Tag Archives: Amazon Prime

Celebrity Cyber Report – Oprah Winfrey, Akon,

Apple, making a push into the streaming television market, scored a major coup by signing Oprah Winfrey to a multi-year deal to produce streaming content. The Wall Street Journal reported that Winfrey is expected to become part of Apple’s billion dollar push into direct-to-consumer video streaming.  Although what Oprah will produce has not yet been determined the programming is expected to debut in 2019.  

Apple stated to Reuters, “Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”

Apple is in stiff competition with streaming giants Netflix and Amazon to produce original streaming content. Apple has signed other big name celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Durant to produce shows for their platform.

Even with this huge deal Apple is in hardball competition with Netflix and Amazon. Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama signed a deal to produce content for Netflix. Netflix and Amazon have both invested heavily in their streaming content by spending $6.3 and $4.5 respectively in 2017 alone.  

Akon

Singer Akon (Courtesy Dagency)

Singer Akon is jumping into the cryptocurrency game. The singer announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity  the launch ofAkoin” to finance his “Akon Crypto City,” a 100 percent crypto-based city in Africa.

According to the Page Six website Akon said  “I think that blockchain and crypto could be the savior for Africa in many ways because it brings the power back to the people, and brings the security back into the currency system, and also allows the people to utilize it in ways where they can advance themselves, and not allow government to do those things that are keeping them down.”

According to the Akoin website Akon Crypto City is being developed in African on land donated by the President of Senegal. The city will be modeled on the fictional country of Wakanda from the movie “Black Panther.” According to Akon the new city will offer everything any normal city would including homes, retail businesses, parks, universities and schools.

The singer, who is of Senegal-descent, has moved his career efforts to giving back to African communities in recent years. In 2015 Akon  launched Akon Lighting Africa in an effort to solve chronic shortages of electricity in African nations.

 

E-Commerce Delivers

E-commerce war is raging! E-commerce players are going all out to get your money doing whatever it takes to get you shopping on their website. The war has changed they we shop, probably forever.

Electronic or e-commerce, the act of shopping online and having the goods delivered directly to your home, is exploding. More and more online stores and regular brick and mortar stores are offering to deliver your purchases to you anywhere.

Amazon Prime customers can get their purchases delivered on the same day with Amazon Prime NowCustomers need only check the item description to see if it is available for same day delivery in their zip code. Amazon claims it has over 1 million items available for same day delivery in 8,000 cites.

Now Amazon has stepped up its game by announcing a new service that gives its couriers access to your vehicle for the purpose of placing your purchases inside.  Amazon is planning to use the Internet connected capabilities in many modern vehicles.  In cooperation with GM and Volvo Amazon will be launching the new service in 37 cities in the U.S.

In order to use the service the car owner must add their car to the Amazon Key app with a description of the vehicle allowing Amazon’s couriers to locate it. The vehicle must be parked within a certain radius of an address used for Amazon deliveries, mostly likely home or work. Driveways, parking lots, parking garages, and street parking are all eligible locations.

Amazon has also asked its customers for permission to enter their home when they are not home to drop off packages. The program, known as Amazon Key, relies on Amazon’s new Cloud Cam and compatible smart lock connected to the Internet using your home Wi-Fi. The camera talks to the lock over Zigbee, a wireless protocol used by many smart home devices.

When a delivery person arrives with a package for in-home delivery, they scan the package barcode that sends a request to Amazon’s cloud. If everything checks out, the cloud then triggers the camera to start recording the entry and delivery. The courier then swipes the screen unlocking the door. They enter, drop off the package and re-lock the door with another swipe. The customer is then notified of the delivery accompanied by a short video showing the drop-off to confirm everything was done properly. Amazon also owns Whole Foods which also offers grocery deliveries in an hour.

Amazon is deadly serious about perfecting the art of delivery. The company is planning to create its own delivery service that will go into direct competition with FedEx and UPS. Its also planning to use drones for delivery a program it has already launched in the U.K.

