Microsoft to shut down HockeyApp

Microsoft announced plans to shut down HockeyApp and replace it with Visual Studio App Center. The company acquired the startup behind HockeyApp back in 2014. And if you’re still using HockeyApp, the service will officially shut down on November 16, 2019.

HockeyApp was a service that let you distribute beta versions of your app, get crash reports and analytics. There are other similar SDKs, such as Google’s Crashlytics, TestFairy, Appaloosa, DeployGate and native beta distribution channels (Apple’s TestFlight and Google Play Store’s beta feature).

Microsoft hasn’t really been hiding its plans to shut down the service. Last year, the company called App Center “the future of HockeyApp”. The company has also been cloning your HockeyApp projects into App Center for a while.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll find the same features in App Center just yet. The company has put up a page with a feature roadmap. Let’s hope that Microsoft has enough time to release everything before HockeyApp shuts down.


Source: Tech Crunch

China’s hottest news app Jinri Toutiao announces new CEO

You may not have heard of ByteDance, but you probably know its red-hot video app TikTok, which gobbled up Musical.ly in August. The Beijing-based company also runs a popular news aggregator called Jinri Toutiao, which means “today’s headlines” in Chinese, and the app just assigned a new CEO.

At a company event on Saturday, Chen Lin, an early ByteDance employee, made his first appearance as Toutiao’s new CEO. That means Toutiao’s creator Zhang Yiming has handed the helm to Chen, who previously headed product management for the news app.

Zhang’s not going anywhere though. A company spokesperson told TechCrunch that he remains as the CEO of ByteDance, which operates a slew of media apps besides TikTok and Toutiao to lock horns with China’s tech giants Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent.

The story of ByteDance started when Zhang created Toutiao in 2012. The news app collects articles and videos from third-party providers and uses AI algorithms to personalize content for users. Toutiao flew off the shelves and soon went on to incubate new media products, including a Quora-like Q&A platform and TikTok, known as Douyin in China.

The handover may signal a need for Zhang to step back from daily operations in his brainchild and oversee strategies for ByteDance, which has swollen into the world’s highest-valued startup. The company spokesperson did not provide further details on the reshuffle.

Toutiao itself is installed on over 240 million monthly unique devices, which makes it a top news aggregator in China, according to data analytics firm iResearch. TikTok and Douyin collectively command 500 million monthly active users around the world, while Musical.ly has a userbase of 100 million, the company previously announced.

Toutiao’s success has prompted Tencent, which is best known for creating WeChat and controlling a large slice of China’s gaming market, to build its own AI-powered news app. Toutiao’s fledgling advertising business has also stepped on the toes of Baidu, which makes the bulk of its income from search ads. More recently, Toutiao muscled in on Alibaba’s territory with an ecommerce feature.

At the Saturday event, Chen also shared updates that hint at Toutiao’s growing ambition. For one, the news goliath is working to help content providers cash in through a suite of tools, for instance, ecommerce sales and virtual gifts from livestreaming. The move is poised to help Toutiao retain quality creators as the race to grab digital eyeball time intensifies in China.

Toutiao also recently launched its first wave of “mini programs,” or stripped-down versions of native apps that operate inside super apps like Toutiao. Tencent has proven the system to be a big traffic driver after WeChat mini programs crossed two million daily users.

Lastly, Toutiao said it will take more proactive measures to monitor what users consume. In recent months, the news app has run afoul of media regulators who slashed it for hosting illegal and “inappropriate” content. Douyin has faced similar criticisms. While ByteDance prides itself on automated distribution, the company has demonstrated a willingness to abide with government rules by hiring thousands of human censors and using AI to filter content.


Source: Tech Crunch

Quantum computing, not AI, will define our future

The word “quantum” gained currency in the late 20th century as a descriptor signifying something so significant, it defied the use of common adjectives. For example, a “quantum leap” is a dramatic advancement (also an early ’90’s television series starring Scott Bakula).

At best, that is an imprecise (though entertaining) definition. When “quantum” is applied to “computing,” however, we are indeed entering an era of dramatic advancement.

Quantum computing is technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature of energy and matter on the atomic and subatomic level. It relies on the existence of mind-bending quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement.

Erwin Schrödinger’s famous 1930’s thought experiment involving a cat that was both dead and alive at the same time was intended to highlight the apparent absurdity of superposition, the principle that quantum systems can exist in multiple states simultaneously until observed or measured. Today quantum computers contain dozens of qubits (quantum bits), which take advantage of that very principle. Each qubit exists in a superposition of zero and one (i.e., has non-zero probabilities to be a zero or a one) until measured. The development of qubits has implications for dealing with massive amounts of data and achieving previously unattainable level of computing efficiency that are the tantalizing potential of quantum computing.

