TIME Pinterest

Pinterest Wants You to Go Shopping with New ‘Buyable Pins’

Pinterest Said To Be Raising Funding At $11 Billion Valuation
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Pinterest debuts a new way for retailers to sell products on its service

Social pinning site Pinterest has finally debuted its long-awaited buy button.

Users can shop on the site by clicking on “pinned” products to see the price, choose a color, size, and quantity. Visitors can then click on a buy button to complete the transaction using a credit card or by paying with Apple Pay through their iPhones.

The new “buyable pins,” introduced Tuesday at an event at Pinterest’s San Francisco office, are a big step by the company to become more of a shopping hub. Millions of people already use the site to check out products that others recommend.

According to new research from Millward Brown, 93% of active Pinners said they use Pinterest to plan purchases and 87% said they’ve bought something because of Pinterest.

CEO and co-founder Ben Silberman said that consumers have now added 50 billion pins since the company’s launch and that the number added is growing 75% annually. “People want to buy things on Pinterest,” Silberman said.

Shoppers pay no additional fees to buy items on Pinterest. Additionally, merchants pay no commission to sell. It’s unclear how Pinterest will make money from buyable pins. But it could be trying to gain traction with retailers before starting to charge them fees.

Pinterest says U.S. iPhone and iPad users will start seeing the buy button in late June on millions of items from retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Michael’s craft store, Nordstrom, and Macy’s. Designers selling directly on Pinterest include Kate Spade, and Cole Hahn.

The ability to shop directly from Pinterest is particularly powerful, Silberman said, because of the rise of mobile devices. Around 80% of users access Pinterest through a mobile device, which, because of their small screen size, make it inconvenient to click through to another site to complete a transaction.

Pinterest, which investors have valued at $10 billion, still needs to prove that it can bring in the kind of revenue that other social media companies like Facebook [fortune-stock symbol=”FB”] and Twitter [fortune-stock symbol=”TWTR”] have been able to generate. Only recently has it really started to focus on making money.

A few weeks ago, Pinterest debuted new ways for advertisers to target customers, as well as an in-house creative agency that created interactive promoted Pins for large advertisers. Early advertisers on Pinterest’s platform include Gap, Target, Old Navy, Kraft, General Mills, and Expedia.

Pinterest says it worked with fast growing payments company Stripe to power much of the buying experience, as well as PayPal’s payments processing arm Braintree.

Facebook is also rumored to be working on a buy button (also reportedly powered by Stripe). Meanwhile, Twitter partnered with Stripe to power its in-stream buy button last fall.

And on Tuesday, Facebook-owned photo sharing app Instagram also debuted a way for advertisers to include a buy button on ads.

TIME JPMorgan

This Massive Bank Just Killed Voicemail

hanging-telephone-horn
Getty Images

Please do not leave a message after the beep

Who even leaves voice messages anymore?

That’s what executives at JPMorgan Chase & Co. started to ask themselves before deciding to phase out the communication tool in its consumer banking division, Bloomberg reports. The bank announced its intention to cut the cord on employee voicemail at a conference in New York on Tuesday.

“We realized that hardly anyone uses voicemail anymore because we’re all carrying something in our pockets that’s going to get texts or e-mail or a phone call,” said Gordon Smith, head of the company’s consumer and community bank, according to Bloomberg. “So we started to cut those off.”

The technology cost the bank a monthly fee of $10 per line, Bloomberg said, citing Smith. So ditching the service for its nearly 136,000-person strong retail workforce could help the lender cut more than a million dollars in expenses. The company has already said it wants to cut its consumer bank’s budget by $2 billion dollars, although the savings from eliminating voicemail are small by comparison.

A spokeswoman told Bloomberg that some employees, like branch managers, will retain the service.

The bank joins a growing cadre of companies that have already hung up the phone on voicemail, including, notably, Coca-Cola.

The trend isn’t just corporate. In 2012, the Internet telephone company Vonage reported that it had seen an 8% decline in the number of voice mail boxes, as well as a similar drop in 2013. And a 2012 Pew study confirmed that teens prefer texting over calling by a wide margin.

