes, and objectives are for each one; and how you will connect them so that they create a cohesive brand conversation.

How often should you update your content marketing strategy?

Some parts of your strategy should stay consistent even as your content marketing program grows and evolves — namely, your mission and business goals. In fact, these two things are so key that you may want to put them on a Post-it note so you can keep them in view whenever you are working on your content. (For example, at CMI, we use them as part of our acceptance criteria for every editorial content submission we receive.)

However, other aspects of your content marketing strategy will likely benefit from being reviewed and updated periodically. To ensure that your content marketing program remains on target, consider revisiting your channel strategy, core topics, and team processes on an annual basis — or more often if you are just getting started.

Image courtesy: contentwrangler

Developing a great Content Strategy

Developing a great Content Strategy

What is a Lead? 

Let’s us get down and dirty with the basics. A lead is an individual who has indicated interest in your brand’s product or service in some way, shape, or form. It can be through a quick search, a visit to your brand’s website or even a like on your Facebook page. In other words, instead of getting a random cold call from someone who purchased your contact information, you’d hear from a business or organization you’ve already opened communication with.

Hubspot has a great example that I’d like to mention here,
“For example, maybe you took an online survey to learn more about how to take care of your car. If you got an email from the auto company that hosted the survey on their website about how they could help you take care of your car, it’d be far less intrusive and irrelevant than if they’d just called you out of the blue with no knowledge of whether you even care about car maintenance … right? And from a business perspective, the information the auto company collected about you from your survey responses would help them personalize that opening communication to meet the existing needs of the potential client.”

What Is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is the process of attracting and converting individuals and prospects into those leads we mentioned. It describes the marketing process of stimulating and capturing interest in a product or service for the purpose of developing sales pipeline. Lead generation often uses digital channels, and has been undergoing substantial changes in recent years from the rise of new online and social techniques. In particular, the abundance of information readily available online has led to the rise of the “self-directed buyer” and the emergence of new techniques to develop and qualify potential leads before passing them to sales.

In other words, lead generation is a way of warming up potential customers to your business and getting them on the path to eventually buying.

Importance of lead generation

Since the buying process has changed, marketers need to find new ways to reach buyers and get heard through the noise. Instead of finding customers with mass advertising and email blasts, marketers must now focus on being found and learn to build continuous relationships with buyers. By showing an organic interest in your business, it is those individuals and prospects that are initiating the relationship with you — versus you, the business, initiating the relationship with them. This makes it easier and more natural for them to want to buy from you somewhere down the line. A lead is generated through collection of information. That information collection could come as the result of a job seeker showing interest in a position by completing an application for the job, a shopper sharing contact information in exchange for a coupon, or a person filling out a form to download an educational piece of content, like an ebook, kit, podcast, tool, trial, etc.
Image courtesy: optinmonster

What are Leads and Lead Generation?

What are Leads and Lead Generation?

ORM is a relatively obscure term when it comes to topics under digital marketing. ORM is short for Online Reputation Management, and today we would like to go over it and discuss its importance in today’s globally connected world. The KISSmetrics blog has a brilliant but lengthy piece on it over at their blog, so we would be emphasizing on the key discussions relating to ORM.

To put it simply, online reputation management is part social media monitoring and part PR relations building. Just a few years ago, the internet landscape was very different. Companies were less into engaging customers but more into just selling to a passive audience; people could not express their concerns in a powerful way, and the overall communications chain followed a very hierarchical top down approach.

As we all might have noticed, that situation has radically changed. Today, websites are no longer static lines of text. User-generated content is highly valued and must. And regular interactions on social networks are vital to any business’ success, especially in a country like India where there are so many brands, businesses and companies trying to compete over who gets the most customers in such an aggressive market. Regardless the size of your business, they (prospects, customers, clients…anyone and, potentially, everyone) are talking about you. They are tweeting about your latest product, leaving a comment on your blog, posting a Facebook update about their customer experience, and much more.

The art of handling customers

According to KISSmetrics and the rest of the world, one of the most recent business commandments is “Be transparent.” Opening up to criticism and feedback has been found to be beneficial for companies that employ this communication mode with their audience.

What does being “transparent” mean? Here are some examples:

  • Allowing employees to talk about products and services publicly
  • Establishing a 1-to-1 communication channel
  • Asking for feedback
  • Not hiding criticism, and addressing it publicly

While this is easier said than done, many small and medium sized companies do not invest much on communications, and they struggle with this concept. As a result, their efforts usually are incorrect or inconsistent. As KISSmetrics puts it : Being transparent is risky. But in the long run, not being transparent is riskier.

Major ORM failure – Nestle

The brilliant KISSmetrics post highlights one “epic fail” that we would like to cite. Apprarently, Nestlé was received negative comments about their environmental practices a few years ago, and chose not to address them. As more and more people started becoming aggressive and posted altered versions of the Nestlé logo, the company made a major blunder- they closed their public page. The company has since apologised, but you can read all about it here.

Good ORM is not only about reacting well to what people say about you, your brand, or your products and services, but also about whether to react at all and, if so, when. Sometimes a reaction is not necessary, and sometimes a reaction that is too late can cost you millions. A proactive approach to the matter consists of monitoring your public reputation on a regular basis, and not just when you come to know about a specific event to deal with. How do you do this? The magic tools invented to solve this problem fall under the name of “social media monitoring.” Simply put, social media monitoring allows companies to gather public online content (from blog posts to tweets, from online reviews to Facebook updates), process it, and see whether something negative or positive is being said affecting their reputation.

Image courtesy: jhgmediagroup

What is ORM and how it helps in business growth

What is ORM and how it helps in business growth

Link-building refers to the process of getting external pages to link to a page on your website. It is one of the many tactics used in search engine optimization (SEO). Building links is a difficult, time-consuming process as not all links are created equal. A link from an authoritative or reputable website will make a greater impact on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) than a link from a newly built website, but high quality links are hard to come by.

Definition of Link Building

Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own. A hyperlink is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet. Search engines use links to crawl the web; they will crawl the links between the individual pages on your website, and they will crawl the links between entire websites. There are many techniques for building links, and while they vary in difficulty, SEOs tend to agree that link building is one of the hardest parts of their jobs. Many SEOs spend the majority of their time trying to do it well. For that reason, if you can master the art of building high-quality links, it can truly put you ahead of both other SEOs and your competition.

What links and link building mean to search engines?

There are two fundamental ways that the search engines use links:

  • To discover new web pages.
  • To help determine how well a page should rank in their results

Once search engines have crawled pages on the web, they can extract the content of those pages and add it to their indexes. In this way, they can decide if they feel a page is of sufficient quality to be ranked well for relevant keywords. When they are deciding this, the search engines do not just look at the content of the page; they also look at the number of links pointing to that page from external websites and the quality of those external websites. Generally speaking, the more high-quality websites that link to you, the more likely you are to rank well in search results. Links as a ranking factor are what allowed Google to start to dominate the search engine market back in the late 1990s. One of Google’s founders, Larry Page, invented PageRank, which Google used to measure the quality of a page based in part on the number of links pointing to it. This metric was then used as part of the overall ranking algorithm and became a strong signal because it was a very good way of determining the quality of a page.

It was so effective because it was based upon the idea that a link could be seen as a vote of confidence about a page, i.e., it wouldn’t get links if it didn’t deserve to. The theory is that when someone links to another website, they are effectively saying it is a good resource. Otherwise, they wouldn’t link to it, much in the same way that you wouldn’t send a friend to a bad restaurant.

However, SEOs soon discovered how to manipulate PageRank and search results for chosen keywords. Google started actively trying to find ways to discover websites which were manipulating search results, and began rolling out regular updates which were specifically aimed at filtering out websites that didn’t deserve to rank.

This has also led to Google starting to discount a number of link building techniques that were previously deemed fine, for example, submitting your website to web directories and getting a link in return. This was a technique that Google actually recommended at one point, but it became abused and overused by SEOs, so Google stopped passing as much value from that sort of links.

More recently, Google has actively penalized the rankings of websites who have attempted such overuse of these techniques—often referred to as over-optimisation—in their link building. You can read all about link building in much detail here.

Image courtesy: root3marketing

The importance of hyperlinks and link-building for Websites

The importance of hyperlinks and link-building for Websites

Target marketing is all about attracting customers who will buy what you’re selling. In order to target market effectively, you’ll need to know exactly who purchases your products and exactly how to to reach them. And acquiring that kind of knowledge requires some research and planning on your end.

A target market comprises of a group of potential customers that a business has decided to aim its marketing efforts towards. A well-defined target market is the primary element of a marketing strategy. Usually a target market consists of customers that share similar traits and characteristics, determining factors include age, income, lifestyle etc. These characteristics and traits are quintessential to a business dealing in target marketing, as they use this information to direct its marketing efforts and sell its products. As marketing efforts are becoming increasingly online based, the need to find the right audience for marketing campaigns is essential. One of the first steps in developing an effective marketing campaign is determining an appropriate target market so that marketing goals can be set and implemented.

Target markets are separated into primary and secondary target markets. Primary target markets are those market segments to which marketing efforts are primarily directed and secondary markets are smaller or less important. As an example, the primary target market for a jewellery store might be middle aged women who care about fashion, and their secondary target market could be middle aged men who may want to buy gifts for the women in their lives.

It is important for a business to identify and select a target market so it can direct its marketing efforts to that group of customers and better satisfy their needs and wants. This enables the business to use its marketing resources more efficiently, resulting in more cost and time efficient marketing efforts. It allows for better understanding of customers and therefore enables the creation of promotional materials that are more relevant to customer needs. Also, targeting makes it possible to collect more precise data about customer needs and behaviors and then analyze that information over time in order to refine market strategies effectively.

Researching your target audience

Some of the most important questions that needs to be asked when selecting the target customers can be:

1. What is their gender? Women and men make very different purchasing decisions.
2. How old are they?
3. What are their interests or hobbies? Finding out what people are into will help you connect with them.
4. Where do they live?
5. How do they make a living? Knowing what your primary customers do can help you adjust your hours to fit their needs, or help you devise special offers.
6. How much money do they make? It is a good idea to know how much or how little your customers are willing to spend.
7. Do they own their own homes or do they rent? Depending on the answer and what you sell, you may need to tweak your       messaging to resonate with your audience.

Source: Bplans
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mage courtesy: justlegalmarketing

What is Target Marketing and how to apply it with success?

What is Target Marketing and how to apply it with success?

Video marketing is a relatively new form of marketing that has cropped up and quickly became one of the hugely successful marketing endeavors. Thanks to little known sites like YouTube, Dailymotion and Vimeo, video marketing is the perfect platform to that offers businesses to market their products and services  on those above mentioned sites.

So, to explain video marketing, we would like to quote Frozenfire, which explains,
“The definition of video marketing is not complex. In fact, it’s rather simple: using video to promote or market your brand, product or service. A strong marketing campaign incorporates video into the mix. Customer testimonials, videos from live events, how-to videos, explainer videos, corporate training videos, viral (entertainment) videos — the list goes on…”

There is little doubt that online video marketing is on the rise.  Numerous studies and statistics prove that video works.  Here is a look at the stats:

According to comScore, a company which tracks online engagement, just over 45% of internet users viewed at least one video per month, and the average user is exposed to an average of 32 videos per month.

By 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic, according to Cisco. Video-on-demand traffic alone will have almost trebled.

According to Syndacast, 74 percent of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be video.

As it can be seen from the stats, online video marketing is nothing short of a gold mine. While posting videos online is fairly inexpensive, thanks to increased network speeds and cheaper storage costs.
Huffingtonpost that points out some of the major factors that have contributed to the rise in popularty of videos, let us take a closer look at those factors:

Facebook’s video strategy
Last year, Facebook announced that its video viewership doubled from 4 billion views per day to 8 billion views per day in a period of seven months. This staggering growth of video viewership highlights the immense potential of videos for bringing in advertising dollars, keeping viewers engaged and increasing viewership. Facebook launched its picture in picture viewing last year, which auto loads videos when you’re browsing your news feed (no wonder video viewership doubled).

SEO benefits
Videos have a direct impact on search results. It is common knowledge that rich media, which includes videos, is favored by search engine algorithms. To top it up, the fact that Google owns YouTube also plays a role in video’s increased popularity. Google has been constantly adjusting its algorithm to give its users a meaningful experience while searching. To satisfy user intent, they show a variety of results, and not just exact keyword matches. As a result, search results now prominently feature videos among top results.

Easy on the eye, and the brain
Numerous scientific studies that are just a Google search away, will inform you about how the human brain is able to process images and videos much more efficiently than textual content. Creating an impact through videos is therefore that much easier.

Viral potential
Viral video marketing is also a form of video marketing that is creating a buzz in the keywords world. Users are more likely to share and re-share video than other forms of content. Take that and apply it to viral videos, and you will be churning views in millions faster than you can comprehend.

Internet videos drive a lot of traffic and engagement (look at YouTube’s comment sections), they convey information better than other types of content and promote trust in the brand and its products.

Image courtesy Mashable

Video Marketing is redefining today’s digital marketing

Video Marketing is redefining today’s digital marketing

One of the oldest forms of marketing still in existence is affiliate marketing, wherein you refer someone to any online product and when that person buys the product based on your recommendation, you receive a commission. This commission value varies, depending on what product you are promoting.

