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    Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    Reuters - Yahoo's plan: create community from isolated sites

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    Yahoo's plan: create community from isolated sites

    Tuesday, Apr 07, 2009 8:25PM UTC

    By Alexei Oreskovic

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Like nearly 200 million other people around the world, Yahoo Inc co-founder David Filo has a Facebook account.

    But if Filo and new CEO Carol Bartz have their way, the kinds of social networking features available on Facebook will become part of many Yahoo websites and allow their users to network with each other without using Facebook. The company hopes the strategy will help link its disparate properties, bringing more advertising dollars and growth.

    Yahoo is turning up the volume on many of its communications and community features and building bridges between the collection of Yahoo sites that have at times operated like virtual islands.

    "You start to introduce Yahoo users to other parts of Yahoo," said Filo.

    Whether users warm to Yahoo's vision of the social Internet with the same zeal they have for social stalwarts like Facebook and News Corp's MySpace remains to be seen. But if Yahoo's social networking features catch on, advertisers will take note.

    "People are spending time on Twitter and Facebook, but advertisers don't want to be there right now. That's the big issue," said JMP Securities analyst Sameet Sinha. "But Yahoo advertisers are already there."

    LOTS OF PLACES TO GO

    While Yahoo has scores of online properties ranging from fantasy sports services to celebrity gossip and financial sites, more than half of Yahoo users only use a handful of Yahoo's sites, the company says.

    In the next several months Yahoo will begin rolling out new versions of its most popular products, from Yahoo Mail to the Yahoo home page. A thread of social media features, including a common user profile, list of friends and regular updates about friends, will tie the family of Yahoo properties together.

    When an individual recommends a news story from the Yahoo homepage, uploads a photograph on Flickr or makes a trade on a fantasy baseball team from Yahoo sports, Yahoo will send an alert to a network of friends or contacts.

    Yahoo is developing technology to broadcast roughly 100 types of such posts and actions.

    Many of Yahoo's properties rank among the most popular on the Internet. Yahoo's homepage had 329 million unique visitors in February, according to research company comScore; Yahoo Mail had 282 million unique visitors in February, second to Microsoft HotMail.

    And with Yahoo a distant No. 2 to Google Inc in Internet search and its revenue growth stalled, infusing its online content assets with social elements could provide a new path to growth.

    Online content is more compelling with social media elements, says Allen Weiner, an analyst at industry research firm Gartner. Such content is better suited for advertising than traditional social networking sites, he says, where communications between users are the main event.

    YAHOO -- SEARCH OR SOCIAL?

    Yahoo has a lot of balls in the air -- and hungry rivals.

    Its efforts come as social networking is increasingly getting noticed by established Internet and media companies. Last week, media reports whipped up speculation that Google was in talks to acquire microblogging service Twitter, though neither company has confirmed the reports.

    While Yahoo's plan to become more social predates Bartz' arrival in January, people at the company say she has fast-tracked the initiative.

    "She really instilled a sense of urgency that this is critical to our success going forward," said Neal Sample, Yahoo's Vice President of Social Platforms.

    The scope of products to be included in the project has been broadened by Bartz, and Sample's team has been given extra resources as Bartz has shuttered underperforming Yahoo properties.

    Yahoo expects the stream of news updates will also increasingly feature events that occur at outside Web sites that partner with Yahoo. And a forthcoming version of Yahoo mail, currently in beta testing, will be opened to outside software applications that use a contact list to create social capabilities beyond simple news updates.

    Developing the social transformation on a large scale won't be easy, particularly given Yahoo's spotty product development track record in recent years, analysts say, though Bartz's recent internal management reorganization should help.

    Yahoo still needs to figure out how to turn on the new social features without triggering an avalanche of information onto its users, many of whom already receive frequent updates about their friends' activities on services like Facebook and Twitter and may not necessarily want another such feed.

    The company is taking a deliberate approach, said Filo.

    Now Yahoo needs to prove to its users and investors that it has found the right approach.

    (Editing by Brian Moss)

    Reuters - Google helps, not hurts, newspapers: executive

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    Google helps, not hurts, newspapers: executive

    Tuesday, Apr 07, 2009 5:49PM UTC

    By Robert MacMillan

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc helps newspaper websites make money through online advertising and does not misappropriate their content, a lawyer for the search engine said on the company's blog on Tuesday.

    "We drive traffic and provide advertising in support of all business models -- whether news sources choose to host the articles with us or on their own websites," wrote Alexander Macgillivray, Google's associate general counsel for products and intellectual property.