But brick and mortar retailers are not standing still while Amazon perfects the art of delivery. Walmart, America’s largest retail chain store, is teaming up with with DoorDash for its online grocery delivery service. The program is set to kick off in Atlanta and eventually expand across the United States.

The service builds upon a previous Walmart delivery program. If the customer is within one of the new delivery areas they will be able to request delivery and set up a time for the delivery.  A Walmart employee will pull all your items together and handoff the groceries to DoorDash for delivery. In a challenge to Amazon Walmart is also offering two day delivery for selected online purchases but, unlike Amazon, no membership is required.

Target stores are also getting into the delivery game as well. Target is planning delivery  to nearly 60 locations across five major cities, Boston, Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. As part of the checkout process the retailer will offer customers the choice of having their purchases delivered to their homes. The key factor to the city selection for the delivery program is that these cities have a high concentration of car-less consumers who routinely use public transportation.  The delivery service will cost the $7.

Groceries delivery is slowly becoming the most in demand service for e-commerce shoppers. More and and more retail grocers, in addition to Whole Foods, are fighting for your dollars with on demand grocery deliveries. Walmart expects to be delivering groceries in over 100 markets by the end of the year. This includes a new meal kit service from Walmart’s Culinary and Innovation Center. If you are Sam’s Club customer you can also take advantage of its delivery service.

But keep in mind that its not just groceries that can be purchased online and delivered to your home. Used car buyers can use Carvana to shop, select, finance and have the car of their choice delivered right to heir driveway.

Breaking It Down

Customer convenience is the new standard. E-commerce, like retail, must compete. And we live in a service based economy. So delivery is the new frontier of customer service. Fast and when and where the customer demands it. This is the evolution of service and customer satisfaction. I am not surprised. The Internet is changing everything.

But is all this online shopping and on demand delivery hurting retail businesses?  Not exactly. Many consumers, and experts, believe that retail stores are dying but that is not true. What has actually happened is that brick and mortar retailers have modified their operations to actually become part of the e-commerce experience. Many retailers, like Walmart, are offering customer the option to buy the product online and pick it up in the store. In addition, retailers will encourage shoppers to go online if they can’t find the item they are looking for in the store and will sweeten the deal with free delivery. Some stores will even go online for you to locate your product and you can complete the purchase in the store. The brick and mortar retailer seems to be safe for now. Of course e-commerce explodes during the holiday season and that can be attributed to the crowds and ugliness of Black Friday sales.

According to Forbes there are five signs that retail is still king of the shopping hill.

  1. All but one of the top ten U.S. retailers are brick and mortar chains.
  2. Brick and mortar stores are more profitable that e-commerce.
  3. Amazon purchased Whole Foods.
  4. Millennials And generation Z prefer real-life stores.
  5. Online retailers are being eaten by legacy retailers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race and Technology – Algorithms

Algorithm– a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

AlgorithmsIf you think computing, technology and the Internet is color blind you would be wrong. We are learning that race plays a big part in the way computers operate because people operate computers.

Amazon is currently under fire because its algorithms have told it not to offer Amazon Prime service to minority areas of Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York City and Washington, D.C. The algorithm basically figured out that these areas are unprofitable. According to Amazon it was not a racist act but instead a simple business decision based on an algorithm.  But the question remains; is this racism?

Algorithms can be racist and sexist. Algorithms decide what ads minorities and women see on websites. Studies have shown that marketing algorithms recognize certain patterns that indicate the race and gender of the person by the websites they visit.  This is called bias. Because of algorithms women will see jobs that pay less than men and Black people see ads for certain neighborhoods but not others.  The result is that certain information and opportunities are hidden or withheld from women and Black people.

An analysis by Bloomberg reveals that Amazon has some explaining to do. Amazon claims that it cares not who shops at their online stores. According to Craig Berman Amazon’s Vice President of Global Communications, ““We don’t know what you look like when you come into our store, which is vastly different than physical retail. We are ridiculously prideful about that. We offer every customer the same price. It doesn’t matter where you live.”

