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Yahoo Aviate Can Now Search For Apps, Contacts And The Web – Without Launching A Browser


Aviate, the mobile homescreen application Yahoo acquired at the beginning of the year, has today received a notable update that will allow Android smartphone owners to search for contacts or apps installed on their device, or search across the web, all from a single interface. The web search is powered by Yahoo, the company notes – which means that Aviate users will be connected to Yahoo’s results without having to open a web browser.

Instead, Yahoo Aviate’s search results appear directly on the phone’s homescreen, the company explains.

Yahoo is not the default search engine on Android devices. And because it can be difficult to get users to change the settings on their mobile phones, winning search deals like the one Yahoo and Mozilla just agreed upon (and the iOS deal Yahoo is fighting for) – is still critical for the company. But by bundling “search” as a feature within the updated Aviate app, Yahoo has found a way to integrate its own services more deeply on mobile devices without being dependent on OS or browser defaults.

Meanwhile, smartphone users are drawn to Aviate not because of its Yahoo integration, but because it offers what some would consider an improved interface for mobile devices. Aviate’s launcher app provides a simpler phone layout where the content that’s presented to the end user changes throughout the day – for example, information about traffic conditions appear during your morning commute; calendar appointments are prominent while you’re at work; and when you’re listening to music, your favorite music apps appear.

According to data from Google Play, the Aviate application has been downloaded somewhere between 1 million and 5 million times.

The ability to search across your device is not unique to Aviate, however. Android users have been able to search their phones for contacts and apps for some time, and starting a year ago, Google introduced the ability for users to search within their applications, too, thanks to advances in deep linking technology.

Yahoo’s Aviate isn’t there yet. The new feature is today more akin to Apple’s Spotlight search, which only points to apps that match a search query, in addition to matching contacts, suggested websites, and Wikipedia pages.

But Aviate could expand into deep linked search results at some point – after all, Yahoo bought deep linking ad firm Sparq in January, and now pushes app install ads via its Gemini network and more recently, Tumblr. It has the technical capabilities, that is. Aviate’s new search widget and homescreen-based search results that let users get to websites or launch apps without using a web browser seems to be an ideal place to further integrate this sort of technology in the future.

Yahoo says the new feature is currently only available for English-speaking U.S. users, but it will expand access to others “soon.”

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Influencer Marketing Is Killing Santa


It’s the final week of the Christmas season, and the holiday shopping advertisements are flowing through my inbox faster than startup pitches. While endorsements from celebrities occasionally show up, there is one uber-influencer that seems to appear more than any other. Jolly St. Nick, the rotund and red-clothed Santa character partially popularized by Coca-Cola, has traditionally been the endorsement of choice for marketing executives in the month of December.

But if Mavrck, Pixlee, and other startups have their way, that omnipresent santa will be replaced by your colleague or your next door neighbor – and maybe even by you.

I have written a lot about the opening up of labor markets through algorithms and democratized finance, but one activity that has ironically resisted this movement has been marketing. There has always been a tension in advertising between showing the ideal and the ordinary. Just think of celebrities in make-up commercials versus everyday people advocating for medical treatments. We simultaneously want what others like us have, but we also have dreams and look up to the stars in our lives for inspiration.

All that is changing, and with it, the rules for how to succeed in marketing.

Mavrck, a TechStars Boston graduate, is hoping to democratize influence by building a community platform for brands to engage with what the company calls long-tail influencers. At the heart of this platform is reciprocity, what Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, called one of the most fundamental laws of social relations. The idea is to find those visible, yet hidden micro-celebrities – your aunt who is an expert at shoes or your desk mate who loves chocolate – and provide them with a premium experience from a brand through its platform. Last week, the startup picked up $2.5 million in Series A financing from GrandBanks Capital.

The company has already seen some key results from early trials. Unilever used the platform for their Clear Shampoo and Conditioner product through its Seven Day Clear Challenge. Using Mavrck, the consumer goods company provided 1000 influencers with a unique link that they could share with friends and family. The company got 15,000 email signups, and most importantly, more than 3,500 purchases from these links within thirty days according to the platform’s data.

