Tue, Apr. 21, 5:35 PM| 6 Comments
Sat, Apr. 18, 5:18 PM
- WhatsApp (NASDAQ:FB) has surpassed 800M monthly active users (MAUs) 3 months after reaching 700M, co-founder/CEO Jan Koum shares on his Facebook page. Given the pace of growth, the world's most popular mobile messaging platform has a good shot of reaching 1B before year's end.
- The disclosure comes 3 weeks after WhatsApp began supporting VoIP calls on its Android app (iOS support is on the way), a move that makes it an even bigger headache for carriers who have seen WhatsApp eat into their SMS cash cow - over 30B WhatsApp messages are now sent daily, topping global SMS traffic of 20B/day. In spite of the friction, WhatsApp has struck deals with dozens of carriers, often for providing unlimited access to its services for a small monthly fee.
- WhatsApp's MAU base is ~200M larger than Facebook Messenger's, which recently topped 600M; Instagram has over 300M MAUs, and Facebook proper had 1.39B at the end of Q4. Whereas Facebook launched a 3rd-party app platform for Messenger last month, WhatsApp, which is mostly monetized via $1/year subscription fees charged in some markets, has no plans to launch something similar. Its mobile messaging share is huge in Europe and various emerging markets (e.g. India, Brazil), but relatively small in the U.S., Japan, and China.
- Meanwhile ahead of Facebook's Wednesday Q1 report, ad partner Nanigans has reported a 17% Q/Q and 260% Y/Y increase in its customers' Facebook ad click rates (CTRs). Their ad prices fell 17% Q/Q and rose 4% Y/Y for ads sold on a cost per click (CPC) basis, and fell 3% Q/Q and rose 273% Y/Y for ads sold on a cost per 1K impression (CPM) basis. While seasonality played a role in the Q/Q drops, it's worth noting e-commerce ad CPCs were also down 14% Y/Y; gaming CPCs and e-commerce/gaming CPMs were all up strongly Y/Y.
- Video ad spend among Nanigans clients rose 180% Q/Q, as Facebook continues ramping video ad products launched last year. Spending on multi-product ads (launched last summer, support 3-5 images and links) rose 420% Q/Q.
Sat, Apr. 11, 9:26 PM
- Major social data/analytics provider DataSift has announced its licensing deal to access Twitter's (NYSE:TWTR) data firehose will expire on Aug. 13, after Twitter suspended negotiations. Twitter, which bought DataSift rival Gnip last year, states "companies building analytic solutions using Twitter’s data and platform" will now "need to have a direct relationship with Twitter."
- Twitter insists those accessing its firehose via third parties won't see an impact, other than that they'll now pay Twitter directly. "Direct relationships help Twitter develop a deeper understanding of customer needs, get direct feedback for the product roadmap, and work more closely with data customers..."
- DataSift, which provides data from 20 sources besides Twitter, has a different view of things. "80% of our customers use technology that can’t be replaced by Twitter ... social networks make money from engagement and advertising. Revenue from data should be a secondary concern to distribution..."
- The company uses the occasion to praise Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) more liberal stance towards data access. DataSift partnered with Facebook last month to launch Topic Data, a solution that lets advertisers access mountains of anonymized Facebook content (including status updates, comments, likes and shares) sorted by topic, to better gauge consumer sentiment.
- DataSift on the Facebook deal: "For the first time, aggregate analysis is enabled across the entirety of Facebook users – not just the public profiles ... We are now providing our clients with the most powerful tool in the world for understanding consumer opinion." Facebook, which hopes Topic Data will help brands deliver better targeted ads (any by doing so, lead them to spend more on Facebook ads), isn't charging DataSift for now.
- Twitter's data licensing/other revenue rose 110% Y/Y in 2014 to $147.3M (10% of total revenue). IBM, which has launched enterprise analytics services for mining Twitter data, was recently added as a client.
