These cana-businesses range from digital publications and social apps to investment funds and ad networks, all dedicated to the burgeoning legalized marijuana trade. Many are based in Colorado, where recreational pot is legal, but despite their legitimacy under the law, they're having a hard time getting approval from Apple for their apps. Pot tech entrepreneurs say Apple's restrictions are unpredictable, unfair and threatening the growth of a budding industry.
Apple is notoriously arbitrary in choosing the apps that will grace its digital store, and that store controls a major share of the mobile market and can make or break companies. Last year, it banned a game called Weed Firm, which let people virtually grow and sell pot. Now, apps like MassRoots, an Instagram-style social network centered on pot, say they have been banned because Apple doesn't seem to allow services that connect likeminded marijuana lovers.
After it was kicked out of the App Store, MassRoots wrote a letter to Apple and began circulating an online petition this month.
"We're a social network for cannabis that enables people to talk about the plant in ways most people don't feel comfortable on other social networks," said Isaac Dietrich, CEO of MassRoots. "I don't want grandma to see me taking bong rips on Facebook."
MassRoots is allowed in Google Play's Android app market, but Apple is far stricter. The app had been in the Apple App Store for 14 months until November, when it was kicked off on Election Day as some states prepared to vote on marijuana laws, following legalization in Colorado and Washington.
"Apple really hurt us and our right to assemble, our right to free speech, and our right to mobilize cannabis consumers like any other constituency," Dietrich said by phone this week. "It's ironic that on the same day Alaska and Oregon voted to legalize marijuana, Apple took the opposite approach."
Apple has not responded to Adweek's requests for comment on this issue.
MassRoots is not just a novelty app. Though relatively small with 120,000 downloads before being booted from iPhones, it has legitimate business prospects of raising investment dollars, though it has no revenue yet, Dietrich said. And it's not alone in attracting investors—weed tech businesses garnered more than $100 million in venture capital last year, according to CB Insights.
MassRoots has ambitious plans for growth, including the goal of going public, Dietrich said. It's in the process of raising more money from investors, who already gave the company more than $600,000, he said.
The sector has attracted big-name investors like Peter Thiel, won the support of celebrities like Snoop Dogg and is bordering on mainstream with apps like Weedmaps gaining traction. In fact, Weedmaps, a Yelp-like service that rates pot dispensaries, was just forced by Apple to change how it promotes recreational pot shops, according to Dietrich.
Though Weedmaps would not comment for this article, sources familiar with the app's status said it now can't give specific information to users telling them which marijuana outlets in legal states are either for medical or recreational purchases.
Other app developers and aspiring pot tech titans say Apple is schizophrenic in its rules. One app called Whaxy—with plans to serve as an Open Table for pot pickups—just won approval this week, and it was built by a company that already had two other pot programs blocked. One of the banned properties calculated the THC content of certain edibles, and the other, called Nuggle, was going to connect pot smokers like Tinder connects daters.
In the case of Nuggle, the social networking component could have been the problem, according to Zachary Marburger, Nuggle founder and CEO of Whaxy.
Marburger said Apple is stifling the business of weed. "The ability for us to even be in the App Store, let alone have the features we want and need for our businesses to be successful, is huge," he said.
He was surprised Whaxy even got the go-ahead and hopes it lasts, because he fears Apple could randomly penalize the app, which lets users reserve pot pickups at dispensaries. "You can place an order at the dispensary and skip the lines, which are usually out the door," Marburger said.
Whaxy had to engineer the app to direct people to its mobile website to complete actions Apple would not allow like finalizing their pot orders, Marburger said.
Marburger supports MassRoots' petition to get Apple to change policies. Only thousands have signed so far, but plenty of pot tech firms are on board, including a digital display ad network called Mantis.
"We are not asking for Apple to endorse cannabis-related applications or their content," a letter from the pot-powered companies to Apple reads. "We are simply requesting that Apple's customers have the right to download marijuana Apps if they so choose."
Non-profit digital rights organization EFF rolled out a new mobile application this morning, which allows users to more easily access the group’s “action center” from their smartphone. However, the new app is only being made available to Android users, the EFF explains, because the group has issues with Apple’s Developer Agreement. The EFF says it could not agree… Read More
The beta version of the Photos app on iCloud.com has disappeared, several sites are reporting this morning, and we’ve also confirmed through tests. Previously, the app allowed Apple users signed in via the web to access their iCloud Photo Library on their PC or Mac. The app isn’t just missing from the iCloud.com homepage, either – visiting the URL directly also displays… Read More
Apple is just getting started with its payments product Apple Pay. It’s looking like 2015 is going to be a big year for it as more and more institutions and businesses adopt it.
