MeetMe’s Video-Centered “Charm” App Could Finally Monetize Digital Dating

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Charm, an app that has a whole new take on the typical dating app.

Charm AppApp first, monetization later. At least, that seems to be a pattern these days. And what better way to monetize than to incorporate video? Currently, video is helping a new app called Charm stand out from among the dating app crowd.

Apps such as Tinder have taken the dating world by storm. Essentially a game of “hot or not,” Tinder prompts people to swipe left (reject) or right (approve) on users’ photos in the hopes of making a match. According to TechCrunch, the app has matched more than 50 million people and about 50% of users open the app on a daily basis. But even with the high volume of usage, Tinder’s path to profit is still unclear.

But, through its utilization of video, the Charm app by MeetMe is aiming to do more than just connect local singles. Given how both Google and Facebook are enjoying a spike in mobile advertising revenue from their footage-based ventures (YouTube and Instagram, respectively), MeetMe seems poised to monetize the digital dating world.

On the surface, Charm doesn’t differ much from existing romance apps out there. Like Tinder and OkCupid, Charm identifies potential matches based on proximity, prompts users to reject or approve other users, and enables successful matches to chat with each other. But instead of choosing from among the usual selfies, however, Charm prompts users to upload short video clips of themselves.

Catherine Cook, the co-founder and vice president of brand strategy for MeetMe, believes that people are tired of the static nature of mobile dating apps.

“A major benefit of the video approach to dating is that it doesn’t reduce people to just a profile photo,” said Cook in an interview with Wired. “Apps like Tinder make it very easy to dismiss or express interest based on a profile photo, but we don’t believe you can make a first impression with just a photo–which may turn out to be five to 10 years old. A video shows personality and a realistic sense of what a person actually looks like now.”

But regardless of the video-versus-photos debate, it’s likely Cook and her co-founder/brother Geoff Cook might not be looking to reinvent matchmaker formulas like Match.com or to emulate the bar scene like Tinder. The siblings’ vision for Charm–which Geoff calls “Tinder meets Vine”–could just be a purely lucrative endeavor, as the app’s distinguishing feature (video) opens the door for a more tangible media buy.

Video has certainly paid off in the past. According to Bloomberg, YouTube’s mobile advertising revenue tripled to $350 million in a span of just six months. And Instagram (via Facebook) has similar plans to monetize its popular video feature, finally tapping into its impressive 130 million-user base.

Charm is still in its infancy (see its introductory video, here), and its monetization plans will likely be put on hold until it has gained enough of a following to implement active media buys. But, assuming Charm can eventually boast similar user numbers as its digital dating competitors, the Cooks will finally have put a price on love.

 

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The Race to Be the ‘Netflix for eBooks’

A Statista study from earlier this year shows that the subscription model works–at least for movies and television shows: The study showed that Netflix subscriptions are nearly as common among adults aged 18 to 36 as cable television subscriptions. Hulu is another big player in this area, and Amazon has thrown its hat in the ring with its subscription Instant Video service. Among others, Spotify applies the subscription model to music. Indeed, with cloud and mobile technology pushing the popularity of subscription services to an all-time high, it’s no wonder that a new wave of companies is vying to become the “Netflix for e-books.”
Ebooks

In the Running

Scribd, Oyster and eReatah have all jumped into the e-book subscription arena, offering members access to a set number of e-books per month for a fee. But there are big names with big footprints already in the field, including Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library, which offers four times more titles than the relative newbies. (Amazon looks like it is also upping the ante with its recent purchase of Goodreads and the book sharing social network’s 16 million members.)

On the other hand, according to TechCrunch, being a newbie in tech world is sometimes an advantage in its own right. “Goodreads had over 16 million readers at the time of the deal, but the technology itself feels stagnant and dated, especially on mobile, potentially giving Oyster an edge,” the article stated.

The library liability

The biggest issue facing would-be Netflix services for e-books is as old as, well, Ben Franklin: Whereas unlimited access to movies for a monthly subscription was a new concept when Netflix emerged, the same isn’t true for books. The book-lending concept has been around as long as public libraries have been around–since Ben Franklin introduced the concept, around 1730.

Ben FranklinAnd not only do public libraries enable people to borrow books with actual paper pages, many are lending ebooks, as well–for free.

“[I]n addition to competing with e-commerce giant Amazon, whose empire began with bookselling,” wrote TechCrunch, “these startups compete with other so-called ‘Netflix for e-books’ outlets: (gasp!) local libraries.”