Amazon has been working to compete with the retail stores by meeting the need for immediate gratification of buying something and having it right then and there. Amazon’s same day delivery is meant to do just that. It promises same day delivery on millions of products for Prime members in cities where the service is available. The service is available in 27 cities with coverage in most areas within the city limits.  However Bloomberg’s analysis shows the service is not available in predominantly black neighborhoods in six major same-day delivery cities. African-Americans are about half as likely to live in neighborhoods with access to Amazon same-day delivery as white residents.

Amazon is not deliberately making decisions on where to deliver based on race. According to Berman the ethnic make up of neighborhoods isn’t part of the data Amazon uses to make decisions on where to deliver.  “When it comes to same-day delivery, our goal is to serve as many people as we can, which we’ve proven in places like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Demographics play no role in it. Zero.”

After coming under fire for its algorithms Amazon has changed some of its delivery areas as a result.  In Boston, Amazon has expanded to the predominantly Black community of Roxbury. Amazon has also responded to complaints in the Bronx, New York and Chicago.

But there is clearly more to algorithms than just performing calculations. A recent discovery by an MBA student revealed a  search on Google for unprofessional hairstyles returned hundreds of pictures of black women with natural hairstyles. A search for professional hairstyles returned  pictures of  white women.  In many of the images the hairstyles were similar with the color of the woman’s skin the only difference. This is the algorithm at work.

But you have to ask; how does an algorithm recognize a black sounding name?  If a person were to Google search a black sounding name the ads that appear with the search return are often for services that let you look up arrest records.  Another example occurred last July when  Google’s facial recognition software tagged black faces with the word gorilla. A Google engineer apologized and fixed the problem. But another search using the word “nigger house” or “slave quarters” returned images of the Whites House. How does this happen?

Some researchers believe that search results that reveal racial or gender biases is the result of the programmers working on an algorithm. Programmers are overwhelmingly white men. Could this be an extension of the lack of diversity in the technology industry? Researchers cite the disproportionate ratio of 2:1 male to female ratio in students seeking coding careers and an even more dismal ration of black programmers. This diversity gap of racial and gender bias in algorithms demands urgent attention and correction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Cable Box is About to Die

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Courtesy: BrandonSigma

Cable television has been under relentless pressure for quite some time now. More and more Americans are simply cutting the cord. Tired of the high cost of cable programming bundles and equipment rental many people are finding streaming to be a better option. This fact is especially true for black people, who according to Pew Research watch more television than any other group.

The Internet and streaming media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have shown American television watchers there is a cheaper, easier and more convenient way to watch television. 

A new survey from ComScore revealed that among 18-34 year old viewers 24 percent don’t subscribe to a traditional pay TV service. This is a prime demographic for advertisers. Of that group nearly 46 percent of those viewers never had cable to begin with, while the rest simply cut the cord. And the number of Americans moving away from cable television has been steadily growing since 2009.

Now the F.C.C. has turned up the heat on cable companies further by deciding to kill the cable box as we know it.

On Wednesday the Federal Communications Commission announced a proposal that would allow cable and satellite subscribers to pick the devices they use to watch television. Currently nearly all cable customers must rent those set top boxes from their cable companies and pay, on average, $231 a year for these devices. Looks as if those days are coming to an end.

The move would save the consumer plenty of money because they would pay a one time price for the new device. The move would permit tech companies like GoogleTV, Amazon and AppleTV to expand their footprint in the television markets by introducing technology that blends television and Internet. As you can imagine the television industry has fought this move for some time.  The reactions to the announcement has been predictable. Technology companies love it. Cable television hates it.

With a focus on improving the overall television experience the  F.C.C. is looking to remove a prime source of consumer complaints; the set top box, cable company restrictions and expensive long term contracts.  Tech companies like Apple and Amazon make devices that connect to televisions and have new interfaces, but they provide streaming Internet video and do not replace the cable box. Many blue ray disc players and gaming consoles also provide streaming entertainment. The objective is to blend these devices into a more streamlined device that does it all…for less.

