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proxy

Yesterday, Yahoo turned in what its fans kindly described as a well-at-least-we’re-not-falling-off-the cliff earnings report.

True, true, but it was nothing to be proud of either, with earnings and revenue down in the third quarter, along with a slew of other business deficits. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer gamely tried to smooth it all over – a unique talent of hers – in a kind of retro-chic method, by pointing out that Yahoo’s user traffic is back to 2011 levels and that mobile was growing.

Of course, it’s booming everywhere across the Internet, with rivals managing to monetize the explosive growth that Yahoo simply still cannot.

As the New York Times’ Nicole Perlroth aptly wrote in the lede of her piece about the Q3 debacle: “The honeymoon is over … 15 months after she took over, Ms. Mayer has failed to translate Yahoo’s user increase into meaningful revenue growth.”

This is not to say that she will not eventually, especially if she can keep attracting top talent to help her.

But it’s lucky Mayer has the magnificent performance of China’s Alibaba Group as a lifesaver. Yahoo, which owns a big stake in the e-commerce juggernaut, has seen its stock boom in tandem with investor frenzy to get any piece of the Alibaba rocket ship before its expected IPO next year.

Essentially: Buy Yahoo, get Alibaba; or perhaps more simply put, buy Yahoo as a proxy for it.

But why take my word for it? Here’s the Yahoo slides, press release and also a filing on a new agreement with Alibaba to be able to hold onto more of its shares upon the IPO (Yahoo knows a good investment when they see it) to peruse to get a handle on what’s actually going on.

And that is: A still-damaged core business that is struggling mightily to turn around, with a lot of help from Asia and also the mojo provided by Mayer’s own personal halo.

Here’s Yahoo’s own data to look over:

Q313_YHOOEarningsSlides

Yahoo – Yahoo Reports Third Quarter 2013 Results

Form 8-K

(Photo from Mayer’s Tumblr blog, showing new sign at Yahoo’s Sunnyvale HQ with new logo she helped design.)

snapchatdollar640

Only a few months after closing a Series B round of $60 million that valued the ephemeral messaging company at $800 million, Snapchat has been in talks for another funding that values it at up to $3.6 billion, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources also added that the funding itself would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that the lead investor might be a strategic party from Asia.

Such a deal could still fall apart, of course, but the effort has become well known among several Silicon Valley venture firms, who have considered investing.

A spokeswoman for Snapchat declined to comment.

The investor is neither China’s Alibaba Group nor Japan’s Rakuten, which has put a lot of money in Silicon Valley startups of late, said sources. One interesting possibility would be China’s Internet giant Tencent, which makes money from in-app transactions.

The move by the Los Angeles-based company comes on the heels of another massive funding round raised by social scrapbooking company Pinterest, which announced earlier this week that it just raised $225 million at a $3.8 billion valuation.

Besides the huge piles of investment dough being poured into them, here’s what else the pair have in common: Little to no revenue.

That does not seem to have stopped a panoply of venture and other investors from jumping in and ponying up with huge amounts of cash for the privilege of investing in several fast-growing startups, hoping to grab ahold of the next Twitter or Facebook early.

Launched in 2011, Snapchat has grown wildly popular in a relatively short span of time, effectively creating an entirely new genre of messaging category with its “ephemeral” pictures and videos that last for only a matter of seconds.

Snapchat’s last round – which it called a “scaling round” for infrastructure improvements – was announced in late June, led by Institutional Venture Partners, with participation from General Catalyst Partners and SV Angel. Previous investors Benchmark Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated. With that round, the company had raised around $75 million in total.

Snapchat's Evan Spiegel

Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel

All the fervor has been due to Snapchat’s fast growth and younger demographic. Only a few months ago, co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel boasted that the service had more than 200 million snapped pictures and video taken by its users on a daily basis, up from 150 million just months before. Then in September at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, he said that the number had grown to 350 million self-destructing messages daily.

