Photo storage service SmugMug acquires Flickr

(Reuters) – Photo management platform SmugMug said on Friday it has agreed to buy image and video-hosting website Flickr for an undisclosed amount.

Flickr will continue to operate as a separate entity after the deal closes, SmugMug said.

“Uniting the SmugMug and Flickr brands will make the whole photography community stronger and better connected,” SmugMug Chief Executive Don MacAskill said in a statement. “Together, we can preserve photography as the global language of storytelling.”

Verizon bought Yahoo Inc’s core business for $4.48 billion last year and the acquisition included Flickr, among other web properties.

Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler

Beyonce Dominates Coachella And Teaches Us All A Valuable Lesson In Branding

Beyonce’s brand is on point. Her fans–present company included–consider her flawless, and their Queen B. Her show at Coachella continued this brand message.

While many talented artists came out to Coachella and performed incredible sets, Beyonce’s show seemed to be next level. It got everyone calling Coachella “Beychella”. She’s has an incredible career–definitely deserves to have Coachella named after her–and her reputation proceeds her. 

We can all learn a lot from Bey, but one thing all entrepreneurs and self-starters should take away is her branding abilities. Here are a few major branding lessons that you can learn from Beyonce’s career. 

1. Be consistent and still manage to adapt to to the times.

Beyonce’s brand is reliable. For decades people having been coming to her shows and buying her albums and always having high expectations. Time and time again fans are always blown away. 

She consistently shows up and gives it her all. 

Her brand is consistent, yet evolving. She stays on tops of trends while staying true to herself. Good brands like Apple, Google and Disney understand that branding never stops. Their brand message is delivered to the consumer at every touch.

Whether you are on the driving by an Apple billboard, walking into an apple store, or using one of their products, you always know what you are getting. Still, apple has grown with the growth of technology. Lord knows no one is using those original boxy iPods anymore.

Beyonce’s brand stays consistent, yet ever evolving. Most of all it doesn’t follow the trends. Instead, it keeps up with the current culture and creates the trends. 

2. Empower you audience.

Beyonce makes her audience feel good. Or, more powerfully, she makes them feel okay with being upset. She empowers her audience to feel themselves and to express themselves.

Your brand should empower your consumers. Consumers want to feel heard. The Amazon’s of the world–or just Amazon in general–have made it imperative to get ahead by by putting the customer first. 

Part of this is creating an emotional connection to your audience. As a brand message, that connection will serve much longer than any product promotion. At Coachella (aka Beychella), Beyonce starts one of her songs  by asking her audience a few questions. 

“Ladies, are we smart? Are we strong? Have we had enough? Show ’em!” -Beyonce

By developing an emotional connection with her audience, Beyonce consistently has her audience screaming, excited and happy to be a part of her experience. And your brand should always make your audience want to be a part of your products experience. 

Connect with your consumers on an emotional, and human level. Your brand message should empower them as consumers and as people. 

Amazon says it has more than 100 million Prime members

(Reuters) – Amazon Inc (AMZN.O) said on Wednesday it now has more than 100 million Amazon Prime members globally.

FILE PHOTO: The Amazon logo is seen at the Young Entrepreneurs fair in Paris, France, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Chief Executive officer Jeff Bezos informed shareholders Amazon Music now has tens of millions of paid customers, with Amazon Music Unlimited expanding to more than 30 new countries in 2017.

Bezos said Prime Now, a service that offers free delivery within two hours, is now available in more than 50 cities spanning nine countries.

Shares of the ecommerce giant, which have risen about 69 percent in the last 12 months, rose 1.3 percent in after-market trading.

Reporting by Gaurika Juneja in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

Time Warner CEO says AT&T merger needed to compete with internet titans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Time Warner (TWX.N) Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes on Wednesday defended his company’s planned merger with telecoms firm AT&T (T.N) as necessary to compete effectively for advertising with internet giants like Google and Facebook.