F.C.C. Chairman Tom Wheeler said; “It’s time to unlock the set-top box market. Let’s let innovators create, and then let consumers choose.” Wheeler  wrote of the proposal on the technology news site Recode. According to the F.C.C. prices for other consumer technology such as smartphones has been on a steep downward spiral while estimates for set top box and other cable technology devices rose 185 percent over 20 years.

Opponents of the proposal believe that the industry was already providing more streaming options. The opponents said that F.C.C. intervention was not needed to spur innovation.

Cable companies have been slowly coming to the realization that streaming media is taking over and have been trying to adjust. Last November Time Warner Cable began a trial offering of cable television lineups through devices made by Roku. Charter Communications also offered its subscribers streaming TV through a Roku App. Cox Communications, an Atlanta-based cable company, allows customers to view programming through TiVo.

Television networks like HBO, Showtime and CBS recently introduced new offerings of à la carte offerings allowing customers to subscribe to an individual network without paying for the traditional full cable bundle.

Advocates believe that if the F.C.C. announcement is approved, consumers will see immediate savings.  Consumers could begin using just one device to access video content whether its video streaming online or cable television.

President and CEO of Consumer Reports, Marta Tellado,  said the changes were long overdue.

“With the ever-increasing price of cable and all of the advances in technology,” she said, “why should consumers have to keep renting a set-top box?”

 

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – The Death of Black Friday

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Courtesy Stuart Miles

Everyone has a story about Black Friday. Sometimes its about a great deal on a flat screen TV or a horror story about the ugly crowds and inhuman behavior. Thankfully Black Friday is dead.

More and more online retailers are offering Black Friday deals throughout the holiday season. Amazon, one of the worlds’ largest online retailers, announced it’s Black Friday Deals Store . The store is open for all Amazon customers but Amazon Prime members will get a 30 minute head start on 30,000 of Amazon’sLightning Deals.”

On of the biggest selling items during the holiday season is consumer electronics. Everyone is wishing for a giant flat screen television, laptop or tablets and other electronic goodies. Online retailer Newegg is one of many retailers killing Black Friday.

Newegg is calling this month Black November as it prepares for the holiday season war for tech dollars. Although the company has not announced specific sale details it has outlined plans to kick off deals on more than 900 products that include sales all through the month and more deals on Cyber Monday.  Retailers are jumping on the band wagon describing their holiday sales plans minus details but with promises for more specific sale information later.

America’s store, Walmart, is also offering Black Friday prices online including Apple products like the iPad Mini. The trend for many retailers is to get Black Friday deals into the stores as early as possible for as long as possible. Smart shoppers will be walking the aisles early in November and getting the same or better deals than people waiting in line at 4:00AM Friday morning. The best deals with the best selection and availability are being offered now!

Black Friday is not what many shoppers believe it to be. First of all most deals on this ugly shopping day are extremely limited in price and quantity. For example last year a major retailer advertised a Black Friday sale on a particular microwave oven for $99 when the regular price was well over $300. Thousands of people lined up all over the nation for the bargain. The harsh reality is that each store was allotted only 15 of the appliances. Consumers who read the fine details of those sales flyers will see the disclaimer “limited quantities” written in small print.

Another Black Friday deception consumers need to be aware of is the inflating of prices. Many retailers will offer products at inflated prices only to slash the price on Black Friday creating the illusion of a great deal.

Retailers are well aware that many shoppers running through their stores looking for a great deal will find something they did not come there for. Impulse buying is a big money maker and the more eyes in the store the more items will be sold.

Most of the best Black Friday sales will be found online. TheBlackFriday.com website has an extensive listing of stores and products that are selling at Black Friday prices today! Shoppers can sign up for Black Friday price alerts sent to their email.

Another website pushing early Black Friday deals is BlackFriday.com (different from the one above). This site also offers pre-Black Friday prices for products and advertisement for online sales and email alerts as well.

DealNews.com offers list of the Top 5 Best Black Friday Deals Online that is heavy with the electronics retailers but of course Walmart is among the five.

Holiday Shopping; Now you know.

