Only days after announcing the launch of ads, social networking site Pinterest is now making an appeal to publishers. The company is today rolling out an updated “article” pin type, which is designed to expand Pinterest’s reach beyond those pinning photographs or product images linking to e-commerce sites to those also interested in saving and sharing stories they’re finding around the web.
The updated article pins will now include more information such as the headline, author, story description, and link to the source right on the pin itself.
Of course, Pinterest previously allowed users to pin articles — in fact, the service lets its users enter any URL they choose, and add those links to boards for better categorization. But until now, these pins would only include an image and small link to the post.
With today’s changes, Pinterest notes that all the articles pinned to the site in the past will be updated to the new look-and-feel without any extra effort on the pinner’s part. For media publishers, like TechCrunch, who have been using the service as a way to curate content for readers, the extra metadata will show up automatically.
Pinterest touts the new article pins as a feature targeting what’s now a common behavior on the site – currently, more than 5 million of the pins per day are article pins. The company tells us also that it has heard from a number of media publishers using its “Pin It” button, including BuzzFeed, who are finding Pinterest to now be a top referrer of traffic.
Pinterest has already been catering to this group in some ways. For example, it recently began offering tips to publishers and other bloggers to help them better understand what kind of images and tags work best on Pinterest, and how they can choose which images on their site make the most sense for readers to pin.
The addition of the more useful article pins is only one of many changes taking place at Pinterest this year, as the company moves to turn its growing traction into a real, monetizable business. It has been steadily improving the functionality of its pins, starting with the debut of its “more useful” pin initiative this spring, which focused initially on pins with information related to products, recipes and movies. It later added price-alerting functionality to e-commerce pins in order to notify pinners when products dropped in price. And this month, it announced it would begin testing ads that appear in search results and category feeds, based on relevancy and recommendation algorithms also rolled out this summer as part of Pinterest’s larger push into personalization.
PINTEREST AS A BOOKMARKING TOOL, “READ IT LATER” SERVICE
Today, there are plenty of examples of users sharing articles on the site, not only from news publishers, but also in the form of how-to’s and other blog posts from various communities – Pinterest’s new hub for teachers, for example. But still much of Pinterest’s content consists of things with a traditionally image-heavy, text-light, and female-friendly appeal, like fashion, home goods, DIY or craft projects, children’s clothing, toys or other project ideas, decorating tips, gift ideas, recipes, and more. (According to Pew Internet’s data from earlier this year, women are five times as likely to use Pinterest as men, in fact.)
The move to expand the focus to articles and news content, then, could potentially position Pinterest as a modern-day bookmarking tool akin to Delicious, or even a competitor to “read it later” services like Instapaper or Pocket. The company’s official blog post even spoke to this possibility, saying: “when you come across articles you may not have time to read, or just want to keep for later, you can save them to your own reading list board. For example, you may be reading a lot about healthy living, so you could save the most interesting articles to a healthy reading board.”
The post went on to reference a number of celebrities and journalists using the site to pin articles and news, as well as a large list of high-profile publishers pinning on the site today, including The New York Times, Fortune, The Guardian, Le Monde, Telegraph, TIME, Rolling Stone, Word and Film, Fast Company, French Web, Mashable, Wired, Travel + Leisure, Fodors.com, Esquire, GQ, Vogue Paris, Babble, iVillage, Everyday eBook, Biographile, The New Yorker, Men’s Journal, Food + Wine, Tastebook, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and Us Weekly.
Longer term, the improved article pins speak to Pinterest’s goals in developing an “interest graph” of sorts for its users, which would help it better target pin and board recommendations, as well as ads. The stories we read, save and share are another data point that indicates what kind of content we like, allowing Pinterest to segment its users into various demographic buckets. Plus, being able to use Pinterest as a more visually heavy “read it later” kind of service could also broaden its appeal among men, who may have not yet found much use for Pinterest in the past.
The updated article pins are rolling out to the web now, and will show up soon on mobile, too.
