Cashing Out: Week of December 18th – 26th 2011 in Online Marketing News

SOPA battle continues over holidays

As the House Judiciary Committee adjourned for the holidays December 23, a decision had not yet been reached on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The proposed legislation, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, and largely backed by big traditional media, has nonetheless garnered criticism from internet users and web giants alike, who claim SOPA will destroy the internet as we know it.

And though the number of proposed amendments brought forth this week means we’ll have to wait until at least January to see whether or not the bill passes, a few recent developments may sway the debate one way or another, even over the holidays.

Some companies, like GoDaddy, who had previously offered their support to SOPA, have since been scared off by the threat of boycott from upset internet users and SOPA dissenters.

GoDaddy retracted its December 22 statement of support for SOPA just one day later, following a Tweet from Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh warning that Cheezburger would move its domains elsewhere unless GoDaddy recanted:

“We will move our over 1,000 domains off @godaddy unless you drop your support of SOPA. We love you guys, but #SOPA-is-cancer to the Free Web.”

Individual internet users are also hoping to crank up the pressure, with a post on Reddit proposing a boycott on movie-going on Christmas day (traditionally a big day for theaters).

Certainly, the parties rallied against SOPA have considerable weight to throw around in this debate, but, as Econsultancy notes, the influence of Big Content can not be ignored either:

“SOPA may or may not pass, but you can be sure that even if it doesn’t, it won’t be the final word on this matter. The internet is going to be more restricted over the next decade.”

Best Buy takes cue from the Grinch

Thanks to Best Buy, Christmas may have been ruined for more than a few online shoppers. The retailer told customers earlier last week that it might not be able to fulfill all of its Christmas orders in time for December 25, including “orders filled as far back as November, TechCrunch says.

The exact number of customers that didn’t receive their orders as expected hasn’t been disclosed, but judging from the Tweets, it’s safe to say that more than a couple of people have been inconvenienced.

But Best Buy doesn’t feel the blunder will have a lasting negative impact. And while an analyst told the Wall Street Journal that “It’s a hiccup for the company” that “probably won’t make a big difference for Best Buy’s holiday sales,” others are less concerned with the company’s bottom line than they are with their treatment of customers.

“Oh good,” wrote TechCrunch’s Matt Burns, with scathing sarcasm,”because Best Buy’s earnings were the first things I thought of when this story broke. Screw the customers. They don’t matter anyway.”

AT&T drops bid for T-Mobile

The deal is off.

AT&T announced in a December 19 press release that “after a thorough review of options it has agreed with Deutsche Telekom AG to end its bid to acquire T-Mobile USA, which began in March of this year.”

Since the proposed merger was announced, the deal has faced challenges from both the FCC and the DOJ, namely over issues of antitrust. But now that it’s fallen through, the enormous breakup fee written into the deal leaves T-Mobile at least some wiggle room to regroup and find another partner, reports TechFlash.

As part of the agreement, Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s parent company, will be getting $3 billion from AT&T, as well as a “‘large package of advanced wireless solutions spectrum’ and a seven-year national roaming agreement that will allow T-Mobile to bring faster service to Seattle and other big cities.”

Total online holiday spending exceeds $30 billion

According to a release this week from comScore, the week ending December 18 was a record one, capping a year with the heaviest online spending to date during a holiday season.

With almost two weeks left before the end of this holiday season, spending had already hit $32 billion,up 15 percent from corresponding days last year. The press release stated:

“The most recent week (week ending Dec. 18), led by four individual days surpassing $1 billion in sales, reached an all-time record of $6.3 billion in online retail spending, up 14 percent from the corresponding week last year. The final shopping weekend before Christmas reached $1.04 billion to rank as the second heaviest weekend of online spending on record,” .

And, as TechCrunch reported, in the week of December 12 to 18, four separate days reached over $1 billion in spending each, with Green Monday hitting $1.13 billion and Free Shipping day breaking $1.07 billion.

According to TechCrunch, some of the most valuable insights provided by the comScore report are indications that free shipping acts as a major incentive for online shoppers (with 56 percent of transactions involving free shipping), and that foul post-Christmas weather could see sales continue:

“Last year, a blizzard in the Northeast U.S. region helped contribute to a surge in online spending for the pre-New Year’s period to record levels.”

Facebook Pages get personal (messages, that is)

This week, Facebook introduced a new feature for Pages that will allow brands to interact with individual profile users within private messages.

As Econsultancy notes, Twitter has had a similar feature for some time, and brands on that social network can initiate conversations with consumers. Not so with Facebook, which, for the time being, only allows individuals to begin the conversation.

