Cashing Out: Week of July 1st – 7th 2012 in Online Marketing News

European Parliament rejects ACTA

The European Parliament has taken a decisive stance on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The proposed international trade agreement, designed to control piracy and copyright infringement online, was rejected July 4 in a vote of 478 to 39, the BBC reported.

The proposed legislation, which followed in the footsteps of SOPA, had stirred up controversy, raising many of the same concerns over internet censorship that had people worried about SOPA.

As a result, ACTA saw strong public opposition, with “waves of Europeans writing to their representatives and protesting against the measures,” which included “stronger fines and criminalization of people who bypassed DRM,” writes TechCrunch.

Though ACTA has already been approved (though not ratified) in a number of countries – Canada, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. have all signed the agreement – the overruling means ACTA can not be implemented anywhere in the EU. Meanwhile, writes TechCrunch, “the lack of global agreement could also make it hard to enforce ACTA in other countries where it has been approved but not yet ratified.”

ACTA opponents are of course celebrating the ruling as a victory. The BBC quoted UK Pirate Party Leader Loz Kaye as saying:

“The European Parliament vote is a triumph of democracy over special interests and shady back-room deals […] Without this opposition, our representatives would have waved this agreement through. It is now clear that it is becoming increasingly politically poisonous to be ‘anti-internet.'”

But ACTA supporters, many of whom represent creative industries feel the defeat could spell a lack of protection for intellectual property.

“ACTA is an important tool for promoting European jobs and intellectual property,” the Federation of European Publishers’ Anne Bergman-Tahon told the BBC. “Unfortunately the treaty got off on the wrong foot in the parliament, and the real and significant merits of the treaty did not prevail.”

But, though many of the bill’s detractors and supporters alike are considering this a death sentence for ACTA, the overruling may not be so final.

In June, Techdirt reported on a speech by Karel De Gucht, the EU commissioner responsible for ACTA, in which De Gucht told members of the European Parliament:

“If you decide for a negative vote before the European Court rules, let me tell you that the Commission will nonetheless continue to pursue the current procedure before the Court, as we are entitled to do. A negative vote will not stop the proceedings before the Court of Justice.”

Facebook and Yahoo reach compromise in patent dispute

If Toy Story has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes you accomplish more by teaming up with the competition than you do by wasting the effort of both parties in an endless tug-of-war.

Following the example of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, it seems Facebook and Yahoo have put aside their differences and are settling their recent patent dispute by working together.

AllThingsD reported July 6 that the two companies have completed the final stage of their settlement, and have agreed to expand an existing partnership. As a result, the companies will begin cross-licensing patents, and Facebook’s tools will be more deeply integrated into Yahoo’s content pages, writes the New York Times (NYT).

Meanwhile, reports TechCrunch, “sources also confirmed that the two web giants are entering into an ad sales partnership that will let Yahoo show Like buttons in its ads.”

In an official statement July 6, Yahoo’s Interim CEO Ross Levinsohn said his company was “excited to develop a deeper partnership with Facebook […] Combining the premium content and reach of Yahoo! as the world’s leading digital media company with Facebook provides branded advertisers with unmatched opportunity.”

And, as Mashable pointed out, the advantages are on both sides: “Both companies are eager to up their advertising dollars. Facebook’s April update to its IPO filing showed a drop in ad revenue. And General Motors caused a stir this year when it pulled ads from Facebook saying they were ‘ineffective.'”

Meanwhile, in a statement quoted by the NYT,  Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who helped negotiate the deal, said much the same thing as Levinsohn:

“I’m pleased that we were able to resolve this in a positive manner and look forward to partnering closely with Ross and the leadership at Yahoo […] Together, we can provide users with engaging social experiences while creating value for marketers.”

The NYT reported that, following the deal’s announcement, Yahoo’s shares “dipped slightly” to $15.78, “while those of Facebook rose nearly 1 percent, to $31.73.”

Netflix shares up, following Hastings’ Facebook post

Though Netflix hasn’t yet managed to regain the valuation it had just over a year ago – before it radically changed its pricing and altered services – it may be on the right track once again.

Shares in the streaming service rose by over 13 percent July 5, following an announcement on Netflix CEO Reed Hasting’s Facebook Page that the company’s monthly viewing had exceeded 1 billion hours in June.

It’s a new record for Netflix, and one that is almost certainly tied to the service’s boost on the markets. “The rally builds on a 6.2 percent advance during Tuesday’s session after CEO Reed Hastings boasted about the company’s streaming business,” wrote the Wall Street Journal.

But the Puget Sound Business Journal also cites other factors that may have contributed to the sudden jump in share value, including “Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney repeating his Buy rating and $130 price target on the stock, as well as a Motley Fool posting that called Netflix stock ‘cheaper than you think’.”

But, though markets closed July 5 with Netflix shares trading at $81.72, that’s still a far cry from the $300 a share Netflix was commanding last summer. Still, it’s a start.

Amazon smartphone in the works

The same news circulated all the major tech news sites this week – Amazon is at work on a new Android-powered smartphone. The initial report comes from Bloomberg, which didn’t get confirmation from Amazon but cited  “two people with knowledge of the matter.”

