Archive for the 'google' Category



The DeanBeat: Getting an acquisition story wrong, and the lessons that come from it

Friday 29 August 2014 @ 7:00 am
The DeanBeat: Getting an acquisition story wrong, and the lessons that come from it

Above: Twitch CEO Emmett Shear hands the Red Cross a $90,000 check for Typhoon Haiyan relief aid.

Image Credit: Jarques Pretorius

Sometimes the facts get in the way of a great story. I felt that way a little when a competing publication, The Information, reported this week that Amazon, not Google, was buying gameplay livestreaming startup Twitch for $970 million.

I cringed, as that scoop should have been mine. But I was asleep at the switch on Twitch, as I reported Google would do the deal. How this story unfolded showed me how I can get a story right and then get it wrong. It proved how fierce the competition between the gaming giants has become, where one will snatch a deal from another. And it reminded me of some important lessons I should have learned by now about digging out stories and following them wherever they lead me. I’m sorry I didn’t serve readers here, and screwed up with my basic journalism. I’ll explain how this happened, and I hope you’ll find the transparency a little eye-opening.

This started back in May when Variety reported that Google’s YouTube division had reached a preliminary deal to buy Twitch for $1 billion. Variety noted that YouTube was prepared for regulators to challenge the deal on antitrust grounds, as the combination of YouTube and Twitch could be perceived as creating a beast with too concentrated a market share in an important market for Internet video. The Wall Street Journal weighed in afterward, and said the deal was in its early stages.

The deal was never announced. By mid-July, I wrote a story based on original reporting, with a headline that “confirmed” the Variety story that Google was going to buy Twitch for $1 billion. I said multiple sources confirmed it. That was a poor choice of words, as I intended it to mean that my own sources confirmed the deal, not that official company sources had confirmed it.

My original story itself laid out more precisely about what I knew and didn’t know. It said the shareholders were pleased with their return, and that there was a signed deal. These were a couple of facts that were not mentioned in the original Variety story from May, and I consider that to be original reporting. Then the Amazon-Twitch deal broke, surprising me and my sources.

Twitch

Above: Twitch

Image Credit: Blizzard/Twitch

In hindsight, and with additional reporting, I believe the aforementioned additional facts that I included in my original story were right. Shareholders were pleased. A deal was signed between Google and Twitch. But it was a term sheet, as described by the Information’s own additional reporting. It is the kind of deal that lays out an agreement and a purchase price, but isn’t “definitive.” If you work out all the details in the term sheet, that can become a definitive agreement. If you don’t, you may pay some consequences. I had one outside source tell me that an inside source said the Google deal wasn’t going to happen, but I didn’t put much stock in that.

Antitrust did come up as an issue in the subsequent negotiations. Talks toward the definitive agreement stalled. That opened the window for Twitch to go out and seek another buyer. It started talking to Amazon. They cut a deal, with a $970 million price that was pretty close to the $1 billion price that I mentioned in the Google-Twitch story.

In that narrative, it’s fair to say that Google had the deal and then lost it to Amazon, which stole it away. For a period of time, after Variety’s story ran, my story was the only one out there making assertions about the deal. And I believe it was right. But I was only right until the facts changed.

What I failed to catch was the turn of events that favored Amazon. The Information reported that. When they did so, they didn’t say that VentureBeat was idiotic and that Google was never in the running. Both The Information and Forbes have subsequently reported that Google and Twitch couldn’t come to terms over the antitrust matter, and that’s how Amazon got the deal.

But it has made me rethink how I failed to follow some journalistic tenets. In reporting on insider acquisitions, it is good to remember the rules of my former employer, the Wall Street Journal, which required two independent sources if they were going to be anonymous. It is great if those sources are insiders: CEOs, executives, investment bankers, or lawyers. They are insiders who can tell you what is happening with negotiations by the minute. It’s also great if you get sources on both sides of deal, as each side has different perspectives. Clearly, I did not have these kinds of sources, or they would have told me about the change.

