Two years ago, rumors started swirling about Spotify adding a video streaming service to its platform. CEO Daniel Ek said he was focused on the music at the time, but kind of dodged the question when directly asked. Apparently the dodging was just and the rumors are true, as Spotify added video content to the popular app this past week.
First launching on Android, iOS users got their version over the weekend and Windows users by the end of next week. To provide content, Spotify has partnered with some of the biggest names in the game, like ESPN, ABC, NBC, Comedy Central, Vice and Maker Studios.
Recently, Spotify has been testing out their video features. Some of the ads on the app have been video-based and the company has added short clips over the past month. Over the next several months, users can expect to see more clips, packaged shorts in recap-style videos and more. Ek said that while he knows most users listen to Spotify with their device in their pockets, a lot of the video content will be made to be enjoyed just as much by listening as it is watching it.
Something that would propel Spotify forward on this feature addition would be to fully support podcasts on the app. Both video and audio podcasts could be curated, neatly organized and displayed for the entire userbase. Video podcasting is a growing market, and Spotify already has the media partners on the table for podcasters to tap into for advertising purposes.
For now, the answer is still unclear on whether this will be a positive move for the company in the long run. There is one benefit over leading video platform YouTube, and that's the fact that Spotify will not be placing ads before or after the videos. Video content will follow the standard ad policy for all media on Spotify. Premium users are ad-free, and free users see an ad once every 6 to 8 songs. That's for now, at least, as Ek did say he would not rule out video ads in the future, but it's possible that those would simply be a continuation of the current ad system.
Since the creation of our publication, we've not written about Circuit City. Trust me, I went back and searched, and the only time we do is in an article about Best Buy. For some of you, you may not even know what a Circuit City is. This is because the electronics big-box store went out of business in March 2009, after failing to remain competitive against Best Buy's aggressive marketing strategies. The company's physical assets were liquidated, all stores were closed and the branding, domain and all trademarks were then sold to Systemax, an IT supplier that also owns all of Tiger Direct's assets. In October, Systemax sold the Circuit City package to Shmoel, which recently changed its name to Circuit City Corp. And now the company is looking to relaunch the brand.
Ronny Shmoel and Albert Liniado may not be commonly recognizable names, but the duo have extensive successful history in the online retail world. The two hope that their positive experiences will lead Circuit City to the same green pastures as their previous endeavors. Shmoel says that he will achieve this with an extensive blueprint that includes both web sales and retail stores. In those outlets, there will not only be popular branded products, but also a Circuit City-branded alternative. The head of the newly-named Circuit City Corp also said there will be kiosks in the future, along with opportunities for franchising and other investment avenues.
Liniado, a former business development VP of two decades, said that, "We (Circuit City Corp) want to bring profitability back into retail." He added that this can be achieved through building margin into off-branded product and by keeping its retail footprint as small and efficient as possible. Best Buy just started learning that last tidbit of information over the past 3 to 4 years. Liniado said new Circuit City stores will be between 2,000 and 4,000 square feet, with product zones that resemble the RadioShack stores that were remodeled right before that brand underwent its own sale.
The new Circuit City locations will be aimed at millennials and college students, and will feature everything you'd expect inside a Best Buy Mobile mixed with a small version of Fry's. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, headphones, gaming accessories, wearables and even drones and 3D printers. The stores will come complete with electronic tags for pricing and will seamlessly integrate with circuitcity.com's one million SKU inventory.
Shmoel's end goal, while ambitious, can be done if it's focused right. The retail exec says he expects around 100 retail corporate stores to be opened by next year, with another 200 franchise locations. The website will be relaunched and ready for business in June.
Twitter's been under a bit of a revival plan as of late. It started about a year ago when the company decided to really take on trolls and abuse, and continued when former CEO Dick Costolo was replaced by co-founder Jack Dorsey. Dorsey, still running the company, has tried to focus on making Twitter profitable and sustainable, but the social media giant has been juggling executive roles in the process.
Shortly after our show wrapped last Sunday, Dorsey took to his domain to confirm that four major executives from Twitter would be leaving the company. Head of Products Kevin Weil, Head of Media Katie Jacobs Stanton, Head Engineer Alex Roetter and Head of HR Skip Schipper all were set to leave the company. In addition to those four, the head of Vine, Jason Toff, is also leaving Twitter to go work for Google again. It is being reported that some of these execs were asked to leave, while other simply resigned.