Scribd, for one, is not daunted: “Netflix is worth about $18 billion. Spotify is worth about $3 billion,” Trip Adler, Scribd’s co-founder and CEO, told Mashable. “I don’t see why there isn’t a similar opportunity in this space.”

Standing out from the crowd

Will Scribd, Oyster or eReatah become Netflix for e-books? Perhaps not. But does that mean the model will fail? Not necessarily. After all, people buy gym memberships even though running outside is free.

“A health club membership, like an ebook service subscription, is often an aspirational purchase for subscribers,” said the indie book publisher Smashwords in a blog. “As long as the reader wants to increase their reading in the future, they’re likely to maintain their subscription, even if they don’t actually read more.”

Interestingly, ebook subscriptions could find success for the very same reason they may not be the next Netflix: Books aren’t movies. Indeed, if there’s anything a potential industry disrupter might take away from from the ebook service race, it’s that such distinctions matter. Trying to recreate another industry’s disruption in one’s own is only asking for comparisons in which you are likely to come up short.

However, recognizing what the ebook lending companies have in common with Netflix–as well as with music streaming services like Spotify and iTunes Radio–helps create some context for the greater world of media consumption. Across the board, the competition is hottest in cloud-based technology: Consumers don’t need to own their media; they “simply” want access to it anytime and anywhere.

Life in the Cloud Quote

Learn more about the future of cloud services in our infographic, “Life in the Cloud”.

With their place in the digital media industry in mind, if Scribd, Oyster, eReatah or any other contender shoots for its own goals rather than Netflix’s, it might just become the “[insert provider name here] of ebook subscriptions.”

 

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Online Dating Technology and How It Affects Our Society

Online Dating TechnologyTinder, Lulu, Grouper. Unless you’re a part of the online dating scene, you might not even recognize that these are the names of websites. However, even if you are not currently looking for that perfect mate, it’s worth paying attention to these sites: Online dating is a revolutionary industry that can provide insight into your own customers.

As a small-business owner who’s operating a website, creating an app or selling an online service, digital dating sites may be one place to look for inspiration. Scott Steinberg, a technology and innovation consultant, believes that online dating platforms can be a “goldmine” for research: “The beauty of these platforms is they show us in a more human and personable way how we can deliver content, deliver messages, and ultimately let [users] interact with it.”

Depending on their ages or interests, people gravitate toward different dating services. For example, Match.com’s audience is different than the millennial audience of Tinder, whose members are looking for quick, mobile introductions and brief interactions via photos and messaging on their smartphones.

Analyzing these digital trends may help you gain a better grasp of your customers’ online expectations and preferences. Incorporate that research into your own products, and you may find the missing piece to your consumer research puzzle.

“People forget there’s the human element of technology, and people are expecting things to be very usable and to be very intuitive,” said Steinberg. “They want to jump right in and enjoy them.”

If you’re targeting younger generations, Steinberg believes there is quite a bit an outside company can learn from the online dating scene–not to mention potential partnership opportunities for customized services or ads and specialized promotions. Depending on their privacy policies, these online dating platforms may have massive amounts of user data available for those who partner with them.

“It’s about understanding better where [potential customers] live online and their behaviors, and how to better speak to them and target them,” he said. “What makes them tick?”

 

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IT Pros: 4 Tech Trends to Follow

IT Professionals in 2014Neither time nor technology stand still for IT professionals. To effectively support the business, IT leaders must be not only on top of the latest trends, but also ready to execute on them in the context of strategic business plans. According to interviews with IT pros, the following trends are among the most important to follow in the new year.

1. Data science

According to a Harvard Business Review report from Thomas H. Davenport and D.J. Patil, data science is not only important, it’s the sexiest job of the 21st century. “[Data scientists'] sudden appearance on the business scene reflects the fact that companies are now wrestling with information that comes in varieties and volumes never encountered before,” wrote Davenport and Patil.

Companies will be competing for what is currently a relatively small number of qualified data scientists, and IT leaders must join in supporting the big data drive by developing expertise in the products and services that can help their organizations turn disparate data points into actionable insights that drive revenue and inform cost.

“Much of the current enthusiasm for big data focuses on technologies that make taming it possible, including Hadoop (the most widely used framework for distributed file system processing) and related open-source tools, cloud computing, and data visualization,” noted Davenport and Patil in the Harvard Business Review report.

2. Wearable fitness devices

Wearable fitness devices like Fitbit help consumers take care of their health by tracking daily activity and calories burned. “Wearers can get real-time tracking of their actions,” said Dave Wakeman, a technology consultant.

