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Verizon declines to comment on WSJ report saying Tim Armstrong is in talks to leave Oath

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Tim Armstrong is in talks to leave Verizon as soon as next month.
Armstrong heads up the carrier giant’s digital and advertising division, Oath (formerly AOL, prior to the Yahoo acquisition and the subsequent merger of the two units). Oath also happens to be TechCrunch’s parent, of course.
We reached out to our corporate overlords for a confirm or deny on the newspaper report. A Verizon spokesperson told us: “We don’t comment on speculation and have no announcements to make.”
The WSJ cites “people familiar with the matter” telling it Armstrong is in talks to leave, which would mean he’s set to step away from an ongoing process of combining the two business units into a digital content and ad tech giant.
Though he has presided over several rounds of job cuts already, as part of that process.
Verizon acquired Armstrong when it bought AOL in 2015. The Yahoo acquisition followed in 2017 — with the two merged to form the odd-sounding Oath, a b2b brand that Armstrong seemingly inadvertently outted.
Building an ad giant to challenge Google and Facebook is the underlying strategy. But as the WSJ points out there hasn’t been much evidence of Oath moving Verizon’s growth needle yet (which remains tied to its wireless infrastructure).
The newspaper cites eMarketer projections which have Google taking over a third of the online ad market by 2020; Facebook just under a fifth; and Oath a mere 2.7%.
Meanwhile, Verizon’s appointment of former Ericsson CEO, Hans Vestberg, as its new chief exec in June, taking over from Lowell McAdam (who stepped down after seven years), suggests pipes (not content) remain the core focus for the carrier — which has the expensive of 5G upgrades to worry about.
A cost reduction program, intending to use network virtualization to take $10BN in expenses out of the business over the next four years, has also been a recent corporate priority for Verizon.
Given that picture, it’s less clear how Oath’s media properties mesh with its plans.
The WSJ’s sources told the newspaper there were recent discussions about whether to spin off the Oath business entirely — but said Verizon has instead decided to integrate some of its operations more closely with the rest of the company (whatever ‘integrate’ means in that context).
(Since the story broke, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis has expanded slightly on the ‘no comment’. Speaking during an appearance at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference this morning, he said: “Our commitment is as strong today to Oath as it has ever been… There’s a lot of good work going on there. It’s really setting the foundation of what we expect to do with the business going forward, and we still feel very strongly there’s a great opportunity there… So we continue to be very committed to Oath. There’s a significant opportunity for us there.”)
There have been other executive changes at Oath earlier this year, too, with the head of its media properties, Simon Khalaf, departing in April — and not being replaced.
Instead Armstrong appointed a COO, K Guru Gowrappan, hired in from Alibaba, who he said Oath’s media bosses would now report to.
“Now is our time to turn the formation of Oath into the formation of one of the world’s best operating companies that paves a safe and exciting path forward for our billion consumers and the world’s most trusted brands,” Armstrong wrote in a staff memo on Gowrappan’s appointment obtained by Recode.
“Guru will run day to day operations of our member (consumer) and B2B businesses and will serve as a member of our global executive team helping to set company culture and strategy. Guru will also be an important part of the Verizon work that is helping both Oath and Verizon build out the future of global services and revenue,” he added, saying he would be spending more of his time “spread across strategic Oath opportunities and Verizon… leading our global strategy, global executive team, and corporate operations”.
At the start of the year Oath also named a new CFO, Vanessa Wittman, after the existing officer, Holly Hess, moved to Verizon to head up the aforementioned cost-saving program.
Reaction to the rumour of Armstrong’s imminent departure has sparked fresh speculation about jobs cuts on the anonymous workplace app Blind — with Oath/AOL/Yahoo employees suggesting additional rounds of company-wide layouts could be coming in October.
Or, well, that could always just be trolling.

Verizon declines to comment on WSJ report saying Tim Armstrong is in talks to leave Oath

Мультимедийный проект Winamp закроют в декабре

Американская IT-корпорация AOL решила закрыть проект Winamp, который включал в себя медиа-плеер и ряд музыкальных сервисов. Плеер нельзя будет скачать начиная с 20 декабря, когда прекратит работу сайт winamp.com.
Мультимедийный проект Winamp закроют в декабре

HTML Mobile Gaming Site Cellufun Is Now Tylted, Eyes Up “Substantial” Facebook Play, Virtual Goods, Ads

tylted logo

Facebook is banking a lot on the future of HTML5 and the idea of people going web-first instead of native-apps for their mobile content fixes, and today mobile gaming company Cellufun taking one step in its strategy to position itself as a key player in that space, too: it’s announcing that it is rebranding itself as Tylted.