While Schrödinger was thinking about zombie cats, Albert Einstein was observing what he described as “spooky action at a distance,” particles that seemed to be communicating faster than the speed of light. What he was seeing were entangled electrons in action. Entanglement refers to the observation that the state of particles from the same quantum system cannot be described independently of each other. Even when they are separated by great distances, they are still part of the same system. If you measure one particle, the rest seem to know instantly. The current record distance for measuring entangled particles is 1,200 kilometers or about 745.6 miles. Entanglement means that the whole quantum system is greater than the sum of its parts.

If these phenomena make you vaguely uncomfortable so far, perhaps I can assuage that feeling simply by quoting Schrödinger, who purportedly said after his development of quantum theory, “I don’t like it, and I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.”

Various parties are taking different approaches to quantum computing, so a single explanation of how it works would be subjective. But one principle may help readers get their arms around the difference between classical computing and quantum computing. Classical computers are binary. That is, they depend on the fact that every bit can exist only in one of two states, either 0 or 1. Schrödinger’s cat merely illustrated that subatomic particles could exhibit innumerable states at the same time. If you envision a sphere, a binary state would be if the “north pole,” say, was 0, and the south pole was 1. In a qubit, the entire sphere can hold innumerable other states and relating those states between qubits enables certain correlations that make quantum computing well-suited for a variety of specific tasks that classical computing cannot accomplish. Creating qubits and maintaining their existence long enough to accomplish quantum computing tasks is an ongoing challenge.

IBM researcher Jerry Chow in the quantum computing lab at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center.

Humanizing Quantum Computing

These are just the beginnings of the strange world of quantum mechanics. Personally, I’m enthralled by quantum computing. It fascinates me on many levels, from its technical arcana to its potential applications that could benefit humanity. But a qubit’s worth of witty obfuscation on how quantum computing works will have to suffice for now. Let’s move on to how it will help us create a better world.

Quantum computing’s purpose is to aid and extend the abilities of classical computing. Quantum computers will perform certain tasks much more efficiently than classical computers, providing us with a new tool for specific applications. Quantum computers will not replace their classical counterparts. In fact, quantum computers require classical computer to support their specialized abilities, such as systems optimization.

Quantum computers will be useful in advancing solutions to challenges in diverse fields such as energy, finance, healthcare, aerospace, among others. Their capabilities will help us cure diseases, improve global financial markets, detangle traffic, combat climate change, and more. For instance, quantum computing has the potential to speed up pharmaceutical discovery and development, and to improve the accuracy of the atmospheric models used to track and explain climate change and its adverse effects.

I call this “humanizing” quantum computing, because such a powerful new technology should be used to benefit humanity, or we’re missing the boat.

Intel’s 17-qubit superconducting test chip for quantum computing has unique features for improved connectivity and better electrical and thermo-mechanical performance. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

An Uptick in Investments, Patents, Startups, and more

That’s my inner evangelist speaking. In factual terms, the latest verifiable, global figures for investment and patent applications reflect an uptick in both areas, a trend that’s likely to continue. Going into 2015, non-classified national investments in quantum computing reflected an aggregate global spend of about $1.75 billion USD,according to The Economist. The European Union led with $643 million. The U.S. was the top individual nation with $421 million invested, followed by China ($257 million), Germany ($140 million), Britain ($123 million) and Canada ($117 million). Twenty countries have invested at least $10 million in quantum computing research.

At the same time, according to a patent search enabled by Thomson Innovation, the U.S. led in quantum computing-related patent applications with 295, followed by Canada (79), Japan (78), Great Britain (36), and China (29). The number of patent families related to quantum computing was projected to increase 430 percent by the end of 2017

The upshot is that nations, giant tech firms, universities, and start-ups are exploring quantum computing and its range of potential applications. Some parties (e.g., nation states) are pursuing quantum computing for security and competitive reasons. It’s been said that quantum computers will break current encryption schemes, kill blockchain, and serve other dark purposes.

I reject that proprietary, cutthroat approach. It’s clear to me that quantum computing can serve the greater good through an open-source, collaborative research and development approach that I believe will prevail once wider access to this technology is available. I’m confident crowd-sourcing quantum computing applications for the greater good will win.

If you want to get involved, check out the free tools that the household-name computing giants such as IBM and Google have made available, as well as the open-source offerings out there from giants and start-ups alike. Actual time on a quantum computer is available today, and access opportunities will only expand.

In keeping with my view that proprietary solutions will succumb to open-source, collaborative R&D and universal quantum computing value propositions, allow me to point out that several dozen start-ups in North America alone have jumped into the QC ecosystem along with governments and academia. Names such as Rigetti Computing, D-Wave Systems, 1Qbit Information Technologies, Inc., Quantum Circuits, Inc., QC Ware, Zapata Computing, Inc. may become well-known or they may become subsumed by bigger players, their burn rate – anything is possible in this nascent field.

