Netflix Seeks To Improve Streaming Content; Encourages Users To Rip DVDs

Today was a seemingly good day for Netflix. They just announced a better than expected 4th Quarter after what has been seen as the most disasterous year in their existence. Between the decision to split their DVD business off into a new company called Qwikster and their troublesome price hike, Netflix suffered a 70% drop in their stock price in a matter of months. Well, after today, it seemed that Netflix had put its worst days behind them and was poised for recovery. That was, until Reed Hastings made the following announcement.

Today marks a new beginning for Netflix. After a great Q4, we’re looking to tackle our biggest challenges as we look forward to the future, not only to improve our business but to improve the service we offer to our great customers. The biggest challenge we face today is simply not enough quality streaming content. We hear our customers, but our negotiation difficulties with certain movie studios have left us with our hands tied. So, we’re putting measures in place to solve this issue, and we think we nailed it. Starting tomorrow, users will be encouraged to rip and upload any Blu-Ray or DVD new release movie that is not currently part of our growing Instant Watch collection. In return, you’ll be credited with a free month of Netflix service. We believe that if even 3% of our users contribute to this initiative, we’ll be able to provide every new blockbuster hit within 1-2 days of its release.

News of this initiative seems interestingly timed, as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), was just put on hold after a national protest. However, if Netflix launches this initiative, they are set to face a tremendous amount of legal ramifications Robert Shapiro couldn’t even hope to defend. In fact, we wanted to validate our predictions, so we reached out to Robert Shapiro himself. “Let’s put it this way”, he said, “Netflix’s survival will be about as promising as O.J. Simpson’s innocence.”

We were able to get our hands on a screenshot of the new feature, shown below. We’ll be watching as this develops.

Xanga plans to modernize and relaunch as Xanga+

Web 2.0 used to mean something. It was the moniker of a coming age. From the ashes of the dot-com bust rose a social web. One of the biggest names of Web 2.0 was Xanga. Xanga allowed so many of its users to add significance to their lives by broadcasting their problems to the world wide web. It provided a whole new theatre for their passive aggression. They could also feel better about themselves with the power to convey sympathy and support with an ‘eProp’ or two.

Well, unfortunately for Xanga, the world moved on. It moved on from Subscribe to Follow, from eProps to Likes, from weblogs to wall posts. At the time of this writing, Xanga ranks as the 2,775th most popular site in the US.  Xanga wants to be heard just like any other hormonal dramatic middle schooler. Xanga has decided to join the new decade.

Xanga knew that it wanted to join the social networks of today, but wasn’t confident in any strategy. They tried branding different weblog topics. They added a premium photo sharing tier. They tried their own “one weird old trick” ad banner campaign. Nothing could give them the traction they were hoping for. They needed someone who really understands social networks and social media. They needed some help from one of their subscribers.

Bianca Broussard has been a Xanga user since 2000. She is currently the Vice President of Social Media Club Akron (SMCA) and den mother for Cub Scout Pack 182. Xanga reached out to Bianca in desperation for new ideas and direction. Bianca had several.

“Xanga is a brand that people recognize. It carries a lot of weight with people that were in high school or middle school from 2001-2003. It needs to really zero into that demographic and give them what they want: check-ins, photo effects, social search, location based services, geo-tagging, pinning, 140 character limits, angry birds, HTML5, P2P payments, infographics, micro-videos,and a P90X tracker. We’re going to bring Xanga to the Web 3.0 with Xanga+. The plus is because its more.”

Xanga will be relaunching as Xanga+ just as soon as they can implement all of Bianca’s ideas. “I’m really making a lot of friends with Xanga’s development team. Sometimes there’s push back, but I just treat them the same way I treat my cub scouts.” She added, “Oh, I just had another idea. We could have pictures of bunnies with captions on them. These things just come to me.”

Apple announces plans for Statue of Liberty Apple Store

Fresh off of an announcement to transform education and textbooks, Apple has just released plans for their next Apple Store; right in the crown of one of the most historical landmarks in the world – the Statue of Liberty. Apple is no stranger to expanding its famous retail chain to historical landmarks. One of Apple’s most recent stores just opened its doors inside of Grand Central Station. However, building a store in the Statue of Liberty is a particularly bold move for Apple, as they run the risk of tarnishing their golden reputation. Some may feel that Apple is defacing one of the most iconic monuments on our planet. Others will likely enjoy the convenience of scheduling a Genius Bar appointment so they can get their iPhone fixed while touring the statue.

