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Mochi Media Launching Payments Platform For Flash Games. Early Results Are Stunning

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Mochi Media continues to quietly build out monetization and reporting tools for Flash game developers. In May we reported on the big growth in their ad network – over 100 million people a month now play games that include their ads. You can find their games on big sites like Hi5, RockYou and Meebo. We’ve heard that games that include Mochi Media stats or advertising products are played over 1.5 billion times a month.

These games are embedded on publisher sites and are very often “borrowed” by other sites who just lift the Flash files. So it’s important that the game files generate revenue directly. Ads served by the publisher around the game aren’t reliable. Mochi Media puts the ads directly into the games, so even if they are ripped off, the ads still show and create revenue.

The problem is these ads don’t make a whole lot of money – the industry average is around $0.50 per 1,000 game plays.

To fuel revenue growth to developers (and therefore Mochi Media), the company has launched a payments platform called MochiCoins with a handful of game developers. MochiCoins lets developers charge for game upgrades – users can pay for coins via credit card, PayPal or SuperRewards, and the coins that then be used to purchase upgrades in games.

The early results, we’ve heard from someone close to a game developer on the platform, are stunning.

SAS: Zombie Assault 2 is killing it. The game has normal Mochi Ads, but users can also purchase better weapons and other stuff to kill zombies faster and better. It’s addictive. I spent over an hour “testing” the game earlier this evening and spent $5 in upgrades in an astonishingly short period of time. Try it – you can log in via Facebook Connect and be spending money like a drunken venture capitalist in no time.


In early testing, says our source, users are buying stuff and lots of it. The average revenue has increased dramatically to $6.50 per thousand game plays.

Users are paying for upgrades and subscriptions on the iPhone, Facebook and other platforms already and proving that good apps and games can generate a lot of easy money. But what Mochi is doing is completely decentralized. The game I embedded on that page, without the developers permission, is making money for that developer and for Mochi Media.

In other words, go ahead and steal these games. They’d love nothing more.

Mochi Media has raised $14 million over two venture capital financing rounds.

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AudioMicro Partners With SlideRocket, Revamps Music Licensing Platform

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Stock music and sounds effects marketplace AudioMicro has overhauled its web service to make it easier for users to discover and license stock audio material.

In addition, the startup is announcing a partnership with online presentation software maker SlideRocket, which basically means its library of stock music and royalty-free sound effects will now be included in the SlideRocket marketplace.

The revamp of the site consists of both a cleaner design and more functionality. One of those new features is the addition of promotion codes you can pass to friends, and of course we requested some for you. The first 100 technologyCrunch readers to sign up for AudioMicro using the promotion code “technologyCRUNCH2” get access to 2 free audio downloads credits (an $8.99 value).

As for the new site: the search process, which was below par before, has been completely redesigned and looks and feels much better now. You can now also take audio files with you on the web, meaning that there’s now an embed code that you can use to embed tracks on your blog, social network account, etc. (example below). AudioMicro also introduced some type of ‘lightbox’ feature that lets you create favorite lists and buy the audio material on there at a later time.

Finally, there’s an API available now that allows approved partners to create applications using the AudioMicro library. The SlideRocket partnership is a first result of the new API: utilizing it, SlideRocket users can now license tracks from the AudioMicro archive and incorporate them directly into their SlideRocket presentations.

Last month, AudioMicro announced the availability of its second iPhone app, AudioMicro Lite (iTunes link). The app includes over 50 royalty -ree sound effects as well as a “Sneak Attack” feature, which sets the iPhone to play a specified sound effect when the device is moved by an unsuspecting person (lots of fun). For 99 cents, users can upgrade to the full AudioMicro app, which includes over 500 professional sound effects.

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BookFresh Is OpenTable For Everything Else

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

33In the online reservation space, you probably know about OpenTable. The restaurant reservation service’s IPO in a time of drought for IPOs, made big headlines. Now imagine OpenTable for just about everything besides restaurants. That’s BookFresh.

Who might need such a service? A lot more services and individuals than you may realize. While most services have some sort of scheduling system, many aren’t optimized, and can’t adapt on the fly to openings/changes. Massage therapists, dentists, doctors are all perfect examples of who could use such a system, founder Ryan Donahue tells us. He notes that health and beauty has been a particularly hot area.

He knows that because the service has actually been around for a little while, but it was formerly know as HourTown. But BookFresh is a much better name for the service because, “appointments are much like produce items in a grocery store, it’s a perishable thing,” Donahue says.

