Posts tagged wants

Step Aside, Google Glass—Now Facebook Wants To Own Your Face

Facebook has made it very clear it’s no longer just a social network. It’s been working hard trying to compete with Google on several fronts: search, nascent technology markets, and post-desktop computing. 

Now that the $2 billion Oculus deal is closed, Facebook can beef up its focus on that third part of the Google competition—creating a Glass killer.

See Also: Why No One Trusts Facebook To Power The Future

Glass is Google’s first foray into ambient computing that’s supposed to prevent users from getting lost in mobile devices or computer screens. The face computer appeals to the tech-obsessed, but Google’s hoping Glass will be as ubiquitous as smartphones in the future.

Facebook’s first step comes in the form of virtual reality built for video games—but video games are not what Facebook wants Oculus for. Now that the $2 billion deal is closed, Facebook is working on another hardware partnership to make virtual reality and face computing a standard beyond the console.

Facebook And Samsung, A Match Made In Mobile

Facebook is partnering with Samsung to create a headset that uses mobile devices, like smartphones or tablets, to create a virtual reality, according to a report from CNET. Currently, Oculus hardware works with computers and game consoles—the idea being you put the goggles on and are transported to another reality, and you feel like part of whatever game you’re playing.

With Oculus software on Samsung mobile devices, the idea of virtual reality can expand even further, and beyond the constraints of the $350 Oculus Rifts. 

A Facebook partnership makes sense for Samsung. The South Korean tech company has been moving away from Google’s Android operating system—including ditching Android in its new Gear 2 smartwatches, the other wearable the company is trying to pioneer.

Early screenshots leaked by Samsung industry blog SamMobile, show Samsung’s new Gear VR mobile software that manages what appears to be a Samsung VR headset. Though there’s not much users can do without the actual hardware itself, if the screenshots are correct, this could be a first look at a potential Oculus-powered partnership with Facebook.

The idea of a smartphone-based hardware headset match isn’t entirely new. In fact, at Google I/O earlier this year, the company playfully mocked the VR headset, distributing Cardboard, a puzzle-like product that lets users create their own thrifty head-mounted hardware.

Playing The Long Game

Facebook and Google aren’t focused on the present. They’re both betting big on future technologies that have yet to bear fruit. Everything they do right now is what they expect in the next five to 10 years, virtual reality and computing without mobile or computer screens clearly playing a large part of the way digital consumption is changing. 

Drones, VR and robots are more than vanity projects—they’re the technologies we’ll be using to power and consume the Internet. 

Competition between the two firms is clearly heating up. What was initially seen as a way for Facebook to buy cool may actually be the company’s way of laying the foundation for a future in which we talk with our friends through face computers. 

Lead image by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite. 

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Google Wants Chromecast’s Allure To Rub Off On Its Music Service

Google’s Chromecast is one of its most successful consumer products ever. So it’s only natural that Google would like to hitch another wagon to that star—and right now, that wagon is its streaming-music service, formally known by the awful name Google Play Music All Access.

See also: How To Stream Music With Google Chromecast

The occasion is the first anniversary of the TV streaming stick, which prompted Google to offer U.S.-based Chromecast users three free months of Google Play Music’s All Access service. According to a Google spokesperson, the promotion covers “free 90-day All Access music subscription to anyone with a Chromecast (who isn’t already an All Access subscriber).”

The offer starts Friday, July 24 and runs through September 30. Anyone interested can visit this Help Center link to learn more. The All Access service normally costs $9.99 a month.

When Chromecast launched a year ago, Google’s music service—along with Netflix, YouTube and Google Play Movies & TV—were the only streaming options available. Now Chromecast has hundreds of compatible apps, with many more on the way, according to Google.

A few data points from the press release:

• More than 400M casts

• Sold in 20 countries including the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Australia and Brazil. Ireland was the most recent country to be added.

• 30,000 stores globally including Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Dixons, Saturn and more.

