Tag Archive | "publishers"

TreatFeed pays shoppers for social recommendations

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treatfeedLos Angeles startup TreatFeed just launched a new spin on the crossover between social networking and e-commerce — it wants to reward users for their social recommendations with prizes and cash.

Scott Roback, the company’s senior vice president of strategy and business development, said that where companies like Facebook are trying to build a socail graph, TreatFeed is trying to create “the commerce graph, or the monetization layer of the social graph.”

Here’s how it works: TreatFeed aggregates deals from across the Web. Users come to the site for the deals, then ask their friends and family to join too. When users find deals that they like, they can recommend them to their connections on their site. And if someone actually acts on a deal, then TreatFeed gets an affiliate commission — which it then splits with users. The user who signed up for the deal gets a percentage, and the user who brought them into TreatFeed gets a smaller percentage, and so on, up through four “generations”.

Technically, the commission for shoppers takes the form of points, but those points can be redeemed for prizes or cash. Roback estimated that half of the money that TreatFeed receives for each deal will eventually go to users.

This system takes advantage of the fact that shoppers are already recommending products and deals to each other, Roback added. And the fact that TreatFeed is rewarding people for bringing in more users, rather than for recommending specific deals, seems smart, because it will help the site build out its user base quickly. It might also avoid criticisms that this system (like other “multilevel marketing” programs) starts to look like a pyramid scheme.

Even though TreatFeed is building a social graph (er, “commerce graph”) of its own, it also integrates with Facebook, allowing users to find friends from Facebook and also post deal recommendations on the social network. And it will work on affiliate programs with publishers, allowing the publishers to make money not just on the shoppers who sign up directly from their site, but on the larger SocialTree that builds as those shoppers continue using TreatFeed and bringing in their friends.

TreatFeed was incubated by Lagovent, the firm created by Konstantin Glasmacher and Brett Markinson. Markinson is the new startup’s chief executive. The pair has already successfully launched one e-commerce company, HauteLook, which was acquired by Nordstrom. TreatFeed raised $5.4 million in a round led by Norwest Venture Partners.

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Article courtesy of VentureBeat » deals

Publishers back Inkling’s iPad textbooks

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inklingiPad textbook startup Inkling just announced that it has won financial backing from the two biggest names in the textbook business — McGraw-Hill and Pearson.

Founder and chief executive Matt MacInnis said Inkling’s goal involves using the content of an existing textbook as a skeleton, then “casting off the shackles of the book” and adding interactive and multimedia content that could only work on the iPad. We first covered Inkling right after the announcement of the iPad in January of last year. The San Francisco startup has now released 14 textbooks, MacInnis said, and it should be up to more than 100 titles by this fall.

There are other companies building iPad textbooks, MacInnis acknowledged. Competitors include ScrollMotion, and educational tablet-maker Kno is reportedly shifting its efforts from hardware to software. But he argued that everyone else is basically adding limited features to a PDF of the textbook, and that these e-books are basically developed by the publishers’ business divisions without much input from the original textbook creators. Inkling, on the other hand, wants to publish apps that feel like they were truly built for the iPad, which usually means working with the books’ authors to create new content.

“It only gets interesting when the content itself changes and begins to respond to your fingertips,” MacInnis said.

You can see an example of an Inkling app in-action in the video below. Thanks to the backing of McGraw-Hill and Pearson, as well as partnerships with John Wiley & Sons, W.W. Norton, and Wolters Kluwer, Inkling now has access to “95 percent of the content universe,” MacInnis said — though the company’s actual production is far behind that amount, since it doesn’t have the resources to convert every title from every publisher. For now, he said Inkling remains very involved in the digital textbook-creation process, because it wants to ensure that the early apps are high-quality, but as time goes on it will move to a more self-service model.

The size of the round was not disclosed, except that it was a “multi-million dollar” financing. Previous investors Sequoia Capital, Felicis Ventures (which also invested in VentureBeat), Kapor Capital, and Sherpalo Ventures also participated in the new funding.

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Article courtesy of VentureBeat » deals

Q&A site Formspring scores $11.5M

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Formspring, the online question/answer service, has raised $11.5 million in Series A financing, bringing its total to $14 million. Now all the company has to do is figure out how to make money.