Wed, Apr. 8, 2:13 PM
- Though Goldman remains Twitter's (TWTR -1%) banker, Re/code reports the firm isn't working to fend off a hostile Twitter bid, as suggested by M&A rumors that emerged yesterday.
- The site adds there are no discussions going on between Twitter and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) or Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), though the Web giants have looked at Twitter in prior years.
- After rising 4% yesterday with the help of M&A rumors, Twitter is off moderately today. Back in January, Re/code reported the microblogging leader is worried about potential attacks from activists, and that former employees have been contacted by hedge funds looking to unearth info on lightning-rod CEO Dick Costolo.
Tue, Apr. 7, 5:11 AM
- A Turkish court blocked access to Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and YouTube yesterday until the Web sites implemented an order to remove content related to last week's hostage crisis, when Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz was shot dead.
- The court also threatened to ban Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) unless it removed the content from its search engine, while Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) was briefly affected as well.
- The ban on the Web sites is not Turkey's first amid increasing controversy over the government's policies vis a vis Internet censorship.
- The tech firms are caught in a dilemma about providing as much access as possible even as governments increasingly request that content be removed.
- "If you're social media, you're both trying to do what's right and keep your company going," says Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina.
- ETFs: TUR
Thu, Apr. 2, 11:03 AM
- "Just because a stock is up already, you haven't missed it if the story is really good," says Will Danoff, whose Fidelity Contrafund (MUTF:FCNTX) has smoked the market over his 25 years in charge, but trailed the S&P 500 last year.
- With Contrafund pushing $113B in AUM, Danoff - on advice from Warren Buffett to bet big on the best ideas - has trimmed the number of stocks in the portfolio to 350 from 500.
- Among the stocks where he's finding strong growth at a decent price is Associated British Foods (OTCPK:ASBFY): "They are taking Europe by storm," he says, and the chain is coming to America with an opening on Boston this fall, followed by other locations.
- Others in the strong growth at a reasonable price category are Boeing (NYSE:BA) and 3M (NYSE:MMM).
- Facebook (NASDAQ:FB): "Don't sell after the first double," says Danoff, believing the migration to mobile means the company will continue to increase its current $6 in revenue per U.S. user.
- Source: Barron's
Thu, Mar. 26, 6:59 PM
- Though Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) are squaring off more than ever following yesterday's Facebook F8 conference product launches, none of it is intentional, insists Mark Zuckerberg in a Wired interview.
- Zuck: "To the extent that we are doing measurement and Google did measurement, that’s just because Google is smart and they also realize that measurement is valuable ... Same on the video front ... we are not thinking about how we are competing with YouTube. We are thinking about how are we going to make it more useful for people to share stuff on Facebook."
- Facebook's launch of a mobile ad exchange (competes against Google's DoubleClick, leverages Facebook data) and embedded video support (YouTube dominates video embeds) has led to more than a few headlines declaring Facebook is out to take Google's lunch. The companies already compete in multiple ad markets.
- On the mobile ad exchange front, at least, the competitive overlap might be less than some think. As Foreester's Jim Nail observes, DoubleClick's exchange, much like Google search, focuses on intent-based advertising (i.e. ads for items users have recently expressed interest in), while Facebook's natural strength is targeting based on a user's historical likes.
- Other Facebook F8 news: 1) Facebook has provided details about Aquila, a solar-powered drone that will have a wingspan similar to a Boeing 767, and be used lasers to beam Web access to underserved regions. Google bought drone maker Titan Aerospace last year. 2) Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash promises big things for virtual reality, once tech challenges are resolved. "Virtual reality -- done right -- truly is reality as far as the observer is concerned ... It's clear that VR has the potential to change almost everything about the way we live."
- Yesterday: Zuck shares stats, launches Messenger app platform
Wed, Mar. 25, 3:18 PM
- Continuing its flurry of F8 conference announcements, Facebook (FB -2.5%) states publishers will now be able to embed videos on other sites; all they have to do is click on an "embed" button and copy/paste some code. The move makes Facebook a bigger threat to YouTube (NASDAQ:GOOG); it's already a major indirect rival to the online video giant.