• Millions of devices sold

• Hundreds of apps on Chromecast like HBO Go, ESPN, Songza and more. Find what’s new on chromecast.com/apps

• 6,000+ developers actively developing more than 10,000 Google Cast apps across Android, iOS and Chrome

The “millions of device sold” offers one of the only hints as to how successful Chromecast has been in the mass market. The Google spokesperson wouldn’t comment on hard sales numbers.

The Play Music subscription promotion, meanwhile, is one more sign of Google’s increasing interest in streaming music. Earlier this month, the company announced its acquisition of playlist-streaming startup Songza, and rumors persist that Spotify might be next on Google’s shopping list

So the tech giant seems hell-bent on making waves in music streaming, one way or the other. The only question is if Google Play Music will be the way—or be left by the wayside. 

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Duolingo Wants To Make It Easier For People To Get Jobs And An Education

Duolingo, a popular online language education service, is making it easier for students and job-seekers to receive English language certification with the introduction of its new app, Test Center.

Language certification is necessary for some visas, universities and job applications. But the costs can be prohibitive, especially in countries where monthly incomes average at just few hundred dollars.

For a flat rate of $20, Test Center allows users to test for and receive accredited English language certification online or through a mobile application. This is a lot less than the average cost of in-person certification processes, which are priced between $160-$250 and can take up to eight weeks to receive.

Making Tests Accessible

Test Center is a response to  students were having problems receiving English certification, Duolingo cofounder and CEO Luis von Ahn, Duolingo told ReadWrite.  The company receives a lot of emails from potential users about difficulties such as a lack of resources, especially for people who live in remote areas, he said. What’s more, many in-person testing facilities are located only in major cities.

“When we got enough emails, we started looking at the space,” von Ahn said. “There are 30 million people every year who need certification, a majority in English.”

Duolingo’s English certification program won’t be accepted by many institutions right away—so while the tech education firm works to partner with university and companies, it is offering free certification.  

The company is in talks with the top 25 universities in the U.S.—at least one university is involved so far. Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh is the company’s first educational partner, and von Ahn said Duolingo is working with the university to research the effectiveness of the proficiency exam. Carnegie Mellon hopes to accept Duolingo’s accreditation soon; research will compare applicants’ tests to the TOEFL exam, the current standard for language proficiency. 

“Universities seem interested because they want to increase the number of international applicants,” he said.

oDesk is the first corporation to accept Duolingo certification—the freelance work marketplace will provide a way for job-seekers to add their Duolingo English proficiency score as a way to showcase their knowledge of English while searching for potential jobs.

Taking Language Mobile

Test Center will be available on the Web and as an app on Android devices, and because it’s entirely Web-based, students will receive certification in less than 24 hours.

The only hardware requirement? You’ll need a front-facing camera.

For traditional language proficiency exams, students need to take the test in-person to prevent cheating—such tests can be susceptible to fraud, like the student visa exams suspended in the UK’s visa program earlier this year.

To provide that same level of honesty when taking the test online, Duolingo will record the test-taker through the front-facing camera. Once the test is complete, a Duolingo representative will will review the video. The entire process takes less than 24 hours.

The choice to build and launch the Android app first was one based on demographics.

“Most of the people taking these tests are in non-English speaking countries where Android is more popular,” von Ahn said.

The total cost of an Android device, the test, and data to take it could be less than the $250 traditional exams cost, giving people in developing markets a better opportunity to elevate themselves out of poverty.

Test Center won’t be Android-only for long; von Ahn said an iOS version is coming soon.

Google is one of the biggest supporters of Duolingo’s Test Center program. While the company doesn’t require English proficiency among all its employees, it will promote the new service as a way to learn and master language—and opportunity. 

Images courtesy of Duolingo

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Google Wants To Make You An Android Developer—For Free

Android is the world’s most popular mobile platform—and now you can learn how to build Android apps for free.