“$14 million is a ton of money, especially for a site that’s only a year old with no revenue,” notes Liz Gannes at All Things Digital.

It not only has no revenue, but no business model. CEO Ade Olonoh “has not yet figured that out,” reports CNET’s Caroline McCarthy.

Along with the financing, Formspring announced the creation of a “Respond” button that can be incorporated on outside Web sites, allowing the service to be distributed across the Web rather than centralized on Formspring’s own site. Sites such as Huffington Post and AskMen.com are already incorporating the button, which works somewhat like Facebook’s “like” button. Answers to questions are housed on the publishers’ own sites.

Again, there’s no indication on how this will yield returns for the company’s investors. Redpoint Partners and Baseline Ventures led the new round. In March, the company raised $2.5 million from a group of angels along with Polaris Ventures.

Most of the attention the company has drawn has been negative: The site, which allows people to ask each other questions anonymously, became a hive spam and nasty insults and bullying among its teen users.

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Article courtesy of VentureBeat » deals

Federated Media targets moms with its first big acquisition

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shopping momOnline advertising and marketing company Federated Media just announced its first full startup acquisition — BigTent, a company offering social networking tools to help parents build communities on the Web.

That’s a surprising choice for Federated company’s first purchase, since I usually think of the company in a tech news context. The company sells advertising (with a focus on “conversational” campaigns, rather than run-of-the-mill ads) for VentureBeat and many other tech blogs, but president and chief operating officer Deanna Brown said Federated also focuses on business, the real-time Web, and, yes, “lifestyle media”. Federated says it already reaches 8 million parents through its partner sites, and that it’s particularly interested in reaching the “chief household officer” who makes a family’s spending decisions.

Less than three months have passed since Federated bought technology from a startup called TextDigger and hired some of its executives — but it didn’t buy the company outright, which is why BigTent counts as the first full acquisition.

Federated first approached BigTent about a potential partnership several months ago, and as talks proceeded the two companies decided to go for an acquisition, Brown said. Federated could use BigTent’s technology to build social tools for some of its other publishers and readers, she added, but the deal is more about capturing BigTent’s influence rather than its technology.

“I care less about platform, if you will, and I care more about the influence of the authors and the products as well as the audiences that they serve,” Brown said.

She pointed to Federated’s recently announced partnership with the Clever Girls Collective, an agency that helps clients market to “decision-making, budget-wielding women,” as another sign of its interest in this market.

Brown said Federated is in the process of reaching out to the different group leaders to inform them of the acquisition. Existing BigTent groups will continue to operate as usual, and parents will be able to create new groups.

BigTent was backed by Menlo Ventures and Mohr Davidow Ventures. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

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Article courtesy of VentureBeat » deals

Connecticut AG Investigating Amazon, Apple Over eBook Prices

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Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announced today that he is investigating whether agreements between leading e-book publishers and Amazon.com (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) “may block competitors from offering cheaper e-book prices.”
Blumenthal noted in a statement that both Amazon and Apple have deals with the publishers to ensure they received the [...]

Article courtesy of BARRONS.com: Tech Trader Daily

Amazon Playing Hardball With Publishers Over E-Book Pricing

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Amazon.com (AMZN) has threatened to stop selling books from some publishers unless they agree to a list of concessions on selling e-books, the New York Times reports, citing “two industry executives with direct knowledge of the discussions.”

The piece notes that five of the country’s six largest publishers have reached deals with Apple (AAPL) to sell electronic versions of their books on the new iBookstore for the iPad, with publishers to set prices, and Apple to take a 30% commission. Pricing will be $12.99 to $14.99.

The TImes says Amazon has agreed to allow publishers to set prices for e-books for the Kindle, but is demanding they sign three-year contracts and promise not to give anyone else lower prices or better terms. Apple is requiring publishers not to allow other retailers to sell e-books for less than the pricing on its new iBookstore, which has forced the publishers into talks with Amazon, where pricing of most best sellers has been $9.99.

AMZN today is up 22 cents, or 0.2%, to $131.56.

Article courtesy of BARRONS.com: Tech Trader Daily