Amazon Prime members again snapped up loss leaders like the Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa Remote on the first day of Amazon Prime Day 2019, which has now been stretched out to a 48-hour sale. This is the third year in a row that the entry-level Alexa smart speaker, the Echo Dot, has been a Prime Day bestseller. The Fire TV Stick was a top seller last year, too, and sold well in years past — including in 2016, when it emerged at the overall best-selling device globally on Prime Day.
Amazon never provides hard numbers on Prime Day sales, but claims “millions” of these devices — the Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick combined — were sold on Monday to customers worldwide during the first day of Prime Day 2019.
Last year, Amazon claimed customers bought “millions” of Fire TV Stick devices alone, for comparison’s sake.
The retailer also said this morning that U.S. shoppers saved “millions” on Prime Day sales on Monday. This includes other bestsellers like the Instant Pot DUO Plus 60 6 Qt, LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, and Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitening Strips. The Instant Pot and LifeStraw filter were also two of the non-Amazon top sellers last Prime Day, which says something about the consistency of this sales event as it enters its fifth year.
Though Amazon didn’t officially list the Echo Dot in its round-up of July 15 Prime Day sales, the smart speaker had already been discounted to its then lowest price ever of $24.99 (half off list) before Prime Day even started. As the event kicked off, it dropped again to $22.
Today, Amazon is keeping the Echo Dot at $22 but is sold out of Charcoal, leaving only the lighter sandstone color available for purchase.
Other notable Day 2 Prime Day deals include:
A $49.99 Echo Show 5 (the smaller, more compact revamp of the Alexa speaker with a screen); savings of up to $140 on Fire TV Edition smart TVs; the $14.99 Fire TV Stick with Alexa Remote; a $59.99 Fire 7 Kids Edition tablet (or 2 for $99.98); and the $139 Ring Video Doorbell 2.
A list of the announced Prime Day, day 2 deals are below:
Amazon Brands and Exclusives:
It’s no longer a winner-take-all scenario for Amazon Prime Day — in fact, that hasn’t been true for years. As soon as other large retailers realized they could piggyback on Amazon’s annual sales event to boost their own revenues from counter-sales, they’ve been doing just that. According to new data from Adobe Analytics out this morning, large retailers have already seen a big jump — a 64% increase — in their U.S. e-commerce spending thanks to Prime Day on Monday, July 15, when compared with an average Monday.
That’s up quite a bit from the 54% increase seen by these large retailers (those with over a billion in annual revenue) last year, the report notes.
Smaller retailers did well yesterday, too. Niche retailers with less than $5 million in annual revenue saw a 30% increase in their online sales on Monday, due to more people shopping online for deals.
Adobe earlier predicted Amazon Prime Day 2019 would push U.S. e-commerce sales to over $2 billion, when it all wraps. That will make it the third time outside the holiday shopping season that sales will hit that milestone, following Labor Day 2018 and Memorial Day 2019.
The increase in sales on non-Amazon sites so far can be attributed to the increased visitor traffic, which accounted for 66% of the revenue lift. Another 27% was caused by an increase in conversions, and 7% to bigger basket sizes.
Yesterday’s best non-Amazon deals were on electronics, Adobe also noted — particularly smart devices including smartwatches (12% off), smart TV (10% off), and smart home items (9% off).
Adobe’s data comes from its analytics business and is based on an analysis of one trillion visits to over 4,500 retail sites and 55 million SKUs. The company measures transactions for 80 of the top 100 U.S. e-commerce retailers.
Amazon, meanwhile, is reporting a successful Prime Day on Monday, without detailing revenues. It says that customers already saved “hundreds of millions of dollars” in the U.S., including on top sellers like the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote and Echo Dot, with millions sold.[ + ]
Is Facebook preparing to launch a serious competitor to TikTok? If so, the company just picked up some key talent to make that happen. Last week, Facebook announced plans for a new division, called the NPE Team, which will build experimental consumer-focused apps where it will try different ideas and features, then see how people react. Now, Facebook has picked up former Vine GM Jason Toff to join the NPE Team as a product management director.