The 90’s brought along this big, beautiful, technology called the World Wide Web. As it is with any new technology or media, companies quickly realized they had a new opportunity to market their products and services to consumers via the millions of websites they visit every day. With the emergence of search engines in the mid-1990’s, the internet ballooned into a massive e-commerce and information machine. Website owners were creating valuable content and providing tremendous benefits to their visitors, and these website owners wanted to be compensated for their hard work. Early forms of online advertising like CPM or fixed placement started seeing competition from emerging, more accountable forms of online advertising, like affiliate marketing.

What makes up for a successful affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing, at its very essence is a trifecta of 3 interested parties:

Advertiser: In the world of affiliate marketing, an advertiser can be a company selling a product like electronics, airline tickets, clothing or car parts, or an advertiser could also be an insurance company selling policies. The most important thing to remember is that you are an advertiser if you are ready to pay other people to help you sell and promote your business.

Publisher: A publisher is an individual or company that promotes an advertiser’s product or service in exchange for earning a commission. Advertisers contractually agree to work with a publisher, then provide the publisher with creative – in the form of links, banner or text ads or even unique phone numbers – that the publisher incorporates into their website. They are also referred to as content creators.

Consumer: The final component that completes the trifecta of the affiliate relationship triangle is the consumer. The consumer is the one who actually sees the ad and then makes an action (either by clicking a link or by submitting their information via a form) that takes them from the publisher’s website to the advertiser’s to complete the action, which is called a conversion.

How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Affiliate marketing and e-commerce depends on a neat little technology called ‘cookies’. A cookie is a technology that works with web browsers to store information like user preferences, login or registration information, and shopping cart contents. Have you ever opted-in to have a website “remember” your password and username for one of your online accounts? That’s a cookie. Ever notice while searching Amazon for products and you suddenly start seeing other products you’ve previously checked? Those are cookies as well. In affiliate marketing, one task that cookies manage is to remember the link or ad the visitor to a website clicks on. Cookies can also store the date and time of the click, they can even be used to remember what kind of websites or content you like most. There are many different types of web cookies and uses, but the kind of cookie affiliate marketing relies on is called a first-party cookie.

When a user visits a publisher’s website and clicks an advertiser’s creative ad, the visitor’s browser receives the tracking cookie that identifies the advertiser, the publisher, the specific creative and commission amount. This data is stored within the link information in what are called “parameters” and can include even more anonymous data used for attribution.

What is Affiliate Marketing and how it works?

What is Affiliate Marketing and how it works?

Content marketing is an umbrella term covering a set of strategies, techniques and tactics to fulfil business and customer goals by using the most relevant content to serve, attract, convert, retain and engage customers. Content marketing is used across the customer journey and customer life cycle but doesn’t start nor end with the customer in the strict sense. Content marketing further serves several business functions in a consistent, integrated and continuous way. It looks at the customer from a connected perspective and takes into account the content requirements of anyone serving and engaging prospects and customers. We have wrote on this topic in this article.

Now that we’ve seen how the year has started to develop, we can speculate how content marketing will develop throughout the rest of the year:

1. Personal authority will become more important.

Content marketing has worked well for corporate brands for a while now, but users are gravitating more and more toward personal brands, which are able to provide a more human presence. Personal brands are more trustworthy, more approachable, and have more flexibility than corporate brands—customer reviews and testimonials are rising in importance in a corresponding growth pattern, and as content marketing competition heats up even further, that personal appeal is soon going to be irreplaceable.

2. Live, streaming content to skyrocket in popularity.

Live content is already on an upward trajectory, but it hasn’t quite “taken off” yet. Apps like Meerkat and Periscope have achieved respectable numbers and tapped into target niches, but the real measure of the “live feed” phenomenon is how it’s going to be accepted on Facebook, which recently launched its own live streaming feature for user videos. So far, user adoption has been moderate, but I suspect that by the end of the year, more users will be demanding this type of content, and more brands will be willing to provide it—at least the savvy ones.

3. Vertical videos is start catching on.

SnapChat was one of the first brands to try and popularize the “vertical” video format, forcing brands to develop unconventional vertical content to avoid disrupting the average user’s mobile experience. It was a polarizing move when they made it just a few months ago, but already, other social platforms are starting to follow in SnapChat’s footsteps. Mobile users detest flipping their phones from vertical to horizontal, so don’t be surprised if more vertical content opportunities start paying off in the near future—with social apps ready to propagate those opportunities.

4. VR won’t catch on—quite yet.

Since Oculus Rift’s debut earlier this year has been heralded as the catalyst for a VR revolution. The device has gotten good reviews, and already, brands are starting to develop content for it, but even Facebook has admitted that sales for the device will probably be lukewarm in 2016. Be that as it may, VR is still in its infancy, and most people aren’t ready for that level of an immersive experience. VR represents a powerful and exciting future vision for content (and content marketing), but for the rest of 2016, you probably won’t have to worry about it.

5. More brands will utilize user-generated content.

On paper, the idea is flawless; get your customers to create content for you. Not only does it make them more engaged with your brand, earning you higher acquisition and retention rates, it also supplies you with free—or nearly free—content! Amazon is doing it especially well already with customer reviews and Q&A. We can expect to see more brands catch onto this trend by the end of the year, especially with individualistic apps like Instagram and SnapChat starting to get more attention and respect in the marketing community.

Source: Forbes

Content Marketing: Five speculations for 2016

Content Marketing: Five speculations for 2016

Mobile Marketing involves reaching customers and prospects when they’re using the internet away from the traditional home/office desktop environment. The increased usage of smartphones, tablets and similar mobile devices has made mobile marketing a must for many online businesses.  As of the writing of this article, there are around 7.3 billion people on the planet. The three most populated countries in the world are:

China – 1.4 billion
India – 1.28 billion
U.S. – 325 million

This will come into play when we look at global Internet and mobile adoption.

There are 3.3 billion global Internet users, according to the site Internet Live Stats. It should be noted that “Internet” includes both desktop and mobile usage, which is why the numbers in China and India are so high. The top three countries contributing to this number in order are:

China – 641.6 million
U.S. – 279.8 million
India – 243.2 million

That sums upto nearly 43% of the world are internet users, which is a huge number!

Breaking It Down

Let us start to dig into some mobile-specific data. MarketingLand has the numbers,
“ For starters, there are 3.65 billion unique global mobile users. There are nearly double that number in mobile subscriptions worldwide (7 billion), but if I were to hazard a guess, I suspect that the distribution of those 7 billion is driven by the Pareto principle better known as the “80-20 rule.” What this means is that 80% of the 3.4 billion subscriptions that aren’t attributed to individuals are probably owned by 20% of the population.”

More important to know out of the billions of global mobile users and subscriptions is that 1.91 billion of those have smartphones. eMarketer predicts that number will reach 2 billion by next year and that by 2018, half of the world’s mobile users will have a smartphone.

Currently, 500 million of these smartphones users are in the most populous country in the world (China).

India is at distant second at just under 230 million, pushing U.S. down to the third country with the highest number of smartphones users, at 200 mllion. The reason this is important for marketers to know is that while SMS or text campaigns are still effective, they are the only way to connect with non-smartphone users (other than via voice call) on most feature phones. For developing countries, or those with low smartphone penetration, marketers should either consider using SMS or other more traditional marketing tactics.

So what are all those smartphone users doing? For one, they are spending a lot of time on social media. In fact, there are nearly as many active mobile social accounts in the world — 1.68 billion — as there are smartphones, according to a recent global digital snapshot published by We Are Social. This number is led by global phenomenon WeChat, with Facebook a close second. And while organic social media activity has started to diminish in effectiveness for brands, paid social is more powerful than ever. This is a great way to target mobile users, especially the younger ones.

Mobile users worldwide are also watching mobile video at a greater clip than ever. In fact, mobile video accounted for 55% of mobile data usage by the end of 2014 (Cisco ‘15 Mobile Forecast). With the rise of networks like Vine, Snapchat and Instagram (video), short-form video has taken the Millennial world by storm. But long-form video is still charging hard on both YouTube and Facebook, which is making a strong push to host video locally.

Due to the fact that 65% of the world’s population are visual learners, video — especially mobile video — is more critical than ever to capture customers’ attention.
Another interesting stat accounts for 80% of Internet users use smartphones to search the Web. A much smaller (but quickly growing) percentage — 9% — are using smartwatches to search.

As screen real estate gets smaller and smaller, what this requires marketers to do is think more strategically about organic and paid search (not to mention that Google recently put in place new rules that penalize non-mobile friendly sites on mobile search).

The Future Of Mobile Advertising

Last, but not least, there is still advertising to be done on mobile devices — and lots of it. In fact, according to eMarketer, mobile ad spend will top $100 billion worldwide by 2016. The biggest issue is that mobile devices are considered so personal — the first thing we see when we wake up and the last thing we put down before sleep — that most attempts to “sell” feel that much more intrusive to customers.

Source: MarketingLand
Image Courtesy

Mobile Marketing Stats: Things to know

Mobile Marketing Stats: Things to know

PPC, or pay-per-click, a model of internet marketing in which advertisers pay a fee each time one of their ads is clicked. Essentially, it’s a way of buying visits to your site, rather than attempting to “earn” those visits organically. Search engine advertising is one of the most popular forms of PPC. It allows advertisers to bid for ad placement in a search engine’s sponsored links when someone searches on a keyword that is related to their business offering.

A small fee is paid to the search engine by the advertisers, when a visitor clicks on a link. When PPC is working correctly, the fee is trivial, because the visit is worth more than what you pay for it.
A lot goes into building a winning PPC campaign: from researching and selecting the right keywords, to organizing those keywords into well-organized campaigns and ad groups, to setting up PPC landing pages that are optimized for conversions. Search engines reward advertisers who can create relevant, intelligently targeted pay-per-click campaigns by charging them less for ad clicks. If your ads and landing pages are useful and satisfying to users, Google charges you less per click, leading to higher profits for your business. So if you want to start using PPC, it’s important to learn how to do it right.

PPC Keyword Research

Keyword research for PPC can be incredibly time-consuming, but it is also incredibly important. An entire PPC campaign is built around keywords, and the most successful AdWords advertisers continuously grow and refine their PPC keyword list. If you only do keyword research once, when you create your first campaign, you are probably missing out on hundreds of thousands of valuable, long-tail, low-cost and highly relevant keywords that could be driving traffic to your site.

An effective PPC keyword list should be:

Relevant –You don’t want to be paying for Web traffic that has nothing to do with your business. You want to find targeted keywords that will lead to a higher PPC click-through rate, effective cost per click, and increased profits. That means the keywords you bid on should be closely related to the offerings you sell.

Exhaustive – Your keyword research should include not only the most popular and frequently searched terms in your niche, but also to the long tail of search. Long-tail keywords are more specific and less common, but they add up to account for the majority of search-driven traffic. In addition, they are less competitive, and therefore less expensive.

Managing Your PPC Campaigns

Once you’ve created your new campaigns, you’ll need to manage them regularly to make sure they continue to be effective. In fact, regular account activity is one of the best predictors of account success. You should be continuously analyzing the performance of your account and making the following adjustments to optimize your campaigns:

Add PPC Keywords: Expand the reach of your PPC campaigns by adding keywords that are relevant to your business.

Add Negative Keywords: Add non-converting terms as negative keywords to improve campaign relevancy and reduce wasted spend.

Split Ad Groups: Improve click-through rate (CTR) and Quality Score by splitting up your ad groups into smaller, more relevant ad groups, which help you create more targeted ad text and landing pages.

Review Costly PPC Keywords: Review expensive, under-performing keywords and shut them off if necessary.

Refine Landing Pages: Modify the content and calls-to-action (CTAs) of your landing pages to align with individual search queries in order to boost conversion rates. Don’t send all your traffic to the same page.

If you’re ready to get started with PPC, click how to set up an AdWords account.
Image courtesy

PPC internet marketing and how it works

PPC internet marketing and how it works

Content strategy is a focused look at the entire life cycle of content, from the creation to maintenance and even retirement of content. You look at things like developing, curating, information architecture, writing, editing and marketing. Gone are the days when posting a 400-word article with a 2% keyword density could boost a page’s search rankings. Now, poor quality content has a far more negative impact on a site, causing it to drown in a sea of content that was created just for SEO purposes.

User engagement metrics, which measure what users do on your website and how they do it (such as time on page, session duration, bounce rate, and returning users), have become unofficial ranking signals with Google.  The company’s recent patent filling showed it wants to keep interactive content on its radar. Therefore, focus on producing quality content, and you will reap a boost in SERP rankings as a secondary benefit.

The key is to always strategize before producing any content. Don’t just simply churn out content for content’s sake. Once you start producing great content and your users engage with it and boost rankings at the same time, you’ll understand why this is the far superior approach.

