Reading Rainbow fans break record for series-turned-app

Reading Rainbow fans break record for series-turned-app

Above: From the Reading Rainbow website

Image Credit: Reading Rainbow

LeVar Burton, who played Geordi on Star Trek: The Next Generation, is now leading exploration into strange new worlds — of crowdfunding.

Today, Burton’s Reading Rainbow campaign announced it has broken Kickstarter‘s record for the most backers ever — over 91,000. It has now raised $4,526,000 of its $5 million stretch goal, with about 50 hours left. In addition, late last week, producer/actor/animator Seth MacFarlane pledged that he would match the next $1 million of pledges beyond $4 million.

The funding will not be used to bring back the PBS TV series about the joys of reading but instead will expand an app for iPad and Kindle Fire tablets.

“The thing about the Reading Rainbow experiment,” Forrester VP and principal analyst James McQuivey told VentureBeat, “is not that it’s a way for Reading Rainbow to bypass traditional TV as much as it is an acknowledgement that the traditional TV economics are too difficult to sustain for more than a small number of properties.”

He pointed out that “even a beloved property with a powerful brand like this one is going to struggle to fit back into the narrow space available in the current TV lineup — whether on public television broadcast system or in the cable lineup where the competition for children’s attention is intense.”

The free app, released in 2012, offers interactive access to a library of children’s books, plus video field trips. New book and video content is available for a subscription of $10 monthly through what is essentially a curated reader’s club. To date, the campaign says, kids have accessed 13 million books and video field trips.

“I am excited to bring Reading Rainbow back so that parents who watched the show can now share the same feel-good experience with their own children but on a platform that resonates with today’s digital kids,” Burton says on the project’s Facebook page.

The show went off air in 2006. The pledged funds, according to the campaign, will be used to develop a web version, a classroom version of the app with tools for teachers, plus subsidies so that needy schools can use the app without charge.

It’s clear that Reading Rainbow has an enthusiastic fan base of former kids who are now ready to back the program’s newest incarnation. The company reached its original Kickstarter funding target – $1 million – in a single day.

“Kickstarter,” McQuivey told us, “has been unlocking these opportunities for many kinds of content creators including, notably, comic book or graphic novel authors who have used Kickstarter for years to successfully fund projects that the audience or fan base is passionate about.”

“For Reading Rainbow to leverage its brand in exactly the same way is really a very smart thing for them to do.”

Via TechCrunch

Twitter officially joins Facebook, Google in offering mobile app install ads

Twitter officially joins Facebook, Google in offering mobile app install ads

How can you leverage mobile to increase profitability for your company? Find out at MobileBeat, VentureBeat’s 7th annual event on the future of mobile, on July 8-9 in San Francisco. Register now and save $200!

It’s official, Twitter is now offering mobile app installation promotion to all of its advertisers — expect to see the latest download of Candy Crush Saga in your stream.

Earlier this year, Twitter invited certain advertisers, like EA Games and Lyft, to test-drive a feature that promotes app installation through native ads. The app promotion comes as a part of a suite that lets advertisers capitalize on Twitter’s user data to target ads. Users who click on a promoted link will automatically be taken to the App Store or Google Play, where they can download the app. Tweeters on iOS will get a notification when the app finishes downloading.

230 developers with 9K apps and 397M MAU told us what works best in mobile user acquisition:
The VB Mobile User Acquisition report

Also interesting is Twitter’s accompanying payment model: Advertisers don’t pay until users click on a link. That not only allows advertisers to see that the technology is working, but it also allows Twitter to get paid per click, which could be more lucrative than a flat fee.

This is Twitter’s latest move to bulk up its advertising revenue. Last week the company announced an easier way to advertise with multiple networks on its digital ad exchange, Mopub.

Twitter, like Google and Yahoo, is trying to get in on the mobile advertising dollars that Facebook has been enjoying since it launched its mobile app install program. Not only has Facebook’s advertising revenue grown as a result, but mobile ads now account for nearly 60 percent of its total advertising revenue.

In March, Yahoo told VentureBeat it was testing mobile app promotion tools. Google and Twitter announced their own mobile app install promotion programs shortly thereafter in April.

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Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting. Simply find the public streams you find most compelling and follow the conversations. At the heart of Twitter ar… read more »

Yahoo Mobile’s careful use of push messaging pays off

Yahoo Mobile's careful use of push messaging pays off
Image Credit: thenextweb

So you have a great mobile app or product. But how do you attract users? And more importantly, how do you retain users? One key aspect is mastering the balance between push and pull.

