Uber and Lyft encourage NYC customers to oppose proposed ride-hail cap legislation

Uber is making calls to some of its customers in New York City, offering to connect them to local council members to express their opposition to the proposed legislation that would cap the number of ride-hailing drivers in the city, Buzzfeed first reported. Meanwhile, Lyft is also reaching out to its NYC-based riders, asking them to contact their local officials.

For context, the NYC city council is currently considering legislation that would limit the number of ride-hail drivers on the road. Specifically, the proposal wants to place a one-year hold on the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licenses, unless the vehicles are wheelchair accessible.

This legislation would affect Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via — all of which operate ride-hailing services in the city. The deadline to submit an amended version of the proposal is tonight at midnight, so the clock is ticking.

Anyway, some people seem to be a bit upset about receiving calls from Uber, but Uber Director of Public Affairs Jason Post told TechCrunch the calls are simply one of its tactics that is consistent with its terms of services.

Uber is not calling every single customer in the city, Post said, but the company is making enough calls to yield a few dozen calls per council member. Though, why people are answering calls from unknown numbers is beyond me.

Uber is also employing an in-app takeover that notifies passengers of the legislative landscape in NYC.

“Uber has launched an App takeover so New Yorkers can read the Council’s bills for themselves,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. “We believe New Yorkers will join us in supporting living wages for drivers and opposing a cap that will harm outer borough riders who have come to rely on Uber because of the unreliable, or non-existent subway.”

Lyft’s VP of public policy, Joseph Okpaku, also noted in a Medium post that the cap would have even worse effects on communities of color.

“For communities of color, who, before the arrival of ridesharing, were denied equal transportation options, the impact will be felt even more strongly,” he wrote. “It will return us to the days when African-American and Latino New Yorkers had to worry whether they would get a ride every time they raised their hand to hail a cab.”

Four million people are using Apple’s OS betas

For the past few years, Apple has made early versions of its operating systems available to those willing to brave the bugs. Through its beta software program, anyone willing to deal with spotty battery life or a crash or three could load up pre-release builds of iOS, macOS, watchOS or tvOS.

Ever wonder how many actually take advantage of it?

According to Tim Cook on today’s earnings call, more than four million people are currently running on the betas.

Alas, that’s as detailed as he got. He didn’t break down which platforms had the most beta users (though I’d bet iOS or macOS lead the way), nor what percentage of that beta group was developers (accessing the beta to debug their apps before the update) versus consumers (who just want to poke around the new goods early).

For reference: As of February of 2018, Apple had 1.3 billion active devices across Apple TV, iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Mac. So if each of the users Tim Cook mentioned is running a beta OS on one device, that’s around 0.3 percent of active devices running on a beta.

While that percentage might not sound huge, having four million people happily stress test your software before you officially ship it is a rare strength that few other companies can claim. Still, Apple has had a few rather glaring bugs slip through the cracks — from the annoying but forgettable bug that borked the letter “i” in iOS for a few days, to more severe security issues like the root user bug discovered in macOS at the end of last year. Could Apple be doing more to encourage pre-release bug hunting?

Apple Pay is finally coming to CVS and 7-Eleven, and will soon expand to Germany

Longtime Apple Pay holdout CVS will finally be adding support for Apple’s mobile payments platform this fall, along with 7-Eleven, Apple CEO Tim Cook said this afternoon on the company’s earnings call. The news is particularly notable because CVS was one of the first major retailers to snub Apple Pay, choosing instead to launch its own barcode-based mobile payments solution “CVS Pay” back in 2016, following the failure of the retailer-backed Apple Pay rival CurrentC.

CVS Pay had become the first mobile payments solution the pharmacy chain adopted, after having purposefully avoided support for Apple Pay or any other rival NFC (tap to pay) technologies at its register. The company believed there was value in offering its own end-to-end solution to customers that combined both payments and loyalty, it had said.

In addition, CVS had earlier backed an Apple Pay alternative called CurrentC, which was developed by the merchant consortium MCX, led by major retailers like Walmart, Best Buy, Rite Aid and others. The QR code-based payments solution was designed to challenge Apple’s potential dominance in mobile payments. Many of the retailers even blocked Apple Pay at their stores in advance of bringing CurrentC to market.