Define Your Goals

Great content is created for a specific purpose, and this purpose needs to be defined. Ask yourself if you are creating content to boost brand awareness, generate leads, convert users, attract past customers, improve search ranking results, or something else altogether. Once you have clearly defined your goals, you need to determine if a content strategy is in fact the best way to achieve them. Don’t assume content is the best option in every situation. For instance, content might be of little use in converting users at the bottom of the sales funnel; however, it could be invaluable in boosting brand awareness and lead generation. Different segments of the sales funnel warrant different types of content. So, you will need to decide what content is most appropriate for a person to receive at a given time. That way, you will have the right conversation with the right person at the right time.

Research Your Audience

Your content strategy can be effective when you know who your audience is. Valuable information can be gleaned by checking what types of sites your prospects are already visiting, which content they engage with, and which social media platforms they share content on. This can be done by enabling Google Demographics and Interests for the types of sites prospects engage with and Google Analytics for the content they engage with, and by reviewing which social platforms are more popular for sharing on content pages. Delve into Google Analytics to determine which content is producing the best results.

Focus on Your Niche

It’s a sad fact that the Internet is full of content that shouldn’t even exist. This content either already exists elsewhere and is simply reposted or doesn’t provide any real value. Most people don’t see 99% of this useless content because it doesn’t appear anywhere near the top of SERPs.

To avoid having your content lost in that pack, create content that stands out, is unique, has a distinct voice, and, most important, offers genuine value to readers. The more specific you are and the more you focus on your niche, the greater your chances of establishing yourself as an authority in your field, whether your readers are looking for information or entertainment.

While most of the fans of your brand probably aren’t about to tattoo your logo on their bodies any time soon, there are nonetheless important lessons to learn here about building a strong connection with a focused and loyal user base, which is usually more effective than having superficial links to a larger base that is more general in nature.

Measure Your Results

Measuring the results of your content marketing efforts is one of the most important aspects of developing an effective content strategy. Churning out content without analyzing your user feedback is same as having a phone conversation on mute. You need to know what your audience liked as well as what they didn’t like, and why.

Image courtesy

Understanding Content Strategy

Understanding Content Strategy

The market is ever changing, thanks to the internet. Our reliance on outbound marketing (billboards, TV commercials) has been drastically decreasing, as we have the web to empower us, where we can learn about new products, services and basically have control over our options.

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a strategy that utilizes many forms of pull marketing – content marketing, blogs, events, SEO, social media and more – to create brand awareness and attract new business. In contrast to outbound marketing, where marketers attempt to find customers, inbound marketing earns the attention of customers and makes the company easy to be found. Another reason why inbound marketing is winning is because it costs less than traditional marketing.

What are the stats saying?

Mashable has a brilliant infographic over at their website with talks about the various facts and research data they have collected, which highlights the importance of inbound marketing. Here are some of the stats from the inforgraphic:

  • 44% of direct mail is never opened. That’s a waste of time, postage and paper.
  • 86% of people skip through television commercials.
  • 84% of 25 to 34 year olds have clicked out of a website because of an “irrelevant or intrusive ad.”
  • The cost per lead in outbound marketing is more than for inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing focuses on earning, not buying, a person’s attention, which is done through social media and engaging content, such as blogs, podcasts and white papers. This content is interesting, informative and adds value, creating a positive connection in the eyes of the consumer, thus making him more likely to engage your brand and buy the product. So it costs less and has better a ROI.

What are the benefits of Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing offers numerous benefits. When utilized effectively, it can:

  • Shape a brand preference and influence future purchases.
  • Generate social media shares and inbound links.
  • Put customers in the driver’s seat.
  • Help fuel search engine optimization efforts.
  • Increase brand awareness.
  • Enable customers to engage with your brand at their point of need, 24/7.
  • Generate qualified leads for less money (when compared with traditional marketing).

Summerfield, the Director of Inbound Marketing, Savvy Panda has this to say when it comes to inbound marketing:

“The key is to create a strategic content strategy tailored around your personas and the stage of the buying cycle they are in. By doing this, you are providing valuable content geared directly towards that specific visitor. This helps move them down the buying cycle, answer their objections and build trust. All of these factors result in a shorts sales time, more qualified leads and an easier sale for your sales team.”

Image courtesy: Forbes

Inbound marketing: What are the basics and benefits?

Inbound marketing: What are the basics and benefits?

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What’s the difference: Content Marketing vs. Content Advertising

It doesn’t help that all the good expressions have been used in previous contexts: Content Marketing, Content-based Marketing, Content-based Advertising, and Content Advertising have all been used to describe the same things and too many different things. The vast majority of people who bill themselves as “content marketers” are not engaged in real content marketing. What they do is better described as “content-based Website promotion” but that doesn’t sound that great. Instead of attempting to coin a new expression I want to see if we can bring some order to the chaos in this terminology.

Content Marketing Creates First-time Demand Real content marketing is all about introducing the consumer audience to something they have never seen before. Content-based Advertising is now called “contextual advertising” and it is exemplified by Google’s AdWords/AdSense technology. New uses have arisen for the technology (“interest-based advertising”, “retargeting”, etc.) but it’s all Content-based Advertising. I have sometimes been tempted to describe what so-called “content marketers” do as content-based advertising but that would be unfair to people who pay for contextual advertising.

In marketing you’re looking for an audience and how to reach out to that audience. In advertising you execute on what you learned in marketing. Both marketing and advertising use their own unique metrics, but they also share some. The confusion between marketing and advertising is therefore understandable.

Sponsored Content or Native Advertising is the paid side of Content Advertising. What you do, in your post-SEO career, is the organic form of Content Advertising. You’re not paying anyone to host your sponsored content.

There are No Established Keywords in Content Marketing

If you are doing keyword research then whatever follows is NOT content marketing. It cannot be for content marketing is all about creating first-time demand. The advertiser learns that you are searching for mouse traps and then reaches out to tell you, “We have the better mouse trap”. The content marketer sees that you don’t understand why mice are a problem because you have cats, and so he reaches out to you to explain why mouse traps will replace your cats and do a much better job. Successful content marketing creates the keywords that drive content advertising. Successful content marketing therefore leads to content advertising.

There Is No Search Optimization in Content Marketing

When people begin searching for more information about a specific topic the topic has begun its transition from content marketing to content advertising. You cannot search for something you have never heard of and that no one has talked about. You can search for something you just heard about but if it’s a really new idea it should be much harder to discover information about it if it’s only being delivered through a content marketing campaign.

The point of content marketing is to create awareness for something that was previously unknown. The process of creating that awareness and visibility gradually degrades the return on investment from the content marketing. Until you have stimulated demand and interest in a topic no one searches for what you hope will be the keywords. After the interest and demand become reality people may search on terms you never anticipated. It could be a while before you learn that your content marketing has become simple advertising.

 Content Marketing is a Form of Advertising

It is true that your content is performing much the same role as a typical ad. We use advertising to communicate new ideas to people all the time, to “get the word out”. But advertising traditionally favors established channels of communication. You only advertise where you know your message will be seen by the right audience, and your advertising is designed to be appealing to that audience. With content marketing you take a greater risk in your advertising. A normal advertisement may hit all the right technical numbers and still fail to bring in the sales. A content marketing advertisement may simply fail to explain what the new thing is; it won’t create demand, it won’t stimulate interest, and it is lost in a sea of incomprehensible expressions.It’s generally NOT a good idea to be coy with content marketing. If you’re just trying to get more market share with your advertising then being coy may work because people are already interested in the topic.

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What’s the difference: Content Marketing vs. Content Advertising

What’s the difference: Content Marketing vs. Content Advertising

Michael Martinez’s blog at seo-theory has been an inspiration to us in talking about various digital marketing strategies, concepts and what is appropriate content and whatnot. This time, we would like to talk about the egregious myths in search engine optimization that are still lurking around the internet in 2016.

 

MythGoogle measures user satisfaction

Why It’s Wrong – Google has no clue about which of your visitors are satisfied with your content. They click on a listing in Google, find something, and then some of them go back to Google.

Truth – “user engagement” and “user experience” are two different things. User experience is what you put on the page. User engagement is what the visitor does on the page. Google cannot track what these people do on the vast majority of Web pages (because Google Analytics is only embedded on a fraction of Web pages).

Furthermore, Google is not the only way people reach a page. By believing this myth you are assuming that Google takes a fractional amount of data and dangerously extrapolates it to create rules for the entire Web. As Michael puts it, “this is ridiculous”. Google does not measure user satisfaction with anything other than its own search results, and that is absolutely, totally, and completely unrelated to the degree of user satisfaction with your Web content.

 

MythUsers matter more than content

Why It’s Wrong – All three members of the Searchable Web Ecosystem (Publishers, Indexers, and Searchers) are equally important.

Truth – There is no competition between users and content. They have a relationship that cannot be managed by making one more important than the other. We would like to point you to a 1996 article by Bill Gates, that reads Content is King (read Bill Gates’ original essay here). There is no money without content. For online and digital marketing it’s all about connecting the right users with the right content, and neither is more important than the other.

 

MythMobile search is replacing the desktop

Why it’s Wrong – Mobile search is mostly charting new territory in terms of query content.

Truth – Desktop search has dipped somewhat over the past few years but remains strong. Users have learned to do things with their phones they never could have done with their laptops or desktops. Mobile search happens in a different context than desktop search (for the most part).Web marketers are missing huge opportunities by mistaking mobile search for an evolution from desktop search. Mobile leaches relatively little search activity from the desktop.

Image taken from cognitiveseo.

SEO Myths that still exist in 2016

SEO Myths that still exist in 2016

What Is Social Media Marketing?

Social media marketing, or SMM, is a form of internet marketing that implements various social media networks in order to achieve marketing communication and branding goals. Social media marketing primarily covers activities involving social sharing of content, videos, and images for marketing purposes, as well as paid social media advertising. Social media itself is a catch-all term for sites that may provide radically different social actions. For instance, Twitter is a social site designed to let people share short messages or “updates” with others. Facebook, in contrast is a full-blown social networking site that allows for sharing updates, photos, joining events and a variety of other activities.

How Are Search & Social Media Marketing Related?

Why would a search marketer — or a site about search engines — care about social media? The reason being the two are very closely related.  Social media often feeds into the discovery of new content such as news stories, and “discovery” is a search activity. Social media can also help build links that in turn support into SEO efforts. Many people also perform searches at social media sites to find social media content. Social connections may also impact the relevancy of some search results, either within a social media network or at a ‘mainstream’ search engine.

The top players of SMM

Whenever we talk about social media marketing, we must talk about the top key players that are making SMM happen:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Pinterest

Google+ 

Linkedin

YouTube

These are the cream of the crop, but an innumerable number of sites are joining in everyday to take advantage of social media marketing and sell their product to the world.

Best Social Media Marketing Tips: Learn Marketing with Social Media

Here are some social media marketing tips to keep you on the right track across all your social media campaigns.

Planning – As discussed previously, building a social media marketing plan is essential. Consider keyword research and brainstorm content ideas that will interest your target audience.

Content is King — Consistent with other areas of online marketing, content reigns king when it comes to social media marketing. Make sure you are offering valuable information that your ideal customers will find interesting. Create a variety of content by implementing  social media images, videos, and infographics in addition to classic text-based content.

Consistent Brand Image — Using social media for marketing enables your business to project your brand image across a variety of different social media platforms. While each platform has its own unique environment and voice, your business’ core identity should stay consistent.

Blog — Blogging is a great social media marketing tool that lets you share a wide array of information and content with readers. Your company blog can also serve as your social media marketing blog, in which you blog about your recent social media efforts, contests, and events.

Social Media Marketing: What are the benefits?

Social Media Marketing: What are the benefits?

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is one of the most effective ways to grow a business in an highly competitive marketplace. With millions of businesses out there all vying for the same eyeballs, it’s never been more important to advertise online, and search engine marketing is the most effective way to promote products and services and grow one’s business.

Let’s get a detailed overview on what the term means and how it can be implemented in a business.

Search Engine Marketing – An Overview

Search engine marketing is the practice of marketing a business using paid advertisements that appear on search engine results pages (or SERPs). Advertisers bid on keywords that users of services such as Google and Bing might enter when looking for certain products or services, which gives the advertiser the opportunity for their ads to appear alongside results for those search queries.

To put it simply, whenever we want something, we look it up on our favorite little search engine. This can be Google search, Bing search or Yahoo search (I recommend using DuckDuckGo; its clean, powerful and doesn’t track your every move, unlike mother Google). These search engines have created an intricate system, to deal with all these user search information. In comes keywords, which forms the basis of SEM or Search Engine Marketing.  Many search engines offer ways or individuals or businesses to purchase ads, which typically appear above or to the right of the content on the search result pages. Typically, the higher the fee one offers to pay for an ad, the higher the ad will appear on the page, depending upon how much competition there is to appear on that page. Depending upon the agreement, one may pay a flat fee for a given length of time, or may pay a given fee for each click that they receive to their ad.

When you type a specific keyword(s) in your search engine, ads flock to fill the ad space in the search engine result pages, an internal bidding occurs and the space is given to one (or several) lucky ads, which then show up as your SERP page loads. These ads, often known by the term pay-per-click ads, come in a variety of formats. Some are small, text-based ads, whereas others, such as product listing ads (PLAs, also known as Shopping ads) are more visual, product-based advertisements that allow consumers to see important information at-a-glance, such as price and reviews.

