By Malathi Nayak SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The annual no-holds-barred Christmas holiday slugfest between mobile game developers has a new twist this year: marketing and user-acquisition costs will likely hit an all-time high and surpass any revenue earned over the festive season. The cost of getting new users through paid-for click-through ads on mobile phone apps and Facebook is skyrocketing. Industry executives say there are more mobile games than ever aspiring to become the next "Candy Crush Saga" or "Clash of Clans" and developers are spending to get there. That poses a challenge for thousands of developers ranging from San Francisco-based Glu Mobile to independent studios hoping to follow in the footsteps of outfits like Supercell and King, analysts say.
By Mark Lamport-Stokes LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Though the Los Angeles Dodgers fell just one step shy of the World Series last season, they proved to be the kingpins when it came to drawing huge crowds and ruling the roost on social media. According to figures released by Major League Baseball (MLB), Dodger Stadium was the most visited ballpark with the iconic Los Angeles franchise attracting a total of 3,743,527 fans during its 2013 campaign. The scenic stadium at Chavez Ravine, the third oldest in MLB, was the most 'checked-in' sports venue in the United States in 2013 while it ranked fourth on the list of most checked-in locations overall, Facebook reported. The team led the majors in total growth last season on Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram, according to data provided by Major League Baseball Advanced Media.
The feature is already offered by other leading photo and video sharing services, which have long allowed users to embed content on their websites by copying and pasting a line of code. Flickr instructs users on how to take advantage of the new feature: "click on the share button, browse to , choose your embed size, and copy the code." There are around ten different embed sizes to choose from.
A hidden search feature turns smartphones into mobile Christmas caroling karaoke machines. Every year Google stashes an Easter egg in one of its services as a yuletide treat and 2013 is no exception. However, it is confined to mobile devices. To unlock the feature and enjoy some spontaneous Christmas fun, simply Google the term "let's go caroling" on any Apple or Android phone or tablet and a list of five classic Christmas Carols will appear.
Vine users without verified accounts will also be able to register vanity URLS, but not until December 23, three days later. Vine's owner, Twitter, says that it will be automatically reserving profile URLs that "mirror verified Twitter @usernames" so Jay-Z and Lady Gaga won't have to worry about being beaten by cybersquatters. However, while Twitter says it will hold back those URLs, the account owners will still have to ask for them. The move to ‘vanity' URLs will enable Vine to create user-specific profile pages (something it currently lacks) which will also make searching for users' previous posts much simpler.
(Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland's markets division has banned the use of multi-dealer online chat rooms, the bank said, joining rival banks that have taken similar action in response to regulatory scrutiny. Chat rooms have been a focus for regulators investigating manipulation of the Libor and Euribor benchmark interest rates and possible rigging in the $5.3 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market. Confirming a Bloomberg report, RBS said it had told front office staff in its markets division that all permanent chat rooms with workers at other banks, bank entities or competitors had been prohibited, as well as those with clients, brokers and securities firms, unless certain criteria were met. RBS has also told staff that all social chat rooms are prohibited and must be closed immediately.
By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - Facebook Inc, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and dozens of banks must face a lawsuit accusing the social media company of misleading investors about its health before its $16 billion initial public offering, a federal judge said. In a decision made public on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in Manhattan said investors could pursue claims that Facebook should have prior to its May 2012 IPO disclosed internal projections on how increased mobile usage and product decisions might reduce future revenue. "Plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded material misrepresentation(s) that could have and did mislead investors regarding the company's future and current revenues." In a statement, Facebook said: "We continue to believe this suit lacks merit and look forward to a full airing of the facts." Facebook went public at $38 per share. Investors including pension funds in Arkansas, California and North Carolina claimed that Facebook negligently concealed material information from its IPO registration statement that it had provided to its underwriters' analysts.
Regulators will take longer than expected to assess risk at a third of the world's biggest banks because of IT delays, banking supervisors said on Wednesday. The Basel Committee of supervisors from nearly 30 countries are trying to combine data on comparative risks in the worldwide operations of roughly 30 top banks by 2016.
Online gambling company Bwin.Party said on Wednesday the outlook for next year was positive thanks to betting on the soccer World Cup and growth prospects in the United States. Bwin is focusing on fewer, better-regulated markets and is expanding in the United States, as gambling rules are relaxed in places like New Jersey. Bwin said last month that a block on access to online gambling sites in Greece will hit revenue and profit this year, adding to the decline caused by its strategy of focusing on fewer markets. In a trading statement on Wednesday, Bwin said Simon Duffy, its non-executive chairman, would stand down at next year's annual meeting in May. The company said it had also secured a 50 million pound credit facility from Royal Bank of Scotland.
By Jim Finkle BOSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is under pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and lawmakers to undergo an independent security audit, after hackers broke into a computer system used by healthcare companies to submit information to the agency. While some lawmakers charge that the hackers breached the FDA's gateway, compromising confidential business data, the agency argues that the access was limited. The breach came to light last month when the FDA sent letters to users of an online system at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. The letters said the breach was detected by the FDA on October 15 and that it resulted in the theft of usernames, phone numbers, email addresses and passwords.