Hopefully, email will be next to go. And then telemarketing robocalls.

MONEY freebies

8 Ways to Get Free Donuts on Friday

150602_EM_Donuts
Andrew Burton—Getty Images

National Donut Day is coming!

So far as fake holidays go, National Donut Day, held every year on the first Friday in June, is a pioneer. It’s not nearly as fake and overtly contrived as johnny-come-latelys like, say, 7-Eleven Day. The Donut Day tradition started way back in World War I, with Salvation Army workers providing donuts to soldiers on the front lines in Europe.

In addition to its air of authenticity, National Donut Day is beloved for fairly obvious reasons. People love donuts. People love freebies. As for how they feel about free donuts, well, love just isn’t a strong enough word.

Thankfully, participation in National Donut Day seems to grow year after year. On Friday, June 5, there are no fewer than eight outlets giving away free donuts. Here’s everything you need to know about National Donut Day freebies:

Cumberland Farms
From 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday, Cumberland Farms customers who purchase a coffee (hot or iced) or a Chill Zone beverage (fountain and frozen drinks) are welcomed to select a free donut.

Dunkin Donuts
All day on Friday, June 5, customers at participating DD locations can pick the free donut of their choice with the purchase of any beverage.

Entenmann’s
In a partnership with The Salvation Army, Entenmann’s is hosting epic donut giveaways in select cities around the country, including Boston; Buffalo; Columbus, Ohio; Chicago; Wilmington, Del.; and New York City. At the latter, Entenmann’s plans on providing 40,000 free donuts and free coffee to all comers from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Madison Square Park.

Fractured Prune Doughnuts
This small, celebrated donut chain with roughly two dozen locations—mostly along the East Coast, but with a sprinkling in the West and Midwest too—will give each customer one free OC Sand donut (honey glaze with cinnamon sugar) on Friday. No purchase necessary!

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
Krispy Kreme earns our award as arguably the most generous of all National Donut Day participants. There is no purchase necessary to get a free donut on Friday, and customers can pick any flavor donut they want.

LaMar’s Donuts
Launched in Kansas City, this donut chain now has locations in six states stretching from the Deep South to the Rockies, including a dozen shops in Colorado alone. LaMar’s matches KK in terms of donut generosity on Friday, granting customers any variety of donut free of charge, no purchase necessary.

Shipley Do-Nuts
From 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday, participating Shipley Do-Nuts locations are giving away one free glazed donut per customer, no purchase required. For those unfamiliar with the brand, Shipley has dozens of locations clustered in the corridor between Kentucky and Texas. One location in Houston is even hosting donut-eating contests on Friday morning. Winners get free tickets to a local pro soccer match that night, in addition to all the free donuts eaten during the contest, of course.

Tim Hortons
Download this coupon and, with the purchase of any hot beverage, get a free chocolate hazelnut donut filled with Nutella at Tim Horton’s. Note that this offer isn’t limited to Friday: The coupon is valid all the way through August 30, 2015.

TIME Innovation

Meet the Chatty Robot Who Wants to Outsmart Every Other Toy

Musio, a $599 prototype, is only the latest contender for smartest toy in the playpen

Musio the talking robot was standing on a lunch table at Manhattan’s original Shake Shack, unable to talk. The toy robot needs a Wi-Fi connection to access its language cortex. But even in this muted state, the stubby-legged robot with animated eyes drew curious glances from passersby. “I think it’s because Musio’s eyes blink,” says Celina Lee, a business development director for Musio’s manufacturer. “People definitely know it’s not a random toy.”

Musio is a prototype from a Santa Monica-based startup called AKA. Its roughly 37 employees, split between the U.S. and South Korea, are rushing to bring what the company calls the first “truly” intelligent toy to market within the next year. To that end, AKA has launched a $50,000 crowdsourcing campaign, a modest addition to the $5 million AKA has already secured from venture capital firms. The fact is, with or without your crowdsourced support, Musio is destined to launch into a booming market for smart toys.