Toff’s experience also includes time spent at Google, most notably as a product lead for YouTube before exiting to Vine in 2014. At the short-form video app maker, Toff worked as head of Product for a year, then became Vine’s general manager.
Vine, of course, was later snatched up by Twitter — and there, Toff moved up to director of Product Management before boomeranging back to Google, where his initial focus was on AR and VR projects.
Most recently, Toff worked as a partner at Google’s Area 120, Google’s in-house incubator where employees work on experimental projects.
That’s not all that different from what Facebook appears to have in store with its own NPE Team ambitions. Similar to Area 120 or Microsoft Garage, for example, the NPE Team plans to deliver apps that will “change very rapidly” in response to consumer feedback. It also will be quick to close down experiments that aren’t useful to people in fairly short order.
That’s not how Facebook itself operates. Its more experimental apps have had longer runs, as the company used them to gain feedback to inform its larger projects. For example, its photo-sharing app Moments ran from 2015 through early 2019, and its TrueCaller-like app Hello for emerging markets ran for several years, despite fairly limited adoption.
Facebook has also tried and failed with a number of other offshoots over the past decade, like Facebook Paper, Notify, a Snapchat clone called Lifestage and others, as well as those it picked up through acquisitions, then later shut down like tbh or Moves. It also previously ran an internal incubator of sorts called Facebook Creative Labs, which birthed now-failed projects like Slingshot, Riff and Rooms.
Many of these efforts were fairly high-profile at launch, which made their eventual shut down more problematic for Facebook’s image. With the NPE Team — as with Area 120 or Microsoft Garage — there’s a layer of separation between the test apps and the larger company. Many of the apps that the NPE Team puts out will bomb, and that’s the point — it wants to get the failures out of the way faster so others can find success.
While Toff can’t yet say what he’ll be working on at Facebook, there’s a lot of speculation that the NPE Team will try to come up with some sort of answer to TikTok, the Beijing-based short-form video app that sucked up Musical.ly in 2018 and now is a Gen Z social networking hit, with some 500 million-plus monthly users. Toff’s background with Vine could certainly be helpful if that were the case.
Toff says he’s hiring for the NPE Team, including both UX designers and engineers.[ + ]
Dish is expanding its hardware lineup today with the launch of a new 4K streaming stick, the AirTV Mini, designed to make it easier for cord cutters to access from one user interface its live TV service Sling TV, plus Netflix and over-the-air channels. The Android TV-powered device is meant to complement an existing setup that already includes an OTA digital antenna and an AirTV Wi-Fi-enabled network tuner, the company says.
For a limited time, new and existing Sling TV customers can get the latter two items for free — an AirTV Wi-Fi-enabled network tuner and an indoor antenna — by prepaying for three months of Sling TV’s service.
In addition, the AirTV Mini also includes support for 2Mon, 15 Jul 2019 17:13:38 +0000
Dish’s AirTV launches an $80 streaming stick for accessing Sling TV, Netflix & broadcast channels
A report from Adobe’s analytics arm predicts Amazon’s Prime Day 2019 sales event, which began today, to have another sizable impact on the U.S. e-commerce market. The company expects a revenue lift for top retailers — those with over $1 billion in online sales — to reach 79% this year, up from the 60% lift they saw during Prime Day 2018. And it says that Prime Day will become the third time outside the holiday season that U.S. e-commerce spending will top $2 billion, as it previously did on Labor Day 2018 and Memorial Day 2019.
“We attribute this growth in sales to the fact that the big e-commerce competitors have become better at reaping the benefits of this artificial holiday,” said Taylor Schreiner, principal analyst at Adobe Digital Insights (ADI). “After all, they’ve now had almost five years of practice in converting Prime Day traffic.”
The $2 billion figure includes Amazon, Adobe says, but is limited to U.S. e-commerce sales.
However, Prime Day itself now runs across a number of international markets, including, for the first time, the United Arab Emirates, alongside the U.K., Spain, Singapore, Netherlands, Mexico, Luxembourg, Japan, Italy, India, Germany, France, China, Canada, Belgium, Austria and Australia.
Top Amazon rivals like Walmart, Target, eBay, Best Buy and others are running their own sales today, as are many e-commerce retailers. In fact, an earlier report from RetailMeNot predicted that this year, 250 retailers will compete with Amazon on Prime Day. That’s up from 194 last year and up from just seven on the first Prime Day in 2015.