However, CurrentC eventually failed and the technology was sold off to JPMorgan Chase in 2017. Some of its backers — like Best Buy and Rite Aid — had also relented, by allowing Apple Pay into their stores. But CVS did not. It instead moved forward with its own solution.

That it has now decided to also support Apple Pay is a major win for Apple, as is the addition of 7-Eleven to the list of retailers that will soon offer Apple Pay at checkout.

The retail expansions weren’t the only big Apple Pay news announced on the call.

Cook also said that Apple Pay would launch in Germany — but didn’t offer a timeframe for this launch beyond “later this year.” And he noted that Apple Pay saw more than 1 billion transactions in the third quarter of 2018. That’s triple the number from a year ago, and more mobile transactions than Square and PayPal, he noted.

The news follows a new forecast released by Juniper Research which now estimates Apple’s Pay will account for 1 in 2 contactless mobile wallet users (in OEM-provided wallets) by 2020.

With its expansions, Apple Pay’s global traction is growing. The service is now live in 24 markets worldwide, with more than 4,900 bank partners. Apple Pay will also go live on eBay in the U.S., Cook said, as previously announced by eBay last week.

Spotify now offers motion comics starring Archie

Spotify has been experimenting with incorporating non-musical formats over the last couple of years, including videos and multimedia podcasts. Next up: Motion comics based on new Archie stories.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping track of the comics incarnations of Archie and his friends, the title was recently rebooted by writer Mark Waid (Kingdom Come) and artist Fiona Staples (Saga). While I was initially skeptical about the need to mess with the characters’ classic designs, I found the first collection to be a perfectly enjoyable combination of teen comedy and soap opera.

Now, as announced in Nerdist, the first six issues have been transformed by digital comics startup Madefire with music and voice acting.

It’s still a comic book, and you can still see Staples’ gorgeous art, but it’s a story that you hit a “play” button to experience, rather than turning any pages. (Madefire and its CEO Ben Wolstenholme prefer the term “motion books” to distinguish the format from the cheesy motion comics of the past, but I suspect the distinction is lost on most readers.)

You can find them on Spotify as Spotlight: Archie — The New Riverdale.

Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater told Nerdist that “Archie has always been about trying to find new ways to get comics to fans and readers,” and said that working with Spotify was “a perfect match.”

DHS launches a new cyber hub to coordinate against threats to US infrastructure

Among the many things the current administration has been criticized for is its lack of a unified strategy to combat cyber threats, especially in light of ongoing election interference and psy ops perpetrated by Russia. The Department of Homeland Security is advancing the ball with the creation of the National Risk Management Center, intended on protecting critical infrastructure from attacks and subversion by online adversaries.

The NRMC was announced today at a cyber summit in New York held by the agency, where DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen explained the purpose and justification for this new entity. Remarkably, she directly contradicted the ongoing soft-pedaling by the Executive of Russian operations targeting the country.

“Let me be clear: Our intelligence community had it right. It was the Russians. It was directed from the highest levels. And we cannot and will not allow it to happen again,” she said.

DHS Secretary Nielsen in 2017.

Thus the creation of the NRMC, which will work directly with various entities and federal agencies to protect infrastructure like banking systems and the power grid (not to mention election systems). These are such obvious targets for foreign intelligence to attack, either for destructive or informative purposes, that they merit especial attention from our side as well, and DHS is in fact the one to provide it.

The new center will be online and staffed tomorrow, though it will take some time to spin up completely as DHS allocates space, personnel, and resources. Its exact duties, jurisdictions, and connections with other units will no doubt be made clear as well.

Vice President Pence spoke at the event too, but naturally chose to lash out at the Obama administration, which he said “often chose silence and paralysis over strength and action.”

This is a strange thing to say when several prominent cybersecurity-related posts and offices have been abandoned and a report by the Office of Management and Budget found agencies around the country are utterly unprepared for even elementary cyber attacks.

One of the major moves to improve cybersecurity, elevating CyberCom to Unified Combatant Command level, was an Obama-era plan, and the President’s overall cyber strategy, announced last year, also cribbed liberally from the previous administration.

That said, the Vice President was realistic on other points.

