Cashing Out: Week of March 4th – 10th 2012 in Online Marketing News

Google rebrands Android Market as Play

Google announced this week that, as of March 6, that it would be grouping all of its digital media services, including the Android Market, under the new banner of Google Play.

Rather than continuing to separate its various content offerings in category-specific stores – such as the Android App Store, or Google eBookstore – the company is consolidating its music, ebooks, videos and apps with Google Play.

The change isn’t radical, and it’s more about rebranding than changing the product, really. As Mashable writes, “In short, it’s an attempt by Google to break down the walls surrounding each of its content offerings. While users may have known that Google sells Android apps, some may have had less knowledge of its video or book offerings.”

Also, the word “Android” in the Android Market could be misleading to some consumers, who may think they need to be operating on Android just to rent movies, or buy music. “Google has spent months and months building out the Android Market into a digital media hub, but constantly invoking the Android name seems to have led to a sense of exclusion for some users,” writes TechCrunch.

One actual change, however is that Google will be integrating social sharing into their new content hub, so that users can share with and update friends on Google+ regarding the latest music, movies or books they’ve been into on Google Play

Square launches Register iPad app

Mobile payments company Square announced its new product this week – the Register iPad app for merchants. “The app aims to replicate the actual experience of a register, similar to Square’s existing iPad app,” writes TechCrunch. Though it of course offers perks and features that a traditional cash register can’t, such as real-time analytics.

As well as offering the basic sales and transaction data, these analytics will also allow merchants to analyze sales by time period (say, month, day, or or time of day), or by the size of the transaction.

Also, Register will be more tightly integrated with Card Case, another Square product which allows consumers to keep track of, and buy from, the merchants they visit who use Square.

“For example, merchants can publish their business’ profile to the Card Case directory so customers can find them as they explore a given city. The app also includes customer notifications, so merchants know when regulars and new customers arrive at their store using Card Case,” writes TechCrunch.

If Square aims to become ubiquitous, they’re certainly headed in the right direction, if nothing else. ReveNews reported last week on a pilot project of Square’s in which the company launched its payment service in a limited number of New York City cabs. And, as Mashable reported March 5, “Square, which gets a 2.75 percent cut of every transaction using its reader, is processing $4 billion a year in payments.”

Green Dot acquires Loopt for mobile payments

Location-based service Loopt has just been acquired by banking and payment-solutions company Green Dot Corp., a press release announced March 9. The deal, worth $43.4 million, will see “Loopt’s current headquarters in Mountain View, California [...] become the new Silicon Valley hub for Green Dot’s mobile technology and product development team,” the press release says.

Though Loopt originally launched as a service for connecting with friends close by, in the shadow of Foursquare and with the check-in app market narrowing to just a few leading services, Loopt has more recently adapted its service for users to find local merchants and deals, rather than friends.

Now, Green Dot will be using Loopt’s check-in functionality as a way of breaking into the mobile wallet market, says Green Dot Chairman and CEO Steve Streit:

“We believe that mobile phones have the potential to change the way people interact with their bank, control their money and pay for goods and services [...] When Loopt’s assets are layered into Green Dot’s platform, we believe that a significant opportunity emerges for Green Dot to become a large-scale player in mobile technology solutions at the retail point of sale.”

According to Mashable, it’s crucial that Loopt’s staff stay on board if that strategy is to work: “[Green Dot] needs Loopt’s talent to stick around to make that happen, so $9.8 million of the cash is reserved for a retention pool.”

“Significant” layoffs coming to Yahoo

It’s no news that Yahoo isn’t what it used to be. With rumors of a possible acquisition going on for the better part of a year now, the buzzards have been circling for some time. And this week, a new announcement from the once great company points to further weakness.

Citing “multiple sources” inside and outside the company, the Wall Street Journal‘s AllThingsD reported March 5 that Yahoo’s new CEO Scott Thompson is planning “major restructuring, including significant layoffs.”