EBay, in particular, went a little dirty with its counter-sale, calling it a “Crash Sale” — a reference to how Amazon.com tanked on Prime Day 2018.
But that branding has paid off — according to the latest from website monitoring firm Catchpoint, Amazon has not had stability issues as of yet. The firm has been tracking Amazon’s desktop and mobile websites since 3 AM ET today, and as of 10 AM ET reports no problems. It even found that the average website load times are just as fast as last week when there was no sale.
That either speaks to big improvements to site stability to address last year’s issues, or perhaps a decline in consumer interest in Prime Day 2019 — perhaps because one of Prime Day 2018’s top-sellers, the Echo Dot, had a huge price cut before Prime Day began, to $24.99. (Now it’s $22 for Prime Day.) We won’t know until the reports roll in later in the day, and after the sales event wraps.[ + ]
Twitter’s website is getting a major overhaul. The company has been testing a new version of its desktop website since the beginning of the year, and today the final product is rolling out to the public. The upgraded experience simplifies navigation with a new — and fairly large — left-hand sidebar that directs you to all of Twitter’s key sections, including Notifications, Direct Messages, Explore, Bookmarks, Lists and more. The site also features an expanded, more inbox-like Direct Messages screen where you can view and respond to conversations in one place; plus easy profile switching, support for more themes, advanced search and other features.
The popular dark modes, Dim and the very black Lights Out mode, are now supported along with more ways to personalize Twitter through different themes and color options.
But the most noticeable change is the organization and layout of the Twitter home screen itself.
Below: the old Twitter.com
Below: the new Twitter.com
The update is designed to make it easier to move around Twitter. Before, you’d have to click on your Profile icon to access features like Lists, Themes, Settings and other options. Meanwhile, getting to Moments was available both in this Profile drop-down menu and in the main Twitter navigation at the top of the screen, next to Notifications and Messages.
Now, Moments is being downgraded to the “More” menu in the redesign — as seen in a test running earlier this summer — and Explore instead gets the top billing. As on mobile, Explore will direct users to more live videos and personalized local moments, says Twitter. This is also where you’ll find Top Trends, while Personalized Trends will be featured on the right-hand sidebar on the home screen (see above).
In addition, Twitter finally brought the more than year-old Bookmarks feature to the desktop’s main navigation.
With the update, the new navigation menu includes: Home, Explore, Notifications, Messages, Bookmarks, Lists, Profile and More — the latter, a menu where you’ll find things like Moments, Twitter’s ad tools, Settings and other features.
The new Compose feature has been slightly tweaked as well, with options to include a photo, GIF, poll or emoji now all in the bottom left — with the emoji button now swapping in for the location button, following Twitter’s decision to make sharing precise location less of a priority, given its lack of use.
Though the new home screen is arguably better-organized, the navigation text itself and the amount of screen real estate it takes up is overly large.
This detracts somewhat from the main content — the tweets themselves — because your eye is naturally drawn to the oversize navigation labels at first, not the posts flowing in the timeline. This also can be a jarring change to get used to for longtime Twitter.com users. (Good thing there’s a new Mac desktop app on the way.)
If you really can’t stand the navigation labels’ size, you can make the webpage smaller, which then hides the text labels of the navigation items, leaving only their icons. This, unfortunately, isn’t all that useful if you like to keep Twitter open in a tab alongside all your other tabs. It works better if you pop out Twitter.com into its own window.
The navigation changes were likely a design choice Twitter made, in part, to simplify the use of its product by more casual users and newcomers.
The company has struggled with user growth throughout its history, even changing how it reports metrics to paint a better picture of its business. Now, you’d have to be almost completely web illiterate to not find your way around the new Twitter.com. But only time will tell what effect this has on growing its user base.
Not all the changes will be as controversial as the new layout, though.
For example, the now double-paned Direct Message section is more welcome as it makes using Messages feel more like the real inbox it often is — with the message list on the left and conversations on the right.
