Reducing user-adoption barriers, Microsoft is rolling out a beta version of Skype for Web. “Skype for Web will operate directly from Skype.com,” The Verge reports. “The software giant has been slowly bringing Skype to the Web through its Outlook.com service, but today’s beta will work across modern versions of Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari without the need to use Outlook.com.” Over the next several weeks, Skype for Web should be available to a small set of testers, and then see a wider rollout.
Arts Centre Melbourne is rethinking its approach to beacon technology after a disappointing trial of the proximity marketing platform
that took place during Melbourne Festival in October. The centre used iBeacon technology to alert visitors to food and beverage offers from its venue in a bid to drive additional sales. Visitors could download coupons from their iOS or Android phone, and store it in their Passbook or equivalent app in Android. When visitors walk near a café or bar, the beacon triggered the coupon to pop up on their screen, asking if they want to redeem it.
The start-up media business is proving trickier than eBay founder Pierre Omidyar likely imagined. Among other challengers facing First Look Media -- the news organization he founded last year -- its flagship property, The Intercept, just lost its star editor, John Cook. As Vanity Fair contributor Sarah Ellison first reported, this week, Cook is headed back to Gawker Media, which he left for First Look back in March. “Cook’s move is the second high-profile departure from First Look,” Re/Code notes. “Last month, writer Matt Taibbi left the company.”
Fortune has named Google CEO Larry Page as its businessperson of the year. Among other reasons, “as Google’s core business continues to thrive … Page is making huge bets on new technology -- ingestible nanoparticles, balloons that beam down broadband -- that could define the future,” according to Fortune. “The Google CEO is the kind of guy who thinks the improbable is a given and the seemingly impossible is likely.”
Will Ferrell and the other founders of the Funny or Die comedy site are reportedly open to selling it for between $100 million and $300 million. Ferrell and his business partners, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, have hired a financial adviser to evaluate options, including a possible sale, Bloomberg reports, citing an employee memo from CEO Dick Glover. “We are NOT trying to sell Funny or Die, but we thought it wise to engage some experts to help us evaluate the situation,” Glover said.
Some top Yahoo shareholders are reportedly pleading with AOL head Tim Armstrong to pursue a merger, kick Marissa Mayer to the curb, and oversee the combined company. “At least two top-10 Yahoo shareholders are so unhappy with Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s turnaround effforts that they are making a direct plea to [Armstrong],” Reuters reports. “Yahoo stock has tripled since Mayer joined Yahoo as CEO in July 2012, but analysts say those gains have been primarily driven by the rapid appreciation in the value of its Asian assets.”
In a rare and highly embarrassing systems failure, Doubleclick for Publishers went dark on Wednesday morning. The glitch in Google’s ad serving tool caused blank spaces to appear in place of ads on top sites from BuzzFeed to Forbes. “The outage means a loss of revenue for hundreds of publishers, and represents the rare failure of a key piece of internet plumbing,” GigaOm reports. “A Google spokesperson said the company is looking into the matter.”
Still tinkering with its business model, The New Yorker just launched a metered paywall. “The paywall allows non-subscribers to access six free articles -- whether they are print magazine pieces or online-only stories -- and an unlimited number of videos per month,” Capital New York reports. “Subscribers will have access to unlimited articles as well as The New Yorker's complete archive, dating back to its founding in 1925.
Citing the rise of social media and other factors, Reuters has decided to nix user comments on news stories. “Much of the well-informed and articulate discussion around news, as well as criticism or praise for stories, has moved to social media and online forums,” Dan Colarusso, executive editor of Reuters Digital, writes in a note to readers. “Those communities offer vibrant conversation and, importantly, are self-policed by participants to keep on the fringes those who would abuse the privilege of commenting.” Reuters.com still plans to host comments on its opinion and blogs sections.
Politico’s pretty excited about its site redesign, which, as with any site redesign, is cleaner and more responsive. “The new homepage design highlights four ‘cover stories,’ with blurbs and links to other stories below,” Capital New York reports. “The site also now sports a ‘Timeline’ feature, which keeps track of how many stories have been published since a user visits the site.” Politico president CEO Jim VandeHei called the facelift “the formal beginning of the biggest transformation of POLITICO in eight years.”