See also: What Developers Need To Know About Android L

On Wednesday Google announced a free Android-app training course, one intended to give you up-close-and-personal experience with the mobile platform used in more than 190 countries and millions of mobile devices.

The course, “Developing Android Apps: Android Fundamentals,” walks you through six lessons for building your first cloud-connected Android app. In a blog post, Google stresses that the course is designed for people with some programming experience, but not necessarily any Android or even mobile experience.

Of course there’s a catch. It costs $150 a month to sign up for Udacity, where Google is offering the course. There’s a two week free trial, but Google recommends you take eight weeks, working six hours a week, to practice the course’s six lessons. Though if you’re looking to save money, perhaps you could blast through that before the free trial ends.

Check out Google’s video to learn about the steps you’ll go through in the course:

Screenshot via Udacity

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Google Wants Your Feedback On Right To Be Forgotten by @mattsouthern

Google is now soliciting feedback on their implementation of EU’s Right To Be Forgotten ruling through a new Advisory Council. In an effort to obtain feedback from the general public, Google has opened up a new form where they are encouraging you to leave your thoughts. The new page Google has set up opens with the question: “How should one person’s right to be forgotten be balanced with the public’s right to know?” The page then goes on to explain Right To Be Forgotten in more detail. A recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union found […]

The post Google Wants Your Feedback On Right To Be Forgotten by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Amazon Tells The Feds It Really Wants To Test Drone Delivery

Amazon appears to be serious about its proposed drone-delivery program—so much so that it’s petitioning the federal government for permission to test what it’s calling its Prime Air service near its headquarters in Seattle.

See also: To Deliver With Prime Air Drones, Amazon Has To Solve These 3 Problems

Prime Air burst into the national consciousness last December thanks to an uncritical 60 Minutes report on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his stated plan to launch a service that would use drones to deliver packages weighing less than five pounds to your door in less than 30 minutes. The report was long on promise but short on detail, and critics assailed the news program and reporter Charlie Rose for “fawning” over Bezos and playing into Amazon’s pre-holiday-season marketing offensive.

Among other things, there were plenty of reasons to think Prime Air was little more than vaporware. FAA regulations prohibit commercial use of drones, while the prospect of remotely controlled octocopters buzzing through busy urban centers raised serious safety concerns. Such a system would also have to be safeguarded against hacking and vandalism. Bezos himself told 60 Minutes that drone delivery was probably still “four to five” years away.

Amazon, however, shows every sign of working seriously on Prime Air. In a letter published to the Federal Aviation Administration’s site Thursday, Amazon formally requested an exemption from FAA rules so it can test its drones outdoors in the U.S. near its Washington State research facilities.

So far, the FAA has only approved six organizations to test drones in the U.S.: the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, Griffiss International Airport in New York, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University’s Corpus Christi campus, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute. 

Amazon’s drones can now travel up to 50 miles while carrying a five pound package, Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, wrote in the letter. (Bezos told 60 Minutes that 86% of the packages sold on Amazon weigh less than five pounds.)

“Granting this request will do nothing more than allow Amazon to do what thousands of hobbyists and manufacturers of model aircraft do every day,” wrote Misener, “and we will abide by much stronger safety measures than currently required for these groups.”

Added Misener: “One day, seeing Amazon Prime Air will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road today.”

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Android TV: Google Wants To Own Your Living Room (Again)

There’s no doubt that Google wants to own all of the screens in our lives, from the little ones on our wrists (and thermostats), to the larger ones in our pockets and car dashboards. But of all the screens it’s now pursuing, the biggest one of them all is the most intriguing—the all-new Android TV

In a way, Android TV is a comeback story. Google’s path to the living room has been anything but even—it’s been punctuated with failures like Google TV and weird missteps like the announced-then-canceled Nexus Q. The $35 Chromecast streaming stick, launched last year, has been a rare TV success for the tech company.

Even so, Google appears to be in no hurry to dive into another hardware product. This time, it’s all about software and search—two things Google knows a thing or two about. 