Developing Quantum Computing Standards

 Another way to get involved is to join the effort to develop quantum computing-related standards. Technical standards ultimately speed the development of a technology, introduce economies of scale, and grow markets. Quantum computer hardware and software development will benefit from a common nomenclature, for instance, and agreed-upon metrics to measure results.

Currently, the IEEE Standards Association Quantum Computing Working Group is developing two standards. One is for quantum computing definitions and nomenclature so we can all speak the same language. The other addresses performance metrics and performance benchmarking to enable measurement of quantum computers’ performance against classical computers and, ultimately, each other.

The need for additional standards will become clear over time.


Source: Tech Crunch

WhatsApp could wreck Snapchat again by copying ephemeral messaging

WhatsApp already ruined Snapchat’s growth once. WhatsApp Status, its clone of Snapchat Stories, now has 450 million daily active users compared to Snapchat’s 188 million. That’s despite its 24-hour disappearing slideshows missing tons of features including augmented reality selfie masks, animated GIFs, or personalized avatars like Bitmoji. A good enough version of Stories conveniently baked into the messaging app beloved in the developing world where Snapchat wasn’t proved massively successful. Snapchat actually lost total daily users in Q2 and Q3 2018, and even lost Rest Of World daily users in Q2 despite that being where late stage social networks rely on for growth.

That’s why it’s so surprising that WhatsApp hasn’t already copied the other big Snapchat feature, ephemeral messaging. When chats can disappear, people feel free to be themselves — more silly, more vulnerable, more expressive. For teens who’ve purposefully turned away from the permanence of the Facebook profile timeline, there’s a sense of freedom in ephemerality. You don’t have to worry about old stuff coming back to haunt or embarass you. Snapchat rode this idea to become a cultural staple for the younger generation.

Yet right now WhatsApp only lets you send permanent photos, videos, and texts. There is an Unsend option, but it only works for an hour after a message is sent. That’s far from the default ephemerality of Snapchat where seen messages disappear once you close the chat window unless you purposefully tap to save them.

Instagram has arrived at a decent compromise. You can send both permanent and temporary photos and videos. Text messages are permanent by default, but you can unsend even old ones. The result is the flexibility to both chat through expiring photos and off-the-cuff messages knowing they will or can disappear, while also being able to have reliable, utilitarian chats and privately share photos for posterity without the fear that one wrong tap could erase them. When Instagram Direct added ephemeral messaging, it saw a growth spurt to over 375 million monthly users as of April 2017.

Snapchat lost daily active users the past two quarters

WhatsApp should be able to build this pretty easily. Add a timer option when people send media so photos or videos can disappear after 10 seconds, a minute, an hour, or a day. Let people add a similar timer to specific messages they send, or set a per chat thread default for how long your messages last similar to fellow encrypted messaging app Signal.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel’s memo leaked by Cheddar’s Alex Heath indicates that he views chat with close friends as the linchpin of his app that was hampered by this year’s disastrous redesign. He constantly refers to Snapchat as the fastest way to communicate. That might be true for images but not necessarily text, as BTIG’s Rich Greenfield points out, citing how expiring text can causes conversations to break down. It’s likely that Snapchat will double-down on messaging now that Stories has been copied to death.

Given its interest in onboarding older users, that might mean making texts easier to keep permanent or at least lengthening how long they last before they disappear. And with its upcoming Project Mushroom re-engineering of the Snapchat app so it works better in developing markets, Snap will increasingly try to become WhatsApp.

…Unless WhatsApp can become Snapchat first. Spiegel proved people want the flexibility of temporary messaging. Who cares who invented something if it can be brought to more people to deliver more joy? WhatsApp should swallow its pride and embrace the ephemeral.


Source: Tech Crunch

How cities can fix tourism hell

A steep and rapid rise in tourism has left behind a wake of economic and environmental damage in cities around the globe. In response, governments have been responding with policies that attempt to limit the number of visitors who come in. We’ve decided to spare you from any more Amazon HQ2 talk and instead focus on why cities should shy away from reactive policies and should instead utilize their growing set of technological capabilities to change how they manage tourists within city lines.

Consider this an ongoing discussion about Urban Tech, its intersection with regulation, issues of public service, and other complexities that people have full PHDs on. I’m just a bitter, born-and-bred New Yorker trying to figure out why I’ve been stuck in between subway stops for the last 15 minutes, so please reach out with your take on any of these thoughts: @Arman.Tabatabai@techcrunch.com.
  

The struggle for cities to manage “Overtourism”

Well – it didn’t take long for the phrase “overtourism” to get overused. The popular buzzword describes the influx of tourists who flood a location and damage the quality of life for full-time residents. The term has become such a common topic of debate in recent months that it was even featured this past week on Oxford Dictionaries’ annual “Words of the Year” list.

But the expression’s frequent appearance in headlines highlights the growing number of cities plagued by the externalities from rising tourism.