Search got an update, as well, which puts tabs for moving between “Top,” “Latest,” “People,” “Photos” and “Videos” at the top of the screen, with Advanced Search Filters to the right.
And for those with multiple Twitter accounts, you can now switch between them from the main navigation. That’s helpful.
Twitter’s tests of the updated design had been rolling out to more people throughout the year — it even tried two different versions for a time. Throughout this process, the company incorporated some of the user feedback it received. For example, the changes to the Messaging screen and the high priority given to Bookmarks were among the requests Twitter addressed.
But generally speaking, Twitter was aiming to deliver a more consistent, seamless experience across both the phone and the web platforms with this update, a company spokesperson told us.
There’s some bad news for old-school Twitter.com users — as of this public launch of the redesign, there’s no option for going back to the legacy experience, as there was during the testing period.
Twitter says the upgraded look will begin rolling out globally starting today.[ + ]
Twitch continues to lead rivals including, YouTube Live, Facebook Gaming and Microsoft’s Mixer, when it comes to live-streaming video. Despite experiencing its first decline in hours watched in Q2 2019, the Amazon-owned game-streaming site still had its second-biggest quarter to date, with more than 70% of the hours watched during the quarter.
According to a new report from StreamElements, Twitch viewers live-streamed a total of 2.72+ billion hours in Q2 — or 72.2% of all live hours watched — compared with 735.54 million hours on YouTube Live (19.5%), 197.76 million on Facebook Gaming (5.3%) and just 112.29 million hours (3%) on Mixer.
Combined, the total hours watched across all four platforms was 3.77 billion in Q2.
While none of Twitch’s rivals are nearly catching up, YouTube Live did have a good month in May, breaking its own record with 284 million hours watched. Overall, YouTube Live’s hours watched improved in Q2 as a result, while Twitch saw a slight decline.
Facebook Gaming is also gaining steam. It’s now the third-biggest live-streaming platform, having passed Microsoft Mixer.
Despite its traction, Twitch doesn’t have much of a long tail when it comes to stream viewership. That’s a problem it has faced for some time, as newcomers complained they spent years broadcasting to no one in hopes of gaining a fan base, with little success. Twitch has tried to remedy this problem with various educational efforts as well as product features like Raids and Squad Streams, for example.
However, the new report finds that the majority (almost 75%) of Twitch’s viewership still comes from people tuning in to the top 5,000 channels. Out of the 2.7 billion hours watched in Q2, these top 5,000 channels drove 2 billion of those hours watched.
In addition, the average concurrent viewership (viewers watching at the same time) of the top 5,000 channels increased by 12% in Q2 2019, compared with Q1. The top 200 channels have the highest concurrent viewership with 10,590 people watching together, on average.
Also in the quarter, viewership of top titles like Fortnite, League of Legends, Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive declined, while vlogging — aka “Just Chatting” — grew, along with other titles.
Esports, meanwhile, still draws big numbers, but represents only a small slice of the overall pie.
The full report, which takes a look at other trends, including which streamers are gaining and losing popularity, is available here.[ + ]
Hulu has again launched 4K content on its service, as first noticed by a report on The Streamable today and confirmed to us by a company spokesperson. The streamer had been late to add support for 4K, having finally rolled out support in December 2016 — a couple of years after rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime Video had done the same. And last year, Hulu removed the 4K content from its service, the report noted.
When 4K programming first arrived on Hulu, it included 20 James Bond films and a handful of Hulu Originals, like 11.22.63, The Path, Chance and others. At the time, the 4K content streamed on gaming consoles like the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Pro.
This time around, Hulu’s 4K programming is being supported on the Apple TV 4K and Chromecast Ultra. But again, the lineup of 4K content is fairly limited.
Now, Hulu viewers with 4K TVs can watch the streaming service’s own Hulu Originals in this higher-definition format, including series like The Handmaid’s Tale, Catch-22, The First and Castle Rock.
This still puts Hulu behind rivals in terms of 4K support. Netflix today offers nearly 600 titles in 4K, including both its own original shows and other licensed content. Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, serves up its original programming in 4K, as well as around 50 films, The Streamable reported.
