TIME Retail

Google Is Making Shopping on a Smartphone Much Easier

US-TECHONOLOGY-GOOGLE
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

A new "buy button" is coming to search results

Google is finally rolling out a ‘Buy’ button in its search results. The new feature, first reported back in May, is an effort to get users comfortable thinking of Google as a shopping destination, not just a conduit to other sites.

At a press event on Wednesday, the company announced “Purchase with Google,” which will turn the ads that appear at the top of search results into cards that let users buy products from directly within Google’s interface. After clicking an ad marked with “Buy on Google,” a user will be taken to a special, Google-built page that shows information about the product and a checkout button to pay for the item using the credit card stored in a Google account.

Google isn’t actually selling these products itself, but instead partnering with retailers who will handle order fulfillment. Google makes money on these ads using the same cost-per-click ad auctions that power its traditional search ads.

With its new buttons, Google is aiming to make it easier for users to buy products on mobile phones’ screens. “There is too much friction when we try to make transactions on a phone,” says Jonathan Alferness, Google’s vice president of product management for Google Shopping. He notes that conversations rates to purchase items are still twice as high on desktop as they are on mobile.

Google is rolling out the buy button as a small test with about a dozen retailers in the coming weeks, with plans for a larger U.S. expansion by the end of the year.

At its event, Google also outlined some other recent tweaks to the mobile shopping experience. These include improved voice search that will provide users more detailed information when they ask questions about products, info cards that prominently show product reviews and improved “deep linking” capabilities that will let users open a purchase page within a retailer’s app directly from clicking a link in a Google ad.

TIME Media

How Exclusives Are Hurting Streaming Music

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY
Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images This photo illustration shows the Android application logo of Swedish music streaming service Spotify on March 7, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Battle lines are being drawn as Apple, Tidal and others nab exclusive content. That's bad for consumers

When Taylor Swift said she would bring her multiplatinum album 1989 to Apple Music last month, it was seen as a victory for music streaming as the next evolution of music distribution. But it also exemplifies an increasingly frustrating experience for users: Albums and songs appearing exclusively on one particular streaming platform.

Apple Music is the only on-demand streaming service where 1989 is currently available. Swift famously removed her entire catalogue from Spotify last year, arguing against Spotify’s ad-supported offering that gives users access to the service’s entire catalog for free. Swift’s discography, minus 1989, does appear on rival services that don’t let users stream everything without charge, like Google Play Music, Rdio and Tidal. The pop artist has said her tie-up with Apple’s service isn’t an “exclusive deal,” but has given no indication if or when her latest album may appear on competing platforms. Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment, while a representative for Taylor Swift declined to comment.

Swift isn’t the only artist who has decided to keep some of her music exclusive to certain streaming services. Prince’s discography has been yanked from Spotify, but it’s available on Google Play Music and Tidal. Lil Wayne released a new mixtape via Tidal over the Fourth of July weekend, one of a number of exclusives the upstart service is using to gain attention. And on July 10, Drake debuted his latest music video exclusively on Apple Music. Increasingly, artists — or their record labels — are limiting the number of ways fans can access their music.

If this trend continues, music fans could be forced to buy two or more $10-per-month streaming services to get guaranteed access to all of their favorite artists’ songs and videos. There’s a precedent for what’s happening here in the movie world: Five years ago, Netflix had an unbeatable library of movies available for streaming because it was largely the only game in town. Now, as the streaming market has grown and new competitors have joined the fray, the breadth of Netflix’s offerings has declined, and some people are paying for more than one service to get access to more films.

The Battle for Exclusives isn’t just a problem for music listeners — it’s an issue for the industry, too. Right now, only about 41 million people around the world pay for a music streaming service — that’s not nothing, but it’s far from a majority of music listeners. In fact, just 10% of the industry’s overall revenue from recorded music comes from subscription services. You might think paying about $120 a year for access to a seemingly unlimited selection is a steal, but that’s already more than double the $55 a year the average music listener in the U.S. spends on recorded music. If the music industry’s plan is to compel millions of people to double their spending on music each year, any single $10/month offering must be comprehensive in meeting listeners’ tastes. As more music gets Balkanized on one service or another, the less appealing paying for streaming looks overall.

‘The opportunity is how do we make subscription a mainstream thing,” says Elias Roman, product manager for Google Play Music. “If people pay 10 bucks a month for service A and it doesn’t have a release they want because it’s windowed on service B, as an industry we’re kind of shooting the value proposition in the foot a little bit.”

Exclusives could hurt the music industry in the battle against piracy, too. Inexpensive and comprehensive streaming services have proven an effective way to fight illegal downloading: In Norway, where streaming services like Spotify are popular and long-established, less than 4% of people under 30 still illegally download music, according to a December survey by recording industry group IFPI. That happened because streaming is safe, easy-to-use and packed with every song a person could want. Get rid of any of these factors, and some portion of customers would likely have no problem returning to piracy.