In the last decade, travel has become easier and more accessible than ever. Low-cost ticketing services and apartment-rental companies have brought down the costs of transportation and lodging; the ubiquity of social media has ticked up tourism marketing efforts and consumer demand for travel; economic globalization has increased the frequency of business travel; and rising incomes in emerging markets have opened up travel to many who previously couldn’t afford it.

Now, unsurprisingly, tourism has spiked dramatically, with the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reporting that tourist arrivals grew an estimated 7% in 2017 – materially above the roughly 4% seen consistently since 2010. The sudden and rapid increase of visitors has left many cities and residents overwhelmed, dealing with issues like overcrowding, pollution, and rising costs of goods and housing.

The problems cities face with rising tourism are only set to intensify. And while it’s hard for me to imagine when walking shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers on tight New York streets, the number of tourists in major cities like these can very possibly double over the next 10 to 15 years.

China and other emerging markets have already seen significant growth in the middle-class and have long runway ahead. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the global middle class is expected to rise from the 1.8 billion observed in 2009 to 3.2 billion by 2020 and 4.9 billion by 2030. The new money brings with it a new wave of travelers looking to catch a selfie with the Eiffel Tower, with the UNWTO forecasting international tourist arrivals to increase from 1.3 billion to 1.8 billion by 2030.

With a growing sense of urgency around managing their guests, more and more cities have been implementing policies focused on limiting the number of tourists that visit altogether by imposing hard visitor limits, tourist taxes or otherwise.

But as the UNWTO points out in its report on overtourism, the negative effects from inflating tourism are not solely tied to the number of visitors in a city but are also largely driven by touristy seasonality, tourist behavior, the behavior of the resident population, and the functionality of city infrastructure. We’ve seen cities with few tourists, for example, have experienced similar issues to those experienced in cities with millions.

While many cities have focused on reactive policies that are meant to quell tourism, they should instead focus on technology-driven solutions that can help manage tourist behavior, create structural changes to city tourism infrastructure, while allowing cities to continue capturing the significant revenue stream that tourism provides.

Smart city tech enabling more “tourist-ready” cities

THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Yes, cities are faced with the headwind of a growing tourism population, but city policymakers also benefit from the tailwind of having more technological capabilities than their predecessors. With the rise of smart city and Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives, many cities are equipped with tools such as connected infrastructure, lidar-sensors, high-quality broadband, and troves of data that make it easier to manage issues around congestion, infrastructure, or otherwise.

On the congestion side, we have already seen companies using geo-tracking and other smart city technologies to manage congestion around event venues, roads, and stores. Cities can apply the same strategies to manage the flow of tourist and resident movement.

And while you can’t necessarily prevent people from people visiting the Louvre or the Coliseum, cities are using a variety of methods to incentivize the use of less congested space or disperse the times in which people flock to highly-trafficked locations by using tools such as real-time congestion notifications, data-driven ticketing schedules for museums and landmarks, or digitally-guided tours through uncontested routes.

Companies and municipalities in cities like London and Antwerp are already working on using tourist movement tracking to manage crowds and help notify and guide tourists to certain locations at the most efficient times. Other cities have developed augmented reality tours that can guide tourists in real-time to less congested spaces by dynamically adjusting their routes.

A number of startups are also working with cities to use collected movement data to help reshape infrastructure to better fit the long-term needs and changing demographics of its occupants. Companies like Stae or Calthorpe Analytics use analytics on movement, permitting, business trends or otherwise to help cities implement more effective zoning and land use plans. City planners can use the same technology to help effectively design street structure to increase usable sidewalk space and to better allocate zoning for hotels, retail or other tourist-friendly attractions.

Focusing counter-overtourism efforts on smart city technologies can help adjust the behavior and movement of travelers in a city through a number of avenues, in a way tourist caps or tourist taxes do not.

And at the end of the day, tourism is one of the largest sources of city income, meaning it also plays a vital role in determining the budgets cities have to plow back into transit, roads, digital infrastructure, the energy grid, and other pain points that plague residents and travelers alike year-round. And by disallowing or disincentivizing tourism, cities can lose valuable capital for infrastructure, which can subsequently exacerbate congestion problems in the long-run.

Some cities have justified tourist taxes by saying the revenue stream would be invested into improving the issues overtourism has caused. But daily or upon-entry tourist taxes we’ve seen so far haven’t come close to offsetting the lost revenue from disincentivized tourists, who at the start of 2017 spent all-in nearly $700 per day in the US on transportation, souvenirs and other expenses according to the U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office.

In 2017, international tourism alone drove to $1.6 trillion in earnings and in 2016, travel & tourism accounted for roughly 1 in 10 jobs in the global economy according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. And the benefits of travel are not only economic, with cross-border tourism promoting transfers of culture, knowledge and experience.