We reached out to famous New York architect and historian Francis King to get his perspective on this news. “Please tell me this is a joke”, he said. “No, seriously, you’re kidding, right?” When I showed him the press release, he replied, “This may very well be the worst news I have ever received in my entire life. This is a disgrace to our country, our history, and everything I believe in.” He was barely able to finish his sentence before vomiting all over himself.

We contacted a few travelers who recently visited the Statue of Liberty for their thoughts. Jason Baylop, a 56 year old father from Dallas said, “Well, I’ve got an Apple Store about 10 minutes from my home. If I wanted to buy an iPod, I’d get in my car and go buy it. Standing at the top of the Statue of Liberty certainly wouldn’t increase my desire to buy one.” We also spoke with a 26 year old from the Bronx. “When the iPad 3 launches, you can bet I’ll be camping out on Lady Liberty’s head with a bunch of others. We’ll be like lice”, he said, offering me a fist bump.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO released an official statement.

It is my honor to announce the Statue of Liberty Apple Store. We think it will be our most iconic Apple Store yet. We’re thrilled to provide magical devices and services to the millions of people that visit this monument every year. We believe this Apple Store will not only symbolize our spot in American history as one of the most important innovators, but it goes hand-in-hand with what we work to achieve every day at Apple – at the intersection of Technology, Liberal Arts, and Social Studies. We are honored to be able to join the Statue of Liberty in saying “Welcome to America!”

Top 7 Reasons To Start Another Daily Deals Site

If there is one business model that has proven successful over the last few years, it’s the daily deals model. Spearheaded by the billion dollar juggernaut, Groupon, daily deals offerings have become commonplace among local restaurants, spas, entertainment venues, and much more. Groupon’s massive adoption spawned daily deals clones; many of them finding their own success, such as LivingSocial. So why should you build a website to compete in this market?

1. Only 1,791 clones

In a recent article from DailyDealMedia, there is said to be 1,791 Groupon clones in the U.S. However, on average, every new startup idea has been done 3,128 times.  Odds are already in your favor. Also consider that the current U.S. daily deals market is sitting around $2-3 Billion and projected to at least double within 3 years. Now, even if all 1,791 competitors obtained an equal share of the market, you’re still looking to pull in over $1.7 Million annually. Not bad, champ.

2. People are desensitized to email

Between Facebook notifications, coupons, newsletters, questions from your parents, updates from sites you don’t visit, and spam, people have moved from unsubscribing to anger to acceptance. There’s no better time to blast the poor saps with daily local coupons to their sad, uncontested inboxes.

3. The name doesn’t matter

Groupon – group coupon. Clever, right? They set the bar pretty high. Then LivingSocial bursted on the scene, giving Groupon a run for its money and becoming the number two daily deals site. LivingSocial tells me nothing about anything. It has absolutely no relevance to deals, coupons, emails, or discounts. I’m also failing to understand how being an extrovert is a qualification for 50% off tacos.

Nonetheless, the service is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. Name your daily deals site whatever the hell you want. Megadealioso? FaceMonster? It doesn’t matter.

4. You can be CEO and wear nothing but Whitey Tighties

Take a look at Andrew Mason, Groupon’s CEO hard at work.

5. No business skills or technical skills are required

By simply mirroring Groupon’s entire business, there is very minimal work required. In fact, we recommend copying Groupon’s HTML (just Right Click on their page and select View Source), paste it on your website, and change the logo. We’ve seen brand new Groupon clones go from nothing to an entire working business in a matter of a few hours.

6. No one has tackled “gotcha” daily deals

There is a wide open opportunity to attack the bait-and-switch daily deals model. The way it would work is simple. You advertise a deal that is seemingly too good to be true, allow users to buy in, and once it becomes “unlocked”, users will be presented with text flashing “You Lose!” on their screen. Though you would legally have to void their transaction, you create a sense of excitement and mystery to every deal.

7. No matter how the coupon performs, you profit

There have been quite a few stories of Groupon deals going horribly wrong. But it doesn’t matter. Your business will make money either way.

Based on our projections, we expect to see 2-3 times more Groupon clones in the coming year. If there was ever a time to ride a trend, it’s now. So put down your Cheetos, pause World of Warcraft and go make a billion dollar company, then finish those Cheetos and level up on a Yacht.

