CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna shines hope on the future of genetic modification at SXSW

Jennifer Doudna, co-inventor of CRISPR Cas9 technology, or the ability to program genes using a special enzyme, spoke about the promises of this technology on stage at SXSW this afternoon. In a keynote today, Doudna noted that while this technology is very young (less than five years old), “it’s been deployed very rapidly for existing applications,” she said.

For example, CRISPR Cas9 tech has important applications for treating diseases. One of the first applications we’ll see entering clinical trials, Doudna said, is using Cas9 gene editing tech to correct the mutation that causes sickle cell disease.

Another example is using the tech to create gene drives, which entails driving a trait through a population very quickly. Doudna said it’s already being deployed in the lab setting to make changes to insects that carry diseases, such as mosquitos that carry certain pathogens.

“In the future, we could create mosquitos impervious to infections and therefore prevent spreading diseases,” Doudna said.

Then, of course, there’s the use of gene editing in human embryos, which has attracted a lot of attention in the last few years. For example, the tech could be used to make changes to the immune systems of people with cancer, and make them more capable of fighting the disease.

The University of California Berkeley professor and founder of biotech startup Caribou Bioscience was up until recently embroiled in a hotly contested patent battle with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard over key portions of the technology for the past two years, namely the ability to edit living cells.

 The Broad Institute won in that case last month, but as Doudna pointed out to TechCrunch shortly after the decision went public, it still allows her team and the company she founded to work with the technology in a variety of ways.

CRISPR is a technology potentially worth hundreds of billions, if not trillions, as it could change entire industries. While the Broad Institute won the rights to its patent under a “no interference” ruling, UC Berkeley must still obtain the more basic CRISPR patent. Should that happen, companies interested in using the technology would likely have to pay both institutions for the rights.

During her keynote, Doudna noted how the development of this technology has been a very collaborative effort between professors, academic institutions, regulators, students, etc.

What ultimately creates the most stress for her is the fear that people will get out ahead of the tech, “getting so excited they start to deploy it before it’s even ready,” Doudna said. “I worry most about that kind of overextension that might lead to some sort of harmful effect that would then turn the public against it.”

The Ken wants to fix business journalism in India with a subscription model

Four former reporters and entrepreneurs are attempting to fix India’s “broken” business media landscape and simultaneously prove that there’s an audience — and business — for paying for quality journalism in the country.

Subscription-based media is thriving in the West. The New York Times has seen its digital subscription base swell following the election of President Trump. In tech, The Information, founded by a former Wall Street Journal editor, has thrived with a mix of trend-based reporting and news scoops, while Stratechery, an analysis-focused newsletter/blog from Taiwan-based writer Ben Thompson, has also shown the model to be lucrative.

But this is India, a country where monetizing a product is difficult even if it is supremely popular. Apple sells more iPhones on launch weekend than it manages in India over a whole year, while addictive services like Netflix — far cheaper than an iPhone — have struggled to gain mainstream prominence thus far.

Starting With Business Reporting

Yet subscription is the vision behind The Ken, a Bangalore-based new media company that publishes a story per day behind a paywall. Access is priced at $108 for overseas users, or 2,750 INR ($42) for those in India.

The site, which also offers $10 per month and $25/900 INR ($13.50) per quarter packages, is the most prominent subscription-based media play India has seen thus far. Its coverage is principally focused on technology and business, that’s the domain its founding team has experience in, but there are plans to move into new areas further down the line.

“We don’t want to be seen as just covering startups, that’s a very easy trap to fall into,” co-founder and CEO Rohin Dharmakumar told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “We want to expand our coverage and be interesting enough on a daily basis but also slightly unpredictable.”

The Ken — which is named after an old fashioned English word for knowledge — is build around its community. Email is the primary communication medium, and the team of 11 takes it in turns to send daily missives to its user base — including those who are registered but not paying — that introduce the daily read with humor and thought. Once a week, the site produces a story that sits outside of its paywall for anyone to read, acting as bait to lure in new subscriptions.

