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TechCrunch Giveaway: Canon EOS T3i Kit And NeroTrigger

In an effort to raise awareness for their new Kickstarter-funded MIOPS smartphone-controlled camera trigger, our friends at NeroTrigger are giving away some swag. One of you will be the lucky winner of a package that includes a NeroTrigger and a Canon EOS T3i kit.

The Canon EOS Rebel is a digital SLR camera, and is accompanied by an accessory kit that includes three lenses, a camcorder and a 59″ lightweight tripod – among other accessories.

The second part of this giveaway package is NeroTrigger, an LCD color-screen designed for high-speed photography, which operates in different modes based on your setting. When attached to your camera, the compact device senses changes in your environment based on one of its six modes, and can quickly set the camera to capture difficult-to-shoot events like lighting or fireworks. The sound mode activates upon hearing a noise, and the laser mode triggers when the beam is broken. Additional modes add HDR and time-lapse capabilities to your camera, and DIY mode allows for a customizable triggering system.

This giveaway is targeting all you creatives out there, as these products give you unlimited innovative photography options.

You have until Friday, August 29, 2014 at 9 a.m. to enter. 

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Storytelling App Steller Becomes More Of A Social Network

A beautifully designed mobile storytelling app Steller was introduced earlier this year to deliver on a simple premise: that our smartphones can do more than serve as our cameras or a quick way to post images to social networks like Facebook or Instagram, they’re also capable of being creative devices. Today, the company is rolling out an upgraded version of its application, with Steller 2.0, an update that pushes the app more into social networking territory, with features like comments, @mentions, hashtags, search and other changes.

For background, Steller was founded by ex-Google, ex-VMware, and ex-Microsoft veterans, including brother and sister design team Brian McAniff and Karen Poole, plus Jay Wilder. Tech veterans at Steller also include Vadim Spivak, Richard McAniff, and Mark Lucovsky.

Steller_iPhone1cThe app allows you to turn your photos and videos into stories, using a set of simple tools, designed from the ground-up for mobile devices.

Today, Steller’s users are creating story collections that include both everyday images and videos, like of family, friends, or beloved pets, as well as more professional fare, like the stories created by food and DIY bloggers, or those of well-produced trip journals.

You can see some of the better examples of those sorts of stories here, from creatives, authors, athletes, chefs, and others: Beth Kirby / @Local_MilkJennifer ChongOh JoyAlex DeiboldEmily HarringtonKatie Rodgers / @paperfashionMeagan CignoliRed 6Nichole RobertsonSophie Gamund; or Tiffany Mitchell. Brands are also getting involved, like Burton Snowboards, for instance.

However, until today, the Steller experience was more of using a well-crafted utility, rather than a social app. The Steller 2.0 release changes that. Now, a new “Explore” section lets you find the most popular and most viewed stories, as well as a curated set of stories per day and other featured collections.

Steller_iPhone1bYou can also now interact with those stories, by leaving comments and using hashtags. In addition, both hashtags and @mentions work in the comments and within the stories themselves, allowing users to reference other topics or other creators, connecting the stories together in more of a social networking structure.

And you can dig up more of the stories you like to see through a search function, which also supports hashtags in addition to keywords.

“I think we’re both parts a discovery network, for finding interesting content on topics that interest you, and also a social network where you can share your stories, connect with friends and family, as well as now connect with experts and influencers you follow,” explains Wilder.

“Our vision is to keep building the best storytelling community that’s out there,” he says.

Will Steller’s Stories Last?

Steller_iPhone1dThe stories in Steller are beautifully done, and fun to browse through and read. But not everyone will be as interested in the creation process as they are in consuming the content itself. It’s a basic rule of Internet culture. So it makes sense that Steller would take its app in a direction that better highlights and supports ways to more passively search and partake in the content, rather than forcing everyone to spend time building stories themselves.

My only concern with Steller, and apps like this, is that users may be putting in time creating content that won’t be around forever. Steller’s stories today can be viewed in the app as well as on the web, but for how long? While no startup will ever admit that one day, they will be no more (or they’ll have to exit to Facebook, e.g.), I worry about building these amazing mini-tales on a mobile application’s servers, rather on your own, or at least on a web host where you’re in control of when content goes up or comes down.