According to Bloomberg, Amazon has enlisted the help of Chinese mobile phone maker Foxconn International Holdings in order to build the new device.

If true, the news shouldn’t come as such a shock. Amazon’s Android-powered Kindle Fire has become the world’s most popular tablets, Econsultancy notes, and there’s no reason an Amazon smartphone shouldn’t meet with success.

Not only would such a device let Amazon into the lucrative smartphone market, Bloomberg also notes that it could “give Amazon a wider range of low-priced hardware devices that bolster its strategy of making money from digital books, songs and movies.”

Amazon is apparently also working on acquiring patents that would help protect it from copyright infringement  accusations if and when it enters the smartphone market.

Twitter tweaks search

Twitter’s main focus has never been search, but even the wildly popular microblogging platform has had to pay it some attention in order to keep up with the times.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported July 6 that Twitter is finally rolling out updates to its search functions, including the introduction of auto-complete, search suggestions, and the ability to filter and narrow down search results.

All of these features are hardly ground-breaking, but it’s tie twitter got up to speed. As the WSJ noted:

“If Twitter’s more than 140 million active monthly users conduct more searches on the service, the company also has a chance to show many more ads, and therefore juice its revenue. On many Twitter searches, the company serves up a very visible ‘promoted tweet’ – what regular folks might call an ad – at the top of the search results.”

Facebook at work on app-tracking mobile ad system

According to Mashable, which cites a report from the WSJ, Facebook may have developed ad targeting technology which tracks users’ use of apps in order to serve up relevant ads.

The technology can reportedly gather information about what apps are being used, as well as how they’re being used, and in turn help figure out what other apps may appeal to a particular user.

The WSJ says Facebook will be using this technology in a new, and potentially highly lucrative mobile ad format that could be announced as early as next month.

“Facebook would charge advertisers every time an app is installed on a users’ smartphone, one of the people familiar with the plans said. Facebook can charge significantly more for an app installation than it can for the traditional cost of every one thousand people who have viewed an ad,” writes the WSJ.

Big box’s answer to Amazon: If you can’t beat ’em…

The NYT reported July 4 on an emerging trend among big box retailers.

In the face of competition from online retail giants like Amazon, brick-and mortar retailers like Walmart and Best Buy are having to strengthen their web presence and increasingly start thinking of their physical stores as “extensions of their own online operations.”

As part of this trend, a retailer might allow shoppers to buy a product online, and pick it up later at the store, avoiding the wait time and cost of shipping. They may also add web return centers, payment booths, or drive-through customer service, says the NYT. Chief Executive Joel Anderson told the Times that brick-and-mortar retailers do indeed have certain advantages over online-only operations, but that they’re useless unless companies cater to current trends:

“We have a lot of assets, but they’re only assets if you embrace the trends of the customers.”

One such advantage is that, unlike Amazon, Walmart can allow customers without credit cards to pay cash for items bought online. Because of retail locations, a shopper can order an items in advance online, and pay at the till when they pick it up. In store pick-up also offers an immediacy that Amazon and other etailers can’t deliver.

But the NYT is quick to note:

“Online-only retailers are also shifting strategies. E-commerce companies that are part of the ShopRunner service, like Blue Nile and eBags, are now shipping to physical locations that are also part of the ShopRunner network, like Toys “R” Us, so that their customers can pick up items in stores, too.”

This week in marketing studies and reports

Post-Timeline, Facebook tab engagement down

Mashable reported July 5 on data from PageLever that found engagement in tabs on Facebook – the feature that directs users to different content on a Facebook page – has fallen drastically since the introduction of Timeline.

Tab engagement, writes Mashable, is down 53 percent since “Facebook’s Timeline redesign profoundly altered the appearance and the function of brand Pages.”

Apple leads UK tablet market share

Statistics on UK tablet market share from YouGov, reported on by Econsultancy July 2, crown the iPad king of the tablet market. It’s the main tablet used by 71 percent of the market. And, as Econsultancy notes, “the new iPad3 alone account[s] for 11 percent of the market.”

Samsung falls in second with a comparatively small 7 percent of the market.

Mobile Market share

comScore released its report on smartphone market share from February 2011 to May 2012 this week. The findings, reported on by Mashable, showed Google as the leader in OS, with 50.9 percent of the market in May, and increase of 0.8 percent since February.

Apple’s market share likewise increased over the three month period, by 1.7 percent to 31.9 percent. Microsoft’s market share increased by just 0.1 percent, to 4 percent of the market, while RIM’s actually dipped, by 0.4 percent to just 1.1 percent of the market.

Chrome gaining on Firefox for search engine market share

New research released by Net Applications and reported on by Mashable found that, contrary to Google’s claims that Chrome is the world’s most popular browser, it’s actually only the third most popular.

Nevertheless, the data shows that Chrome is poised to take over the second place position from Firefox. Chrome’s market share of 19.08 percent, just behind Firefox, which has a share of 20.06 percent. However, writes Mashable, “Chrome’s chunk of the market has increased almost 5 percent  over the past year, while Firefox’s has decreased almost 3 percent.”

Internet Explorer is still the leader, with 54.02 percent of the market.

About Emily Wilkinson

Emily Wilkinson is a Montreal writer and editor who recently joined 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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