For Lyle Stevens, the co-founder and CEO, the emphasis on democratized influence isn’t just about opening marketing to everyone, but rather just good business. “Celebrity and YouTube stars are much better on the impression side of the equation, rather than conversions. We are not as cost-effective on impressions, but we are much more effective on conversions. The challenge [for us] is that agencies are still mostly focused on impressions.” He calls that focus on dollars spent by consumers “revenue per impression,” in contrast with traditional metrics like CPMs.

That emphasis certainly arises in the data that the company shared with me. While the cost per engagement was higher than competing services like Facebook’s News Feed ads and Promoted Tweets from Twitter, Mavrck’s Click-Through Rate (CTR) and Cost Per Lead (CPL) were much more favorable. On CPL, Mavrck averaged $1.52 across the campaigns it has led so far, compared to the low teens on competing services.

Of course, a platform that works with a thousand influencers may have trouble scaling to a million, a point that Lyle notes is their next big challenge. “As we move into 2015, we are engaging on community to add some zeros to these numbers.”

But connecting brands to consumers doesn’t just have to be through text and recommendations. Kyle Wong, who co-founded Pixlee, is building a startup to provide what he terms “authentic visual marketing.” Consumers take millions of photos of brand products every year, broadcasting them on sites like Instagram to their followers. Now, Pixlee wants to take those raw photos and use them in a brand’s own advertising campaign, leaving behind the professional shoots that currently splash across advertising campaigns.

Wong, in an article he posted today, noted that influencer marketing is not just about looking at follower counts, but has to expand beyond reach to brand affinity and strength of relationship with followers. To that end, Pixlee just released a beta version of an influencer marketing tracking feature that will allow brands on its platform to identify the most impactful influencers and connect with them.

The challenge for Pixlee, Mavrck and other companies working in this nascent influencer marketing space is to balance building organic connections with monitoring performance. These influencers work because of their authenticity, so how can brands leverage that credibility without destroying it? For Mavrck, its platform actively monitors influencers to ensure that people invited to the platform don’t suddenly start spamming their friends.

Another challenge is to get brand managers to loosen their stranglehold and perfectionism on their marketing campaigns. The perfect images and glossy spreads that are the hallmark of much of consumer goods marketing may look objectively better than a picture shot from an iPhone, but they lack a human touch that a single authentic image from a mom in Iowa can provide.

That is the argument that Laura Busche makes to marketers in her recently published book Lean Branding. “The branding process looks more like an orchestra. Consumers today want to sing with you. They’re happy to buy something they’ve coproduced. They look forward to participating, and every day we get better tools to facilitate it. Despite being homework for everyone in your company, brands are conversations, not monologues.”

The ultimate challenge for any new marketing strategy is to just start getting brand managers and agencies talking about it. Stevens from Mavrck notes that “Influencer marketing doesn’t have the scale yet, but if we are able to grow it, we can show that it is much more effective than traditional ads. Long-term, we can use mixed marketing to drive engagement and conversions.” There may still be hope for Santa in this new world, but now he will have quite a few friends to help him out (and not just elves).

Featured Image: Randy Robertson/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

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Datanyze Acquires LeadLedger, A Sales Tool That Tracks Tech Product Market Share


Sales startup Datanyze is announcing its first acquisition — it’s buying a similar service, LeadLedger.

On a broad level, Datanyze and LeadLedger basically promise customers the same thing — they’re trying to help salespeople find new leads, particularly by tracking which websites are using competitors’ products, as well as overall market share.

“I think that more and more, we’re seeing technology data as a great trigger for lead generation,” said Datanyze’s director of marketing Sam Laber. “If you’re a sales rep, you want to know which websites have added a specific technology that day, or conversely, have dropped a specific technology that day, to give you an idea of a prospect to go after.”

Laber argued that the acquisition moves Datanyze closer to the goal that founder Ilya Semin laid out earlier this year, when Datanyze raised a $2 million seed round — namely, to become “the de facto lead generation solution for every technology provider.”

Semin described the acquisition as “a strategic move” that solidifies his company’s dominance, adding, “We also wanted to prevent our competitors from entering this space of technology tracking.”

In a blog post about the deal, LeadLedger says this will allow Datanyze to expand “its overall technology coverage, and in particular, its coverage of the advertising space.”

The financial terms were not disclosed, but Semin said Datanyze will be working to bring LeadLedger customers onboard. He also said that he’d wanted to hire the LeadLedger team, but they declined: “They explained to us that they wanted to move into a totally different direction.”

