By Me Today: Facebook Denies ‘Lizard Squad’ Hacking Claim

The story begins:

Facebook Inc. on Tuesday denied being the victim of a hacking attack and said its site and photo-sharing app Instagram had suffered an outage after it introduced a configuration change.

The disruption “was not the result of a third party attack but instead occurred after we introduced a change that affected our configuration systems,” a Facebook spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal. “We moved quickly to fix the problem, and both services are back to 100% for everyone.”

By Me Yesterday: The World Leader in Mobile Facebook Access? Indonesia

My WSJ Digits post begins:

Indonesia leads the world in terms of the percentage of its Facebook users who access the social network on their mobile devices.

That’s according to research firm eMarketer, which said Thursday that some 92.4% of Facebook users in the country — 62.6 million people — tap into the social network via their phones at least once a month. That’s up from 88.1% last year and 77.7% in 2013.

Click through for more.

By Me Yesterday: Twitter Buys India-Based Startup ZipDial to Tap Emerging Markets

Our main story at WSJ.com begins:

Twitter Inc. agreed to buy India-based mobile marketing startup ZipDial for an undisclosed sum in its first acquisition in Asia, as it seeks to tap more offline users in fast-growing emerging markets.

Countries like India, Indonesia and Brazil are key to Twitter as it tries to attract new users and advertising dollars, analysts say. Emerging markets are increasingly becoming an important part of Twitter’s growth strategy as it peaks in developed markets such as the U.S. and the U.K. In the three months ended September, Twitter reached 284 million monthly active users, about 77% of whom came from outside the U.S.

Bangalore-based ZipDial is known for its “missed call” marketing service, which allows consumers to dial a number for a company and hang up before connecting. The company in turn sends them free text messages containing advertisements and other content, like sports scores, without users incurring a charge.

A colleague and I also wrote this primer on ZipDial:

Twitter said Tuesday it is paying an undisclosed sum to acquire ZipDial, a Bangalore, India-based startup known for its success at “missed call” marketing.

Wait, what’s a missed call?

In India, many cost-conscious consumers use missed calls — they dial a number, let it ring, then hang up before connecting — to send a message, like “I’m running late,” to friends and family. A missed call is free, since callers are only charged when the other party answers.

What does ZipDial do?

ZipDial lets companies take advantage of this practice. The startup, which was founded in 2010 and has 56 employees, provides services that allow brands to advertise a number for “missed calls.”

For example, in one campaign for Colgate toothpaste, users could give a missed call to a special number shown on advertising banners in Mumbai, then receive a text message. Consumers would respond to that with their addresses, and then are sent a free sample of toothpaste.

ZipDial’s other clients have included the likes of Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Walt Disney and more.

Click through for more.

My Q&A with Dan Neary, Facebook’s Asia-Pacific VP

It begins:

Dan Neary oversees Facebook Inc. ’s advertising operations across Asia-Pacific, a fast-growing region that is home to some of the social network’s biggest markets.

Nearly all of Facebook’s revenue—some $3.2 billion as of the third quarter—comes from fees companies pay to show users ads.

As the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company continues to add to its 1.35 billion monthly active users globally, many are coming from emerging Asian countries such as Indonesia and India.

Moreover, such users are accessing the platform not just on PCs, but increasingly on mobile devices, presenting new challenges and opportunities for Facebook and advertisers.

Mr. Neary, a 49-year-old Chicago native who began his career at Kellogg Co. before holding senior positions at Skype and eBay Inc., is tasked with ensuring the company continues to profit in an ever-changing technological environment.

In a recent interview at Facebook’s offices in Singapore, Mr. Neary discussed the shift to mobile, as well as what Facebook’s photo-sharing service Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp can contribute to the company.

Mr. Neary was cautious in addressing Founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg ’s October visit to China and possible expansion there, saying only that having access to the country’s 1.3 billion people is an important part of Facebook’s future growth plan.

Click through to read the whole thing.

You may recall that some of my similar interviews in the past — part of our “Boss Talk” series — include chats with BlackBerry Chief Executive John Chen; Twitter’s vice president of Asia Pacific, the Americas and emerging markets, Shailesh Rao; and Evernote Chief Executive Phil Libin.

By Me and a Colleague: BlackBerry Releases High-End ‘Classic’ Smartphone in India

A story I wrote with colleague Jai Krishna:

Samsung this week said it would unveil in India a sub-$100 smartphone based on its own operating system, its latest attempt to turn around its declining sales.

That isn’t stopping rival BlackBerry from launching a high-end smartphone in the country, with the Canadian company hoping corporate executives and professionals there will pay a premium for its devices.

BlackBerry on Thursday said it is releasing its new Classic phone for 31,990 rupees ($518), slightly higher than the $449 it costs in the U.S., where it went on sale in December.

The Classic, which comes with a physical QWERTY keyboard and trackpad, reflects the company’s plan to appeal to corporate customers in search of secure services, Sunil Lalvani, managing director at BlackBerry India, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

Click through to read the rest.

