Monday, 15 August 2011

Mashable: Latest 11 News Updates - including “BREAKING: Google Buys Motorola for $12.5 Billion”

Mashable: Latest 11 News Updates - including “BREAKING: Google Buys Motorola for $12.5 Billion”

BREAKING: Google Buys Motorola for $12.5 Billion

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 05:05 AM PDT

Google announced on Monday morning that it will acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion — a 63% premium on what the smartphone maker’s shares closed at on Friday.

The acquisition, Google said in a a statement, “will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem.” The company will continue to be run as a separate business.

Buying a hardware company is an unusual move for Google.

More to come…

More About: android, Google

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Anonymous Hackers Attack BART Website

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 03:45 AM PDT

Hackivist group Anonymous attacked San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) website,, on Sunday. As of Monday, the site is still down, with a message that reads, “This site is currently under renovation.”

The attack came after BART blocked cell service to thwart a protest on Thursday.

Calling BART’s decision an act of cellphone censorship, Anonymous launched its #OpBART campaign and took to Twitter to rally supporters.

On Saturday, Anonymous promised that it would shut down BART’s website on 12 p.m. PT on Sunday. Making good of its promise, it shut down, a satellite site used for marketing purposes. The group defaced the site with Anonymous logos and released personal contact information for at least 2,400 of the sites’ 55,000 users, including names, addresses, phone numbers and email accounts.

Prior to the attack, the group posted BART contact information in a post on Tumblr, urging its members and followers to bombard BART with emails and faxes. It also called for Twitter followers to file complaints with the FCC.

The hacker group released a statement on Sunday via a YouTube video that explained the organization’s reasoning for the attack. Here’s an except from the statement and the video (embedded below):

“In the Bay Area, we’ve seen people gagged, and once more, Anonymous will attempt to show those engaging in censorship what it feels like to be silenced. #Operation BART is an operation geared toward balance — toward learning. You do not censor people because they wish to speak out against the wrongful occurrences around them. The Bay Area Rapid Transit has made the conscious decision of ordering various cell phone companies to terminate services for the downtown area inhibiting those in the area from using cell phones — even in the case of an emergency.”

To complement its other actions planned against BART, Anonymous is planning a protest set for 5 p.m. PT on Monday at the Civic Center BART station.

The group is organizing via its @YourAnonNews Twitter account and other social and mobile methods. According to tweets from the account, the protest will be livestreamed via Qik and the organizers will have a mobile hotspot set up.

Anonymous explained on its blog, “We sincerely hope that this series of actions will serve as a warning to BART and every public organization in the USA to NOT engage in this sort of dangerous and human rights violating behavior.”

More About: anonymous, BART, hackers, privacy

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Buddy Media Raises $54 Million To Fuel European Expansion

Posted: 15 Aug 2011 12:56 AM PDT

Buddy Media, a company that provides a platform for brand marketing and management on Facebook, has raised a $54 million in a Series D round led by GGV Capital and joined by Institutional Venture Partners, Bay Partners and new investor Insight Venture Partners.

This round of funding comes after a $28 million Series C, which was announced in two sections last October — first, the company announced $23 million in funding, led by Institutional Venture Partners and joined by existing investors Greycroft Partners, Bay Partners and Softbank Capital. That announcement was followed by a $5 million cash investment from WPP, which bills itself as the world's largest communications services group, less than two weeks later.

CEO Michael Lazerow says that the funding will be used to fuel expansion in Europe and to double the size of the company's staff, AllThingsD reports.

European expansion was accelerated last month when the company opened its European Headquarters in London, bringing on Luca Benini, a senior executive from Comscore, as Managing Director, Europe.

Buddy Media‘s employee headcount was at 40 employees in 2009 and has since grown to nearly 200.

The company reports that it added nearly 200 customers in 2011 and more than doubled revenue since the end of 2010. According to reports, the company is now valued at $500 million, as of its latest financing round.