- Confirming a recent Bloomberg report, Facebook is launching (via its LiveRail video ad unit) a mobile ad exchange that lets 3rd-party publishers sell both display and video ads with the help of Facebook data. The solution takes aim at Google's DoubleClick and Twitter's (NYSE:TWTR) MoPub units.
- Facebook's Parse mobile developer tool unit has launched SDKs for creating apps that run on embedded/wearable devices (the proverbial Internet of Things). Meanwhile, Facebook proper is showing off Analytics for Apps,a dashboard that provides stats on how a Facebook-enabled app is being used (and who's using it) across multiple platforms; the solution includes tools for measuring ad performance.
- Disclosed: 1) Native ad formats account for over half of all Facebook Audience Network (mobile ad network, launched last year) ads. 2) Over 400K developers now use Parse's tools. 3) Over 1B apps have now been installed via Facebook's app install ads.
- After getting a brief bounce, Facebook has sold off to new intraday lows. The Nasdaq is now down 1.9%.
- Earlier: Zuck shares stats, launches Messenger app platform at Facebook's F8
Wed, Mar. 25, 1:53 PM
- Mark Zuckerberg has kicked off Facebook's (FB -1.2%) F8 developer conference by disclosing Messenger MAUs have topped 600M (up from November's 500M), and that Facebook Groups users now top 700M. WhatsApp is still said to be above 700M (as announced in January). A Bloomberg column previously mentioned Facebook's Messenger user base had reached 700M, but no longer does so.
- Zuck has also unveiled (confirming a recent TechCrunch report) the Messenger Platform, which allows 3rd-party developers to integrate their apps with Messenger. Over 40 apps are initially supported, including ESPN, The Weather Channel, Imgur, and a slew of independent content/media apps such as JibJab, PicCollage, and UltraText; an SDK rolls out today. Disclosed along the way: Messenger now handles 10% of all VoIP phone calls.
- Also launching: Businesses on Messenger, a solution that lets businesses use Messenger to chat with and send alerts to consumers (and vice versa). Zulily and Everlane are initial supporters of the feature, which can be launched from a business' site. Cloud customer support software vendor Zendesk (ZEN -1.4%) is working with Facebook to "support the live chat experience;" cloud live chat software vendor LivePerson (LPSN -0.5%) might be in the crosshairs.
- Other news: 1) Facebook will begin supporting the uploading of 360-degree (spherical) videos to the news feed, and also plans to bring the feature to Oculus. 2) Facebook's sharing feature has been overhauled to include new tools. 3) Facebook, which now sees 3B+ daily video views, is testing continuous autoplay videos; when one video ends, another starts.
- Facebook has pared its losses for the day following the announcements. The Nasdaq is down 1.6%.
- Live blogs: CNET, The Next Web
Tue, Mar. 24, 9:57 AM
- Long a huge referral traffic source for the many online media firms that provide excerpts and links for their material on the company's site and apps, Facebook (FB +1%) is now in talks with at least a half-dozen media firms to fully host their content in exchange for a chance to profit from related ad revenue, the NYT reports.
- The NYT itself is said to be one of the publishers Facebook is talking to, as are viral content giant BuzzFeed and National Geographic. Tests are expected to begin in "the next several months." Some publishers are reportedly wary of Facebook's overtures out of fear of losing site traffic and control over the user experience.
- Facebook could pitch publishers on providing a quicker/more seamless content-viewing experience, as well as on countering the rising popularity of video on Facebook - the social networking giant's video views have soared to over 3B/day following the launch of autoplay videos.
- Facebook hasn't been shy about wanting to act as a media platform for its 1.39B MAUs, though readers still often engage more with viral content than longer-form material. The NYT's report follows a December video clip deal with the NFL for which Facebook is sharing revenue produced by Verizon ads run against the NFL's content.