But that may not matter to the mobile-first generation, who is more comfortable with the disposability of content, and apps, having grown up deleting from Facebook walls, and sending self-destructing photos in Snapchat.

Hopefully, though, Steller’s stories won’t also self-destruct over time. They’re worth saving.

The updated app is available for download here.

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Vemory Automatically Compiles Video Memories From Your Social Media Photos

It seems like everyone and their mom is making video montages. A year in the life of a baby from England. A year in the life of that new SNL actor Brooks Wheelan. But it takes quite a bit of dedication to actually edit those videos to perfection.

That’s where Vemory comes in.

Vemory is an app that automatically configures all of your images — not just the ones from your camera roll, but the content you’ve posted to Facebook, Instagram, etc. — to create beautiful videos between 60 seconds and two minutes. But the compelling part of the app is that you can go from having no video compilations to having a dozen or more, all from simply signing up.

Using information similar to the iOS 8 collections, Vemory pulls in all the photos from a certain location or event, and also compiles videos for each year. The images are chosen based on their number of likes, and as the video plays, various comments flash by on the screen as well as the number of likes for each photo.

Vemory even adds in some generic music.

Of course, you have the power to edit these videos, removing certain photos and replacing them with others.

And for folks who really feel the need to express their creativity, Vemory will let users build their own videos from scratch.

Not only can you share your Vemories on the Vemory app feed, but users can also push out to Twitter and Facebook.

“As social media histories grow deeper, and camera rolls and flickr accounts balloon to hundreds and thousands of photos, the task of finding the right picture becomes more and more daunting,” said Vemory founder and CEO Hunter Powell. “Vemory takes that burden away.”

For now, the team is simply focused on scaling and offering Vemory for free as long as possible.

Vemory from Vemory on Vimeo.

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Spotify Pushes Popular Playlists With A New Tastemaker Tab

Spotify, now with 40 million users, looks like it’s adding another new feature that it hopes will help get the long tail of those registered music listeners more active on its platform. A tab has appeared called “Tastemakers” — a list of people whose names may not at all be familiar to you, but who have achieved some kind of popularity already on Spotify for their music playlists.

Asked about the new tab, Spotify described the feature to us as a test. “In order to keep improving Spotify, we are always testing new things to our different platforms and to various user groups,” a spokesperson said. “We don’t have any more information to share right now – but as soon as we do, we’ll let you know!”

A source told us a bit more. The feature has not been officially announced, but is starting to roll out slowly, both in Spotify apps and also on its web player. It is “part of a program to surface user playlists that hit certain engagement criteria,” which suggests also that Spotify may be experimenting with engagement and usage algorithms and looking to add more tweaks in the future. Spotify chooses the Tastemakers — you don’t nominate them (or yourself) — and users “will be informed” when they make the list, the source adds.

It doesn’t look, for now, like Tastemakers will  have a commercial element — although it seems that Spotify has considered how it can help brands become more like tastemakers on the platform, so that may be something to watch for. Other music streaming platforms like Soundcloud, meanwhile, are also ramping up how they are commercialising their platforms with advertising.

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Tastemakers sits alongside other social features Spotify has already turned on as part of its “music graph”-style social music strategy — first announced at the end of 2012 with the idea to mimic online some of the patterns of how we discover music in the offline world.

Within “Follow,” Spotify already gives you the option of following your friends from Facebook or Google+ who are on Spotify, and, with “Who to follow”, Spotify surfaces more high-profile users and accounts. These sit alongside “Discover”, which focuses less on individual Spotify users and accounts, and more on artists and genres.

Adding yet another category of potential follows could become a little confusing and might be seen as gilding the lily a bit. Why create yet another distinctive category of of users?

The challenge for Spotify (and other music streaming platforms) is that, while there are millions of songs to listen to, most people don’t have a specific idea of what they want to hear.