There’s a fine line between whether a notification will help re-engage a user or annoy them. And this messaging strategy becomes even harder when you’re scaling to millions of users.

Today we’re excited to announce a new session on this very topic at our upcoming MobileBeat event — July 8-9 in San Francisco — with top execs from Yahoo Sports and mobile marketing automation software company Kahuna.

NOTE: MobileBeat tickets are nearly gone. Grab yours before they sell out!

Session Speakers:

Adam Marchick
Adam Marchick, CEO & Co-Founder, Kahuna

Brian Mead

Brian Mead, Director of Product Management, Yahoo Sports

As director of product management for Yahoo Sports, Brian Mead knows just how important it is to strike this balance to help drive growth and retention. Mead and his team are constantly analyzing data and experimenting to find the secret sauce that helps attract users — and active users, at that.

Adam Marchick’s service, Kahuna, focuses on this very challenge: industrializing the testing and refining of push notifications so mobile apps send the right notifications to the right users at the right time.

Different users may need different messages to progress in their journey of using the app, from casual to engaged. As push notification strategies become increasingly sophisticated, mobile users will come to expect more and more of a personal treatment, and user engagement may even become harder for apps using only “broadcast”-style notifications.

In a never-before-seen session, Marchick and Mead will discuss the balance of push and pull using notifications. They’ll also map out how you can engage users by leveraging machine learning and consistently improving the efficiency and efficacy of messaging.

Participants can expect to hear real examples of how Kahuna is transforming push notification strategy. And Yahoo will share insights into how it has improved user loyalty and attracted new users.

This session is just one of many at MobileBeat, where top mobile and marketing visionaries will highlight winning strategies for tracking and serving customers along every phase of their journey on mobile.

Here are some other topics we’ll be tackling at MobileBeat: personalization, programmatic advertising, seamless payments, customer retention, driving purchases in store, native advertising, targeting across devices, deep linking, mobile analytics tools, predictive apps, the Internet of things, and wearables.

Join 1,000 mobile execs, leading brands, analysts, developers, investors, and press for two days packed with high-value discussions, actionable lessons, exclusive announcements, and lots of networking. You can register here.

Special thanks to the following industry leaders for supporting MobileBeat: FactualTapjoy, AppLovin, Adtile, IBM and AT&T as Gold Partners; FlurryHasOffersSequoia CapitalRadiumOne, SupersonicAds, Cirrus Insight and Tapsense, and App Annie as Silver Partners; UpsightCotapNew RelicSplunk, GLOBO, and LifeStreet Media as Event Partners; Adenda and Rumble as Nest Partners, and Bizzabo and VSC as Strategic Partner.

Study reveals that video ads can pump up revenues without hurting in-app purchases

Study reveals that video ads can pump up revenues without hurting in-app purchases

Above: Fusepowered video ads run in mobile games.

Image Credit: FusePowered

Video ads can increase ad revenue in games without hurting the retention of gamers or the purchases they make, according to a study by ad mediation firm Fuse Powered.

Toronto-based Fuse Powered studied millions of ad impressions for games for 15 days prior to adding interstitial video ads (which run in the middle of a pause during a game) and 15 days after adding them. The result was a 300 percent increase in eCPM (effective cost per mil, or ad revenue generated per 1,000 impressions) and a 700 percent lift in average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU). Fuse Powered said that these ads did not affect rates of retention and in-app purchases — something key the mobile gaming industry, which brought in nearly $16 billion in 2013.

Adding video ads to games helps.

Above: Adding video ads to games helps.

Image Credit: FusePowered

In one tower defense game, eCPMs saw a 400 percent increase, moving the average gross eCPM from $4.02 to $19.83. During the same time, average revenue per paying user (ARPPU) remained flat, which indicates no loss in in-app purchases. This is important, because these account for the bulk of a free-to-play game’s standard revenue. During the same time, first-time in-app purchases increased slightly.

The inclusion of one video per player per day in a word game delivered an increase in ad ARPDAU of 40 percent. ARPPU from in-app purchases remained stable in the word game. Ad revenue in the game increased from 38 percent to 45 percent of total revenue, resulting in a 7 percent increase in total revenue from the game, with the addition of only one video ad per player per day.

