Category: Business

It Turns Out Hedge Funds Make Pretty Great Attack Ads

Dan Loeb has moved from the pen to the screen with Third Point’s new video aimed at Dow Chemical, a target of the hedge fund. It reads just like an attack ad from a heated political race.


Dan Loeb is no stranger to vitriol-infused attacks on the companies he's aiming to gain some control of through his many activist investing campaigns. Dubbed the hedge fund industry's poison pen for his letters to company boards that eviscerate his activist targets' upper management, Loeb, perhaps channeling a digital media strategic consultant, has moved on to video as his latest format to express disappointment, this time in Dow Chemical.

The video, titled “Broken Promises” takes Dow's CEO Andrew Liveris to task for many a management misstep, including, most recently, Dow's refusal to consider Third Point's plan to break up elements of the company to create more value for its shareholders, as well as for rejecting two of the hedge fund's nominees to the Dow board.

The overall effect reads like a high-end political campaign attack ad, with its foreboding piano trills and artful close-ups of Liveris's face with phrases like, of course, “Broken Promise” plastered across the screen. Launched in conjunction with a website about Third Point's mission for Dow, Value Dow, the video is an aggressive tactic, for which there isn't much precedent in the hedge fund world.

And despite the somewhat tired attack ad format, “Broken Promises”, not unlike Loeb's storied career and the activist fights he's fought throughout, is pretty fun to watch.

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BuzzFeed – Business

A Subtle Facebook Feature With 700 Million Users Gets Its Own App

The company launched a standalone Groups app. Still, the company has no plans to break it out of the main Facebook app.



Facebook began rolling out its long-expected standalone application for Facebook Groups, one of the company's more subtle but very popular features.

Originally buried in a hard-to-reach section of the main Facebook app, the company says more than 700 million people are using groups, up from 500 million earlier this year. Much like Facebook Messenger, which the company has herded more than a half billion people into using, Facebook decided to break the component out of Facebook.

“What we see is people form friendships, they have groups that are a subset of your friend graph,” Product Manager Shirley Sun told BuzzFeed News. “Groups is also definitely connections not only with your friends but also your community at large. Those are the people you know are around you, you don't want to be friends on Facebook, but you are tied together.”

Groups was expected to launch as a standalone application sometime this year, with development starting in February. The core Groups team built the app, somewhat contrary to Facebook's other Creative Labs projects that typically only include a few people somewhat attached to a group.

“If you think about groups, it has been a core Facebook product,” Sun said. “We have to serve all the people who serve it a lot today, but at the same time the power users, the experience is much better on mobile. The team has the most context, so it makes sense to do everything together.”

For Facebook, standalone applications serve as a way to not only attract existing Facebook users to those separate apps, but also to potentially attract new Facebook users and drive higher engagement for separate apps. Earlier this year in an interview with BuzzFeed News, Product Manager Jimmy Chen said part of the reasoning was despite having wide adoption, groups were buried in the main application.

“The fact we put it on Facebook and it's four taps behind the main app, and we still get 500 million people using it every month, suggests there's a deep desire for this kind of product,” he said at the time.

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BuzzFeed – Business

Normcore Lives On: Gap CEO Stands By “Dress Normal” Campaign

Gap’s soon-to-be CEO acknowledged the campaign is a “work in process,” but the company is “really excited about elements of it.”

Gap Inc.

Gap's “Dress Normal” campaign, a play on the normcore trend, has been criticized by fashionistas and analysts for missing the mark with its core customers this fall — but the company is standing by it.

Dress Normal is “a work in process,” digital chief and soon-to-be CEO Art Peck said in an interview with BuzzFeed News this week. “It's working on some dimensions, and then we have work to do on others, which is very typical for the first time out on an advertising campaign. It's got a lot of conversation and a lot of dialogue about it…I've been with the agency and our marketing team, and we're really excited about elements of it, and there are other places where we still need to get it dialed in.”

Gap unveiled Dress Normal in August. It's been viewed as a nod to normcore, which is the ironic embrace of nondescript, “ardently ordinary clothes,” as New York magazine put it. However, critics say the irony may be lost on Gap's core customer, who doesn't want to be told that what she's getting is average or basic — rather, she'd like to be on-trend. The company has been discounting its fall collection heavily and same-store sales, a measure that excludes the effect of new stores, slid in August, September and October. (Gap reports earnings later today.) Wall Street analysts complained the clothes in stores this fall were “too 'normal,'” and that the apparel and ad campaign failed to entice shoppers.

But Peck said the call to Dress Normal still has time to prove itself.

