finally

Postmates finally ditches those insane delivery fees—but it might be too little, too late


New delivery fees.
New delivery fees.

Image: Chandice Choi/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Postmates is known as the app where the cost of delivery could easily total more than the food you ordered. 

That’s because the app will deliver from anywhere. Ordering from somewhere outside the usual delivery range, though, would send delivery fees skyrocketing into the double digits based on distance. (Orders from the core merchants on Postmates Plus, with more limited options comparable to Seamless or Grubhub, had a more standard delivery fee of $2.99.) 

Postmates is scrapping that model, the app announced Thursday. Instead, delivery from any merchant on Postmates will cost $5.99. Delivery from restaurants on Postmates Plus will go up a dollar, to $3.99. 

“What we wanted to achieve with this was to make pricing in the Anywhere product fully transparent and clear to customers,” said Postmates Senior Vice President of Strategy and Finance Kristin Schaefer. 

The significant changes to Postmates’ pricing are part of a slew of updates Postmates is rolling out. The app is expanding its unlimited service, where users pay $9.99 a month for free delivery on their orders over $20. Unlimited now includes all the merchants on the app, not just Postmates Plus restaurants. 

The app will also scrap service fees on Postmates Plus orders and introduce a more variable service fee for its $5.99 orders from anywhere. That fee will be about a few dollars for the average $25-$30 food order, but could be up to $20 when someone’s ordering something expensive like a MacBook through Postmates. 

The changes come as Postmates tries to figure out how to attract most customers and fulfill its early promise as the delivery company of the future. Since its launch in 2011, Postmates has raised about $278 millions in funding, including a major $140 million round in September 2016 that reportedly didn’t go so well.

Since then, Postmates hasn’t had much in the way of good news. A leaked version of the company’s presentation to possible funders showed that it did not expect to make a profit until 2018, and that this would only happen if the company’s sales increased 400%.

It’s an ambitious goal, and one that will be tough for Postmates to hit. The app laid off all its city managers last week as it centralized its operations in San Francisco. 

At least ordering from that one restaurant that’s too far away for Seamless won’t cost $20 anymore! 

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Asia’s newest mobile wallet may actually get the region to go cashless, finally


Finally, people in Singapore are about to get an easier and quicker way to send money to a friend, via a mobile wallet app.

But surprisingly, it’s not coming from a bank or payment company — it’s coming from ride-hailing app, Grab.

Grab, Uber’s biggest competition in Southeast Asia, on Wednesday announced users will be able to transfer funds in the app’s wallet between users, without fees.

They can do it by sending money over to a mobile number registered with Grab, or by physically scanning a friend’s QR code.

The function is similar to what users have with China’s WeChat and Alipay wallets — arguably the world leaders in simple peer-to-peer fund transfers.

But it’ll lack one key thing that the Chinese apps have. Your money in the Grab wallet can’t be transferred out to a bank account.

That means whatever you have in there needs to be spent on rides or to be sent back to other friends.

۱,۰۰۰ street vendors are coming

By the end of the year though, Grab plans to announce a raft of 1,000 small merchants in Singapore that’ll be on board, allowing you to pay with a scan of their QR codes.

Now we’re talking. The biggest barriers to cashless adoption in cash-reliant Southeast Asia are infrastructure and bank fees.

To take a credit card, a street vendor would have to get a point-of-sale system that works with MasterCard or Visa, and pay fees of between 1 percent and 3 percent on each transaction.

Alipay and Wechat, on the other hand, revolutionised the Chinese market with the simple QR code scanner, and far lower fees of less than 1 percent.

Grab hasn’t announced its merchant fee structure yet. But if it’s acceptably low to the small retailer, it could really help unshackle users here from carrying cash around.

In Singapore, at least, the cashless options haven’t been quite as slick as what China has. Recently, the country’s banks jointly announced a way to pay friends from your mobile banking app.

That process requires a 2FA token or SMS code, and way too many taps, in comparison to what Grab is showing off right now.

Local bank DBS has a QR code P2P payment option, but again it requires fiddling with 2FA codes. DBS has been trying to get small merchants onboard, to its credit.

For Grab, its headstart into the market with 1,000 merchants in Singapore (and presumably way more in the region) may well further entrench users in relying on the app, beyond calling for rides.

Grab already claims about 72 percent market share for private vehicle sharing, and 95 percent for taxis in Southeast Asia, where it’s in seven countries fighting Uber.

It also processes 1 billion payment transactions annually for rides, but it’s got to prepare to add merchants to that load soon.