Still, the feature could be a handy tool for brands that use social media to achieve a personal rapport with consumers, and it will be particularly useful to brands that use Facebook for customer service, or brands with a large following on the social network. Econsultancy writes:

“Facebook’s move to facilitate more direct interaction between brands and users is a good one and brands with significant Facebook followings will probably want to explore and make decisions about this new functionality sooner than later,”

Netflix to stream BBC content in the New Year

The New Year will also spell a new audience for Netflix, as the video streaming service launches in the UK.

And, in preparation for its UK and Ireland debut early in 2012, Netflix has just announced a new content licensing agreement that will pad the company’s inventory with series from the BBC, reports TechCrunch.

Netflix already streams some BBC Worldwide content to North America and Latin America. But, for their launch in Ireland and the UK, Netflix has lined up the popular series Torchwood and Spooks, and will add Little Britain, Fawlty Towers, and Miss Marple to the mix shortly thereafter.

On fire, Amazon ships holiday Kindles in two days for free

Not that Amazon’s Kindle really needed to make a much bigger impression this holiday season, but Amazon extended a little Christmas gift to consumers anyway this week with the offer of free expedited shipping for Kindles on December 21 – an early enough date to receive the device by Christmas.

This last move is what Mashable has called an “aggressive holiday push,” and part of an “unusually vigorous holiday campaign by Amazon this year.”

The approach seems to have worked for Amazon, which has been selling Kindles at a rate of 1 million per week. The one-day offer extended to the Kindle, Kindle Touch, Kindle Touch 3G, and Kindle Fire.

eBay’s top-shopped trends of the year

eBay released its third annual Top Shopped report December 20, an analysis of sales data from January to December of this year that reveals the “pop culture crazes that inspired shoppers the most over the past year.”

Topping the list was the NFL, with 1,837,844 related items sold, followed by Harry Potter, with 446,915 related items sold.

Other trends leading the list were Twilight, Call of Duty, the Green Bay Packers, the iPad, singer Sade, Glee, Justin Bieber, and Charlie Sheen, in that order.

Facebook Sponsored stories to hit News Feed in January

TechCrunch reported December 20 that, as of this coming January, Facebook will be featuring its Sponsored Stories directly in the News Feed. The ad format incorporates user-generated content and behavior related to a particular brand to add an extra social layer to their ads.

It’s difficult to predict just how users will respond to the Sponsored Stories in their News Feeds, as it will be the first instance of ads in the News Feed since 2008.

Chances are, some won’t be happy with the fact that they can’t opt out of seeing them, though they’ll only see one a day. And each Sponsored Story will be relevant, from brands that the user has Liked, or featuring content or activity from friends. Likewise, users can expect their own content and activity to make it to a Sponsored Story at some point. They will have the option, though, of blocking specific ads.

Sponsored Stories already started appearing in the real-time ticker last month and ReveNews reported earlier this month that they’re slated to go mobile as early March 2012.

Peace on earth: comScore and Nielsen settle measurement patents spat

‘Tis the season to settle differences and try to get along. And that’s just what rival online measurement and analytics companies comScore and Nielsen have done this holiday TechCrunch reports.

The two companies have been in a patent dispute over web measurements and analytics since March, when Nielsen filed a suit against comScore, followed by a countersuit against Nielsen.

But a joint press release issued December 21 has Nielsen and comScore saying they’ve settled the dispute and are now entering a cross-licensing agreement in which “comScore will acquire ownership of the four Nielsen families of patents asserted in litigation, a portfolio with many U.S. and international patents.” Likewise, Nielsen will be granted “worldwide licenses for the families of the four patents comScore asserted in litigation.”

In addition, both companies have agreed not to bring any patent action against each other for at least three years.

And, as TechCrunch’s Robin Wauters noted, what is “particularly interesting” about the agreement is that “Nielsen has acquired approximately $19 million in comScore restricted common stock with neutral voting requirements, which Nielsen has agreed to hold for a period of one year minimum.”

About Emily Wilkinson

Emily Wilkinson is a Montreal writer and editor who recently joined ReveNews.com. Her experience comes largely from her work at print publications like La Scena Musicale, where she alternated between positions as content manager, copy editor and journalist.
She believes in the importance of strong writing, be it in journalism or in other media, like blogging or even social networking. Her prerogative: though language will and ought to evolve, a good writer need never sacrifice the communicative power of text that is written with thought and care, whatever the venue.
Find Emily on Twitter @EditorWilkinson

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