“You never know, I think, until you have a couple seasons into a marketing platform whether it's going to be something customers respond to and relate to and want to engage with on an ongoing basis,” he said. “When we came out with the Be Bright campaign back in 2012, it took a few seasons for us to figure out whether we were really getting traction there and whether customers saw beyond the bright of color to the broader meaning of bright. So stay tuned.”

Gap Inc.

BuzzFeed – Business

Meet Gap’s New CEO: The “Digital Guy” Preparing For More Clicks Than Footsteps

In his first interview since being tapped as Gap Inc.’s new CEO, Art Peck tells BuzzFeed News the company is facing the biggest change in retail since the rush to the suburbs and rise of big-box stores in the 1950s and 60s.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

You've probably heard this story before: In a sunny office overlooking the San Francisco Bay Bridge, a casually dressed executive pitches a reporter on the technology-driven disruption overtaking his industry, and how his company will come out on top.

But in this case, the company in question is no startup — it's Gap Inc., the 45-year-old mainstay of suburban shopping malls that's home to Middle America's favorite clothing brands: Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic. And the pitchman is Art Peck, the 59-year-old digital chief of the company, who will take over as its CEO in two-and-a-half months and get working on the enormous task of reshaping Gap for the 21st century.

Today, there are nearly 3,600 Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores around the world, and Gap Inc. rakes in upwards of $ 16 billion in annual sales. More than three-quarters of that still comes from America, where it's the country's biggest specialty retailer, meaning it operates more of those mall stores outside of department stores than anyone else.

The company has made it so that you can spend a lifetime in Gap clothes: Get born and play in BabyGap and Gap Kids, and grow up and spend the weekends in regular Gap. Go to work in Banana Republic. Bring the whole family to Old Navy, and save some money at the outlets. Work out in Athleta. Go high-fashion in Intermix and Piperlime. You get the idea.

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BuzzFeed – Business

Extremely On-Message Protestors Target Samantha Power At Fusion Conference

The cable channel has declared itself a voice for millennials, with a “Rise Up” brand for its coverage of activist movements. And today, the Millennials Rose Up.

As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power is used to protestors interrupting her speeches. But what's she's less used to is being asked by event hosts to share the stage with them, and answer their criticisms.

Awkward is one way to describe this very real scenario that went down this afternoon at Fusion's “Rise Up” event in Washington, D.C. “Kind of totally awesome,” muttered one onlooker as Power's eyes widened in incredulity as her interviewer, Fusion's Jorge Ramos, thanked the three red-headed women doing the yelling, and told Power's security detail not to move them away.

It got better. Ramos asked Power to address the claims of the protestors, Anna Kaminski, Anastasia Taylor, and Alli McCracken, who came representing anti-war group Code Pink.

The protesters were very on-message for Fusion's event, a gathering of young activists from around the world under the “Rise Up” brand the cable channel — a joint-venture between Disney-owned ABC and Spanish-language broadcaster Univision — has been attaching to its coverage of protest movements around the world. They raised signs saying “Millennials think you're a war hawk” — a nod to Fusion's self-declared target demographic — while one yelled “we're here to rise up.”

“We're listening, I am listening, and they are listening,” Ramos said in response to the protesters, who appeared at the side of the stage about 15 minutes into Power's interview. Ramos asked them to stay and said that he hoped Power would address their issues.

Visibly flustered, Power repeated a talking point about Obama administration foreign policy, leading to more interruption from the protesters. Ramos called for order, but again said the protestors should stay, earning applause from the crowd.

Power persevered, with more protest to come — this time from the invited guests in the audience. One shouted that she and Obama were overly and blindly supportive of Israel, while another decried Russian intervention in Ukraine. Power became visibly agitated and strode swiftly backstage without talking to anyone when the interview concluded.

The protestors, meanwhile, were greeted with a handshake and smile from Fusion CEO Isaac Lee, and invited to stay for lunch.

“Usually we get kicked out, dragged out, totally manhandled,” Kaminski told BuzzFeed News over a boxed lunch about a half hour after the hoopla. She added that she and her fellow protestors were not invited, rather just “kind of stormed” into the event to say their piece.

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BuzzFeed – Business

The Search For The Apple Watch’s Killer App Begins

The company said WatchKit, its development tools for the Apple Watch, was rolling out today.

Apple CEO Tim Cook stands in front of a screen displaying apps available for the Apple Watch at a presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, Oct. 16.

Robert Galbraith / Reuters

Developers now finally have a chance to figure out the killer use case for the Apple Watch.

As with any new hardware, for the Apple Watch to succeed, the company will have to lean on developers to build applications that will convince consumers to purchase the watch. Now that the company has released its development kit, WatchKit, the development community will have an opportunity to build applications for the Apple Watch.