Facebook marketing has become an essential component of social brand management. Buddy Media hopes to be the go-to platform for brands engaging in Facebook marketing. With a favorable valuation, a growing client list and booming revenue, Buddy Media is poised to do just that.

Disclosure: Buddy Media is a sponsor of Mashable

More About: Buddy Media, facebook, funding, series d

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8 Tips for Small Business Homepage Design

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 06:53 PM 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.

I hate to dash one of your childhood maxims, but people do judge books by their covers. And in web terms, your book cover is your website's homepage. For small businesses especially, your homepage is your storefront, your calling card, your pick-up line.

Here are eight tips to de-cheese your small business homepage. Please share links to your innovative homepages in the comments below.

1. Keep It Simple

Many established and large-scale businesses can afford to clutter their homepages. They've conditioned repeat users, who are able to sift through the ads, widgets and thumbnails to access the information they need. Websites like Amazon and The New York Times have instantly recognizable and easily navigable formats, and frankly, they can afford to hire designers who've studied user/site interaction as if it were astrophysics.

Therefore, as a small business owner, keep your homepage simple, like Sheepshead Design. The page should communicate your product or service either with a stand-out image or a simple slogan. More than anything, your homepage should elicit a positive reaction from your visitors, not confuse them with flash and clutter. Think of your homepage in terms of cities: It should be an Oahu, not a Las Vegas.

2. Be Scroll-Conservative

I don't know about you, but I panic when the scroll bar on my browser shrinks faster than the speed of light -- it means a page is struggling to load its endless stream of information or images. You don't want that to be the first impression of your site. (Note Olive & Myrtle's healthy-sized scrollbar above.)

Instead, link to separate category or channel pages that will include subsequent information. Although your homepage can create opportunities for product promotion or special offers, it should read less like a 20-page Applebee's menu and more like a classy prix-fixe place card.

3. Display the Right Links

Although it's advisable to keep your homepage simple, you'll still need to include the links to relevant information. A good rule of thumb is: about, product, news. In other words, people need to know what your business is all about, how they can participate and what's current (see Narien Teas' site.)

Jesse Thomas, founder and CEO of design agency Jess3, suggests keeping your mobile site in mind as well. "The mobile site is going to have its own special subset list of priorities for the homepage -- less on the product stuff and more on the resource information," he says. "The mobile site needs to be minimal because ... most people who use their mobile phones are using them for utility, not for prolonged browsing."

4. Keep Featured Products Above the Fold

Okay, we learned this one from Etsy, where vendors can choose which eye-catching products to include on their Etsy storefront banner. Your homepage should reflect the same shameless self-promotion, like John Murphy Photographs.

Display products you're proud of or photographs that pop off the screen. It's Curb Appeal 101 -- you don't see a bakery put out last week's boring, plain cookies. So, display your own freshest basked good for an alluring homepage-drool effect.

5. Make It Current

Some businesses wish to promote their social media outlets in ways other than widgets. If you and your business are active on Twitter or Facebook, like Brooklyn Brew Shop for example, many website hosts offer a live feed of your recent posts, or you can make your own widget on Twitter and embed the HTML on your site. That feed will update on your homepage every time you tweet or share.

However, if you plan to take advantage of these widgets, you must stay active on Twitter. There's nothing worse than users seeing that the last time you tweeted was two weeks ago. Customers won't stick around if you're not taking the time for them.

6. Create a Homepage that Reflects Your Physical Theme

The most successful marketing reflects brand consistency. Select a design, template, color scheme, logo, etc. very carefully. You not only want these elements to reflect your product or service, you also need them to remain consistent across all platforms.

Especially if you have a physical storefront or a public presence, make sure that distribution materials -- like business cards or flyers -- reflect your customer's virtual experience. Bonus points if your shop's interior (or in Nom Nom Truck's case, exterior) mimics the website.