By Me Today: Nintendo Pulls the Plug on Brazil

From my post today at WSJ Digits:

It’s game over for Nintendo in Brazil.

The Japanese videogame maker on Friday said it is ending direct sales of its games and consoles in Latin America’s biggest economy due to what it called a business environment that made its operations “unsustainable” there.

High import taxes have meant that games like the company’s popular “Super Smash Bros.” cost nearly 20% more than in the U.S. Other Latin American countries, which have a separate distributor, will not be affected.

Aunt Cece and Her Pecan Pie Make Their WSJ Debut

2014 12 16 aunt cece

Longtime Newley.com readers will recall that I have blogged, in past years, about my Aunt Cece’s pecan pie.

I absolutely love it. And I make a point to bake one every Thanksgiving.

I’m happy to say that her fantastic dish figures in this story I wrote for WSJ Expat about connections that folks who live abroad feel to food from home:

American holidays and customs resonate strongly with me during this time of year, even amid the heat and sunshine of my adopted Southeast Asian home.

The nostalgia surprises me sometimes. Born in Oregon and raised in South Carolina, when I still lived in the U.S. I never really cared that much about Thanksgiving, for instance. Then I moved to Thailand in 2006. It was only there, surrounded by central Bangkok’s gray concrete buildings, with puttering tuk-tuks buzzing in my ears, that this most American of holidays firmly took root in my heart.

Perhaps it was homesickness mixing with a bit of sentimentality I didn’t know I had. The result was a hankering for down-home side dishes like deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, and—best of all—my Aunt Cece’s South Carolina pecan pie, not to mention cranberry sauce and my mother’s oyster pie. My wife—also an American—and I used these dishes to maintain a connection to home and celebrate with our close-knit group of friends since our relatives were so far away. We moved to Singapore in February and continue to celebrate American holidays here, in this similarly tropical city-state.

It turns out I’m not the only foreigner whose view on his or her home country’s holidays have changed over time, though not always in ways you’d expect.

Click through for photos, input from other expats, and — perhaps best of all — the recipe for Aunt Cece’s pie.

John Cassidy on the Business of Journalism: VC Funding and Online Subscriptions Show Promise

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, who writes about economics and politics, on the current state of the business of journalism:

While many journalists have lost faith in the future of their trade, venture capitalists are taking the opposite view. Far from giving up on journalism, they are providing big chunks of funding to online news providers, such as BuzzFeed, Vice, and Vox. Some of what these publishers put out is mere click bait, but they also produce serious journalism, such as this story, from The Verge, a Vox site, which details how the N.Y.P.D. is using social media to lock up Harlem teens, and this interview that Vice scored with James Mitchell, the psychologist who helped the C.I.A. to develop its “enhanced interrogation”—i.e., torture—techniques.

And:

In addition, online journalism is thriving at many publications that are still widely regarded as “old media.” At the New York Times and other major newspapers, digital subscriptions are rising steadily. To be sure, the revenues from this source haven’t fully replaced all the lost revenues from print subscriptions and print advertising: in some parts of the industry, this may well never happen. But subscription-based journalism (encompassing digital and print) is rapidly becoming financially viable, at least for national publications. And that really is good news. Advertising-funded journalists are beholden to advertisers, page-view metrics, and social-media algorithms. Subscription-funded journalists are beholden to readers.

And:

The rise of online subscriptions isn’t confined to the Times. According to figures from the Alliance for Audited Media, the Wall Street Journal now has more than nine hundred thousand digital subscribers. (Its total circulation is close to 2.3 million.) The Financial Times, which helped to pioneer the metered-paywall model, which allows readers to read a certain number of stories a month before being charged, has gone further in this direction than any other major newspaper. According to Rachel Taube, a spokeswoman for the paper, it now has 476,000 digital subscribers, compared with 217,171 print subscribers. Although it is still known as the Pink ’Un, a reference to the pink paper it is printed on, it is now predominantly a digital publication.

And:

Of course, none of this means that journalism is out of the woods. Regional newspapers, which by definition have smaller markets than national ones, have been hit particularly hard by the decline in print advertising. Magazines, especially small ones, such as The New Republic, also face major challenges, which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post. Throughout the industry, job cuts and efforts to restrict wages and benefits will probably continue. Unless publishers can find a way to expand digital advertising and supplement the money they get from subscriptions, keeping costs in line with revenues will always be a demanding task. That means funding big, time-consuming investigative projects will continue to be a problem. But the argument that newspapers are dinosaurs, destined to be replaced by nimbler online competitors, looks a good deal less convincing than it did a few years ago. And considering where we have been, that qualifies as good news.

Read the whole thing. And subscribe to The WSJ here! :-)

Frontline’s ‘United States of Secrets’

If you haven’t watched it yet, clear a few hours from your schedule at some point and watch the two-part Frontline special on the NSA and Edward Snowden that ran in May.

It’s called “United States of Secrets.”

Even if, like me, you think you understand the history of the NSA and the general technical aspects of what Snowden leaked, you may be surprised. Very much worth a watch.

Part 1 is stream-able via the PBS site here.

Part 2 is stream-able here.