Apple does build its own applications, and the company demoed several apps like watch faces and a maps application at its event in September unveiling the watch. But traditionally the company has not been known for creating software better than existing app developers like Snapchat and Facebook. The iPhone, a powerful piece of hardware, has seen other developers find the killer use case for the smartphone beyond its obvious applications as a phone.

In conversations with numerous developers in the technology community, anticipation is greatly building for the watch in part because it contains new touch points that developers did not think would be useful. The dial on the side of the watch, for example, was seen as a stroke of genius for app usability among developers, which are eager to experiment with the first new intelligent touch point for a smart device in a very long time.


The watch too has found itself in not only direct competition with Google's watch technology called Android Wear, but also with startups like Pebble, which already have a thriving development ecosystem. Pebble, for example, already enlisted developers to build activity and health-monitoring applications for its watch, which is seen in the technology community as a low-cost competitor with a much longer battery life compared to higher-end, more expensive watches.

The Apple Watch is expected to launch sometime next year, at predicted price points ranging as high as $ 5,000 for the highest-end version of the watch. Apple has basically elected not to go after the lower-end market, leaving the door open for cheaper options like Pebble. However, there is always the opportunity for developers to figure out a killer app — much like Rovio started a wave of popular new games with its Angry Birds titles — that could drive sales and massive adoption for the watch.

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BuzzFeed – Business

As Online Storage Prices Race To Zero, Dropbox Turns To Business

Today, Dropbox said it was rolling out some new tweaks for its business service. But it has a long way to go.

Stephen Lam / Reuters

Piece by piece, Dropbox is trying to find its way into a potentially massive new business: large companies paying Dropbox to power their file-sharing.

The company says it has 300 million users — 70% of which are international — and has been best known as a consumer-facing online storage startup. But after raising money at a $ 10 billion valuation, Dropbox has come under intense pressure from competitors including Apple and Google, as well as other startups like Box, which is pushing the cost of online storage toward zero. Dropbox, much like Box, has had to bet its future on providing a valuable layer of services that sit on top of storage — including for businesses.

Part of that business-focus arrives today in a new tool that makes it easier to bring new employees into Dropbox and assign them to specific groups, where they can immediately start working with coworkers on projects and view files within the group. Dropbox for Business, which began as an initiative about a year and a half ago, has quickly become one of the company's highest priorities as it slashes prices for its consumer-facing online storage.

In total, Dropbox has 80,000 companies as paying customers, though its regular users can be found within 4 million businesses, including 97% of companies in the Fortune 500, head of product Ilya Fushman told BuzzFeed News. The challenge for Dropbox is to convert those extra users of its traditional file sharing tools into business users. Dropbox also says it has more than 300,000 applications using its platform today, and has business clients like Spotify, Foursquare, Hearst and News Corp.

The process required a completely new version of Dropbox, which the company had to rebuild from the ground up, Fushman said. Many businesses require a whole suite of tools to meet regulations and ensure a business runs smoothly — hence the need to virtually start from scratch. Some examples among them: a list of everyone who has accessed a file, tools to determine who can see a file, and who can modify things like Microsoft Word documents.

“The main focus for us is to help people get work done better,” Fushman said. “Obviously we are a business and we have to think about monetization and revenue, but the first, foremost focus is helping people get work done and building the best tools. We're going to be making huge investments in mobile to get people more functionality, more efficiency.”

Dropbox's original value proposition — dead-simple file-sharing across multiple devices — isn't necessarily dead. In fact, ensuring files synchronize across devices as fast as possible is an interesting technical problem that has attracted a wealth of engineering talent to the company. But the business of selling just online storage has basically evaporated, leading to price cuts for Dropbox's storage or, in the case of Box, doing away with charging for storage altogether.

Dropbox has certainly made progress, securing major partnerships with smartphone manufacturers like Sony and Samsung to build its software deeply into the operating systems of those phones. And the company has created business tools over the course of the past two years that represent a whole new line of revenue that didn't exist.


Finding its way into businesses is not the only part of Dropbox's search for a future beyond charging for storage. The company is also rapidly expanding its efforts to build out a portfolio of mobile applications and embed its storage into new devices — most recently Sony's smartphones, as previously reported by BuzzFeed News.

But those applications, such as its photo-storing service Carousel and its email client Mailbox, haven't gathered mainstream adoption in the same way that other popular consumer applications like Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and Instagram did. Dropbox has found its way into partnerships with device manufacturers like Sony and Samsung, but it has not quite found a winning formula when it comes to mobile devices. In many ways, the problem mirrors pre-IPO Facebook — as the vast majority of Internet usage shifts to mobile devices, so too does a company's existential priorities.