Earlier this year, Adobe launched its Primetime TV publishing and monetization platform to facilitate TV Everywhere solutions for TV networks and other video providers. Today, the company is updating this platform with a range of new analytics capabilities, as well as a new cloud-based cross-platform DRM system.
In addition, Adobe today announced that it has signed up Turner Broadcasting as a new partner. Turner will use Primetime to power its apps and websites for properties like TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, AdultSwim, NBC League Pass and TruTV. Turner will use Adobe’s Primetime Player, DRM, ad insertion technology and PayTV Pass services across its iOS, Android and desktop apps.
As Adobe’s VP of video monetization Jeremy Helfand told me earlier this month, he believes that the company’s heritage has been rich in helping companies through industry transformations, and the TV industry is clearly undergoing a lot of change right now. Consumers today want access to their TV content online and across devices, he noted, and the content owners want better monetization tools on these new platforms. Primetime, Helfand argued, is the solution the TV networks are waiting for, and it is clearly seeing a lot of momentum.
Besides Turner, Adobe is also working with Comcast, NBC Sports, the Tennis Channel and – outside of the U.S. – RTL Group’s M6. In the third quarter of 2013, the service pushed out 29.3 billion video streams. Tablets are leading the growth in streams, with a 150 percent increase in video starts between Q2 2012 and Q2 2013. Almost 16 percent of U.S. households now watch pay-TV online and Adobe powers the vast majority of them.
Better Analytics And Cross-Platform DRM
With today’s launch, Adobe is giving its customers a large range of new analytics tools to keep track of how consumers are using their videos. Content owners, Helfand told me, will now get second-by-second data, for example, to better understand their viewer’s engagement. In addition, Primetime will now also monitor the quality of service viewers are receiving by tracking bitrates and the quality of the streams, for example.
As for the new DRM service, Helfand told me that the major pain point for content distributors today is the plethora of devices they send their content to, with mobile DRM being especially difficult. Adobe’s new Cloud DRM, the company argues, simplifies and manages the deployment of protected videos across platforms while also handling compliance, management and scalability.
Earlier today Intuit announced a completely new version of its QuickBooks accounting software, and to kick it off, it’s also announcing a new, and rather groundbreaking, partnership. It is integrating with mobile payments juggernaut Square, so that small businesses that use the mobile payment service can automatically feed data from those transactions into their books. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Dan Wernikoff, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit Small Business Financial Solutions, confirms to me that it is definitely a “commercial arrangement”.
The integration will formally launch November 19, at which point pricing for the service will be revealed. The service will be U.S. only for now, although with QuickBooks’ large global footprint it will be interesting to see if Square uses that in any way in the future.
While Square has yet to announce a formal API for third parties to freely integrate its service, that is what Intuit is using to incorporate Square into QuickBooks. “There is an API and it is being used for this integration,” Wernikoff tell me.
A Square spokesperson says the company is not revealing any more detail on the integration at this time. “We’ll have more to share in November,” she says. Whether that is a reference to more detail about the API being used, or whether that is about pricing for this service, is not clear.
It will mean, in his words, that “when you are making a sale with a Square device this reconciliation will automatically flow back into QuickBooks,” he says. “It’s pretty complementary; an extension of what QuickBooks already does.”
This is something of a sea change for the two companies. Intuit has itself created its own point of sale product called Go Payment, complete with a dongle that links up with a mobile device. While this has in the past been positioned as a rival to Square, today Wernikoff pitches it differently. “Go Payment is a growing portion of our payments business and I expect it will continue it to be,” he says. “But all of us have been at chapter one of mobile payments, a very basic phase focused on emulating a point-of-sale device. Chapter two is that each of us is starting to move in different directions.”
In fact, he says that Square was a natural first integration partner for Intuit because the two companies actually have a lot of overlap, with many of the same customers already. (No detail on how many customers that entails, as Square is not sharing its numbers publicly, but there are around 4 million businesses using QuickBooks today, he says.)