Inside the MPAA’s plans after SOPA/PIPA: The Alphabet Game

The bills SOPA and PIPA (collectively known as SOPAIPILLA) were widely protested today. Several websites censored themselves to simulate what the internet could become should SOPAIPILLA pass. This protest is expected raise awareness about the bills and help kill the bills in their respective sides of congress. Supporters of the bills are naturally looking for ways to get their legislation passed despite widespread opposition.

The first strategy was just to have two separate bills, so that if one was opposed, the other had a chance. SOPA was the first to be targeted, because of its negative context: the STOP online piracy act. The Senate’s version of the bill, the Protect Intellectual Property Act is about protecting, and not stopping. Well, that clearly has not protected the bill nor has it stopped opposition. Should these two bills be killed, the MPAA won’t be caught with their pants down, and already have some new ideas about branding new versions of similar acts.

Former Senator and current Chairman and CEO of the MPAA Chris Dodd commented on their long term outlook. “Our next plan is a stand by. Just name the act something more positive sounding.” He suggested the next house bill be named the “More Internet Jobs Act.” He provided “Grand American Opportunity Act” for the Senate version. Although this is an easy fix, it doesn’t change the fact that these are still simply acronyms that can just as easily be opposed as soon as they’re revealed for what they truly are.

Therefore, the next strategy is convoluting the name so it is not so easily discussed. The Taking Back America’s Status as a Super Power Because if We Don’t Do Something Right Now China Will Be Walking All Over Us In Like 30 Years Do You Really Want That Bill. “We don’t foresee opposition to TBASSPBWDDSRNCWBWAOUIL30YDOYRWTB. You just can’t fit that into your Twitter avatar.” Other strategies for avoiding the proliferation of acronyms is naming the bill in languages that don’t use the Roman alphabet. “We’re experimenting with naming legislation in Russian or Chinese. I’m not sure if that’s legal, but we’re prepared to pass additional changes to overcome that hurdle.”

Instead of treating the catchy acronyms as a problem, the MPAA can make them work in their favor. “Look, we’re no strangers to acronyms. We’re the MPAA. You should see the list of our global counterparts.” As a last resort, the MPAA would propose submitting the Killing Internet Theifs ‘Til the End of ‘Nfinity Statute to the house floor. They are also lining up Senators to introduce the Time to Reprimand Online Offenders and Pirates Statute. “I’d like to see the internet rise up and exclaim ‘KILL KITTENS.’ Let’s see the looks they get when they say ‘TROOPS is bad for America.’”

Klout Announces +Kompensate: Prove Your Self-Worth Offline

In an effort to provide more value to its users, Klout is announcing new measures to further its mission. Here is a statement from Klout about the new move:

Let’s be honest. The service we provide is e-peen. So far, we’ve only been able to capture that from the online world. We know some of you also have trouble proving your worth offline. We want to bring your self affirmation from the real world to the online world. Your twitter followers don’t know that you drive a BMW. Your Tumbler readers don’t know that you wear a Rolex, or that you bought your Speery shoes from Zappos, and we know you want them to. We call it +Kompensating.

Now you can get the maximum influence from your overpriced status buys. Klout will be verifying your purchases through a receipt scanning app available on Android and iOS devices. If scanned on an iOS5 or Android ICS device, you will get extra points. If you’re suspected of faking a receipt, or buying knock offs, Klout has hired people to gossip about you online behind your back.

People also work hard for fancy sounding titles, and you’ll be able to translate them directly to your Klout profile. Show off that position that you’ve worked diligently for, like Assistant Floor Manager, Senior Forklift specialist, Executive Bellhop, or CEO/Blogger at your very own sole proprietorship.

Most people define themselves by their crowning achievements, even if they happened 20 years ago. Far be it from Klout to ignore that. We spoke with Rodney Clingerman, who was Prom King and captain of the football team at Hillside High School in 1992.  “I hate that people don’t remember that I won state. It’s like they’ve never been to a high school football game or something. Now with Klout, people have to recognize how much I own, like Pauly Shore.”

Some users will have the option of doing the opposite and taking their online Klout to the real world. Klout is selling stickers and patches with your Klout score on them. The stickers will be a great addition to the backs of laptops everywhere. Another Klout user gave us an interesting use of the Klout patch. “I wear my Klout Score patched on American Eagle shirt to the club.  Now the honeys know that the boss has arrived. “

Airbnb Launches New Service Targeted at the Homeless

Since launching in 2007, Airbnb has grown its userbase and became a wildly successful online marketplace. Its users find the service not only money-saving, but makes travel more interesting. Their service is, of course not possible without homeowners. With homeownership declining, Airbnb has had to get creative to find new markets and revenue streams.