Search engine marketing’s greatest strength is that it offers advertisers the opportunity to put their ads in front of motivated customers who are ready to buy at the precise moment they’re ready to make a purchase. No other advertising medium is capable of such a feat, which is why search engine marketing is so effective and such an amazingly powerful way to grow your business.

Keywords: Building blocks of Search Engine Marketing

Keywords are the building blocks of search engine marketing. As users enter keywords (as part of search queries) into search engines to find what they’re looking for, it should come as little surprise that keywords form the basis of search engine marketing as an advertising strategy. Keywords also form a important part of social media marketing.

Keyword Research

Before you can focus on which keywords to use for your next SEM campaign, a thorough and comprehensive research must be formed as part of your keyword management strategy. Begin by identifying keywords that are relevant for your business, keeping in mind that prospective clients are likely to search using those same exact keywords.

Start by signing up with Google Adwords and begin using the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. It is an invaluable online tool that is free and it shows you keyword stats on the most used search page in the world, Google.

Search Engine Marketing: Why it is important?

Search Engine Marketing: Why it is important?

According to CMI (Content Marketing Institute), content marketing has been  described as, “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

If you would prefer an easier definition, Copyblogger defines content marketing as “creating and sharing valuable free content to attract and convert prospects into customers, and customers into repeat buyers. The type of content you share is closely related to what you sell; in other words, you’re educating people so that they know, like, and trust you enough to do business with you.”

The need for Content Marketing

A bigger concern should be to understand the need for content marketing, before you can start implementing it in your business.

First we need to understand the four steps of the buying cycle:

  1. Prior to awareness a customer may have a need, but they are not aware there is a solution.
  2. Once a customer is aware there is a solution, they will perform research to educate themselves. For example, a car buyer will try to find out what different types of cars exist, and which one will fit their needs.
  3. At this point the customer starts comparing different products from different vendors to make sure they’re getting a high quality product at a fair price.
  4. Finally, the customer makes their decision and moves forward with the transaction.

Content marketing is all about that first two stages of the buying process by raising awareness of solutions and intimating consumers about a product (or service) they would have never considered before.

Content marketing also provides additional benefits in that it supports other digital marketing channels. It provides additional content for social media marketing and contributes to SEO efforts by generating natural inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets found in search engines. In fact, for many companies the bulk of their SEO efforts should be focused on content marketing.

How to get started?

Following tips from websites like Copyblogger you’ll quickly learn how to craft content for your website or blog that will engage readers and turn them into clients. But while technically good writing and the right headlines can help, it’s not the key to creating great content that is the best form of content marketing.
If you wish to do your own content marketing, the easiest way is to start blogging. Generating good quality content over time will push you ahead from the competition. The more you blog, the better you can get at it.

Where to begin?

The internet offers some of the best resources if you want to get into content marketing (and you should). We have shortlisted some of the best places for you to start:

  • CMI getting started guide, where you’ll learn the definition of content marketing, as well as basic steps for putting a content marketing plan in place.
  • If you’re looking for content marketing examples, CMI has a great e-book that is available as a free download.
  • Read in-depth on content marketing at Copyblogger. Written in an easy to understand lucid way, this article touches on a lot of important aspects of content marketing.

Image: CMI

What is Content Marketing and why should it matter?

What is Content Marketing and why should it matter?

Google’s Webmaster John Mueller recently posted an official (and lengthy) explanation of how Google handles different URL redirects, on his Google plus page. How does this affect the rankings of your web pages? If there a need for you to make any changes?

What is a URL redirect?

A redirect is like a virtual interaction between two pages. To show an example, when you enter the URL of a page A in your internet browser (say Firefox), that page (Page A) tells your browser that the content has been moved to a new page B. Your browser then loads page B. This is a simple URL redirect.

There are different redirect types that you can use to tell web browsers and search engine robots that the content can be found on a new page.

301 permanent redirect
If you use a server-side redirect, the web server returns the redirect as soon as you try to access the page. The user never sees any of the content of the initial page. A “301 permanent redirect” is a server redirect that tells search engine robots that the old URL should not be used anymore. The new URL should be used instead. This is useful when you change your website URLs for good, for example when you redesign your website.

302 temporary redirect
A 302 redirect is also a server-side redirect. The difference is that a “302 temporary redirect” tells search engines that the URL might change. According to John Mueller, “search engines tend to index the content (and keep all signals) under [the original URL], since it’s unsure that it’ll always redirect to [the new URL].”

These temporary redirects are useful for redirects that depend on the user’s country, device, or language settings.

JavaScript redirects
A JavaScript redirect is a so-called client-side redirect. That means that the web server first shows the original page. The initial page tells the browser that the content is on another page.
According to John Mueller, “caching depends on the server settings, and search engines have to guess at what you’re trying to do (index under [the original URL] or [the redirected URL]?).”

Meta refresh-type redirects
These redirects are similar to JavaScript redirects. A meta tag on the original page redirects the browser to a new page. These redirects are not recommended.

303 & 304 redirects, and other things
It’s usually not recommendable to use these redirects. Here’s what John Mueller says about them: “If you have strong feelings about one of the other kinds of redirects, feel free to use them. We’ll have to figure out which URL to index the content under, so if you have strong feelings about that too, make sure to follow up with other canonicalization signals.”

You can redirect as many URLs on your site as you want simultaneously. However, you should keep the redirect chain as short as possible, as Google follows up to five redirects in a chain.

URL redirects and how Google directs them

URL redirects and how Google directs them

At 2015 I/O Developer Conference, Google stated that their email service had a total of 900 million users, and that 75% of those users accessed their Gmail accounts via a mobile device. This is a huge number! At a global scale, the email market at large is comprised of 2.5 billion worldwide users, accessing Google’s services from various platforms and providers, and that number is poised to grow to 2.8 billion over the next four years. With the expansion of smartphones and other smart devices, consumers are more connected than ever to their email accounts, which creates a wonderful opportunity for businesses to take advantage of these one-to-one advertising avenues.

But the buzz as of late is all around Gmail. Advertisements within Google’s email service have existed in some form for more than a couple of years now, so this is something of an entirely different concept. It is commonly known as Gmail “sponsored promotions” or “sponsored ads”, the ads we see today at the top of the Promotions tab have since been given a more intuitive format, which makes it easy for both the marketer and the end user.

But the landscape has changed, and marketers are focusing their attention on running Gmail campagns lately. Why you ask? A blog post by Lauren Edmonds of PMdigital has the answer, he writes,

“Two years ago, Gmail campaigns didn’t produce a consistent ROI to justify continuing the programs. But with more granular targeting options and creative abilities now available, brands are retesting the ad format. In addition to the typical targeting capabilities within the Google Display Network, like affinity segments, topics and interests, we’re now able to implement age and gender targets as well as contextual keyword targeting. Using these contextual keyword targets, we’re able to target competitor domains, which has proven to be a successful method of reaching relevant new customers. In addition, some brands have found success running Similar Audience campaigns via Google Customer Match (i.e. a list of potential customers that Google compiles based on their similar behaviors/characteristics to current customers). And while it would seem like a no-brainer to use the client’s own email and remarketing lists, a lot of times we actually exclude these groups with the hopes of reaching new customers – and it’s working.”

Peak traffic hours for Gmail seems to be in the range of 7am to noon, so catching someone with an exciting offer to kick off their morning commute, for example, may prove an effective strategy. Another interesting point that has been highlighted by the blog is that the Google’s email marketing campaigns have gotten the most traffic on Mondays, something to also keep in mind if you plan to start your own campaign on Gmail, and you definitely should.

Use Gmail ‘Sponsored Promotion’ to benefit your business

Use Gmail ‘Sponsored Promotion’ to benefit your business

A European startup company by the name of Arkyne Technologies is currently developing an intriguing gizmo that will let you charge your phone with your potted plant. The system, called Bioo Lite, harnesses the power of photosynthesis and generates electricity using only water, soil and any common house plant. According to the company, power output from the Bioo Lite system is equivalent to a USB charge from a laptop or desktop computer, designers say, and can deliver up to three complete recharges in 24 hours to most smartphones or tablets. 

It can deliver up to three complete recharges in 24 hours to most smartphones or tablets.
It can deliver up to three complete recharges in 24 hours to most smartphones or tablets.
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How it works

Bioo Lite is actually a scaled-down version of the company’s core Bioo technology, which uses panels placed beneath the soil to draw energy from the natural process of photosynthesis. Larger panels can be placed beneath garden plots, or smaller panels can be used with potted plants.

 

 

Onto the technical specifications

The technical details on the Indiegogo page are a little fuzzy, but similar technologies are already in circulation. Diagrams suggest that the Bioo system generates energy by processing microorganisms expelled by the plant’s root system. The process does not impact the process of photosynthesis or the health of the plant itself, according to developers.

In any case, the team guarantees that the Bioo Lite system will be able to recharge a standard smartphone two to three times per day for at least five years. The USB jack is designed to be compatible with most mobile devices. Pretty much any kind of house plant should do the trick, although the team notes that some plants produce more power than others.

 

 

The technology supports iOS, Android and Windows Phone platform

Arkyne Technologies, the company behind the Bioo Lite system, is aiming for first deliveries by December. Early bird specials are already sold out on the Indiegogo page, but it looks like a pledge of around $135 will get you a single Bioo Lite pot in time for holiday shopping. Plant not included.

Images: IndieGogo

Your house plant could soon charge your devices

Your house plant could soon charge your devices

Facebook says, “Your activity log is a list of your posts and activity, from today back to the very beginning.” It provides a blow-by-blow account of everything you do on their social networking platform, and you can use it to review your likes or comments, find your earlier posts again, change your privacy settings and so on. You may not yet have stumbled across the Activity Log page in your wanderings around Facebook, but it’s worth exploring.

You can also get to it by adding “/allactivity” to the end of your Facebook URL (don’t worry, no one else can get to it.)

You can also get to it by adding “/allactivity” to the end of your Facebook URL (don’t worry, no one else can get to it.) Your most recent activity is shown first.

You get everything here: likes, event responses, comments, posts, photo tags and all the other comings and goings. Hover over the privacy icon on the right (typically two silhouette portrait shapes) to check who can view the content in question-if it’s one of your own posts, you have the option to change the visibility of it.

The Activity Log - as it appears on the Facebook app.
The Activity Log – as it appears on the Facebook app.

Click on the pencil icon to the right of each activity entry to take it back and erase it from the Facebook universe. It’s possible to delete posts and comments, unlike posts from other people, hide certain updates from your profile (like the acceptance of an event invite) and more besides.

Use the filters in your activity log to find specific types of stories. If you still can’t find certain stories in your activity log, it could be because the activity you’re looking for doesn’t exist. For example, you won’t see any activity stories about events in 2005 because Facebook Events didn’t exist yet. Or if you have previously removed that information/story from your Timeline.

Facebook Activity Log – explained

Facebook Activity Log – explained

It is no secret that creating original content for your website is a terrific way to convey your business’ marketing messaging, establish yourself as an industry expert, and humanize your company and its employees. By writing articles, blogs and whitepapers, companies can offer real value to their current and potential customers. Creating compelling content begins by being well-written, informative and understandable. You are exchanging information with your target audience, so it should be enjoyable for them to read and feel like you are having a simple conversation with them. Investing in an accomplished writer to have on your staff, or utilizing the services of a professional copywriter, is worthwhile for creating engaging posts.

Having a well-written piece is just the first step. From there, the key is delivering that content to the widest possible audience. Fortunately, there are many online platforms for the distribution of your original content. An investment of time and money is required to properly market your posts across multiple channels, but it is often rewarded with a significant ROI since increases in viewers frequently translates to increases in clients, customers and revenue.

Social Media Channels

Social media has become a vital part of sharing information within and between networks. If your company has one or more social media accounts, these platforms can be used to announce the publication of your latest piece. By broadcasting your work on several different profiles, there’s a greater chance for your friends and followers to see it and share with their own networks. Regularly updating your posts on social media creates an ever-growing audience and more opportunities to gain new customers.

Since each social media network differs in types of users and related subjects, it is important to consider using different strategies. Effective social media content management is beneficial in creating a personalized message to each audience. Each social network includes different dynamics. Your company should focus on adjusting the message with the tone of the website. For instance, LinkedIn is a professional website used to connect colleagues and business partners, while Instagram is more informal and image based. Facebook allows you to directly communicate your message by sending promotions to a specific target market with the ability to like, comment, and share. The one common trend between sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the use of hashtags. With billions of active users on these sites, utilizing hashtags can categorize your posts and increase your visibility. Learning the features of social media will help understand how active users interact and share your posts.

Social News Websites

If you have created truly useful content, social news websites are a great resource for getting your message out and driving traffic to your website. Social news websites are a community of individuals with shared interests that post news and other stories on a wide variety of topics, and include websites like Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, Inbound.org, and StumbleUpon.

Posting your article on any of these platforms gives you a chance to share your article to a wide audience and the opportunity to get a link back to your website. Becoming part of a social news site community can help build your link profile, but be mindful of the quality of your message. Simply sharing links to your blog is ineffective and could be considered spamming. To avoid this, share your post to the appropriate forum with genuine advice supported by your content. Take into account that these websites are often moderated by users themselves, so create a message that is natural, as if you are telling your friends.