Then there are lower-level contacts inside a company. They’re not as valuable as they don’t know a lot of the secrets. But they can tell you if the CEO sent out a company-wide memo or announced something internally that is counter to or consistent with a set of facts. And there are outsiders who say they are talking to high-level insiders. These kinds of sources are not ideal, but they may be much easier to come by than the high-level insider contacts. Then it becomes a case of whether you trust those outsiders or not. If they steer you right multiple times, then you can trust them.

Where you can get into trouble is when you write a story that seems like it comes from the highest level insiders, when in fact in comes from lower-quality sources, like outsiders talking to insiders. In hindsight, it would have been much smarter to either not write anything or to accurately describe the level of sourcing, without giving anything away about how to pinpoint and identify the sources. That’s a bit of a trick, as some sources will try to put limits on how they can be described, out of fear for being discovered. But it can be done in the name of transparency, which is a competing demand to protecting sources.

Now, once in a while, people will turn to a third-party source with no inside connection. These people are terrible sources of inside information, and they generate lots of rumors. But they’re occasionally good for independent analysis or insight. So I turned to one of them myself, to try to make sense of this where no one on the inside would really say much. (Amazon issued a statement saying it cares about games, and Twitch didn’t answer my questions).

Twitch at E3 2013.

Above: Twitch at E3 2013.

Image Credit: Twitch

Brad Hunstable, chief executive of Ustream, said he didn’t know any inside info about whether regulators would have given Google a hard time. He feels that the market is massive, and that there are many emerging markets for Internet video like the enterprise livestreaming video market where Ustream plays.

“YouTube is different from Netflix, and Twitch is different from Ustream,” Hunstable said. “It is a tremendous market size, where everyone is going after different markets, and there is competition throughout.”

It seems a little timid for Google to give up on Twitch because regulators might challenge it. Of course, Google has other antitrust problems, and perhaps it didn’t want to add to them. It seems like a funny explanation for why the Twitch-Google deal didn’t happen. But that’s what I’ve heard, and that has been echoed by Forbes and The Information.

As for why Amazon had to have gameplay livestreaming video and keep it away from Google, Hunstable said, “The tech titans have realized video is core. There is no medium more engaging than video, in terms of the emotional connection. I don’t know if it is to help them sell more games, or to help Amazon Web Services become a better video platform, or to help Amazon Prime or e-commerce. But I know video is a powerful, powerful medium.”

The interesting thing is that representatives from Amazon, Google, and Twitch will all be speaking at GamesBeat 2014. We can ask them how this all came down, but they’re not going to tell that story on a public stage. I’d love to hear people tell me some really good stories, in private. And I will keep seeking them out, and I hope to get the story right when I tell it to the whole world.

Lastly, as an opinion columnist in this part of my job, I have to express solidarity with anyone who opposes the Internet mob. Having faced just a few critics this week, I can barely begin to fathom what it must be like to have the Internet come down on you.

Lately, it has turned on game developers. Game developers Zoe Quinn, Phil Fish, and feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian were all attacked on social media and faced death threats and the exposure of their personal information. Sarkeesian had to go into hiding, and Fish already stated he was quitting game development because of the abuse he was taking on the Internet.

The anonymity and big audience of the web brings out the worst in trolls, as expressed so well here. This has got to stop. We don’t want to drive our artists into hiding, the way that the totalitarian governments did in decades past. We shouldn’t just let this happen. The Internet, if anything, should open our eyes to diversity of opinion and behavior. It should not be a tool for shutting anyone down. As Dylan Thomas once wrote, “rage, rage against the dying of the light.”


Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.00.11 PMGamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase your ticket now to save $200!


Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth's Biggest Selection. Amazon.com, Inc. seeks to be Earth's most customer-centric company, where cu... read more »

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

Twitch is the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers where more than 45 million gather every month to broadcast, watch and talk about video games. Twitch’s video platform is the backbone of both live and on-demand ... read more »











Google Challenges Amazon For Drone Supremacy

Thursday 28 August 2014 @ 4:39 pm
Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 5.29.16 PM Need a tube of toothpaste, but don’t want to wait? Google wants to drone that to you, the Mountain View-based technology giant announced today. Google follows Amazon in announcing that it is building consumer delivery-facing drone technology. Amazon previously disclosed that it is working to build drones that can deliver small parcels to shoppers. The two companies have differing… Read More



Google Launches Guest Mode For Chrome Beta

Thursday 28 August 2014 @ 3:45 pm
png_base64672b18a0aa3bcb4b Google is launching a new feature in the Chrome beta channel for Windows, Mac and Linux today that will make it easier — and safer — to let others use your computer. Read More



Google stops showing authors in search results of news articles

Thursday 28 August 2014 @ 3:21 pm

Google has decided to stop showing authorship references within search results — much to the dismay of journalists and writers, who require constant ego gratification.