But to be clear, I don’t mean to say smart city technology initiatives alone are going to solve overtourism. The significant wave of growth in the number of global travelers is a serious challenge and many of the issues that result from spiking tourism, like housing affordability, are incredibly complex and come down to more than just data. However, I do believe cities should be focused less on tourist reduction and more on solutions that enable tourist management.

Utilizing and allocating more resources to smart city technologies can not only more effectively and structurally limit the negative impacts from overtourism, but it also allows cities to benefit from a significant and high growth tourism revenue stream. Cities can then create a virtuous cycle of reinvestment where they plow investment back into its infrastructure to better manage visitor growth, resident growth, and quality of life over the long-term. Cities can have their cake and eat it too.

And lastly, some reading while in transit:


Source: Tech Crunch

Stoop aims to improve your news diet with an easy way to find and read newsletters

Stoop is looking to provide readers with what CEO Tim Raybould described as “a healthier information diet.”

To do that, it’s launched an iOS and Android app where you can browse through different newsletters based on category, and when you find one you like, it will direct you to the standard subscription page. If you provide your Stoop email address, you’ll then be able to read all your favorite newsletters in the app.

“The easiest way to describe it is: It’s like a podcast app but for newsletters,” Raybould said. “It’s a big directory of newsletters, and then there’s the side where you can consume them.”

Why newsletters? Well, he argued that they’re one of the key ways for publishers to develop a direct relationship with their audience. Podcasts are another, but he said newsletters are “an order of magnitude more important” because you can convey more information with the written word and there are lower production costs.

That direct relationship is obviously an important one for publishers, particularly as Facebook’s shifting priorities have made it clear that publications need to “establish the right relationship to readers, as opposed to renting someone else’s audience.” But Raybould said it’s better for readers too, because you’ll spend your time on journalism that’s designed to provide value, not just attract clicks: “You will find you use the newsfeed less and consume more of your content directly from the source.”

“Most content [currently] is distributed through a third party and that software is choosing what to surface next not based on the quality of the content, but based on what’s going to keep people scrolling,” he added. “Trusting an algorithm with what you’re going to read next is like trusting a nutritionist who’s incentivized based on how many chips you eat.”

Stoop Discover

So Raybould is a fan of newsletters, but he said the current system is pretty cumbersome. There’s no one place where you can find new newsletters to read, and you may also hesitate to subscribe to another one because it “crowds out your personal inbox.” So Stoop is designed to reduce the friction, making it easy to subscribe to and read as many newsletters as your heart desires.

Raybould said the team has already curated a directory of around 650 newsletters (including TechCrunch’s own Daily Crunch) and the list continues to grow. Additional features include a “shuffle” option to discover new newsletters, plus the ability to share a newsletter with other Stoop users, or to forward it to your personal address where they can be sent along to whomever you like.

The Stoop app is free, with Raybould hoping to eventually add a premium plan for features like full newsletter archives. He’s also hoping to collaborate with publishers — initially, most publishers will probably treat Stoop readers as just another set of subscribers, but Raybould said they could get access to additional analytics and also make subscriptions easier by integrating with the app’s instant subscribe option.

And the company’s ambitions even go beyond newsletters. Raybould said Stoop is the first consumer product from a team with a larger mission to help publishers. They’re also working on OpenBundle, an initiative around bundled news subscriptions with a planned launch in 2019 or 2020.

“The overarching thing that is the same is the OpenBundle thesis and the Stoop thesis,” he said. “Getting publishers back in the role of delivering content directly to the audience is the antidote to the newsfeed.”


Source: Tech Crunch

Cryptocurrency chill causes mining speculator Nvidia’s stock to plunge

The cryptocurrency market is an exciting one, but it’s also unpredictable — and when things go south, they take related businesses with them. Nvidia, a hardware giant that has been riding the cryptocurrency wave, saw its stock price take a double-digit hit as it reported vanishing demand for GPUs specializing in crypto-mining.

It’s been a wild year in the GPU market as there were points when ordinary gamers, who have relied on Nvidia for years for the powerful cards used to play the latest games, found inventory scarce for the company’s latest generation of hardware.

The cards had been, and continued to be for some time, bought up by cryptocurrency mining operations, all striving to get a leg up on one another. Consumer-grade GPUs are excellent candidates for putting together low-cost, high-performance clusters that excel in solving the type of problems posed in the likes of Bitcoin mining. The cards were essentially paying for themselves due to the profitability of participating in the lucrative markets.

But those markets, which have been booming for much of the year, have cooled — not to say crashed — and consequently demand for GPUs has cooled as well, as Nvidia’s earnings statements show.

If Nvidia had seen the cryptocurrency boom for what it was at the time — an important but misleading flare in value — it likely would not have produced the estimated $57 million in excess inventory aimed at the miner market. Mid-range gaming GPU sales declined as well, though this seems to have been part of a larger trend.