Today, Airbnb announced the launch of Boxbnb, a new service targeted at the exact opposite of its current market; the homeless. Boxbnb allows property owners to list areas around their homes and businesses for vagabonds and itinerants to spend a few days. Feedback can be left for the property owner and the squatter. It is currently being tested in the San Fransisco bay area.

To perspective from the homeless, we spoke with Tarnose Cohen, a former pets.com employee. “Really, my main spot is under the overpass near the 101, but its nice to get a change of scenery every once and a while. I don’t have any money, but sometimes I pay by capturing squirrels or yelling at the garbage men when they don’t put the cans down properly. I paid one nice family in jars of my own feces to use as fertilizer.”

Restaurant owners have even bought in on the new service. Frank Spidelli, owner of Frank’s Diner on Irving Street recently listed the alley behind his diner on Boxbnb. “We had a real stray problem back there. Dogs howling and cats screeching. Then this guy from Boxbnb took care of them. He said his name was Sir Digby Chicken Ceaser. I don’t know what happened to the strays, and I didn’t ask neither. Just happy to have them gone.”

This move by Airbnb has prompted other startups to tap into this previously ignored market. Zipcar will soon be experimenting with Zipcart, where the homeless can use shopping carts only when they need them.

Survey Shows 93% of Pinterest Users Don’t Understand Pinterest

A recent survey conducted on 1,000 Pinterest users shows that a large majority of users joined the hot new social service without even understanding its purpose. Of those users, 80% of them don’t even know where to begin or why they are even on the service.

As recent stats show, Pinterest popularity is skyrocketing, as their traffic has increased 40x over the last 6 months. But what are these users using the service for? No one really knows. In fact, we reached out to some of the most active Pinterest users and asked how they are using the service. Mona Fonsworth, age 42, says she spends roughly 6-7 hours a day using the service. She makes use of her “pinboard” by “pinning” pictures of random things she comes across. We asked her to give us an idea of the sort of things she likes to pin. “I honestly don’t keep track. At this point, I’m just using it as a photo album.” said Mona. “Yesterday, I pinned a picture of my overflowing trash bin to remind myself to stop being lazy and take it out.”

We interviewed one user who pins nothing but photos of his grandmother. When we asked him why, he replied “I don’t know. She’s interesting. Isn’t that the point?” Another user was so flustered by Pinterest, he yelled at us. “I’m done”, he said. “What am I supposed to pin, my dog? A picture of me singing in the shower? The tea I made this morning? The color blue? This is bullshit. If I’m supposed to take a picture of everything I like, it can kiss my ass.”

We even came across some users who have been diagnosed with Pinterest-related illnesses. We caught up with a local psychiatrist, Doctor Huntsberg to help us get to the bottom of this. “It seems that the stress and confusion of being so close to understanding the service, but not quite getting there, is pushing a lot of people to their limits”, she said. “We’re seeing many of these people developing mild to severe nausea, anxiety and even depression.” When we asked her what she recommends to others who may be experiencing these symptoms, she said “Just use Facebook. It makes a lot more sense.”

Google Makes Desperate Play, Redirects Google.com to Google+

Today, Google made a shocking, unannounced decision to redirect all traffic from google.com to their new social network, Google+. If you open up your web browser and attempt to access the massively successful web search engine, you’ll instead be taken to the home page of Google+, where you will either access your Google+ profile or be encouraged to create an account.

Google.com Redirects To Google+

We are just beginning to see the impact of this decision, and it’s not good. Users so used to “Googling” their way around the web are now forced to search through a database of irrelevant Google+ postings from their friends. We interviewed one high school student, John Brastow from Michigan who told us his experience so far. “I woke up this morning with a strange rash, so of course, I tried to Google it”, he said. “Instead, it made me use the search on Google+. None of my 5 Google+ friends have this rash, so now I’m left to only think the worst – AIDS or Brown Recluse.” We asked John if he tried Bing. “What the fuck is Bing?”, John replied.

We reached out to Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, and here’s what he had to say about the decision.

We understand that not all of our users will welcome this decision immediately.  What we believe here at Google is that your Google+ circles contain the most important people in your lives. Why comb through thousands of Google web results when you can get the most relevant answers from your friends?

We’ve received no word on if this is a permanent decision or just a ploy to attract more users to Google+. We can only hope its temporary, or this may be the beginning of the end of the world.