So while the country continues to look for a way to go cashless, Grab’s already out of the gates. It’ll be interesting to see who’s next on its tail.

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Joel Osteen’s megachurch finally announces it’s open for Harvey victims


Lakewood Church, televangelist Joel Osteen’s massive Houston arena complex, finally made clear on Tuesday that it will provide shelter for Harvey victims after hours of uproar on social media.

The church previously claimed the building was unsafe for relief efforts due to flooding inside. But social media sleuths who visited the grounds on Monday questioned that assessment and posted photos showing a relatively dry exterior and surrounding area.

“Lakewood is receiving people who need shelter,” the church tweeted from its official account multiple times on Monday morning.

While various reports claimed that the church had already opened its doors Monday night, officials had yet to say so explicitly on its public channels until Tuesday morning. 

Writer Charles Clymer, who solicited some of the original photographic evidence of the church’s status, claimed late on Monday that the church has stocked up on air mattresses to serve occupants.  

Formerly known as the Compaq Center, the Lakewood Church building once served as the home of the Houston Rockets and can seat up to 16,000 people.

Dozens of other churches in the Houston area have also opened their doors to the tens of thousands of people driven from their homes as hurricane-related floods continue to devastate the area.

This story is developing.



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Facebook is finally purging annoying fake videos from your News Feed


No more fake videos on Facebook
No more fake videos on Facebook

Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Say goodbye to annoying fake Facebook videos.

The social network is tweaking its algorithm so you’ll see static memes disguised as videos and images with fake play buttons way less often. 

Spammers have been flooding the site with these trick formats to take advantage of Facebook’s fanatical focus on promoting video above other types of content. Uploading single images as videos can earn the poster advertising money, and photos made to look like videos can lead users to sketchy sites with malicious ads.

An example of a photo with a fake play button that leads to a sketchy website.

An example of a photo with a fake play button that leads to a sketchy website.

“People want to see accurate information on Facebook, and so do we,” the company said in a statement. 

Expect to see less misleading videos as Facebook implements the changes in the coming weeks.

“People want to see accurate information on Facebook, and so do we”

Facebook has been pushing hard for the past couple years to grow the platform’s volume of videos, which command much higher prices from advertisers than other content. 

But despite Facebook’s phenomenal video growth, the company is only now starting to iron out kinks like pirated videos and deceptive practices.

The push is also part of Facebook’s bigger effort to crack down on all types of misleading content, which started after it was blamed for spreading fake news during the presidential election. Other updates have included suppressing links to sites with intrusive ads and shutting down bait-and-switch ads.

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Trump finally tweets about white nationalist rally, violence in Charlottesville


White nationalists in Charlottesville.
White nationalists in Charlottesville.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

After hours of silence, President Donald Trump finally commented on the white nationalist rally and related violence happening in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. 

“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for,” the president tweeted. “There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” 

Trump tweeted after 1 p.m. on Saturday, almost two hours after Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville and the city determined the scheduled Unite the Right rally protesting the removal of Confederate monuments to be a form of unlawful assembly. 

His tweet took a long time, and it came after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and even First Lady Melania Trump had already commented. 

Their commentary made the president’s earlier silence particularly noticeable. 

The White House has no official connection to the rally planned in Charlottesville, but many of the marchers were Trump supporters who praised the president while they waved Nazi and Confederate flags. One Twitter user captured video of marchers yelling, “Heil Trump.” 

Some of the violence in Virginia was between the white nationalist protesters and counter-protesters — perhaps why Trump’s comment focusing on us all “[coming] together as one.” 

As J.K. Rowling said, hell of a day to forget how to tweet. 

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Facebook is finally ready for its next big move: Taking on TV


Mark Zuckerberg has been preaching video as our future for the last couple years. On Thursday, he’s launching the next big step in the company’s quest to dominate every last second of your waking life.

Facebook is set to debut original shows made by media partners exclusively for the social network, marking the company’s official entry into the high-end online video world that already includes rivals Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Apple.

It is also a product update, meaning the video tab in Facebook’s mobile app will feature a new design to highlight the initiative. 

Mashable has confirmed ATTN, BuzzFeed, Refinery29, Tastemade, and Group Nine (which overseas Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo, and Seeker) are involved. (Mashable was also previously reported by Digiday to be a Facebook partner in this program. Mashable executives declined to comment.)

Facebook has been tip-toeing into original video content. The company paid publishers, including Mashable, to create live videos shortly after Facebook’s live product was released. Now, Facebook is making a much bigger push into TV-like shows including reality content as well as scripted programs.