Meanwhile, a racing game saw similar results. Over 31 days, video ads did not affect in-app purchases. During the same time, ad revenue grew from 3 percent to 22 percent of total revenue. The average number of sessions per user during this same time also trended up slightly.

And in a strategy game, the inclusion of video ads saw global eCPMs of $29.43 over the first 28 days. Retention was steady in the same period.



Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.00.11 PMGamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!

Fuse Powered Inc. helps mobile app publishers maximize app revenue with FuseBoxx, its powerful integrated mobile ad technology and publishing platform. FuseBoxx offers extensive reporting, actionable analytics and a powerful toolset to… read more »

Databricks adds on $33M and rolls out a Spark cloud service for analyzing data

Databricks adds on $33M and rolls out a Spark cloud service for analyzing data

Databricks, a startup that provides support for the popular open-source Apache Spark project, will keep pushing the technology for speedily analyzing lots of data and releasing new products based on it, thanks to a new funding round.

The startup announced the fresh $33 million this morning and also revealed a new service that takes the company in a new direction: a platform for running and managing Spark jobs and visualizing data on a Databricks-owned cloud.

On this new cloud, companies can run Spark-based applications for business intelligence and other purposes. The point is to eliminate the need to tinker with a zoo of tools in order to clean up, process, and analyze data, Databricks chief executive Ion Stoica told VentureBeat in an interview.

“Our goal is to say we want to make it as easy as possible for people to use it,” Stoica said of Spark.

Big data people see Spark and its toolset — the Shark SQL query engine, the Spark Streaming tool for processing data on the fly, the MLib library for machine learning, and the GraphX API for graph processing — as the successor of technologies based on MapReduce, the initial programming model for the Hadoop ecosystem of open-source tools for analyzing lots of different kinds of data.

The Spark community claims vast performance improvements on MapReduce, primarily because of its efficient use of computing resources. Programs can go as much as 100 times faster in memory or 10 times faster on disk. So the Hadoop distribution vendors have caught on and started incorporating Spark into their product offerings.

And Databricks partners with those Hadoop distribution vendors, like Cloudera and MapR, to support customers’ use of Spark.

Going forward, though, companies will have the choice of tapping Databricks’ cloud whenever they want, without worrying about managing everything on their own.

The cloud service initially runs on Amazon Web Services, and it will come to other clouds, like Google’s and Microsoft’s, Stoica said.

Users will be able to create dashboards and notebooks to display their findings in addition to running jobs on the service, he said.

In addition to pushing the new cloud service, Databricks will continue to take steps to expand the Spark community, by certifying more applications that can run on Spark and also bringing Spark classes to massively open online course (MOOC) sites, said Stoica, who, in addition to heading up the startup, also teaches computer science at the University of California, Berkeley.

To date Berkeley, Calif.-based Databricks has raised $47 million, including a $14 million round from last September.

New Enterprise Associates led the new round. Andreessen Horowitz also participated.

About 30 people work at the one-year-old startup now. It should enter the 60-100-person range within a year, Stoica said.

Databricks is using cutting-edge technology based on years of research to build next-generation software for analyzing and extracting value from data. Its founders created Apache Spark and Shark, and are deeply committed to open-source… read more »

Dr. Ion Stoica co-founded Conviva, Inc. (formerly Rinera Networks, Inc.) in 2006 and serves as its Chief Technology Officer. Dr. Stoica serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Databricks, Inc. Dr. Stoica is an accomplished s… read more »

After ditching Echo Nest, Rdio acquires music discovery startup TastemakerX

After ditching Echo Nest, Rdio acquires music discovery startup TastemakerX
Image Credit: Source: TastemakerX

Rdio has acquired music discovery service TastemakerX, according to a Pando report published today.

TastemakerX started as a streaming music service that sought to appeal to the inner music enthusiast (or music snob) in all of us by enticing people to share new music with friends via a gamification model. It later pivoted to focus on what people were sharing across all music services, including Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, and, yes, Rdio.

As part of the acquisition deal, TastemakerX founder Marc Ruxin will become Rdio’s new COO, while the entire seven-employee TastemakerX team will also join the company, Ruxin confirmed to VentureBeat.

While the company has yet to make a formal announcement about the acquisition, the move could have something to do with TastemakerX’s ability to collect data on how people listen to music. Earlier this year, Rdio decided to stop using The Echo Nest’s music data (recommendations, etc.) after Spotify acquired the service. TastemakerX could help fill the gap The Echo Nest has left.

