Monday, 18 July 2011

Mashable: Latest 12 News Updates - including “The Polyphonic Spree Releases New Music Video as Interactive iOS App”

Mashable: Latest 12 News Updates - including “The Polyphonic Spree Releases New Music Video as Interactive iOS App”

The Polyphonic Spree Releases New Music Video as Interactive iOS App

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 03:00 AM PDT

Four years after its last album “The Fragile Army”, The Polyphonic Spree has released a video for its new single, Bullseye, in the form of an interactive iPhone/iPad app.

The video lets you play around in an ever-changing environment as a small creature called You-Me, touching clouds, plants and animals to life.

It’s a perfect fit for The Polyphonic Spree’s elegant blend of sympho-pop-rock, and a very welcome change from most of the music videos you see on TV.

The game/video/single costs $1.99 and at 79.4 MBs, you’re going to need to download it via Wi-Fi. It requires iOS 4.2 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

[iTunes via Engadget]

More About: App, iOS, ipad, music, music video, Polyphonic Spree, video

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Tips For Negotiating Employee Equity

Posted: 18 Jul 2011 02:32 AM PDT

Before Microsoft purchased Skype for $8.5 billion, some of the employees who were let go in the process learned something they hadn’t necessarily realized about the options they had signed on to when they were hired.

A clause in former Skype employee Yee Lee’s stock option agreement, for instance, made even his vested options worthless.

This revelation inspired Reuter’s Felix Salmon to lambaste Skype and its investor Silver Lake to “downright evil” (they had previously been declared “pretty evil” after firing executives right before the sale, ostensibly in order to reduce their payouts).

Evilness aside, the incident highlights the purpose of DFJ Growth Associate Sam Fort’s first tip for employees who are staring down an options agreement: “Read the fine print” and “if you don't understand it, make sure you have a lawyer or someone familiar with these types of agreements look at it.”

Here are four more basic tips for navigating an employee equity agreement.

1. Know the Lingo

The two most common types of categories of employee equity are:

  • Options — The right to purchase stock at a set price for a certain period of time.
  • Restricted stock — Common stock with some restrictions, like a vesting schedule or the stipulation that the company can repurchase the stock under certain conditions.

Most employee equity agreements include some sort of vesting schedule, which incentivizes employees to stay with the company by gradually granting them their equity (or removing repurchasing rights) over time.

  • Vesting period — The period of time before shares are unconditionally owned by an employee. In the case of options, an employee is issued a fixed amount of shares and they become his or hers as they vest. In the case of stocks, an employee technically owns the entire amount of stock, but the company can buy back any unvested portions at the original price if the employee leaves. A common vesting period is four years with a one year “cliff.”
  • Cliff vesting — A type of vesting that occurs at a specific time rather than gradually. Most employee equity plans, for instance, require that an employee be with the company for one year before any stock or options vest. At that point, they receive an entire year’s worth of equity at one time.

Some other terms to be aware of:

  • Strike price — The price per share that you will pay when you exercise an option, as determined by the board of directors. It should reflect market value.
  • Preferred stock — Stock that has higher claim on assets and earnings than common stock, most often held by investors.

    Fred Wilson, the principal investor at Union Square Ventures, explains it this way on his blog, AVC:

    Let’s say you start a company, bootstrap it for a year and then raise $1mm for 10% of the company from a VC. And let’s say a few months later, you are offered $8mm for the company. You decide to take the offer. If the VC bought common, he or she gets $800k back on an investment of $1mm. They lose $200k while you make $7.2mm. But if the VC buys preferred, he or she gets the option of taking their money back or the 10%. In that instance, they will take their money back and get $1mm and you will get $7mm.

  • Common stock — The stock that employees, advisors and the founders are most likely to hold.

2. Ask The Right Questions

Some things to think about when looking at an employee equity deal are:

  • Does your vesting schedule make sense? While the most common vesting schedule is four years with a one-year cliff, that might not be the most fair situation for everybody.

    “I'd consider how long-plan your relationship with the company to last, how much work are you going to do and how much of the work you're going to do — particularly if you're a developer — is going to be delivered early on,” says Charles Torres, a partner who specializes in venture capital and startups at Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt. “A lot of times people come on board for six or seven months thinking they're going to get stock, and it never vests. Sometimes, though, they do really good work and develop a good part of the company's IP.”

    Generally, the more equity the company is granting you, the harder it will be for you to negotiate the vesting schedule, Torres says.