Search, Cast And Voice

When it comes to smart televisions, something is broken—and that something is search. Too often, people sitting in their living rooms have to use arrow keys on a remote to peck out movie titles, actor names or other search terms one letter at a time. And the results that come up aren’t always what we want or need. Google thinks it might be able to do something about that.

Similarly, its Chromecast put the phone at the center of the TV watching experience, acclimating people to using their mobile devices as remotes to program the Internet, in the form of streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and HBO, to their televisions. The device prompted the competition—including Roku and TiVo—to keep pace with similar “casting” features. 

So it’s not a big surprise that the Google Cast SDK, which allows Chromecast to work with different apps, is also a key part of the new Android TV software. This means set-top boxes and smart televisions powered by Android TV will also be able to cast shows, movies and music to the TV. (They’ll also benefit from the updates headed to Chromecast, such as customizable backdrops and Android mirroring.)

Android smartphones will also be able to do something else: voice command and search. 

The idea is to make sure you have easier access to the things you want to watch. You could talk into your phone to find a specific movie title or actor. You can even ask, “Who played Katniss in The Hunger Games?”, as one Google exec did during its keynote presentation at the company’s I/O developer conference earlier this week.

The searches can also pull up several contextual results, including actor bios, YouTube clips and other information. If you’re not excited about talking to your phone, you don’t have to. Android TV also works with a gaming controller, a hardware remote control and Android Wear smartwatches, so you can—theoretically, at least—command your TV from your wrist. 

Voice functionality looks like a killer feature, but like Amazon’s attempt at delivering voice search, it could be a letdown if enough developers don’t support it. Fire TV drew criticism for highly touting voice features that, at launch, only yielded titles from Amazon’s own media library. That will change later on this year, as several streaming services plan to support it. But by then, the momentum may be gone.

Android TV, on the other hand, is not a hardware product—it’s software intended for other companies’ TVs and set-tops, including Sony, Philips, Razer and Asus. And there could be plenty of time to put finishing touches on apps and features by the time those products ship.

Learning From Experience

For now, Android TV looks promising, and that’s primarily because Google is reaching out to software developers early. 

That stands in stark contrast to the company’s previous efforts. Google TV, the company’s first attempt at a connected television experience, flopped in part because developers ignored its platform. Nexus Q fared even worse, thanks to its $299 price tag and limited feature set; Google pulled the plug before it even launched commercially.

Then last year, Google found itself with an unexpected hit on its hands—the Chromecast, a TV product people wanted. The gadget has routinely led Amazon’s bestselling electronics list, and is currently beating out Amazon’s own Fire TV. 

Those failures and the success of Chromecast have all clearly informed Google’s Android TV strategy. Instead of its former piecemeal approach with Google TV and the Nexus Q, the company has harnessed smartphones, tablets, and even watches as controllers and second screens that can complement a smart TV.

It’s folding in features that are familar to Android users, like swipeable information cards and Google Now-like voice search. And, Google engineers tell me, the company has made it extremely easy for app developers to turn their Android mobile applications into Android TV-worthy games, streaming services and more. 

One Googler even told me that a developer, using the Android TV software development kit, took perhaps a week to turn his Android mobile app into an Android TV app. 

Apps that are on tap include Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora, as well as Google’s own YouTube, Hangouts, and Play Movies. They’ll be available this fall, when Android TV and its related app store are scheduled to launch. 

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A New Parking App Wants You To Share Something You Don’t Own

If you’ve driven through San Francisco’s Misson neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon seeking a place to park for a brunch you’ll spend an hour waiting in line for, you know how difficult it is to find a spot for your vehicle.

When Apps And Real Life Collide

To one team of entrepreneurs, the parking problem here isn’t a problem at all. Instead, it’s an opportunity to build a business by giving those who are willing to pay a little extra a hassle-free parking spot.

Their app, called Sweetch, a moniker that combines “switching” places and making parking “sweeter,” lets users pay $5 to get a parking spot from someone who is leaving. Drivers, in turn, receive $4 when they list their own spot and someone claims it. 