That might be part of it, but Ruxin said he and his team will be focused more on finding a unique approach for sharing with the people you speak with often.

“We’re interested in finding a balance between algorithmic and person-to-person sharing,” Ruxin told VentureBeat. “Navigating a [music] discovery mechanism through people is super helpful, and it’s something we’ve always admired about Rdio.”

VentureBeat has reached out to Rdio for further comment about the acquisition. We’ll update this post with any new details we learn.


TastemakerX is social gaming platform that allows users to build portfolios of personal tastes and share it to their social graph. The TastemakerX Music mobile app enables fans to discover artists, trends and inspiration; compete again… read more »

Rdio is the ground-breaking digital music service that is reinventing the way people discover, listen to, and share music. With on-demand access to over 12 million songs, Rdio connects people with music and makes it easy to search for … read more »

Google’s Quickoffice makes a quiet exit

Google's Quickoffice makes a quiet exit

How can you leverage mobile to increase profitability for your company? Find out at MobileBeat, VentureBeat’s 7th annual event on the future of mobile, on July 8-9 in San Francisco. Register now and save $200!

When Google bought Quickoffice in 2012, it was a challenge to Microsoft — lord supreme of work productivity software. Now the Internet behemoth is quietly killing Quickoffice after building up Drive with extra editing functions.

Google noted in a blog post last Wednesday that it will be pulling Quickoffice apps from Google Play and the App Store in the coming weeks. Existing customers can continue using the app, but Google will not be updating the software.

Quickoffice was a promising mobile app company in 2009 when it released its office suite for iPhone — beating Microsoft to the punch. When Google acquired the company, it made Quickoffice compatible with Drive, Google’s cloud storage offering. Users could then not only write and edit on the go but could also use the app to convert Microsoft Word docs to Drive.

Now it seems to be folding the entire office line into Drive. In April the company released standalone app versions of Docs and Sheets, so perhaps it’s no surprise that Quickoffice is getting killed. Also, just last week Google announced new Drive features like the ability to natively edit Microsoft docs — which Quickoffice used to do — and Drive for Work, a $10 per month service that provides unlimited storage and heightened security. With these added features in Google Drive, Quickoffice was just a duplication of efforts.

The death of Quickoffice appears to be part of a little spring cleaning project at Google. This morning the company also killed its social network Orkut. While time has run out for Orkut, Quickoffice is still available in the App Store as of this writing.

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob… read more »

Databricks ropes in Alteryx to push Spark adoption for big data projects

Databricks ropes in Alteryx to push Spark adoption for big data projects

Above: George Mathew, president and chief operating officer of Alteryx, speaks at the company’s “Inspire” user conference.

Image Credit: Alteryx

Databricks thinks the open-source Spark engine is the next big thing for big data processing — so it has teamed up with analytics firm Alteryx to supercharge the software.

The two data startups intend to drive Spark into the hands of more data analysts through a formal partnership, Databricks and Alteryx have revealed to VentureBeat. They will become the primary committers to Apache Spark, the open-source, in-memory engine often seen as the leading candidate to replace MapReduce, the companies said.

MapReduce, originally conceived at Google, is the initial programming model for the Hadoop ecosystem of open-source tools for analyzing lots of different kinds of data. But while MapReduce boasts strong scalability, fault tolerance, and throughput, it generally runs jobs on a batch basis. That is quite limiting in terms of latency and accessibility, argued Alteryx chief operating officer George Mathew in a conversation with VentureBeat.

You need a custom MapReduce programmer every time you want to get something out of Hadoop, but that’s not the case for Spark, said Mathew. Alteryx is working toward a standardized Spark interface for asking questions directly against data sets, which broadens Spark’s accessibility from hundreds of thousands of data scientists to millions of data analysts — folks who know who to write SQL queries and model data effectively, but aren’t experts in writing MapReduce programming jobs in Java.

The Spark framework is well equipped to handle those queries, as it exploits the memory spread across all of the servers in a cluster. That means it can run analytics models at blazing-fast speeds compared to MapReduce: Programs can go as much as 100 times faster in memory or 10 times faster on disk. Those performance enhancements — and the subsequent customer demand – has prompted Hadoop distribution vendors like Cloudera and MapR to support Spark.