  • Under what circumstances can the company repurchase my stock, and what is the repurchasing price? “Often companies and their lawyers will put in provisions where they can repurchase stock after somebody leaves,” Torres says. “Under certain circumstances that might be fair, but in others it might not be. ”

    It’s important to know when the company can purchase stock and at what price. If the stock’s value has, for instance, tripled since you bought it, whether the company repurchases it at its original price or at market value can be a huge distinction.

  • Under what circumstances does the value at which the company repurchases stock change? “That often revolves around a term in an employment letter called ‘cause‘ and how that is defined,” Torres says. “The employee should be very careful about that definition because it has significant ramifications.”

3. Think About Taxes

Whether you’re getting stock, which you own immediately, or stock options, which give you the choice to buy stock later, will affect your taxes come the filing period.

In certain situations, like if you’re entering a company early on that has a low valuation, it might make financial sense to have restricted stocks instead of options. Then you pay the income tax on the shares while their value is low and the taxes for capital gains when you sell them later. If the company fails before you’ve sold the stock, you haven’t lost a ton of money on taxes. In another situation, like if you are paying high taxes for a stock grant that might not fully vest by the time you leave the company, stock options might make more sense.

“There are varying tax consequences for restricted stocks and stock options,” Torres says. “The goal of both, however, is to defer the taxable event for the employee, but which is more preferable depends on the stage of the company, its valuation, the size of the stock grant and the anticipated vesting or timing of it all. There's no one-size-fits-all, and you really need to consult with a tax attorney.”

4. Some Words of Advice

We spoke with venture capitalists, startup founders and a lawyer about employee equity. These are a few of their suggestions for negotiating.

  • “I think we're in a competitive hiring environment right now in the Bay Area and in New York, as well,” Fort says. “If you are talented and if you can bring a lot to the table, then you are in a good position to negotiate.”
  • “I think from an employee’s perspective, you need to be realistic about where the company is in stage,” says Jay Levy, principal at Zelkova Ventures. “A company that is funded by a late-stage VC at X million and has revenues that are stabled is ‘less of a startup’ than a startup that is raising the 500,000 in seed money. To go into a fully funded company and expect two points, is unrealistic.”
  • “When you are issued employee equity, be prepared for dilution. It is not a bad thing. It is a normal part of the value creation exercise that a startup is. But you need to understand it and be comfortable with it,” writes Fred Wilson in a blog post that aptly explains what to expect.
  • “The biggest upside to a startup outside of culture is the chance for a massive payday if you’re company executes beautifully (with the employee’s help),” says Aviary founder and CEO Avi Muchnick. “An employee who isn’t interested or doesn’t understand that upside is not going to be motivated in the same way someone else is.”

Social Media Job Listings

Every week we put out a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we post a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!

More Job Search Resources From Mashable:

- 5 Clever Ways to Get a Job Using Social Media
- HOW TO: Spruce Up a Boring Resume [INFOGRAPHIC]
- HOW TO: Set Up an Online Resume
- 9 Dynamic Digital Resumes That Stand Out From the Crowd
- Are Cover Letters Still Relevant For Social Media and Tech Jobs?

Photos courtesy of Flickr, StreetFly_jz, Images_of_money, wurzle

More About: equity, job search series, options, startups, stock

For more Startups coverage:

David Beckham’s Baby Photo Debuts on Facebook [PICS]

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 06:45 PM PDT

David Beckham introduced his newborn baby to the world Sunday on Facebook. The soccer star posted a photo of wife Victoria Beckham napping with daughter Harper Seven.

“I took this picture of my two girls sleeping,” he wrote on his Facebook Page. (You do have to “like” the Page to get access to the photo.)

Victoria Beckham also tweeted a photo of her husband with Harper earlier Sunday with the caption: “Daddy’s little girl.”

Harper was born July 10.

[via Yahoo News]

More About: celebrities, david beckham, facebook, twitter, Victoria Beckham

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World Cup Final: A New Tweets Per Second Record

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 06:04 PM PDT

The FIFA Women’s World Cup set two new records for number of tweets sent per second on Sunday.

The final game, between USA and Japan, set the new all-time high with 7,196 per second at the end of the game. The Paraguay vs. Brazil game is the new number-two spot with 7,166 tweets per second, according to a tweet sent by @Twitter.

The previous record was set just as New Year’s Day began this year in Japan — with 6,939 tweets per second. The Women’s World Cup Final also far outpaces the Men’s World Cup 2010 Final. Some 3,283 tweets were sent per second then, when Spain beat Denmark match. It’s certainly curious that all of these top-tweeting moments occurred around Japan.

As far as non-soccer sporting events go, in February, Twitter users outdid themselves during the Super Bowl, compared to previous years, with 4,064 tweets sent per second.