7. Attach a Featured Image to Your Homepage

I have attempted multiple times to share a website on Facebook (and now Google+) only to find that a thumbnail image would not attach alongside it. When people link to your site, especially to your homepage, make sure its name pairs with a compelling image -- the click-through rates will be much better. The image should be easily discernable in a small size, so it may not do, for example, to feature an intricate product or an image containing lengthy copy. Put An Egg On It ezine provides a perfect example.

It may be difficult for a business to conceive of an image if it offers an abstract service. Therefore, make sure a logo or an avatar pops up alongside your link. Most site hosts offer this option automatically, otherwise you may have to reconfigure some code or settings to ensure your links are properly ornamented.

8. Be Quirky!

Small businesses today are reinventing the design wheel by having fun with their customers. This could entail anything from Lolcats to an interactive Flash plug-in homepage.

Salt Films' website (seen above) uses a giant hand to select "salt shaker" links. The artist behind French beat-box website Incredibox encourages users to interact with kooky avatars. Design of Today is a design firm whose homepage advertises its potential with colorful animated links.

More About: Small Business Resources, trending, web design

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PPC Marketing: 10 Killer Tips for Better ROI

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 05:08 PM 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.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is key to most online marketing campaigns today, and it’s often expensive and overwhelming. If the tedious nature and large time commitment required to run a successful — or even unsuccessful — PPC campaign has got you down, you are not alone. However, a good ROI makes it all worth while. Here are 10 tips to help improve your PPC campaign in hopes of a gaining a greater ROI and making the whole process more enjoyable and fruitful.

1. Run a Negative Campaign

No, the idea is not to openly bash your competitors through ad copy. Instead, utilize negative keywords, one of the most underused features offered for PPC campaigns. Negative keywords allow you to choose words that won't trigger your ad. For example, if you are a new car salesman, place the word "used" on your negative list to target customers looking for a new vehicle. When used correctly and updated often, negative keywords help pare down your clickers to serious buyers and save your PPC dollars.

2. Location, Location, Location

Why have your ad viewed or, even worse, clicked by someone in Iowa when you only sell insurance in California? PPC dollars are wasted because unsophisticated users don't focus their impressions by location. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo all offer geo-location features, which allow users to target their markets based on IP addresses, geo-specific keywords or both.

3. Make an Offer They Can't Refuse

With so much competition, you need to differentiate your ad. Are you running a promotion? Is shipping free? Offer value and then capitalize on it with a call-to-action. Use terms like "Learn More" and "Free Download" to draw in customers. Encourage searchers to act and let them know what to expect on the other side of the click.

4. Be Dynamic

Dynamic keyword insertion allows you to create more relevant ad copy by placing the exact phrase searched into your ad. When the potential customer sees the exact term they searched, they are more likely to click. While dynamic keyword insertion is very useful and can increase your click through rate tremendously, it is not for the PPC novice. If poorly executed, dynamic keyword insertion can result in ads that appear unclear and irrelevant and can drain your budget quickly.

5. Utilize Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are three-to-four-word phrases that are specific to your product. The reason this works is that visitors using very specific search phrases are often further along in the purchasing process and can result in a higher conversion rate. Someone looking for shoes might search for “boots,” and then have it narrowed down to “black knee-high boots” when she’s ready to buy. Another benefit to long tail keywords is their lack of popularity among PPC novices. With less people bidding on your keywords, your cost per click decreases. Add high intent words to your long tail, such as "buy," "price" or even "where to buy," in order to grab those on the verge of a purchase. If you are stumped and need long tail keyword suggestions, visit Wordstream.

6. This Is a Test

Don't just set up a PPC campaign and hope for the best — proper testing and analysis are required. Metrics allow you to better understand your campaign and results, so set up A/B tests to track what works. Remember to test multiple ads simultaneously, but only allow for one variable at a time and run your tests long enough to gather proper data.