“The fact is Russia meddled in our 2016 elections,” he concurred. “This administration will not tolerate threats from Russia, China, Iran, North Korea or anyone else.”

The other countries on the list, it bears mentioning, have not been found to have interfered with American elections, though admittedly they might if they had the chance.

Pence also acknowledged states’ prerogative in running their elections how they like, but also said the federal government would be providing additional funding and technology for election security. He mentioned the “Albert sensors” being deployed to help monitor online systems, and a “virtual situation room” many states are already using that connects DHS with state authorities.

“I want to urge, with great respect, every state to take renewed action. Take advantage of the assistance offered by our administration,” Pence said.

That seems like a good idea, as Russian operations have already begun ahead of the 2018 midterms. Perhaps that joint Russo-American cybersecurity group proposed by Putin will help.

Apple nears a $1 trillion market cap as it clears another quarter ahead of expectations

Apple is inching closer and closer to becoming a $1 trillion company today after posting third-quarter results that beat what analysts were expecting and bumping the stock another few percentage points — which, by Apple standards, is tens of billions of dollars.

The company’s stock is up around 2.5 percent this afternoon after the report, which at a prior market close with a market cap of around $935 billion, is adding nearly another $20-plus billion to its market cap. A few quarters ago we were talking about how Apple was in shooting distance of that $1 trillion mark, but now it seems more and more like Apple will actually hit it. Apple is headed into its most important few quarters as we hit the back half of the year, with its usual new lineup of iPhones and other products and its accompanying critical holiday quarter.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the numbers:

  • Revenue: $53.3 billion, up 17 percent year-over-year compared to analyst expectations of $52.34 billion.
  • Earnings: $2.34 per share compared to analyst estimates of $2.18 per share.
  • iPhones: 41.3 million, up 1 percent year-over-year though revenue on the iPhone line was up 20 percent year-over-year. Analysts expected 41.79 million iPhones sold.
  • iPhone average selling price: $724
  • iPads: 11.55 million, up 1 percent year-over-year but ahead of analyst expectations of 10.3 million.
  • Macs: 3.7 million, down 13 percent year-over-year and behind analyst expectations.
  • Services: $9.6 billion, up 31 percent year-over-year.
  • Other products: $3.7 billion, up 37 percent year-over-year.

So in all, the shipment numbers were hit or miss at a granular level, but at the same time the iPhone is generating a lot more revenue than it did last year — implying that there might be a shifting mix toward more expensive iPhones. Apple’s strategy to figure out if it could unlock a more premium tier in consumer demand, then, may be panning out and helping once again drive the company’s growth. It’s then padding out the rest of that with growth in services and other products like it has in the past few quarters as Apple heads into the end of the year.

In the past year or so, Apple’s stock has continued to rise even though there may have been some dampened expectations for its latest super-premium iPhone, the iPhone X. Its shares are up more than 20 percent in the past year, and in the second quarter the company announced that it would return an additional $100 billion to investors in a new capital return program, which at the time also sparked a considerable jump in its stock. Apple hasn’t delivered a product that has entirely changed the market calculus like it did when it first started rolling out larger iPhones, but its strategy of incremental improvements and maneuvering in Wall Street continues to provide it some momentum as it heads toward $1 trillion.

Marketing Day: Special rates to SMX East, Facebook partners with Moat, Twitter shadow banning & more

Here’s our recap of what happened in online marketing today, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web.

From Marketing Land:

Recent Headlines From MarTech Today, Our Sister Site Dedicated To Marketing Technology:

Online Marketing News From Around The Web:


Rebranding your local business? Don’t start without reading these tips

There’s a whole host of reasons you’d want to rebrand your local business:

  • Your product and service offering might be outgrowing your name and website.
  • You might have found a new location close to the center of town.
  • You feel a facelift might revitalize a flagging business.

Whatever your reasons, they must be good given the work it takes to rebrand. It may be the biggest and highest-risk challenge you’ve ever faced. The tone of voice, website design, color scheme, logos, directory listings and sales process may all need to change at once. It’s not an easy or quick switch.

Interest in a local business’ rebranding isn’t as strong as big brands enjoy, so you can kiss that viral piece on the evolution of your brand goodbye. Unlike Pepsi or other big brands, there is a high likelihood few will notice a logo change from a small business.

