Netflix's Qwikster Scheme Not NecessarilyInsane<br />And you thought people were angry about Netflix jacking up the price <br />of a combined DVD and streaming subscription. Late Sunday night, <br />the company splashed lighter fluid on that customer-service fire <br />by announcing that it would spin off its DVD-by-mail service into <br />a separate operation named Qwikster, allowing Netflix to focus on its <br />online offering.<br />Chief executive Reed Hastings must have thought he'd do his Los Gatos, <br />Calif., employer some good by explaining this move at length in that blog <br />post and an accompanying video, then spending much of the rest of the night <br />replying to comments on the post. No such luck: The move seems to have gone <br />over like New Coke in new bottles. Already-embittered Netflix subscribers have denounced Qwikster as "Quitster," while the widely-read Oatmeal web comic teed off on it and an animated parody video has a Netflix customer asking a Hastings stand-in, "Have you ever interacted with an actual human being before?"<br />But if you then ask why Netflix wants to make renting DVDs so unpalatable, you may be on your way to a better grasp of this situation. As technology writer Dan Frommer has argued in an insightful series of blog posts, Netflix wants to kill off its DVD business to clear the way for streaming.<br />Why? The company now has far more subscribers to its streaming service, in which movies play back live over the Internet, than to its DVD option--and the trend was accelerating even before the price hike. Plus, as Frommer noted, Netflix can extend its streaming service to other countries far more easily than its mail operation. Netflix just needs to convince the movie studios to release more studios for streaming. One way is to show that they won't have any other viable way to reach home viewers. (Presumably, it thinks little of Redbox's chances.) If you're that annoyed by Netflix's treatment, complain all you want--but you'd communicate your displeasure more effectively by signing up with one of those competitors.<br />http://theoatmeal.com/comics/netflix<br />
Google Pushing Advertisers to Build for Mobile<br />As of Wednesday, mobile optimization will now be included in Google's "ads quality" ranking, which (along with pricing) determines what ads get served when. So—all other things being equal—an ad that links to a mobile-friendly website will get served alongside Google's mobile search results before an ad that doesn't.<br />"We cannot expect that every site will dramatically or magically become mobile optimized," says SurojitChatterjee, who leads Google's mobile search ads team. However, Google can give advertisers a little more incentive, because the ones with mobile-friendly sites will now be able to "drive more traffic at a slightly lower cost.“<br />Google has already taken steps in this direction. Chatterjee says that last year the company started limiting mobile ads that link to pages dominated by Flash-format content, which famously doesn't work on iPhones. In June, it announced a new feature in Google Sites to help advertisers build mobile-optimized landing pages. Still, a survey in February found that 79 percent of Google's largest advertisers don't have mobile-friendly websites (the number has probably decreased at least slightly since then), so this should give them another push.<br />Why does Google care? Chatterjee says that without a mobile-optimized site, the effectiveness of an ad is limited. He points to a recent survey where 61 percent of respondents said they would be unlikely to return to a website if it doesn't perform well on their mobile phone.<br />
Online Shopping: Now, Inside Display Ads!<br />A year after launching its flashy Project Devil ad service, AOL today announced plans for a new feature that promises to help performance marketers circumvent the dreaded click-through (or, in many cases, lack thereof).<br />Project Devil will now offer consumers the ability to complete e-commerce transactions within the ad itself. Sure, even the most guileless Internet surfer would hesitate before turning over credit card information to a banner ad. That’s why the ads simply pull content directly from advertisers’ e-commerce sites.<br />The branding, technology, and transaction remain exactly as they would on the advertiser’s own site. But with the help of an HTML5 overlay, users can opt to expand an ad to nearly full screen without leaving the page they’re surfing. The expanded ad displays the page of whichever product they’ve chosen. It’s essentially a click-through workaround, easing “friction” caused by users leaving a page of content. Instead, they shop through an overlay ad pulled directly from the advertiser’s website.<br />Next up on the to-do list? Interconnecting the apps within a single ad unit (there can be up three). The ads will eventually feed off of each others’ intelligence, not unlike robots. Or, in this case, devils.<br />
Facebook Launches New Features for Music, Movies, and More<br />Following months of speculation, Facebook announced "a new class" of applications yesterday at its F8 developer conference in San Francisco. The apps allow Facebook to make music, movies, and other media a more integral part of the social network. They're not exactly a Facebook Music service, but they're pretty close, and in some ways more ambitious.<br />Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the apps allow a new set of actions for Facebook users. So instead of just hitting the "like" button, users can tell friends that they're reading an article, watching a movie, or listening to a song. And that, in turn, opens up new opportunities for interaction—users could see, on Facebook, that their friends are listening to a certain song on Spotify, or a certain TV episode on Hulu, and they could watch or listen along without leaving the Facebook site.<br />Facebook has been building up to these changes with a redesigned newsfeed, which has already created some controversy. The new changes will probably lead to more. Asked what he would say to users who feel Facebook doesn't listen to their concerns, Zuckerberg said, "I think we actually do." He noted that some of the new features have been in testing for several months, and that the additions will continue to be tweaked based on user feedback.<br />"At the same time, I think the world is moving quickly, and we want to be innovative," he said.<br />The new apps aren't limited to media. Many of the other examples that Zuckerberg offered onstage involved lifestyle apps; sharing exercise routines via Nike+ or foods via Foodspotting, for example. And Facebook can (hopefully) share more activity without overwhelming users by using that new newsfeed. The main feed highlights the most interesting activity from a user's friends, with a small ticker on the upper right showing "lightweight" activity as it happens, including items from most of the new apps.<br />
NFL.com Spikes Fantasy-Football Ad With Injured Jamaal Charles<br />The NFL fumbled badly on Thursday with an ad on the NFL.com homepage touting fantasy football—by showing Kansas City Chiefs star Jamaal Charles being carted off the field with a season-ending knee injury. "Injury ruined your fantasy season?" said the headline. "Start again on NFL.com. It's not too late." So, Charles suffers a devastating injury, and the NFL uses it as a punch line. Classy. <br />The ad was up for about an hour before the league removed it, saying it was a "mistake."<br />
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