Here’s a collection of some of the tweets sent after Sunday’s USA vs. Japan final:













More About: twitter, Women's World Cup, World Cup Finals

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HOW TO: Make RSS Feeds for Google+ Profiles

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 05:48 PM PDT

Already using Google+? Follow Mashable News for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as our top social media and technology updates.

Would you rather see your friends’ Google+ posts in your RSS reader? A handy new web app called Google Plus User Feed will let you do just that — and the setup’s a snap.

SEE ALSO: The Comprehensive Guide to Google+

All you need is the Google+ user’s profile ID, the Google Plus User Feed URL and the RSS reader to add it to.

Here’s a walkthrough of the process:

Identify Google+ Profile ID

First, identify the profile ID for the Google+ user you want to add to your feed. You can find it in the profile URL -- it's the long series of numbers. In this case, Ben Parr's ID number is 117691391504351341685.

Copy that number.

Add the Profile ID Number & Code to Your Feed

Add the URL: to your reader. Paste the profile ID number at the end of the URL.

In this case, the full URL should be

Hit "Add."

The Feed Will Pull Google+ Posts

Et voila. Ben Parr's Google+ profile posts now appear in the reader.

[via Lifehacker]

More About: Google Plus, Google Plus profiles, rss

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15 Rad Retro Office Accessories [PICS]

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 05:23 PM PDT

If you prefer vintage style to boring, mass-produced design, then you’re going to love our gallery of gorgeous retro accessories perfect for your office.

From gadgets with old-school looks to accessories with some ace retro design, our collection encompasses lighting, decor, tools and more.

Take a look through the 15 products we’ve hand-picked in the photo gallery below, and let us know in the comments which objets take your fancy.

1. Hunter Retro Fan

A classic desk fan will add some vintage chic to your workstation. A chrome model from Hunter has got to be top of our list.

Cost: $54.99

2. TV Test Screen Mouse Pad

This rainbow-hued mouse mat is reminiscent of old TV test screens and will give your desk a brilliant dash of color.

Cost: $5.99

3. Trimphone

A revamped design classic, the Trimphone is available in a range of colors and will not fail to look awesome on your desk.

Cost: From $52.87

4. Vintage Camera Pencil Sharpener

This faux vintage camera won't just look great in your office. It boasts useful pencil-sharpening functionality too.

Cost: $18

5. HP 35s

HP 35s scientific calculator was launched to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the HP 35, the world's first pocket scientific calculator. Its retro styling makes it a must-have collector's item.

Cost: $59.99

6. Turntable Tape Dispenser

This sweet tape dispenser offers some vintage vinyl charm.

Cost: $16.99

7. LCD Notesystem

You can fill in the blank lines to write your own LCD-style messages on these note cards.

Cost: $15.99 for 20

8. Anglepoise Lamp

We adore iconic brand Angelpoise. If you can afford the $3,600 price tag, then splurge on this playful giant version -- otherwise, ordinary-sized options are a bit more affordable.

Cost: From $165

9. Dub Duty Keepsake Box

This wooden painted box is a great option for keeping your desk knickknacks in order.

Cost: $15.99

10. Retro Instant Photo Frames

Turn your photographs into fauxlaroids in real life with these funky frames.

Cost: $5.99 for two

11. Roberts Revival Radio

You can't get much more classic than a Roberts radio. The "Revival" model apes old-fashioned designs and is available in a range of lovely colors.

Cost: Approx $100

12. Vintage Typewriter

Whether you want one for its vintage looks or to actually type on, classic typewriters can be bought on sites like Etsy and eBay for relatively little.

Cost: Varies

13. Personal Library Kit

Adding some school days chic to your bookshelf, this cute kit should mean any books you lend make it back.

Cost: $14.99

14. Retro Flip Clock

This clock keeps the vintage flip action but adds contemporary looks.

Cost: $34

15. Temporary Mu-stash Glasses Stand

Store your sunglasses in a way that will make you smile.

Cost: $12.99

BONUS: Aimee Wilder Gameland Wallpaper

You may not be able to afford to cover your entire office in this pricey paper, but just one roll could make a fun feature wall or area of interest.

Cost: $150 per roll

More About: accessories, gadgets, gallery, List, Lists, office, office accessories, retro, tech

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8 Crucial Elements of Startup Success

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 04:16 PM PDT

Bill Clark is the CEO of Microventures, a securities broker/dealer that uses crowdfunding to allow investors to invest between $1,000 and $10,000 in startups online. You can follow him on Twitter @austinbillc.

Most people understand that a high percentage of startups never make it. So what if you could give yourself a leg up on the competition? Below is a list of tips that may help your startup get to the next level. These ideas are not revolutionary, and many successful startups already have these qualities. Why not ensure yours does too?

