Google Acquires Waze

It wasn’t Facebook that acquired social mapping and navigation service Waze. It was Google, which reportedly fronted $1.03 billion for the service that offers real-time traffic updates.

Waze has about 50 million users, which Waze uses data from to compile real-time information on accidents, speed traps and traffic flow.

Facebook was rumored to be very close to acquiring Waze, but Google was the one that closed the deal. Waze will be separate from Google Maps. Although, some real-time information will feed Google Maps.

The move shows how competitive the local space is. Google’s Maps product is one of the best services out there. Yet, Google decided $1 billion to get Waze off the market was worthwhile.

The technology, however, is also a benefit. Techniedges has successfully integrated location-based ads in its platform, something Google has likely considered expanding for its Maps platform beyond the limited amount of ads on Google Maps for Android. But what may be most important is that this puts Google even further ahead of the pack in terms of mapping services. Google has never been great at rerouting based on traffic patterns. Waze can help Google do that. Waze on, on the other hand, has never been great at searching and finding a location. Google can help it do that. The two complement each other very, very well, and the acquisition makes Google Maps stronger than ever.

Read more about Google’s acquisition at AdAge.

Apple Launches iTunes Radio

This year’s WWDC event held by Apple included a slew of new announcements on hardware and Apple’s new iOS update, but one of the opportunities most intriguing for marketers is the introduction of an internet radio service called iTunes Radio.

Apple has announced agreements with major recording labels, including Warner, Universal, Sony and others. The service allows users to stream their iTunes music collections, music that’s trending on Twitter and other songs based on your listening habits, similar to Pandora. Users can download songs they’ve listened to, which is a point of difference compared to music streaming service leader Pandora. Unlike services like Mog and Spotify, users cannot search and play any song.

The service will include both display and audio ads that play between songs. The ads will be sold through iAd, Apple’s mobile ad network. Users can pay $24.99 per year for an ad-free experience. It’s expected to launch this fall.

­The music streaming service space is pretty crowded, and Apple comes late to the game. However, it does have a massive iTunes install base that it can leverage. The potential for a large user base paired with Apple’s ability to target by location using iPhones positions it well from an advertising perspective.

In addition, iTunes Radio may be able to work with other apps on a user’s mobile device, which is something apps like Spotify and Pandora cannot do. Apple’s hardware integration is potentially a big muscle it can flex.

Read more about iTunes Radio at AdAge.

Pandora Buys Radio Station

iTunes Radio wasn’t the focus of Pandora over the past week. Instead, it was focused on ensuring its future ability to gain access to music rights for what it argues is a reasonable price because it has to license music under an Internet radio licensing structure.

Pandora currently pays companies that represent artists and rights holders to use songs, but competitors like iHeartRadio get lower rates because radio broadcasters own them. Music streaming services like MOG, Spotify and Rdio do not have to pay under the same system at all.

To overcome this challenge Pandora purchased an FM radio station, KXMZ of Rapid City, SD to be exact. By acquiring a radio station, Pandora argues it should receive the same preferential treatment platforms like Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio get.

But that doesn’t overcome all of Pandora’s problems. The National Association of Music Publishers still thinks Pandora pays too little and wants to negotiate a direct deal with Pandora as it has with Spotify, iTunes Radio and others. Questions also remain around the value of the acquisition to Pandora, which it claims will lead to a cost savings of less than 1% of revenue.

Pandora is still a relatively new technology, and it was the first mainstream music service of its kind. The music industry has been pushing back on it since the beginning with high royalty rates that make Pandora almost uncompetitive.

This move seems to service both as a way to curb some costs but more importantly to raise awareness of what it feels is unfair. Pandora seems to have gotten the attention it may have been aiming for.

Read more on Pandora’s latest move at Bloomberg.

Hashtags Come to Facebook

Clickable hashtags have finally made their way to Facebook, a feature that’s been rumored for some time. It follows other features that originated on Twitter including the ability to follow people and tag others in a post using the “@” symbol.

Facebook hashtags are already clickable, and trending hashtags will be coming soon. Clicking on them brings users to feeds of posts from other users and pages that have mentioned the hashtag. Beyond clicking, users will be able to search for hashtags and type hashtags using the # symbol in their posts.