    "Users like me are sent from different Google sites to newspaper websites at a rate of more than a billion clicks per month," he wrote.

    The blog post comes a day after The Associated Press, a 163-year-old news wire paid for by its member newspapers, said it was working on a new plan to protect its content from misappropriation on the Internet.

    It also comes on the day that Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt plans to speak at the Newspaper Association of America's annual meeting.

    "Some readers, users and journalists have asked us if the AP's plan is about Google since we host complete AP articles," Macgillivray wrote. "The answer is that it doesn't appear to pertain to Google since we host those articles in partnership with the AP."

    Publishers from The New York Times Co to EW Scripps Co are struggling with a decline in advertising revenue that threatens the survival of some of their newspapers.

    They are trying to find ways to make more money online to make up for what they are losing in their print editions, but so far that has been impossible.

    Some journalists have complained that search engines run by Google and Yahoo Inc make millions of dollars off their news, and that it should belong to them instead.

    Macgillivray disputed this idea, saying Google helps newspapers rather than hurts them.

    "In all cases, for news articles we've crawled and indexed but do not host, we show users just enough to make them want to read more -- the headline, a 'snippet' of a line or two of text, and a link back to the news publisher's website," he wrote.

    That practice conforms to U.S. copyright law, he said, adding that newspapers or wire services that object to Google's fair use of their content can request that it be removed from the company's index.

    (Reporting by Robert MacMillan; editing by John Wallace)

    CNN - Obama makes unannounced stop in Baghdad

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    Obama makes unannounced stop in Baghdad


    President Obama made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Tuesday.

    The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, met Obama shortly after Air Force One landed in Baghdad about 4:42 p.m. local time (9:42 a.m. ET).

    It's "great to see the troops," Obama said shortly after landing. "They're putting their heart and soul into the effort."

    The main purpose of Obama's stop was to visit U.S. troops, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs noted. Among other things, Obama will participate in the awarding of 10 medals of valor while in Baghdad.

    But Obama also wanted to discuss Iraq's political situation with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqi President Jalal Talibani, Gibbs added.

    Obama planned to meet with al-Maliki at the U.S. military's Camp Victory base.

    Another reason Obama chose to visit Iraq rather than Afghanistan is because of Iraq's proximity to Turkey, which Obama just visited, said Gibbs.

    During the campaign season, Obama visited Iraq on a multi-stop overseas trip. That trip also included stops in Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

    Obama's surprise stop in Iraq came at the conclusion of his first overseas trip as president.

    In Obama's last scheduled stop in Turkey, the president held a joint news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and addressed the Turkish parliament. Obama's trip to Turkey was his first presidential visit to a Muslim country.

    Obama arrived in Europe last week for a series of summits.

    He first met with world leaders at the G-20 summit in London to discuss the global financial crisis.

    At the NATO summit in France and Germany, the president was hoping to get a boost in resources for the war in Afghanistan. He did get allies to pledge about 5,000 troops, but in the form of police and security trainers -- not combat troops.

    In Prague, Czech Republic, at the European Union summit, Obama delivered a speech about nuclear nonproliferation to more than 20,000 people -- a boisterous crowd reminiscent of the campaign.

    He even used the old campaign line "Yes, we can" to answer critics who think he can't follow through on ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

    A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that 79 percent of Americans surveyed feel that Obama has had a "more positive" effect on how people in other countries view the U.S. Only 19 percent of those surveyed thought he's had a "more negative" effect.

    The poll also indicated that only 35 percent of Americans currently approve of the U.S. war in Iraq; 65 percent disapprove.

    Almost seven in 10 Americans agree with Obama's plan to remove most U.S. troops from Iraq by next August, while leaving a residual force of between 35,000 and 50,000 troops.

    Reuters - AP cuts newspaper rates, moves to protect web news

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    AP cuts newspaper rates, moves to protect web news

    Monday, Apr 06, 2009 8:23PM UTC

    By Robert MacMillan

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Associated Press unveiled rate cuts on Monday to help member newspapers reeling from declining advertising revenue and said it would sue websites that use its members' articles without permission.

    Changes announced by the AP at its annual meeting in San Diego include $35 million in rate assessment reductions for 2010 on top of $30 million it already instituted for 2009.

    The 163-year-old newswire service also will allow member newspapers to cancel their membership with one year's notice instead of two, while offering a discount to papers that stay on a two-year cancellation notice.

    Jim Kennedy, AP's vice president of strategic planning, said in a telephone interview that AP would have to reduce its costs to compensate for the rate cuts. That includes not filling vacant jobs and possibly buyouts.