At the time, there was also an additional $20 million in a secondary offering just four months ago.

At the time of the June funding, in an interview with AllThingsD, Spiegel noted: “We’re excited about in-app transactions because of what we’ve seen in the Asian markets.”

A clue!

Snapchat has clearly been a phenom of late.

Indeed, the app has proved so popular – and potentially worrisome to established social players – that sources said when Spiegel continually rebuffed Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s acquisition offers, Zuckerberg cloned the app outright with a service called Poke. Zuckerberg’s offering famously flopped, while Snapchat continues to grow.

Most recently, Snapchat has begun to experiment with features outside of its core ephemeral messaging service. The company launched its Stories product last month, essentially a long-form play on Facebook’s status update in the form of a picture or video. And recently, Spiegel has grown more keen on the idea of monetization, experimenting with bands and listening to music inside the app.

The company, however, has not been without its problems. Early on in its history, Snapchat had to fight the perception that it was a “sexting service” for tweens, a fly-by-night app used to easily spread lewd photos. And it is still involved in ongoing litigation with Frank Brown, a collaborator from the service’s early days, who is suing the company he was pushed out of.

The way things are going, the term “cable TV” may have to be replaced by “phone TV.”

Nearly a decade after Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. began building pipelines to carry TV service to U.S. homes, they are nearing the market share of cable operators in areas where they operate, according to third-quarter results released by cable and phone companies in recent days. The top two cable providers, Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc., shed 435,000 video customers in the quarter, while AT&T and Verizon added 400,000.

Read the rest of this post on the original site

powershell

The leaks were right – Logitech has a gamepad case for the iPhone and iPod touch, and it will be widely available in early December.

The PowerShell is part of the gaming-focused G Series, costs $99.99 and contains a standard directional pad; four main buttons, labeled A, B, X and Y; two trigger buttons; a dedicated pause button; and a 1500 mAh battery that charges the iPhone/iPod. It works with the iPhone 5 and 5s and the fifth-generation iPod touch on iOS 7.

Notice what’s missing from that list? Logitech said the case won’t work with the new iPhone 5c because the 5c is 0.4-1.37 mm bigger in all dimensions. In order to accommodate the iPod touch, which is 1.5 mm thinner than the phones, the case includes a removable sheet of padding.

Global product marketing manager Mark Starrett said Logitech has been working with Apple since before the official announcement of iOS 7’s third-party controller support at this year’s WWDC. That OS-level support means the accessory manufacturer has not had to work with developers to ensure their games’ compatibility, but is talking with a handful about marketing partnerships.

Logitech is not currently planning to make a comparable gamepad case for Android devices, even though Google has offered third-party controller support on its OS for much longer. With “four or five” competing standards, “Android is just a mess,” Starrett said.

Unlike the Moga Ace Power gamepad case, also unveiled this week, the PowerShell does not collapse for portability. The rigid case is designed to be used in landscape mode, with the home button pointing toward the user’s right hand.

At launch, about 300 games will work with the case, but they’ll be universal, meaning that PowerShell owners won’t have to download different versions of the apps for touch and non-touch gameplay. Starrett said Logitech has already tested dozens of those games with the PowerShell, and expects Apple to roll out a new section in the iOS App Store for gamepad-compatible games.

hug_it_out

Unsubtle reminder from Facebook to media companies: We’re really big, and we can send you a lot of traffic.

The longer version comes here, via a Facebook blog post boasting about all the eyeballs they have passed along to sites like BuzzFeed and Bleacher Report recently, in an experiment to boost referral traffic.

Facebook said it got those sites and 27 others to increase by 57 percent the number of articles they posted to the social network, and that those sites saw their referral traffic jump by 80 percent.

The bigger picture is that Facebook is making a renewed effort to get media companies to distribute their stuff on the site.

Today’s blog post is specifically about Web publishers. But Facebook has been making a particular push to engage TV programmers and networks to use the site, in the way that Twitter has been doing for a couple of years.

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