Fox’s ‘Empire’ to Stream on Hulu Plus

fox-empireFox’s new showEmpire is big! Really big!  In the history of television the show is unequaled.  In the 23 year since Nielsen began tracking TV ratings no other program has grown its audience show after show, week after week. Last week’s finale captured over 16.5 million viewers leaving CBS’s Survivor in the dust by 7 million viewers.

Streaming media company Hulu has grabbed exclusive streaming rights for all past and future episodes of this record setting program.  Currently the entire first season is available for Hulu Plus subscribers. Future episodes will stream on the service the day after it airs on Fox. Hulu Plus is the paid, commercial free version of the service.

facebook_share_thumb_default_huluplusThe streaming media business is an extremely competitive business. Hulu is not publicly traded so it is not required to release financial data.  Netflix, Hulu’s biggest competitor, ended 2014 on a high note with a 26 percent revenue increase and adding over  four million more subscribers. The company earned $5.5 billion last year.

Amazon Prime is the other big player in the streaming game.  Amazon is usually quiet about its subscriber base but recently announced it has over 20 million Amazon Prime members globally.  This subscriber base is bringing in an an estimated $1.7 billion annually according to Forbes.com.

Apple is also launching a streaming television service that would let users stream up to 25 channels to Apple mobile devices and the Apple TV set top box. According to the Wall Street Journal Apple is negotiating with broadcasters to offer a slimmed-down bundle of TV networks as soon as this fall. ABC, CBS, and Fox are reported on board.

Hulu used its advantage to get Empire. The streaming service is owned by Twenty-First Century Fox,  the Walt Disney Co., and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. But even though Hulu would appear to have a fighting advantage over Netflix and Amazon Prime the war over streaming rights is hot and expensive. Netflix picked up The Blacklist for a reported $2 million per episode. It grabbed rights to Gotham before the show even premiered.

Hulu will not be outgunned in the streaming war. Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins announced the company is extending its relationship with CBS. It has also signed an exclusive deal for ABC’s Nashville and improved it’s children’s selection with exclusive access to Fraggle Rock spin-off  The Doozers.

Some content will be available to all Hulu subscribers for free. This includes CBS’s Everybody Loves Raymond and Wings. 

Hulu offers 1,650 shows, 2,500 movies, original programs and broadcast favorites including:

  • Scandal
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine
  • The Mindy Project
  • Glee
  • Blue Bloods
  • Elementary

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Netflix offers over 9,000 titles and original programs along with these popular television shows:

  •  Mad Men
  • Breaking Bad
  • The West Wing
  • Friend
  • 30 Rock

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Amazon Prime offers the following programs and original content:

  • Justified
  • 24 Live Another Day
  • Falling Skies
  • The Good Wife
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Americans

Breaking It Down

What you see happening is the death of three different forms of video entertainment. Cable, broadcast television and movie rentals are all dying! The streaming media business is offering everything the consumer needs and wants on demand, anywhere they want it, and on any device they want. For black people this means saving yourself a lot of money by getting rid of your cable or at least reducing it to basic service.

Let me explain. Broadcast television has slowly been dying since the invention of the VCR. If not for live sports they would be gone already. Why? Because broadcast television held to a rigid schedule. All programs were aired on a certain date and time. The VCR changed all that allowing you to record your program and watch it when you wanted to. Cable came along offering movies and more adult oriented programming. Television has been fighting, with some success, to compete. But it is a struggle.

Cable television had the same problem but they were airing programs a few times a day so if you missed a show you could catch it later. But some cable bills are as much as $300 a month. And there is the DVR. That costs too.  Yeah, if you could master the technology you could access your DVR away from home using a computer or laptop. But again, it is expensive. Have you seen the cost of the data plans lately?

And let’s not leave out Red Box movie rental. That big Red Box is slowly becoming a big red coffin. Same as BlockBuster and those other movie rental stores.

Streaming media like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime do it all. Now you can pretty much watch any movie or television show anywhere you want anytime you want. Even on your smartphone.  You are completely in control of your time and entertainment choices. Cable can’t do that. Television can’t do that. Red Box can’t do that. And they sure as hell can’t do it for less than $10.00 a month as these services do. Cut the cable and save your money.