In addition to streaming services, there are plenty of other ways to watch movies and shows in 4K by way of digital services, including through iTunes and Google Play Movies & TV — the latter which began offering 4K content for purchase back in 2016, as well. Plus, Roku even dedicates a section to 4K content within its main navigation.
The report also notes that Hulu’s 4K UHD support streams at 16 Mbps, and only supports SDR not HDR10 or Dolby Vision.[ + ]
The Google News tab is getting a makeover. Google announced this week, by way of a tweet, a significant redesign of the Google.com News tab on the desktop, which will organize articles in a card-style layout, while also better emphasizing publisher names. The end result makes Google News more aesthetically pleasing, but it comes at the expense of information density.
To be clear, the changes here are focused on the News tab of Google.com — not the dedicated Google News product at news.google.com. You land on the News tab when you search for a term on Google.com, and then click over to “News” to see the latest coverage instead of Google’s list of search results.
As the preview of the redesign shows, news articles are currently organized in a compact list of links, allowing you to see several headlines around a single topic with just a glance. This design, admittedly, is a bit old-school — but it works.
Within the stack of links, the headline is blue, the publisher is green and the articles are labeled as “In-depth” or “Opinion,” when relevant. There are small photo thumbnails by the lead story, with other publishers’ links underneath appearing as only text.
Fri, 12 Jul 2019 14:36:47 +0000
The Google News tab in Search is being redesigned for readability
Amazon’s list of Prime Day deals has finally dropped. The retailer’s Black Friday-style sale for its Prime members is one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, as other retailers now take part with their own competitive sales. But some of the best deals to be found on Prime Day are those on Amazon’s own devices. This year, Amazon is pushing its Echo speaker and Fire TV Stick devices in particular, with sale prices that are 50% off (or more) from the regular list prices.
According to an analysis of this year’s deals by Offers.com, the three biggest device deals this year are the $49.99 Echo Smart Speaker second generation (50% off its regular price of $99.99); the $14.99 Fire TV Stick (63% off its regular price); and the $24.99 Fire TV Stick 4K (50% off its regular price).
These prices don’t officially go live until Prime Day’s now two-day sale begins on Monday, July 15 at 12 AM PT.
However, the devices may not be selling for their “list” price today — Amazon has discounted some items ahead of Prime Day to encourage early shopping. And some will go on sale ahead of Prime Day on Saturday, July 13 — but only if you ask Alexa “what are my deals?” to gain early access.
Compared with Prime Day 2018, 70% of this year’s deals are better and three are tied, with an average price decrease of 14.5%, according to Offers.com’s report. And compared with Black Friday 2018, 72% of the deals are better and three are tied, with an average price decrease of 17%.
Above: Prime Day deals comparison via Offers.com
What’s interesting is that last year’s Prime Day and Black Friday/Cyber Monday bestseller, the standard Echo Dot, isn’t included on the Prime Day 2019 device deals list. Instead, Amazon is listing discounts for its Echo, Echo Show, Echo Plus, Echo Input, Echo Dot Kids Edition and even Facebook’s Portal (which has Alexa built-in), along with its Alexa-powered Fire TV devices.
That being said, the Echo Dot was marked down ahead of Prime Day to its lowest-ever price of $24.99 — half off its list price of $49.99.
Other Amazon device deals span Kindle tablets and e-readers, Ring and Blink home security products, as well as smart home products from ecobee, eero and Amazon itself.
More broadly, Amazon says it will offer more than a million deals during the sales event, with a special focus this year on “celeb deals” from Jaden Smith, Marshmello, Zac Brown and others, including the exclusive launch of Lady Gaga’s HAUS Laboratories beauty collection.
The full list of Amazon’s device deals is below.
Echo & Alexa
Amazon’s Prime Day 2019 non-device deals, meanwhile, can be found here.
Thu, 11 Jul 2019 23:30:53 +0000
Amazon Prime Day’s top device deals include discounted Echo speakers and Fire TVs
YouTube is rolling out more ways for its creators to engage fans and generate revenue, the company announced today at the VidCon event in Anaheim, Calif. Last year, YouTube used the event to launch new products like channel memberships, merchandise shelves, premieres and more. This time around, it’s expanding several of those existing options with new features, while also introducing new products like Super Stickers and Learning Playlists — the latter which aims to promote the educational use of YouTube.