 

 

Beyond straight up pay-to-read, The Ken uses other models to help get its writing into the hands of more readers without the need for advertising. It has worked with corporate sponsors who pay to make some of its content available for free without any promotional material or advertising — mobile wallet giant Paytm, for example, sponsored a week-long free pass — while it is in the process of introducing corporate subscriptions, too.

There’s no plan for article-only or daily plans, Dharmakumar explained, because that would dilute the experience and take away from building a longer-term vision and community.

Make Media Great Again

Small disclaimer, I’m one of The Ken’s paying subscribers because, beyond information gathering as part of my job, I’m interested in observing the ways technology is disrupting daily life. Emerging markets — where tech is advancing almost every aspect of everyday living — are a fascination and India, with its billion-plus population and nationwide diversity, is arguable the country where the impact of tech could be highest. Yet there are few media outlets able to tell this story with clarity, interest and — above all — accuracy.

With respect to that latter point, Dharmakumar explained that The Ken started up in response to what he observed to be the Indian population’s general disinterest in media.

“It became very apparent that there was a crisis of business journalism in India,” he said. “People were essentially not reading newspapers, just giving up. And I don’t mean just young people, even experienced investors would prefer to catch up on news via social media.”

“Coverage was dumbed down, biased, and dense — people couldn’t relate to it and couldn’t find value in it,” Dharmakumar added.

 Inspired by some of the aforementioned subscription-based media plays — Dharmakumar specifically mentions The Information and Stratechery — the team of four decided it was “time someone did something about this in India” and they created The Ken. Initially the project started out with postings on social media, before introducing an email-registration-paywall to float the idea of a barrier between reader and subject matter.

Satisfied with what they saw, The Ken then went live to a paying audience.

Dharmakumar isn’t revealing how many readers it has right now, but he said the company has exceeded its own expectations at this point. Indeed, it actually became a profitable business within two weeks of the launch of its website before going on to raise $400,000 from a bunch of reputable angel investors this year. Some of those backers include the founders of notable Indian tech startups Paytm, TaxiForSure and Freshdesk. (Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma also backed FactorDaily, another ambitious new media startup we wrote about, alongside other India-based news websites.)

“While $400,000 may not seem like a lot of money these days, it’s a significant amount to build a focused, lean media business, which has also been generating revenue right from day one. As journalists, we’ve seen too many instances of companies losing their focus and fire in the belly after raising too much money too early on,” Dharmakumar wrote in a note to subscribers announcing the financing.

“Business journalism lost the plot on this, many years ago when it started churning out articles that were either incremental, one-sided, dumbed down or dry and boring. We go to great lengths to make our stories anything but,” he added.

Growing Into The Mainstream

Despite criticizing the status quo, The Ken’s CEO said the business isn’t looking to rip out the existing media system in India, rather it sees a position working within it.

“We are not attempting to replace traditional newspapers, we are a complement to one,” he said. “People read the news to find out what’s happening, we focus on what comes next, who is doing what, and where is the motivation?”

The company’s course for the next six month is to continue to do what it is doing while growing its audience and deepening its reporting pool. After that period, it will look to new coverage areas it can branch into to give its readership a wider selection of stories and information.

Dharmakumar is also keen to expand The Ken’s readership beyond its initial focus on business professional and tech industry watchers.

“Want to take our stories to younger people who feel business news isn’t for them,” he explained.

First up, apps for Android and iOS will come, which will help expand from those who currently rely on email to access the site and its stories. Other planned features include a comment section for stories and a Slack channel to enables readers to engage with writers directly, potentially to help steer editorial focus or raise potential areas for storytelling.

GoPro’s Drone Initiative Crashes With Karma Recall

GoPro’s ambitious plans to be a player in the fledgling drone market crashed last week when it had to announce a product recall due to Karma UAV units falling from the sky.

The company needed to resolve a performance issue related to loss of power during operation, it said. It indicated it would resume shipment of Karma at some point, but didn’t suggest when.

The Karma recall likely will have a significant financial impact on GoPro.

“With the amount of competition in the consumer drone space, it is imperative to satisfy demand, or that demand will shift to another product,” said Michael Blades, a senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

“The longer Karma is sidelined, the less chance it has of grabbing significant market share,” he told TechNewsWorld.