1. Hire Great Coders

If you don't have the skills to code, make sure you find someone with a solid programming background who can implement your idea. You want to make sure that person has built successful websites with features similar to your own vision. That way, you know they have the right skills for your startup. An inefficient coder will take a long time to launch the site, wasting time by making minor changes and fixing bugs. You will lose valuable time and potentially miss the opportunity to capitalize on first-to-market advantages.

2. Launch Your Product Site Quickly

Sometimes you'll encounter a last-minute opportunity to add features to your product. However, this can delay the launch. You might consider it worth the wait, especially if the added features will further engage customers. However, make sure to launch as soon as possible with the critical functionality. You can always make later changes to improve your site and product. Furthermore, you'll be able to start gathering valuable feedback from your customers. If you're insecure about a hasty launch, let customers know they're viewing the beta version of the site, and they can expect improvements soon.

3. Identify Your Users

If you're developing a product, make sure you truly understand the needs of your end users. You might assume that potential customers are seeking your particular solution, only to discover after launch that your product might be too expensive or doesn't precisely repair the problem. Make sure that you take some time to understand exactly what your users need, and what they are willing to pay for.

4. Don't Target a Small Niche

Solving a problem for a targeted niche is not a bad idea — the smaller the niche, the less competition you may face. The downside is that you might not gain enough users to render a profit. Make sure to perform market research to understand the scale of consumers interested in your product. Also, plan to expand the niche once you service its need. When you evolve your original idea into adjacent markets, you will increase the probability of exponential growth.

5. Raise Enough Money the First Time

As most startups know, determining how much money to raise is difficult. Raising enough money in your seed round will carry your business through inevitable growing pains and redesigns, but it's important to retain enough money to develop the final product your users will love. You don't want to spend all your time convincing investors to sign that next check that will keep the company afloat. Investors would rather you spend it further developing the business and getting them a timely return on investment. You want to raise enough money initially so that you can hit a major milestone and have something to show investors.

6. Don't Waste Money

As obvious as this one sounds, startups waste money every day. They often overspend on things that can wait until later, or on a tool that doesn't get them the expected results. By outsourcing a variety of activities, however, startups are now becoming less expensive to launch.

One area in which startups waste money is hiring too many employees too fast. You need to make sure you can fill up the entire day of each (indispensable) employee. Early on, only hire people who add required functionality that cannot be fulfilled by current staff. You should also determine whether a person can be hired as a short-term, temporary resource (i.e. outsourcing), or whether hiring a full-time employee is the right, long-term solution. Employee salaries contribute to high overhead expenses, and should be carefully controlled at the beginning of a successful startup.

7. Have Multiple Co-Founders

A startup can be very time-consuming. Although you envisioned its concept, you may lack the required skills to launch your idea into reality. Therefore, divide the work among trusted partners with necessary skills sets, and be able to bounce ideas off each other freely.

Dave McClure states that the ideal startup has a hacker, a hustler and a designer. The hacker can code, the hustler brings in the business, and the designer architects the concept to make it appealing to a consumer or investor. You may have one or all of these skills, but often not enough time in the day to wear all of the hats. If you can't convince a co-founder to come on board and fill a role, it may be a red flag that your idea needs tweaking.

8. All Or Nothing

We've all heard the saying "don't quit your day job, kid," but in the world of startups, any time spent focused on outside tasks is an opportunity for competitors to beat you to market. You need to focus all your time on your startup if you want it to succeed. And this may mean quitting your day job.

If you're building a product, targeting customers, and trying to attract investors all in your spare time, you don't have your priorities lined up. If you dedicate all your time to your startup, you will have more drive to successfully get it to market, because now your livelihood depends on it.

This list doesn't guarantee that you will succeed, but it will give you some benchmarks to compare yourself against. Can you think of any additional characteristics that successful startups have going for them? If so, leave them in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, RichVintage

More About: business, finance, launch, MARKETING, startup, tips, web

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World Cup Finals: USA Loses to Japan, the Web Reacts [PICS]

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 02:47 PM PDT

It was a heartbreaking end for the women’s USA soccer team, as it lost to Japan Sunday in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals.

And now that the game is over, people around the world are turning to the social web to express their feelings on the game’s outcome. It’s a trending term on Google and a trending topic on Twitter.

Seven of the 10 trending topics on Twitter are related to the game. Besides the obvious #worldcupfinal hashtag, #redcard, “Brandi Chastain,” “Julie Foudy,” “Tobin Heath,” “Congrats Japan” and “Great Game” are trending. “Pearl Harbor” is also trending, as people make unfortunate jokes about a second Pearl Harbor attack if Japan had lost the game.