Enterprises, however, are a tried and true way to generate revenue. But Dropbox's challenge will be to convince companies that it is not only better than services like Microsoft's Sharepoint, which has traditionally been widely adopted by larger companies, but also rising companies like Box, which is seen as an attractive tool for businesses when it comes to file-sharing and collaboration given its years of experience and Dropbox's relatively new enterprise services. Box says it has been able to attract 27 million users across 99% of the Fortune 500, and has converted 39,000 companies into paying customers. The company has secured deals with universities and large corporations like General Electric, which can potentially have tens of thousands of seats.

Dropbox is seeking much of the same enterprise-level integrations that Box offers. Box, for example, works with Salesforce, a widely used application for keeping track of sales and marketing. Dropbox recently inked deals with Microsoft to power some collaboration tools around Office and is working with Salesforce. But for some companies, Box — having focused on powering businesses from its beginning — is seen as one of the leading secure file-sharing and collaboration tools.

“OneDrive will always be a feature, same with Dropbox for Business,” Six Flags director of interactive services Sean Andersen told BuzzFeed News. “It does synchronization great, but I'd still give up that compatibility for a platform that has long-term usage as a corporate product. I can look at [Box] as a workflow product, not an end-user experience.”

Still, Dropbox is betting that the easier end-user experience is what will eventually capture a large enough business to justify its $ 10 billion valuation. It's a method that has grown increasingly popular as enterprise companies like Yammer and Salesforce, which took design cues from the consumer-focused internet industry: build software and applications that appeal directly to end users, who then essentially force their IT departments to do business with the company.

“We're being very thoughtful about where we build and where we partner,” Fushman said. “We're actually more concerned around feature creep on our end, we want to keep the product very simple and very secure. On that end, we're working with some great partners. And we're being thoughtful about the [tools that enable developers to build on top of Dropbox] that we build.”

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BuzzFeed – Business

Can Joe Weisenthal Change Bloomberg Before Bloomberg Changes Him?

The hyperactive financial news addict made Business Insider a major destination for business news. His new challenge: Make Bloomberg’s insular news operation a hit on the web.

Tamar Weinberg/Flickr


When Bloomberg Digital was looking for an internet-friendly face to connect its financial data and news system to the online masses, its editor Josh Topolsky had one name in mind. And he got him.

Joe Weisenthal, formerly the executive editor of Business Insider, “literally might have been the first name I mentioned,” Topolsky said. “Putting Joe at the mouth of the river of the flood of news is an exciting and crazy prospect.”

Weisenthal started his new job last Monday. To a company best known for its sober editorial style and monochrome data terminals, he brings an altogether different voice: Over-the-top, all-caps headlines, hyperactive tweeting, and outspoken opinions about who is on the right and wrong side of contentious economic debates.

That combination was integral to Business Insider's evolution from a scrappy, aggregation-friendly startup to one of the web's best-known sources of business news. But it's a distinctly different style to the work currently being done by Bloomberg's 2,400-person news operation, which largely follows The Bloomberg Way, a strict and documented formula for writing the news.

More than 320,000 subscribers pay around $ 2,000 a month to access Bloomberg's near-endless pool of financial data and news via its terminals. That's where the majority of the company's estimated $ 8 billion in revenue comes from, and few see the new online efforts by Bloomberg Digital — part of the consumer-facing Bloomberg Media division — as likely to make a dent in that.

“Bloomberg is pretty well-saturated for markets coverage and adding a new markets-focused product really makes me wonder who the target audience is going to be for this,” said Chris Roush, a business journalism professor at the University of North Carolina who runs the website Talking Biz News. “There's definitely some tension between the core Bloomberg News operations and Bloomberg Media,” he said. “I think a lot of people on the Bloomberg News side don't understand what's going on at Bloomberg Media and feel a little slighted.”

Weisenthal will run Bloomberg Markets, new financial markets website, and have his own TV show. The new projects come as part of a plan by Bloomberg Media boss Justin Smith to build a suite of web properties with a readership far beyond the typical terminal subscriber.

Smith was hired to lead Bloomberg Media in mid-2013, after successfully turning The Atlantic, a genteel and loss-making periodical founded in 1857, into a profitable family of digital media sites. At Bloomberg, he said in a March memo, he aims to create “a portfolio of new digital assets that better align our content offerings to global business audience segments.”

The first of these projects to launch was Bloomberg Politics, a site headed by star reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, which publishes stories by its own staffers as well from the core Bloomberg News operation. It also runs a 30-minute daily TV show.

Bloomberg Politics, Topolsky said, is “an example of us reaching out and seeing a bigger picture, that's vital to our audience.” But some question whether the company's financial markets coverage needs a new presentation layer to reach its target market.

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BuzzFeed – Business