Analysts say it’s unlikely that digital music services’ libraries will become as fractured those of Netflix or Amazon’s movie offerings. Cutting lots of exclusive deals would be expensive for streaming services, some of which are not profitable. It would also stand to cut off artists from a portion of their fanbase who don’t follow them to a specific service. “It’s not clear how good these things are at actually driving subscribers,” says Dan Cryan, a media analyst at IHS, of music exclusives. “Over the next 3 to 5 years, it will not become a mainstream activity.”

Instead of competing on exclusives, then, streaming services may be better off competing on the user experience — whether that’s Spotify’s robust social networking features, Apple Music’s curated playlists or Google Play Music’s context-sensitive radio stations. These are the features that compel customers to pick one service over another, not their music libraries. Trying to frame streaming’s value proposition around specific albums and videos makes little sense in a world where any piece of content can proliferate for free across the Internet from the very moment it’s released.

TIME Advertising

Apple’s Very Different New Ads Throw Shade at Google

"If it's not an iPhone...it's not an iPhone"

Apple’s commercials have been renowned for decades, but every company misfires once in a while. That may be the case with the tech giant’s latest iPhone campaign, which breaks away from the heartwarming spots the company has become known for.

In the new commercial, Apple points out that it designs the “hardware part” and the “software part” of its phones. It’s a clear shot at Android phones, most of which run software designed by Google and hardware from a variety of manufacturers. “If it’s not an iPhone, it’s not an iPhone,” the spot concludes.

A second commercial in the same campaign points out that the iPhone comes with something “different.” The difference is that 99% of customers “love their iPhone”—implying that a smaller percentage of Android phone owners are satisfied with their devices.

The spots are unusual because Apple usually focuses on the functionality of its own devices, not putting down competitors. But with iPhone sales reaching record highs in recent quarters, the company seems eager to boast a bit.

TIME Media

Facebook Is Reportedly Adding Music Videos

The move would be another blow to YouTube's dominance of video

Facebook has quickly become an online video powerhouse, with its users watching four billion videos per day. Now the company is looking to expand its control of the sector by bringing music videos to the News Feed, the New York Times reports. Facebook is in talks with record labels to add a limited number of music videos to its site before the end of the year.

Such a move would put Facebook in even more direct competition with YouTube, which is the most popular platform for young people to listen to music. Almost all of YouTube’s most popular videos are music videos, and the site now has its own music streaming service and music awards show.

On Thursday Facebook denied reports that it was planning to launch its own music streaming service. For now, video seems to be the company’s top priority.

[NYT]

TIME Law

Remembering the Scopes Monkey Trial on Its 90th Anniversary

John T. Scopes Monkey Trial
New York Daily News/Getty Images Attorney Clarence Darrow consults with Judge Raulston about procedure in the Tennessee courts during the trial of John T. Scopes.

It was a turning point for the acceptance of evolution

Today the theory of evolution is taught in schools across the United States, but that wasn’t the case when teacher John Thomas Scopes went on trial for teaching it to his high school students in Tennessee. In March of 1925, the state had passed a law banning the teaching of evolution because it conflicted with the story of creation in Bible. Scopes’ case was brought to court on July 10—precisely 90 years ago Friday—in what came to be known as the “Scopes Monkey Trial,” one of the most famous trials in U.S. history.

Three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan argued for the prosecution, seeking to prove that Scopes had violated the law. As TIME reported that year, Bryan—who died shortly after the trial ended—had planned for his closing remarks of the trial to be his “greatest speech.” The speech wasn’t actually given during the trial due to legal maneuvering by the defense, but he delivered it to the public after the fact. It included passages like this:

It need hardly be added that this law did not have its origin in bigotry. The majority is not trying to establish a religion or to teach it—it is trying to protect itself from the effort of an insolent minority to force irreligion upon the children under the guise of teaching Science.

Scopes ended up losing the case and was charged a $100 fine, though the verdict was later overturned on a technicality. But the real star of the trial was Clarence Darrow, Scopes’ skilled lawyer, who poked numerous holes in Bryan’s argument and fundamentalist theory in general. The case marked a turning point in the way evolution was taught in schools and more widely acknowledged in the U.S.

After it was all over, TIME compared the trial to the examination of Socrates in ancient Greece:

Scientists and teachers shook their heads. Mr. Bryan was dead and at least for the time they as a body declined to enter upon animadversion, but some of them privately compared the Scopes trial, not with the trial in Pilate’s court, but with a trial in the court of Athens, where a teacher, accused (like Mr. Scopes) of corrupting the youth by teaching things contrary to law and disrespectful to the gods, had (like Mr Scopes) refused to deny his action, but defended it only by saying that he had taught the truth, which was, in his eyes, the highest form of reverence; and was (like Mr. Scopes) convicted. The parallel, they said, fell down in only one important point: Mr. Scopes was given a fine of $100; Socrates was given a cup of hemlock.