- Shares have rallied above $85 in early trading, making new highs yet again.
- Update (4:00PM): The Information has followed up by reporting Facebook is in talks with Vice, The Onion, Vox Media, and others to produce short-form videos.
Fri, Mar. 20, 11:35 AM
- Following the lead of Line, WeChat, Snapchat, and other mobile messaging platforms, Facebook (FB +1.9%) will use its March 25-26 F8 developers' conference to "announce new ways for third parties to offer experiences through its Messenger app," multiple sources tell TechCrunch
- Facebook will initially "focus on how third parties can build ways for content and information to flow through Messenger," and (depending on how the initial efforts go) might later support more features. No word on whether WhatsApp, which has taken a very minimalist approach to its service, will follow suit.
- Line and WeChat have turned into huge revenue generators through their support for gaming, payments/e-commerce, stickers, and other value-added services, as well as ads. Line, owned by Korea's Naver (OTC:NHNCF), had Q4 revenue of $198.7M (+62% Y/Y) via just 181M MAUs; 60% of its revenue comes from games. Facebook recently told Bloomberg Messenger's user base has risen to 700M.
- TechCrunch adds Facebook, which just added P2P payments support to Messenger (it's not collecting transaction fees for now), is intent on avoiding the spamming that took place for apps on its site (largely via game developers). Mark Zuckerberg has previously suggested he's not a fan of monetizing messaging platforms via ads.
- Shares have topped $84 for the first time a day after taking out a December high of $82.17. A broader market rally is helping Facebook's cause today.
Wed, Mar. 18, 2:29 PM
- After dropping slightly yesterday following news Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is giving Messenger users the ability to send money to each other (though not to merchants), EBAY is seeing steeper losses today. Volume (11M shares) has exceeded a 3-month daily average of 8.5M.
- Unlike PayPal, Facebook doesn't plan to charge transaction fees for the time being. Mark Zuckerberg has suggested he isn't interested in monetizing Messenger until it hits 1B users.
- Though P2P money transfers are a small portion of PayPal's transaction volume, Facebook's service could substantially grow the number of payment card numbers it has on file. The company is in the midst of testing (with the help of PayPal rival Stripe) a Buy button that lets users pay for advertised items without leaving Facebook's site/apps, using previously-saved card data.
- Buried within a Bloomberg column about Facebook's payments launch: Facebook says it now has 700M Messenger users. The company reported having 500M MAUs back in November.
Tue, Mar. 17, 4:02 PM
- Facebook (FB +1.7%) is updating its PC and mobile Messenger apps to allow users to send cash (via debit cards) to friends. A user sending money simply has to tap a $ icon, enter an amount, and tap a Pay button; a PIN can be created to provide security.
- Facebook is less than a year removed from hiring ex-PayPal chief David Marcus to run Messenger. Mark Zuckerberg, for his part, has suggested for a while payments will be a part of Facebook's efforts to monetize Messenger, which has 500M+ MAUs thanks in part to Facebook's decision to remove messaging functionality from its core apps.
- Many think WhatsApp, currently monetized in some markets via subscription fees, will eventually join rival messaging platforms in supporting payments. Facebook has promised it won't run ads on WhatsApp, and has more broadly argued ads aren't a good way to monetize messaging apps.
- PayPal owner eBay (EBAY -0.1%) has ticked lower following Facebook's announcement. For now, Facebook's platform doesn't support merchant payments, which account for a far larger percentage of PayPal's transaction volume than consumer-to-consumer payments.
Mon, Mar. 16, 1:23 PM
- "There is no fear in Silicon Valley right now," proclaims Benchmark VC Bill Gurley, once more raising alarm bells about a perceived bubble in private tech funding and valuations. He predicts some "unicorns" - startups with $1B+ valuations, a club whose ranks have swelled rapidly over the last couple of years - will go belly-up in 2015.