Social news sites also give you the opportunity to comment on other related articles. This is another great way of driving traffic to your site and getting your company’s message out to a larger audience. This will only work if you are regularly involved in commenting and submitting relevant information on the right subject. For example, Reddit includes many “subreddits,” which are categories used to filter article topics. Truly helpful contributions have the possibility of being “upvoted,” increasing the visibility of your post. According to an eMarketer report, Reddit has become an effective content marketing tool with 30.3% of marketers using it in 2015. So writing an entertaining post can go “viral,” attracting thousands, if not tens of thousands, of visitors to your site.

Relevant Groups and Blogs

Many blogs allow readers to comment. If you have original content that can supplement an existing blog, writing a brief comment can be a terrific way to get the word out about your business. Follow the most popular blogs that cover areas where your company has expertise, and then provide an insightful comment that is supported by your company’s blog content. Interested readers who find your comment valuable will continue reading on your website and can turn into leads.
Websites like LinkedIn and Facebook give members the opportunity to ask questions. If you join an industry group, regularly review the questions written by group members. Just like posting in the comments section of a blog, if you believe that your work is relevant and can assist in answering a specific question, don’t hesitate to provide an answer with a link to your original post.

Content Value and Visibility

Well-written original content tells your audience that you are experienced in your field. By providing something of value, you enhance your company’s brand as well as your own personal brand. Establishing yourself as an industry expert can help build a positive reputation for your company and increase brand equity. However, creative content alone will not greatly increase visibility to your site. The combined effort of developing an informative piece along with the time spent reaching out to your audience through online media will direct traffic to your site.

Gain more visitors by taking advantage of thought leadership, social media, social news websites, blog comments, and RSS Feeds. Once you’ve attracted a wide audience, you then have the opportunity to begin marketing to and acquiring new customers. The time and effort spent writing and sharing your business’s message will be compensated by a significant ROI. Don’t limit yourself. Reach out to your target audience on these platforms – there is always a possibility that someone will take an interest in your content and share it with their network.

Posting original content helps to reach your target audience

Posting original content helps to reach your target audience

Competing with the likes of Kindle and Google Play Books, a new Android app has surfaced – Juggernaut Books. Created by ex-Penguin & Random House publisher Chiki Sarkar, the app launched on Friday with a little over 150 titles, and as low as Rs. 10 on some books.

Juggernaut Books claims to contain popular genres spanning from crime, romance, fantasy, self-help, and humour collections on the app offering short reads, serialised reads and collections based on length, among other formats. Don’t expect a Kindle-like experience of a vast ebook store, as the app itself launched with a limited collection, although the company is responding to user feedback well on the Play Store page and hopefully it focuses on adding more books soon.

Available for free on Google Play and on the App Store a week later, the Juggernaut Books app allows browsing through covers, previews and categories to discover and sample new titles, with the option to gift books to your loved ones. The app is offering books at half price until the end of this month. It also has a nifty feature that allows users to ask authors questions as well as to notify them about author-related events.

All publishers want to bring their readers and writers close to each other and find new readers for themselves. This is our dream for the app,” said publisher and creator Chiki Sarkar.

We’ve thought through many aspects of book browsing, buying, reading and authorship that cause friction, and worked to make them easy, enjoyable and transparent. We hope to onboard a lot of new readers on to our apps and engage the die-hards,” said Juggernaut’s CEO Durga Raghunath.

The app publishers have also tied up with Paytm, allowing for easy access to buy books via Paytm wallet, along with the common options of paying with debit or credit cards. As a bonus, the android version of Juggernaut Books is fully designed with Google’s material design specifications and looks very clean. Text readability options include changing font size, line spacing, four different backgrounds with the option of  white text on black background, which helps reduce strain on the eyes for periods of longer reading.
Get it from the Play Store, here.

Image source: IndianExpress

Ex Penguin publisher launches Juggernaut Books – an app-based book store

Ex Penguin publisher launches Juggernaut Books – an app-based book store

Online video streaming platform Hotstar recently launched its paid service to offer popular US TV shows and movies, in an effort to take on Netflix. Hotstar is owned by Novi Digital Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of Star India. With a free first month trial, you can start watching Game of Thrones now, legally and not tainted by censorship.             

The company, very cleverly launched its Hotstar Premium service via this tweet, minutes after the season 6 premiere episode of GoT (Game of Thrones) began telecasting in the US.

If you have no interest in Game of Thrones, then perhaps other HBO originals might have something to offer. Star has join hands with HBO to bring in the popular and the newest HBO Original programming that was previously not available in the country. Game of Thrones has garnered a huge fan following in India in the recent years, but it was never broadcasted simultaneously along with the States. The show also holds the record for the most downloaded pirated show in the history of television programming. Plus the show has a lot of nudity and this makes it difficult for a publicly televised broadcast. The show airing simultaneously in India means people who wish to watch it legally and in the way intended by the creators can go opt for a free trial of 1 month and 199 Rupees monthly after that, provided you have a credit card.

While this is substantially less than Netflix, which costs 500 Rupees monthly, the number of premium shows and movies lack quantity. Currently there are roughly around 40 shows and 140 movies in Hotstar Premium. While Netflix accepts payment through debit cards right from the start, Hotstar currently only accepts credit cards, leading to a lot of disappointment among users. Also, the free month trial can only be availed after entering card details. The subscription is renewed automatically after the trial month is over. Although Netflix explicitly stated that you can cancel anytime within your free trial month, Star has made no such comments. In my experience, these subscriptions are fairly easy to cancel from Account Settings, whether you use Netflix or Hotstar.

In addition to Game of Thrones, Hotstar Premium offers critically acclaimed HBO Originals such as The Sopranos, The Newsroom, True Detective, Rome, Band of Brothers, Veep, Leftovers, Entourage etc. With easy access to almost any of these shows via torrent sites, Hotstar seems to have nailed the pricing perfectly. But content is lacking other than the quality HBO shows, movies include popular Oscar nominations such as The Normal Heart, The Grand Budapest Hotel and couple of blockbusters from recent years as well as few ones from the pre- 2000s. Check the full list here. While Netflix offers a good collection of movies, documentaries, animes alongwith original shows like House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Daredevil, both these streaming services lack content, which they need to remedy if these companies want to hold on to their subscriber base.

Fans from India will be able to watch the newest Game of Thrones season 6 episodes at 7.30 AM every Monday, which is a good thing. This will ensure that they don’t have to worry about the show spoilers, which is a big issue for many fans who have to wait before they are able to watch the current episode. Hotstar shows can be viewed on the PC, or you need to get the Hotstar app from the Google Play Store and IOS Store for watching it on smartphones or tablets.

Hotstar brings in GoT Season 6 and HBO Originals shows to India

Hotstar brings in GoT Season 6 and HBO Originals shows to India

The rivalry between AMD and Intel peaked during the first decade of the 2000s, when the companies consistently challenged each other with a stream of chip innovations. The first 1 gHz processor chip was produced by AMD, which was the first ever in the market, ahead from just a few months from Intel.

Since then, AMD lost its way, and today it barely registers as a threat to Intel. But the competitive landscape could start changing as early as next year. Intel’s x86 chips are installed in most PCs and servers, and AMD has been losing market share for years. AMD’s chip technology has fallen behind Intel’s after some ill-advised architectural changes, acquisitions, and manufacturing problems.

Intel’s x86 processor market share was 87.7 percent the fourth quarter of 2015, growing from 86.3 percent a year earlier. AMD held just a 12.1 percent share, falling from 13.6 percent, according to Mercury Research. But AMD has made some smart moves recently. It decided to cut its reliance on the declining PC market in 2013, something Intel finally acknowledged this week while cutting 12,000 jobs. AMD also has emphasized custom chips and hit paydirt with specialized processors for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

AMD is now poised to threaten Intel’s market dominance. Only time will tell if AMD will be successful, but here are some technologies and business decisions AMD is relying on to better compete with Intel.

Licensing x86 architecture

The long-running two-horse x86 race could include more players, a development bound to hurt Intel more than AMD. Licensing is an easy way for AMD to expand the installed base of its processor technology while generating licensing revenue.

AMD this week licensed its upcoming Zen server chip architecture to THATIC (Tianjin Haiguang Advanced Technology Investment Co. Ltd.), a consortium of public and private Chinese companies, as part of a joint venture.

Lead in graphics

AMD has a valuable asset that Intel doesn’t possess: the world-class Radeon and FirePro GPUs. Graphics processors are hot, with sales of gaming PCs growing in an otherwise slumping market. Intel wants to focus on gaming but only has a good CPU. AMD still has to compete with Nvidia in GPUs, but the company has a combination of hardware technologies that put it in a better position than Intel in virtual reality and gaming.

Versatile CPU assets

If you want an ARM chip for PCs or servers, AMD can make it. If you want x86, AMD has that, too. AMD officials have stressed the importance of versatility many times over the last two years. AMD’s business relies on x86, but the company has stocked up on ARM technology, which could explode into servers and embedded devices in the coming years. Intel makes only x86 chips and doesn’t have its sights on ARM.

Zen CPU

AMD is placing a lot of faith in its upcoming Zen x86 CPU—if it fails, it could take the company down with it. But Zen could be equalizer AMD needs to compete with Intel in CPUs, and it could perhaps attract some enthusiasts over from the Intel camp. AMD claims Zen delivers a 40 percent performance improvement per clock cycle, which is higher than the single-digit gains delivered by recent x86 chips. The first Zen chips for enthusiast desktops will ship later this year.

Servers

The time is ripe for AMD to grow in the server market, where Intel’s superior Xeon chips have destroyed AMD’s Opteron processors. AMD once held a double-digit market share, but then came problems with the faulty and poorly constructed Bulldozer architecture. AMD’s server strategy is now in shambles, and it is relying on the Zen chips for what it calls a “reentry” into the server market. The company will initially target Zen chips at hyperscale servers, then at other systems.

Chinese market

AMD is chasing the booming Chinese server market by licensing its upcoming x86 chip to THATIC. That frees up cash-strapped AMD from committing resources to selling chips in the country. AMD could also use the licensing strategy to sell more PC chips in China, where the company has a committed following among home PC builders.

Custom chips

AMD had to find a new place to sell its processors with PC shipments falling, so it focused on products like gaming consoles, gambling machines, ATMs, and automobiles, all of which require custom processors. The console makers are already coming back to AMD for more processors. AMD is now taking on only larger custom-chip orders that will bring in considerable revenue.

Image:PCWorld

AMD plans aggressively to compete against Intel, yet again

AMD plans aggressively to compete against Intel, yet again

Facebook is all set to take over our phones with the recent introduction to group calls via the company’s Messenger app. Rolling out globally in the next 24 hours on iOS and Android platform, Messenger users can now start a VoIP call from any group chat.

A statement from the company states, “Really excited to announce the global roll out of group calling in Messenger today. From any group conversations, just tap on the phone icon to initiate a group call. You can then manage individual participants on the next screen. If you have the latest version of Messenger, you should see the phone icon appear in group conversations within the next 24 hours. Give it a try, and as always, let us know how we can make it even better for you!”

The limit on a group call is 50 participants. When you start seeing the phone icon on top of a group chat, it means you got the update and finally good to make calls. Tapping the phone icon will let the user select which of their friends in the group will participate in the call. Once a user has joined a group call, they will be able to see who’s participating and even invite others to join. VoIP video calling isn’t available yet on the Messenger, but it probably is just a matter of time now. Facebook began offering VoIP calling back in 2013, and had been quite successful, as Zuckerberg announced just a year later that the app already made up 10 percent of all mobile VoIP calls globally. Read the story here.

The Messenger is looking like a serious competitor to Microsoft’s Skype now, and it is doing things better. Messenger provides a great option to quickly talk to one of your virtual friends, without the need to share your mobile number. Although, these new features will further bloat up the Messenger app, but we already knew this was going to be the case.

Facebook Messenger adds group calls to iOS and Android

Facebook Messenger adds group calls to iOS and Android

Messaging app Viber has upped on its user privacy by implementing end-to-end encryption for all communication between users and groups on its network. Following the lead of WhatsApp, which implemented Open Whisper System’s end-to-end protocol barely two week ago (read here), Viber has over 711+ million users and has R&D departments in Thailand, Brazil, Belarus and Isreal.

Viber, the company, was founded in Israel and was acquired by a Japanase e-commerce company Rakuten back in 2014. According to Viber, the new services will be rolled out globally in the coming weeks, starting with the 4 countries with its R&D base. The new privacy features will be available on Android, iOS, PC and Mac desktops via the latest app version (6.0). Unlike Apple messages & WhatsApp, Encryption is not turned on by default, so a re-authentication of the app via QR code scanning will be required to turn it on. End-to-end encryption means no third parties should be able to read any messages including companies, governments or Viber itself. Only the sending and recipient devices have the key to decipher the encryption code.

Viber’s COO Michael Shmilov posted on the company blog that they have been working on upping their user privacy for a long time and will gradually roll out the features in the next two weeks. The app’s developers have gone a step further with extra privacy features. For instance, each user will get an individual cryptography key for their device, for “an added layer of security,” according to Shmilov.

Some other neat features like labelling Viber contacts as “trusted” with a green lock icon, hiding certain chats from friends and family, enhanced delete which deletes messages from both sender’s and receiver’s phones have been added as well.