FILE PHOTO: Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes arrives ahead of arguments in the trial to determine if AT&T’s merger with Time Warner is legal under antitrust law at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Bewkes told Judge Richard Leon, who will decide if the $84.5 billion deal may go forward, that the U.S. Justice Department was wrong to say that AT&T would be reluctant to license Time Warner’s TV and movie content to rivals, causing blackouts, in order to win over new customers to AT&T subsidiary DirecTV.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Bewkes, who has been CEO for more than 10 years. “If our channels are not in distribution we lose lots of money (from lost subscriptions and advertising).”

He said that “one percent, less than one percent, maybe two percent” of subscribers would drop their pay TV subscription because of a blackout, far below the 12 percent estimated by an economist for the government who testified earlier in the trial.

Bewkes argued it was in Time Warner’s best interest financially to license its television channels, which range from movies to CNN to sports, broadly online.

He said Time Warner had been hampered in innovating and advertising because it does not have the granular information about viewers held by pay TV and internet companies.

With digital advertising, Chevrolet, for example, can target car ads at people looking to actually buy a car, he said.

AT&T has said a key benefit of owning Time Warner is that it can take data about its 141 million U.S. wireless subscribers and 25 million video subscribers and marry it with Time Warner’s programming to enable advertisers to target TV ads.

Targeted TV ads, also known as addressable TV, have yet to go mainstream because they involve renegotiating carriage deals with programmers and distributors, said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research.

Targeted TV could represent more than $100 billion in revenue by 2030 for companies that offer it, according to an April Credit Suisse report, which called it “a largely overlooked benefit of the AT&T/Time Warner transaction.” The ads can be sold at triple the price of regular ads.

“The Google/Facebook duopoly has such a strong hold on the market, I think it’s important that there is healthy competition and that we aren’t just forced to invest in two places,” said Tim Villanueva, head of media strategy for Fetch, an ad agency focused on mobile, whose clients include eBay and Lululemon. He said he was interested in using the new platform.

Advertisers’ spending on TV ads in 2018 is expected to be around $70 billion, a 1.45 percent increase from three years ago, according to research firm eMarketer.

ALREADY INNOVATING?

In cross examination, Justice Department lawyer Claude Scott pointed to efforts that Time Warner was already making to move into targeted advertising and online distribution, including contracting with tech companies, an apparent attempt to call into question the need for the megamerger.

Scott referred to Bewkes’ compensation package, noting that he would be leaving the company when the deal closed and that he owned more than 2 million Time Warner shares. AT&T’s deal for Time Warner is about a 35 percent premium over the market price.

The trial has seen a parade of witnesses testifying about how the merger would affect them. Executives from smaller pay TV companies talked about how important it was to have access to Time Warner’s movies and television shows.

The trial, which began in mid-March in U.S. District Court in Washington, is expected to wrap up this month.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O’Brien

Majority of divisive Facebook ads bought by "suspicious groups" – study

(Reuters) – Most of the political ads about divisive issues that ran on Facebook Inc before the 2016 U.S. presidential election were sponsored by “suspicious groups” with no publicly available information about them, according to a study released on Monday and based on a database of five million ads on Facebook.

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File photo

One in six of those groups was linked to Russia, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study here, and the identities of the rest of the 122 groups that are labeled “suspicious” are still unknown, an indication of the influence of “astroturf” or shell companies in U.S. politics.

Over a quarter of the suspicious ads mentioned Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, two of the presidential candidates in the election, and 9 percent expressly advocated for or against individual candidates.

Most other ads deliberately avoided mentioning candidate names while still getting the message out by doing things like supporting policies pushed by candidates, Young Mie Kim, the lead researcher said. 

The researchers labeled suspicious ad-buyers as groups with pages that have been inactive, inaccessible, removed or banned by Facebook since the election and there was no information available publicly about them.

Project DATA, the research team, also found that voters were also disproportionately targeted in swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania with ads that focused on issues like guns, immigration and race relations.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has announced a crackdown on who buys ads about divisive issues, saying this month that the company would require every such advertiser to confirm their identity and location.

Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr

Renowned Gay Rights Lawyer Self-Immolates in Protest of Climate Policy

David Buckel, a lawyer who spent much of his life campaigning for gay rights, died after setting himself on fire in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park early Saturday. A pair of suicide notes from Buckel described the act as a “protest suicide” intended to “bring some attention to the need for expanded actions” on climate change policy and the use of fossil fuels.

According to eyewitnesses interviewed by the New York Daily News, Buckel’s burning body was near a main entrance to the park, highly visible to Saturday-morning joggers and cyclists. Witnesses described mistaking the burning body for a mannequin before emergency services arrived.

Buckel left two notes — one describing his suicide as a protest, and a second expanding on his motivations. In the second, a copy of which was sent to the Daily News, Buckel wrote that “my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves,” suggesting he had used gasoline or a similar fuel in his suicide.

“Polution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote. “Our present grows more desperate, our future needs more than what we’ve been doing.”

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Recent years, and even recent days, have seen alarming signs that climate change is progressing even faster than scientists had previously projected. Climate scientists this week announced findings that an Atlantic Ocean current that helps equalize global temperatures has slowed drastically, in part because of human-caused climate change, potentially leading to disastrous climate shifts in Europe.

Meanwhile, U.S. political leadership has rolled back efforts to limit the carbon emissions that cause climate change. The Trump administration announced in June of last year that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accords. Earlier this month, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency — led by the embattled, free-spending Scott Pruitt — announced that it would roll back fuel economy standards set under President Barack Obama.

Buckel, 60, had played a prominent role in the fight for gay rights in America for decades. He was the lead attorney in a lawsuit involving Brandon Teena, a transgender murder victim who was portrayed by Hilary Swank the film Boys Don’t Cry, as the Daily News reported.

He had led the push for gay marriage rights at Lambda Legal, a national organization devoted to LGBT issues. In a statement Saturday, Lambda executive Camilla Taylor described Buckel as a “brilliant legal visionary,” particularly praising his work on the cases Nabozny v. Podlesny, which in 1996 established that schools had a responsibility to protect gay students from harassment; and Lewis v. Harris, which helped expand gay marriage rights in the U.S.

In his suicide notes, Buckel compared his death to that of Tibetan monks who have committed suicide in a similar manner to protest Chinese rule over the region.

Germany says it has to assume Russia behind recent cyber attack

BERLIN (Reuters) – The German government has to assume that a cyber attack on its Foreign Ministry stemmed from Russia, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the broadcaster ZDF on Sunday.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Maas listed a series of what he called problematic actions by Moscow, including the lack of progress in implementing a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, a poison gas attack in Britain, Moscow’s support of the Syrian government, Russia’s efforts to influence Western elections, and the cyber attack.

“We had an attack on the Foreign Ministry where we have to assume that it stemmed from Russia,” he said. “We can’t just wish all that away … And I think it’s not only reasonable but necessary to point out that we do not view those as constructive contributions.”

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Tesla Parts Spotted Piled Outside San Jose Machine Shop

A large number of parts intended for the Tesla Model 3, along with parts for the Model S and Model X, have been spotted outside a machine shop in San Jose. Such third parties are sometimes used to fix flawed parts after manufacturing, and previous reports suggest Tesla has struggled with an unusually high rate of flaws in parts coming from suppliers and its own production line.

The parts were spotted by CNBC outside a shop called JL Precision, not far from Tesla’s Fremont factory. They included door frames and a variety of other components shipped from suppliers in China and Ohio. Tesla told CNBC they use JL Precision to add a coating to some parts, but sources within the company said the same shop was used to rework designs or correct flaws in components.

Outsourcing the fixing of flawed parts is common practice in the auto industry, according to a former GM plant manager who spoke to CNBC. But Tesla appears to be dealing with a higher than average ratio of problems, with one engineer there estimating that as many as 40 percent of parts manufactured by Tesla or its suppliers required fixes.

Multiple current and former Tesla employees told CNBC that Tesla spent less time vetting suppliers than is standard in the auto industry, and that some of those responsible for the screening were not experienced with ISO standards and other quality assurance methods normally used in that process.

