Архив метки: AP

Scribd Has 100M Users And A Mobile App It Needs To Rethink (After Yahoo Walked Away From A Deal)

Float screen shot (scribd)

Started originally as a ridesharing service, then pivoting to become a document uploading and reading service, Scribd now has 100 million registered users, with 90 million monthly active users. That makes it probably the biggest effort of its kind, but leveraging that size hasn’t always been easy.

Scribd, TechCrunch has learned, is at a crossroads in mobile — a crossroads that almost saw the company sell its iOS mobile news aggregation app, Float, to Yahoo.

When Float launched in July 2011, it was off to a good start: 150 partners at signup, including biggies like the AP; with that number eventually growing to 200. It has also regularly made the top-15 rankings for reading and news apps on the App Store, and in the last three months has seen the number of active engaged users of the app go up 30 percent month over month.

And then there is that Yahoo approach: According to our sources, Yahoo approached Scribd with an offer of between $2 million – $8 million for the mobile app, among interest from a “few other companies.” (Those discussions did not progress and Yahoo apparently walked away in February; more on that below.)

But all that demand still didn’t stack up against bigger issues: formidable and buzzy competitors; and how much the app was actually used — which (even with the growth) is not enough to drive the business model Scribd had wanted to attach to it: advertising plus all-you-can-read subscriptions — the “Netflix of reading” as Jason K. wrote at the time of launch.

The story is a kind of cautionary tale about what it takes to make an app a hit, and just how crowded the market really is for new apps.

“When we originally launched Float, Scribd wanted it to be Instapaper and Read It Later and Readability: all of those things and more,” a person close to the company told me. “But in the fall we had a zillion more competitors on top of all of them.” Also not helping things: Flipboard upgrading and expanding to the iPhone, Zite getting re-infused when it got bought by CNN, and Pulse continuing its partnerships and content expansion.

Now, with no one else knocking on the door, Scribd is rethinking Float, folding the effort back into the main Scribd operation. Already, most the staff that had been assigned to work on the app have been redeployed back to the main company. A spokesperson says that there haven’t been any layoffs, though: there were 40 full-time before Float, and there are as many now.

Scribd is also getting ready to release a new version of the app, with Float’s branding sinking (ahem) in favor of Scribd’s own name. (And, unless Scribd always wondered if Float would eventually spin off anyway, that was probably what they should have done in the first place.)

No firm date has yet been set for the relaunch, TechCrunch understands.

There have been some developments at the company that hint at what Scribd plans to do next in mobile: it has apparently now converted everything to be HTML5-friendly, a project it had started in 2010. That opens the door to the company creating an app that lets users access all of Scribd, not just a selection of sources, and across a range of screens.

And after last raising a Series C round of $13 million in January 2011, the company is “very close to breakeven” on its main business. That potentially gives it the flexibility to focus a bit more on what happens in mobile, but in a way that is an extension of what it already does on the web, rather than as a separate venture.

The coda to this story: why would Yahoo want to buy Float? The likely reason was to complement the more visually-led reading app that it has created with Livestand, and to continue its attempt to make itself relevant in the new mobile world.

On one side, the idea of buying a reading app makes complete sense for Yahoo, still a popular destination for news, to think about better ways of delivering that to mobile users — especially since it has cleared the decks of 10 apps, including its news app, that weren’t working so well for the company.

On the other side, it points to some curious thinking that doesn’t seem to be in line with CEO Scott Thompson’s emphasis on focusing on harnessing the talent it already had in house.

Scribd Has 100M Users And A Mobile App It Needs To Rethink (After Yahoo Walked Away From A Deal)

Samsung: Apple’s Been “Freeriding,” We’re Getting Aggressive


If you were to take a good hard look at the Apple-Samsung trail of destruction (otherwise known as their world-wide patent war), you’d likely come to the conclusion that Apple is ahead by a few key points. Apple has taken down the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany, won an EU-wide (sort of) injunction on three Galaxy smartphones (though Samsung’s found a way to keep selling them), and kept the GalTab from being sold in Australia as well. Samsung has yet to get any iProduct removed from store shelves.

Obviously, this is an ongoing war and anything could happen, but as it rests now Apple has the advantage. With any win, however contained, the psychological affects of that win carry over into other court systems and countries. So Apple’s win is more than just a win in Europe, and a semi-win in Australia — it’s a sign to all the other courts that Apple may just have a point to their argument. To Samsung, this effect is lethal.