Long gone are the days when your messaging apps were quick, light and basically open for everyone to access. Increasing demands for privacy from users and incredibly tight competition in the market probably means this is how we will communicate in the future, as apps get more and more complex.

Image Source:Viber blog

Like WhatsApp, Viber now has end-to-end encryption as well

Like WhatsApp, Viber now has end-to-end encryption as well


YouTube has begun rolling out its 360-degree live streaming video format, confirming reports from earlier this year stating that such a feature was in development. To best show off this immersive format, the live music event Coachella will be streaming selected performances with YouTube’s 360 Video.

Spatial audio means playing sounds the same way people actually hear — or as YouTube explains, it’s about letting you listen as you do in real life — “where depth, distance and intensity all play a role,” states Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer for YouTube, on the company blog.

Google Cardboard, the company’s own Virtual Reality already has support for spatial audio in its product line. In January, it made it possible for developers to support this option in their own apps, with updates for the Cardboard Software Development Kit for Unity and Android, for example. Hence, it should come as no surprise if these new features extend beyond YouTube.

However, spatial audio is only available for on-demand videos and not live videos at launch. That means streams like the Coachella concert won’t include this option, which is a little iffy considering a livestream of a musical performance is the best way to demonstrate the spatial audio feature. The feature is also limited to Android smartphones used with headphones. Google published a sample playlist here.

For YouTube creators, all they require is a camera that supports 360 video, everything else remains the same for their streaming purposes, according the YouTube blog post. It states,
To make sure all creators can tell awesome stories with virtual reality, we’ve been working with companies across the industry. We’re working with companies like VideoStitch and Two Big Ears to make their software compatible with 360-degree live streams or spatial audio on YouTube and more will be available soon. We’ll also make 360-degree live streaming and spatial audio technologies available at all YouTube Space locations around the globe, so you can take it for a spin.”

YouTube Gaming additionally announced today the support of 1440p FULL HD videos at 60 frames per second (FPS) resolution for live streams on its service. Live streams at 1440p have 70 percent more pixels than the standard HD resolution of 1080p, to give you an idea of the nature of this improvement. This not only offers a great experience for the new live 360 streams, which are best enjoyed at high resolutions and high frame rates, but will benefit video game streams, too. YouTube Gaming’s direct competitor, Twitch currently has trouble streaming 1080p content at 60 frames.

Image Source: IGN

YouTube Brings 360 Video and Spatial Audio for Live Streamed Videos

YouTube Brings 360 Video and Spatial Audio for Live Streamed Videos

Following the lines of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, LG is the latest company to join the ‘Make in India’ initiative. With a long history of business in the country, LG electronics will surely act as an encouragement for other companies to assemble or manufacture their devices in India. LG Electronics India Limited (LGEIL) announced the launch of K7 and K10 recently, two entry-level midrange smartphones priced at sub 10k and sub 15k rupees respectively. These are the first smartphones that the company will be producing in India.

The two phones were displayed by Kim Ki Wan, Managing Director of LG India, communication and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Pankaj Mahindroo, founder and national president, Indian Cellular Association, JS Deepak, secretary, Department of Telecommunication, Dr Aruna Sharma, secretary, Department of Electronics & IT, Rajiv Bansal.

Commenting on India’s digital ecosystem, the IT minister said,
“With a $400bn contribution from smartphones and electronics manufacturing, $350bn from IT & ITES (information technology-enabled service) and $250bn from communication services, the Indian digital ecosystem will be a $1trillion economy in the next five years. This company has a large global brand name and we are excited that they have chosen India to manufacture mobile handsets. With these smartphones, consumers will have access to governance, information and knowledge in the hands.”

At the event, Kim Ki Wan said,
“For our company, India is a strategic market globally and the decision to manufacture the smartphones in India underscores our commitment to our customers here. We want to tap the huge potential for smartphones in the country and the K-series will be the first ones to be manufactured in the country. While these devices are in the sub-15,000 price band, they have features typically seen only in premium devices. We are optimistic that Indian consumers will love the ‘premium-ness’ of K7 and K10 at regular prices.”

The K-Series smartphones will be the first to offer LG’s glossy pebble design, a contemporary, stylish look with a finish aimed at a younger audience. The volume and lock buttons are on the back, a signature style of the LG G3, which has been implemented in these newer models. The glossy design is complemented by a 2.5D Arc Glass laminated display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. Based a first look, the K7 looks expensive for what it offers. It has a 5-inch FWGA IPS display of a lowly resolution of 480 by 854 pixels, which is not the current market standard of 720p HD display. Although, the lower resolution display will be less strenuous on the battery, which is again pretty low at 2125 mAh for the current market standard. The phone comes with 8 GB of internal storage and 1.5GB of RAM.

The K10 on the other hand, has decent mid range specs. The display on the K10 has been upped to a 5.3-inch screen with 720p HD display with Dual Nano SIM LTE 4G support. The display is again, not upto the current market standards, but it is expected to last a full day on a single charge, using a single SIM. The camera is a 13 megapixel rear and a 5 megapixel front facing shooter, while the K7 has a 8 megapixel rear and a 5 megapixel front shooter. Both the phones come with Android Lollipop out of the box, but LG can be expected to come out with the Marshmallow update soon. Lastly, the K10 has 16 gigs of internal storage with 1.5 GB of RAM, again less than the current market standard of 2 GB. Both the phones have user replaceable batteries and 32 GB of expandable storage.

Image Source: IBNLive

LG joins ‘Make in India’ initiative with the K7 and K10 smartphones

LG joins ‘Make in India’ initiative with the K7 and K10 smartphones

The country’s e-commerce giant Flipkart has managed to secure another stay order against entry taxes from its shipments. This time the company has sued the West Bengal government, which was allegedly imposing an entry tax of 1% on the value of each consignment being delivered by eKart (Flipkart) in the state.

A similar court battle between Flipkart and the Uttarakhand government resulted in a stay order on the entry tax, courtesy the Uttarakhand High Court. The company sued the West Bengal government, and managed to get favourable judgement from the Calcutta High Court. This outcome prevents the governments from setting a dangerous precedent and would most likely act as a deterrent for other states that want to impose similar entry taxes on goods shipped by online retailers.

The petition was filed in Calcutta High Court by Instakart Services, the company behind EKart, the logistics arm of Flipkart. The state government of West Bengal has mandated the entry tax as a prerequisite for ‘waybills’ generation. Flipkart has counter argued that such a tax is without any ‘legal’ basis.

“It has also resulted in increased cost of goods and materials brought into the State of West Bengal by them for consumption or use by the end customers in the State,” said the petition filed in the last week of March.

A copy of the order (dated 5th April), reviewed by Economic Times, mentions the HC stating that the state cannot insist on the payment of entry tax.

As a consequence, the petitioner will be entitled to generate waybills in terms of the said rule without payment of any entry tax and if the programme or the system has to be altered for such purpose, the state is directed to do so immediately such that no inconvenience is occasioned to the petitioner in the electronic generation of waybills without payment of entry tax.

The West Bengal government has already one-upped the HC’s order by applying to the country’s apex court, on the context that the matter can be decided at the highest level.

Hearing on the petition filed by Flipkart, the court has put a stay on the collection of entry tax on the goods entering the state of West Bengal. The collection of entry tax was anti-consumer and was reducing the benefits of ecommerce for the residents of West Bengal,” a Flipkart spokesperson told ET.

Image Source

Flipkart sues West Bengal Government;HC rules in their favour

Flipkart sues West Bengal Government;HC rules in their favour

Microsoft has had enough. The Redmond giant has proceeded to take legal action against the U.S. Government for the right to tell its customers when a federal agency is looking at their emails, the latest in a series of clashes over privacy between the technology industry and Washington.

In the latest case, Microsoft Corp. says the U.S. Justice Department is using a decades-old law to obtain court orders for customers’ data, while in some cases prohibiting the company from notifying the customer. According to Microsoft, those “non-disclosure” orders violate its constitutional right to free speech, as well as its customers’ protection against unreasonable searches. The company is also fighting in the courts of New York over the government’s demand for emails of a non-U.S. citizen that the company has stored in a data center located in Ireland. Company president Brad Smith argues the case could open the door to other governments demanding information stored in the United States.

Privacy advocates have shown support for Microsoft’s legal stance. After Security Analyst Edward Snowden’s revelations, tech companies want to reassure customers their information is safe. However, one Federal Official is quite critical of Microsoft’s actions, and his concerns appear valid.
Quoting from an article from the Washington Post:
“One former federal official was critical of Microsoft’s latest lawsuit. Daniel “D.J.” Rosenthal, a former Justice Department lawyer, said it could lead to warning “child molesters, domestic abusers, violent criminals and terrorists that they’re being investigated.”

Spokeperson Emily Pierce said, “Microsoft’s suit focuses on the storage of data on remote servers, rather than locally on people’s computers, which Microsoft says has provided a new opening for the government to access electronic data.

Microsoft points out in the lawsuit that the US Government is using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to focus-investigate the clients that stored data in the cloud. The 30-year-old law has drawn serious criticism from tech companies and privacy experts who say it was written before the rise of the commercial Internet and is therefore outdated.

“People do not give up their rights when they move their private information from physical storage to the cloud,” Microsoft states in the lawsuit, adding that the US government “has exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations.”

Apple and Microsoft aren’t the only ones fighting against its federal government, Twitter is also fighting a similar battle in federal court in Northern California over public disclosure of government requests for information on users.

These repeated clashes between the technology companies and the governments of the world highlights how the internet works and how the governments think the internet works. The following legal battles should be paid keen attention as this will shape the future of the internet and us, its netizens.

Microsoft Corp joins Apple in another tech clash with US Government

Microsoft Corp joins Apple in another tech clash with US Government

Yahoo has begun rolling out an update for its Messenger app. New features and improvements have been added to the app, while the android update brings in support for Hindi language, which, given the vast user base Yahoo has in India, should come as no surprise.

Yahoo Messenger v1.1.0 for iOS and v2.1.0 for Android has introduced non-English languages support which includes Hindi (available only on Android), Chinese French, German, Indonesian and Spanish. The app also syncs and matches users mobile contacts to easily search for friends and quickly access chats. “Users just need to enable access to contacts in the Messenger app for the best experience,” says the firm.

On iOS, the Yahoo Messenger now also supports third party keyboard apps on iOS 8, iOS 9.2 and later versions. For Android users, the app update now lets users type “/gif” along with any search term to get a random gif images to send. Gif image search in the app is powered by Tumblr, which Yahoo acquired in 2013. The unsend feature works for all kinds of messages and the contacts sync works seamlessly in both the platforms.

Yahoo Messenger got its last big update back in December 2015 which introduced the unsend feature and added multiple image sharing. With over 50 million Play Store downloads, Yahoo Messenger is still a widely used instant messaging app. The updated app can be downloaded from Google Play and App Store.

Image: IBNLive

Now type in Hindi with Yahoo Messenger’s new update

Now type in Hindi with Yahoo Messenger’s new update

WhatsApp might be in some troubled waters with the Indian government over its recent decision to encrypt all its Indian users’ chats and calls using its standard, Snowden-approved 256 Bit AES encryption. The highest allowed encryption standard for companies is 40-bits, without permission in India. But the government hasn’t responded yet and the app, is still legal to use.

WhatsApp encrypts its messaging using a 256-bit key and the company has recently adopted its end to end encryption protocol from Open Whisper Systems. We wrote an article on this here. However, according to a rule issued in 2007 by India’s Department of Telecommunications, private companies cannot use encryption higher than 40-bits without prior permission from the Indian government.

In their announcement, WhatsApp founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum had this to say:

No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation.

The 40-bit encryption limit is exempted if the party involved submits the decryption keys to the government. But WhatsApp doesn’t have the capability because the encryption is automatically implemented and WhatsApp neither possesses the keys nor can it decrypt what its users are communicating on the platform, as the company points out.

WhatsApp has over 100 million monthly active users from India or nearly 10 percent of its global user base. It is also the most popular instant messaging app in India, with 51% of Internet users in the country using the app every day.

However, its encryption technology can get into trouble with the country’s law enforcement agencies responsible for tracking terrorists. If that happens, we might witness a court battle similar to the one involving Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation couple of weeks back.

The Indian government has not issued a statement or comment on the issue yet, but it can very well pursue the matter if it wishes to. The Mashable article points out that in the past, several technology companies, most famously BlackBerry, have run into trouble with the Indian government over the security threat posed by encrypting.

Image source: Indian Express

WhatsApp in trouble over encryption, Indian Govt. yet to respond

WhatsApp in trouble over encryption, Indian Govt. yet to respond

Facebook Inc.’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted a Live Video Event a few days ago, going over some of the changes his team is looking to bring on its social network platform, but the Zuckerberg has in the process given us a sneak peek at a ton of possible updates we shall see on the Facebook app very soon. At the time of writing, the new updates have already begun appearing on some people’s iPhones.