It will take a couple of quarters to get through all that inventory, during which time of course it will have to be steeply discounted, since miners and gamers understand implicitly that improved versions are just around the corner and are unlikely to pay full price for hardware approaching even a minor degree of obsolescence. The misstep caused Nvidia’s price to drop more than 19 percent Thursday, and it has not rallied today.

“This is surely a setback and I wish we had seen it earlier,” said CEO Jensen Huang on a press call following the announcement of the results.

Cryptocurrency markets may never return to the feverish state of competition they existed in for much of 2018. An explosion of “alt coins” and Initial Coin Offerings baffled casual investors in the ecosystem, and scams were (and are) rife. This led to an overall skepticism in the systems as a class, and even sophisticated and proven ones like Ethereum have suffered major devaluation.

There’s no doubt that blockchain and token economies will be a major part of the financial future (among other things) but the feeding frenzy of 2018 seemed unsustainable from the start. Already many cryptocurrency systems are moving away from the arms race of “proof of work” to the more equitable “proof of stake.” That change alone could decimate computing requirements if adopted at large (although established systems like Bitcoin are too far along to change, outside ill-advised forks like Bitcoin Cash).

Don’t bother shedding a tear for Nvidia, though. The company is rolling high and the GPU market is strong. But it seems that it too, alongside millions of others, has suffered the consequences of speculating on cryptocurrency.


Source: Tech Crunch

Reading List: Podcasting

I argued in my recent post What’s Next for Podcasting? that we’re at a pivot point where podcasting is becoming a mainstream content format for all types of shows and creators as Hollywood enters the fray. There’s a surge of interest by both creatives and businesspeople in podcasts right now, so I’ve compiled a reading guide to help newcomers get up to speed on the state of the podcasting market.

Follow these links for thoughtful analysis by operators, investors, and journalists in the space and let me know (@epeckham / email) what other posts I should add to the list.

[We are experimenting with new content formats at TechCrunch. This reading list is one of those experiments. Provide feedback directly to the author, Eric Peckham, our columnist focused on the intersection of media, technology, and finance.]

I. Background: The Rise of Podcasting

Timeline of Podcasting | October 2015 | Vanessa Quirk created an interactive timeline to highlight the development of the podcast as a new content medium (on behalf of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University).

Audible Revolution | February 2004 | Ben Hammersley wrote about the rise of this new “online radio” format back in 2004 for The Guardian, featuring early efforts by then-startup Audible to focus on it instead of audiobooks.

The Future of Podcasting: A History Lesson | July 2017 | Justine Moore and Olivia Moore from VC firm CRV outlined the rise of podcasting up to 2017 as part of a 5-part series on the format. From the initial development of RSS feeds and coining of the term to initial hype, a lull for many years, and then a resurgence in 2014 as Apple launched its Podcasts app and the premiere of the hit podcast Serial.

II. Background: Data on the Current Market

The Future of Podcasting: Where Are We Now? | July 2017 | Justine and Olivia Moore highlighted data on the state of podcasting in summer 2017, looking at consumer awareness of the format and demographics. They also note barriers to growth.

The Podcast Consumer 2018 | April 2018 | Edison Research’s widely-cited annual report on who is listening to podcasts and how. They also create the more broadly focused annual report The Infinite Dial (in US, Canada, and Australia versions) that puts podcasting in the context of music streaming, radio, voice interfaces, and general consumer audio trends.

There is additional country-specific research out there for Canada (Canadian Podcast Listener), the UK (Ofcom Communications Market Report), Germany (Bitkom), and Sweden (EGTA). James Cridland, editor of podnews.net made a 15-minute presentation comparing podcasting internationally as well.

Full Year 2017 Podcast Ad Revenue Study | June 2018 | The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released this report on the size of the US podcast advertising market. These are the stats most news articles and industry experts refer to as the “market size” of podcasting but they are only the podcast advertising market. The overwhelming majority of revenue in podcasting is certainly understood to come from ads, but there are also many podcasts collecting Patreon donations, selling merchandise, generating touring income, and–in a few cases–getting royalties from books/films/shows based on their podcast or charging paid subscriptions.

Mind the Gap: Part One | August 2018 | Alex Taussig, a partner at Lightspeed, outlines the growth trajectories of both podcasting and voice interfaces (like Alexa) to highlight how monetization of new technologies or mediums typically lag consumer adoption.

III. Key Players: The Key Companies and Shows

One-Sentence Reviews of the Entire Podcast Listening Landscape | May 2017 | Erik Jones wrote short descriptions of the numerous podcast streaming apps out there in spring 2017. Even more have launched since but it’s a helpful guide for becoming aware of many of the players in the space.

Podcast Industry Audience Rankings | updated monthly | PodTrac ranks the 20 most listened to podcast shows and the 10 most listened to podcast publishers.

Podcast charts | updated hourly | Podcast analytics company Chartable has charts for the most downloaded/streamed podcasts for four top podcast players: Apple, Spotify Stitcher, and Breaker. Charts are global and by country.