According to cofounder Hamza Ouazzani Chahdi, it’s designed to reduce traffic congestion by limiting the time people spend circling for a space.

“As the inventory of parking spots on-street will not increase, the best way to improve the situation is to provide information to people about parking spot locations and availabilities,” Chahdi said in interview.

He said that while the Sweetch team isn’t originally from San Francisco, they’ve spent the last six months observing the parking situation and talking to people in the Mission to help find an appropriate solution.

Mission residents are not impressed.

“Sweetch is not making parking problems better overall; it’s making it so a person with money is more likely to get a spot,” software developer and Mission resident William Pietri told me. “It makes the problem worse in that it encourages people to wait for a parking space for people to come along and pay for it.”

To critics like Pietri, Sweetch is just a company trying to make a buck from public goods. And its product is seen as the latest in a slew of apps that widen the gap between people who can pay extra and those who can’t.

Such frustrations are nothing new in the Mission, a historically Hispanic neighborhood already dealing with an influx of tech workers and a resultant spike in rents—to say nothing of the giant corporate buses that shuttle them to their jobs in Silicon Valley.

While walking down a neighborhood street one day, Pietri saw Sweetch employees advertising their app. 

“I told them it was an abomination,” he said.

He then saw a Sweetch pitch on the community-based social network Nextdoor. Pietri was not alone in his distaste for the app—his neighbors weren’t happy. There were 65 replies, the majority of which condemned the service and the people building it.

Pietri equates Sweetch to a high-tech equivalent of panhandlers who jump in an open parking space, wave a driver in, and ask for cash—not the environmentally- and community-friendly startup the founders claim to be. 

Chahdi says these fears of people squatting in spaces are unfounded, because the dollar amount is relatively low, and they are not trying to build an app for people to make money. The fee, he argues, is meant to create an incentive to let others know when you’re leaving a parking spot. 

However, if you list your parking spot and no one claims it, you don’t get any money. So Sweetch is arguably motivating parked drivers to wait a few extra minutes to get their $4. 

Parking frustration, of course, is widespread across major U.S. metropolitan areas. And Sweetch isn’t the first app to try and solve that problem—it’s not even the only app that facilitates payments between drivers. Startup MonkeyParking turns parking spaces into auction items, and gives the spaces to the highest bidder.

Among other things, it’s not even clear whether parking apps like Sweetch are legal. At some level they amount to trading in a commodity that neither party can own. If anything, street parking spaces are held in public trust by the city government.

A representative from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency told me, “We recently became aware of these applications and are currently working with other agencies to determine their legality and how they impact efforts to effectively manage parking in San Francisco.”

A City Disrupting Itself 

The City of San Francisco is actively working on improving parking issues. In 2010, the city rolled out SFpark, a pilot project that aims to improve the availability of parking by boosting meter fees in a few heavily trafficked neighborhoods during periods of peak demand. The idea is to discourage squatting at low rates.

The program uses meter sensors to detect open spaces, and it offered an app that could direct drivers to available parking in spaces and garages. But unlike Sweetch, the only thing the city charges is the meter fee. 

In fact, SFpark has open-sourced its parking data and encourages developers to use the public API to create new apps that benefit the community. 

There’s hope that SFpark will expand to cover more areas, bringing the same time-saving efficiencies these pay-to-park apps promise, but keep the parking-related revenues for the city, which uses them to maintain infrastructure, for instance, roads we drive on in the first place. First, though, it has to pay for its own operation: The pilot program is currently under evaluation and the sensor batteries have run down, so the app isn’t currently reporting real-time information on empty spaces.

Local governments are notoriously slow when it comes to implementing change—unlike startups, local officials are burdened with paperwork and procedures. They have to answer to all their constituents, not a small set of customers. So it’s natural for entrepreneurs to look at a problem stuck in a logjam of legalities and envision a quick, technocratic solution in the form of an app. Sweetch is arguably providing a look at available parking spaces that the city has promised but isn’t currently offering. 