That has a direct impact on engagement on Spotify — that is, actual, regular use from those 40 million users. But Spotify needs to keep those engagement numbers up, and growing, to fuel its advertising-based business model (and, if you believe reports, to tell the right growth story to Wall Street). That’s where adding new features like Tastemakers fits in. It gives those who are not Spotify power-users a way of going to the site and finding things to listen to without looking very hard for them.

(And when you think about it, Spotify’s engagement challenge/solution echoes what other open-ended social sites, like Twitter, are doing with their own “who to follow” suggestions.)

Suggesting people based on popular playlists is an interesting twist on the basic idea of following users because it gives potentially more bang for your following buck, and promotes a feature that Spotify is already pushing. Back when Spotify announced its most recent user numbers in May, it also said that since 2008 there have been more than 1.5 billion playlists created, with 5 million getting made or edited daily.

H/T Dr Sounds: thanks for flagging.

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Kuddle, An Instagram With Training Wheels, Introduces Social Media To Kids

A new mobile application called Kuddle is introducing a safer way for kids to get introduced to social media, while still under a parent’s watchful eye. The photo-sharing app, which is like a more restricted version of Instagram, allows children to post and share photos with friends in a protected environment, safe from cyberbullying or unwanted connections from strangers.

Founded this March by a team of Norway-based developers and designers, all with kids of their own, the idea was prompted by co-founder and CEO Ole Vidar Hestaas’s experience raising his children. His 7-year old son wanted to be on Instagram, like his older sister was, but of course that’s not allowed…or, frankly, a good idea at that age.

After looking for an app designed with the safety and security needs of children and parents in mind, and not finding anything at all, he decided to built one.

Co-founder and executive chairman, Kathryn Moore Baker, was in private equity when she was first introduced to the team, and says she fell in love with the idea.

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“I loved the idea of doing something that was good for kids. I’m the mother of two girls, 18 and 14, and the whole time [the team was] telling me about the idea, I was thinking, I wished I had this when [my children] were getting their first introduction to social media,” she says.

Baker, along with other angels, including Wibecke Nagell-Erichsen and international golfer Suzann ‘Tutta’ Pettersen, also invested in the company, which has now raised just under $1 million.

How It’s Safer

The app is designed from the ground-up to offer a safer environment than something like Instagram. Children have to input their parent’s email at sign-up, but can begin to use the app right away. However, their photos can’t be viewed or seen by others until the parent approves the account via the email they receive.

Afterwards, parents are notified every time a child posts a photo and every time they add a friend. (Because children don’t have their own Facebook account and friend list, they search for friends by name.)

In addition, photos will appear only in approved friends’ feeds, and are not geo-tagged so as not to reveal a child’s location.

Importantly, there are no comments allowed on photos. While kids can caption and even draw on their own photos with provided tools, friends can only view and like those images, not respond with text.

Though based in Norway, the app is COPPA-compliant, a U.S. regulation related to software and services designed for children. Children aren’t marketed to, and their info isn’t shared, says Baker.

Should Kids Use Social Media?

Some may argue that children shouldn’t be using social media at all at a younger age, but that’s not entirely realistic. With Kuddle, they can at least have the experience of sharing on mobile with friends, while opening the door to productive conversations with parents about what’s appropriate.

Kuddle, I feel, comes just in time for today’s youngest generation, as the kids of Millennials and Gen X’ers are now receiving their first smartphones at ever-younger ages (often now in the single-digits and pre-teens!). Even PBS is urging parents to “wait until preschool” at least.

Though there’s a plethora of educational apps and games, younger children are naturally drawn to what the “big kids” use. Today, that’s social media services like Facebook and Instagram, where you’re supposed to be 13 or older to register. Many kids just lie, in order to sign up.

Kuddle, which will always be free for children and will never sell things via in-app purchases, sees this app as the first step in a larger vision for the company which will focus on helping parents make better choices when it comes to their kids’ mobile usage, possibly through subscription services.

“Our revenue streams will come from areas where we can help parents make good choices such as safer devices, child-friendly mobile subscriptions, and safer search engines,” hints Baker. These products will be developed in partnership with others, and will be marketed to parents who will make the final buying decision.