In the video, Zuckerberg demonstrates the Facebook’s iOS app, most probably an internal build, as the new features hasn’t rolled out for the whole Facebook population. Until now, posting something to Facebook on the app involved clicking the “What’s on your mind” box at the top, which takes the user to a side-loaded page where the post can be made, or clicking the status, photo, or check in shortcuts. In the new version (rather internal build), Zuckerberg demonstrates a colourful list of a variety of posting options which appeared after tapping on the box, which opens a drop down sub menu. Apart from the status message, photo/video, and feeling options, the list also has a Slideshow, GIF, and Music buttons.

Despite the fact that Facebook Messenger already has a built-in GIF search option, there’s hasn’t ever been an easy way to do that on the primary Facebook app. In addition, the “Music” option is something of a brand new option, supported by the news that Zuckerberg has reportedly been in talks with music labels in the recent past.

Introducing the users to these recent additions to the app probably means that Facebook aims to make sharing content easier. This, surprisingly, presents us with a coincidence, thanks to an article from The Information.

The article reads:

Less than a year ago, leaders at Facebook convened to address a serious problem: people using the social network were posting fewer things about their personal lives for their friends to see, according to confidential company data about several types of content sharing that happen on Facebook, which was viewed by The Information.

The article goes on by stating that “Facebook set up a team in London to help develop a strategy to stop the double-digit decline in “original” sharing that happens on Facebook, according to four people with knowledge of the situation.

Image Source: Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Facebook app brings in new updates to make sharing easier

Facebook app brings in new updates to make sharing easier

A year after its launch back in August 2015 in the US and UK, YouTube Gaming is finally made available in countries including India, Philippines and Malaysia. The YouTube Gaming mobile app has also been launched by the company and is available for Android and iOS users in India. Google’s live game-streaming service is finally locking horns with Twitch, the Amazon owned game-streaming service that is currently dominating the online space.

Ines Cha, Head of YouTube Gaming Content and Partnerships, Asia Pacific explained how it’s easier to broadcast gameplay to YouTube via Android devices, all thanks to Google. This function was first made available in Japan last year.

The YouTube Gaming makes it easy to switch between live streams of games as well as recorded sessions. Another advantage of YouTube gaming is the function to rewind and catch up to the stream while it is still live, a function not on Twitch currently. While streaming from the app on Android devices, gamers will be able to record and stream their live sessions via the device’s front camera and the microphone. Another feature exclusive to the Android version, is pop out playback, which overlays the playback of the video in the corner of the screen.

Specific changes have been made by YouTube on the default app page. The sidebar has been removed and replaced with a top bar for within-app navigation. Browsing options has been increased to live streams, popular games, and channels. One can even live chat on the streams. The suggested videos are based on your activity on YouTube Gaming, same as in YouTube. The subscribe feature, while available is still in the beta phase.

While YouTube Gaming certainly has a lot to offer, professional streamers will not easily jump ship. Currently, Twitch has a lot more streamers and the subscription system is fully operational,a feature YouTube Gaming is yet to fully implement.

YouTube Gaming finally launches in India

YouTube Gaming finally launches in India

After the recent development with Hungama Digital Entertainment, Indian music streaming service Saavn has announced plans to launch a series of long-form audio shows, better known as podcasts. To accomplish this, the New York-based company will team up with podcast network Indus Vox media and digital media brand Arré, along with radio jockey Neelesh Misra.

The list of original content includes ten shows that will debut on May 1:

  • Qisson Ka Kona and Time Machine: Hosted by Neelesh Misra
  • Trial By Error: The Aarushi Files: Hosted by Nishita Jha
  • Maed in India: Hosted by Mae Thomas
  • Cyrus Says: Hosted by Cyrus Broacha
  • The Paodcast: Hosted by Amit Gurbaxani, Purva Mehra, and Pronoti Datta
  • Geek Fruit: Hosted by Tejas Menon and Jishnu Guha
  • Eat. Sleep. Joke. Repeat.: Hosted by Karan Agarwal
  • TFG Sports Podcast: Hosted by Vageesh Bhan, Vivek Krishnan, and Chiranjit Ojha
  • All Balls: Hosted by Ayaz Memon

Saavn co-founder and CEO Rishi Malhotra said,

“With this launch, we are turning Saavn from a music-only product to a millennial entertainment platform with the best music experience, groundbreaking original programming, and a true home for artists and creators. While music is at the heart of everything we do, we are building off that success to bring our listeners closer to India’s best talent in storytelling, comedy, documentaries, and sports. Mobile is the new cable box and we’re bringing these channels to life; they’re made in India, for the world to hear.”

This is quite an innovative and a fresh way to grab the listener’s attention, at the same time keep people interested in the app. Saavn currently has around 13 million monthly users. While audio podcasts don’t have a huge listener base as it once had through radio shows or talk shows, it is certainly making a comeback in this digital era. Popular Indian Youtube channel, AIB, has a series of podcasts with celebrity guests such as Irrfan Khan, stand up comedian Raju Srivastava and The Big Bang Theory’s Raj a.k.a. Kunal Nayyar.

All the above listed shows will be available for free at launch, with a possibility of region locking and pay wall in the future. Saavn is free to stream and available for iOS and Android devices (smartphones + tablets).

Music streaming service Saavn announces host of new audio content

Music streaming service Saavn announces host of new audio content

Popular instant-messaging app Whatsapp now boasts end-to-end encryption for devices across all of its supported platforms – Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows and Nokia. After the recent court battle between Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), other companies have started taking the issue of privacy seriously.

WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Actor explains the idea neatly in a blog post:

The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation.

This kind of encryption makes it virtually impossible for government authorities to decrypt a user’s private information. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has been a source of frustration for government agencies, but has never been dragged to the courts like Apple.

Koum and Acton also stated in their blog post:

While we recognize the important work of law enforcement in keeping people safe, efforts to weaken encryption risk exposing people’s information to abuse from cybercriminals, hackers, and rogue states.

Jan Koum, is also WhatsApp chief executive, said he has a personal stake in privacy. “I grew up in the USSR during communist rule and the fact that people couldn’t speak freely is one of the reasons my family moved to the United States.”

The end-to-end encryption protocol for WhatsApp has been developed by Open Whisper Systems, which plans to incorporate the encryption protocol in other messaging applications.

WhatsApp now supports end-to-end encryption across all its platforms

WhatsApp now supports end-to-end encryption across all its platforms

Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi sure likes the spotlight. After the recent announcement of the launch of Mi5, Xiaomi is looking to make its debut investment in India. This time, the company has decided to endow its money in Hungama, India’s leading digital entertainment company. Hungama.com is a part of Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Pvt Ltd. the largest aggregator, developer, publisher and distributor of Bollywood and South-Asian entertainment content in the world.

This can also be seen as a step towards providing local content and services on its smartphones in India, the second-largest market for Xiaomi after China. Through this investment, Xiaomi plans to integrate Hungama’s content services, themes and ringtones into its platforms.

The company’s VP Hugo Barra had this to say in his statement:
Xiaomi has been an Internet company from the very start. We think of smartphones as a platform for us to deliver Internet services, and this includes content,”He further adds, ”As our user base in India grows and as 4G penetration in India continues picking up, we will start to see more and more consumption of digital media through Xiaomi devices, we are investing in Hungama not only to start integrating content into our smartphones, but also to grow together with them and deepen our understanding of the content sector in India.

Xiaomi debuted in the Indian market back in 2014 and began manufacturing its devices and accessories in the country in 2015. As of today, over 75% of its smartphones sold in India are made inside our country’s borders. Xiaomi also received an undisclosed amount of investment from Ratan Tata last year.

Hungama is mainly a music streaming service, but also offers videos and movies in multitude of Indian languages, sourced from 700 partners. The company has secured investments from Intel Capital, Bessemer Ventures and billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala.

To give you an idea, let’s do a comparison with Spotify. The latter, not yet available in India, is similar to Hungama but is a music-only streaming service. While Hungama, according to its website, provides around 2 and a half million audiovisual content, Spotify has a music collection of 30 million tracks! Although to be fair, Hungama focuses primarily on Bollywood and South Asian music, and the company offers cheap subscription plans for streaming content, in addition to its free service.

Xiaomi invests 25 Million USD in Hungama Digital Entertainment

Xiaomi invests 25 Million USD in Hungama Digital Entertainment

The government of Karnataka made its stance clear that the state will not allow surge pricing for e-transport app-based cab services such as Ola, Uber, Meru and others. Implementing new regulations, the policy states, that fare and other charges cannot be higher than the fare fixed by the government from time to time. In simpler terms, your fare will not be dynamically priced by Ola and Uber during peak hours in the state of Karnataka.

Surge pricing is the charging of additional fare normal during peak times by online cab calling aggregators has been widely debated many a times. Surge pricing has been followed by Uber and Ola in almost every city where they operate. However, Karnataka government has disallowed the practice in the state in its latest regulations to ensure competitive pricing for all cab users.

“We have not allowed the surge pricing because the purpose of using the technology is to increase service standards for cab users at competitive fares. We have focussed this policy around this, and given a lot of importance to safety aspects.” Transport Minister Ramalinga Reddy told ET.

Clearly, the app-based cab hailing services are not happy with the new regulations. Known to defend the concept of surge pricing rigorously, they argue that such dynamic pricing is identical to the practices followed by the airline industry.

Uber, which is known to have first started the concept of surge pricing, has that surge pricing allows them to provide cabs to the users at the time of emergencies during peak hours. During these times, by introducing surge pricing drivers are also encouraged to provide their services due to the possibility of extra incentive.

Ola also has deemed the practice necessary when there is a gap between supply and demand of cabs. It had restarted surge pricing in Karnataka last year in July, five months after it was forced to stop the services by the state transport authorities.

Anyone with a valid licence and living in Karnataka for two years can now opt to drive to any of the e-cab services.

“We came to know that app-based firms were forcing drivers (permit holder) to work only for them. We have, however, recognised a driver’s freedom to choose the app he wants to associate with,” the transport minister said. The government has withdrawn the age restrictions on the vehicles to qualify as taxis. Earlier, for a cab to enter the app-based taxi service, it had to be less than 2 years old and could stay in service only until the age of six. The government has also slashed down the license fees and security deposit amount by 50%. Now, the taxi aggregators have to pay a security deposit of Rs 1 lakh for 1,000 taxis, Rs 2.5 lakhs for up to 10,000 taxis and Rs 5 lakh for more than 10,000 taxis.

Uber, Ola, Meru, Mega, Bangalore Taxi, KSTDC, CarzOnRent, and Spot Taxi, currently operate as ride-hailing service in Karnataka under a licence obtained under the Radio Taxi Scheme, 1988. None of them has commented yet on the new policy.

Image: yourstory

Karnataka Government fights to stop surge pricing, lays down new policies

Karnataka Government fights to stop surge pricing, lays down new policies

Redmond giant’s latest version of Windows, Windows 10 reached a peak of 270 million active users after eight months of launch, the company stated recently. The figures were announced by company executive Terry
Myerson at Microsoft’s annual gathering for developers in San Francisco.

While mobile tech giants like Apple, Amazon and Google formed Alphabet Inc. carry more influence with the developers and its user bases, Microsoft has been focusing the on getting its market strategy right, and it looks
like it is slowly paying off.

Firstly, the company made its latest OS Windows 10 available for free for genuine users of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 (not Enterprise editions), the catch being the OS must be downloaded and installed before July 2016 – One whole year. This was back in July 2015, and although the launch was far from perfect, this helped Microsoft create a footing in the current smartphone ecosystem.

Now Microsoft is offering a free anniversary upgrade for users running Windows 10 already. This can be seen as a gesture of good faith from the company’s side, as it shows the appreciation Microsoft has for its 270 million user base.

Microsoft still holds the majority market share in the personal computer realm, contrary to its current market
standing with smartphones, which is growing, but still tiny.

During its developer conference, known as Build, the company issued an update on its HoloLens augmented-reality technology, but the main problem for Microsoft is not technology, rather availability. The Windows App store is laughable compared to the Google Play or Apple’s store. Not only are there fewer apps, but even the popular apps receive delayed updates or bug fixes.

It is also good for the market that is mainly saturated with phones offered either with Android or iOS. Although nowhere close to being the current market leader in smartphones, Windows OS is still faring better than BB10 and Ubuntu Phone.

Windows 10 reaches 270 million users, plans for a free anniversary upgrade

Windows 10 reaches 270 million users, plans for a free anniversary upgrade

Innovation and talent comes from strangest of places. Claimed to be one of the world’s largest slums, Dharavi
has been home to a group of girl coders. Their purpose – to solve the problems affecting their lives and their community.

The girls, all in their early and mid teens, form an integral part of a slum innovation project, spearheaded by
indie filmmaker Nawneet Ranjan back in 2014. With the help of the open source development tool MIT App
Inventor, these teenagers have built and implemented several mobile apps that tackle problems circulating in
their lives such as sexual harassment, child abuse, domestic violence and access to basic rights such as water
and education.

However, an unfortunate fire accident back in January destroyed houses of over 50 families, along with the devices and computers used by the girl coders. After the catastrophe, Mr. Ranjan is hopeful that the initiative can be revived and has already put together a crowd-funding campaign to help avail the devices, laptops, computers and even food and clothing for the affected children of the community.

