Also today: China’s exports soar – both good and bad news; Lithium jolts global miners out of their depression; Royal Mail set to deliver more junk; Scammers fold on cards in favour of online banking fraud ; Google launches virtual marketplace for third-party apps.
Murdoch makes news media and music central to MySpace of the future
News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch bought MySpace for a whopping $630 million or so in 2005, but his audience has shrunk, the company’s made heavy layoffs and engaged in two management shake-ups. That’s left the one-time leader in digital social networking running to keep up with the competition. The wiles of Facebook, Twitter and Google have forced development of a new version of the site that will be made public over the next weeks and months. There’ll be upgraded music and media content so users can listen to music that other MySpace junkies are sharing in their stream of updates. The new MySpace bosses say they want 200 million or 300 million users in total, not just the current and declining 120 million. Facebook now counts 400 million active fans. Murdoch wants people to pay for the Internet, especially his news media. Long ago he said he wouldn’t buy Twitter, but neither will he sell MySpace. There’s so much rumour about, that apart from the dissembling nature of the Internet, it’s hard enough to fathom reality anyway.
Photo: Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, arrives at the 82nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, March 7, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Google launches virtual marketplace for third-party apps
Google’s just launched Google Apps Marketplace, a virtual market where Google sells third-party integrated software that accesses data within the existing Google Apps. The company receives 20% of the revenue earned by third-party developers – so, along with an ever-expanding suite of applications that helps users do their jobs, Google’s fame is spreading farther and wider and, with it, so does the brand of the third-party. There’re already 25 million users of Google Apps, so the “Marketplace”, announced at Google’s Campfire One event for developers in California, will spread like a bushfire, with more users and more apps coming online all the time. It’s so new, that there’s little current information on quality control, pricing and other such issues, but the basic idea’s sure to be a hit.
China’s exports soar – both good and bad news
There are good and bad signs in the news that China’s exports jumped by 46% in February compared with the same period a year ago. That really boosts the case that there’s a strong recovery in global trade, but it also means that world trade, particularly between the US and China, will become even more tempestuous. The increase was far higher than analysts’ expectations of a 35% to 40% jump. And now the Chinese government will be under more pressure to raise the value of its yuan currency, which Americans and Europeans say is way undervalued. China’s February imports also rose strongly, soaring by 44.7%. That’s good for balancing the trade equation as it’ll give China’s government more confidence over revaluing the yuan, and shows that growing Chinese consumption of foreign goods and services may help world trade get on a more even keel. Still, China’s central bank says it needs to be very cautious about easing exchange rate controls while the global economic outlook remains uncertain.
Lithium jolts global miners out of their depression
It’s used in medicine to help lift depression, and now that lithium is showing its value for use in hybrid and electric cars, it’s waking global miners up from a deep sleep and forcing them to scramble for new sources of the metal. One of Toyota’s material suppliers has joined an Australian mining firm in a $100 million joint-venture lithium project in Argentina. That came days after Magna International, a Canadian car parts firm, said it was investing $10 million in a small Canadian lithium deal that also has Argentinean projects. Miners now see potential for a significant increase in demand for the element, because of the heightened interest shown by the world’s largest car manufacturers in electric vehicles. But it’ll take time to gather a head of steam (and critical voltage), as demand for electric cars hasn’t taken off in any big way yet.
Royal Mail set to deliver more junk
Britain’s Royal Mail and junk mail have been like oil and water. Customers and postmen hate the stuff. They hate it even more than they hated the Post Office renaming itself “Consignia” in 2000, before consigning that unpopular name to the dustbin of history and reverting to its former brand. The deliverer of the nation’s letters and parcels once suspended a postman for telling customers how they could stop receiving junk mail. But it’s a good earner for the postal service, despite it having an agreed quota with the postal union on the amount of unsolicited forests of paper postmen could deliver. Now the Royal Mail and the union have mutually decided to lift a cap that saw delivery limited to a maximum of three junk items to each household each week, after ensuring in past years that mailbags weren’t overloaded. And why has this happened? Well, the Royal Mail’s got plenty of competition these days, lacks investment and has a $15 billion hole in its pension fund. So, now it’s not only dogs who might bite the postie.
Scammers fold on cards in favour of online banking fraud
New research shows fraudsters are switching from bank card fraud to directly raiding online bank accounts. That’s the reason why banks worldwide tell online customers how to identify and avoid “phishing” scams the moment they log on to their electronic money. Fraud cost the UK credit and debit card industry some $660 million in 2009, but that’s a drop of 28% compared with 2008, because scammers turned to phishing attacks instead. They were up 16%, as crooks managed to trick people into entering their personal details on a website or in emails. It’s a really nasty business, because if you open up URLs (Internet addresses) or attachments on a fake banking email, the fraudsters can download software that allows them to track the keystrokes you make on your computer, including your private codes and passwords. So watch out – the total amount of online banking losses in Britain has risen 14%, and that means it’s likely to be rising just as fast elsewhere.