In the meantime, Kuddle is a free download on iTunes and Google Play.

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Kuddle, An “Instagram With Training Wheels,” Introduces Social Media To Kids

A new mobile application called Kuddle is introducing a safer way for kids to get introduced to social media, while still under a parent’s watchful eye. The photo-sharing app, which is like a more restricted version of Instagram, allows children to post and share photos with friends in a protected environment, safe from cyberbullying or unwanted connections from strangers.

Founded this March by a team of Norway-based developers and designers, all with kids of their own, the idea was prompted by co-founder and CEO Ole Vidar Hestaas’s experience raising his children. His 7-year old son wanted to be on Instagram, like his older sister was, but of course that’s not allowed…or, frankly, a good idea at that age.

After looking for an app designed with the safety and security needs of children and parents in mind, and not finding anything at all, he decided to built one.

Co-founder and executive chairman, Kathryn Moore Baker, was in private equity when she was first introduced to the team, and says she fell in love with the idea.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 12.52.33 PM

“I loved the idea of doing something that was good for kids. I’m the mother of two girls, 18 and 14, and the whole time [the team was] telling me about the idea, I was thinking, I wished I had this when [my children] were getting their first introduction to social media,” she says.

Baker, along with other angels, including Wibecke Nagell-Erichsen and international golfer Suzann ‘Tutta’ Pettersen, also invested in the company, which has now raised just under $1 million.

How It’s Safer

The app is designed from the ground-up to offer a safer environment than something like Instagram. Children have to input their parent’s email at sign-up, but can begin to use the app right away. However, their photos can’t be viewed or seen by others until the parent approves the account via the email they receive.

Afterwards, parents are notified every time a child posts a photo and every time they add a friend. (Because children don’t have their own Facebook account and friend list, they search for friends by name.)

In addition, photos will appear only in approved friends’ feeds, and are not geo-tagged so as not to reveal a child’s location.

Importantly, there are no comments allowed on photos. While kids can caption and even draw on their own photos with provided tools, friends can only view and like those images, not respond with text.

Though based in Norway, the app is COPPA-compliant, a U.S. regulation related to software and services designed for children. Children aren’t marketed to, and their info isn’t shared, says Baker.

Should Kids Use Social Media?

Some may argue that children shouldn’t be using social media at all at a younger age, but that’s not entirely realistic. With Kuddle, they can at least have the experience of sharing on mobile with friends, while opening the door to productive conversations with parents about what’s appropriate.

Kuddle, I feel, comes just in time for today’s youngest generation, as the kids of Millennials and Gen X’ers are now receiving their first smartphones at ever-younger ages (often now in the single-digits and pre-teens!). Even PBS is urging parents to “wait until preschool” at least.

Though there’s a plethora of educational apps and games, younger children are naturally drawn to what the “big kids” use. Today, that’s social media services like Facebook and Instagram, where you’re supposed to be 13 or older to register. Many kids just lie, in order to sign up.

Kuddle, which will always be free for children and will never sell things via in-app purchases, sees this app as the first step in a larger vision for the company which will focus on helping parents make better choices when it comes to their kids’ mobile usage, possibly through subscription services.

“Our revenue streams will come from areas where we can help parents make good choices such as safer devices, child-friendly mobile subscriptions, and safer search engines,” hints Baker. These products will be developed in partnership with others, and will be marketed to parents who will make the final buying decision.

In the meantime, Kuddle is a free download on iTunes and Google Play.

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Vine Finally Lets You Import Video From Your Camera Roll

With more than 100 million people watching Vines across the web each month, and over 1 billion loops played every day, Vine has just released an update to the app that finally lets users import video from their camera.

Twitter’s video sharing app has always required users to film new content directly within the app, using Vine’s once-unique hold-to-record feature. Now, Vine users can import video that they shot on their phone, or video they downloaded from friends or Dropbox, etc.

This means that slow motion video from the iPhone will now be supported.

When importing videos, users can choose to pull in one full clip, or choose multiple clips to comprise a video that is no longer than six seconds.