By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc took a first step on Tuesday toward selling video ads that play automatically in newsfeeds, moving cautiously to unlock a source of revenue that could annoy users. The world's largest social network, which had long been expected to try and grab a larger slice of the $66 billion U.S. television advertising market, will start by working with Summit Entertainment on ads for "Divergent," based on the popular series of science-fiction books. Facebook will run video ads for Divergent on Thursday in a one-day test. Facebook users can turn on the sound by clicking on the ad, similar to the non-paid auto-play videos Facebook introduced in September.
Facebook on Tuesday began serving up video ads that pop up and play when users check their news feeds. "Since September, we've been testing a way to make videos more engaging on Facebook, and as a result we've seen views, likes, shares and comments increase more than 10 percent," the California-based firm said in a blog post. "We're beginning to test a similar video viewing format for advertisers." Video ads will play on mobile devices as well as when people visit Facebook from laptop or desktop computers.
Nelson Mandela topped Google's list of the hottest searches for 2013 as the Internet giant on Tuesday provided a look at the "spirit of the times" online. The 13th annual Google Zeitgeist compilation mined Internet search trends through the year to spotlight people, places and events that captured the world's attention. "It's perhaps unsurprising that the number one trending search of 2013 was an international symbol of strength and peace: Nelson Mandela," Google senior vice president Amit Singhal said in a blog post. "Global search interest in the former president of South Africa was already high this year, and after his passing, people from around the world turned to Google to learn more about Madiba and his legacy."
By Gabriela Baczynska KIEV (Reuters) - By day, Igor Skliarevsky works as a graphic designer. By night, he is an anti-government protester, sometimes manning the barricades in Ukraine's snowy capital. The 36-year-old delivers maps for fellow protesters, directing them to medical posts or kitchens. He also set up a website coordinating food, warm clothing and other supplies for those camped out on Kiev's Independence Square.
Social networking site Facebook is to launch this week advertising clips on users' news feeds, the Wall Street Journal website reported on Tuesday. The newspaper, quoting an anonymous source close to the matter, said that the clips would be triggered automatically on feeds when a user consulted his or her profile either on the Internet or via a smartphone. Facebook was expected to announce the development on Tuesday and the advertisements would be launched on Thursday, beginning with an ad for the science-fiction film "Divergent" to be released in the first half of next year. The launch of advertising clips has been delayed several times in recent months, first because of concerns that this might drive customers away and also because of technical problems, the newspaper said.
The Christmas holiday brings peak attendance for most churches, and an increasing number of U.S. religious groups are using the boom time to wow parishioners with virtual choirs on YouTube and Instagram advent calendars. More than 500 churches will stream Christmas sermons online this year, up from just a handful in 2007, said DJ Chuang, host of the Social Media Church, a podcast with church leaders about social media. "They use it to tell the stories of the church." The online churches appeal to those who have moved away from their own parish, people who may be reticent to walk into an actual church and people who wish to attend a service outside normal times. The New Jersey-based Liquid Church has had an online pastor since 2009, and took to YouTube last Christmas to share a virtual choir using videos from roughly 500 church members who attend services remotely.
By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge has rejected Nasdaq OMX Group Inc's bid to dismiss lawsuits by investors who accused the exchange operator of botching Facebook Inc's $16 billion initial public offering, a decision released on Monday shows. Nasdaq had argued that its status as a self-regulatory organization (SRO) gave it immunity from claims it broke securities laws and was negligent in how it executed orders to buy and sell shares of the social media company on May 18, 2012, the first day of trading. In a 97-page decision, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in Manhattan agreed that SRO status gave Nasdaq immunity from some claims, including the decision not to halt the IPO. But he rejected Nasdaq's effort to dismiss claims over the design and testing of its systems, including that it allegedly knew its advertised "on-time, on-target and ready-to-launch" had not undergone the "stress tests" needed to ensure it was up to handling trading in Facebook.
By Emma Thomasson and Matthias Inverardi BERLIN/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) - Hundreds of Amazon.com Inc workers in Germany went on strike on Monday, just as pre-Christmas sales were set to peak, in a dispute over pay and conditions that has raged for months. Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market behind the United States and sales there grew almost 21 percent in 2012 to $8.7 billion, a third of its overseas total. Amazon took its most daily orders in Germany last December 16, when almost 4 million articles were bought, with shipments peaking on December 17. Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centers, said 1,115 staff had joined the strike at three sites, but there had been no delays to deliveries.
By Natasha Baker TORONTO (Reuters) - New apps that listen to conversations or scan emails and calendars can predict and provide information such as websites, videos and maps to users before they ask for them or realize they want them. MindMeld for the iPad is a voice conferencing assistant that understands conversations, and depending on what people are talking about, will find a map of a city and tourist information if the chat is about a trip, or restaurants if it is about eating out. "Imagine a situation where you're on the phone or talking with a friend," Timothy Tuttle, founder of San Francisco-based Expect Labs, which created the app, said in an interview. To protect privacy, conversations are not recorded or stored.