The move to cancel Authorship, a means to identify the authors of articles in Google searches, was announced today by Google’s John Mueller via a Google+ update. The reason for dropping the Authorship program? Apparently, the information is not terribly useful to people who make search queries and has even distracted from the search results.

Mueller did, however, note that the presence of Authorship didn’t increase the traffic to articles, and similarly, removing them shouldn’t cause a dip in traffic either.

Google first started implementing Authorship around the time the company was trumpeting the launch of its social network Google+. I believe the idea behind Authorship was to entice people to follow authors on Google+ if they enjoyed the article. But since most people have abandoned Google+, this strategy probably doesn’t matter anymore — especially if authorship references indeed distracted from the search results as Mueller mentioned.


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Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »











Don’t act surprised: Google has a drone-delivery program

Thursday 28 August 2014 @ 3:10 pm
Don’t act surprised: Google has a drone-delivery program
Image Credit: Google

Amazon is building drones to deliver things consumers buy, and Facebook is building drones so more people can get Internet access. And naturally, Google has been tinkering with drones, too.

At first, the idea of 2-year-old Project Wing, as the company has dubbed this Google X research project, was to use the unmanned aerial vehicles to send defibrillators to places where people had heart attacks. But Googlers now think the technology could help people share their belongings with one another in a matter of two minutes, according to a story on the project in the Atlantic.

Google has gone in all sorts of wild directions in recent years, experimenting with contact lenses that could help people with diabetes, self-driving cars, Google Glass, of course, and even a cardboard version of a virtual-reality device. But as Google has ventured from its original intent to provide a way to search the Internet (and sell advertising), it’s moved into, among other areas, providing goods to people with Google Shopping Express. Perhaps Project Wing could lead to a whole new way to deliver goods instead of the truck.

Or Google could end up becoming a more reliable shipper of stuff people order from other services, like eBay.

In any case, like other drone projects from startups and these tech giants, it’s a fascinating project worth learning about.

And like other programs, it will face government scrutiny, at least in the U.S. Google has been talking with regulators, according to the Atlantic report.


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Google Stops Showing Authorship In Search Results

Thursday 28 August 2014 @ 1:33 pm
Google Data Center Google today announced that it has stopped showing the names of authors in its search results. The company first started showing authorship on its search results pages a few years ago. At first, this was a pretty complicated process (I remember a Google engineer walking me through it back then), but over time, it got pretty easy and you basically just had to link your Google+ profile to your… Read More



Google is now better at telling you when stuff is in stock nearby

Thursday 28 August 2014 @ 10:20 am
Google is now better at telling you when stuff is in stock nearby

Above: Product availability expands for Google search on computers

Image Credit: Google AdWords

Actually, it’s more complex than that. Read on.

Since last October, Google has allowed mobile users to find out if a product is available nearby — even if the retailer only offered the product in the store and not online.

Now, the company is extending that capability to desktop and laptop users. Previously, that group of users could only see local availability if the retailer also offered the product online as well as in the physical store.

Google has not yet made a formal announcement of this “store-exclusive” capability moving to computers, a spokesperson told VentureBeat. The expansion was referenced in an interview with senior vice president of ads and commerce Sridhar Ramaswamy, published today by Bloomberg.

That story, however, mistakenly indicated that local product availability in general was now being extended to desktops, when in fact it’s been there since last fall — but only if the retailer also sold the product online.

“Based on positive feedback,” a Google spokesperson told us, “we’re now enabling retailers to show store-exclusive products on desktop — a feature so far limited to mobile. In addition, we’re also expanding local inventory ads internationally, beginning with UK, France, Germany, Japan and Australia.”