Why? One big reason is money. Facebook makes the majority of its revenue from digital advertising, which has been mostly of the direct response type. With this initiative, the company is now better able to cut into the $70 billion TV advertising market that tech companies are salivating for.

The company is going after the $70 billion TV advertising market that tech companies are salivating for.

The initiative has been a long time coming for Facebook and its partners. Facebook hired CollegeHumor cofounder Ricky Van Veen as its head of global creative strategy in June 2016. Mina Lefevre, formerly head of scripted for MTV, joined as head of development in February this year. 

Ricky Van Veen’s team has been meeting with media outlets and Hollywood studios and has inked deals for exclusive shows, not unlike what you see on television.

It’s been up in the air over the last several months on when these shows will debut. A source close to the entertainment industry said Facebook’s initiative was expected to launch at Cannes, an industry advertising festival held in June. A different participating publisher told Mashable that they had not learned of the confirmed launch time until this week.

All the publishers that spoke with Mashable requested anonymity due to their business relationships with Facebook.

Some of Facebook’s original series have been revealed prior to their debut, such as a show featuring Lonzo Ball, a former UCLA basketball player who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers, Deadline reported. But publishers involved in the launch had been instructed by Facebook to stay silent until Thursday.

As to what it will look like, one publisher likened the experience to Snapchat Discover, the app’s network of media partners that create exclusive editions, some daily (Mashable is a Snapchat Discover partner). That comparison is due to the 24-hour, ephemeral nature of the content and the shorter length of each episode. Each episode will last between 3 to 10 minutes, on average. 

“My understanding is [Facebook will] highlight a certain number of shows each day. Those shows will be there for 24 hours and then not be there anymore and new shows will replace them,” said one publisher, who asked not to be identified since Facebook has not allowed any participants to talk on the record until the launch. 

Some publishers will have weekly shows, meaning they will appear for 24 hours every Monday, for example. 

Facebook has licensed deals with these participating publishers, meaning it pays them a minimum guarantee. Some publishers have been paid $5,000 per episode, others $35,000 per episode, depending on the length of the show, according to a participant. Reuters previously reported these numbers. 

The shows also will feature mid-roll ads, where Facebook and publishers will split the revenue. 

A participating publisher told Mashable they were thankful to be involved with the launch due to the exclusivity of the partnership. 

“It was extremely competitive getting a meeting with the team,” the publisher said. “Facebook, like it or not, is the biggest opportunity in video.” 

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Apple finally catches up with the rest of the world and joins Instagram


Apple is getting a bit more social.

The notoriously social media-shy tech giant just launched a new Instagram account to showcase some of the best photos taken with the iPhone.

Like Apple’s long-running “Shot on iPhone” campaign, @Apple will exclusively feature curated and credited photos from iPhone users all over the world. The company says product photo galleries, commercials or other company marketing will never appear on the account.

The idiosyncratic Cupertino company has long eschewed advertising on competitor platforms, but it’s loosened up a bit on that stance in the past couple years. It’s opened Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat accounts for Apple Music, Twitter accounts for iTunes and iBooks, and it had its long-dormant @Apple account officially verified last fall.

The fledgling account was stocked with four videos at launch — one introductory post and three artist-narrated galleries.

Instagram users can have their photos considered for a feature spot on the account by tagging them with the hashtag #ShotOnIphone. Apple says it will never use anyone’s photos without their permission.

Apple’s marketing material has been ramping up its emphasis on the creative capabilities of the iPhone in recent years with efforts like the “Shot on iPhone” campaign and in-store photography and video classes. The thinking seems to be that iPhone users who are more invested in device-related hobbies are more likely to care about increasingly incremental upgrades to its capabilities, and thus more likely to buy each new version of the phone.

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Lyft will finally develop its own self-driving cars


Uber had the lead on ride-hailing and self-driving cars for a while, but it’s encountered some roadblocks. 

Now Lyft is jumping in, with the announcement that the U.S. ride-hailing company will develop its own self-driving technology at a facility in Silicon Valley. 

“We believe Lyft is in the best position to demonstrate what a great overall user experience can be. Lyft is also uniquely positioned to build technology in collaboration with partners in a way that makes it possible to roll out self-driving cars at scale in the fastest, safest, most efficient way,” Lyft Vice President of Engineering Luc Vincent wrote in a Medium post announcing Lyft’s plans. 