What’s really the top podcast hosting service? | August 2018 | Podcast analytics company Chartable shared data on the market share among podcasting’s feed generators, feed redirection services, and media hosting services.

How People Listen to Podcasts | November 2018 | New podcast creation app Anchor shared their September 2018 data on podcasts that were distributed via Anchor, framing Apple Podcasts continued domination of market share but the rapid rise of Spotify as the clear second-place.

IV. Business Model

MailKimp, SchmailChimp: Podcast Ads are Rambling and Unpredictable. So Why Do Sponsors Love Them? | December 2014 | Alison Griswold chronicles how the intimacy of host-read ads on podcasts appeals to advertisers, even if it means the host doesn’t stick to an exact script.

Guide to Podcasting | December 2015 | Vanessa Quirk of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism published a report on the history, market, and business models of podcasting, including case studies on the implementation of different business models.

The Future of Podcasting: How Do Podcasts Make Money? | August 2017 | Justine and Olivia Moore evaluate how podcasters make money, mainly focusing on ads/sponsorships (which are mostly direct response) and early efforts at paid subscriptions.

FOMO in China is a $7B Industry | September 2018 | Marketplace China correspondent Jennifer Pak wrote about (and recorded a podcast episode discussing) China’s $7.3 billion market for paid podcasts. Unlike in the US, it is the norm to pay for podcast content in China. This the inverse of other content formats where paid subscriptions are common in the US but not the norm in China.

What’s Next for Podcasting? Subscriptions and Exclusives | October 2018 | Eric Peckham framed the current state of the podcast business, the opportunity for a much greater diversity of show formats, and the rapidly growing interest by music streaming services and major Hollywood players. I argue that podcasting is in the early days of shifting from a model of free, ad-supported content available on every media player toward a model more like that of streaming TV, with paid subscriptions and exclusive shows.

‘A pain in the ass for users’: Subscription publishers wrestle with delivering exclusive audio | May 2018 | Max Willens at Digiday chronicled the frustration of media companies who have tried offering podcasts exclusively to paying subscribers, given the lack of technology infrastructure for doing so.

Why podcasting companies are getting more into scripted shows | September 2018 | Max Willens at Digiday notes a feeding frenzy of popular podcasts getting optioned for films, TV shows, and books and the growing focus on producing narrative-style podcasts. He points out that the current advertising model for podcasting makes generating a worthwhile ROI on high-quality narrative shows tougher.

V. Other arguments and predictions

Where Does Podcasting Go Next? A Manifesto for Growth | August 2018 | Tom Webster, the SVP at Edison Research who co-authors the annual Infinite Dial report on the podcasting market, notes that podcasting’s growth has been slow-and-steady, not an explosion, and emphasizes the challenges podcasting still facing in mainstream consumer adoption. He argues in favor of more entertainment podcasts that reflect what’s popular on TV and argues in favor of dropping the term “subscribing to a podcast” because it causes many people to misunderstand that they have to pay for podcasts.

IAB’s Podcast Measurement Guidelines | December 2017 | The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is the leading trade organization in the US for advertising and advertising-reliant publishing companies. In 2016, it released its first technical guidelines on how to measure podcast performance in order to create an industry standard and reduce double-counting. It updated them in 2017.

To Make Real Money, The Podcast Industry Needs to Stop Calling Them Podcasts | March 2016 | Venture capitalist Hunter Walk argued that podcasting needs to generate “listener revenue” in order to scale as an industry–not just rely on brand sponsorships–and needs to abandon the term “podcast” to do so because people firmly associate podcasts with free content.

Can Podcasts Rescue Spotify’s Business Model? | November 2018 | Tim Ingham argued in Rolling Stone that the fundamentals of Spotify’s business model prevent it becoming a profitable company (unless it can somehow cut out the record labels), and that’s why Spotify’s executives have decided to make such an aggressive push into podcasting over 2018.

State of Podcasts 2018 | July 2018 | Building off their 2017 assessment, Justine Moore and Olivia Moore a CRV outlined the pain points the podcast industry in still changes, the biggest changes under way, and where they see opportunity for entrepreneurs.

VI. News Sources

Nieman Lab – a popular news and analysis site run by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, focused on the news publishing industry but also tracking the development of podcasting.

Podnews.net – a daily newsletter and site by James Cridland, a British radio/audio industry expert in Australia.

Hot Pod – a subscription news site covering the podcast industry, run by Nick Quah. It has a free weekly newsletter for non-subscribers as well.

Hearing Voices – a weekly newsletter by betaworks ventures partner Matt Hartman on audio/voice interfaces and startup opportunities.

TechCrunch: try the podcast, podcasts, and podcasting tags for archives.