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Revenue Hit

GoPro’s stock price had begun slipping before the recall and has continued to decline steadily, Blades added.

“The impact will be on stock price and revenue,” he said.

GoPro already had lowered its fourth-quarter revenue forecasts because it launched Karma later than planned, explained Ken Hyers, director of wireless device strategies at Strategy Analytics.

“In the two weeks it was available, GoPro sold around 2,500 Karma drones and surely had been anticipating strong sales for the Karma drone from Thanksgiving on. That revenue is now lost,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Worse, GoPro had been counting on the Karma to drive sales of its new GoPro Hero5 and Hero5 Session cameras, and now that opportunity has also been lost,” Hyers added.

Black Eye

Since Karma was GoPro’s first UAV, the drone was supposed to establish the company’s reputation in the market. It has done that — but not in a good way.

“Given that the Karma is GoPro’s first drone, and in many ways was seen as the future of the company, it’s recall has to be viewed as devastating for its reputation as a drone maker and its ambitions in the drone space,” said Hyers.

“Drone buyers are more likely to avoid GoPro in the future, with severe consequences for the company’s future drone and camera sales,” he noted. “There are simply too many very good drone alternatives available on the market for buyers to risk giving GoPro another chance.”

The recall emphasizes the fact that GoPro is a camera company and not a drone company, Frost’s Blades added.

“GoPro should not have been expected to develop a perfect product with its first drone,” he said. “However, the market is innovating so quickly that if your product is not better or more capable than the latest products, you will likely fail.”

Flawed Strategy

Consumer interest in UAVs has been less than anticipated by the industry, and the Karma recall isn’t going to improve that, observed Brad Russell, a research analyst with Parks Associates.

Less than 5 percent of U.S. broadband households own a drone, and less than 4 percent said they were interested in owning one at the beginning of the year, he noted.

“Negative drone stories in the press and mechanical failures, such as GoPro’s recent troubles, are likely stifling consumer interest outside of film and video professionals and enthusiasts,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Even without the recall of Karma, GoPro’s prosumer drone strategy may be flawed, suggested Philip Solis, a research director at ABI Research.

Although revenues from prosumer drones amount to about half of the $1 billion consumer drone market, those drones represent only 6 percent of drones shipped in the space.

“GoPro’s strategy should be to use drones to expand the sales of their cameras, but they’re pricing themselves into the prosumer space, which is low volume, which means a very tiny amount of additional cameras sold,” Solis told TechNewsWorld.

Debacle for GoPro

What’s more, by selling Karma at $799, GoPro is going head-to-head with the established leaders in the market, DJI and 3DR. “If you’re not DJI or 3DR, it’s awfully hard to compete in the market,” Solis said.

“If they had a product at $400 to $600, they could compete better in the market and sell a lot more cameras,” he maintained.

“The Karma drone has been a debacle for GoPro, and it will be extremely challenging for them to bounce back in the drone market after such an awful start,” said Strategy Analytics’ Hyers. “Going forward, GoPro should partner with another drone maker and outsource drone development. It’s clearly not ready to do it on its own.”

Friend Finder Data Breach Exposes 400M Swingers

Hackers have stolen information of more than 400 million users of Friend Finder Networks, which runs several adult dating and pornography websites, LeakedSource reported earlier this week.

This is Friend Finders’ second breach in two years. Last year, hackers accessed 4 million accounts, exposing information on users’ sexual preferences and extramarital affairs.

Data of more than 412 million users was compromised in the latest breach, LeakedSource reported. Passwords taken in the breach were either in plain text or SHA1 hashed, and neither method could be considered secure.

The hashed passwords appeared changed to all lowercase before storage, making them easier to attack, the LeakedSource team noted. However, it also makes them less easy to use in the real world.

hackers-data-breach-friend-finder

Whatever Hackers Want, Hackers Get

Friend Finder reportedly has been aware of potential security vulnerabilities for several weeks and has been taking steps to investigate them. Several reports of flaws apparently were extortion attempts, but one was an injection vulnerability that the company fixed.

Friend Finder did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

Friend Finder maintains that it takes the security of its customers seriously, as is typical of companies that suddenly find millions of their users’ accounts hacked.