    Dean Singleton, AP chairman and chief executive of Denver-based publisher MediaNews Group, said, "We feel it is critical to help our members during these extremely difficult times, and these numbers show our deep commitment to doing that."

    U.S. newspapers are buying out or laying off workers to stay in business. Some, including EW Scripps Co's Rocky Mountain News and Hearst Corp's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, have closed in recent weeks. The New York Times Co has said it might close the money-losing Boston Globe.

    The AP, a nonprofit cooperative formed by its member newspapers, said revenue from U.S. papers would fall by about a third between 2008 and 2010.

    In 2007, 25 percent of its $710 million in revenue came from U.S. newspapers.

    Seventeen percent of its revenue comes from digital sales, such as the Internet and mobile devices, Kennedy said, adding that the number could grow to more than 20 percent in 2010. Most newspaper publishers get about 10 percent of their revenue online, and the other 90 percent in print.

    The AP also threatened to "pursue legal and legislative actions" against websites that do not properly license news content. It said it would develop a system to track its members' and its own news distributed online to determine whether it is being legally used.

    "We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories," Singleton said.

    The announcement came a day before Google Inc's Chief Executive Eric Schmidt is due to speak at the Newspaper Association of America's annual conference, also in San Diego.

    Many newspapers resent search websites like Google and Yahoo Inc because they say they siphon away ad revenue that should be going to their own websites.

    Last October, the AP suspended plans for a new pricing structure because of complaints from member papers, who said they could not afford it.

    Some newspapers have threatened to cancel their membership, prompting the AP to try to find ways to keep them. One option the wire service is offering is a limited service for papers "with minimal world and national coverage needs."

    Thomson Reuters Corp competes with the AP in providing news.

    (Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Andre Grenon, Gerald E. McCormick, Toni Reinhold)

    Reuters - Salesforce offers customers free service

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    Salesforce offers customers free service

    Tuesday, Apr 07, 2009 4:23AM UTC

    LONDON (Reuters) - Business software maker Salesforce.com on Tuesday launched a slimmed-down version of its customer-management services that existing customers will be able to access for free using high-end mobile phones.

    The company that pioneered software as a service -- managing customers' information and data remotely on a pay-as-you-go basis -- said it could reach 1 million users with its new Mobile Lite service.

    Salesforce already has clocked up 70,000 downloads of its Apple iPhone version in seven months by customers on its more expensive, all-inclusive packages.

    Mobile Lite will be available to customers using Research in Motion's BlackBerry smartphones and phones running on Microsoft's Windows software as well as the iPhone, Salesforce said ahead of a company event in London on Tuesday.

    "The plan is to make it free. There is no plan to change it," Salesforce Chief Marketing Officer Kendall Collins told Reuters in a telephone interview.

    Collins said he hoped customers using the free service would be tempted to upgrade to more expensive packages that include more mobile functions.

    Mobile Lite allows customers, typically corporate salespeople, to access some of their company accounts and data and update them in real time while on the road.

    "We don't have a forecast for what's going to happen," Collins said when asked how many people Salesforce expected for the new service. "It's going to really accelerate adoption. We think that the value of upgrading is going to sell itself."

    Salesforce's offering is an example of so-called cloud computing, where customers connect via the Internet to software and data held for them at remote centers -- a model that is rapidly gaining momentum, partly due to economic conditions.

    The model -- used by Google, Amazon and Microsoft for some of their business -- allows users to pay for software as they use it.

    The traditional way of selling business software, practiced by Oracle and SAP, for example, involves companies buying expensive licenses and paying regular maintenance fees.

    Technology research firm Gartner estimates the cloud-computing market, including Web advertising, will be worth $56 billion this year. Software as a service, the area in which Salesforce operates, is forecast to be worth $6.5 billion.

    Salesforce, which expects to make sales of about $1.3 billion this fiscal year, said on Tuesday it was approaching 10,000 customers in Europe this quarter, an increase of about 70 percent from a year earlier.

    Globally, Salesforce has more than 55,000 customers, including Allianz, Veolia Environmental Services and COLT Telecom, and more than 1.5 million individual subscribers at the companies who are its customers.

    "We think cloud computing is the right answer for right now," Collins said. "Nobody is immune to the current economic environment, but we think we have a more resilient model than the traditional software model."

    Salesforce's sales grew 44 percent last year and it made an operating margin of 6 percent. That compares with 19 percent revenue growth and an operating margin of 28.2 percent at SAP, the world's biggest maker of business software.

    (Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; editing by Karen Foster)

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