And a name change isn’t all that in-store for users. BookFresh wants to be the main platform for all online appointment booking on the web. As such, they’ve created APIs to let developers of sites take advantage of their tools. But you don’t have to be a developer to implement the service, anyone can do it with a simple line of code added to their site. This is important because a lot of people BookFresh is targeting are one-person or small operations, that probably don’t have a web development team.

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Donahue likens the idea of BookFresh as an appointment platform to PayPal as a payment platform. (And he should know, he used to work at PayPal — incidentally with Jeffrey Jordan, the CEO of OpenTable.) He notes that just like a lot of sites out there don’t want to go through the hassle of building their own payment system, they also don’t want to have to make an online booking system. Sure, it’s not as complex, but it’s still a hassle — and might as well be impossible for little shops/services.

And BookFresh offers some nice things with its platform. One is the ability for businesses that use it to get calls when a customer is requesting an appointment time. From your phone, you can opt to accept or decline the request. That’s perfect for someone like a plumber, who may be always on the go and not able to get to a computer to confirm appointments. And the offers easy integration with Google Calendar and iCal to place appointments in your own personal calendars automatically when you accept them.

Alongside the name change, BookFresh is announcing a partnership with Webs.com, one of the largest sites for building free websites out there. A lot of small business owners are already using it, and now they’ll have one click access to install BookFresh if they choose to.

In terms of monetization, the service is free for the end user, but businesses/individuals who wish to use it will pay a month fee that starts at $19.95. If larger sites choose to sign-on, there are other deals such as revenue sharing that can take place.

In terms of competition, there is Appointment-plus, but their service forces you back to their servers to handle everything. BookFresh’s platform allows users to stay on the page they are already on to set everything up, Donahue says.

One service that BookFresh won’t be competing with is OpenTable. They have no interest in getting into the restaurant space, Donahue says.

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Information provided by CrunchBase

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Google Dips Its Toe Into Travel Space With City Tours

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Google has just debuted the latest entry to its fleet of Labs products, introducing the search giant to the travel space. Dubbed City Tours, the new site can build itineraries for brief trips to locations around the globe in a matter of seconds. At this point details on the new product are fairly sparse — it looks like Google hasn’t written its customary blog post yet, but given how basic the product is it’s pretty easy to figure out how it works.

Getting started is incredibly easy — just type in where you’re visiting (say, San Francisco or London), and Google will present a suggested itinerary spanning a three day trip, with around a dozen attractions per day depending on the city. From there you can change the number of days you’ll be staying (Google will show more attractions the longer you stay), and you can also manually adjust the list of places you’d like to visit. You can add a new attraction by entering its name in a text field, and Google will try to find it in its database. All attractions include a star rating, along with its hours operation and location.

For the most part adding attractions works pretty well (which is going to be key given that you can’t expect Google to predict everything you’ll want to see). It managed to find the London Eye perfectly, and it even figured out that Platform 9¾ was located at the King’s Cross Rail Station. That said, it isn’t perfect: a search for Hyde Park directed me to a nearby hostel, which I suppose would have gotten me there but probably isn’t the ideal result.

Perhaps the coolest part of the new product is the way it uses Google Maps to figure out which locations are closest to each other. Rather than simply present a list of places Google thinks you might want to check out, the site will logically order them according to where they’re located, minimizing the travel time between each.

Given its status as a Labs product this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but there are still a few kinks in City Tours. For one, I am apparently unable to remove events from my suggested itinerary (I’ve tried in both Firefox and Safari with the same issue). Likewise, sometimes when I click on the name of a location nothing happens. And it badly needs support for Google Transit, which can automatically route you across town using public transportiation — my London tour included a 99 minute walk that would have only been a couple minutes away had I ridden on the Tube.

In the mean time, there are plenty of other travel sites that offer similar (and in many cases, more robust) functionality than Google’s City Tours, including TC50 finalist GoPlanit, Offbeat Guides, and Zicasso.

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Looking for a Freelance Project Bonanza? Look No Further than DoNanza!

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Some of you may be growing tired of hearing about companies described as the “Kayak of _____” but if the analogy fits, we might as well abuse it. So without further ado, I give you DoNanza, the Kayak of online freelance project search. With 70,000 projects on offer, there’s a high chance there’s something for you as well so you should consider giving it a whirl if you’re looking to make some extra money on the side in these tough times.

DoNanza_filtersThe one thing you have to keep in mind about DoNanza is that it keeps clear of offline gigs, so if you’re looking for an office job, DoNanza isn’t for you. It does however have 70,000 projects available right now, with 30,000 new projects added each week, or about 4,000 a day. There are 12 main categories with more than 400 sub-categories. The most active in terms of user-interest are (in the following order): Writing, Web Development, Graphic Design, Virtual Admin. Support, Translation, Marketing, SEO, and Programming.