An estimated 72 million children worldwide want their toys electronically enhanced, according to industry research from Interpret. When a toy maker hits that perfect blend of cute and smarts, demand can flare out to even greater numbers. The smash success of Tamagotchi pets in the mid-90’s led to sales of more than 76 million devices worldwide. To this day, the phrase “Tamagotchi effect” is used to describe the unusually strong brew of emotions that a “smart” toy can stir up in its owner.

At the bleeding edge of this trend are toys that can hold a true conversation. Breakthroughs in speech recognition and machine learning, first popularized by Apple’s Siri, are now being recast into the cutest possible packaging.

Musio isn’t the first modern talking toy on the block. Mattel debuted the first chat-friendly Barbie at the New York Toy Fair last February. Google recently filed a patent on a teddy bear that trains its plastic eyes and furry ears on its owner. And IBM’s Watson supercomputer has just been transplanted into a talking plastic dinosaur. In short, Musio will face stiff competition for smartest toy in the playpen.

Last week, Musio embarked on a 15 hour flight from Seoul to New York to perform its first public demonstrations to the press. “We’re worried that Musio is a little bit tired because he’s excited to meet you and didn’t get much sleep,” said Lee, as her colleagues unboxed Musio on a nearby conference table. Musio’s animated eyelids flicked open. Jacob Bradsher, AKA’s resident linguist, asked, “How are you?”

“Okay, Jacob,” Musio responded, recognizing Bradsher’s voice. That personal touch is Musio’s hallmark. Its built-in memory bank can store up to 64GB of personal information about its owner.

“My Musio will get to know me better, because it will remember some of the prior conversations that we had,” says Lee. As a result, she explains, no two Musio’s are alike. “Your Musio can become your friend. My Musio can become my friend.”

Key words trigger a memory, of sorts. Bradsher’s Musio, for instance, seized on the phrase “I’m hungry” to give a personalized restaurant recommendation. “Let’s go to Shake Shack,” Musio said, “You said you want to try it in New York.”

It was an intriguing demonstration of how Musio can simulate intimacy by tracing connections to previous conversations. “Siri is only able to answer the two previous sentences,” says Dr. Junho Shin, AKA’s machine learning specialist. “But we try to implement technologies that can understand the whole context of conversation, not just based on the previous questions.”

Musio was not yet up to the task of taking questions from a reporter, however, indicating that its language engine still has a ways to go. Musio was originally conceived as an English language tutor for students in Asia, where rigorous examination systems have spawned a lucrative industry for private tutors. Musio, with a starting price of $159 for the “simple” model and topping out at $599 for a “genius” version, would offer lessons at a steep discount, and the toy still has big implications for classroom learning.

But as Musio developed a gift for gab, it dawned on the AKA team that the robot could have wider applications beyond stressed students. “We didn’t think that the market should just be restricted to Asia,” says Lee. “We thought, ‘Oh, there’s a market for people who want a friend, right?”

To carry on a friendly chat, Musio taps into a distant stack of servers, where a technology known as “deep neural networks” scans sentences by the tens of thousands, teasing out relationships between words. AKA’s Bradsher was pulled from his job as an English teacher in South Korea to train the system.

“We’re literally endlessly breaking down the same paragraphs over and over again: This is a verb gerund. This is an introduction. Typically it would go here,” says Bradsher.

And when the language engine sputters, Musio can always rely on a joke to keep the conversation flowing. “Initially our goal should be maybe to give them fun, rather than just complete sentences and the perfect response,” Shin says.

True to form, Musio introduces himself with a crowdpleaser. “I can talk, tell a joke and communicate with other things,” Musio says, pausing with a comic’s timing before adding, “Wait I can do this too.” He then lets out a flatulent sound for a solid 2 seconds, because kids may want a “smart” toy, but never at the expense of fun.

MONEY movies

Big Chain Movie Theaters Under Investigation by the Feds

Regal AMC movie theater antitrust
Russell Haydn / EyeEm—Getty Images/EyeEm

The Justice Department is scrutinizing cineplex giants AMC and Regal

There’s good news if you love movies—and having choices about them.