“It is hard to tell if a company that has been breached is lax in their security,” said Jon Clay, director of global threat communications at Trend Micro.

“History has proven that hackers are able to penetrate many organizations regardless of their security controls,” he told TechNewsWorld.

However, this case doesn’t merit the benefit of the doubt, according to Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4.

“This is criminal negligence, as it’s not the first time,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“This hack is very similar to the data breach they had last year,” Sjouwerman said. “Their procedures and policies are severely lacking. Even users who believed they deleted their accounts have had them stolen again. ”

There were nearly 16 million accounts with @deleted1.com appended to them, LeakedSource said, which could mean Friend Finder decided to store information on accounts that users wanted deleted.

Friend Finder wouldn’t be alone in such treatment of customers who asked to have their accounts deleted, noted Tony Anscombe, the security evangelist atAvast.

“It’s very difficult to have a company delete your account data. Typically, the settings to do it are hidden. They don’t want to delete you because they want to market to you going forward,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“There has to be a better method across the whole industry of allowing somebody to remove their data from a database,” he added.

Get Ready for Extortion

The consequences for users from the breach at Friend Finder likely will be similar to those suffered by users of the infidelity site Ashley Madison after its data was breached.

“Identity theft and extortion are two of the main consequences for the victims whose information was stolen,” said Trend Micro’s Clay.

Anyone with an email address in the stolen data can expect to receive harassing or threatening emails, as well as click bait offers to “see if your name and password are on the list,” KnowBe4’s Sjouwerman added.

“Do not go looking for your data,” warned Avast’s Anscombe.

“Lots of scammers will say they’ve got it. There will be sites popping up saying ‘check to see if you were part of this breach.’ Those sites are gathering data,” he explained.

“When you type in your email address to see if you were part of the breach — guess what? — you just gave a cybercriminal somewhere your email address,” he said.

Short Attention Span

Consumers aren’t the only ones who suffer from gigantic breaches.

“Data sets of credentials that contain user names, emails, passwords, and answers to secret questions are sold to attackers targeting enterprises,” noted Israel Barak, CISO of Cybereason.

“They’re looking to take advantage of users that re-use their passwords,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Those users use the same password for the dating site, as well as for their corporate email, corporate VPN, personal email, personal bank account and so forth,” Barak said.

“This scenario has been shown to be extremely effective after the LinkedIn breach that led to numerous secondary breaches based on reused passwords,” he added. “This will be a very likely outcome of the Adult Finder breach as well.”

And what about the damage to Friend Finder? The breach likely will be no more than a near-term setback for Friend Finder, if Ashley Madison is any indicator. Traffic bounced back in a short period of time following its massive hack attack.

However, the impact is “broader than these sites,” said Rami Essaid, CEO ofDistil Networks.

It affects “how we are as a society in general,” he said.

“Target rebounded; Home Depot rebounded,” Essaid told TechNewsWorld. “The repercussions of being a victim of a breach are short-lived. We have a very short memory as a society and are not holding people accountable long-term.”

Lenovo Launches Smart Home Assistant, Smart Glasses, Palm-Sized Keyboard, and More

Ahead of CES 2017 in Las Vegas, Lenovo has introduced a host of new products into the market. Apart from laptops and tablets, the company introduced smart home and storage devices as well. Venturing into the voice-based virtual assistant space, Lenovo launched its own smart assistant powered by Amazon Alexa. Furthermore, it even launched a digital storage solution called the Lenovo Smart Storage, and the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller which is a multi-point capacitive touchpad with an integrated keyboard. Lenovo also unveiled the New Glass C200 smart glasses.

Lenovo Launches Smart Home Assistant, Smart Glasses, Palm-Sized Keyboard, and MoreBeginning with the Lenovo Smart Assistant, it works in the same way as Google Home and Amazon Echo. The smart home device listens to voice commands and performs functions like calling an Uber, playing music, switching on/off other smart appliances, searching online for queries, and more. It is powered by Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, weighs about 760 grams, and comes with 8GB of internal storage. Colour options include Light Grey, Harman Black, Orange, and Blue, and it supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Lenovo Smart Assistant starts at $129 (roughly Rs. 8,900) and will be available from May this year.