Lyft earlier this year introduced an open self-driving platform that allowed car manufacturers and self-driving systems to sync with Lyft’s network. Now, Lyft’s own self-driving cars will operate on that network too. And Lyft will continue to work in tandem with other stakeholders developing self-driving technology through that platform. 

Lyft’s self-driving headquarters will be called the Level 5 Engineering Center, named for the level of self-driving that is entirely autonomous, compared to cars that require some human attention. Ten percent of Lyft’s engineers are working on this technology. 

In the future, Lyft’s full network of self-driving cars and drivers will be integrated so that a ride you order could end up being completed by either a car or a human driver. 

If Lyft can avoid lawsuits from Google and the ire of city regulators, it’ll be a step ahead in the self-driving race. 

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Sports fans finally have a streaming TV bundle (but you’d better like soccer)


Crawl, walk, run. 

That’s how David Gandler has taken FuboTV, in the span of a few years, from streaming tape-delayed German soccer to offering one of the most complete—and sports-heavy—streaming TV packages available.

It’s particularly impressive considering FuboTV is the only independent service not run by a major media company like YouTube, Hulu, or DirecTV. Or, as one of his angel investors put it, FuboTV is like a kite dancing in the hurricane (yea, it’s a James Bond Skyfall quote).

“You’ve got big media companies that have big egos,” said Gandler, CEO and one of FuboTV’s three cofounders. “In many cases, you have distributors that want to undercut you with every opportunity and have deep pockets, so it just makes for a very complicated business.”

In a market that has been flooded with TV shows, live sports remain the scarcest and most in-demand media around. It’s also some of the most fragmented, with rights for leagues and teams spread out among a swath of companies. 

Live sports have also taken on a particularly valuable place in the media ecosystem, thanks to the growing number of people who are abandoning traditional TV and pricey cable subscriptions for internet-based alternatives. Sporting events are a way to keep those people hooked on cable plans, or at least get them to pay for expensive a la carte services.

This is essentially FuboTV’s proposition: For $34.99 per month, users get a relatively complete cable package (including completely non-sports channels like Oxygen and the Weather Channel) with a heavy dose of sports, as well as local channel. NBC and Fox are already on board—and CBS is launching in the coming weeks.

It’s not perfect, and the service still has its gaps. With no deal with TBS, TNT, or ESPN, there’s little NBA basketball aside from the games on NBA TV (usually one or two games per night). The same goes for NFL games. 

What it might lack in some areas, it makes up for in its core passion: Soccer. FuboTV offers just about every important soccer game you could want, and then some. 

So how did an independent company most people have never heard of end up striking enough deals with media giants to amass a formidable TV and sports lineup?

Crawl, walk, run. Deals with soccer clubs begat deals with sports channels begat deals with smaller networks begat deals with larger networks.

And now, FuboTV is playing in the big leagues, competing directly with some of the biggest companies in media. 

“I knew that to put these deals together I had to demonstrate some track record and some success,” Gandler said. “You demonstrate every quarter, ‘Hey look what we’ve done here.'”

Crawl

In the early days of ESPN, the three big broadcast networks took a look at the young cable sports channel and laughed. 

Decades before it became a media juggernaut, ESPN was a tiny operation in the middle-of-nowhere Connecticut showing tape-delayed games and some second-rate highlights. The networks at the time didn’t realize that a 24-hour sports channel would end up being among the most valuable media brands in the world. 

It’s a scene captured in a book by former ESPN President Jim Bodenheimer, Every Town is a Sports Town. Gandler recalls it with some familiarity. He showed FuboTV to ESPN, which scoffed at the offering. 

“I had the same conversation with management from ESPN two years ago when I had 10,000 subs,” Gandler said. “I said, ‘You guys, [need to] read the book. It’s the same thing.'”

It’s hard to blame ESPN. FuboTV didn’t offer much in the early days. It started with video-on-demand content of Borussia Dortmund, a German soccer club. Then it added some video from Portuguese club Benefica. These teams aren’t huge in the U.S., but they have some ardent followers, and FuboTV was able to build a small subscriber base. 

“It would work five minutes out of the 90 minutes. It was terrible, people were upset, but that’s how you start.”

Those subscribers proved key. If FuboTV had just begun to crawl, its next deals would be the first steps into livestreaming. And like with any young operation, it wouldn’t prove easy. The company was able to livestream 17 Benefica games from Goal TV, which had the rights to the games, but it wasn’t able to put them on the internet.

“We got those 17 games that they weren’t airing on television and… it was terrible by the way,” Gandler said. “It would work five minutes out of the 90 minutes. It was terrible, people were upset, but that’s how you start.”