Is Sharing Really A Business Model?

When I asked Chahdi about the legalities of selling parking spaces, he said, “No one is selling a spot because it is a public asset and does not belong to anyone. The members of our community are sharing private information about the location of their car.”

That argument seems tendentious, since you’re paying $5 for a patch of asphalt, not a piece of data. Since 2003, it’s been illegal to ask people for money in parking lots or when they’re exiting cars in San Francisco. It’s not clear why putting an app on top of the experience changes things.

Pietri, a startup mentor and entrepreneur himself, said that Sweetch is emblematic of the industry’s flaws—a solution to a problem that makes sense to the wealthy, but that locals hate. 

“I came from a position of wanting to like these guys,” he said. “But they don’t quite get that the purpose [of a startup] is not to make money, but it’s to create value for other people and make money along the way.”

Entrepreneurs won’t stop trying to simplify everyday activities with mobile technologies. The real test for this growing group of apps and services will be to see how many, and which types of people the value is being created for, while balancing the desire for simplicity with the wants and needs of the local community.

In the meantime, some drivers will have no choice but to circle an extra 20 minutes waiting for a parking spot to open up. Those who can wil pay extra for the privilege of parking quickly. Next up: Paying someone to stand in line for them at brunch. 

Lead image courtesy of Pelle Sten on Flickr

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Find out what the world wants to know during the World Cup with Google Trends

As the World Cup launches, content consumption will increase for many websites especially those focused on news and sports. As can be seen from the statistics below, soccer fever is about to take hold:

  • The World Cup is the largest, most connected global sporting event. Worldwide, it has more interest on Google Search than the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and the Tour de France combined.*
  • In 2010, about 18% of searches for games, players and teams during the World Cup final were made on a mobile device. Compare that with 2014, when 63% of similar searches during a popular UEFA Champions League match were made on mobile. We’re likely to see this trend continue during this year’s World Cup.**
  • Looking at a 30-day period this year, more hours of soccer content have been watched on YouTube than were broadcast during the entire 2010 World Cup—over 900 times the amount.***
  • In that time, 64.7 million hours of soccer video were watched on YouTube globally.***
  • 1.6 billion views of soccer content on YouTube globally.***
Views of Sports Videos on YouTube, April 13–May 13 ***
Source: 
* – Source: Google Data, January 1, 2010–May 14, 2014, Indexed Search Query Volume, Worldwide
** -Source:  https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/articles/2014-world-cup.html 
*** – Source: Google Data, April 13–May 13, 2014, Indexed Video Views, Worldwide
Connect with your users as they enjoy the games, and potentially drive more traffic to your site. With google.com/worldcup, tailor your site’s content with the latest insights and most popular trends as they emerge during the tournament. Here’s some examples of the types of insights you can expect from Google Trends over the coming weeks: 
  • Sentiment: Explore how an entire country is feeling, whether optimistic or anxious. Sentiment will be captured across search trends and public Google+ conversations.
  • World focus: For every match, discover which team is capturing the world’s attention in Search. 
  • Top questions: Do your users want to know more about a penalty kick? They’re probably not the only ones. Check out trending questions from every competing country before and after kickoff.
  • Rising players: Find out the players to watch and how they rank in search compared with their teammates.
Check out google.com/worldcup now and make sure you’ve got the latest information when creating your content. Whether it’s insight on how a country is feeling ahead of a big match, or where fans stand on a referee’s decision. 
Tailor your content to what’s capturing your users interests right now with the latest insights from google.com/worldcup.
Viva La World Cup!
Posted by Chris Jones – Audience Development Specialist
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This blog post was adapted from content originally posted on the Inside Search blog.

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Pinterest Wants You To Be Your Own Advertiser

Pinterest’s Promoted Pins are great for big brands, but what about medium to small ones? Now there’s an offering scaled just to them—a new do-it-yourself Promoted Pins tool.

