Video distributor Magnify has completed the acquisition of Waywire, the video startup best known for its connection to politician Cory Booker. As we reported earlier, Magnify will now power Waywire’s video curation/aggregation site. Booker, who donated his shares in Waywire to charity last week, won one of New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seats in a special election yesterday.
The vacation-rental marketplace HomeAway charges $349 annually to list a property. For most current users, that makes a lot of sense; they bring in an average of $28,000 per year, and tend to rent at least 12 weeks per year.
But the annual fee doesn’t make sense for people who want to opportunistically experiment with renting their homes, for instance when a big event comes to town – the kind of stuff competitor Airbnb is especially good at.
“I know we lose a lot of customers who want to give it a try,” said HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples in an interview this week.
So HomeAway is adding a pay-per-booking option, as it had previously told investors to expect in the fourth quarter. But the markets don’t seem overly thrilled about the news; shares of HomeAway are trading slightly down, at $28.10, this morning.
Under the new plan, home owners can opt to pay 10 percent of each transaction to HomeAway. For 13 percent per booking, they can be connected with a service to build their rental listing and handle reservations. For 25 percent to 30 percent, they can hook up with a professional property manager who will handle cleaning and maintenance.
HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples
“Property managers traditionally viewed us as competitors,” Sharples said. “Now they are in-market partners.” Some 28 professional management companies have signed on so far.
Pay-per-booking will start as an option on HomeAway.com. Sharples said it would be extended to the company’s other sites, like VRBO.com, if it works out.
The move brings HomeAway into closer competition with the peer-to-peer darling Airbnb. But Airbnb’s appeal is about more than dropping the subscription fee; the company also authenticates hosts and guests using their history in the community and their offline identities. In some ways, Airbnb is less of a listing board and more of a social network of travelers.
Sharples said that model wouldn’t make sense for HomeAway, because it has a different audience. “We have our own internal tools to validate properties and ownership. But our customers are older and have second homes, and they aren’t as much in cities,” he said. “Many of our users don’t use social networks.”
It was another record-breaking profit quarter at Samsung Electronics, but investors remain unimpressed. The stock needs a new catalyst, and more cash payouts to shareholders would do the trick.
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Earlier this week, AllThingsD broke the news of two major fundings of a pair of hot startups: Scrapbooking service Pinterest and messaging service Snapchat.
Pinterest’s round of $225 million at a $3.8 billion valuation was confirmed by the company, while Snapchat declined to comment on one it is working on to raise several hundred million dollars at a $3.6 billion one.
But numerous sources said the Los Angeles-area company was indeed talking to an Asian strategic investor – AllThingsD named China’s Tencent as the likeliest candidate – and others about the funding.
The news quickly brought out the expected agonizing about the creation of yet another bubble in tech investing, a meme that was especially underscored by the fact that neither company makes any revenue to speak of, if at all.
That might change soon, though. Or, perhaps more precisely, it might have to, unless either sells to a bigger player.
And, in fact, sources said that Pinterest, which has already been experimenting with unpaid advertising, has been conducting a search for a top-notch exec to head sales, and has talked to a range of candidates, including from both Google and Facebook.
The goal, said sources, is to begin to put in place a sales organization to take advantage of its fast growth.
Pinterest has certainly seen that, as consumers have flocked to the free site on which they “pin” photos of their interests and share them widely. Usage has exploded since it was founded several years ago; it has also become an increasingly key driver of traffic across the Web to other sites.
While comScore showed Pinterest had 24.9 million unique monthly users in September, that is only in the U.S., and is desktop-only. In March alone, after mobile and international is added, it had close to 50 million unique monthly users worldwide.
To take advantage of that user base for revenue, the company just started its first test of advertising, called “promoted pins,” which appear in search results and category feeds.
But it remains an unpaid trial, according to the extensive disclosure post, personally penned by Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, that tried to ease users into the idea of advertisers having any place at all on the site.
Still, as with Facebook’s Instagram, advertisers are interested in finding new ways of reaching consumers in innovative ways. Pinterest, essentially, is building the ultimate personalized catalog of the digital age.
Snapchat, on the other hand, is building a service based on images that self-destruct, not exactly a formula that advertisers can grok as yet for marketing opportunities.
Launched in 2011, it has grown popular in a relatively short span of time, effectively creating an entirely new genre of messaging category with its “ephemeral” pictures and videos that last only a matter of seconds. As AllThingsD previously reported, the trend has attracted acquisition attention from Facebook.
In the summer, co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel said the service had 200 million pictures and video taken by its users on a daily basis, up from 150 million just months before. Then, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in September, he said that the number had grown to 350 million self-destructing messages daily.
Such wildfire growth prompted Spiegel to note various ideas about monetization, including experimenting with bands, and listening to music inside the app.
In fact, in-app purchases are a specialty of Tencent, one of Snapchat’s possible new investors.
So far, though, a Snapchat spokeswoman said it had not hired any sales execs, and was not currently looking for a big name. She noted that it has added a head of business and monetization, Philippe Browning, a former VP of advertising and operations for CBS Mobile, this year. But he is not in charge of any sales effort, instead focusing on ideas for monetization.
Still, in a June interview with Forbes, Spiegel said that he “previously directed all emails from interested marketers into a dead-end mailbox. Those emails now go to Browning.”
A step forward, I suppose.
Ashton Kutcher is back, pushing another tech product. But it’s not a Nikon camera or a Steve Jobs movie. Rather, it’s a new tablet from Lenovo.
The actor joined Lenovo onstage at a Wednesday night event in Los Angeles to unveil the Yoga Tablet. The Android Jelly Bean (4.2) device comes in eight-inch and 10-inch models, and will be available Thursday for $249 and $299, respectively.
Lenovo said that it wanted to design the Yoga Tablet to stand out from the “sea of sameness,” referring to the fact that all tablets look pretty much alike. As a result, it features a cylindrical handle that allows you to use the tablet in several different modes – a concept Lenovo borrowed from its line of Yoga convertible laptops.
In “hold” mode, you can simply grip the handle for a more comfortable experience when reading e-books and messages. Rotating the cylinder 90 degrees will expose a stand, so you can prop the tablet on a desk for watching movies or video chats. Finally, you can lay the device down with the stand out to angle the screen for easier typing and viewing.
One other benefit to the cylindrical handle, said Lenovo, is that it allowed a larger battery. The Yoga Tablet is powered by dual batteries, similar in power to those used in laptops; Lenovo estimates battery life to be around 18 hours in reading mode.
Both sizes of the Yoga Tablet have 1,280 by 800-pixel touchscreens, quad-core processors from MediaTek, and 16 gigabytes of internal memory with microSD expansion options. There’s also a five-megapixel rear camera and a front-facing 1.6-megapixel camera.
The eight-inch Yoga Tablet will be sold exclusively at Best Buy, and directly from Lenovo. The 10-inch model will be available at Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg and Lenovo.
As for Kutcher’s part, not only will he be helping market the devices, he’s also been named a “product engineer” at Lenovo. In his role, Kutcher, who studied engineering at the University of Iowa and has invested in several startups, will provide input on the design, software and specs of the company’s future products.