I Want My Free TV
Not The Calvary
The days of Saturday Night Live as cheapo Sunday morning hangover cure may be coming to a close. The New York Post reports that Hulu is getting ready to upend its current business model and require users to login with their cable or satellite account numbers. If you don’t have a cable or satellite account and therefore you don’t have a number, well, tough cookie.
Sources tell the Post that Hulu plans to transition to an authentication model, meaning access to content will be predicated upon some sort of subscription. Those same sources point to the shift as the reason for Providence Equity Partners unloading its stake for $200 million.
Anonymous is the bane of corporate IT departments, and it’s no wonder why: Running afoul of the hacktivists is likely to be embarrassing at least, expensive at worst. But as it turns out, it’s not exactly an unmitigated pleasure when gleeful techno-anarchists take up your cause, either.
The latest New Yorker tells the tale of one George Hotz, AKA geohot, the first person to jailbreak the iPhone and PS3. He ran afoul of Sony for the latter and found himself facing a lawsuit. That’s when Anonymous stepped in, opening an #OpSony IRC room and spitballing ideas like shitting upon the CEO’s stoop.
Money and Friends
When Kickstarter projects go wrong, backers often think they’ve been scammed; usually, the creators simply overpromised. But a campaign for an action video game, MYTHIC: The Story Of Gods and Men, has just been busted by forum users at Reddit, SomethingAwful and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. The creators claimed to be an independent studio, “Little Monster Productions,” of 12 industry veterans in Hollywood. “Our team has done a significant amount of work on the World of Warcraft series as well as Diablo 2 and the original Starcraft,” says the project page.
Bullshit, said the Internet. Turns out the art was cribbed, the text for backer rewards was copied and pasted from another Kickstarter project, and even the office photos were from another game studio, Burton Design Group.
The Future of the Nook
Roboinvest, which lets ordinary folks follow each others’ trades in real-time, booted up at the end of January with a partnership with amateur trading clearinghouse E*TRADE. The startup has processed $2.5 million in trades and grown to 1,300 users since then, founder Michael Giles told Betabeat, with only some seed money and a full-time team of two.
The trick to Roboinvest is “one-click copy trading,” the feature that launched just over two weeks ago and got the attention of Bloomberg’s Businessweek. Broadcast your trades in real-time on Roboinvest, and your followers have 30 minutes to decide if they want to copy your move. “Most people know somebody who trades, and they always want to know what they’re doing,” he said. “It’s trading for the rest of us. Anybody with a trading account can use Roboinvest.”
Things have been looking awfully upbeat for Amazon lately, with the DOJ taking exception to the $9.99-price-point-busting agency pricing model, which was designed in part to give publishers more leverage with the online bookseller. But for once, this morning brings some potentially positive news for a beleaguered competitor: Barnes & Noble will partner with Microsoft in the creation of a new subsidiary formed from its digital and College businesses. What’s MSFT bringing to the table? Cash money, honey.
Much like Lena Dunham on last night’s episode of “Girls,” New York technophiles seem to be embracing their “experimental” side. Some side projects are more facetious than others. But a new leisure pursuit from News.me general manager Jake Levine and designer Justin Van Slembrouck released today falls into the more utilitarian camp. Welcome to the Last Great Thing. Each day for a month, the duo plan on featuring a single link to the last great thing someone saw online.
The twist is that the site is “purposefully ephemeral,” Mr. Levine told Betabeat by email. “There will be no archive. What’s visible on Tuesday won’t be findable on Wednesday.” As far as gimmicks go, the disappearing link tops “by invitation only” in our book. We already feel a sense of panic over missing something great! Today’s entry from Clay Shirky is off to a stellar start.
This Is Not Investment Advice
Vibe, the anonymous microblogging service used during the Occupy Wall Street protests in the fall, is back. The app has a new release for iPhone and, later today, Android as well. The releases are timed to the citywide Occupy Wall Street protests planned for tomorrow.
Vibe works like Twitter, but users don’t have to register their names. Instead, a message is pinned to a specific location and shown only to users within the designated radius. Vibe also allows users to set an expiration date on their messages. Activists can use the service to coordinate in real-time, creator Hazem Sayed told Betabeat, and recently it’s been discovered by users in the Middle East.
The new features should make Vibe even more appealing to protesters. “The main thing that’s been added is this idea of a double hashtag,” Mr. Sayed said. “Unlike the standard hashtag, where you put it in and it’s vis to everyone, a double hashtag makes that thread invisible. So if you do ##newyorkcity, it doesn’t show up in the public stream. The only way to find it is to search for it explicitly.”
Last week, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss of Facebook and HarvardConnection fame appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box to talk about their new fund, Winklevoss Capital Partners. Like many investors, they’re interested in investing in the cloud. “We think the cloud is going to be huge, it already is,” Tyler said. It’s important to find a truly unique cloud startup because there are so many cloud startups already, Cameron added.
Here’s a prospective investment for the Winklevii: Josh Weinstein’s cloud. “Everyone is talking about clouds and how everyone wants to ‘invest in the cloud,’” Mr. Weinstein, founder of the flameout social network CollegeOnly.com and now the CEO of YouAreTV, told Betabeat over the weekend. So he created InvestInMyCloud.com, a cloud startup that accepts donations via a website with a picture of a cloud. He’s also submitted a campaign to Kickstarter and hopes to raise $20.
Local blogging platform Tumblr has raised a staggering $125 million in venture capital. Tumblr is now hosting more than 53 million blogs with images, video and a complex system of duplication via reblogs, all for free, so the company needs the cash. “In about six months, the word ‘Tumblr’ will eclipse ‘blog’ in Google popularity,” wrote the web comic artist and statistician Randall Munroe of XKCD.
Welcome to the big leagues. And at its size, Tumblr’s investors are keeping a closer eye on the goings-on at the wildly unprofitable startup. After years of leaving Tumblr’s magical fairyland largely to its own devices, two recent major changes suggest the company may be feeling pressure from investors (and its burn rate).
John Maloney previously ran the forum for Upper East Side moms UrbanBaby, where he employed David Karp. Four years ago, Mr. Karp then hired Mr. Maloney to serve as president and resident adult of Tumblr. Last week—late on a Friday, naturally—Mr. Maloney announced he is stepping down from the company.
Apple is famously innovative on the product side, but what of the corporate accounting team? Not a discipline known for its “Think Different” ethos, right? Well, judging from this New York Times piece outlining in excruciating detail how the company reduces its tax liability, the accountants may be the most creative people on the payroll.
The numbers: Last year Apple reported $34.2 billion in profits and paid $3.3 billion in cash taxes globally, which works out to a tax rate around 9.8 percent. (Wal-Mart paid something more like 24 percent.) That stands out even among other technology companies on the S&P 500, who report something like a third less taxes than non-tech companies.