For instance, Stanton and Weil both said that they would be leaving the company to spend more time with their families. Roetter added that he would be "taking a step back" from Twitter while focusing on his family as well. This could all be a veil covering up the real reason they are all leaving, but that's what was posted on social media.
It is surprising to see five big names of a top company leave all at once, but considering the rapid decline of Twitter's stock price, it's possible that this is all ahead of massive shake-up within Twitter. The stock has been sinking for the past year, falling from its first day price of almost $45, to just under $18 this past week.
Dorsey has maintained his position as CEO of Twitter since June of last year, and has made several key changes since. Aside from the ones already mentioned, Dorsey also fired almost 10 percent of Twitter's total employee count back in October. On the positive end of the spectrum, Dorsey was behind the new feature, Twitter Moments, in hopes that it will bring new users to the platform and further engage existing ones. If the resignations of the five executives are any indication of it, there are only going to be more changes in 2016 for Twitter.
Over the past year or so, Facebook's commitment to video has increased hugely, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. For example, the company decided to auto-play videos in your newsfeed as you scroll past them. It does make sense that motion will attract people's eyes, but for many the move was annoying. They have also enhanced their video player to suggest related videos and, in some cases, auto play the next video in line.
These changes have created a scenario where around 500 million users watch some sort of video on Facebook every day. One day last quarter, the network watched 100 million hours of video, meaning every one of those 500 million users watched an average of 10 minutes of video that day. This is a huge development for the company. In response, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said,
We are exploring a dedicated place on Facebook for when they just want to watch videos.
Now, this could be a dedicated Facebook Videos app, similar to how Google implemented Photos. It could also mean a video-specific landing page within the main site, more inline with Pages or Groups. Either way, this move will likely lead to what we have thus far avoided: pre- and post-roll ads on Facebook Videos.
This would not be unexpected, as Facebook's revenue is mostly from advertising and video is a popular medium for advertising. COO Sheryl Sandberg said,
Marketers also really love video and it's a compelling way to reach consumers.
That comment certainly lends credence to the idea that we will see a lot more video advertising inside this new platform, whatever it turns out to be.
Most Internet traffic today is unencrypted. This is because security certificates are not free and can be expensive. They can be $70 per year, which makes them a little out of range for smaller sites. It is also not an essential part of a site that only provides information and never collects it. For example, looking at the sites I have open right now, Electronic Arts, VentureBeat, PC World and SlashGear all run in standard HTTP.
Google is trying to make HTTP a scary term, giving Chrome users the ability to turn on a feature that will add a red X to the address bar for sites that are not encrypted. Fortunately for smaller sites, this is a "feature" that is off by default and must be turned on manually by the user. That means that the people who will see it are people who are people who know what it means and want to be alarmed.
That is not to say that it will always be this way. Google has been an advocate for SSL, even if there is no sensitive data being transferred, for years. While they claim to not want to be too heavy-handed, this move appears to be the begging of bringing down the heaviest of hands. If they change their mind and turn this feature on by default, webmasters will be in trouble and users will be scared by nonsense.
A Google employee told Motherboard that the goal is to turn this feature on "someday, hopefully," a move that will likely alarm a lot of Internet users who are not aware of Google's redefining the icon in their browser (which currently indicates that the security certificate is flawed).
Over the past 5 years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, has been losing steam in the industry. Activision, Nintendo and others have taken turns skipping the event and, instead, make their announcements off-site. Activision rented a church for their press conference one year, while Nintendo has opted for online-only press events and in-store hands-on demos the past few years.
This year, adding to the list of major industry players skipping the conference is Electronic Arts. Rather than filling their massive show floor presence with dozens of demo stations available to attendees, EA has opted to take over nearby Club Nokia and will instead offer their hands-on demos to fans and press alike at an event they are calling EA Play.
In addition to demos, they will also offer competitions and live streaming for those who will not be in the LA area during E3 2016. They will also have exclusive items available, making their event much more like San Diego Comic-Con or PAX than the increasingly uninteresting E3. They will also be hosting a sister event in London on the first day of the event, June 12th.
The good news is that, despite not participating in the show, they will still be hosting a press conference live from EA Play. This means we will still get the spectacle that is EA's new products. We can also expect to see a bigger on-stage presence during Microsoft's and Sony's press conferences.
I believe that this is the beginning of an exodus from the conference, whose management has turned off exhibitors and press, leaving everyone looking for a better alternative. Hopefully in the next few years, we will have an industry event that is run properly and does not alienate everyone involved.