Small businesses don’t have access to a multimillion-dollar branding and communications strategy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make a true impact on the bottom line with a thoroughly researched and well-executed rebrand.

I’m going to go through a few key marketing points and steps to take if you’re considering or in the process of rebranding a local business. While I will be providing insights on the less technical, more strategic side of things, I have included a link that explains how to migrate your site to a new domain.

Involve your audience

Are you looking for a whole new audience or an expanded one? Either way, it’s worthwhile involving your current customers in the rebranding process, even if just in a small way.

First, survey your customers on what they already like about your brand so you can avoid losing those elements in your new branding. Learn why they came to you initially and, almost most importantly, why they stick around.

If your rebranding is already underway, show your customers some potential logos and ask them to vote on their favorite. Remember that unless you make the results public, you’re not beholden to select their logo unless you love it, too!

You can be as open and public or as secretive and private with your customer involvement as you like. The former is great if you already have a loyal customer base willing to share the news of the rebrand.  The latter is better if you are in the very early stages of rebrand consideration.

Go wide and loud with a request for customer feedback on Twitter and Facebook (perhaps with a link back to a website-hosted survey) or via a pop-up on your website using a tool like Hotjar. You can also keep it quiet with face-to-face questions in-store or a segmented email to your most loyal customers.

Whatever amount of noise you decide to make with your customer involvement, make sure you highlight how important it is for you to keep current customers satisfied and happy. They’ll appreciate having their thoughts and feelings considered and be more likely to stay on board when the new brand is launched.

Don’t change too much too fast

Unless you’re determined to completely pivot your business and reach an entirely new and different customer base, I’d recommend not changing too much about what makes your business what it is all at one time.

Smaller, more iterative adjustments to branding (a smoothing of the edges here, a lightening of the color palette there) will lessen the risk of losing your current audience’s connection to your brand. Obviously, the risk will be even less if you’ve involved them in your rebranding strategy.

When faced with a potential name change, try to keep an element of your original business name. This will give you more options down the line. Consider how Snapchat Inc. became Snap Inc. and eventually branched out into products like Spectacles.

The other reason not to change too much too fast centers around your SEO. If, with a snap of your fingers, you launch a new website, new company name, a new tone of voice and new copy, your site may lose rankings and take a while to rebound. It makes sense to slowly tweak things and avoid those negatives.

Research the landscape

Thorough preparation is critical ahead of a rebrand, and one area you’d be foolish to overlook is the competition. This is particularly true if you’re changing your business name.

There can be no worse (and no more easily avoided) frustration than learning the potential name you’ve been cherishing all this time is incredibly close to another business, or worse, a business in your industry.

Checking out the competition on Bing or Google is easy. Be sure you look at local, organic and map results.

It’s also definitely worth making sure your planned business name has all social media usernames available, and I mean all of them. You might not think you need Pinterest or Snapchat right now, but as they’re free to use, it’s better to be covered and safe than sorry.

While you are researching your social media profiles, keep in mind you’ll want to use the exact same username across all platforms for complete brand consistency. When you snag that next new loyal customer, you’ll want them to immediately find and follow your social profiles with ease.

Plan your Google My Business changes well

Whatever you do, it is not a good idea to set up a new Google My Business (GMB) listing for a rebranded company and leaving the old GMB listing intact. Having two profiles does not mean you will dominate the rankings for your local search terms and could cause duplicate listing issues.

The only exception to this would be if your rebrand changed and what you’re selling changed along with it.

For example, if you’re an Indian restaurant pivoting to Vietnamese cuisine with a new chef and a new menu, you would need to open a new listing and close the old one, as all information and customer reviews on the older listing will no longer apply.

Google wants GMB to accurately and fairly represent the experience of using or dealing with a business, so it doesn’t want to see reviews of an Indian dining experience on a Vietnamese restaurant’s GMB profile. In an ideal world, business owners would have the power to remove reviews that are no longer relevant, but this currently isn’t possible, and “flagging” reviews only reports them for offensive language.