For its part, QuickBooks is maturing and looking for new ways to reach new customers. “We’ve been evolving to more of an open platform, and more than an application,” he says. Square, he notes, is the first big integration with another company’s financial services, but it won’t be the last. (Other partnerships that already exist include a deal with Salesforce.)
For Square, adding in services from the likes of QuickBooks is another sign of how the company hopes to extend its own touchpoints with consumers and make its service more useful (and therefore more used).
“Many small business owners and Square customers often talk about how accounting is an extremely important part of running their business,” the Square spokesperson told me. “This integration makes it easy for a business owner to take payments with Square Register or Square Market and do their bookkeeping with the leading small business accounting software.”
For now, Intuit sells its service as a one-off purchase for $249.95 (Mac version) or the SaaS-style QuickBooks Online starting at $12.95 per month.
Too lazy busy to handle selling your stuff on eBay or Craigslist, or having a yard sale? Yep, same here. That’s why a startup called Sold, launched earlier this year, had me intrigued. Its big idea is to take the whole e-commerce process out of your hands by pricing your items for you, finding a buyer, sending you packaging, handling shipping, completing the transaction, and then getting you paid. Today, Sold is launching on Android, following its iOS debut back in April.
The company was founded by Matthew Blackshaw, Tony DeVincenzi and Dávid Lakatos, who believed that a better way to add value in e-commerce marketplaces is not to try to reinvent or topple Craigslist or other established sites – something many startups, including Zaarly, YardSellr, and EggDrop, have tried and failed to do. Instead, they realized that a new approach focused on simplifying the way we sell online could be an unexplored niche still ripe for change.
The company already has seed funding from investors, including Google Ventures (Rich Miner), Greylock Partners (Reid Hoffman), Matrix Partners (Antonio Rodriguez) and the team at Boston Seed.
Today, Sold says it has more than 2,000 unique products in its marketplace, and saw 50 percent growth in items posted last month. Its prices are on average 43 percent higher than Gazelle’s, which it attributes to its pricing engine technology. The company uses algorithms and scrapers to crawl top e-commerce marketplaces, like Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon product search to build its pricing database, allowing it to know the “going rates” for your items, and where those items are selling for more.
To date, the highest priced item it has sold so far was an $8,000 watch, but the average purchase price of items falls around $262 – two times greater than eBay’s, the company points out. However, that’s because currently, Sold is focused on users selling electronics (computers, phones, tablets, etc.) and other accessories (handbags, sunglasses, watches and shoes). Though, technically, it could sell anything (legal) that fits into its largest box size (16″ x 16″ x 12″).
While there aren’t additional fees or surprise charges, as TechCrunch previously noted, its pricing includes the service charge for the marketplace it sells your item on, as well as its own bundled-in fee and margin. But this is all presented to the seller as one price, which they can choose to accept or reject upfront before making the sale.
Co-founder DeVincenzi tells us that Sold is now projecting $1 million in annual revenue as of its first 90 days and is still growing.
With the debut on Android, the service has sped up to be twice as fast as before, going from post to payment in as little as four days on some occasions, and even sees popular items sold within an hour. It’s now also accepting items with a market value of $50 and up.
This week on TechCrunch TV’s Ask A VC show, we have Emergence Capital Partners’ Kevin Spain and Google Ventures’ Dr. Krishna Yeshwant in the studio (separately). You can submit questions for our guests either in the comments or here and we’ll ask them during the show.
Spain, who has led investments in the LinkedIn for physicians Doximity, and social health management platform Welltok, focuses on both the consumer and enterprise sectors. Prior to joining Emergence, Spain was a senior member of Microsoft’s Corporate Development group and helped launch EA’s online gaming business.
Dr. Yeshwant is a physician, programmer and entrepreneur who worked at Google and joined Google Ventures at its inception. He’s helped lead the firm’s investments in a number of health companies, including Flatiron Health, Foundation Medicine and One Medical Group. Prior to Google he helped start an electronic data interchange company that was acquired by Hewlett-Packard (HP) and a network security company that was acquired by Symantec (SYMC).
