Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
10 ways Facebook is telling businesses to confront changing ad market

The soaring usage of Facebook on mobile devices has generated an expensive problem for the companies that advertise on the 1.3-billion-user social network.

Facebook shows fewer ads on its mobile properties than on its traditional website, meaning companies are finding themselves placing higher bids to win those few coveted placements.

About 30% of Facebook’s regular users solely visit from smartphones and tablets, up from 19% a year ago. And the gap between heavy users of Facebook in general and heavy users of Facebook mobile has narrowed since last year to 21%, from 33%.

In its earning call last month, Facebook laid out how that’s changed advertising in the past year: 25% fewer ads displayed and a 123% increase in the effective price per ad.

The shift is adding to the frustration for companies that have already had to confront the fact that as Facebook adds users, posts that the companies don't pay to promote are being seen by fewer of their fans.

Facebook officials are touring the...

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Sprint, T-Mobile duke it out with new unlimited plans

After antitrust concerns sank a Sprint and T-Mobile merger this summer, the two carriers are now duking it out for customers with new unlimited data packages announced Thursday morning.

Sprint introduced a $60 monthly plan that features unlimited talk, text and data. The plan launches Friday for existing and new Sprint customers who pay for a smartphone at full price, bring their own device or get one through Sprint's Easy Pay plan, the company's installment billing option.

The new unlimited plan is targeted toward individuals and comes a few days after the Kansas company announced the Sprint Family Share Pack, designed for large families who use a lot of data. Under that plan, families of four who sign up before October can get unlimited talk and text and 20 gigabytes of monthly data for $100 per month through the end of 2015. 

In response to Sprint's new pricing, T-Mobile announced it would give a year's worth of unlimited data to customers who recruit a Sprint, AT&T or Verizon...

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Ahead of iPhone 6, Wal-Mart rolls back prices on iPhone 5s, 5c

Ahead of next month's expected iPhone 6 unveiling, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is looking to clear its inventory of last year's iPhones by announcing drastic price cuts Wednesday night. 

The Arkansas retailer said it will sell the iPhone 5c for 97 cents and the 5s for $79, down from their regular prices of $99 and $199, respectively. The devices will be available on two-year contracts for Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and US Cellular. The lower prices take effect Thursday and will be available for 90 days, Wal-Mart said.

But Apple's next devices will probably go on sale in a few weeks. A report this month said the company will unveil the gadgets Sept. 9, and normally when it announces a new iPhone, Apple starts selling the devices that Friday or the following one. The iPhone 6 is expected to be thinner than before and feature a 4.7-inch screen.

Want the latest iPhone news? Follow me on Twitter: @sal19

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UPS Stores hit by breach of credit card, customer data

Customers at UPS Stores in Orange and 50 other locations across the country may have had their personal information and credit or debit card details swiped by hackers from January to this month, though the shipping company has found no evidence of fraud linked to the intrusion.

"I understand this type of incident can be disruptive and cause frustration," Tim Davis, president of the UPS Store Inc., said in a statement Wednesday. " I apologize for any anxiety this may have caused our customers."

The company said more than 100,000 transactions could have been exposed by a "limited malware intrusion," but it didn't know exactly how many or which customers were affected. The company told customers to check whether they shopped at any of the affected locations, which also included three in Northern California.

"We encourage you to remain vigilant by reviewing your account statements and monitoring your free credit reports," the company said in a letter to consumers. "If you believe your...

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Vine makes a play for brands by adding video-import feature

Hoping to lure brands onto its platform, the social app Vine on Wednesday added an import feature to its service that should make it easier for users to create videos.

Until now, users have had to create the six-second videos shared on Vine using the camera on their smartphones. That has required users to be creative about the clips they make, but it has also made it difficult for marketers to post the kind of high-quality videos they run on TV or post on YouTube.

The new import feature should fix that by making it possible for users to shoot using professional-grade cameras, edit with high-end software, save the videos onto their smartphones then upload them into the Twitter-owned mobile app.

Importing will benefit all Vine users, but more importantly, it will attract more brands onto the growing social network, said Jonathan Skogmo, chief of Jukin Media, a company that buys the rights to viral Vine videos. 

"Brands are going to be using Vine a little bit more, just like they use...

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Twitter, YouTube try to stamp out images of journalist's beheading

Twitter has been suspending the accounts of some users who share images and videos that show the beheading of journalist James Foley by the militant group Islamic State.

The move to delete the tweets and temporarily suspend the posters has generated a mix of support and backlash on the social network, which said it has a policy of removing images of the deceased when requested by a family member. The content subject to removal should relate to the critical injury or the moments before or after death, per Twitter's policy.

