Facebook Updates

  • Facebook now offers ads optimized for “Objectives” such as likes, installs, or ad clicks. That should bump up the low bids, raising the effective CPMs for their pages. It’s unclear how popular any of these options are, though.
  • Zynga’s OMGPop purchase has raised their estimated Daily Average Users by about 25%, according to AppData, which does not appear to adjust for overlap among gaming audiences. That’s something Zynga probably did adjust for when they bought the studio, of course.
  • Facebook users are vastly more likely to use privacy settings to hide their friends lists. Ultimately, acceptable levels of privacy are a user interface problem, not a regulatory one.

ScreenLeap: A Threat to Citrix?

YCombinator-funded ScreenLeap offers free screen-sharing across multiple devices. Citrix’s GoToMeeting offers expensive screen sharing across a more limited set of devices. A few other companies offer similar software—Skype, Cisco’s Webex, Adobe Connect—but a company that flattens pricing in the category could be pretty damaging to them.

Most companies in this field have great pricing power because one common use case for screen sharing is enterprise software sales. But a free product gets rid of lots of the frictional costs of switching to something new. For now, ScreenLeap is very much below the radar, but it’s worth tracking monthly searches for it (compared to GoToMeeting, Webex, and Adobe Connect) just in case.

Congress Cites Low Demand for Privacy Laws

Adweek reports. Money quote: “Where is the public outcry for legislation? I haven’t gotten a single letter from anyone back home urging me to pass a privacy bill.” This might not be enough to sway things: the people who do care, care pretty loudly. But it’s fair to say that no one’s election chances will be much improved by taking a strong stand on the issue.

BankRate buys InsuranceAgents.com

BankRate has bought InsuranceAgents, a successful lead-generation site. They actually have an impressive PR record, with relevant mentions from Reuters, Inc., and the 37signals blog. Beyond that, their success has been fairly by-the-book, with lots of middling-quality links from press releases and directories. It’s not an amazing acquisition, but BankRate will do well if they can buy up small companies like this, without the risk of a blowup.

Groupon Revises Earnings

Groupon has made a comparatively minor adjustment to their earnings—they’re raising reserve requirements for returns. It doesn’t affect their operating cash flow, so it’s a weak argument for the theory that Groupon is bound to collapse. It’s a much stronger argument for the theory that Groupon needs to get its act together operationally. Their stock price responded to this news by collapsing to levels not seen since two weeks ago.

SecondMarket Scales Back

SecondMarket has laid off about 10% of their staff now that Facebook has finally halted trading ahead of their IPO. This will leave them with about 135 people, or several times as many as they had the first time commentators got worried by their dependence on Facebook. As before, the lesson appears to be: SecondMarket’s business wouldn’t be where it is today without Facebook, but “where it is today” hardly relies on Facebook. (It is somewhat surprising that trading in Facebook alone could support fifteen full-time people, so this might be a broader fat-trimming exercise.)

In another last-gasp of private Facebook trading, the most recent Sharespost auction ended with Facebook sporting a $103 billion valuation. This is not strictly indicative of the IPO price, though: the question is whether bragging rights influence a trade of $6mm worth of shares more than a rabid retail investor base will influence prices when liquidity is orders of magnitude higher.

Apple’s Bot Crackdown hits iOS Developers

Apple’s crackdown on automatic download bots (designed to manipulate app store rankings) has affected developers: the cost of acquiring users is up month-over-month, but the volume of users acquired has dropped by 6.5% from last month.

TripAdvisor Notes: Vacation Home Rentals Growing

A recent TripAdvisor survey shows that vacation homes are growing in popularity, with 40% of the travelers surveyed saying they stayed in one in the last year. (Last year, exactly 40% planned on doing so, making the survey eerily accurate.)

Demand Media Launches Tech Vertical

Demand Media has launched a new technology vertical, targeting the usual long-tail, semi-monetizable stories they’re known for. (Their top story today: “Best Smartphone Navigation Tools”) Demand does not appear to be using their traditional contributor model. They’ve hired a few high-end contributors, and recycled some content: an article on “How to Choose a Digital Camera,” also one of the ten most popular on the site, was written in 2004. Helpful tips include “If you will only output pictures to a computer monitor (for viewing, Web page use or e-mail), an inexpensive digital camera with a 640-by-480 pixel resolution will provide very satisfactory results.”

Efficient Frontier: CPCs are Flat

Efficient Frontier sees generally flat CPCs for Q1 2012 over Q1 2011. This trend has been going on for a while, though: Google more than makes up for low CPCs through higher search volume.

Yes, Networks on Networks Work

Fred Wilson asks if it’s really possible to build a network entirely within another network. At some point, this turns into a hair-splitting problem. But Facebook is a network built on another network (the Internet), which itself is actually several interoperating layers of networks. So it’s entirely possible. It’s just imprudent, unless the network you’re building on top of is either religious about not competing with you directly, or sclerotic enough that it can’t win if it tries.

Click-Throughs and User Intelligence are Inversely Correlated

SearchQuant compares state-by-state data on intelligence and Facebook ad click-throughs to demonstrate that stupid people click on more ads. This is pretty well-known, but it’s unclear whether this is because of higher accidental clicks, more interest in advertised products, or some other factor. Unfortunately, the plot compared smartness-ranking to CTR-ranking. It would be interesting to compare this to other ad targeting that acts as a proxy for smartness.

Netflix Buys DVD.com

Netflix has bought the DVD.com domain name, in what is hopefully an effort to more seamlessly split their DVD and streaming businesses. This is worth keeping an eye on.

Who at T Rowe Price is Doing These Late-Stage Deals?

DST. Andreessen-Horowitz. And T. Rowe Price? The mutual fund company has always seemed like an odd participant in huge late-stage rounds. PEHub has a quick profile of Henry Ellenbogen, the fund manager who runs these deals.

Mobile Search Ad Click-Throughs: 4.1%

Marin Software has released a clickthrough study on search ads, showing that mobile searches get a 4.1% clickthrough rate, compared to 2.4% for desktop and 3.1% for tablets. But that translates into a far lower conversion rate: 5.2% for desktops, 4.9% for tablets, and 2% for mobile. These numbers also imply that tablet searches are the most valuable on the web (they get ad-driven 1.5 conversions per thousand searches, compared to 12.5 for desktop and .82 for mobile).

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BankRate’s smart buy, Groupon’s earnings miss, and who wants privacy laws, anyway?