Source: Tech Crunch

Former Oracle exec Thomas Kurian to replace Diane Greene as head of Google Cloud

Diane Greene announced in a blog post today that she would be stepping down as CEO of Google Cloud and will be helping transition former Oracle executive Thomas Kurian to take over early next year.

Greene took over the position almost exactly three years ago when Google bought Bebop, the startup she was running. The thinking at the time was that the company needed someone with a strong enterprise background and Greene, who helped launch VMware, certainly had the enterprise credentials they were looking for.

In the blog post announcing the transition, she trumpeted her accomplishments. “The Google Cloud team has accomplished amazing things over the last three years, and I’m proud to have been a part of this transformative work. We have moved Google Cloud from having only two significant customers and a collection of startups to having major Fortune 1000 enterprises betting their future on Google Cloud, something we should accept as a great compliment as well as a huge responsibility,” she wrote.

The company had a disparate set of cloud services when she took over, and one of the first things Greene did was to put them all under a single Google Cloud umbrella. “We’ve built a strong business together — set up by integrating sales, marketing, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Google Apps/G Suite into what is now called Google Cloud,” she wrote in the blog post.

As for Kurian, he stepped down as president of product development at Oracle at the end of September. He had announced a leave of absence earlier in the month before making the exit permanent. Like Greene before him, he brings a level of enterprise street cred, which the company needs as it continues to try to grow its cloud business.

After three years with Greene at the helm, Google, which has tried to position itself as the more open cloud alternative to Microsoft and Amazon, has still struggled to gain market share against its competitors, remaining under 10 percent consistently throughout Greene’s tenure.

As Synergy’s John Dinsdale told TechCrunch in an article on Google Cloud’s strategy in 2017, the company had not been particularly strong in the enterprise to that point. “The issues of course are around it being late to market and the perception that Google isn’t strong in the enterprise. Until recently Google never gave the impression (through words or deeds) that cloud services were really important to it. It is now trying to make up for lost ground, but AWS and Microsoft are streets ahead,” Dinsdale explained at the time. Greene was trying hard to change that perception.

Google has not released many revenue numbers related to the cloud, but in February it indicated they were earning a billion dollars a quarter, a number that Greene felt put Google in elite company. Amazon and Google were reporting numbers like that for a quarter at the time. Google stopped reporting cloud revenue after that report.

Regardless, the company will turn to Kurian to continue growing those numbers now. “I will continue as CEO through January, working with Thomas to ensure a smooth transition. I will remain a Director on the Alphabet board,” Greene wrote in her blog post.

Interestingly enough, Oracle has struggled with its own transition to the cloud. Kurian gets a company that was born in the cloud, rather than one that has made a transition from on-prem software and hardware to one solely in the cloud. It will be up to him to steer Google Cloud moving forward.


Source: Tech Crunch

Weather Up’s app can give you forecasts for your calendar events

There are plenty of weather apps to choose from on the App Store, but the newly released Weather Up app is doing something different. Instead of just offering the daily weather, it will now offer Event Forecasts — meaning forecasts that sync with your calendars so you can see what the weather will be for your upcoming appointments and various events.

The feature is customizable, so you don’t have to use it with all your calendars — or even all your events. You can opt to tag specific events in order to show the weather forecast for just those.

Event Forecasts is useful for planning your outdoor activities like the kids’ soccer games, outdoor concerts and more, but also for planning for events you’ll walk to or drive to.

The app itself is not new. It actually began its life last year as Weather Atlas, from Launch Center Pro developer David Barnard. He admits the first version app struggled with retention, so he’s now overhauled it from a usability perspective, based on user feedback and testing.

The revamped app — basically the 2.0 release of Weather Atlas — is now rebranded as Weather Up, as a result of these and other changes, which also includes a new set of cute app icons.

“Apps that don’t take off are often abandoned, but the weather category is just so interesting to me I’m going to keep pushing until I carve out a decent niche. And I think Weather Up is a great step in the right direction,” says Barnard.

He says a lot of time was spent on making the app feel more intuitive — especially in terms of its gestural interface. The new design makes use of the extra vertical space on X-series iPhones and makes most of its buttons and gestures easily accessible from the lower portion of the screen, he says.

Another interesting thing he’s trying in the new app is an in-app Merch Store, which is certainly a first for a weather application — or productivity apps in general, for the most part.

To help with monetization, the store will sell things like shirts, mugs, bags, hats and more emblazoned with the new icons — which Barnard recently showed off on Twitter.

The store is also available on the developer’s website.

The app’s core feature set, of course, is its weather forecasts. In addition to temperature, it also shows humidity and precipitation accumulation, and warns about weather events like thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and tropical tracks.

As an indie developer, Barnard hopes people will choose his app over others because he vows not to sell user data or even location data to advertisers — even though that would be more profitable, he says.

Weather Up is a free download on the App Store, with a pro feature set available for $9.99/year or $1.99/month.


Source: Tech Crunch