Additionally, there’s also a special Lenovo Smart Assistant Harman Kardon Edition that is touted to sport superior audio quality for music and home entertainment. This special edition smart assistant will be priced a little higher at $179.99 (roughly Rs. 12,300), and will also be made available in May.
At CES 2017, Lenovo also introduced Smart Storage with 6TB storage capacity. The digital storage solution supports facial recognition to organise and search stored photos based on people. It has dual-band wireless access and multi-device auto-sync capabilities. Lenovo’s Smart Storage will allow you to store photos, videos, media, and other files for a price starting at $139 (roughly Rs. 9,500). Lenovo Smart Storage will be available in the market from May.
lenovo smart storage Lenovo Smart StorageThe company launched another innovative product called the Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller as well. This device is essentially a palm-sized wireless keyboard that doubles up into a capacitive touchpad as well. It is compatible with devices that run on Windows 7 and above, and runs on AAA batteries. The company claims that the Lenovo 500 Media Controller can offer up to 8 hours of battery life. The small keyboard measures 145×85.6×18.85mm, and weighs 141 grams. The Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller starts at $54.99 (roughly Rs. 3,800), and will be available beginning May.
lenovo keyboard Lenovo Keyboard

Another innovative product demoed at CES 2017 includes the Lenovo New Glass C200 smart glasses, taking forward its augmented reality offerings. The device runs on Linux operating system, and integrates AR and artificial intelligence to bring a superior immersive experience, the company claims. The smart glass product comes in two pieces – a Glass Unit and a Pocket Unit. The Glass Unit needs to be worn (uses only one eye) and weighs about 60 grams. The Pocket Unit connects with the phone and remains in your pocket. The AI software understands your surrounding and gathers information in your field of view. The product comes with built-in software called Lenovo NBD Titan Editor that allows you to do visual editing as well. The New Glass C200 will go into mass production sometime in June, and availability remains unknown.
lenovo smart glasses Lenovo Smart Glasses

Apart from these, Lenovo also launched the Thinkpad X1 Carbon, Thinkpad X1 Yoga, and the Thinkpad X1 Tablet as well. It also refreshed the Miix series with 12-inch Miix 720 tablet running on Windows 10. The Miix 720 comes with a detachable keyboard and a fold out kickstand for multi-purpose usage. Speaking of laptops, the Lenovo Legion Y720 and Legion Y520 gaming laptops were also unveiled. All of these products will hit the market before April.

Apple Pays $450,000 for Alleged Hazardous Waste Violations

Apple is paying $450,000 (roughly Rs. 3.05 crores) to settle allegations that the iPhone maker operated and closed two hazardous-waste processing plants without submitting the proper paperwork to California environmental regulators.

Apple Pays $450,000 for Alleged Hazardous Waste ViolationsThe agreement announced Tuesday involves a now-closed plant near Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters and another one in nearby Sunnyvale.

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control alleged Apple opened, ran and then closed the Cupertino plant without regulators’ knowledge. The plant processed about 1.1 million pounds of waste created by Apple’s devices during a two-year period before closing in 2013, when the operations were moved to Sunnyvale.

Regulators say Apple processed about 803,000 pounds of electronic waste in Sunnyvale before notifying the state about its activities there.

Apple described its conduct as “an oversight in paperwork” that didn’t affect its health and safety standards, which the company says are even more stringent than the law requires.
The complaint filed against Apple didn’t include any allegations that anyone or the environment was harmed. But state regulators did accuse of Apple of mishandling fine dust vacuumed up from the Sunnyvale plant in 2013 after some devices were shredded.
Regulators say the “baghouse” dust included hazardous levels of copper, zinc and other particles that were improperly sent to a recycling center in Roseville, California, located about 140 miles away. The Roseville center wasn’t authorized to store or treat the hazardous waste before it was sent to Canada, according to regulators.

Settling the case cost Apple a relative pittance. The company ended September with nearly $238 billion in cash.

