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Ride share issues leaving SXSW goers immobile

(TECH NEWS) Price gouging and lack of availability has left SXSW goers up creek without a paddle – or ride.

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Feeling the void

Uber and Lyft left Austin in 2016 and during regular times of the year, the ride share apps native to Austin, can probably handle the demand with ease but during festivals, the apps are failing, and failing miserably.

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With SXSW in full swing and an influx of 72,000+ people (stats from 2016), the void created when Uber and Lyft departed is being felt.

Not so fast, Fasten

On Saturday March 11th, the first day of the festival, Fasten, the most widely used app crashed. The CEO, Kirill Evdakov, stated that the app was poised to be able to handle a 5x increase but that the app had seen a 12x increase and couldn’t keep up with demand.

Evdakov said in his statement on Facebook that “Hopefully ~1 hour of intermittent service issues (out of the 240 total hours of SXSW) won’t ruin your (and that of local riders and SXSW visitors) experience.

What’s being over shadowed by the crash (the subsequent crashes), are the massive price surges that are taking place.

Crashing our wallets

In images and tweets shared on facebook and twitter by pissed off users such as Amanda Coolong (@acoolong), a 7 minute/2 mile ride was estimated at between $10 and $12 dollars, but when booked jumped to between $43 and $51 dollars.

Another user Roeland Pater (@roelnd) showed his 8 minute ride estimate at between $70 ad $83 dollars.

Fortunately for Evdakov and Fasten, since the normal users of Austin have no real choice in the matter, as Uber and Lyft opted to leave the city, Fasten and a few lesser used apps will be sticking around.

Bad press

Unfortunately for Evdakov, in a post written by Richard Bagdonas, posted in Austin Tech Alliance, Bogdonas states:

“This was posted today from a friend who came to Austin from SFO. He has 29K followers on Twitter and 4k on FB. Moreover he is a writer.Fasten, the local, popular ride service that has replaced Uber and Lyft, has essentially gone to surge pricing and seems to be screwing drivers. My driver saw that I was being charged $14 for my $2 ride but it was 25 on PayPal that is 12x the usual rate, worse than Uber ever overcharged me.”

“We need to get mainstream ride sharing back.”

And this isn’t the only influential person to complain.

Pedicabs be petty

For those festival goers staying downtown or simply those too tired to walk, there have always been the option of pedicabs – which typically run off of tips.

Now all pedicab providers seem to be charging a fee plus optional tips but the fee schedule isn’t posted anywhere and it’s leaving users feeling swindled.

Benn Rosales, CEO of The Real Daily/The American Genius was taken THREE BLOCKS and the driver demanded $10 per person, and another longer ride said it would be $5 per person with tips optional). After googling all the pedicab services in Austin, not one website states a fee schedule.

Car2Go is a no-go

Car2Go, which has a fairly decent footprint in the city is seeing an uptake in sign-ups and use as an alternative to cabs and ride shares for it’s relatively low cost. Their 2 person, smart car version is $.41 a minute with a 23-minute trip costing $11.92 including the $1.08 driver protection fee.

The company, owned by Mercedes Benz also has the option of using a Mercedes Benz 4 and 5 seater CLA or GLA at just $.47 a minute.

Car2Go has been great for locals who want to drive downtown but not pay the fees to park, especially during SXSW when parking rates can get as high as $100.

Back to the basics

As a last resort, many people are going back to cabs.

With Austin holding a number of world acclaimed festivals each year, something needs to happen and it needs to happen fast.Click To Tweet

Either Fasten and it’s cohorts need to step up or the city council need to reevaluate the regulatory decisions that led to Uber and Lyft opting out.

#WeWantOptions

Pam Garner is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas, currently pursuing her master's degree in graphic and web design. Pam is a multi-disciplined creative who hopes to one day actually finish her book on all of her crazy adventures.

Tech News

Publishers anticipate price hikes after Facebook’s purge

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Changes to the Facebook News Feed algorithm may lead to price hikes for publishers trying to remain relevant.

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Facebook is changing the way News Feed filters content, putting more focus on posts from friends and family. This will effectively reduce the amount of paid content users see from publishers and brands.

Some agencies think this may increase how much advertisers will need to spend on paid ads to keep the same number of views. Just since last quarter, ad rates increased by thirty five percent.

Facebook’s VP of product management, John Hegeman said advertising will be “unaffected,” but agencies aren’t so sure.

Doug Baker, director of strategic services at AnalogFolk, stated this is the “final nail in the existing coffin” for organic reach.

For years, organic reach has been declining since more content is being shared. Smartphones and tablets lowered the threshold for ease of posting, and users can now share content without being tied to a desktop.

News Feeds are super saturated with content, and it has become increasingly difficult for content creators to organically reach users in the midst of posts from family and friends.

