Author: Catherine Shu

Spotify will now suspend or terminate accounts it finds are using ad blockers

Spotify will take a harder stance on ad blockers in its updated terms of service. In an email to users today, the streaming music and podcast platform said its new user guidelines “mak[e] it clear that all types of ad blockers, bots and fraudulent streaming activities are not permitted.” Accounts that use ad blockers face immediate suspension or termination under the new terms of service, which go into effect on March 1. Ad blockers have long been a headache for Spotify. The company disclosed in March 2018 while preparing for its initial public offering that it discovered two million users, or about 1.3 percent of its total user base at the time, had been using ad blockers on the free version of Spotify, enough to force it to restate usage metrics. Around that time, Spotify also began cracking down on unauthorized Android apps that let people access Spotify without ads. In its new terms of service, Spotify says “circumventing or blocking advertisements in the Spotify Service, or creating and distributing tools designed to block advertisements in the Spotify Service” may now result in “immediate termination or suspension of your Spotify account.” During its fourth-quarter earnings report yesterday, Spotify reported positive operating profit, net income and free cash flow for the first time since it was founded in 2006. The company, which went public in May 2018, fell below analysts’...

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NASA releases the “last light” image taken by Kepler before it retired last year

NASA Kepler space telescope’s “last light” image NASA has released the final view taken by Kepler in September, shortly before the space telescope was retired after nearly a decade of unprecedented discoveries about the universe beyond our solar system. “It bookends the moment of intense excitement nine and a half years earlier when the spacecraft first opened its eye to the skies and captured its ’first light’ image,” wrote NASA Ames Research Center public affairs officer Alison Hawkes. “Kepler went on to discover more than 2,600 worlds beyond our solar system and statistically proved that our galaxy has even more planets than stars.” The “last light” image was taken on September 25, about a month before Kepler retired. The space telescope was pointed in the direction of the Aquarius constellation and the image encompasses the TRAPPIST-1 system, containing “seven rocky planets, at least three of them believed to be temperate worlds,” Hawkes wrote, and the GJ 9827 system, a star with an orbiting super Earth exoplanet (or planet outside the Solar System) that is “considered an excellent opportunity for follow up observations with other telescopes to study an atmosphere of a faraway world.” Kepler’s field of view also slightly overlapped with NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), its planet-hunting successor, so astronomers will be able to compare data from the two. TESS launched last year and is expected to...

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YouTube’s CEO says it will continue addressing monetization issues, admits Rewind 2018 was “cringey”

In an open letter to YouTube creators today, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki admitted that even her kids think Rewind 2018 is “cringey.” Meant as a celebratory recap, the video has garnered a record-setting 15 million dislikes so far. “We hear you that it didn’t accurately show the year’s key moments, nor did it reflect the YouTube you know. We’ll do better to tell our story in 2019,” Wojcicki wrote. [embedded content] Wojcicki also mentioned important issues like Article 13, proposed legislation in the European Union nicknamed the “meme ban” for its potentially chilling effect on user-generated content and monetization. Many creators saw their revenue hurt during “Adpocalypse” last year after YouTube introduced new policies to placate advertisers. Intended to keep ads from running in front of videos with objectionable content, creators said the policies also resulted in the demonetization of many videos without a clear reason. But the letter is unlikely to address the concerns of creators who are still trying to recover revenue or gain a better understanding of how YouTube’s policies are enforced. For example, Wojcicki repeated the statistic that the number of YouTube creators “earning five or six figures in the last year grew more than 40 percent,” which the platform has said since at least December 2017, when Adpocalypse began. (That month, Bloomberg published a story that said YouTube claimed channels making six figures or...

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Nintendo to open its first official store located in Japan

Fourteen years after unveiling its first location in New York, Nintendo is finally opening an official store in Japan, too. Nintendo Tokyo will be located in Shibuya Parco, the new flagship of the Parco department store chain. Nintendo Tokyo is scheduled to open at the same time as the shopping center in fall. In an announcement, Nintendo said “we are preparing to make this store, which will be a new base for communicating Nintendo information in Japan, an enjoyable place for a wide range of consumers.” In addition to games, consoles, accessories like amiibo, and branded merchandise, Nintendo Tokyo will also host gaming kiosks and events (if the New York store, in Rockefeller Center, is anything to go by, these might include tournaments, demos, and launches). Nintendo recently posted strong third-quarter revenue growth, but also cut its Switch forecast for the year. Sales may pick up again, however, if Nintendo releases a smaller and less expensive version of the console, as Japanese financial publication Nikkei reported it plans to...

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Samsung posts fourth-quarter profit drop, warns of weak demand until the second half of 2019

Samsung Electronics reported its largest quarterly profit decline in two years during its earnings report today. As the Galaxy maker warned in its earnings guidance earlier this month, its results were hurt by slower-than-expected demand for semiconductors, which had bolstered its earnings in previous quarters even when smartphone sales were slow. Samsung’s forecast was also dour, at least for the first half of the year. It said annual earnings will decline thanks to continuing weak demand for chips, but expects demand for memory products and OLED panels to improve during the second half. The company’s fourth-quarter operating profit was...

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Several top Pandora executives, including CEO Roger Lynch, will leave after its acquisition by SiriusXM

Pandora announced today that shareholders have approved its $3.5 billion acquisition by SiriusXM. After the transaction closes, several key Pandora executives will leave, including CEO Roger Lynch, general counsel Steve Bene, CFO Naveen Chopra, and chief human resources officer Kristen Robinson. SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer will lead the combined company. Pandora and SiriusXM announced the proposed acquisition last September, with SiriusXM offering to pay $3.5 billion in stock, or $10.14 per share, for Pandora. Sirius and Pandora services will continue as before the acquisition. The deal is meant to “capitalize on cross-promotion opportunities,” as the companies put it, so...

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Fortnite’s login and game are down

Fortnite is currently down for many players. The Twitter account for the Epic Games’ title, now the most popular video game in the world, confirmed the problem, tweeting “We’re aware that players are experiencing issues when attempting to use Epic Games services. We’re currently working on a resolution and will keep you updated. We’re aware that players are experiencing issues when attempting to use Epic Games services. We’re currently working on a resolution and will keep you updated. — Fortnite (@FortniteGame) January 29, 2019 Further details on Epic Games’ status page said it had identified an issue with logins and as of 01:53 UTC was still working on a fix. While the game, login, and store are experiencing major outages, Fortnite’s website, forums, and messaging services are still operational. Fortnite’s issues comes half a day after Instagram was briefly offline. Netflix is still up, if you need something to pass the...

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BuzzFeed employees demand it pay out earned PTO to all laid-off U.S. staffers

A group of current and former BuzzFeed employees are asking the company to pay out paid time off to all recently laid-off staff. In response, Lenke Taylor, BuzzFeed’s human resources lead, said it wants to meet with staff and is “open to re-evaluating” its decision on PTO. In an open letter to Smith, BuzzFeed’s CEO Jonah Peretti, and editor in chief Ben Smith, and signed by more than 400 employees so far, the BuzzFeed News Staff Council wrote “BuzzFeed is refusing to pay out earned, accrued, and vested paid time off for almost all U.S. employees who have been...

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