DoNanza currently aggregates its freelance and crowd-source projects from 300 websites, with another 300 sites to be added in the coming months. Amazingly (or maybe not, really), 99% of the projects are indexed via scraping, with only a handful added manually.

There are a couple of main features I really like about DoNanza. First, its filtering tools are very clear and effective—nothing innovative, but often common-sense discovery tools are misguidedly cut from a public launch for some reason. On DoNanza, searches can be fine-tuned wit sliders on several levels, from Budget/Reward (Fixed/Hourly/Revenue-Share), to Project Type (Contest/Bidding/Other), to Time Left and Date Posted. The second useful feature is that each project’s details are displayed in an easy to skim form (see screenshot below). Again, not rocket science, but it makes the sometimes cumbersome chore of going through a myriad of search results a breeze.

DoNanza is also jumping on the ever-growing Twitter bandwagon by tweeting out new project notifications. Handles include: @dnzSEOfor SEO, @dnzWriting for Writing, @dnzPHP for PHP, @dnzDataEntry for Data Entry and more.

Demonstrating that it believes in freelancers, the DoNanza team outsourced much of its site development, including the UI, search engine, crawlers, as well as the indexing and data evaluation mechanisms. The company has yet to start making money but is planning on introducing sponsored links and projects in a couple of months. In the meantime, it’s pretty much a traffic and retention game.

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Yep, iPorn Is Here For The iPhone

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

picture-56Just as we were speculating a couple nights ago, Apple has apparently decided that with the new parental controls now built into the iPhone 3.0 SDK, nudity is now okay in iPhone apps. The first such app, Hottest Girls, has actually been around for a little while. But an update today “upgraded” the pictures from girls in bikinis and lingerie, to topless and completely naked girls.

“We uploaded nude topless pics today. This is the first app to have nudity,” Hottest Girls’ developer Allen Leung tells Macenstein. Quite an accomplishment.

While some will undoubtedly see this as a bad thing, I think this is actually a good thing. First of all, allowing mature content like this should free up the App Store screeners to be able to focused on finding apps that are actually malicious or out of line, rather than being prude-police.

Second, as we all know, porn is a big industry and as long as the kiddies can’t see it, there’s nothing wrong with adults being allowed to get it on their iPhones. It should make developers a lot of money. And it should make Apple, with its 30% cut, a lot of money. Still, I’d be surprised if we see hardcore pornography in the App Store anytime soon, but who knows.

Lastly, this is the App Store opening up a bit more once again. It did a bit last year when it started letting in cartoon violence NC-17 games, and this is the next step. A more open store, is a better store. Yes, even if it means a flood of crappy soft porn apps. Options are good, download what you want. Though I still believe there needs to be a better sorting and highlighting mechanism from Apple for apps.

It’s possible that this is another case of Apple letting an app slip through that shouldn’t have, but given that the developer is playing up the nudity on the app page, I doubt it. And it looks like Apple has a new rating sub-heading: Rated 17+ for “Frequent/Intense Sexual Content or Nudity.”

Hottest Girls is $1.99 in the App Store. Find it here.

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Did Shaq Just Find Out He Was Traded On Twitter?

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

shaq9Another day, another weird Twitter story. Tonight the news broke that NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal was being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Huge news, but what’s humorous is that apparently Shaq found out he was traded on Twitter.

Look at Shaq’s last few tweets. Several minutes ago he tweeted out “I didn’t hear dat yet” in response to this tweet, “is it true u a CLEVELAND CAVALIER.” A few minutes later someone sent Shaq the following tweet, “U CLEVELAND BOUND…shaq found out he was traded thru twitter! lmao….hahahaaaaaa” Shaq’s response? “I kno right.”

He went silent after that. Hopefully his agent called him to tell him the news. Then I fully expect a rush of good rush of tweets name-dropping LeBron James. The trade was rumored to be going down during the regular season, so I’m happy for the big guy that it got done. As well as for my hometown Cleveland Cavs.

Shaq is one of the most popular Twitter users with nearly 1.4 million followers.

This looks to be yet another example of Twitter being used to break news. Albeit much, much less substantial than what is going on in Iran.

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[thanks Jon]

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Wikinvest Hopes Redesign Will Attract The Yahoo Finance Crowd

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

Finance sites like Yahoo Finance and Google Finance haven’t changed much in the past ten years. The fonts are different. Maybe there’s some more real-time quotes and fancier, interactive charts. But at their core they all follow pretty much the same formula: dump as much data on the individual investor as they can and let them figure it out. Wikinvest, which started out as a crowd-sourced investing site, is trying to change all of that with a complete redesign that is being turned on tonight for members who log in.