We already learned that Chevron, which already offers it at some of its stores, is planning to introduce Apple Pay support at gas pumps in early 2015.
Now it’s looking like UK banks are warming up to it. The Telegraph reports:
Negotiations between the Silicon Valley giant and at least one of the biggest banks have proved tricky, however, because of wrangling over the terms, including what data Apple will be able to access, according to sources.
It is understood the bank is uncomfortable with the amount of personal and financial information Apple wants to collect about its customers. Some executives fear Apple Pay and the data it delivers to Apple could serve as a beachhead for an invasion of the banking industry.
Meanwhile, New York City is said to be weighing Apple Pay, as well as PayPal and bitcoin, for parking ticket payment. MarketWatch reports:
The city’s finance department is looking into alternative payment methods like Apple Pay, PayPal and Bitcoin for the roughly $600 million in parking ticket revenue it collects annually by issuing up to 10 million tickets.
Square is also expected to support Apple Pay in 2015.
Image via Apple
If you didn’t catch ‘The Interview’ when Sony began offering it for rental or purchase online earlier this week, and aren’t one of the many who have reportedly torrented it, then you may be interested to hear that the controversial flick has landed on iTunes today. Read More
More top publishers are opting into programmatic ad networks to sell premium advertising.
Varick Media Management recently signed deals with Time Inc., News Corp., American Media Inc. and Wenner Media and will help them sell ad units that feature photography, videos and other types of media for their websites.
"There still is a large segment of the market that views programmatic as the remnant stuff," said VMM vp of product strategy Jim Caruso. "But it can be used as a holistic part of your strategy."
Currently, real-time bidding programmatic rules the market, making up $9.25 billion out of the $10 billion industry. But, direct programmatic buying is taking over more of the space, growing 850 percent in 2014 to make up $800 million of the pie.
One of the benefits of going programmatic is that publishers can access data that they wouldn't get via traditional ad buying, Caruso explained. VMM can combine its data with publisher first-party data to guarantee better hit rates for key audiences. Not only do people get the right ad at the right time, they see high impact creative that can be targeted across a media company's family of sites.
"I think that everyone should move to automation because it's more efficient," Caruso said.
Patrick Dolan, evp and COO of the IAB, added that programmatic marketplaces aren't really about what type of ad content is being sold, but about the process. He isn't surprised by the growing number of media companies shifting to automated buying.
"Adoption of these transactions and strategies will continue to grow in the coming year and the (IAB) Programmatic Council will continue its focus in these areas," he said.
Altimeter analyst Rebecca Lieb said that it was natural that publishers would want scalable and more efficient ways to purchase premium inventory, but cautioned that not everyone views programmatic as favorably as VMM does.
"As in the physical world, terming something premium implies there's a level of thought and manual attention that's almost antithetical to the concept of 'programmatic,'" she said. "Definitions of these terms vary, of course, but there's no doubt that 'premium programmatic' is a trend still in its very early stages of development."
The popularity of computers that you can wear is at a tipping point—10 percent of Americans already sport activity trackers such as Fitbit Flex and Jawbone UP. And 45 percent of those surveyed said they are "intrigued by the prospect of getting a wearable device." By comparison, 4 percent of Europeans wear fitness trackers, and 32 percent are interested in buying wearable devices.
That 10 percent is an important signpost on the road to mass-market adoption. And as Reuters reported, the Apple Watch will only help drive the trend when it hits shelves in 2015—it's expected to draw 10 million buyers in its first year. In anticipation of the stampede, Apple is reportedly looking for staff members with fashion and luxury experience to hawk the upscale accessory.
Intel also recently appealed to fashionistas with a blingy bracelet that fires up Facebook, Google and Yelp. But researchers noted that wearables appeal to field workers, customer service reps and hospital staff, too, who can use video, photo or barcode features on the job.
Report author J. P. Gownder said the wearable market will take off because of demand from brands, retailers, healthcare firms, athletic stadiums and others. In fact, 52 percent of businesses polled said preparing for the increasingly popular technology was a moderate to critical priority.
Even the world’s largest and best-known brands can make unconventional (and unproductive) SEO choices. Columnist Chris Liversidge dissects Apple’s handling of NeXT.com.
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2014 has been a big year for mobile payments. With the introduction of Apple Pay, mobile payments are becoming increasingly popular and are receiving more exposure than ever. In the coming year, mobile payments have the opportunity to be a $540B market, according to a report from Thrive Analytics,…
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