If you only need to update your current GMB profile, the extent to which you do so will depend on how big a rebrand you’re going for, but you’ll certainly want to look at the following items to see if they will still be accurate after the change:

  • Business name. If you’ve changed any part of your business name, you’ll need to update this and get it verified as soon as your rebrand strategy is in progress.
  • Categories. Only change these if your rebrand involves introducing new services that will fundamentally alter your business category.
  • Address and phone number. Only necessary if your rebrand includes a move of premises.
  • Logo, photos and videos. Rich GMB content will need to be carefully considered after the rebrand. Do what you can to encourage people to take photos of your newly rebranded store, and be sure to upload a new company logo. Consider bringing in someone to record a 360 tour of your business to show off the new branding.
  • Q&As. Will the answers that you and your customers have left for enquiring minds still be accurate after the rebrand? Take a look, and if something is no longer accurate, just click the three dots next to the answer to “Report” it, and then select: “No Longer Applies” to flag it for removal.

Update all your citations

Probably the most important information on your Google My Business listing is your NAP — name, address and phone number.

Sites that carry the details of your business (also known as your “citations”) will need to be contacted and asked if they will update your information as a way to avoid negative impacts on rankings due to inconsistent NAP.

And it’s not just your search results that could suffer. Recent research shows that incorrect or inconsistent contact details or business information found online would make 80 percent of people lose trust in a business. It’s not a simple job to update all your listings, but this shows it’s definitely worth it.

You can update and clean up your citations by using an automated tool or doing it by hand. Updating manually rather than using a tool service allows you to keep complete control of your listings, even if it is a little more work. Automated tools stop working if you stop paying for them, and you’ll likely see your listings go back to how they were if you stop paying for the citation management service.

Make the most of the PR opportunity

A well-planned, creative and significant shift in branding can result in coverage in local and industry press. To increase the chances of this, you’ll need to hold events at your brick-and-mortar store and host a press launch.

This gives journalists something to photograph, and these kinds of events are far easier to feature in publications if accompanied by plenty of smiling faces. Even if you don’t have an offline store, you can still host a media release and a special promotional code to celebrate the relaunch.

Conclusion

Whether you’re tweaking a logo, adding a new partner to your law firm name or completely changing your whole business model, keep these tips in mind as you rebrand. Be sure to involve your customers, update your citations and get the press involved. You’ll enjoy a successful rebrand if you do!


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


Snapchat launches ad marketplace for Discover partners & brings Commercials to Ads Manager

Snapchat is rolling out two new beta programs this week. Starting July 31, a small group of its Discover partners will be able to monetize their content with the launch of Snap Private Marketplace (Snap PMP). The company is also making its six-second, non-skippable Commercials ads available via its self-serve ad platform for 100 select advertisers.

Snap Private Marketplace

The Snap PMP beta program allows Discover partners to offer ad inventory via the app’s Ads Manager. Snap PMP includes the full benefits of the app’s programmatic ad platform, with ad targeting options, metrics and dynamic pricing. Both Snap Ads and Commercials will be available via the Snap PMP now that Commercials can be bought through the Ads Manager.

Discover partners involved in the Snap PMP beta program include BuzzFeed, Condé Nast, Hearst Magazines Digital Media, NBCU, Tastemade, Vertical, Viacom and VICE. As part of the PMP platform, the Discover channels will be able to create “bundles of content” for ad opportunities, have more control over ad pricing and choose which advertisers have access to their ads.

Snapchat says its PMP program does not replace any existing Discover tools or partner offerings already in place.

Commercials come to Ads Manager

Along with the Snap PMP beta, the app is also selling its six-second video Commercials programmatically via its self-serve platform. Previously, the video ad spots that run in the app’s premium Shows content could only be purchased through a Snapchat salesperson — but, starting August 1, a select list of advertisers will be able to purchase Commercials via Snap’s Ads Manager. (The option to buy Commercials via a Snapchat salesperson will still be available to all advertisers.)

Snapchat first rolled out its Commercials ad offering in April of this year. The spots run exclusively within the app’s TV-like premium content called Shows that are featured in the Discover section of the site. Show episodes usually run three to five minutes in length and include a wide variety of content, from animated programs to documentaries, scripted drama or comedies.

Snapchat says it is now running 30 Shows each week globally — up from the five shows it was running this time last year.