More Audiobook Sources Coming to iTunes

Check out this quick article from theverge.com, which explains how you’ll soon see more audiobook sources available on iTunes:

Photo courtesy of theverge.com
Photo courtesy of theverge.com

Apple and Amazon end decade-long audiobook exclusivity deal

Regulators said the deal was limiting competition

By Jacob Kastrenakes

Apple and Amazon have agreed to end an exclusivity agreement that made Audible the only seller of audiobooks inside of iTunes.

The agreement had been in place for over a decade, since 2003, but came to an end earlier this month following complaints from German publishers and investigations by European antitrust regulators, who were concerned that the agreement was stifling competition and raising prices.

Regulators began investigating in late 2015. It appears all investigations are being suspended in light of the companies’ decisions to end the exclusivity agreement.

“With the deletion of the exclusivity agreement, Apple will now have the opportunity to purchase digital audiobooks from other suppliers,” Andreas Mundt, president of Germany’s antitrust agency, said in a statement. “This will enable a wider range of offer and lower prices for consumers.”

In a statement, Audible confirmed that it had removed the exclusivity provision in its agreement with Apple, and added that it will continue to offer audiobooks through iTunes. Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The European Commission said it welcomed the agreement. It said the change is “likely to improve competition” for audiobook distribution in Europe — though, since the agreement applied elsewhere, it could have the same affect globally, too.

Audible has dominated the audiobook market for years now. And with iTunes being one of the key places that consumers go to buy audiobooks, the agreement could have put serious limitations on the industry. Publishers either had to go through Audible, or miss out on a major storefront. They’ll now be able to go directly to Apple for distribution.

Click here to see more from theverge.com.

No Escaping Ads: Instagram Stories Allows Full-Screen Advertising

Check out this article from adweek.com to learn more about the full-screen advertising coming to Instagram’s new stories section:

Instagram stories photo
Photo courtesy of Instagram

Instagram Is Dropping Ads Into Its Stories Feature, Now 150 Million Daily Users Strong

Airbnb, Nike and Buick are on board

By Christopher Heine

Instagram is starting to let brands advertise in between its 24-hour video stories section even though the feature just launched in August.

Why already? Why not? The scale is there—the Facebook-owned app is revealing today that 150 million people have been using Instagram stories daily. That represents a 50-million-user increase in just three months.

Around 30 brands are trying the new full-screen ads. That includes Capital One, Asos, Nike, Buick and Airbnb. The promos will first be measured solely by the number of people reached. In the coming months, the mobile player plans to expand to site visits and other metrics.

“I think [marketers] are excited about the pairing of this format with the advertising capabilities that we’ve built over the last couple of years,” said James Quarles, vp of Instagram Business. “They can target people that matter to them. They have the ability to reach as many as efficiently as possible. And they have access to a suite of measurement tools to see what worked.”

Instagram stories ads will be sold on the platform’s auction-style, automated system that charges cost-per-thousand-impressions rates, which are based on a number of demographic factors such as age, gender and location. It will be open to the platform’s 500,000 worldwide advertisers. When Quarles was asked about how often Instagram stories viewers would see the ads, he said the system will work to ensure relevance.

“It will look at interactions, liking, time spent, exits,” he said. “Did someone move onto the next story, or did they leave the stories tray entirely? All of those are great signals and give us a great sense of people’s behavior and the relative performance of the ad.”

In the coming weeks, companies that use Instagram business tools will be able to view data from the stories channel. “One-third of our top stories have been from businesses,” Quarles said, adding that Mercedes-Benz has been using the feature this week to take viewers behind the scenes at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“There is a pace and an acceleration in that part of the product,” he added. “It shows a new side of what people share on Instagram.”

The stories let the digital platform’s 600 million monthly users curate daily moments in a format that disappears after 24 hours. They are similar to Snapchat’s stories, which offer users a personalized way to share photos and videos with followers, and the mobile app was a pioneer in disappearing content.

Separately, Airbnb’s ads appear to be an extension of a campaign that launched last week. The home-rentals brand used livestreaming on Twitter and Periscope to inspire vacation-minded consumers to travel to Hawaii and Detroit while stirring their interest in Cameroonian cuisine. Check out more details from the campaign here.

Click here to see more from adweek.com.

New Updates Coming for Samsung Notebook 9

Check out this quick article from techcrunch.com to learn about some new updates expected to come with the new Samsung Notebook 9 line:

samsung notebook 9 photo
Photo courtesy Samsung press release and techcrunch.com.

Samsung’s slim Notebook 9 line gets a boost

By Brian Heater

Samsung’s gone the simple route with its latest notebooks – right down to the Notebook 9 name, which likely unintentionally invokes a very Cat’s Cradle vibe. Less then a year after launch, the line’s 13- and 15-inch models are getting a refresh, because the company just couldn’t wait the few extra weeks for CES.

The laptops are getting a new design, one that, from the press photos, at least, looks a bit like a Chromebook that made a wish upon a star to become a full-fledged laptop. It’s a model of minimalist efficiency that includes an extra-thin bezel and a display that swivels back to 180-degrees.

More impressively, the laptops are quite light, with the 13.3-inch version coming in at 1.8 pounds and the 15-incher weighing in at 2.17. Samsung also claims the little notebooks are fairly durable as well, with thermal and shock-resistant shells. The laptops promise seven hours of battery life (a notable step down from the former promise of 12 hours), coupled with quick charging, which should give users a full charge in 80 minutes.

There’s also a fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C port onboard, along with some souped up processing power with seventh-gen Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, coupled with up to 16GB of RAM. No word yet on pricing and availability, but probably don’t plan on getting one for Christmas this year.

Click here to see more from techcrunch.com.

Futuristic-Looking Lamp from GE Features Alexa

Read the article below from theverge.com to learn about a cool GE lamp that features Amazon’s Alexa.

device pitstop alexa lamp
Photo courtesy GE

GE made a circular lamp with Alexa in it

By Jacob Kastrenakes

Amazon started allowing other companies to build Alexa into their own products last year, and today GE is unveiling what might be the most compelling example yet. It’s a wild LED lamp that’s kind of like what would happen if you attached a large, glowing ring to the top of an Echo Dot.

The lamp looks all at once futuristic, kind of goofy, and like it’ll fit terribly in your apartment. But having a thing that looks like a physical re-creation of the Cortana ring at home just seems kind of great.

GE doesn’t have a fancy name for the product — right now, it’s just being called the LED lamp or LED table lamp. I’m sure the name would be much more absurd if this thing had launched on Kickstarter.

The lamp functions more or less like any Echo device would. It includes always-on microphones listening for commands and questions, and when it hears one, it’ll react or speak out a response through its built-in speakers. Don’t expect those speakers to be great for music, though; a representative said they would be close in quality to the Echo Dot’s speakers, which we said were just enough to “be used in a pinch to play music.”

What the lamp does add to the picture is, of course, voice control over its built-in lamp. A big part of Alexa’s appeal is its growing ability to control connected devices throughout a home; that means building Alexa into a product as practical as a lamp makes a lot of sense, even if the design is far from practical.

GE says that the lamp design we’re seeing today isn’t final, but it’s supposed to be very close to the final product, which should only see tweaks to the dimensions of what’s being presented here.

The lamp is supposed to ship sometime in the second quarter of 2017.

Click here to see more from theverge.com.