Mass-reach media buys end up seeming like borderline spam, and clog up an already extremely populated stream of content in your feed.

In December, Facebook announced plans to deprioritize “engagement bait” posts that urge users to share, like, or vote to artificially gain greater reach.

Using a machine learning model to detect different forms of engagement, Facebook rolled out Page-level demotion to curb frequency of advertisers using engagement bait.

Facebook noted it will still favor content from reputable publishers while reducing clickbait, spam, and misleading stories.

While engagement is only a small part of ad ranking, advertisers may see serious price hikes to keep the same level of performance.

It looks like Facebook is trying to go back to its roots as a social site, like how Snapchat recently announced a plan to keep news and social more separated on their platform.

To reach users with these new changes, advertisers must optimize and more carefully plan media strategies to make content relevant to target markets.

However, brands may find loopholes in the algorithm, continuing practices that drive artificial engagement. CEO of digital agency TMW Unlimited pointed out that brands may “be tempted to be increasingly controversial or polarizing in order to stimulate conversation.”

Even as Facebook insists it’s not a media company and its advertisers are actually “partners,” it’s likely brands will see significant price increases to remain in the News Feed instead of relegated to side ads.

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Tech News

Facebook’s news feed changes will impact how you reach consumers

(TECH NEWS) Facebook is changing how you see the news feed, but it will also impact how your business reaches consumers.

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Once again, Facebook is making some significant changes to the News Feed (you probably know this because people are freaking out). This time, the changes revolve around improving user experience by cutting down on sponsored content — but what does that mean for advertisers and Facebook businesses?

As it turns out, not a ton – just a higher content standard and the accompanying challenge of creating positive, enjoyable content. Maybe.

Anyone who’s spent any time on Facebook in the past few years knows that it’s as much an advertising business as it is a social network. It’s impossible to make it more than a few posts into your News Feed without seeing a “Suggested Post”-type ad, and unless you use an ad-blocker, your sidebar is full of even more blatant attempts to sell or promote products only loosely related to your likes and interests.

It appears that no one is less happy about this than the man himself. Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to dial back advertising posts in favor of user-created content, conversation-inspiring posts, and other non-public items of interest. The goal is to connect you more consistently with the content that you love rather than the content that you tolerate; as you can probably guess, advertisers aren’t thrilled about this notion — some are even considering it an ad-pocalypse.

That’s a little dramatic.

The road to creating engaging, profitable ads for this new Facebook is relatively simple, if not easy. Facebook will be prioritizing posts that objectively bring happiness and positive experiences to users, meaning that your ads will need to be intrinsically fulfilling for your target demographic. While relying on “traditional” marketing strategies like clickbait titles and high initial engagement numbers won’t get you there, retaining people with your content will.

In fact, this move is fundamentally similar to YouTube’s policy wherein creators are paid more for longer audience view times than if their audiences flake out after a few seconds. One might argue that such a policy was put into place to safeguard against meaningless content with catchy titles, and that’s exactly what Facebook appears to be doing here.

With this return to their roots, Facebook is making steps toward bringing positivity back into social media — something we all could benefit from right about now.

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Tech News

Walmart may have just solved the biggest snag in online grocery shopping

(TECH NEWS) Walmart submits a patent for technology that could fix the crack in online grocery shopping.

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When online shopping became increasingly popular, it made total sense as it is a huge time saver. However, not being a frequent user of the services, I have questioned how people go about selecting exactly what they want as what will be sent to them, isn’t what’s pictured online.

Apparently, this is a major challenge for services that offer online grocery shopping, as people tend to be particular about their cuts of meats and selection of produce (we’ve all had those moments where we’ve examined each apple in the bunch, admit it).

Walmart, a leading competitor in grocery sales, is looking to eradicate this challenge with a newly submitted patent for their developments. The new system they’re proposing will give online shoppers a look at their actual potential purchase via 3D technology.

The system, dubbed the “Fresh Online Experience” (FOE), will use three-dimensional scanning to show online shoppers images of the products.

First, they will select from a stock image (say they’re looking for an orange). A human worker at the location they’re shopping/delivering from will be notified and will then select an orange and send the shopper a photo.

The image would be sent from a store associate interface and will appear in a communications module where the customer can view it. They are then given the chance to approve or deny, based on the image.

The customer will have a fixed amount of time to approve or deny the item/image. To combat too much back and forth, the customer is only given so many vetoes until they have to choose an orange that’s been previously selected or remove it from the order altogether.

When the orange is approved, it will be stamped with an edible watermark and will be included with the finalized order. While this seems like a lot of work on the associate’s end, Walmart has stated that some of the FOE will include automated aspects, which could save human workers from having to continuously scan fresh items.

This idea comes on the heels of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, making them a giant competitor for Walmart.

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