Here’s a look at what people around the web are saying.













More About: soccer, soccer games, trending, USA soccer, Womens World Cup Finals, World Cup Finals

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Spacecraft Orbits Protoplanet in Asteroid Belt, a First [INFOGRAPHIC]

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 01:54 PM PDT

On Saturday, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived at Vesta (pictured), a 330-mile-wide asteroid with a gravitational field that’s a mere 0.022 of Earth’s. It’s the first space probe to orbit a large asteroid, known as a protoplanet, in the solar system’s asteroid belt.

While orbiting the asteroid, the 2,800 lb robotic spacecraft will conduct a year-long study of the big rock, where it will take pictures and gather data with two ultra-high resolution “framing cameras,” a visual and infrared spectrometer, as well as a gamma ray and neutron detector. With these sophisticated instruments, NASA hopes to gain an understanding of the origins and earliest conditions of our solar system. The research will also help determine why Vesta is the brightest asteroid in the solar system.

In a statement, NASA chief Charles Bolden said, “Dawn’s study of the asteroid Vesta marks a major scientific accomplishment and also points the way to the future destinations where people will travel in the coming years. President Obama has directed NASA to send astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, and Dawn is gathering crucial data that will inform that mission.”

According to, for its next destination in this two-asteroid tour, next year Dawn will fire its ion engines to send the craft toward Ceres, a larger spherical asteroid that’s also referred to as a dwarf planet. The spacecraft is scheduled to reach that destination by 2015.

Here’s an infographic detailing Dawn’s mission:

See how NASA's Dawn spacecraft will visit the asteroids Vesta and Ceres in this infographic.
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Graphic courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

More About: Ceres, dawn, NASA, research, Science, spacecraft, Vesta

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5 Ways Journalists Are Using Google+

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 12:18 PM PDT

Already using Google+? Follow Mashable News for the latest about the platform’s new features, tips and tricks as well as our top social media and technology updates.

Social networks have proved to be incredible distribution platforms for real-time news and continue to fascinate journalists as communication tools. It’s no surprise that many media professionals have jumped quickly on the Google+ band wagon to explore its potential for journalism.

Some are updating personal accounts while others have created profiles for their organizations. They’re in experimentation mode, testing out which features are most beneficial for messaging and engaging with their audiences.

Google+ has yet to be defined. For the news industry, it will become what the early adopters of the field make of it. Here are a few ways we’ve seen media professionals using the platform and what that might mean for the future of Google+ in journalism.

Talking About Google+

It’s no surprise that Google+ users want to talk about Google+ — and journalists are no exception. Many have been posting tips and tricks for using the platform, such as how to get a more accurate circle count and ways to bring your Facebook stream into your G+ stream.

Even conversations about Twitter and Facebook seem to steer right back to Google+. For example, Matthew Ingram of GigaOm started a discussion about ads hitting Twitter feeds. While some responses stayed on topic, many started talking about whether Twitter users would run to G+ or if Google would begin including ads in streams.

As journalists continue to join the platform, further discussion and collaboration around Google+ as a communications tool will shape the way it’s used for creating and distributing news content.

Hosting Audience Hangouts

Sarah Hill, an anchor for KOMU-TV in Columbia, Missouri, has been inviting her Google+ fans to join her in Hangouts, the network’s video chat service. KOMU hosts a Hangout during the 5 p.m. newscast to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the newsroom. She then interviews people in the Hangout on-air about their reactions to the day’s news.

“G+'s video chat feature is turning into KOMU's own version of a satellite window,” Hill said. “It's free. The video and audio are of air-able quality — no lugging gear to 9 different places to get 9 different opinions. You simply invite 9 viewers to your Hangout and the news comes to you.”

One chat brought in people from Pakistan, New Zealand, Orlando, New York, LA, Missouri, Iowa and England. Hangout participants were floored by Hill’s ability to multitask.

“It was quite amazing. There’s Sarah broadcasting on live TV with one earpiece listening to us folks on G+, the other to the TV station folks; she’s probably reading a teleprompter as well,” wrote Christopher Scott, a viewer from New Zealand who joined in. “She even welcomes new folks to the Hangout and chats to them like she’s home enjoying a drink with friends. I was seriously impressed.”

Only 10 people are allowed in a Hangout, so spots fill up quickly and some commenters are bummed when they miss out. Still, Hill’s experiment illustrates the reach of the Google+ community.

“It's like we have viewers from around the world on a video speed dial,” she said.