These devices generate a wealth of data that people can use to inform their lifestyle choices–and, with permission, that organizations can use to inform decisions about new product and service offerings.

Wearable technology positions data as a tool to enrich consumers’ lives. Companies can use data from wearable devices to perform comprehensive, individual-level analyses of fitness. This information can be used, for example, by health-based organizations to design more effective products and solutions for their customers.

IT leaders can help ensure that this information is stored and used efficiently and effectively–and safely.

3. Cloud apps and services

Small-business owners are typically challenged in the areas of personnel and financial resources. Cloud apps help level the playing field, giving small businesses access to seemingly infinite resources.

Indeed, cloud apps help democratize computing power for organizations of all sizes, from individual consultants to large enterprise brands.

“It’s awesome to see small-business owners using cloud apps and services to leverage enterprise power at a fraction of the cost,” said Gabriel Mays, founder at Just Add Content.

To ensure that companies are getting what they need–and what they are paying for–IT pros will need to become savvy in the art of contracting and developing service-level agreements (SLAs).

4. Socially enabled business processes

Social media is a power tool that can help businesses harness the power of referrals and human-to-human relationships.

“For example, within recruiting, a number of advancements are available whereby a business can see enhanced by integrating with social channels for awareness building, candidate research and position postings,” said Chris Curran, chief technologist at PwC.

Much of the activity around social media typically comes from the business side, and IT pros should be working with business leaders to develop policy around social–to ensure that the platform is being used within the company’s overall technology guidelines and in accordance with any relevant regulatory mandates.

Final thoughts

The trends named in this piece are on one level very diverse and on another very connected–with the common thread being the data emanating from today’s modern computing systems. Focusing on these trends–and looking for new opportunities to apply big data–will help IT professionals effectively support the business in the new year.

 

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My name is Richard and I work for Mozy

It’s that time again when we introduce you to one of our stellar team members and this month we’d like to present Richard Hales, Mozy’s very own Business Development Director. Richard is one of the team that makes sure that we help our business partners build competitive advantage. He is an extremely versatile person and anyone who has interacted with him knows that he is a man of integrity. Mozy is extremely fortunate to have Richard as part of our “secret sauce.”

My name is Richard and I work for Mozy

I define my workspace as …
Wherever I am.

A device I can’t live without …
Mains adapter.

When I arrive at work, I typically start off by …
Waking up.

My work routine is …
Follow the sun, except to some extent on Sundays!

I do/do not listen to music at work and it helps me work better because …
I’m talking to people.

The best advice I can give a recent college graduate looking to do what I do is …
Use your ears and mouth in proportion.

Outside of work, I am passionate about …
Passion. And understanding. And challenging exploration.

My eating habits are …
A constant battle against a million years of evolution that has bred humans to consume more calories than necessary for storage ready for the lean times (that no longer come).

If I could be someone for a day – I would be …
Me.

The “secret sauce” that makes me who I am …
Knowing that everyone else is my equal, and I theirs. (Irrespective of their inflated badge/label/title).

How Clients and Contractors Can Succeed Together in a Freelance World

Client MeetingIn today’s economic environment, more people than ever before are freelancing or doing contract work. Freelancing is fraught with uncertainty–that’s the nature of the game–but Carol Tice figured out a way to earn a six-figure salary as a freelancer. Tice, a writer, then took an even bolder step and built a business that coaches and teaches others how to make a living in a freelance world. Tice also has advice for businesses looking to work more effectively with their growing freelance staffs.

Tice, author of Make A Living Writing and Starting Your Business on a Shoestring, knows that being a freelancer isn’t easy. She also knows that giving up a salaried, benefited office job doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in for a huge pay cut. In fact, contractors can and should make a full-time salary–if not more than what they earned as staffers.

Tice’s career as a full-on freelance writer began in late-2005. Six years later, in 2011, she was earning a six-figure income, and during the last few years she has committed herself to helping “the most freelancers earn the most money the fastest.”

In 2009, Tice published the inaugural post on the Make A Living Writing site. But it wasn’t until 2012 when Tice’s business really took off. By then, she had also built the Freelance Writers Den, a community that supports writers who hope to earn a full-time salary without working a staff position ever again.

When asked how many writers she has helped, Tice said she isn’t sure. “I think what happens when they start making six figures is I lose touch with them because they’re too busy to hang out in the Den anymore.”

Just as individuals need to figure out how to make the freelance model work for them in order to (at least) make ends meet, businesses must learn how to effectively engage and manage freelance staffers.