New Securities and Exchange Commission filings by cinema giants AMC and Regal confirm earlier reports that the government is investigating potential anti-competitive activity on the part of America’s biggest movie theater chains. The filings disclose the Department of Justice is looking into whether those companies used joint ventures and exclusivity agreements with movie studios in violation of antitrust laws.

Operators of small independent cinemas say exclusivity agreements, called “clearances,” are a problem because they allow big chains to prevent competitors from playing popular new movies.

That’s bad for consumers who want more theater options close to home—or prefer indie theaters, which sometimes offer special ticket discounts or features like food and drink service.

Tom Stephenson, CEO of a local Dallas multiplex, told the Dallas Morning News he has been cooperating with federal investigators. He claims AMC threatened not to play certain films unless movie studios granted the chain exclusive screening rights in his cinema’s area.

“The Justice Department is highly skeptical that limiting consumers’ choices is a good idea,” Stephenson told the newspaper.

Together the biggest three movie chains—AMC, Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Holdings—control about 42% of U.S. screens. In its filing, AMC acknowledges that it “has been an active participant in our industry’s consolidation,” having acquired several theater chains, including Loews and General Cinema, in the last two decades.

AMC also points out it’s easier to beat smaller competitors in big urban areas: “Where real estate is readily available, it is easier to open a theatre near one of our theatres, which may adversely affect operations at our theatre. However . . . the complexity inherent in operating in . . . major metropolitan markets is a deterrent to other less sophisticated competitors, protecting our market share position.”

Both AMC and Regal’s filing state that the companies’ managers do not believe they have violated federal or state antitrust laws.

“One has to remember that film clearances, they’ve existed for many years and we believe they have because they are beneficial to the studios, they are beneficial to exhibition and they are beneficial to consumers,” Regal Entertainment Chief Executive Amy Miles said in a recent conference call.

Ironically, clearances were originally created to protect small, independent theaters after a 1948 Supreme Court decision required movie studios to divest ownership in cinemas.

TIME technology

Here’s How Much Fitbit Wants to Raise in IPO

Latest Products At The Wearable Device Technology Expo
Kiyoshi Ota—Bloomberg/Getty Images Fitbit Inc.'s Fitbit Flex wireless activity and sleep wristband sit on display at the Wearable Expo in Tokyo, Japan, on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.

How it intends to spend the money is anybody's guess

Fitbit plans an initial public offering of 22.4 million shares, raising an additional $358 million in financing, the wearable tech company disclosed in a regulatory filling on Tuesday.

If everything goes to plan, the IPO would be valued at about $448 million, according to a filing first spotted by the Wall Street Journal. The company will be traded on the NYSE as “FIT.”

How Fitbit would spend the money, however, remains an open question. The company says the funds could be used to accelerate research and development or ramp up acquisitions, but no firm plans have been set.

The decision come amid a surge of demand for wearable fitness trackers. Of the 20.5 million devices Fitbit has sold since 2007, more than half were purchased in the last year alone. Fitbit is also seeing much larger tech from Apple to Microsoft enter the fitness tracker and wearable device space recently.

 

TIME Retail

Wal-Mart Is Giving These Workers a Raise

The retail giant is hiking pay for more than 100,000 of its U.S. workers.

A lot of new Wal-Mart employees are about to get pay raises.

The retail behemoth is raising the starting wages for more than 100,000 of its U.S. workers, including for managers of some departments and for workers in certain specialized areas. The wage hikes, first reported by The Associated Press, go into effect next month.

Managers of more service-oriented departments, such as electronics and automotive care, will see their hourly wages increase to a range of $13 to $24.70 per hour, from a previous range of $10.30 to $20.09 per hour. Managers of some other departments, including clothing and consumer products, will see their minimum hourly wages increase by a dollar to $10.90, while topping out at $20.71 per hour.

Workers in some of Wal-Mart’s specialized sections, such as the deli and wireless products sections, will see an hourly pay range of $9.90 to $18.81 per hour after previously earning anywhere from $9.20 to $18.53 per hour, the company told the AP.