Hangouts could be a great way for journalists to get audience reactions to news events in real time or find story ideas by asking Hangout participants what’s important in their communities.

Engaging Readers

Despite Google telling brands the platform isn’t ready for them yet, media organizations have quickly jumped on board. Like many of the early adopters from the journalism world, Canada’s top news source CBC has been posting links to stories with prompts that solicit reader feedback. They truly tested the engagement waters with a caption contest. The contest was also posted on Facebook, Twitter and the CBC website.

“We’ve noticed that there’s a bit of a competition to be witty right now on Google+,” said Kim Fox, senior producer for community and social media at CBC. ” We figured our daily photo caption challenge would play into that, and it has, outperforming other platforms.”

Fox said she’s seen smart dialogue and a deeper level of engagement with the content on Google+. She and her team plan to avoid replicating their Facebook and Twitter posts, and figure out what works for the Google+ community specifically.

With the natural enthusiasm for engagement and intelligent conversation, Google+ could become a place for journalists to generate solid feedback from their audiences. It’s important journalists grasp the full potential of the platform. From there, they can optimize its features to create a social dialogue around news content.

Analyzing News Coverage

Google+ is fostering rich conversation about journalism. It’s cultivating a community of thought leaders who rely on each other for feedback about their opinions on news events and the media industry.

When tweeting news commentary, a journalist is limited to 140 characters. Unless the discussion has a hashtag, it’s tough to see the full scope of the conversation as respondents may not be following all involved. With Facebook, conversations on journalists’ personal profiles don’t take off because many don’t friend professional contacts. Even if the journalist has a public page, his or her discussions are competing with updates from their fans’ friends and other pages because of the news feed algorithm. Google+ brings conversations back to the top of a stream when new comments arise. Though Facebook has a number of groups self-organized by journalists, grouping and sharing to professional contacts is more intuitive on Google+.

It also seems Google+ posts inspire more engagement than those on Facebook. For example, Mashable started discussions on both platforms about a study that claims 34% of iPhone users think they have 4G. The posts were published at roughly the same time and had similar prompts, posing questions about the study’s results. On Facebook, there were 57 likes and 40 comments, while the Google+ post had 183 +1′s and 116 comments. Granted this is only one post of many, but it’s still quite telling.

Though starting discussions about the news and their analysis of the news is nothing new for journalists, Google+ seems to be a more natural platform for these conversations.

Showing Personality

The media industry’s focus on journalistic objectivity makes some reporters more apt to withhold their opinions, beliefs and other details about their lifestyle. But Google+ is about people and has become a place where journalists can let their personalities shine.

Amidst the news links and discussions, streams are peppered with jokes, photos and anecdotes about life. Not unlike his Twitter feed, Jeff Jarvis is making people laugh with zings like “LAX Continental terminal isn’t 3rd world, it’s 5th or 6th. Expect to see pigs and goats running through.” Others are re-sharing posts from followers they can relate to, such as Evonne Benedict of Seattle’s KING-5, who was touched by a story from a fellow University of Washington alumnus.

We sometimes forget that journalists are people too. Google+ is a good reminder that for media professionals, there’s more to life than the news.

Overall, the future of journalism on Google+ has yet to be determined. What are some other ways you’ve seen media professionals using the platform? What effect might it have on the news industry?

Image courtesy of Sarah Hill.

More About: features, Google, Google Plus, journalism, journalists, media, news industry, trending

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3 New Digital Apps For Offline Fun

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 10:57 AM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Each weekend, Mashable handpicks a few startups we think are building interesting, unique or niche products.

This weekend, we’ve highlighted three startups that have developed digital tools for real-world activities.

Tagwhat helps uncover fun facts about places using augmented reality, Paintapic turns digital photos into physical art projects and TripLingo is a pocket language guide for world travel.


Quick Pitch:Tagwhat aims to put a virtual layer of stories on the physical world.

Genius Idea: Augmented reality meets storytelling.

Mashable’s Take: Using Tagwhat, stories — text, videos, photos and audio — pop up on their physical locations. So you might, for instance, learn that a movie was filmed in the cafe that you’re sitting in. You can also browse virtually and see a map of where that story is located. When you see something you like, you can send a virtual postcard to friends and family.

Unlike Broadcastr, a startup that uses a similar concept to pin audioclips to location, the stories aren’t crowdsourced. Rather, they’re placed by the team and contributed by brands like the Associated Press and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Theoretically, this should weed out the junk. But it also means that if you don’t live in one of the handful of cites that Tagwhat covers, there might not be any stories where you live for a long time. And if you do, they’re still few and far between.