Databricks, founded by the creators of Spark, today announced $33 million in new funding, bringing its total venture financing to $47 million. It also revealed a new service for running Spark jobs and visualizing data on a Databricks-owned cloud. That’s another move by Databricks to make Spark as accessible as possible, a goal the Alteryx partnership will help push forward.

“We want to create a whole new generation of data blenders and analytics modelers that were never able to touch this stuff before,” Mathew said. “We’re just really excited to be working on this together.”

Use a free or cheap marketing automation system? Tell us what’s great about it (and not so great), and we’ll share survey data from everyone else with you.

Solving business problems for nearly a quarter-million users worldwide, Alteryx is driving the global revolution in Agile Business Intelligence with analytics by empowering business leaders with insight and results. Through smart, exte… read more »

Databricks is using cutting-edge technology based on years of research to build next-generation software for analyzing and extracting value from data. Its founders created Apache Spark and Shark, and are deeply committed to open-source… read more »

Sweden’s Hansoft raises $10M for dev tools

Sweden's Hansoft raises $10M for dev tools

Above: Hansoft

Image Credit: Hansoft

Hansoft, a Swedish project management and collaboration software firm, has raised $10 million.

The first round of funding for the company was led by investment firm Hasso Plattner Ventures. Hansoft makes the team collaboration tool Agile, which game companies such as Capcom, id Software, and EA’s Bioware have used. Other customers are in the electronics, aerospace, space, and telecom industries.

“We are truly excited that Hasso Plattner Ventures have joined our team of investors,” said Patric Palm, chief executive of Uppsala, Sweden-based Hansoft, in a statement. “Their international network and experience will help us bring Hansoft to a much wider group of users.”

Hansoft plans to hire more people at its San Francisco office. The new staff will include a chief growth officer and chief revenue officer.

“Hansoft have already proven themselves able to punch way above their weight, both in terms of creating a fantastic product with leading capabilities, and also their ability to score large enterprise deals in competition with much larger players,” said Hasso Plattner Ventures’ Shmuel Chafets, in a statement. “I’m thrilled to see what they can do with the larger muscles they are now provided.”

The company said it has been profitable since day one and wholly and equally owned by its founders Erik Olofsson, Hans Andersson, and Patric Palm. It previously raised funding from Nordic venture capital firm Creandum, the first institutional investor in Spotify.


Blackphone, a new encrypted smartphone built from scratch, is now market ready

Blackphone, a new encrypted smartphone built from scratch, is now market ready
Image Credit: Shutterstock

How can you leverage mobile to increase profitability for your company? Find out at MobileBeat, VentureBeat’s 7th annual event on the future of mobile, on July 8-9 in San Francisco. Register now and save $200!

Your new encrypted smartphone is now ready to order.

Pre-order actually. The new Blackphone, a smartphone that touts itself as impervious to NSA cryptographers, is almost market ready. Not officially on the shelves of Verizon or T-Mobile yet, the phone is a collaboration between Swiss-based SilentCircle and Geeksphone, which now call themselves SGP Technologies.

Blackphone interface

Above: Blackphone interface

Image Credit: Blackphone

At the heart of smartphone is its new Android-centric operating system, called PrivatOS. The Blackphone comes with built-in industrial grade encryption that protects IMs, voice, video, and chat, according to the designers. The Blackphone costs nearly $700, and you can now pre-order it online.

The Blackphone is partly the brainchild of security guru Phil Zimmerman, perhaps best known as the inventor of encryption tool PGP, which garnered raves when it was released in 2010. The Blackphone is sexy and slim, with a 4.7-inch display, quad-core 2GHz system-on-a-chip processor, and 1GB of LPDDR RAM.

More specs here.

In terms of connectivity, Blackphone has a single Micro-SIM slot, Bluetooth, a Micro USB, and a 3.5 millimeter audio jack. And, yes, it comes with a camera.

Blackphone comes unlocked, and its encryption technology comes loaded on the phone. The Blackphone is indeed black and looks like a smaller version of Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartphones. It compatible with any GSM carrier.

Additional features include secure file and transfer storage and secure and private browsing. Blackphone’s Security Center lets users customize data flows.

Blackphone was initially unveiled at the Mobile World Congress and almost undoubtedly elicited interest from the National Security Agency.

I’m waiting to get my hands on one. Stay tuned.




Blackphone is the first integrated smartphone from the best privacy minds in the industry. Silent Circle and Geeksphone have partnered to combine best-of-breed hardware with all the skills and experience necessary to offer PrivatOS, a… read more »