Tylted — a name chosen from 30,000 entries in a competition run by Cellufun (the unnamed winner got $10,000) — says that strategy also includes the launch of a new ad platform, the expansion of its virtual good business, and — as you might expect from a social gaming company doing a lot of work in HTML — plans to do a whole lot more on Facebook’s mobile platform this calendar year.

The company today also launched a new game to kick off that virtual goods/advertising push: CuBug, it says, is a “Tetris-style” tile matching game where captured bugs “hatch into virtual features like wall papers that can be gifted to other players in rainbow colors.” As for advertising, Tylted gives brands the option of integrating in different parts of the game from chat rooms, to score comparisons, customized virtual goods and so on.

Founded back in 2005 way before our smartphone world was changed by the iPhone, Tylted today attracts some 10 million monthly unique users, with half a billion monthly page views covering 33 different casual and social games, with the most popular of these currently Pocket Beanie Babies, Mobile Wars and Vampires Rising.

The big task ahead is to make sure that it changes with the times: can it remain attractive to a base of consumers that are wowed by brands like Angry Birds and Draw Something? This, says CEO Lon Otremba, was part of the logic for rebranding: “When we wanted to take the company to the next level, and we thought people might think ‘Cellufun’ looked backward.”

Tylted’s revenues are currently split 50 from advertising and 50 percent from virtual goods — both areas that the company want to grow in future. And for what it’s worth, Otremba has a background that seems to lend itself well to the tasks ahead for Tylted: among his past roles, he was EVP for AOL’s interactive marketing group, where he led the strategy and operations for AOL’s advertising and e-commerce business. And he also has background in helping legacy companies turn themselves around: another past role was as CEO of Muzak, where he took the company best known for cheesy instrumental versions of well-known songs, and helped it pivot into one of the world’s largest providers of commercial music services and custom music programming.

In virtual goods, Otremba says these need to be appealing to a “wider base of users.” That speaks to a problem other gaming companies have also found, with Kongregate noting last month that in its high-ARPU games, typically two percent of users account for 40 percent of all in-game revenue, and 90 percent of revenues come from users who spend more than $100 in games.

For Tylted, that will mean focusing on virtual goods that it has seen already gain traction with more than just hardcore gamers: these areas include anonymous personal avatars, in-game chat, and the ability to share virtual currency with other users. Otremba also says the company is looking to sell more virtual items, the kinds of things a “more casual user might buy without taking away from the interest in virtual currency for more avid users.”

On Facebook, Otremba admits that for now the company has not “done much yet” but that it is “substantially increasing our involvement with Facebook” this calendar year. “Facebook’s overall strategy of embracing the mobile web is absolutely in line with us,” he says. That move may be about the launch of new games and “new ideas that could be more appropriate” to the social network, he says. Advertising, he says, is an “explosive” area that has been relatively untouched so far by his company.

It is in the process of building up a new ad sales force, including hiring some of his ex-colleagues from AOL. He says that Tylted’s unique selling point for Madison Avenue is that it has the scale that “would matter” to them. “To establish a direct relationship with those companies is a huge opportunity,” he says. While companies like Zynga and Rovio already offer advertising alongside their games,  what is perhaps notable here is that Tylted may be willing to go much further than bigger players in bending its own branding in favor of that of advertisers.

One of those areas where you can see advertisers potentially calling the shots more is in the area of apps. That’s an area that so far Tylted has steered away from — something Otremba notes as an advantage: “We have been somewhat immune from the discovery problem that has presented itself to app developers,” he says. “Our site is one of the busiest on the mobile web and is a destination in its own right.”

But he also says: “I don’t rule anything out on apps. I’m happy to say that we are looking. We are very opportunistic, and certain partners have asked us to do something different from what we’ve traditionally done.”

Tylted has had just under $8 million of backing to date and was profitable last year, but to accelerate growth the company has gone back into the red. “We could be immensely profitable right now if we chose not to invest in the future,” says Otremba. That may take the company into looking for more funding towards the end of this year.