2. Paintapic

Quick Pitch:For $40, Paintapic will take your digital photo and create a paint-by-number kit that includes paint, brushes and canvas.

Genius Idea: Personalizing a classic art project.

Mashable’s Take: Paintapic is a clever idea that appeals to art enthusiast and stumped gift givers alike.

3. TripLingo

Quick Pitch:TripLingo builds language learning apps specifically for travelers (read: crash courses).

Genius Idea: Vacation-style, fun language learning tool.

Mashable’s Take:TripLingo asks you to personalize a phrase list, and by practicing with the resulting flashcards earn badges. A “slang slider” gives both casual and formal versions of each phrase. Standard dictionary and situational phrasebooks (i.e. taxi, grocery store, restaurant) are also included.

You won’t come out of the experience fluent, but as far as a phrase book goes, it’s a fun digital companion.

Unless you’re interested in the free pirate or remedial editions, the iPhone apps cost $2.99.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: art, bizspark, language, Paintapic, spark-of-genius, Startup Weekend Roundup, Tagwhat, TripLingo

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Rebekah Brooks Arrested for Cellphone Hacking, Bribery [UPDATED]

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 10:03 AM PDT

Rebekah Brooks, who was in charge of Rupert Murdoch’s vast media empire in the UK, was arrested Sunday on allegations of cellphone hacking and paying off corrupt cops for information.

Brooks is the highest official of News Corp. to be arrested so far. According to The Washington Post, she was arrested for “conspiring to intercept communications and on corruption allegations.”

Brooks had resigned her position on Friday as chief executive of News International, according to The Telegraph. She is alleged to have authorized electronic eavesdropping of the cellphones of hundreds of unknowing victims, tapping into the voicemail of a 13-year-old murder victim, and intercepting phone calls of numerous politicians and scores of celebrities.

Formerly part of a tight-knit group of top executives at Murdoch’s News Corp., she led the now-closed News of the World tabloid to hundreds of scoops, many of which are alleged to have originated from information obtained by bribing police.

As is the custom in the UK, Brooks wasn’t named as the person who was arrested, with Scotland Yard issuing the following statement after she appeared for a noon appointment to be arrested:

“At approximately 12.00 hrs a 43-year-old woman was arrested by appointment at a London police station by officers from Operation Weeting together with officers from Operation Elveden and is currently in custody.”

Update: Soon after Rebekah Brooks was arrested, Scotland Yard chief Sir Paul Stephenson resigned, according to The New York Times. He said in a press conference that his position was “in danger of being eclipsed by the ongoing debate by senior officers and the media. And this can never be right."

Now that Brooks is behind bars, the question remains, will she still testify about the scandal before members of Parliament on Tuesday? That might be in conflict with British laws that protect police inquiries.

Readers, do you think there are other news organizations hacking cellphones and bribing police?

More About: arrest, cellphones, hacking, Murdoch, News of the world, Rebekah Brooks, trending

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5 Tips for Group Deals Success

Posted: 17 Jul 2011 08:34 AM PDT

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

While many small business owners have considered offering a group deal, only 10% have actually run one, according to recent research from MerchantCircle. And while the results have been promising for these early adopters — and 77% say they would run another one — group deals don’t work for everyone. Among the people who said they wouldn’t offer another deal, 42% said it was not effective in customer acquisition, and 24% said they lost money.

Given these mixed results, it is critical that entrepreneurs do their homework before embarking on a group deal to make sure they’re positioned for success.

Here are five tips to help you get the best results:

1. Shop Around

While Groupon and LivingSocial may be the most well-known group deal services, there are now a wide range of services to choose from. Yelp, Facebook and Google have all tossed their hat in the ring, as have a number of daily newspapers and newsletter services.

While all can get your business in front of consumers who’ve expressed an interest in daily deals, these services “can vary widely when it comes to terms and conditions,” says Brent Harrison of marketing consulting firm SmokeJumper Strategy, who has tested out more than a half dozen group deals services for his Mountain View, Calif., wine bar and shop Savvy Cellar.

For example, Harrison notes that “with Groupon you’ll get the biggest volume, but also the least attractive economics and control. Groupon typically wants a higher share of the deal price, and they also spread out payments to the merchant over a period of months.”

Another issue related to volume is audience targeting. “With a high-volume provider, you’re essentially deep-sea fishing with a driftnet: You want the valuable salmon, but you’re going to get all sorts of less attractive life forms while you’re at it,” adds Harrison. While high-volume services may be a good fit for larger, more established businesses, he suggests that new or niche businesses test out a few smaller, more targeted services to see which one brings in the right clientele.