Featured Image: LeadLedger

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Twitter Rallies On CEO Rumors, Positive Analyst Attention


Twitter had a strong day in the market, spiking more than 4 percent in midday trading before ending the day up a slightly more modest 3.67 percent.

The company’s shares benefited from a positive ‘buy’ rating from Argus that included a $44 per-share price target. The company’s shares closed the day at $38.44 per share.

More dramatically, SunTrust’s Bob Peck, whose firm maintains a buy rating on Twitter’s shares, indicated on CNBC that its current CEO, Dick Costolo, may not be the company’s leading executive by the end of 2015. Under Costolo’s tenure atop the social company, it has reported strong financial performance, but lackluster user growth.

Twitter’s shares have a dramatic 52 week range of $29.51 to $74.73. Here’s the CNBC clip:

Featured Image: Anthony Quintano/Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

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Twitter Users Can Now Track Tweet Impressions, Engagement Numbers Right In The iOS App


Twitter has once again expanded access to its analytics data, today introducing the ability to view your “tweet activity” on mobile. In the latest version of Twitter’s iOS application, a new feature allows users to tap on a “View Analytics Details” option from any tweet’s detail page in order to see data related to that post, including total impressions, engagements and more.

The change is yet another example of Twitter making its analytics data more broadly accessible to its user base, having previously opened up its analytics dashboard to the public earlier this year.

The addition of the new iOS feature was initially spotted by The Next Web, which caught a tweet about it from Twitter front end engineer Ian Chan. The company, however, did not bother to announce the feature officially via its company blog or main Twitter account (at least, not at the time of publication).

The Twitter Analytics dashboard is a handy resource that tells you how well each of your updates on Twitter’s social network have performed. When the service first launched in July, it was initially targeted at Twitter advertisers and publishers – that is, those who are more likely to be tracking things like impressions, replies and clicks on a regular basis in order to analyze their own social media strategies.

The company had already offered advertisers data about tweets they’d paid to promote, but until the analytics dashboard, the same hadn’t been available for “organic” tweets.

The following month, Ian Chan announced on Twitter that the analytics dashboard was open to anyone who wanted access. That meant regular users like you or me could log in and see which of our tweets were resonating with Twitter’s audience.

On the web, the dashboard shows organic impressions and engagements, charts detailing performance, tweet previews and detailed engagement metrics for each post, and the ability to export your data and permalinks for further analysis.

On mobile, by way of the iOS app, the engagement data is provided in a more simplified format. You’ll be shown how many total impressions and engagements a given tweet has received, as well as other relevant stats, such as how many people clicked the link in your tweet, how many people clicked to expand your tweet, how many favorites your tweet received, or how many people clicked on your profile picture or name, for example.

While the metrics detailing your total impressions and engagements are shown on each tweet, the highlights shown will vary from tweet to tweet. That is, Twitter will selectively show you the metrics that are relevant to that particular tweet (e.g. clicks, if you’ve included a link in your tweet), but also those that are notable enough for sharing.

You cannot see these metrics for retweets from other accounts, which is understandable.

The new feature itself is iOS-only for now. Chan said in a subsequent tweet that Android support was in the works, but the company did not have a launch date at this time.

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Who Do You Want To Give A Crunchies Award To Next Year?


It’s the holiday season, and in the spirit of giving, the Crunchies Monkey made a visit to the TechCrunch office during our annual holiday party. He celebrated the year by exchanging gifts with a few of our TechCrunch staffers, handing out invitations to the 8th Annual Crunchies Awards Ceremony in the process.

Nominations for the awards are now closed, but soon enough we’ll open voting to determine who we give Crunchies Awards to next year. In early January, the top choices for each category will be announced and you’ll be able to cast support for all your favorites.

In the meantime, it’s probably a good time to buy tickets for the event. Every year we celebrate all the best and brightest in the world of tech, and this year won’t be any different.

The awards ceremony, which will be held at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco on February 5, will be hosted by Silicon Valley‘s T.J. Miller this year, so it’s bound to be a good time. There will also be a happy hour afterward during which you can drink, make merry and complain that your startup didn’t win or complain about those that did.

The event sold out last year, so you’ll want to get in early. And hey, Crunchies tickets make great stocking stuffers for the tech-obsessed in your household.

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