Super Stickers, meanwhile, is meant to complement the existing monetization tool, Super Chat.
Launched in January 2017, Super Chat lets fans pay to make their message stand out during a YouTuber’s live stream or premiere. Today, YouTube says Super Chat is now the No.1 revenue stream across nearly 20,000 channels — a 65% year-over-year increase.
More than 90,000 channels have used Super Chat to date, with some earning more than $400 per minute, thanks to the feature.
Given Super Chat’s traction, YouTube is introducing Super Stickers, which will launch in the next few months. Fans will be able to purchase these new, animated stickers during live streams and premieres in order to show creators how much they like their content.
The idea for Super Stickers seems to be inspired by gaming site Twitch’s Bits emotes and cheermotes, which also bring animated stickers into chat as a way of supporting video creators. However, YouTube’s Super Stickers will have a different look-and-feel, and will be offered across different languages and categories — including gaming, fashion and beauty, sports, music, food and more.
At last year’s VidCon, YouTube also introduced Channel Memberships — an expansion of YouTube Gaming’s previous Twitch-like “Sponsorship” model, where fans pay a subscription to gain access to special features associated with a favorite channel.
At present, fans can opt to pay the $4.99 Channel Membership subscription to get unique badges, new emojis and other special perks like access to exclusive live streams, extra videos or shout-outs. Today, YouTube is introducing a much-requested change to memberships: levels.
With levels, creators can set up to five different price points for memberships, each with their own set of perks. The feature has already been tested by select YouTubers, including the Fine Brothers Entertainment on their REACT channel. Their channel membership revenue increased by 6x after they rolled out two more expensive pricing tiers, YouTube said.
In addition, YouTube is expanding its Merch shelf feature that also launched last year at VidCon. Its debut partner Teespring helped creators sell merchandise like t-shirts, hats, phone cases and more. YouTube took a small commission on the sales, but said the majority went to the creator — along with the money made from the merch sales themselves.
YouTube says “thousands” of channels have more than doubled their revenue since launch thanks to the Merch shelf, Super Chat and Channel Memberships.
Beyond the monetization features, YouTube also took time to speak about the educational and inspirational use cases on its site.
To make it easier for people to use YouTube to learn something new, the company is debuting a new feature called Learning Playlists, which offers more structure than is available with playlists today. The feature allows educational video creators to divide videos into chapters around key concepts, going from more basic to more advanced. And it hides recommendations from the Watch page — a first for YouTube.
Finally, the site’s fundraising tool, YouTube Giving, is preparing to exit beta after a year of testing. The feature will launch in the months ahead and become available to thousands of U.S. creators. Once live, fans can click a Donate button to give to the nonprofit the creator wants to support.
Ahead of today’s VidCon keynote from YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan, the company had announced some well-received changes to the site’s copyright infringement tools.
It said copyright owners now have to specify the timestamp in the video their content appears, while creators will be able to use an updated version of YouTube Creator Studio to easily remove the portion of the content associated with the claim.
This helps to address situations where the Manual Claiming system was being used (or some would say abused) to claim very short — even only one-second long — pieces of content, or incidental content — like when a creator walks past a store that’s playing music, for example. The company had said in April it was looking to address this.
The new system lets creators easily mute the sound when the claimed song plays, replace the song with free-to-use tracks or quickly trim out the infringing content instead of taking their video down.
Creators generally welcome the changes and new features that help them better engage fans and make money (or at least, not lose money).
That being said, YouTube is still under scrutiny for its bigger missteps and other practices like the gaming of its recommendation system and its role in creating a pedophilia wormhole; its alleged COPPA violations, which the FTC was alerted to; its ability to radicalize viewers as they’re pointed to ever more extreme content; its contribution to a world where parents exploit their kids for cash; and issues around how it polices “free speech” and hate speech, among other things.
In the grand scheme of things, YouTube has a lot on its plate beyond a few stickers and new ways to sell swag. But these are the sorts of tools that lock in creators to the YouTube platform, even amid threats from other large tech companies like Facebook, Instagram and now Snapchat, which just announced new creator shows.[ + ]