7. Timing Is Everything

In addition to geo-targeting, PPC campaigns allow for time targeting. Analyze your metrics to determine when your ads are at their highest conversion rate. If you are receiving hundreds of clicks at 3 am, but making no sales, restrict ad impressions during those hours to save your budget.

8. A Homepage Is Not a Landing Page

I repeat … a homepage is not a landing page. Don't throw away all your hard work by sending targeted customers to a non-targeted homepage. Create a simple landing page that picks up right where your ad left off. Don't lose your visitor — and potential sale — by confusing them with unnecessary content.

9. Get to Know Keyword Generators, but Not Too Well

Keyword generators prove helpful in getting you started when mining keywords. Some great tools are the Google AdWords Keyword Tools, Microsoft Advertising Intelligence and tools by Market Samurai. However, do not rely heavily on keyword generators — often a human touch is what you need to target that human searcher. You know how you typically search, so go with your instinct.

10. Google Quality Score: Recognize

Your Google Quality Score determines the overall ranking of your AdWords account and helps determine where your ads will place on the search page. Keep your score high by following the rules set up by Google AdWords and continuously providing quality advertisements. Stay on top of your Google Quality Score, as an unexpected drop is a red flag.

These 10 steps cover the basics of increasing your ROI for PPC campaigns, hopefully your spirits and click rate are soaring as a result.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kemie

More About: ppc, ROI, search marketing

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Vending Machine Dispenses Fresh Baguettes [VIDEO]

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 03:33 PM PDT

One ingenious baker has found a way to make sure his customers have access to fresh baguettes — a staple of French meals — at all hours.

Jean-Louis Hecht has opened coin-operated baguette vending machines outside his bakeries in Paris and Hombourg-Haut in northeast France. The loaves are pre-cooked, placed in the machines and warmed up when purchased.

“This is the bakery of tomorrow,” Hecht told The Telegraph. “If other bakers don’t want to enter the niche, they’re going to get decimated.”

When the machine in Hombourg-Haut opened in January, it dispensed 1,600 baguettes; last month it sold 4,500.

With the introduction of specialized vending machines, could the traditional boulangerie go the way of the video-rental store?

Image courtesy of Flickr, treehouse1977

More About: Food, vending machine

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6 Creative iPad Uses for Small Retailers

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 01:55 PM 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.

We all know iPads make great presentation devices and are excellent for business travel and chock-full of useful apps. Now, let’s focus on retail businesses — shops, salons and restaurants that use iPads to better service customers.

Read on for some creative implementations of the iPad. If you start using an iPad at your business, just be sure to sanitize it frequently — fingers can carry a lot of germs.

1. iPad as Customer Database — goodyoga

“The iPad is awesome,” says Flannery Foster, co-owner of Brooklyn’s goodyoga studio. The studio is also a bed and breakfast and serves as home to Flannery and her partner, “so we want it to seem less like a business and more like a community center or a home.” First order of business? Ditching the front counter and bar code scanner you see at a lot of yoga studios and gyms. “When people walk in the door, we hand them the iPad, and they sit on the couch — it's a lot more casual, and we can bring them tea or water,” Foster says. Instead of standing awkwardly at the counter and filling out waivers and liability forms on a clipboard, the iPad makes people feel comfortable and also makes data entry a breeze for goodyoga. The studio uses a Google form, so the staff doesn’t have to worry about decoding a patron’s chicken scratch and the team saves times since the client info goes into the database automatically.

“People have fun with it, and we have a lot of people who’ve never used an iPad before,” says Foster. “Sometimes they’re apprehensive, but most people have a lot of fun using it, and they love being able to sign with their finger when they pay with Square.”

Lesson: Impress new customers and get them in your system quickly (for e-mail blasts, etc.) with a sleek iPad setup.