Stuck in a Job You Hate? Online Courses Could Unlock New Opportunities

If you dread going to work every day, you’re not alone. There are many reasons why people end up realizing their jobs aren’t meeting expectations. Some endure supervisors who consistently expect impossible things, and others know they work far too hard and don’t earn enough to justify their efforts. Regardless of the specifics of your case, online courses could help you climb out of a career path rut.


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They Let You Study Things That Aren’t Offered Locally

One of the top reasons why people remain in unsatisfying jobs is because they believe better options aren’t available. This mindset is especially common when people live in small towns with very few educational possibilities. Online courses bring in-demand subjects to your computer screen and let you expand your knowledge from wherever you are.
You Don’t Have to Stop Earning Money to Study

People are sometimes hesitant to go back to school with the hope of furthering their careers because they’re under the impression they can either continue earning income or restart their educations, but not both. Fortunately, online courses are not only very affordable, but they allow students to learn while continuing to work in full or part-time jobs.
They May Help You Negotiate a Raise

If you don’t get paid enough at your job, that’s a factor that could certainly cause discontent. However, by earning a degree through an online course, you’re engaging in a strategy that could make you more marketable.

If the main reason why you hate your job is because you don’t feel you earn enough, your decision to further your education through an online degree program could help you assertively prove to your boss why you’re a valuable member of your company’s team, willing to expand your knowledge to remain competitive, and thereby deserving of a raise. Alternatively, if you’re eager to leave your current employment with a newly earned degree in hand, your educational credentials could make it much easier to land a job that pays more.
Online Courses Let You Explore Interests

It’s often said if you love what you do, your job doesn’t feel like a chore. Maybe you’re not happy in your job because your current career path doesn’t relate to things that interest you. Fortunately, there are many ways to convert your passions into lucrative careers.

Have you always dreamed about guiding the careers of famous athletes? If so, it’s a good idea to learn more about Adelphi’s sports management degree online and peruse some of this university’s associated content for prospective and current students. Or, maybe you have a very data-driven brain and would love to use it to help people stay healthier. If that’s the case, an internet-based course from Adelphi that leads to a degree in Health Information could be a perfect fit, especially because it lets you work in an industry that’s on the rise.

Now that you’ve learned several reasons why an online course could help you get into a better career, hopefully, you’re inspired to take action. After all, life is too short to remain in a frustrating job.

How to Convert Videos on a Mac to the Right Format for Different Devices

Did you know that different devices tend to be able to only play certain types of videos? If you’ve ever had trouble playing a video on a particular device then that is probably the reason why – and the way to get around that is to make sure that you convert your videos to the right format for the device you’re using.

To do so you will need to first know what formats are compatible with your devices – which is often a bit trickier than it sounds. If you only use one or two devices then it shouldn’t be an issue – but if you use more than that then it can be difficult to keep track of which format you should use for each device.

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One way to simplify all of that is by using Movavi Video Converter for Mac. If you want to convert a video to a different format using it then you need only add the video, select a format, and click on the ‘Convert’ button to get started.

However what makes Movavi Video Converter for Mac perfect for converting videos to the right format for different devices are the hundreds of presets that are built in to it. Each of these presets is designed to use the best possible video format and settings for a particular device or platform – and includes support for mobile devices as well as video sharing or social media platforms.

In short all you will have to do is pick the preset that corresponds to the device (or platform) that you want to use, and let Movavi Video Converter for Mac handle the rest automatically. That makes it a lot easier than having to remember the compatibility of different devices and formats.

Additionally it is worth noting that Movavi Video Converter for Mac also has numerous other features that may prove invaluable in some cases. It can convert image and audio files, create animated GIFs, cut and join video segments, enhance video quality, extract audio tracks, add captions, and much more.

Essentially Movavi Video Converter for Mac will be able to carry out most of the common tasks that involve videos – and then some. Even putting that aside, its ability to help simplify the task of converting videos for various devices will make it an invaluable addition to your software library.