Tice’s recommendations include:

  • Avoid cheap solutions. (You get what you pay for.)
  • Pay contractors fairly and in a timely manner.
  • Look for ways to improve communication with far-flung staff.
  • Be available.

The last two points are especially critical. Tice urges clients to make themselves available to talk freelancers through projects and to answer any questions that arise during the course of the project. Being proactive will head off problems.

Likewise, Tice suggests that freelancers ask as many questions as they need to in order to have clear understanding of clients’ expectations. Too many people jump on a project without fully grasping what the client wants and how they can deliver on that, she said.

Indeed, the client-contractor relationship is a tricky one. Everyone has to do his or her part to ensure success.

 

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Cloud-Based Jive Helps Businesses Run Better

Jive SoftwareWith emails in one place, documents in another, business cards stuffed into a Rolodex and texts from co-workers dinging into phones, workers spend a lot of time searching for and sorting out communications. Jive Software‘s social business platform has been helping workplaces cut through the clutter and more easily collaborate for some time, but, now that the service is offered through the cloud, it’s getting even better.

Though early releases of the cloud version of Jive were missing some features, InformationWeek reports that the increased functionality and convenience of the cloud version has large clients such as Nuance Communications and Thomson Reuters making or planning to make the switch.

With 60,000 Jive users, Thomson Reuters’ planned switch to the cloud-based version of the service is no small endorsement. Thomson Reuters claims 100% employee participation with the software, and considers Jive’s “The Hub” feature so comprehensive that the company was able to shut down 14 other intranet collaboration systems it had been using (including portals and wikis) because Jive had made them redundant.

Thomson Reuters is particularly excited to gain access to the cloud-based Jive’s new social directory feature, “because allowing employees to find other employees and locate specific expertise within the company is one of the major uses of the social platform,” reports InformationWeek.

Collaboration has always been at the heart of Jive, but as Macmillan Science and Education recently learned, going through the cloud has made it easier to collaborate.

The publisher tried out the cloud-based Jive to help connect 450 employees. The pilot was so successful that the company phased it in more quickly than expected.

“The advantage of it being in the cloud is that bringing users on was just a question of literally telling them what the URL was,” Stephen Devlin, CTO of Macmillan Science and Education, told CBR Online.

Immediate integration of new features is often a benefit of cloud-based software, and Jive is no exception. The company recently announced it will be releasing two betas with its next update–Jive + Producteev integration and Real Time Communication, Both of these features will be available only to cloud customers.

Cloud users will also be the benefactors of new collaborations, such as that between Jive and Okta Cloud Connect, which ZDNet reports will allow Jive customers to connect with Microsoft Active Directory and other corporate LDAP directories.

With better directory services, increased collaboration and access to new features, the cloud-based Jive platform is upping the efficiency and productivity ante for business.

 

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App Gives Users the Benefits of ‘Bump’ without the Bump

Welcome to Mozy’s App Profile, where we introduce new programs seeking to improve the way we live and socialize. This week, Mozy takes a look at Airlike, an app that could change the way you interact with your phone and the files stored on it.

AirLike AppRemember Bump? When the file-sharing app first appeared on the market, the technology that allowed two users to transfer information from one phone to another simply by holding their devices and bumping fists was a great party trick. But did fist-pounding one’s neighbor become a universal way to share information? Did Bumping become the new handshake at networking events and business meetings? Not exactly.

A new app–Airlike–is giving users the opportunity to use the same style of proximity technology to share files in a more practical way. Indeed, wrote reviewer Tucker Cummings on Tapscape, it’s practical and fun, and can be compared to technology seen in the movies. “Whenever I watch a sci-fi or action flick, I find myself wishing that the technology I see on the screen was real,” he said. “Airlike is pretty much the closest thing I’ve found to that kind of ability.”

With Airlike, rather than physically touching, users simply point their phones at one another and “flick” files toward each other with their fingers. Business users may feel more comfortable with this less touchy-feely way to file share, especially when it comes to new connections. Instead of using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, Airlike leverages GPS and the phone’s gyroscope, compass and accelerometer sensors to send the information.

A lack of consumer enthusiasm for touching others wasn’t the only challenge Bump faced and Airlike overcomes.

“Along with trumping Bump’s need for physical contact, [Airlike maker] Displair is also talking up Airlike’s functionality over Apple’s own AirDrop phone-to-phone filesharing offering,” wrote TechCrunch. “That’s because AirDrop requires iOS7, while Airlike works on iOS 6 and up, meaning that it supports a greater number of Apple’s older devices.”