2. iPad as Entertainment — Tenoverten, New York

TriBeCa nail salon Tenoverten offers iPads at every nail station. Co-owner Nadine Ferber says customers mostly use the iPads for web browsing, so they don't have to offer any fancy apps. And yes, they still offer the typical glossy magazines for those customers who've been staring at a screen all day at work and want something more low-tech. "Customers love the iPads — some people have never used one before and are just thrilled to be able to without making a commitment to buying one," says Ferber. She says more than half of the people who come in for manicures or pedicures use the iPad during their service, either to look something or check an email. "It’s a great tool for them to multitask while taking a little time out of the day for themselves," she says. "And it's one of the most differentiating things about our business as we are the only nail salon in the world that has an iPad at every manicure station."

Lesson: An iPad is a great investment as a differentiator that could keep customers coming back.

3. iPad as Fan Base-Builder — Butter Lane, New York

Butter Lane in New York’s East Village was an early adopter of the iPad craze, affixing one to the wall to encourage people to “like” and follow the shop on Facebook and Twitter. Now the cupcakery has taken to rewarding customers who interact with the iPad, offering a free frosting shot to those who do. Frosting shots sell for $1, so it’s a small price to pay, and co-owner Maria Baugh says the shop gets a lot of engagement with the device, and “it’s definitely increased our number of ‘likes’ and follows — we give away a lot of icing shots!”

Baugh says the device also helps them get customers in other ways. “We find that people use it to get more information about our [baking] classes and sometimes register for them,” she says. However, be warned that if you have an iPad, some customers might use it to check their own social media profiles, and you should also make an effort to lock it down. “The first one we put up just after iPads came out was stolen within the first month! We now have heavy duty industrial brackets holding it in place — it would take serious power tools to get this one off the wall,” says Baugh.

Lesson: Use an iPad on-site to increase your Facebook and Twitter followings — you can offer a small reward as a thank you.

4. iPad as Waiter — Stacked, LA

“The iPads allow guests to control the flow and timing of their experience,” says Paul Motenko, co-founder of Stacked. “Guests can order a drink and appetizer and then entrees and desserts, when they are ready — or their whole meal at once to move things along faster.” Stacked also offers customers the option to pay directly via the iPad, so patrons don’t have to wait for the server to bring the bill, and one’s credit card information is encrypted at the table, so the system is secure.

Of course, sometimes talking to a person is easier than dealing with a machine, so there are concierges on the floor to help guests when they need it. And all guests are given paper menus so that everyone can read through the menu at their own pace. When they are ready, they order from the custom-developed iPad app and tap “send” and then the order is routed directly to the kitchen.

Motenko says customers love using the iPad. Since Stacked offers burgers, pizzas, salads and sausages with myriad available toppings, guests build their meal from the plate up. “The technology just makes it easier to customize what you want, how you want it and how quickly you want it,” he says. Since the iPad is intuitive, Motenko says guests of all ages have found the app to be easy to use and empowering to choose your own ingredients.

Lesson: The iPad is a great, non-invasive tool that’s easy to use. You can save money on staff and not have to worry about pacing a meal, since the guests order at their own convenience.

5. iPad as Expeditor — 4Food NYC

Healthy fast-food concept 4food opened last year in New York City, chock full of digital integrations, like a 15′ Twitter feed on one of the walls. The restaurant has six iPads available for customers to order from and browse the web. During peak hours, 4food “hawkers” roam the restaurant with iPads to take orders from customers so they don’t have to wait in line. The iPad integration is working well for the concept, and 4food brand strategist Ashley Tyson says the restaurant hopes to develop an iPad app soon so that customers can order easily and access information about the food and offerings.

Lesson: Integrating digital tools into your business can help it run more efficiently, which could help your bottom line.

6. iPad as POS — 620 Jones, San Francisco

‘We take all of our orders with an iPod, and the staff runs credit cards with iPads,” says Jordan Langer of 620 Jones, a San Francisco bar. His team was also “very heavily entwined in developing the app” that drives the POS system. “It was a project that POSlab started doing, and then we jumped on board as their first main client. We started going after it with them because we know how a real POS should work,” says Langer.