Mr.Ranjan quotes to Mashable:

These kids didn’t have dreams and aspirations because they come from difficult circumstances, with many facing different kinds of abuse and domestic violence….I tried to get them in touch with their strengths and weaknesses, and to understand how technology can be used to make a paradigm shift and challenge the status quo.”   

With the help of the MIT App Inventor, video tutorials and PowerPoint presentations, the filmmaker taught the
girls to code. He said, “A lot of girls in the neighbourhood don’t get the chance to use computers and laptops, I showed them how technology can be used to solve problems and improve their job opportunities.
I told them that these were things that they could learn on their own.

One of the apps developed by the girls is an Android application known as Women Fight Back, that aims to safeguard women with features like SMS alerts, emergency call to contacts and location mapping. Another app by the coders still in the works is Padhai, which contains language lessons and various tutorials to help educate and teach girls who cannot afford to go to school.

In spite of the technological and fire hurdles, children involved in the initiative have grown to over 200 in just a couple of years. There’s even a YouTube video that documents the functions of the initiative and the teen
coders who are making it possible.

Nawneet Ranjan’s and his team of teenage coders (mostly girls) have displayed resilience and genuine innovation that is truly a rare sight. You can be a support to this initiative by helping Mr.Ranjan reinitiate the programme through his crowd-funded campaign.

Mumbai Teen Coders take it upon themselves to Fix Community Problems

Mumbai Teen Coders take it upon themselves to Fix Community Problems

The value of transactions have increased fourfold since December 2014 and have seen a dramatic surge of increased 46% mobile-banking transactions in recent months. The rapid increase can be attributed to the banks and financial institutions responsible for pushing individuals and business toward managing their finances using their smartphones.

The value of mobile banking transactions jumped 46% to Rs.49,029 crore in December 2015 from the previous month, according to Reserve Bank of India data.

Bankers accredited the flow to an increase in the number of corporate clients transacting using their phones, along with the steady growth in retail phone-banking transactions driven by the adoption of smartphones across the country.

Founder- director & head analyst at Ascentius Consulting Alok Shinde said,
“Our economy is now graduating into an interaction-based economy. Customers are highly concerned about the time and expense related with making transactions at an outlet or a branch,”

Retail transaction on the mobile platform are dominated by mobile recharges, bill and utility payments, funds transfer and e-commerce purchases, while large-value transactions by corporate clients have resulted in an increase in the amount transacted through the phone, the banks said. On a year-on-year basis, the amount transacted in December 2015 rose more than fourfold from the Rs.11,323 crore transacted in the year-ago period.

For State Bank of India (SBI), the average size of a banking transaction on its mobile platform has jumped fivefold since the bank introduced two applications for its corporate customers.

SBI unveiled State Bank Anywhere-Saral for the SME sector (small and medium enterprises) back in May 2015 and State Bank Anywhere-Corporate for its larger corporate clients in October, leading to an increase in the average transaction value.

“We have about half-a-million corporate banking customers on our web banking platforms, and we want to bring most of them on mobile by September,” said Manju Agarwal, deputy managing director for corporate strategy and new business at SBI.

Private banking lender Axis Bank Ltd, introduced two applications on its mobile platform for its corporate clients in October, allowing foreign exchange-related and trade finance-related payments to be conducted on their smartphones, has also seen a surge in the number of corporate clients using the mobile banking platform.

This push by banks and private institutions of the country will hopefully result in a direct focus on the enhanced usability and security of the online banking sector.

Mobile Banking sees huge surge in India

Mobile Banking sees huge surge in India

A blast ripped the Sunday evening in Lahore, when a suicide bomber attacked a public park full of people celebrating Easter. Reports indicate more than 50 deaths and hundreds injured in the unfortunate incident.
Soon after, Facebook activated their ‘Safety Check‘ feature, which exposed a bug creeping in the system.

However, due to a geo-tagging error, Facebook users from India, UK and even the US received the “Safety
Check” notifications. A lot of people were quick with aggressive responses on social media, which has
resulted in Facebook apologizing about this blunder in a post:

We activated Safety Check today in Lahore, Pakistan, after an explosion that took place there. We hope the people in the area of the bombing find Safety Check a useful and helpful way to let their friends and family know they are okay. Unfortunately, many people not affected by the crisis received a notification asking if they were okay. This kind of bug is counter to our intent. We worked quickly to resolve the issue and we apologize to anyone who mistakenly received the notification.

The safety check feature was launched by the company back in October 2014, and has since been utilized to provide support during major crisis incidents. As these situations are delicate, and Facebook’s Safety Check
flaw inevitably resulted in an uncomfortable situation for its users.

The purpose of the company’s “Safety Check” feature is to help user’s friends and family know whether the user
is safe, if he or she is trapped in the vicinity of the accident. There have been reports of people as far away as in New York, Canada, South Africa and Nepal receiving these notifications, right after the Lahore park bombing.

According to police reports, the explosion occurred in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park of Iqbal town in Lahore, Pakistan
on a Sunday evening.

The victims of terrorism are always the innocents. We at One Theorem express our deepest condolences
for the affected souls.

Blast in Lahore exposes Facebook’s Safety Check bug

Blast in Lahore exposes Facebook’s Safety Check bug

Akamai Technologies have released another quarterly report of the State of the Internet and it doesn’t look
too great for a nation aiming to build a hundred smart cities. The global average internet connection speed increased 23 percent to 5.6 Mbps in the quarter ended December 2015 compared to the same period of 2014, according to the report.

The report “Fourth Quarter, 2015, State of the Internet Report” was published by Akamai Technologies Inc., a
market leader in content delivery network (CDN) services.

The report further states:

“From a global perspective, the average connection speed increased 8.6 percent quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) and
23 percent year-over-year (YoY) to 5.6 Mbps, while the global average peak connection speed increased 1 percent QoQ, and increased 21 percent YoY to 32.5 Mbps.”

South Korea had the highest average connection speed in Asia-Pacific region at 26.7 Mbps, while India has average speeds at 2.8 Mbps, making it the country with the overall slowest internet access speeds in the Asia Pacific region.

David Belson, editor of the quarterly report, also mentions the fact there was an overall year-over-year growth in average connection speeds and broadband adoption.

He also added,
“The progress we are seeing across our key metrics shows that, while there’s still work to be done, more parts
of the world are increasingly able to support the delivery of broadcast-quality video content online.”

The report also sheds light on mobile internet speeds, where Britain had the fastest average mobile connection speed at 26.8 Mbps. Iran had  the lowest average connection speed, at 1.3 Mbps.

India is the current hot potato in the business and technology industries, with a steady and increasing influx of tech companies who see the potential in this growing market of 1 billion new consumers. Streaming services such as Netflix, Rdio and Spotify are already expanding to provide these services to the Indian consumers, but the basic connection speeds provided by the telecom and broadband companies are, for a lack of a better word, pathetic and the TRAI (Telecom Authority of India) should be working to fix these issues.

India among the countries with lowest Internet speeds: Akamai Reports

India among the countries with lowest Internet speeds: Akamai Reports

The app landscape continues to evolve, and in ways that are not always within our control. Recently, Facebook made the decision to discontinue support of their essential APIs for BlackBerry and WhatsApp announced they would end support for BlackBerry 10 and BBOS at the end of 2016.”

This was a recent post from Blackberry’s official blog. The company’s own Operating System, namely, BBOS, took a major blow when Whatsapp called it quits last February. Now its parent company, Facebook too severs ties with the once world leader of portable wireless communication devices.

What went wrong?

The same thing that happens to companies when they fail to adapt to changing consumer needs and new technology. Blackberry didn’t have it as bad as Nokia, but it is close. It committed to the Android ecosystem this
year with a brilliant and hyped BB Priv, which few people could afford, thanks to the insanely expensive price tag.

Whatever BlackBerry has to offer is already being offered by the 3 major smartphone OS makers – Android, iOS
and Windows.

In the blog post, the company claims to have fought with the teams at Facebook and Whatsapp, and encouraged users to tweet with a hashtag #ILoveBB10Apps to express their concerns. While Whatsapp will terminate all their services by the end of 2016, Facebook is still yet to announce a deadline.

Despite the recent blows, the company claims to remain dedicated in its efforts of stabilizing BB10 and BBOS ecosystem. The post reads:

“Our commitment to BlackBerry 10 and to developers has not changed – we know our developer community continues to be one of the strongest proponents of BlackBerry 10 and they are creating thousands of apps every month. As a way to support them and to promote new apps, we’re now featuring some of the best native applications on BlackBerry World in a list called “Great Apps on BlackBerry.”

This initiative may help encourage the newer developers on its platform for the time being, but it remains to be seen if it all works in the long run.

Facebook severs ties with Blackberry

Facebook severs ties with Blackberry

A corporate legend passed away today, he was 79 years old. Former CEO of the giant technology company Intel Corporation, he was suffering from the dreaded Parkinson’s disease. His life was interesting, his contributions immense. The man was responsible for transforming Intel from a humble memory chip manufacturer to the biggest name in computer technology and the semiconductor business. Without a doubt, Intel owes much of its success to this man, Andrew “Andy” Grove.

The company tweeted the following a few hours ago:

 

Andrew Grove was an Hungarian-born American engineer, author and businessman. He fled to America in his early 20s, from his country suffering under a Communist regime, where he finished his education and was one of the first hired employees of Intel. Through his expertise, the company gained a new direction and thus became one of the largest manufacturers of microprocessors known today. He authored notable books such as “Physics and technology of Semiconductor devices” and spoke on a wide array of public related issues. Since early 2000, he was diagnosed with the Parkinson’s disease and funded multiple research studies on discovering a cure.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of former Intel Chairman and CEO Andy Grove,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. “Andy made the impossible happen, time and again, and inspired generations of technologists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.”

Andrew Grove was also a student of business management. His books “High Output Management” and “Only the Paranoid Survive” are still highly regarded in the management world.

Intel Chairman Andy Bryant had this to say about “Andy”:

“He combined the analytic approach of a scientist with an ability to engage others in honest and deep conversation, which sustained Intel’s success over a period that saw the rise of the personal computer, the Internet and Silicon Valley.”

The full news release from Intel can be read here.

Former CEO and Chairman of Intel Corporation passes at 79

Former CEO and Chairman of Intel Corporation passes at 79

The micro-blogging & online social networking service Twitter completes ten years of tweets today. The celebrations were initiated with this post on their official blog. Since its inception, the company has rapidly amassed over 500 million users, out of which there are approximately 320 million active users per month.

Twitter’s official handle posted a tweet sharing a short video in celebration of the milestone achieved by the company. The 140-character tweet also thanked the users for the past “10 incredible years”, starting a trending hashtag #LoveTwitter The blog post, not affected by 140 character limit, tries a more sincere approach in its appreciation for the user base.
A portion of the post reads:

“Throughout the years, you’ve made Twitter what it is today and you’re shaping what it will be in the future. Thank you for making history, driving change, lifting each other up and laughing together every day.”

Twitter was originally launched under the name “twttr” and has since been overhauled and modified over the years, but the micro-blogging service has stayed true to its much debated “140 character format”, which earned it the nickname “the SMS of the Internet”.

How do I get tweeting?

According to a Huffingtonpost report back in 2015, India has around 23 million twitter users. With the micro-blogging service completing its decade long journey, this might be a great time for new users to jump in and get tweeting. Simply head over here to create an account, upload a pretty picture, fill in some details and get started with your thoughts. The only rule that needs to be remembered is the 140 character limit.

While there, try following us @OneTheorem.
Happy tweeting!

Twitter completes a decade, says ‘Thank You’

Twitter completes a decade, says ‘Thank You’

Online photo-sharing and video-sharing platform Instagram recently introduced some new changes to their algorithm, which the company is referring to as an “optimized experience” that has caused quite the stir in the tech world this week. To put it simply, Instagram will now show you more content posted by your followers based on how much you interact with them (likes,  comments, private messages). The optimized feed is also likely to show you more ads, close to your interests.

According to a recent post made by the company, a user misses out around 70% of the content shared by their friends. The new algorithm aims to rectify that problem with the recent changes to its feed. Posts from your friends will no longer be shown in a chronological fashion, which is essentially what Facebook did with its own news feed. Instagram also stated that the changes are not permanent and it will be monitoring the feedback from its community. However, the feedback seems to be on the negative spectrum of things, as users were quick to respond to the changes with the hashtag #RIPInstagram, which is currently trending on its own platform, as well as on the micro-blogging service Twitter. Popular American singer-songwriter John Mayer was one of the few celebrities who was quite vocal against Instagram’s recent changes, urging the company to reconsider its new optimized feed. He cleverly voiced his opinions through this photo.

Another comment by a reader on Android Central’s article points out a similar debacle with Twitter, barely a month ago. The micro-blogging service basically tried to introduce the same changes as Instagram by making changes to the chronological order of the tweets. However, due to a major backlash from its users, Twitter made the changes optional, meaning the users can opt out of the new system, if he or she so wishes.

With 300 million active users per month, the photo-video-sharing app was bound to receive some hate from its community for its new modifications; only time will tell whether Instagram will roll back the changes or ignore its community’s feedback. Maybe some level of compromise can be reached.

Instagram pulls a ‘twitter’ with an optimized feed, faces backlash from community

Instagram pulls a ‘twitter’ with an optimized feed, faces backlash from community

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