Arab News announces metaverse project for 2023 during annual team gathering – Arab News
LONDON: Arab News announced the launch of the company’s first metaverse project at its annual team gathering in Dubai.
The AN metaverse, which is scheduled to start next year, is a multipurpose immersive platform that will help the company address some of the challenges presented by working globally, while offering customers new channels to engage with the newspaper.
Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas said: “We are very excited about this internal initiative for two reasons: One, it will really solve a logistical problem for us and create a true virtual newsroom for us where our team members can log in and exchange ideas, notes and visuals in real time, and fully interactively.
“The second reason we are excited is that this is being done by using our own developers and supervision. So, it is an Arab News virtual newsroom built by Arab News for Arab News.”
The project is part of a larger initiative by the company to continue expanding its digital offerings and give readers new ways to engage with the newspaper and its content.
Head of Digital Transformation Eslam Refaat said: “Our innovation team at Arab News Labs is always on the lookout for new channels and emerging technologies to better serve our customers.
“We feel virtual reality brings a new experience for our viewers that is breathtaking and immersive.
“We can bring them directly to the middle of the event by using live 360 feeds, or we can have them sit in our lounge watching our latest news reports, or catch up with one of our podcasts or shows.
“Our new app will have state-of-the-art technologies and innovative ideas for news and media consumption.
“In addition, for a newsroom that spreads across multiple offices around the world like Arab News’ newsroom, this technology presents a new opportunity to bring the team together in one ‘virtual’ room to bridge the distances and enhance collaboration.
“Our VR app is planned to be launched in 2023 and we are hoping to make it a reference for the media industry. We are very excited about it.”
The project also includes a section with a gallery showcasing historic front pages, prominent exclusive interviews and videos, as well as milestones of the newspaper’s 47-year history.
The project was unveiled during the company’s annual gathering, held at the Sofitel Hotel in Dubai and attended by guests from the Middle East, Japan, US, and Europe.
The three-day event represented an opportunity to reflect on the company’s past year, and gave guests the chance to learn more about future AN initiatives.
It concluded with a gala dinner that recognized the best journalists and their work over 2022.
LONDON: The ad-supported version of the Disney+ service launched Thursday, attracting major advertisers from different sectors, bringing in new revenue as Walt Disney Co. strives to push its streaming business into profitability.
Disney Advertising President Rita Ferro said more than 100 brands, from Mattel Inc. to Marriott Hotels & Resorts, are participating in the launch, which Disney has been promoting to marketers and ad buyers since its May.
The company is under pressure to turn a profit on its streaming business, which posted a $1.5 billon loss in the company’s most recent quarter. Investor unhappiness about deepening losses hammered the company’s stock and helped set the stage for the ouster last month of Chief Executive Bob Chapek, and return of longtime Disney leader, Bob Iger.
Advertising introduces a second source of revenue for Disney+, to supplement subscription fees. The company’s other streaming services, Hulu and ESPN+, already have commercials.
A $3-a-month price increase also took effect Dec. 8, bringing the price for the ad-free version of Disney+ to $10.99. Disney+ with ads costs $7.99. Researcher Kantar projects that one out of four Disney+ subscribers could switch to the less-expensive version of the service with advertising.
Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy told investors the company does not expect the advertising-supported tier to have a “meaningful impact” until later in its 2023 fiscal year.
As subscriber growth slows in North America, Netflix similarly introduced commercials to bolster revenue and support its estimated $17 billion annual content spend. Other streaming services, such as HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock, also offer ad-supported versions of their streaming services, emulating the business model that has long supported the television business.
Ferro told Reuters that Disney+ will carry four minutes of advertising time per hour, in 15 and 30 second spots, and limit the number of times the same ad will appear over the course of a day or week.
“A brand like Starbucks will have no more than one commercial an hour, no more than two a day,” she said. “We’ve asked advertisers for multiple versions of creative. Even if they air two a day, you won’t see the same ad.”
Disney plans to introduce features that will allow advertisers to target consumers by region, gender and age.
LONDON: The Biden administration argued to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday that social media giants like Google could in some instances have responsibility for user content, adopting a stance that could potentially undermine a federal law shielding companies from liability.
Lawyers for the US Department of Justice made their argument in the high profile lawsuit filed by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old American citizen killed in 2015 when Islamist militants opened fire on the Paris bistro where she was eating.
The family argued that Google was in part liable for Gonzalez’ death because YouTube, which is owned by the tech giant, essentially recommended videos by the Daesh group to some users through its algorithms. Google and YouTube are part of Alphabet Inc.
The case reached the Supreme Court after the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Google, saying they were protected from such claims because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Section 230 holds that social media companies cannot be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by other users.