In its October announcement, Google gave the following example:

For example, someone searching for a new fragrance may see an ad letting her know it’s available at a nearby store. After clicking the ad, she’ll see product and availability information for that fragrance, along with similar items in stock at the store.

Now, she can find out if that perfume is available locally on either a mobile device and on a computer, even if it’s only available in the store.

This move comes as Google faces new competition from Amazon. Last week, there were reports that Amazon is ramping up it own online ad network — initially for its own properties, and later possibly challenging Google and Microsoft for the vast landscape of sites and devices.


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Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »











Google’s Security Compliance Audit Report Is Now Public

Wednesday 27 August 2014 @ 8:23 am
2294144289_3102e0de26_o Google today announced that its cloud platform has received both a new ISO 27001 certificate and that it has completed its latest SOC 2 and SOC 3 Type II audits. Before you start yawning, it’s worth remembering that these reports certify Google’s compliance with standard security practices that are meant to keep the data on its Cloud Platform safe. That includes products like… Read More



Google Adds 152 Patents To Its Non-Assertion Pledge

Tuesday 26 August 2014 @ 11:35 am
14801089763_d18a0d7e53_o Back in 2013, Google announced its plans to not sue anybody who had implemented open-source versions of its MapReduce algorithm. Since then, the company has expanded what it calls its “Open Patent Non-Assertion Pledge” to a number of other patents. Today it is announcing its largest expansion of this program to date, with the addition of 152 additional patents. This brings the… Read More



Amazon’s Twitch acquisition is about beating Google and Apple

Tuesday 26 August 2014 @ 11:00 am
Amazon’s Twitch acquisition is about beating Google and Apple

Above: Twitch on the Xbox One.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Amazon makes a ton of money selling books, diapers, and kitty litter, but it just spent a billion dollars to help build a business that will make a ton of money selling games, media, and advertisements in the future.

The world’s largest online retailer might not seem like the ideal buyer for a site that is all about hardcore gamers livestreaming video of their games to the Web, but this didn’t stop Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos from signing the $970 million deal. While it’s easy to associate Amazon with free shipping on orders of goods that cost $35 or more, the conglomerate is also building up a media business, and its executives have clearly made a bet that gaming will help them deliver on that in the future. At the same time, Twitch is a site that can also bolster Amazon’s traditional shopping business as well.

While that might make some sense, most people, even professional industry observers, were mostly shocked and confused by the announcement.

“I’m not sure why Amazon bought Twitch,” Wedbush Securities research director Michael Pachter told GamesBeat immediately after the deal went through. “Other than [because] Google wanted it.”

Google and YouTube definitely wanted Twitch. That makes sense. Google owns YouTube, which is the dominant force in recorded video on the Internet. YouTube and Twitch account for most of the game-related video content on the Web — and that’s likely why that agreement, which we previously reported as a done deal, fell through. New reports appearing today claim that Google and Twitch couldn’t agree on a breakup fee if regulators decided that YouTube and Twitch together created a monopoly and violated antitrust rules.

This created a space for Amazon to swoop in, but $1 billion is a lot of scratch to buy something just because your competitor wants it.

“This is a media purchase,” Pachter continued. “I expect them to give Prime members something different, and think this is the first of many moves to add content.”

Amazon wants you to dump Apple, Google, and Microsoft

While Amazon is a great place to buy holiday gifts and toilet paper, the company is expanding quickly into other sectors as well. It is one of the top video providers on the Web. That includes digital rentals of Hollywood blockbusters and its Netflix-like video-streaming service that comes bundled with its Amazon Prime membership program. For $100 a year, Prime gives Amazon customers free two-day shipping on qualifying items and hundreds of hours of movies and television that will stream to smartphones and tablets, set-top boxes, game consoles, and smart TVs at no additional charge.

Twitch may add value to that service.

Twitch and Amazon combined could start catching up to YouTube and Netflix.

Above: Twitch and Amazon combined could start catching up to YouTube and Netflix.

Image Credit: Qwit

What’s clear is that with Twitch, Amazon’s share of the video market on the Web is bigger than ever. Qwilt, an online-video analytics company, notes that Amazon has steadily grown from 3 percent to 4 percent of online video on average. Twitch has grown to 1.7 percent. Combined, that puts both sites well ahead of Hulu’s 2.2 percent.