Read TIME’s full 1925 post-mortem on the Scopes trial, free of charge, here in the TIME archives: Dixit

TIME Apple

How to Get The Next Big iPhone Upgrade Months Ahead of Time

Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus Launch in Japan
Chris McGrath—Getty Images A member of the press compares the new iPhone models at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus at the Apple Omotesando store on September 19, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

Apple has opened a public beta for the latest iPhone operating system

Apple is giving a sneak peak of iOS 9 to anyone that wants it.

On Thursday, the company released a public beta of its upcoming iPhone and iPad software. It’s an uncommon move for the company, which usually only makes iOS betas available to developers.

Users can sign up to access the iOS 9 beta by visiting Apple’s website. The early version of the software comes with a Feedback Assistant app, which will allow users to send Apple information about how the new OS is performing.

iOS 9, expected to be released in September, will feature a revamped News app, transit directions in Apple Maps and a more robust version of the Siri digital assistant, among other improvements. However, downloaders beware: since this is a beta version of the software, it will likely be full of bugs. Apple suggests users only download it onto a secondary phone and back up their devices before getting the new version.

TIME Mobile

How Apple’s New Emoji Could Anger China

A simple flag can be a big political statement

Apple is adding a new emoji to its iPhone operating system that could anger leaders in one of its most important markets.

The Taiwanese flag will be available on Apple keyboards for the first time when iOS 9 launches in the fall, according to Emojipedia, a website that tracks emoji updates. The sovereign status of Taiwan is a hotly contested issue in Asia, as China has identified the independently run state as a “renegade province” that needs to be reunified with the mainland. China openly opposes any references to Taiwanese independence.

The new flag could strain relations between Apple and China, which has in the past used its state broadcaster to call the iPhone a security threat. China is also well-known for its strict censorship policies on digital communications.

Apple generated nearly $17 billion in sales in Greater China (which includes Taiwan) in the first three months of 2015, making it the company’s second most important region by revenue generation after the Americas.

TIME facebook

Here’s Why Facebook Won’t Put Your News Feed in Chronological Order

Social network offers explanation for why it doesn't have oft-requested feature

Facebook’s News Feed is the company’s crown jewel, and it’s very particular about how people interact with it. The social network has a squad of engineers, data scientists, social researchers and everyday users working to improve the algorithm that shows each of Facebook’s 1.4 billion users a personalized stream of content, ideally ranked from most to least interesting for every person.

A common gripe about the News Feed, though, is that there’s no way to consistently view it in chronological order. Users can select a “Most Recent” tab to show posts as they appear, but the setting stubbornly switches back to Facebook’s algorithmically-driven feed after a certain amount of time.

Read more: Here’s How Facebook’s News Feed Actually Works

In an interview with TIME, Facebook’s News Feed Product Management Director Adam Mosseri offered the following explanation for why users can’t have a permanent chronological view of their feeds:

We think of ‘Most Recent’ as not a sort on News Feed but just like a separate space, like any other separate space. Like you can’t make that your default, you can’t make your profile the default. In general, chronological, I think, helps people who are worried about missing things or seeing more recent things, but if everyone was on chronological all the time, people would miss a lot more important content. Our whole mission is to show people content that we think that they find meaningful. Recency is one important input into what people find meaningful, but we have found over and over again that it’s not the only one.

To some degree, Facebook has given people greater ability to control what appears in their News Feed — and what doesn’t. A new feature rolling out Thursday, for instance, lets users select up to 30 friends or Pages to ensure they get those friends’ latest posts at the top of their feed.

For now, though, the company seems confident that a curated feed yields more user engagement than one shown in order. If you don’t like that, you’ll have to keep reaching for that “Most Recent” button.

TIME Media

Movies Are About to Start Coming Out On DVD Way Earlier

Company Signs
Maureen Sullivan—Moment Editorial/Getty Images AMC theater. Long Beach, California

Paramount has inked a deal to get movies to home-viewing formats much sooner

Facing increased competition from all sorts of entertainment options, movie studios are finally about to start letting their films appear on DVD and in digital formats not too long after their theatrical releases.

Paramount has signed a deal with AMC Theaters and Cineplex to allow two of its upcoming films to be made available for home viewing about two weeks after their theatrical run has dwindled to 300 theaters or less. The two horror movies—Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse—are small releases, but Paramount hopes to enact the new strategy with many more films in the future.

The shrunken release window upsets the long-held standard that theatrical releases not appear on DVD or digital download services for at least 90 days after their debut. Making movies available at home earlier could reduce piracy and help movies maintain their buzz in a world where companies like HBO and Netflix are making television shows with the scope and spectacle to rival films.

Theater owners have long opposed such a change, fearing it would hurt box office sales. But the fact that the two-week countdown starts only when a movie is in 300 theaters or less nationwide means that blockbusters won’t be significantly affected. To encourage participation, Paramount has agreed to share a portion of the revenue from iTunes downloads and video on-demand services with theater owners who agree to the new terms.

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