In what AllThingsD calls an effort “to jumpstart what has largely been a failed turnaround for the company under previous leadership,” Thomspon is reportedly preparing to cut away certain of its businesses while adopting new ones.

“Some parts will be cut away, leaving resources to go to better efforts,” one of the sources told AllThingsD, while the other indicates the layoffs will be heavy:

“’It is going to be deep,’ said one manager who has not yet been given specific numbers to cut, but that it appears as if each unit will be required to show either substantive savings or a clear path to great growth in revenue.”

Netflix courting cable companies, Comcast declines

Courtship can be hard when you’re more interested than the other party is. That’s especially true if you’re an ailing video service like Netflix.

The New York Times (NYT) reported March 7 that the company has been working to woo cable companies for a partnership and for the development of original series.

“In what would ratchet up its competition with HBO, the talks could lead to Netflix becoming available as another on-demand option for cable subscribers through their set-top boxes, according to three people familiar with the talks,” a March 6 release from Reuters writes, adding “If a partnership came to fruition, a cable operator might offer Netflix as an additional option added onto a subscriber’s cable bill, according to a fourth person.”

The report also says that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has “strongly hinted” at the possibility of Netflix becoming a cable channel in its own right, during recent investor conferences, though the company has declined to comment on their talks with cable companies so far.

But for all its (unconfirmed) efforts, it seems at least one party has rejected Netflix as a suitor. A separate NYT article March 8 reported that Comcast has refused to offer Netflix to it Xfinity users “regardless of whether it’s in the form of an on-demand service or a billing partnership.”

“We have no plans to offer access to Netflix to our customers through our Xfinity TV service, no matter what device,” a Comcast spokesperson was quoted as saying this week.

Meanwhile, Comcast already has a streaming service of their own for Xfinity subscribers, and it starts at $3 less per month than Netflix’s service.

Twitter overhauls brand pages

Citing “three executives familiar with the matter,” Ad Age reported March 8 that big changes are on the way for Twitter’s brand pages, including the addition of “experiences,” like e-commerce, contests, and sweepstakes.

“The product will allow app developers to build experiences on Twitter, much the way they do on Facebook,” writes AdAge, noting that “the features will be contained within the brand’s tweet timeline, a departure from the 140-character limit of a tweet or images and videos,” which is now the norm.

Though Twitter has declined to comment, and though Ad Age’s sources have not given a date for when we can expect the changes, they expect them to start rolling out within the next year.

This week in marketing studies and reports:

Pinterest trumps Twitter in referral traffic

According to data from Shareholic, reported on by Mashable March 8, Pinterest now drives more referral traffic than does Twitter.

The study showed that, over February, Pinterest was responsible for 1.05 percent of all traffic, as compared to Twitter’s 0.82 percent. Meanwhile, Google still claims almost half of all traffic, with 48.81 percent, trailed by Facebook, Yahoo, StumbleUpon, and Bing, in that order.

Twitter’s U.S growth speeds up while Facebook’s slows

A March 5 report from eMarketer shows that, while Facebook retains a much larger user base than Twitter, the latter is experiencing more rapid growth than the former.

The report forecasts that, for Facebook “this year will be the first when growth rates drop to the single digits.” Though eMarketer also notes that, “with 116.8 million US internet users already logging on to the site at least once monthly [as of 2010], growth rates were bound to plateau.”

Meanwhile, Twitter’s growth is likewise expected to fall eventually as well, though it’s likely to “remain nearly four times higher than Facebook’s growth rate in 2014.”

Over 100M mobile phone subscribers use smartphones

According to comScore’s monthly mobile usage data report, 101.3 million mobile phone subscribers in the U.S. are now using smartphones. That amounts to an increase of 13 percent since October 2011.

Meanwhile, the report found that Android OS’ share of the smartphone market continued to increase, and is now responsible 48.6 percent of smartphone users. Apple was not far behind, accounting for 29.5 percent of smartphone subscribers.

About Emily Wilkinson

Emily Wilkinson is a Montreal writer and editor who recently joined ReveNews.com. 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