Twitter launched with a spirit of openness but has more recently tried to balance competing interests of the media and private individuals as it seeks to become as mainstream as Facebook.

Foley was working as a freelance journalist for Global Post when he was taken hostage in Syria in 2012. The video of the execution-style murder of Foley was posted online by the Islamic State, an Al Qaeda-linked group that has seized control of parts of Syria and Iraq. 

The video...

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Netflix, Time Warner Cable reach deal on streaming quality

Netflix Inc. has signed a deal with Time Warner Cable that should bring more consistent, high-quality streams of movies and TV shows to the cable company's Internet subscribers.

“Time Warner Cable reached an agreement with Netflix in June and we began the interconnection between our networks this month," the dominant cable provider in Los Angeles said in a statement.

Though its reached similar agreements with Comcast, Verizon and AT

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Barnes & Noble, Samsung join forces for new Nook tablet

After nearly two years without releasing a new tablet, Barnes & Noble on Wednesday unveiled the $179 Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, a tablet co-branded with Samsung.

The new Nook is essentially a clone of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 4, both featuring seven-inch touch screens as well as front- and back-facing cameras. The major difference is the Nook sells content through Barnes & Noble's digital store, instead of Google Play as most Android devices do. The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook is on sale now online and at Barnes & Noble stores.

Barnes & Noble began selling Nook tablets in late 2012 to keep up with its online rival Amazon.com. But its efforts quickly foundered, and by last summer Barnes & Noble announced it would no longer make Nook tablets on its own because of how much money they were losing. Now, Barnes & Noble is hoping the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook can compete against Amazon's line of Kindle Fire tablets. 

But Barnes & Noble's rivalry with Amazon extends beyond e-books. This summer, Barnes & Noble partnered...

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Steve Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to focus on Clippers, teaching

New Clippers owner Steve Ballmer resigned from Microsoft's board of directors, saying Tuesday that the combination of "the Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study" would leave him little time to keep abreast of the company he led for 14 years.

"Given my confidence and the multitude of new commitments I am taking on now, I think it would be impractical for me to continue to serve on the board, and it is best for me to move off," Ballmer said in a letter to Satya Nadella, Ballmer's successor as Microsoft's chief executive. "The fall will be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season, so my departure from the board is effective immediately."

Last week, the NBA officially cleared Ballmer's $2-billion purchase of the Clippers. Ballmer stepped down as Microsoft's CEO six months ago after a tumultuous reign in which he missed the potential of the iPhone but found a hit in the Xbox gaming console.

Ballmer, 58, said he hadn't really considered post-Microsoft...

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With One M8, HTC gives smartphone users a choice: Android or Windows?

It’s hard to get excited about using the Windows Phone operating system instead of Android or Apple’s iOS. There’s a long list of official apps that can’t be downloaded, including YouTube, Snapchat, Dropbox and Lyft.

But Microsoft is trying a new tactic, hoping that making a big, good-looking phone will entice some customers to give its Windows Phone system a try. Verizon Wireless on Tuesday will begin selling a Windows version of the HTC One M8. That means customers will have the choice of getting either an HTC One M8 that runs Windows or one that runs Android. It’s the first time such an option has been on the table.

To date, most Windows Phones have come from Nokia, whose phone manufacturing business Microsoft acquired earlier this year. But Microsoft is seeking to branch out and make its services available on more devices.

The 5-inch HTC One M8 is among the best smartphones on the market, along with Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and Apple’s iPhone 5S. The One M8 is on sale for $100 from...

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How Sprint's Family Share Pack plan compares to AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile

With a new chief executive at the helm, Sprint this week announced an aggressively priced plan that launches Friday and heavily caters toward families of four or more who use large amounts of data. 

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FOR THE RECORD

An earlier version of this post incorrectly said AT

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Fuhu unveils giant Big Tab tablets for kids, family game playing

In a scene that’s grown too familiar in many households, parents and children sit together but with all of them buried in their own screens, whether on smartphones, tablets or TV sets.

Hoping to bring everyone back together in front of a single screen, Fuhu unveiled giant 20-inch and 24-inch tablets on Tuesday that the company said will extend its line of educational apps and tablets to group settings.

“The technology right now, it’s isolating,” said Fuhu founder and president Robb Fujioka. “We’re trying to find a product that enhances collaboration and socialization.”

The Nabi Big Tab HD tablets will go on sale this fall online and at Costco and Toys R Us for $449 for the smaller version and $549 for the larger size -- prices on par with that of gaming console like the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Jim Mitchell, Fuhu’s chief executive, said the "world's biggest Android tablets made for sharing" would be more portable than consoles: A special enclosure allows the 10-1/2-pound Big Tab to...

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