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A Tesla spokesperson said that parts fixes aren’t adding to delays in Model 3 production, but the reports add to an evolving picture of Tesla’s manufacturing issues. The company has continued to fall far short of production targets, particularly for the new Model 3 sedan. When Model 3 production officially began in July of 2017, Tesla predicted it would be producing 20,000 vehicles per month by December of that year.

But that target has been revised downard repeatedly, and in the entire first quarter of 2018, Tesla produced only about 10,000 Model 3s.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently admitted that part of the problem was his over-commitment to automating the production process. But the reports of supplier issues, along with reports last year of battery pack production shortfalls, suggest an interconnected array of challenges facing the carmaker.

Tesla stock had declined in recent weeks on production worries, but rallied Friday after Musk claimed the company would be profitable by the second half of 2018.

Apple Warns Employees to Stop Leaking Information to Media

Apple Inc. warned employees to stop leaking internal information on future plans and raised the specter of potential legal action and criminal charges, one of the most-aggressive moves by the world’s largest technology company to control information about its activities.

The Cupertino, California-based company said in a lengthy memo posted to its internal blog that it “caught 29 leakers,” last year and noted that 12 of those were arrested. “These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere,” Apple added. The company declined to comment on Friday.

Apple outlined situations in which information was leaked to the media, including a meeting earlier this year where Apple’s software engineering head Craig Federighi told employees that some planned iPhone software features would be delayed. Apple also cited a yet-to-be-released software package that revealed details about the unreleased iPhone X and new Apple Watch.

Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of current models, give rivals more time to begin on a competitive response, and lead to fewer sales when the new product launches, according to the memo. “We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else,” Greg Joswiak, an Apple product marketing executive, said in the memo.

The crackdown is part of broader and long-running attempts by Silicon Valley technology companies to track and limit what information their employees share publicly. Firms like Google and Facebook Inc. are pretty open with staff about their plans, but keep close tabs on their outside communications and sometime fire people when they find leaks.

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg last week talked about her disappointment with leakers. In 2016, Google fired an employee after the person shared internal posts criticizing an executive. The employee filed a lawsuit claiming their speech was protected under California law.

In messages to staff, tech companies sometimes conflate conversations employees are allowed to have, such as complaining about working conditions, with sharing trade secrets, said Chris Baker, an attorney with Baker Curtis and Schwartz, PC, who represents the fired Googler. “The overall broad definition of confidential information makes it so employees don’t say anything, even about issues they’re allowed to talk about,” he said. “That’s problematic.”

Apple is notoriously secretive about its product development. In 2012, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook pledged to double down on keeping the company’s work under wraps. Despite that, the media has continued to report news on the firm to satisfy demand for information on a company that’s become a crucial part of investment portfolios, many of which support public retirement funds for teachers and other essential workers.

In 2017, Apple held a confidential meeting with employees in another bid to stop leaks. Since then, publications, including Bloomberg News, published details about the iPhone X, a new Apple TV video-streaming box, a new Apple Watch with LTE, the company’s upcoming augmented-reality headset, new iPad models, software enhancements, and details about the upcoming iPhones and AirPods headphones.

Here’s the memo:

Last month, Apple caught and fired the employee responsible for leaking details from an internal, confidential meeting about Apple’s software roadmap. Hundreds of software engineers were in attendance, and thousands more within the organization received details of its proceedings. One person betrayed their trust.

The employee who leaked the meeting to a reporter later told Apple investigators that he did it because he thought he wouldn’t be discovered. But people who leak — whether they’re Apple employees, contractors or suppliers — do get caught and they’re getting caught faster than ever.

In many cases, leakers don’t set out to leak. Instead, people who work for Apple are often targeted by press, analysts and bloggers who befriend them on professional and social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and begin to pry for information. While it may seem flattering to be approached, it’s important to remember that you’re getting played. The success of these outsiders is measured by obtaining Apple’s secrets from you and making them public. A scoop about an unreleased Apple product can generate massive traffic for a publication and financially benefit the blogger or reporter who broke it. But the Apple employee who leaks has everything to lose.