Spain has some interesting views on mobile-first, and clearly both Yeshwant and Spain are betting on innovations in the health sector; we’re curious what they both see as the next big disruptions in health technology.
As evidenced by sonogram photos posted to Facebook and the apparent popularity of “ultrasound parties,” pregnancy is a time ripe for sharing. A new startup called BabyWatch is taking those moments digital with the launch of a hardware-software duo that allows mothers to record and send to friends and family their unborn child’s heartbeat.
The system consists of a handheld ultrasound, which connects to a smartphone with an audio cable. The BabyWatch app then creates a visualization of the sound and records beats per minute.
While the app also serves as a pregnancy appointment calendar, BabyWatch’s differentiating feature from other pregnancy tracking apps is GlobalBeat, a social platform through which BabyWatch users can share their pregnancy experiences.
“[Other pregnancy apps] are mostly focusing on the well being of the mother, and they are not focusing on the social aspects of this sound file sharing. And by doing that, we’re are trying to build a community around our product,” said BabyWatch co-founder Urška Sršen.
Sršen and co-founder/CEO Sandro Mur hail from Slovenia and Croatia, respectively, and took BabyWatch through Startup Bootcamp Berlin with the intention of targeting the US market.
BabyWatch closed an angel round of $50,000 and bootstrapped another $50,000 from INU, Sršen and Mur’s previous company. The team brought in another $11,820 from an Indiegogo campaign in July, which also provided test users for the beta version of the app.
Sršen said that BabyWatch is likely to appeal both to women in their first pregnancy, who are excited about the baby’s arrival, and to those who have had difficult pregnancies before and are suffering from anxiety and stress about the outcome. BabyWatch beta users have been using the device once a day or so, to reassure themselves that the baby is doing well.
It’s also, of course, going to be of interest to tech-minded mothers and fathers who are into the quantified self movement. BabyWatch is adding other hardware and features, like a kick counter that tracks fetal movement.
Down the road, the goal is to sync BabyWatch with doctors’ offices as a form of remote monitoring to better pregnancy outcomes, a concept that other startups like Embrace Her Health are working on as well. For now, though, they are focusing on marketing BabyWatch as a commercial product to grow its user base. Given the perennial excitement in a first pregnancy and the current interest in health tracking, it’s safe to say that there’s a pretty sizable market for that.
When AdStage launched earlier this year, the big selling point was the ease with which small businesses could create ads that ran across Google, Bing, Facebook and LinkedIn. Today it’s launching what co-founder and CEO Sahil Jain said is “an entirely new platform product,” which should expand the customer base to a broad range of advertisers.
To illustrate that point, Jain told me that AdStage Express, the company’s initial product (which had 2,300 sign-ups), is now just one of several applications available. And to turn AdStage into a true platform, the company is integrating with a number of tools for things like writing ad copy and A/B testing. Those services will be available in an app gallery, with rankings determined by customer votes.
“We’re becoming more of a one-stop-shop by integrating point solutions into an advertising management platform — not something the other similar companies in the space are doing,” Jain said.
The initial app partners are ReTargeter, Unbounce, Bigstock, Canned Banners, MixRank and Thinkstock by Getty Images. For example, AdStage customers can use ReTargeter to run retargeted ads through the Facebook Exchange. CEO Arjun Dev Arora said ReTargeter is both a partner and a customer for AdStage, which he described as “a huge step forward for online marketing.”
Other new features include support for new ad formats (on Facebook, Jain said AdStage only supported one ad type, and now it supports all of them, plus there’s been a similar expansion in support for other platforms) and the ability to import existing campaigns. Both additions seem to bolster Jain’s claim that AdStage can become a central platform for advertisers to manage their campaigns.
The new AdStage platform is now available in a beta version for $99 a month, with five apps included for free. The company said more than 380 businesses have already signed up, and that their monthly ad spend ranges from $1,000 to $700,000.
By the way, the AdStage website seems to be having uptime issues right now. I will update this post when they’re resolved.