- Gurley expects Facebook (FB -0.7%) to be one of the companies hurt by the shakeout, given its dependence on mobile app install ads that are often sold to startups looking to gain exposure for their apps. Though Facebook hasn't given an exact number, install ads are believed to account for a large portion of the company's mobile ad sales, which in turn were 69% of its total Q4 ad revenue.
- Gurley's remarks come as The Information reports Facebook will use its March 25-26 f8 conference to unveil tools that let developers track the performance of install ads both on Facebook and 3rd-party apps. Google and Twitter entered the install ad market last year; Google, which currently places install ads within mobile search results, is set to expand its offerings to include ads placed within the Google Play app.
- Other Facebook news: 1) BofA/Merrill argues today Instagram is worth up to $37B, and WhatsApp up to $32B. It thinks each platform could eventually deliver ~$4B/year in revenue, and that Instagram's MAU count could top 500M next year. Cowen recently gave Instagram a $33B valuation. 2) Facebook has updated its community standards to clarify its stance on adult content, hate speech, regulated goods, and several other matters.
- Previously: Gurley on tech startup valuations
Fri, Mar. 13, 11:07 PM
- Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has bought TheFind, an online shopping search engine that lets users compare listings from Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Target, and many other online retailers/marketplaces - the startup claims to index more than 500M products across 500K stores. Terms are undisclosed.
- While announcing the deal, TheFind says its search engine will be shuttered within the next few weeks, but adds it will be "working hard to integrate our technology to make the ads you see on Facebook every day better and more relevant to you."
- A source talking to AdWeek states Facebook will use TheFind to deliver better retargeted ads (i.e. ads based on activity on non-Facebook sites/apps), something that could yield better ROIs and ad prices. "Say you're looking at a pair of jeans on the Gap's website. You won't see those ads after you buy them."
- Facebook already does plenty of business selling retargeted e-commerce ads within its news feed, and on its site's right-hand column. However, delivering relevant product ads to consumers is still often a challenge, as it is for many other retargeted ad platforms.
- The acquisition comes just a month after Facebook launched a news feed ad unit meant specifically for product ads, and for which ads are tailored to a user's activity and interests. The company has also been testing out a Buy button that could improve ad ROIs/prices by allowing users to make purchases without leaving Facebook's site/apps, using payment data previously saved to their accounts.
Sat, Mar. 7, 2:17 PM
- Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has "assembled a team of engineers to build a version of the Android operating system to power virtual-reality applications," two sources tell the WSJ. "Tens of engineers" are said to be working on the project, which was launched in the wake of Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) $2B 2014 acquisition of early VR hardware/software leader Oculus.
- The report comes as industry investments in VR platforms accelerate rapidly. In addition to Facebook/Oculus, Sony, HTC, and multiple startups have projects in various stages of development. Sony just promised its gaming-focused Morpheus VR headset would launch in 1H16; HTC showed off its Vive headset at the Mobile World Congress.
- Last year, Google launched Cardboard, a cheap prototype kit meant to get developers to start writing VR apps for Android. Oculus, meanwhile, has partnered with Samsung to launch the Gear VR, a headset line that relies on Samsung (Android) phones to provide the device's display and camera; a full commercial launch is expected later this year. Oculus has also bought multiple startups to help maintain its tech lead.
- "Virtual reality is bigger than gaming," Oculus CTO John Carmack proclaimed at this week's Game Developers Conference (GDC). Mark Zuckerberg at the time of the Oculus deal announcement: "Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles ... Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.'
- GPU leaders Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) and AMD are also going after the opportunity: Nvidia used GDC to show off several VR game demos powered by its GPUs; its Maxwell GPU line has already been optimized for VR. AMD used GDC to launch LiquidVR, a VR developer SDK for its GPUs that improves head-tracking and reduces latency/stuttering, and by doing so aims to eliminate motion sickness (still a common user complaint).
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