Walk

FuboTV had built a solid niche out of acquiring soccer content and attracting subscribers, then leveraged that to acquire better content and even more subscribers. 

The next move, however, would be different. To really go after the live sports market, the company would need to venture into the messy world of retransmission rights—negotiating with local affiliate broadcasters to include their channels in FuboTV’s package. 

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona controls the ball during the Copa del Rey final match between FC Barcelona and Deportivo Alaves.

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona controls the ball during the Copa del Rey final match between FC Barcelona and Deportivo Alaves.

Image: BPI/Bagu Blanco/REX/Shutterstock

This is hard to do for a lot of reasons, but the technology required is among the biggest hurdles. Most companies either go to an existing vendor (such as BAMTech, which powers YouTube’s live TV offering) or use their own systems (such as Sling TV). 

FuboTV went another direction—it built its own proprietary system that includes a variety of the necessary features to comply with the byzantine rules of retransmission. It’s also the kind of thing that can make a company money if it decides to offer it up as a service to other companies, as Major League Baseball did with its streaming operation—now the industry-leading BAMTech.

“It’s a very calculable asset,” Gandler said. “Particularly if you look at the future of livestreaming globally, this could be a very important asset to the company.”

With the tech and an initial retransmission deal with Univision, FuboTV was ready for the big time. In December 2016, FuboTV announced that it had struck deals with NBC, Fox, and a variety of other programmers to bring their channels to the platform. 

While the deal meant a variety of major U.S. sports would not be available on FuboTV, it also pushed the service beyond just sports. The service now offers a fuller package with a variety of non-sports channels like FXX and the History Channel. It’s no longer a sports bundle; it’s now a bundle with a focus on sports.

“The way we look at it is that our point of differentiation is sports first, and then we’re going to give you a limited amount of other content,” Gandler said. “Our goal is to hit multi-million [subscribers] but we’re not going to be number one.”

Not everyone is convinced the bundle strategy was the right move. Jan Dawson, analyst at Jackdaw research, said in a note that he was worried that the company’s offering is now too similar to other internet TV bundles and is still missing some core components—ESPN among them.

“Overall, FuboTV presents yet another example of the challenges of truly disrupting the TV market given the power still held by traditional channel owners and the existing pay TV ecosystem,” Dawson wrote.

“That’s going to be an uphill battle, and I would think FuboTV would have done better to stick with its more soccer/sports-centric original offering, which was at least somewhat unique in the market (though, without ESPN or the Turner channels, rather incomplete),” Dawson added.

A venture capitalist who kicked the tires on FuboTV (and requested anonymity) had a similar outlook: It’s hard to really back a startup that is going face-to-face with industry giants.

“I love the idea,” the investor said. “Just such a hard market right now… so much competition from such big people.”

“It’s like dancing with elephants,” the investor added.

Run

FuboTV’s midtown New York offices are decked out like any good startup that just raised $55 million. There’s big TVs showing sports, an open floor plan, and plenty of meeting rooms—all named after English soccer clubs. 

In the Chelsea room, Gandler provided a glimpse at where FuboTV is headed. 

Left to right: Alberto Horihuela, co-founder and CMO; David Gandler, co-founder and CEO; Sung Ho Choi, co-founder and VP Product

Left to right: Alberto Horihuela, co-founder and CMO; David Gandler, co-founder and CEO; Sung Ho Choi, co-founder and VP Product

The company, built on U.S. subscribers, is looking abroad for its future. That’s a logical move, considering its continued focus on soccer.

“We’re looking at this more like a Netflix in the sense that we feel that 80 percent of our users will be non-U.S. users,” Gandler said.

He also offers a compelling thought experiment for why bundles (and not a la carte) have to be the future of sports. 

Let’s say that there’s about $50 billion worth of sports rights out there from what he calls “premium to third tier.” Now imagine one company has all those rights and can get 100 million households to pay for a service to access those sports at $12 per month, for a cool $12 billion. Add in another $12 billion for advertising. 

That’s still not half of what the original outlay was. The economics of a pure-sports service just aren’t great if you’re not able to get those users to pay for other content as well. This is why Gandler believes sports fans will have to pay for a bundle.

As for why the companies holding the rights will work with them, Gandler thinks his strategy of complimenting partners rather than competing with them will get rights holders to play ball.

This is how Gandler thinks he can go from walk to run. 

“We are the most programmer-friendly company in the world,” Gandler said. “We have no interest in disrupting their business. We want to be additive.”

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