HTML Mobile Gaming Site Cellufun Is Now Tylted, Eyes Up “Substantial” Facebook Play, Virtual Goods, Ads

Pulse Adds 20 Titles From Popular Science Publisher Bonnier To Its Reading Stream, Its Biggest Launch Yet

Pulse Bonnier mag screenshot

In the landgrab among reading apps that aggregate content to make it more accessible on tablets and smartphones, one of the early movers, Pulse, is today announcing a deal with magazine publisher Bonnier that will give its offering a significant boost.

Bonnier is adding 20 titles from its special-interest magazine portfolio to the Pulse reading stream, including titles like Field and Stream, Parenting, Saveur, Scuba Diving, Skiing and Sound + Vision. Pulse, which already had some 300 content partners on its platform, says the Bonnier deal is its biggest yet.

The news comes weeks after rival platform Flipboard expanded in another sense, adding several features to make its newsreading app more Chinese-friendly.

The deal between Pulse and Bonnier comes out of an existing, successful relationship between the two around a single hit: back in July 2011 Pulse and Bonnier signed a deal to include one of Bonnier’s biggest titles, Popular Science, in its stream.

Within six months, Pulse says subscriptions for Popular Science went through the roof, from 60,000 to more than three million as of January 2012. The two aren’t giving out more current numbers but say that “millions” of stories from the magazine have been read to date, and it is one of the most popular magazines on Pulse at the moment.

Whether the more niche titles featured in this latest deal will prove to have as much of a bang for Bonnier’s buck remains to be seen. To date, Pulse has signed on more than 300 partners to its platform, with the content ranging from general interest news providers like the BBC and Businessweek to more specific subjects, such as golf (and, naturally, the best in tech news from TechCrunch).

Scale may not be the priority now, but it will be for the business long-term. Akshay Kothari, the founder and CEO of Pulse, once told me that the company does have plans to monetize content on the app — you can imagine in-stream, pre- and post-roll advertising targeted to a user’s reading preferences — but this will come only when usage grows more. The same goes here: “Bonnier and Pulse do plan to monetize this once we build a significant audience,” he said.

What’s notable about Bonnier’s Pulse push is that it’s giving users another way of accessing that magazine content on smartphones, a platform that the publisher does not seem to have emphasized as much in its app strategy.

At the moment, Bonnier lists 28 iPhone apps compared to 66 for the iPad. Readers who want articles, and no bells and whistles, can also bypass the fact that the apps for titles like Popular Science are free to download but cost money to read, whereas the Pulse version of the magazine is, for now, free.

Kothari says that this deal is not exclusive to Pulse, although it is the first time it has moved to make so many of its titles available on a news app. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if the content found its way to Flipboard and other aggregators soon, too.

On a wider scale, this is not the first move we’ve seen from Bonnier to extend its digital footprint: the publisher earlier in the year signed a deal with AOL (TechCrunch’s owner) to share content and ad sales across Bonnier’s Parenting.com sites and properties within AOL that touch the same subject: those include Huffington Post Parents, the AOL Family channel and AOL.com itself.

The full list of Bonnier titles in Pulse now:


Pulse Adds 20 Titles From Popular Science Publisher Bonnier To Its Reading Stream, Its Biggest Launch Yet

TechCrunch Primer: A Crash Course In Cool Camera Apps

cam-apps3a

Let’s face it — there are too many camera and photo sharing apps out there, and not enough time in the day to give each one of them a try. If you’ve been mulling over which camera app deserves your love and affection, or just have no earthly idea where to start, take a gander below at some of your best options for shooting and sharing your life on the go.

For the socialites:

Instagram

Does this thing really need an introduction? Instagram took concept of applying artsy filters (the app has 16 of them), and combined it with a strong social element to become the mobile photo sharing service to beat. Oh, and let’s not forget that it has something like 27 million users at last glance — there’s a good chance your friends are already onboard.

Aside from its famed filters, Instagram also packs a slew of other features — dead simple tilt-shift functionality, one-touch tweaks for lighting and exposure, and so on. Instagram excels at streamlining sharing process, as it’s a snap to push photos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Posterous, Flickr, and more. If you want to spruce up your shots and get sharing as quickly and painlessly as possibly, Instagram sets the bar pretty damned high.

Available on: iOS (Free)
Sample Photos: Instagre.at

StreamZoo

StreamZoo pegs itself as something of a photo-social game, and if the name wasn’t a tip-off, StreamZoo’s forte is letting people create and join photostreams by affixing hashtags to their uploaded photos. The StreamZoo community is a pretty robust one too, so it’s easy enough to find photostreams of all kinds — I’m a fan of the #robots stream myself, but the more mainstream stuff is easily found in the trending tab.