Beyond the camera roll import, Vine is also revamping the way that the camera works to offer more precision editing tools, including a button to duplicate a clip and a mute button, to knock out the sound.

The team also added a preview and undo button, which lets you look at the last clip you filmed and gives you the option to undo it.

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Both the camera import feature and the ability to delete the last clip shot are available with Instagram Video, which admittedly stole a bit of Vine’s thunder but has yet to reach the same level of creativity or engagement.

Existing features like the Grid view, Ghost (which lets you see a transparent view of the last clip shot; great for the stop-motion/animation artists), and the focus lock can all be found under the Wrench icon, alongside a brand new feature. It’s called Torch view, and it helps Viners get the right shot in low-light settings.

The update is only available for iOS at the moment, but an Android release is currently in the works.

You can check out more from the video below:

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Foodmento Is The Foursquare Of Specific Dishes, Not Restaurants

Food has invaded Instagram in such an overwhelming way that studies actually show that people get physically full or tire of certain foods just from looking at the pictures. But there’s really no effective way to direct your followers to the specific dish you’ve endorsed.

That’s where Foodmento comes in.

The app allows you to save and rank your favorite dishes, sharing that information with your friends. The app has a follow-based structure, letting you make connections with friends or other, more public users, such as NYMag or TimeOut, theoretically.

But it’s not just about the feed — Foodmento lets you search for a delicious meal through a number of filters, including location, price, cuisine, etc. From there, you can get Google Maps directions, put in a reservation on OpenTable, or place an order on Seamless.

At it’s basest level, it’s a hybrid between the new Foursquare/Yelp and the #foodporn hashtag on Instagram.

From Foodmento, users can automatically publish their recorded favorite meals to Instagram, with the caption pre-populated.

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When friends visit a place you’ve been, you are instantly notified to start up a conversation and perhaps recommend a dish. Users also receive notifications when a friend recommends a dish specifically to them, and when someone new follows them.

Foodmento launches out of beta today, and has grown to have over 15,000 dishes from 3,500 eateries in over 40 cities internationally on the platform.

To learn more about Foodmento or get started on the app, head over to the website.

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SlideShare Axes Its Freemium Model, Makes ‘Pro’ Features Like Analytics Free

SlideShare, the LinkedIn-owned site that lets you upload and distribute presentations online, is turning over a new leaf today. The service, which has 60 million users, is going free. In tandem with that, SlideShare is dropping its PRO tiers, once priced at $19/month and $49/month, and making extra features like analytics, which used to come at a price, free for all.

The premium tiers were introduced in 2010, before SlideShare was acquired by LinkedIn for $119 million. At the time of the freemium introduction, then-SlideShare CEO Rashmi Sinha was optimistic on pricing, telling us, “Subscriptions are sexy.”

You may have had a hint of this coming if you visited SlideShare recently and tried to sign up for the Pro tiers, where you would have been greeted with a shaded window and this message:

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Now, LinkedIn has made the change more explicit. “All our existing PRO users will continue to have access to the PRO features we are making free,” a spokesperson told us. “However, the PRO subscription fee will end on Aug. 20, 2014, the day we are making PRO free. We will no longer charge existing PRO users after that point.”

LinkedIn says that it will roll out a new feature every month starting in September. The first of these, according to a blog post from product manager Amit Sawhney, will be analytics.

For those who don’t already use SlideShare PRO, analytics is a feature that is very LinkedIn in its character. It lets you know who has looked at your presentations (including location), how they found the content, which sites are driving traffic to the presentation, and other engagement metrics — much like the profile viewing analytics on LinkedIn’s main site. All this gets presented in an analytics dashboard that looks like this:

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After this will come the ability for a user to customise his or her profile, which you can do with a banner, a list of your favorite SlideShares, and other features.

Other PRO perks that will now get opened to all include the ability to set presentations to private so that only specified users can view them and video uploads. You can sign up here for the full list and details of when each feature will get turned on.

So why the change? A spokesperson for the company described it as a “natural next step” that “creates more ways for members to expand their SlideShare distribution and manage their deck and brand.”