“With the Twitch acquisition, Amazon becomes the only player in the industry with a successful end-to-end video platform for both user-generated content — via Twitch — and professionally produced content — via Amazon Instant Video,” Qwilt cofounder and vice president of product marketing Dan Sahar said. “Both Netflix and Google excel in one of these areas, but not the other.”

Twitch has 55 million viewers to its site on a monthly basis, and it has over 1 million different people broadcasting content on their PCs or consoles. Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One even feature built-in software that enables easy Twitch streaming.

Qwilt even sees Twitch as a potential basis for Amazon to start carrying other types of livestreaming content.

“Twitch also provides Amazon with a proven livestreaming solution that one day could be used as a platform that can carry a major league sports when one of the major leagues decides to go primarily online,” said Sahar. “This universal solution, coupled with a living-room gaming and video console in Fire TV, positions Amazon as a very strong, vertically integrated video player going forward.”

Controlling its own video content is obviously important to Amazon. It makes sense, as the company wants to have something special to offer customers who purchase its Kindle Fire, Fire Phone, and Fire TV smart devices. Customers take a lot of things into consideration when deciding whether they’re going to purchase an Apple, Google, Amazon, or Microsoft device, and video content plays a big part in many people’s decision-making process.

“In our view, what we call the Great Ecosystem War between Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others is the most important issue facing tech, media, and many other companies today,” Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter said in a note to investors. “We believe that the ecosystem war will establish the key platforms of the future and allow the winners to participate in the economics of far-reaching hardware, software, and services yet to come that will be distributed through such platforms.”

Basically, spending nearly $1 billion on Twitch is a way to entice people to choose the Amazon platform. Once ensnared by a Fire Phone or Fire TV, Amazon has an advantage when customers go to purchase music or movies — as people on those devices are more likely to use Amazon’s store.

Gaming is a big part of this ecosystem war for Amazon. It has made big investments in developers and producers working at its Amazon Game Studios in San Francisco and Seattle. The company has hired Portal designer Kim Swift, Far Cry 2 director Clint Hocking, and Killer Instinct studio Double Helix. That’s on top of a number of industry veterans from Magic: the Gathering company Wizards of the Coast who are working on marketing, product management, and more for the Amazon gaming division.

So far, Amazon Game Studios has only published a handful of games on Fire Phone and developed the original Sev Zero sci-fi shooter for Fire TV, but if its big hires weren’t an indication that it is serious about using gaming to build an attractive proposition in the ecosystem battle, the Twitch purchase is.

Amazon still wants to sell physical goods

Depending on what Amazon does with it, Twitch could help bring more people into the companies ecosystem. But even if Amazon doesn’t release special Twitch apps or services on its Fire Phone or for Amazon Prime members, the retailer could still use the streaming service to help it sell games. While GameStop dominates physical sales of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sales, Amazon is one of the leaders in that market online.

Twitch could turn into one giant commercial for buying games on Amazon. The video site is already a powerful marketing tool for developers. Big-name streamers can draw a ton of attention to a game by sharing live gameplay, and it probably won’t take long for Amazon to put direct affiliate links to the featured game’s Amazon store page.

“Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch will increase its capabilities within at least three key battlegrounds: Gaming, video, and advertising,” Schachter said. “The strategic rationale makes sense to us. Within the context of the Great Ecosystem War, gaming is critically important for scaling the platform.”

So yes, Twitch and Amazon makes sense. The good news for people who actually use the broadcasting site is that, since Amazon understands the importance of gaming,  it will likely spend money to invest in Twitch features. That will mean higher-quality video and maybe even better revenue-sharing options for the people making content.


Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.00.11 PMGamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase your ticket now to save $200!


Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle, opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995 and today offers Earth's Biggest Selection. Amazon.com, Inc. seeks to be Earth's most customer-centric company, where cu... read more »

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major glob... read more »

Twitch is the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers where more than 45 million gather every month to broadcast, watch and talk about video games. Twitch’s video platform is the backbone of both live and on-demand ... read more »











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