As far as the game aspect goes, users gain points every time they upload a photo, not to mention every time another user likes or comments on the image. StreamZoo doesn’t skimp on the effects either — it sports a handful of crop modes, 14 filters, plenty of borders, and thoughtful slider controls for hue, saturation, etc. And hey, if you’re tired of your photos only living in your photostreams, you can post them to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Available on: iOS, Android (Free)
Sample Photos: #Photography Photostream

For the tinkerers:

Camera+

Camera+ first hit the scene back in 2010, and it frankly blew the iPhone’s stock Camera.app out of the water. The app trades some of the sheer speed seen in apps like Instagram for much more granular control over the mobile photography experience. Multiple drive modes lets you switch between taking single and multiple shots at once, and a smart shutter option that snaps a photo when the phone is most stable. Throw in a total of 27 color effects and filters along with 16 preloaded scene modes, and it’s a veritable steal at $.99.

For all of the depth that Camera+ affords its users, it manages to lay everything out in a thoughtful way that does a great job of minimizing confusion. Unlike Instagram or StreamZoo though, Camera+ doesn’t come with its own sharing platform — you can post your handsomely tweaked images to Facebook, Twitter, and yes, Instagram straight from the app. Plus, a newly-released API means some of your favorite apps (think WordPress, Tweetbot) now have Camera+ support baked right into it.

Available on: iOS ($.99)
Sample Photos: Camera+ Flickr Pool

Vignette:

The first thing you notice Vignette is that it’s not very flashy — there’s little visual flair to be found here. What Vignette is, on the other hand, is fast and feature-packed, though you’ll need a bit of patience to really get the most out of it. By default, the app is set to snap a shot when you tap on the screen, but pressing and holding the screen brings up a radial menu that lets you refocus or bring up the rest of the app’s myriad options.

That’s where the magic happens — Vignette offers a truly impressive level of control, allowing users to mix and match over 70 photo effects, 56 frames, not to mention support for time-lapse shooting, composition guides, and more. Hell, if you’re really into niche use-cases, Vignette lets users fire up their Sony Ericsson LiveView gadget for use as a remote shutter. The sheer depth of options may not be for everyone, but some really excellent photos can be had if you’re willing to take a deep dive.

Available on: Android ($3.99)
Sample Photos: Vignette for Android Flickr Page

For the consistently witty:

Blurtt

When I first started playing with Blurtt, one comparison immediately sprung to mind — “It’s like being on Reddit!” I kid, I kid, but Blurtt definitely takes a familiar approach to mobile photo sharing — any photo you upload (whether you took it yourself or grabbed it from the web) with Blurtt goes live with a caption, so you’d better make you’re nice and witty before hitting the submit button.

That’s really it though — right now, there’s no way to edit or enhance the photos other than with your sparkling wit, though you can change your caption’s font, size, and location on the image. Our own John Biggs spoke with Blurtt founder Jeanette Cajide, who fancies the service as more for self expression than just sharing photos, but I’ll leave that call up to you. The exact breakdown of the cool-to-crap ratio depends on your taste, but if mobile meme creation is your thing, it may be the way to go.

Available on: iOS (Free)
Sample Photos: 1, 2 (sorry, couldn’t resist)

For the wanderers:

Hipster

The name may make you bristle, but Hipster is cooler than the moniker lets on. Hipster’s big focus is taking your photos (which are made to look like postcards) and tying them to physical locations. It’s purely optional — users can swap the location caption for their own words, but these “visual check-ins” make Hipster an intriguing way to catch glimpses of other people’s lives.

From the app’s homescreen, it’s a snap to jump between viewing nearby and global postcards, as well as plot those postcards on a map. Hipster’s site allows you to drill down even further — punch in a favorite vacation spot or ancestral home country and see what the locals are up to. Hipster packs 14 different themes for your photos if you want to get artistic, but strangely, there’s no room for users to mix and match filters and caption types. That lack of customization can be a bummer when you compare it to other more tweak-friendly apps, but it’s not enough of a letdown to keep me from poring over far-flung photos.

(Disclosure: I suppose I technically work for AOL, who just recently acquired Hipster. Rest assured, I thought Hipster was cool way before that.)

Available on: iOS, Android (Free)
Sample Images: Newest Hipster postcards


TechCrunch Primer: A Crash Course In Cool Camera Apps