Over the past two years, Wikinvest has become a great resource for researching stocks but some of its most interesting data was hidden away. It is not a daily habit like other finance sites, attracting only about 500,000 unique visitors a month. The redesign aims to change that by putting all of Wikinvest’s industry- and company-specific data front and center. Each stock page has a chart, key metrics, a news feed, wiki analysis, and opinions from bulls and bears.

But there is a new data central tab which presents financial data in new ways. For each metric, whether it is revenues, operating margins, or debt-to-equity ratios, Wikinvest tells you whether the number you are looking at is high, low, or average compared to the industry. It also computes trends for you such as revenue growth and net income growth. Hovering over an one of these numbers produces a mini chart graphing the trend over time.

Beyond that, though, Wikinvest shows industry metrics which can give investors insights into the health of the company. For instance, the industry metrics it shows for Google include ad revenue growth, paid clicks increase, and market share of searches. All of these also have their own little charts, each of which are embeddable. Here are the charts for ad revenue growth and licensing growth:

You can also create charts which compare Google to Microsoft, Yahoo, and eBay across a variety of metric. Here is one comparing advertising revenues:

The whole point is to make the data intelligible. If you don’t know what the Price to Sales ratio means, you can click on it and get a definition

In addition to making all the data come more alive, Wikinvest also now has a news feed for each stock. But instead of showing articles tagged with the ticker symbol, which is now overused by every finance news site from Forbes.com to the Motley Fool, it matches words in articles to its own database of 100,000 keywords associated with different companies. Its news feed shows headlines and snippets of text from 200 trusted sources, ranging from Bloomberg and the New York Times to wonkish finance and economic blogs. This casts a wider net and brings back different types of headlines than you might find on Yahoo Finance, although it may be too wide a net. I am not sure why a Forbes story about the hospital where Steve Jobs got his liver transplant comes up on the Yahoo stock page.

Is that enough to make it the new Yahoo Finance? No, but at least it’s something different.

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Like TweetDeck? Like TechCrunch? Then You’ll Love This.

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

picture-143You might not think that we here at technologyCrunch have a lot in common with the band Blink 182. But actually, we do. We both now have our own branded TweetDeck applications. You can find ours here.

technologyCrunch TweetDeck users will get all the features of the normal version of TweetDeck (Twitter, Facebook, 12seconds, etc, integration), with the added bonus of the technologyCrunch Column, as an option. This column features tweets from technologyCrunch’s writing staff. It’s seriously riveting stuff. Why just last night, our own Robin Wauters tweeted out, “Cleaning up disks, creating backups etc. Necessary evil.”

Seriously though, we do occasionally share interesting stuff. And if news is breaking, there’s a good chance you’ll get it from one of us first. And you’ll be getting a version of TweetDeck with the handsome technologyCrunch logo all over it. What’s not to love? Get it now.

TweetDeck is available for Mac, Windows and Linux, it just requires Adobe AIR. The company, which secured angel funding in January, has been working on getting more services integrated into its client. Last week, it launched an iPhone app that has been gaining popularity quickly.

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PubMatic Launches Dynamic Ad Price Prediction Tool

June 25th, 2009 admin No comments

With ad pricing from ad networks changing constantly, publishers not only have to keep a pulse on revenue from impressions, but also on which ad network is delivering the best value. In fact, publishers can benefit greatly from diversification in this dynamic environment. PubMatic, an online ad optimization service and technologyCrunch 40 company, is launching a new product, Ad Price Prediction, that matches the optimal ad network with every ad impression with real-time functionality.

Ad Price Prediction’s algorithm has been developed using data collected by PubMatic’s ad optimization service over the past three years. The company processes more than 100,000 data transactions per second through ads served for 6,000 publishing customers, and has applied this data to its technology to enable real-time processing.

PubMatic offers a meta ad server that sits between online publishers and online ad networks like Google AdSense, Yahoo Publisher Network and Value Click. Their service helps publishers manage and maximize their advertising inventory by communicating with multiple ad networks to help them find the optimal ad layout and the highest paying ad network. They also provide users with a central dashboard to track all their ad networks and ad configurations.

Ad Price Prediction’s algorithm compares the price difference between behavioral targeting and contextual targeting on a single ad impression and then serves the publisher the higher paying ad. PubMatic says that its premier customers, publishers with more than $5 million in annual online revenue, were able to lift ad revenue by as much as 70% using Ad Price Prediction.

Competitors to PubMatic include YieldBuild and the Rubicon Project. AdWhirl also does dynamic ad optimization, but only for iPhone developers.

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