Facebook has taken steps in the past to push users to be more public, but Twitter has really cornered the market for public discourse such as conversations about TV shows, while Facebook has primarily remained a network among friends.  Hashtags may encourage more public dialogue. Although, Facebook’s privacy settings allow users to have their hashtag-infused posts to only be shared with certain groups of people. Adding a hashtag doesn’t suddenly make a post public. Still, Facebook is attempting to invite conversations about interests shared beyond friends.

An opportunity with hashtags that hasn’t been announced or confirmed by Facebook may be advertisers’ ability to target ads based on content being shared and also participate in those conversations from their own brand pages.

But starting today, this means greater integration with other social channels, such as Twitter. Advertisers can use a hashtag across multiple social networks for a single campaign. This also allows brands to monitor for hashtags related to their brand and category at a high-level using Facebook search.

Read more about Facebook hashtags at AllFacebook.

The Myspace Relaunch is Here

Myspace (now spelled with a lowercase ‘s’) kicked off a $20 million campaign using radio, digital media and TV to promote its revamped website built from the ground up for social discovery of musicians, artists and other creative outlets.  Celebrities including Parrell Williams, Ciara and others have already signed on with videos and posts.M

Myspace allows users to create profiles and connect with other people. Users can get started quickly by signing in through Facebook or Twitter and start connecting with friends and people with similar entertainment tastes. They can even use a built-in GIF-maker.

What’s new that the old version didn’t have is the ability to stream from a song library. That’s right. Myspace is relaunching with a music streaming service called Myradio that includes over 53 million songs with major and indie labels. The service builds radio stations based on what you have connected to, listened to and added to different music stations. Celebrities and users can create music stations and make them available for others to listen to as well.

Myspace is going into this with a lot of support, and that’s exactly what it’s going to take. As far as social networks go, it brings an emphasis on music to the table, which Facebook and Twitter have integrated to a degree. Facebook has worked with partners like Spotify. Twitter has started a music discovery service called Twitter Music. However, neither has fully integrated them into their native platforms.

Myspace is all about music. The question is whether or not people will care. All of the services Myspace is providing are offered elsewhere. The one thing that may be the tipping point for success is the buy-in from celebrities. Major stars like Justin Timberlake and Pharrell may bring big numbers with them.

Read more on Myspace’s relaunch at AdWeek.

News Quick Hits

  • Google launched a new dashboard for Google+ page administrators to manage all activities around Google tools, including the abilities to update info, monitor Google+ notifications and manage their Google+ brand pages’ photos and videos. Initiatives related to AdWords and Google Offers can be managed and analyzed through the same dashboard. (Read more at TechCrunch)
  • Mark Zuckerberg hosted Facebook’s first annual meeting for shareholders and spent much of the time addressing concerns over Facebook’s stock price, which has yet to regain its IPO mark of $38. Zuckerberg acknowledged frustration but argued that Facebook is planning and preparing for success in the long-term. He noted that part of that includes the steps Facebook has taken in the mobile space. (Read more at InsideFacebook)
  • Google, Facebook and Microsoft have responded to the leaked NSA PRISM program by requesting permission to disclose the number of federal government data requests on the grounds of national security, information they’re currently restricted from sharing. The tech companies’ moves appear to be an attempt to distance themselves from the program and regain user trust. (Read more at GIGAOM)
  • Foursquare has partnered with Samsung to create an interactive, 3-D map for users that shows their check-in histories called “My History.” In addition to check-ins, it also suggests where you might want to go. After checking out the map, users can create and share a custom infographic that shows Foursquare stats. The feature is available on foursquare.com and is meant to promote the Samsung Galaxy S4. The deal is rumored to be worth seven figures. (Read more at AdAge)
  • Facebook is continuing its efforts to simplify ad properties, and one of the first to go is Sponsored Results, the ads that display in Facebook searches. They will end in July. Instead, Facebook recommends mobile app install ads and Page post link ads to serve the same purpose. (Read more at Mashable)
  • Foursquare is now charging businesses $20 to register on the location-based social network. The fee allows a business to change information like the description and hours of operation. (Read more at Mashable)

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