Jones servers go to tables with an iPod to take orders, and then the iPad drives the merchant processing. The iPads are always in the hands of staff and never handed to patrons.

“People love it … they absolutely love it,” Langer says. “Inventory’s a lot easier to manage, the development is a lot easier, the interaction with the customers is a lot easier.”

Lesson: An iPad can help you organize and stay on top of inventory, in addition to serving as an excellent POS system.

What other creative iPad uses have you seen at small businesses? Does your business use an iPad? Let us know in the comments below.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

Image courtesy of Flickr, JoyceMSullivan

More About: Apple iPad, ipad, MARKETING, retail, small business, Small Business Resources, trending

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HOW TO: Protect Your Business’s Identity On Twitter

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 12:56 PM 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.

Small and medium business owners are increasingly turning to Twitter as a tool to engage with customers, offer support and market their products and services.

Twitter has a dedicated landing page for businesses, including tips and tricks on getting started with the service, various advertising opportunities and case studies.

Protecting identity and reputation are essential for a small business, especially online. Although Twitter isn’t currently offering small business users a way to verify their accounts, there are still things business owners can do to give their accounts better visibility and make it clear that they are “official.”

Link Your Accounts and Profiles

Twitter’s username policy does not allow users to “reserve” a username; it’s first come, first served. As a result, business owners who have a more generic company name might find that the desired Twitter handle is already taken.

That’s not the end of the world, in fact, it can be an opportunity to better distinguish your brand or business, especially if the business name is more common.

Additionally, users can add a URL to their Twitter profile pointing to their business website and add links on their business site to their official Twitter account. Noting “official Twitter account for Business Name” in your Twitter biography can also make the account’s identity more clear.

Likewise, if you have a verified page on Facebook, Foursquare or Google Places, you can add links to your Twitter account on those services, too.

Protect Your Trademark and Logos

For small business owners who hold the trademarks over a business name, Twitter has a more nuanced policy.

If I own the trademark for “Cafe Christina” and a Twitter account for @cafe_christina or @cafechristina is causing intentional or unintentional confusion with my business, Twitter might be able to help.

If another Twitter account in question is using your trademark or logo in a way that is trying to confuse others, users can submit a help ticket requesting help. Twitter will look at the situation, and if it finds that the other party is trying to mislead, it may suspend that user (and grant you ownership of the account).

If the account is confusing to users, but isn’t intended to mislead, Twitter will give the account holder the opportunity to work things out and may ultimately release the username to the trademark holder.

Remember, if someone is using a name you have trademarked in a way that has nothing to do with your product or service, Twitter is not obligated to intervene.

Customize Your Profile

Small businesses can make their business affiliation even more clear by customizing their Twitter profile to match their branding, logo and color scheme.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

- 15 Keyboard Shortcuts To Enhance Your PC Productivity
- 5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
- 10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
- Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
- How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

More About: MARKETING, small business, Small Business Resources, twitter, verified accounts

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5 News Personalization Tools Bring You Only The Stories You Want

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 11:43 AM PDT

Connie Zheng is a PR professional at North of Nine Communications, an innovation communications boutique dedicated to helping clients distinguish their brands in unique ways. You can follow her on Twitter at @chasinggodot.

So much information, so little time. How can you organize and stay on top of news? Below you'll find five methods to help aggregate the news that's important to you.

Some have been around for a while, such as Techmeme, but newer apps are also finding ways to leverage our social networks, focus on personalized and curated content, and enable DIY digital papers. I've organized the sections under the method by which news is aggregated.

Succinct News By Industry

Gabe Rivera's Techmeme has been around for more than five years. It's a go-to destination for a quick snapshot of the day's top technology headlines. By using a combination of computer algorithm and human editorial review, the news aggregator highlights the hottest technology stories from around the web, as well as noteworthy tweets, all on a single page.