This is the latest wage increase announced by the world’s largest retailer, which sees annual sales of more than $470 billion. Wal-Mart said in February that it would bump its starting salary for workers to $9 an hour in April, and to $10 sometime next year. That move affected 500,000 of the company’s 1.3 million U.S. employees.

These moves by Wal-Mart, as well as similar pay hikes announced recently by retailers such as Target and the owner of T.J. Maxx, come amid widespread protests by retail workers and a growing movement in favor of a $15 per hour minimum wage in the U.S.

[Reuters]

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME snapchat

Snapchat Just Released its Most Useless Product Yet

Snapchat Stuffed Animal
Snapchat Snapchat Stuffed Animal

And it's available on Amazon

Who says Snapchat doesn’t have a way to make money?

The instant messaging startup is selling plush toy versions of its impish mascot ghost. And yes, the character has a name: “Ghostface Chillah,” after the Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah.

The specter’s specs? It comes in two sizes: Large ($17.99), and small ($8.99). As their Amazon listings describe:

  • Undead but undeniably cuddly
  • Free spirit
  • An expert at phantomiming
  • Supernatural and super awesome
  • Outer – 100% acrylic; Filling – 100% polyester

“He’s a silly dude,” Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel once told Business Insider, revealing that he drew the freaky phantom himself.

The toy is recommended for people ages 5 years and up. Guess the social media company is building its user pipeline—because remember, kids: “Snapchat is intended for people who are at least 13 years old. Persons under the age of 13 are prohibited from creating Snapchat accounts.” (Via Snapchat’s terms of service.)

For everyone else, there’s SnapKidz, a lightweight version of the app designed for children.

Then again, at the time of writing this post, it looks like the other Amazon customers who viewed the pair of plushies are also interested in recent books about Elon Musk and Bitcoin. So maybe the target demographic skews a bit older.

For a deeper dive into the world of the ephemeral photo-sharing app, read this Snapchat feature from the January 13, 2014 issue of Fortune magazine.

TIME Microsoft

Microsoft Bought One of the Best To-Do List Apps

6 Wunderkinder

Wunderlist, one of Google's 'best' productivity apps in 2014, reportedly sold for more than $100 million

Microsoft has once again expanded its mobile footprint with the acquisition of 6Wunderkinder, a Berlin-based startup behind popular task managing app Wunderlist.

Wunderlist, which can be used to make to-do lists and set reminders, was nominated by Google as one of the best productivity apps in 2014. Users of the app can also share to-do lists with one another, making it a useful tool for work groups, roommates or couples.

Microsoft announced the deal on Tuesday, marking the latest in a string of acquisitions that has rapidly expanded the company’s suite of productivity services for iPhone and Android users. Microsoft acquired Acompli, a critically acclaimed email app in December, followed by Sunrise, a calendar app, in February. Microsoft has since rebranded Acompli as its first true Outlook mobile app for iOS and Android.

While Microsoft has not disclosed the value of the deal, an insider familiar with the negotiation told the Wall Street Journal that the acquisition was valued between $100 to $200 million.

TIME Companies

American Apparel Gets Restraining Order Against Ex-CEO

American Apparel Hipster Turns Preppy As Stock May Be Delisted
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Dov Charney, chairman and chief executive officer of American Apparel Inc., stands for a portrait in a company retail store in New York, U.S., on Thursday, July 29, 2010. Starting the company in a dorm at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, Charney built a worldwide empire of 280 clothing stores by leaping out ahead of mainstream fashion. He personified the racy, risk-taking aesthetics of his business and is now facing the consequences - skittish lenders and investors who doubt his ability to oversee his own creation. Photographer: Keith Bedford/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Company continues fight with Dov Charney

The strange tale of the Dov Charney-American Apparel divorce has taken another turn, with the clothing retailer getting a restraining order against its founder and former CEO.

Charney was fired by American Apparel last year following a series of sexual harassment claims. The restraining order obtained Monday stops him “from breaching terms of a standstill agreement signed last year, including seeking removal of the company’s board members and making negative statements in the press against the company or its employees,” according to Reuters.

This is the second action taken against Charney in recent months, after American Apparel sued him for breaching the standstill agreement in May.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

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