The law has been sharply criticized across the political spectrum. Democrats claim it gives social media companies a pass for spreading hate speech and misinformation.
Republicans say it allows censorship of voices on the right and other politically unpopular opinions, pointing to decisions by Facebook and Twitter to ban dissemination of a New York Post article about the son of then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s adult son, Hunter, in October 2020.
The Biden administration, in its filing to the Supreme Court, did not argue that Google should be held liable in the Gonzalez case and voiced strong support for most of Section 230’s protections of social media companies.
But the DOJ lawyers said that algorithms used by YouTube and other providers should be subject to a different kind of scrutiny. They called for the Supreme Court to return the case to the 9th Circuit for further review.
Attorneys for Google could not be reached for comment on Wednesday night.
LONDON: Twitter Inc. plans to change the pricing of its Twitter Blue subscription product to $11, from $7.99, if paid for through its iPhone app and to $7 if paid for on the website, the Information reported on Wednesday, citing a person briefed on the plans.
The move was likely a pushback against Apple Inc’s 30 percent cut on any payments made by users via apps on the iOS operating system, the report said.
The lower pricing on the website was also likely to drive more users to that platform as opposed to signing up on their iPhones, the report said. It did not mention whether pricing would change for the Android platform as well.
Musk, who took ownership of Twitter in October, is planning to roll out the micro blogging site’s verified service with different colored checks for individuals, companies and governments, after a botched initial launch led to a surge in users impersonating celebrities and brands on the platform.
Twitter, Apple and Google, which owns the Android operating system, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk, in a series of tweets last week listed various grievances with Apple, including the 30 percent fee the iphone maker charges software developers for in-app purchases.
He also posted a meme suggesting he was willing to “go to war” with Apple rather than paying the commission.
Musk later met Apple chief executive Tim Cook at the company’s headquarters and later tweeted that the misunderstanding about Twitter being removed from Apple’s app store was resolved.
LONDON: Google said on Thursday it will merge teams working on mapping service Waze and products like Google Maps, effective Dec. 9, in a bid to consolidate processes.
The Alphabet Inc-owned company will integrate Waze, which it acquired in 2013 for $1 billion, into Google Geo, its portfolio of real-world mapping products that include Google Maps, Google Earth, and Street View, a Google spokesperson said.
Waze CEO Neha Parikh will exit the company following a transition period, Google said, adding that Waze will continue to be a standalone app, with about 151 million monthly active users worldwide.
“By bringing the Waze team into Geo’s portfolio of real-world mapping products, the teams will benefit from further increased technical collaboration,” the spokesperson said.
In a letter dated July 12, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said the company would streamline processes and consolidate investments where they overlap.
In February 2021, Waze’s former top executive Noam Bardin said it struggled to grow within Google and that Waze could have “probably grown faster and much more efficiently had we stayed independent.”
WASHINGTON: TikTok was hit Wednesday with a pair of lawsuits from the US state of Indiana, which accused it of making false claims about the Chinese-owned app’s safety for children.
The legal salvo came as problems are mounting for TikTok in the United States, with multiple accusations that the extremely popular app is a national security threat and a conduit for spying by China.
“The TikTok app is a malicious and menacing threat unleashed on unsuspecting Indiana consumers by a Chinese company that knows full well the harms it inflicts on users,” said Attorney General Todd Rokita in a statement.
The lawsuit said TikTok algorithms served up “abundant content depicting alcohol, tobacco, and drugs; sexual content, nudity, and suggestive themes” to users as young as 13.
The state also sued TikTok for allegedly deceiving customers into believing that “reams of highly sensitive data and personal information” were protected from the Chinese government.
In a statement, a TikTok spokesperson did not comment specifically on the case but said “the safety, privacy and security of our community is our top priority.”
“We build youth well-being into our policies, limit features by age, empower parents with tools and resources, and continue to invest in new ways to enjoy content based on age-appropriateness or family comfort,” the company said.
TikTok is facing a growing front of opposition in the United States, with several states and the US military banning its use on government devices.
Texas on Wednesday became the latest state to do so, calling for “aggressive action” against TikTok.
The highly popular app is often singled out for its alleged connections to the Beijing government with fears that China is able to use TikTok’s data to track and coerce users around the world.
TikTok is currently in negotiations with the US government to resolve national security concerns, hoping to maintain operations in one of its biggest markets.
TikTok said it was “confident that we’re on a path…to fully satisfy all reasonable US national security concerns.”
The spectacular success of TikTok has seen rival sites such as Meta-owned Instagram or Snapchat struggle to keep up, with once soaring ad revenues taking a hit.
But Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray told lawmakers last month that he is “extremely concerned” about security risks linked to TikTok.


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