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Spotify's Audiobook Initiative Draws in Younger Demographics

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TECH BRIEF

Apple is permitting direct downloading of iPhone apps from developers' websites in the EU, dismantling its previous App Store-centric mode. To comply with the bloc's Digital Markets Act, developers who pay a 'core technology fee' can also inform their apps' users of cheaper offers outside the App Store. Developers should meet specific requirements, including handling IP disputes, government takedown requests and providing customer service. Critics argue the multi-step authorization process for direct downloads intimidates users, and the European Commission has started investigating Apple’s new iOS fee structure and App Store rules.

Accurate metrics for Software as a Service (SaaS) companies need to follow a sequential process, particularly for sales and marketing efficiency. This includes an accurate calculation of Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC). The CAC isn't a stand-alone metric but impacts all efficiency metrics within the sales and marketing departments. This calculation relies on sourcing data from the sales and marketing departments, preferably via a properly formatted SaaS Profit and Loss statement. Furthermore, the allocation of sales and marketing expenses plays a vital role in this calculation.

Microsoft is investing $1.5 billion in UAE's AI firm, G42, acquiring a minority stake and board representation. The partnership aims to advance AI solutions backed by Microsoft Azure across various sectors in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. This agreement prioritizes security, trust, and responsible AI development and deployment, with G42 planning to migrate its tech infrastructure to Microsoft Azure. The deal will also boost G42's AI products like its Arabic Large Language Model, Jais, promoting them on the Azure platform.

US digital ad revenues slowed in 2023 but still reached a new high of $225 billion, up 7.3% from 2022's $209.7 billion, as per the IAB/PwC Internet Advertising Revenue Report. The report shows that programmatic ad revenues grew 4.4% to $114.2 billion, and digital video revenues, retail media, and audio outpaced overall growth. It also highlights industry challenges, like increasing privacy laws and consumer data limitations, alongside potential growth areas, such as generative AI.

Amazon Music is testing Maestro, a new AI feature that allows users to generate playlists using text prompts, including emojis. This beta service, similar to Spotify's AI playlist, is available to a select group of US subscribers. Users can save and share these AI-made playlists, with Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers having immediate full access. Feedback will be gathered to improve this new technology, indicative of Amazon's growing reliance on AI in enhancing its services.

Spotify reports that a quarter of paid users in the US, UK and Australia have tried audiobooks, with 57% of these users aged 18 to 34, signalling popularity among younger listeners. To retain subscribers, Spotify started offering 15 hours of monthly audiobook listening. Additionally, the company revealed that purchases for extra hours more than doubled from Q1 2024 compared to Q4 2023, indicating significant growth in the sector.

HRtech startup Rippling is planning a funding round that could raise its valuation to $13.4 billion, up from $11.25 billion. The deal could total $870M with $200 million being new capital and $670 million from existing shareholders selling their shares. Existing investors Founders Fund and Coatue, who is leading the round, are participating, with the former prepared to invest up to $310 million.

This Week's bitcoin halving, an event that traditionally precedes a surge in bitcoin prices, has drawn investors' attention. In this cycle, bitcoin has already hit record highs due to the introduction of bitcoin exchange-trade funds. The halving will reduce supply, potentially increasing demand for the limited bitcoins and has market watchers pondering its possible impact on prices.

Canada has decided to proceed with implementing a digital services tax on large tech companies starting from fiscal 2024/25, expecting to generate $4.3bn over five years. The decision comes following long delays in establishing a global treaty for taxing multinationals. The first year of taxation will cover revenues earned since January 1, 2022.

TikTok has joined forces with ticketing provider AXS for the sale of live event tickets directly within the app. The feature, currently live in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, and Australia, allows certified artists to promote their AXS live dates. TikTok is now an official discovery partner in the AXS Anywhere program, enabling artists to add AXS event links to videos prior to publishing.

Stripe, a leading fintech firm, has successfully raised $694.2m via a share sale announced in February, primarily to enhance employee liquidity. The deal, which underscores continuous growth trajectory, values Stripe at $65bn, a 30% boost from last year's valuation. Amidst ongoing speculation about a possible IPO, there is yet no confirmation from the company.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggests that persistence in inflation data may prolong high interest rates. The central bank requires more time to gain the confidence needed before considering rate cuts, warranting more time for the current restrictive policy to become effective.

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