Pinterest for Business was launched 18 months ago and in that time the social discovery platform has made it so anyone, from big-time corporations to teensy personal blogs, can sign up for a business account. Since last October, Pinterest has been testing Promoted Pins, a way for those businesses to pay for their pins to show up in relevant searches and user feeds. Promoted Pins don’t come cheap though—Ad Age reports that Pinterest is looking for $1 to $2 million commitments for cost-per-impression deals. 

Needless to say, small businesses don’t exactly have millions to spend. A self-serve alternative may be a simple way for Pinterest to scale its offering. 

Is This Pinterest’s “Wild West” Moment?

Pinterest’s Promoted Pins ad product costs quite a bit. My recent conversation with Joanne Bradford, head of partnerships at Pinterest, shed a bit of light onto why. 

“Partnerships [with brands] aren’t just, ‘Go get ad dollars.’ That’s not how we think about it here,” she said. “We’re really about teaching partners how to be their best on Pinterest.”

Outreach takes time and manpower. It’s a work in progress and Bradford continues to hire community managers all over the globe. Partnerships that require educating companies are, by definition, not very scalable.  

In that regard, self-serve ads for the masses are the fast and dirty approach. That’s essentially how Google made most of its money with its keyword auction real-time bidding network. For Pinterest, instead of initially coaching companies on how to best use the platform, it can just monitor the ads from small and medium businesses as they come in. 

Unlike Promoted Pins, Pinterest’s new self-service ad platform is cost-per-click, not cost-per-impression. With that sort of pricing model comes a certain kind of desperation from would-be ad buyers. If you look at the companies on Facebook and Google who use cost-per-click, they’re less about “beautiful” and more “made you look.” Anything goes in the Wild West.

“In the absence of a formalized ad channel, social networks are like the Wild West,” said Apu Gupta, CEO of Visual Web analytics platform Curalate. “Brands do whatever they want to garner attention—whether or not it’s in keeping with what the networks aspire to. I believe that creating a formalized channel for placing ads will ultimately help prevent spam by enabling Pinterest to monitor what types of ads go out.”

Of course, Pinterest isn’t going into this blindly. Don Faul, Pinterest’s head of operations who oversaw the new tool’s development, formerly launched the self-serve ad tool at Facebook in 2008. Dozens of Pinterest employees came from Facebook. Still others came from one of the other largest self-serve ad platforms, Google—including CEO Ben Silbermann. They have seen firsthand what happens when cost-per-click ads get ugly. Perhaps they’re trying for a redo. 

A Need For Speed 

The self-serve Promoted Pins tool isn’t officially open for business. Right now you can register to be on the wait list. According to Pinterest, only a few small to medium brands are testing it

It’s par for the course for Pinterest to go slow and steady on new features. But when you consider that Pinterest tested the first Promoted Pins for six months prior to launch, the announcement of a self-serve tool two months later seems downright speedy.  

There are two reasons this might be happening, one good and one bad.

Starting with the negative, perhaps Promoted Pins have not performed to Pinterest’s expectations. Asking for $1 to $2 million is a lot, even for a big company, if the return on investment isn’t great enough. Since Pinterest has shown it cares more about the user’s experience than making brands happy (through conservative pin promotion and extensive audience testing), big brands might feel like they can get a better deal and more exposure somewhere else. A cheaper self-serve alternative might be just the ticket.  

On the positive side, this might be Pinterest employees’ Google roots coming out. Even today, Google ads are democratic. The search engine wasn’t built by huge brands, but by small businesses hoping for a little exposure that were willing to take a chance. Here’s an opportunity to compare Pinterest to Google yet again, as the visual search community continues to measure up. 

We still know very little about the self-serve tool, as it’s only open to a select few businesses. It’s hard to tell how Pinterest will look once it opens the advertising floodgates. But if Pinterest’s past activity is any indication, it’ll be a while until that happens.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

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