The impact of a leak goes far beyond the people who work on a project.

Leaking Apple’s work undermines everyone at Apple and the years they’ve invested in creating Apple products. “Thousands of people work tirelessly for months to deliver each major software release,” says UIKit lead Josh Shaffer, whose team’s work was part of the iOS 11 leak last fall. “Seeing it leak is devastating for all of us.”

The impact of a leak goes beyond the people who work on a particular project — it’s felt throughout the company. Leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of the current model; give rival companies more time to begin on a competitive response; and lead to fewer sales of that new product when it arrives. “We want the chance to tell our customers why the product is great, and not have that done poorly by someone else,” says Greg Joswiak of Product Marketing.

Investments by Apple have had an enormous impact on the company’s ability to identify and catch leakers. Just before last September’s special event, an employee leaked a link to the gold master of iOS 11 to the press, again believing he wouldn’t be caught. The unreleased OS detailed soon-to-be-announced software and hardware including iPhone X. Within days, the leaker was identified through an internal investigation and fired. Global Security’s digital forensics also helped catch several employees who were feeding confidential details about new products including iPhone X, iPad Pro and AirPods to a blogger at 9to5Mac.

Leakers in the supply chain are getting caught, too. Global Security has worked hand-in-hand with suppliers to prevent theft of Apple’s intellectual property as well as to identify individuals who try to exceed their access. They’ve also partnered with suppliers to identify vulnerabilities — both physical and technological — and ensure their security levels meet or exceed Apple’s expectations. These programs have nearly eliminated the theft of prototypes and products from factories, caught leakers and prevented many others from leaking in the first place.

Leakers do not simply lose their jobs at Apple. In some cases, they face jail time and massive fines for network intrusion and theft of trade secrets both classified as federal crimes. In 2017, Apple caught 29 leakers. 12 of those were arrested. Among those were Apple employees, contractors and some partners in Apple’s supply chain. These people not only lose their jobs, they can face extreme difficulty finding employment elsewhere. “The potential criminal consequences of leaking are real,” says Tom Moyer of Global Security, “and that can become part of your personal and professional identity forever.”

While they carry serious consequences, leaks are completely avoidable. They are the result of a decision by someone who may not have considered the impact of their actions. “Everyone comes to Apple to do the best work of their lives — work that matters and contributes to what all 135,000 people in this company are doing together,” says Joswiak. “The best way to honor those contributions is by not leaking.”

A Russian Court Just Ordered the Immediate Blocking of the Telegram Encrypted Messaging App

The encrypted messaging app Telegram must immediately be blocked in Russia, a Moscow court ruled Friday due to Telegram’s refusal to hand over the keys to its users’ conversations.

The Russian communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, told Telegram in mid-2017 that it had to hand over the keys to users’ encrypted conversations. Telegram, which was founded by Russian tech luminary Pavel Durov but operates from outside the country, refused to do so.

As with other modern encryption apps such as WhatsApp, the keys to Telegram users’ private conversations are held on their own devices, so the company running the service does not hold anything it can turn over.

The matter came to a head on Friday morning when, according to Russian news agency TASS, Telegram asked Moscow’s Tagansky court to delay hearings. Durov reportedly told his lawyers not to show up, so as “not to legitimize an outspoken farce by their presence.”

The court turned down the request, and swiftly ordered Telegram’s blocking. “The court ruled to satisfy the demand of Rosomnadzor,” judge Yulia Smolina said.

According to Vedomosti, Telegram now has a month to appeal the block. Telegram’s lawyer told the newspaper that the messaging service plans to do so.

Fortune has asked Telegram for comment, but had received none at the time of writing.

The case has echoes of WhatsApp’s repeated blockage in Brazil, where prosecutors were frustrated by their inability to access the private messages of a suspect in a major drug case.

Telegram has also frequently hit the headlines over its use by terrorists, although that is more to do with its unencrypted “channels” feature, through which people can broadcast their opinions to followers.

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