The good news is that there are many vertical and niche deals sites to choose from. There’s Daily Gourmet for foodies. There’s Yuupon and TripAlertz for travel. There’s even a deals site for dog owners called “Doggyloot.” There are also business-to-business deals site such as RapidBuyr. Before choosing the first vendor that calls you, do some research into which ones offer the right terms and audience for your business.

2. Put Time Constraints on Your Deal to Manage Demand

With most group deals services, you won’t have much control over the timing of when your deal hits — this can make it difficult to service the increased demand and could lead to bad reviews from new customers and existing patrons alike.

“People who redeem your offer are likely to follow your usual traffic patterns and come in when you’re already at peak capacity,” notes Harrison. “At Savvy Cellar, I’m typically looking to fill in the downtime such as Tuesday evening, but without constraints on my deal, I know that most people will come in Friday or Saturday night, which could put a strain on my operations.”

For this reason, Harrison recommends putting time constraints on your deal when possible. “Think about making your offer valid Monday through Thursday, or running a special event on a specific day with a limited number of spaces available,” he suggests. You can also set up your deal so that the value of the discount is greater on your slowest days or during off-peak times. If your business has significant seasonality, try just running deals during your slowest months.

Some group deals services are actually beginning to give merchants more flexibility and control over when volume comes in, so it’s something to ask about when choosing a vendor. For example, Groupon recently launched a “Groupon Now” product that lets you put out more modest deals around a certain item or timeframe.

3. Understand the Costs

In many cases, group deals don’t result in an immediate profit and may even result in a net cost to the business. Make sure you’ve done the math ahead of time to minimize costly surprises.

Here’s the basic formula: your group deal needs to be offered at a steep discount to the regular price — let’s say somewhere around 50%. You will then need to share revenue from the deal with your service provider, at rates as high as 50% or more. So if your spa is offering a $200 service for $100, and you have to pay $50 of that to your service provider, you’ll end up with $50 for your $200 service. If it costs you more than $50 to provide the service, you’ll actually lose money on the deal — and the better the deal does, the more it will cost you.

Even if you do make a profit, if your business has a limit on capacity (such as a restaurant or a spa), deal seekers may be edging out regular customers who would have paid full price.

But there are other ways to benefit from a group deal besides an immediate profit. A successful group deal brings new customers in the door and gives them a taste of your business. There are up-sell opportunities once they’re in your shop. Plus, your company’s name gets in front of thousands of local consumers through the service providers’ marketing of your deal.

4. Make the Most of the First Customer Visit

Given the economics of group deals, there’s a lot riding on getting new customers to spend beyond the initial deal, but according to recent Rice University study, less than 20% of deal users return again to make a full-price purchase. In order to improve these odds, it is essential to make the most of each new customer visit.

This means that in addition to making sure you have enough capacity to serve both new and existing patrons, you should also think about developing special up-sells for people who redeem your coupon. For example, a dentist could offer new customers $5 off a Sonicare toothbrush at the end of their appointment, or a yoga studio could offer a discount for new patrons who book a series of sessions before leaving the studio.

Also make sure to capture people’s information when they redeem their coupon so you can continue to stay in touch with them. Have a sign-up sheet at the check-out counter for people to register for your email newsletter, encourage people to “check in” at your establishment on Facebook Places or Foursquare, and let them know how to follow you on Facebook or Twitter.

5. Measure ROI

If you don’t make an immediate profit on your deal, how can you determine if it was a success and thus worth doing again? David Rangel, former Head of Merchant Services at Groupon and founder of gourmet food e-commerce and deals site Daily Gourmet, recommends that you build these basic considerations into your ROI calculation:

  • How many buyers are new customers? While it may be easier for some businesses such as dentists or spas to identify new customers than others (such as a restaurant), try to figure out which people redeeming your coupon are visiting you for the first time — it may be as simple as asking this question each time the coupon is presented.
  • How many new customers came back, and how much did they spend? Rangel recommends capturing information on each new customer in a database if possible and tracking their ongoing patronage and spending over time.
  • How much money was spent above the voucher amount? Rice University found that 36% of deals customers spend more than the voucher value when visiting a merchant. Rangel suggests that you actually structure your deals to encourage this additional spend; for example, a restaurant whose average bill is $50 could issue vouchers with a value of $35 to $40.
  • How many coupons or vouchers were not redeemed? Not everyone who pays for your deal will end up redeeming it — the Rice study found that average coupon “breakage” is about 22%. Depending on the laws of the state and how your service provider structures the deal, you may be able to keep this money without ever delivering goods or services.

Have you offered a group deal? What was your experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

More About: Facebook Places, foursquare, groupon, Groupon Now, LivingSocial, yelp

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