With that said, Samsung’s head of global marketing for mobile communications Lee Younghee has said that Samsung plans to take a much more aggressive stance with regard to Apple, reports the AP. After hearing this, Samsung’s somewhat tentative attitude throughout these proceedings makes much more sense. It’s well known that Samsung and Apple share a fruitful business relationship, with Samsung being a component supplier for Apple and Apple, in turn, being one of Samsung’s biggest customers.

Apple hasn’t done much to protect this relationship over the course of the battle, asserting rights in any country it can and alleging infringement at every turn. Of course, Samsung has filed plenty of its own lawsuits and appeals, but in almost every case it’s had the appearance of a retaliatory move, rather than a switch over to the offensive. In this way, Samsung has played the game slow and steady, refraining from crossing any line until the company is prepared to never return.

But that’s over. Early on in the battle, Samsung almost seemed flattered by the lawsuits. Chairman of Samsung Electronics Lee Kun-hee said that “when a nail sticks out, people try to pound it down. [Such incidents] are like a rite of passage that the company has to go through in order to continue its growth.” That was back in April, when this whole mess began. Now, things are quite different. Apple is very clearly going for the jugular, while Samsung has merely been defending itself. A strong defense (with regards to the suits Samsung initiated), but a defense nonetheless.

According to Lee Younghee, “We’ll be pursuing our rights for this in a more aggressive way from now on.” She also added that Apple has been “freeriding” on Samsung’s wireless communication technology patents. That aligns rather nicely with comments made by an unnamed Samsung executive to the Korea Times, promising to come after the iPhone 5 in Korea as soon as its debuted. That exec mentioned that the only way to avoid such litigation would be if Apple removed “mobile telecommunications functions” from the iPhone.

The way I see it, Samsung is trying to turn the tables on Apple. After playing the victim role (to an extent), Samsung will likely begin dropping bombs, hoping to secure a solid win. If that happens, Apple’s advantage dies and the possibility of a settlement becomes much more attractive to Apple the aggressor. With the way the game’s been played thus far, a settlement is actually a big win for Samsung. It may preserve the business relationship it has with Apple, while proving to the world that Apple is indeed afraid of Samsung and its increasing growth.

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Samsung: Apple’s Been “Freeriding,” We’re Getting Aggressive

With Swampy The Alligator, Disney Takes Aim At The Angry Birds Empire


While most studios team up with developers to create games that support existing properties, Disney is going the opopsite direction with the release of their latest iOS game. Their goal for Swampy the Alligator here isn’t just to snag the top spot for app purchases: they want to see him break into movies and merch too.

In short, they want this alligator to be like the Angry Birds.

Swampy stars in Disney Mobile’s “Where’s The Water?”, and while he lives in the sewers, he’s (ironically) a bit of a clean freak. Players must direct water into Swampy’s shoddy plumbing by cutting paths through the ground, all so Swampy can get his much-needed shower.

A few quick minutes playing the game has confirmed my suspicions: it already seems to have the same addictive charm that made Cut The Rope and Angry Birds such efficient timewasters.

Methinks that’s exactly what Disney Mobile GM Bart Decrem had in mind. Formerly the CEO of Tapulous, makers of one of iOS’s first rhythm games, Decrem has a very keen awareness of what gives a mobile game the “stickiness” that keeps players coming back.

He notes in an interview with the AP that the mobile space is huge with Disney’s target audience, saying that “this is where a generation of kids is growing up.” He thinks it’s important for Disney to be able to tell compelling new stories on a platform that kids are falling in love with.

Decrem has also said that one of the goals of the launch was to “incubate new characters that can cross over into other Disney business units like movies and merchandise.” Even if Swampy doesn’t quite make it, it seems it’s now a priority for Disney Mobile to take on the Angry Birds.

Angry Birds, if you’ve been lucky enough to live under a rock for the past few months, has spawned a truly obscene amount of merch. Angry Birds clothing, toys, and (less officially) Chinese moon pies have all been spotted, and there’s even word that a movie is in the works. It’s a lofty goal for Disney to shoot for, but one that they’re uniquely equipped to take advantage of if Swampy’s fame transcends his game.

Assuming the interest is there, a Swampy movie could become a reality sooner than expected because Disney can essentially do all the production work in-house. Of course, the company also already has the connections with manufacturers to quickly (and cheaply) churn out gobs of Swampy merchandise. Disney has proven themselves to have considerable muscle when it comes to cross-promotion too, so if this app happens to take off, expect to see Swampy toys in your kid’s Happy Meal before too long.

The game has just gone live in the App Store today, and it’ll run you $.99 — we’ll have to see if Disney’s ambitions are realized, but it’s a great timewaster nonetheless.

With Swampy The Alligator, Disney Takes Aim At The Angry Birds Empire