Airlike has the edge now, but could it, like Bump, face similar threats of being overshadowed by a newer, more feature-rich rival? Not yet, but when building a better mousetrap, it’s always wise to keep an eye out for the exterminator. Indeed, with the average lifespan of an app estimated to be 14 months, Airlike could be just as cool as the market needs it to be–and relevant for just as long.

 

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SMBs in the New Year: Focusing on 2014

2014 CalendarIf you’re a small-business owner, you may not be able to think of a recent year that’s been so transformative: 2013 marked a banner 12 months for technology IPOs, and it heralded the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.

So, how does all of this affect SMB professionals’ outlook for 2014? Things are looking positive, according to a new poll of more than 1,000 small-business owners by Rocket Lawyer. Some 80% of SMB pros surveyed say optimism is the watchword for the coming year.

Opportunities: Growth sectors

Owners of small and midsize businesses are looking at a fairly topical slate of growth areas in 2014.

With all the talk in the news about tech companies such as Twitter going public and healthcare systems undergoing unprecedented change, perhaps it’s no wonder that polled owners say technology (36%) and healthcare (27%) are regions of opportunity in the coming year.

Meanwhile, growth in 2013 looks to be a mainly marketing-focused effort.

  • More than 40% of the owners say marketing will lead their 2014 to-do lists.
  • 25% indicate fundraising will be the primary focus.
  • 13% of the polled SMB professionals cite product development as a priority.

Healthcare: The ACA in 2014

In light of the predictions of doom by numbers of politicians, it’s perhaps somewhat surprising to hear what SMBs have to say about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

  • 75% said that the healthcare act’s implementation will not affect their hiring plans.
  • Less than half (45%) say they’ll not enroll in the ACA in 2014 (or even 2015).

Among those who will not enroll, the reasons given include having fewer than 50 employees (40%) and/or having a healthcare plan they’re already satisfied with (30%).

With all of this in mind, the poll also shows that the outlook is also on the uptick for would-be employees, especially freelancers.

For them, the big picture looks like this: More than one-third (37%) of the SMB owners said they planned to hire on new staff in the first half of 2014, and more than half of those new hires, the owners say, are expected to be independent contractors.

That’s promising news, and a strong way to start a new year–for employers and employees.

 

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The Truth About Online Gifting and Greeting Over the Holidays

Christmas Gift CardsFrom digital gift cards to electronic greeting cards to online invitations, how far can you go when it comes to a digitizing your holidays? Based on research conducted this year, the answer is “far.”

Digital cards and e-cards–once viewed as impersonal, lazy and thoughtless–are now being touted as convenient, customizable and efficient–not to mention eco-friendly and affordable.

Indeed, JibJab Media CEO Gregg Spiridellis sees e-cards as more than just an alternative to paper. “In today’s culture, e-cards are not only accepted but often preferred,” he said. “Much as most people use paperless billing, cards and invites have made a similar shift to reflect the lifestyle of the 21st century.”

JibJab is known for its popular animated electronic cards that feature users’ uploaded photos.

“[They] allow for a much higher entertainment value, complete with singing, dancing, and really fun humor,” he said.

That interactivity is something you just can’t find on paper.

James Hirschfeld, founder of Paperless Post, agrees that the acceptance and use of online cards and invitations is only trending upward.

“Even in a market where retail-based holiday card sales are declining, we’re seeing a 65% increase in online holiday card sending this year,” he said. “Online cards reach recipients where they spend most of their time: the Internet.”

When it comes to digital gift cards, the numbers are also climbing: It’s estimated that $29.8 billion will be sent on the cards this year. According to the National Retail Federation, 81% of holiday shoppers will buy gift cards this season. They’ll spend an average of $163, which is the highest amount recorded in the survey’s history.

Of this year’s holiday online shoppers, an online InComm survey found that 77% will buy digital gift cards as opposed to the plastic counterparts. Forty percent of those surveyed said they’d prefer an emailed gift card as opposed to a paper printout.

Sites like Gift Card Mall, Gift Rocket, and PayPal’s new Digital Gifts make electronic gift card purchases easier than ever. Many digital gift card retailers give purchasers convenient options, including flexible dollar increments plus the ability to immediately print a certificate and present it in person, or schedule it in an email for later–complete with an online redemption code.

If these trends continue, “Cyber Monday” may become “Cyber holiday season.”

“We live in a digital age,” Spiridellis said. “It’s clear that the cultural acceptance is there for electronic cards to be perceived as containing the same thoughtfulness and care as a paper card–just adapted for today’s generation.”

 

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