While Techmeme focuses on technology, its sister sites contribute additional resources: Mediagazer aggregates media news, memorandum tackles politics, and WeSmirch covers celebrity news. A great feature about all these sites is that they let you see how other outlets are covering a particular headline.

DIY News Aggregators

Flipboard is news-reading app that lets you create your own personalized news aggregator by incorporating your preferred sources, blogs and social networks.

Flipboard aims to emulate the experience of flipping through a magazine by presenting the content in a similar format. As you open Flipboard, you're greeted by a content page of several blocks, each representing a section you can create (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader or Tech News). Tapping on a block loads excerpts of that section's content into a grid-like, visually pleasing, easy-to-read format. Depending on what sources you added, the excerpts may include images, videos or article excerpts. If you tap on an excerpt, the article will load its full version. Swiping the page lets you move to the next article, emulating the experience of flipping through the pages of a magazine.

Flipboard also enables you to retweet articles or share your thoughts via social networks, making it a "personalized, social magazine." What I love about Flipboard is that it essentially acts as a hub for all the news I want to read, by letting me personalize by news source – be it a certain publication, an RSS feed in Google Reader or a Twitter list. For now, Flipboard is only available on the iPad.

News Curated from Your Social Networks

Since most major news outlets are connected to social networks, they can be easily organized by topic into lists, newsfeeds or circles on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, respectively.

LinkedIn Today is an example of news curated based on what your social networks are sharing. Launched in March 2011, LinkedIn Today is LinkedIn's news recommendation service, curating stories it predicts will be most relevant for you.

Its recommendations are calculated by an algorithm that accounts for the news currently being shared by your LinkedIn connections in addition to the news being shared by related industry professionals. LinkedIn Today features more than 30 industries you can follow, such as public relations, semiconductors and computer software. For each industry you follow, LinkedIn Today will display the top handful of stories, the number of times the story has been shared, and who in your network has shared that story. It also lets you know if a story is trending in other industries that LinkedIn tracks, which enables you to determine cross-industry impact.

Particular noteworthy about LinkedIn Today is its focus on leveraging social networks. I pay attention to the links extracted by LinkedIn Today because they feature links shared by people I care about and trust.

Personalized Keyword-Specific Channels

When monitoring client-related and industry news, I subscribe to several Google Alerts that get sent directly to my inbox. In addition, I make specific news channels from of these keywords via aggregators like Google News and The Washington Post's Trove, which lets you add a section/channel based on specified keywords.

Keyword-specific channels let you create your own personalized news channel for a specific topic that may not be easily accessible elsewhere. For example, I have an alert for "parallel programming" because few news outlets dedicate a section solely to this topic.

Industry-Specific, Customized e-Newsletters

Each morning, I love getting my (digital) hands on the SmartBrief newsletters delivered to my inbox. SmartBrief delivers a free daily summary of the most important industry news. Its editors hand-pick the top headlines from a variety of sources, and then summarize each story.

SmartBrief provides more than 100 email newsletters spanning 25 industries, such as business, technology, finance, education, healthcare and advertising. My favorites include social media, computing technology and education technology. I work across different industries such as education, computing and telecommunications, and each morning SmartBrief newsletters help me stay smart, save time and stay on top of industry news.


Which type of news aggregator is the best? It all depends on your needs and preferences. Do you prefer to receive your news via email, to spend time curating your own digital paper, or to check out the links your social networks have shared? I incorporate each of the above methods into my daily reading habits in one form or another, as I move between my inbox, iPhone and various social networks.

Which types of news aggregators do you use? Share yours in the comments below!

Images courtesy of Flickr, AppleTone 景隆, netzkobold

More About: apps, google alerts, linkedin, productivity

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Talented Artist Turns Facebook Profile Pics Into Humorous Caricatures [PICS]

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 10:43 AM PDT

You might want to spruce up that Facebook profile pic, because artist Adam Ellis could interpret it for you using his incisive caricature style of drawing.