Three Things That Small Business Owners Should Outsource 

Small business owners know that efficiency is the key to success. The is particularly true when it comes to staffing. That is why the outsourcing economy is a great benefit to business owners who need a variety of specialized skills, but do not have the capacity to hire full-time employees in each role. This ensures that your business employees can do what they do best, leaving other necessary, but periphery tasks to outsourced experts. Here are three services that all small businesses should consider contracting out for optimal workplace efficiency.

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Website

It is vital that small companies have a great website. Because most small businesses operate online without an actual brick and mortar building, your website is often the first impression that potential customers will have of your company. This is why it is vital that you call in an expert to ensure that your website looks great and runs well. Companies like Network Solutions are well versed in this area and offer a number of web hosting and design packages for small businesses. Packages like those from Network Solutions generally provide custom website designs, hosting capacity, technical assistance, and website analytics. This is particularly important if you are running an e-commerce business.

Social Media

In today’s business climate, social media is a key part of marketing your products and services. For small businesses, in particular, social media offers a low barrier to entry method of reaching new customers. Like your website, your social media presence gives potential customers a place to make a first impression of your company. That is why outsourcing your social media and online marketing is key to small business success. A social media marketer can ensure that your marketing stays on brand and brings in more customers. This is a worthy investment for any small business owner looking to expand.

Customer Service

As your company begins to grow, it may become important to professionalize your customer service offerings. This is when outsourcing your customer service becomes a key part of your business strategy. And these days, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a large company with a call center. Many companies offer these services to all sized businesses. They will help you put together standardized materials and then assign several associates to take care of all your customer service needs, from e-mails to phone calls. This frees up your time to focus on building a strong brand and growing your business. It also ensures that your customers are happy and will keep coming back.

By strategically choosing a few things to outsource, your small business will be able to increase its productivity and, ultimately, profitability. From web design and hosting to social media and customer service, the outsourcing market will help take your company to the next level.

Fantastic Beasts Franchise Is Now Five Films, Says J.K. Rowling

Fantastic Beasts Franchise Is Now Five Films, Says J.K. Rowling

  • First of five films releases November 18
  • Second film has an almost finished script
  • One film will also explore Dumbledore-Grindelwald relationship

At an event for the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in London on Thursday, author J.K. Rowling – making her screenwriting debut with the film – announced there would be five, not three, films in what has to be now called the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

Asked by the moderator what audiences could expect next, Rowling said: “I’m not allowed to say too much. I can say one thing – we were doing some script sessions the other day, and I can tell you that we always knew it was going to be more than one movie. We knew that from the start.”

“We set the trilogy as a kind of placeholder, didn’t we?” she added, looking over at director David Yates. “We knew there would be more than one movie, but now, I think we can say – am I allowed to say that David, yes – so I’ve now done the plotting properly, so we’re pretty sure it’s going to be five movies.”

As would be expected, the news was greeted with huge roars from the fans present – at the event, or in the other parallel halls across the world, from Sao Paulo to Rome, Los Angeles to Mexico City, and New York. It came as a surprise to the cast as well, four of whom were on the stage, revealing that even they didn’t know.

Rowling later took to Twitter to clarify her statements further, in case someone was thinking there would be a minimum of five movies. It will, in fact, be a total of five. In a follow-up tweet, she added she was nearly done with the script for the second film. She also said that the future films would delve into characters from Potter’s world as well, namely the two great wizards involved in the Global Wizarding War – Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald, his friend gone Dark.

As great as this is for Harry Potter fanatics clamouring for more visual depictions of the magical world, this time across the Atlantic in -century America, it does feel like the franchise is being milked until it runs dry. We were treated to a sub-par playscript rendition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child earlier this year, and the franchise has had theme parks and an online community – where Rowling has penned thousands of words – for years now.

In the age of franchises and cinematic universes, it’s clear that Warner Bros wants to be on as many fronts as possible. For now, it’s only got the DC Extended Universe, Lego movies, and the Godzilla-Kong universe – the former has now faced two critical failures on the trot, and the latter two are only getting started.

Reviving a franchise that remains its most successful to date – but ended in 2011 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – makes simple financial sense to the studio’s executives, more so when you not only have the creator – Rowling’s – blessing but direct involvement in shaping its future. But the studio need only look to a property of its own – Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit – to understand the pitfalls of unnecessary expansion.