He calls the series of drawings you’ll see in the gallery below “Never Be My Friend,” but we’re certain he means that in the nicest possible way:

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Facebook Caricatures

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam

Images courtesy Adam Ellis/Books of Adam, via TechEBlog and AcidCow

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Sugarland Concert Ends In Tragic Stage Collapse [VIDEO]

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 09:23 AM PDT

Catastrophe struck the Indiana State Fair on Saturday, where a 60mph gust of wind brought down the concert stage where the country music duo Sugarland was about to appear.

With the stage coverings acting as an enormous sail, the lighting grid and supporting scaffolding collapsed under the wind’s force, killing at least five people and injuring about 40.

Warning: The video above is the clearest view of the stage collapse yet available on YouTube, and is disturbing to watch.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Marion County coroner’s office identified the dead as Tammy Vandam, 42, of Wanatah; Glenn Goodrich, 49, of Indianapolis; Alina Bigjohny, 23, of Fort Wayne; Christina Santiago, 29, of Chicago; and Nathan Byrd, 51, of Indianapolis, who died overnight.

Our sympathy goes out to the victims of this tragic accident.

More About: Indiana State Fair Collapse, Sugarland, trending, video, youtube

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Top 10 Twitter Trends This Week [CHART]

Posted: 14 Aug 2011 08:35 AM PDT

Twitter Chart Image

After last week’s bizarre list of trending topics, the good ship Twitter has righted herself again, focusing squarely on what it was built for: world news and Justin Bieber.

It’s no surprise that the riots in England, both fueled and discussed via social media, took the number one spot. Bieber’s rounds on TV and a new Chris Brown record sent him back into the buzz-o-sphere, landing at number two this week.

And the launch of Facebook’s new mobile messaging app had all of the web in a tizzy, with Twitter being no exception. That news propelled the social network to the number three slot.

See the full list below. Note that hashtag games and memes have been omitted from the data. You can check Twitter trends from the past in our Top Twitter Topics section.

Top Twitter Trends This Week:

England Riots
Riots and looting have plagued England for over a week in the cities of London, Manchester, Birmingham and other areas. Twitter lit up with both news stories about the riots, and people’s reactions to the police and politicians attempting to manage the situation.
Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber appeared at the Teen Choice Awards, purportedly broke up with Selena Gomez, and appeared on a new Chris Brown song.
Facebook releases the official “Facebook Chat” application for iOS and Android.
Chris Brown
Chris Brown released his new mixtape titled “Boy in Detention.” While Chris Brown was the vehicle, the trending of his name was almost entirely due to Justin Bieber rapping on the song “Ladies Love Me.”
Watch the Throne
The long-awaited collaboration between rap superstars Kanye West and Jay-Z was released this week. People tweeted song titles from the album in enjoyment.
One Direction
A new English/Irish band (formerly of The X Factor) released a debut single titled “What Makes You Beautiful.” Teenage fans engaged in a massive campaign to get the band’s name to trend — and it was apparently successful.
Football appeared this week for two reasons. First, games such as England vs. Holland were scrapped due to rioting in London, and second, users tweeted regularly about the games or players that did play. One big rumor was that Wesley Sneijder will transfer to Manchester United, but it appears that may not happen after all due to high wage demands.
Super Junior
Twitter staple Super Junior comes back with a new song “Mr. Simple,” appearing on TV show KBS Music Bank.
Jonas Brothers
TV movie Camp Rock 2 replayed on TV, Joe Jonas is opening for Britney Spears, and Nick Jonas is appearing in a production of Hairspray on Broadway.
Jasmine Villegas
Jasmine released her new song “Just a Friend” and fans tweeted in support..

Data aggregate courtesy of What the Trend.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, 123render

More About: justin bieber, london riots, Top Twitter Topics, trends, twitter

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