But there could be bigger business motives, too. LinkedIn does not disclose how many users it had on the PRO tier, nor how many of the 60 million SlideShare users are active, but I can imagine that making the service far more functional for casual users is a play to increase the number of active visitors and uploads to the site. To date there have been 10 million presentations uploaded to the site, but when you consider how sites like YouTube (to which SlideShare has in its past been compared) host billions of videos, you can see where free might appear tantalising, especially if you are not earning huge returns on the paid version.

The other area that occurs to me is that, if LinkedIn manages to drive more traffic to SlideShare, it’s collecting a whole lot more data for itself about how business people are using its cloud-based services.

If LinkedIn has ambitions to do more in marketing services for businesses — something that its recent Bizo acquisition also points to — then it makes perfect sense for them to be collecting as much information as possible right now on who to pitch that product at, and what people really want out of a new service in that vein.

The company does not break out its SlideShare revenue figures in its earnings.

LinkedIn tells me that there will not be any changes in advertising for now. “Business per usual here, no changes to advertising model with this update,” she says.

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LinkedIn’s SlideShare Axes Its Freemium Model, Makes ‘Pro’ Features Like Analytics Free

SlideShare, the LinkedIn-owned site that lets you upload and distribute presentations online, is turning over a new leaf today. The service, which has 60 million users, is going free. In tandem with that, SlideShare is dropping its PRO tiers, once priced at $19/month and $49/month, and making extra features like analytics, which used to come at a price, free for all.

The premium tiers were introduced in 2010, before SlideShare was acquired by LinkedIn for $119 million. At the time of the freemium introduction, then-SlideShare CEO Rashmi Sinha was optimistic on pricing, telling us, “Subscriptions are sexy.”

You may have had a hint of this coming if you visited SlideShare recently and tried to sign up for the Pro tiers, where you would have been greeted with a shaded window and this message:

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 15.21.16

Now, LinkedIn has made the change more explicit. “All our existing PRO users will continue to have access to the PRO features we are making free,” a spokesperson told us. “However, the PRO subscription fee will end on Aug. 20, 2014, the day we are making PRO free. We will no longer charge existing PRO users after that point.”

LinkedIn says that it will roll out a new feature every month starting in September. The first of these, according to a blog post from product manager Amit Sawhney, will be analytics.

For those who don’t already use SlideShare PRO, analytics is a feature that is very LinkedIn in its character. It lets you know who has looked at your presentations (including location), how they found the content, which sites are driving traffic to the presentation, and other engagement metrics — much like the profile viewing analytics on LinkedIn’s main site. All this gets presented in an analytics dashboard that looks like this:

slideshareanalytics

After this will come the ability for a user to customise his or her profile, which you can do with a banner, a list of your favorite SlideShares, and other features.

Other PRO perks that will now get opened to all include the ability to set presentations to private so that only specified users can view them and video uploads. You can sign up here for the full list and details of when each feature will get turned on.

So why the change? A spokesperson for the company described it as a “natural next step” that “creates more ways for members to expand their SlideShare distribution and manage their deck and brand.”

But there could be bigger business motives, too. LinkedIn does not disclose how many users it had on the PRO tier, nor how many of the 60 million SlideShare users are active, but I can imagine that making the service far more functional for casual users is a play to increase the number of active visitors and uploads to the site. To date there have been 10 million presentations uploaded to the site, but when you consider how sites like YouTube (to which SlideShare has in its past been compared) host billions of videos, you can see where free might appear tantalising, especially if you are not earning huge returns on the paid version.

The other area that occurs to me is that, if LinkedIn manages to drive more traffic to SlideShare, it’s collecting a whole lot more data for itself about how business people are using its cloud-based services.

If LinkedIn has ambitions to do more in marketing services for businesses — something that its recent Bizo acquisition also points to — then it makes perfect sense for them to be collecting as much information as possible right now on who to pitch that product at, and what people really want out of a new service in that vein.

The company does not break out its SlideShare revenue figures in its earnings.

LinkedIn tells me that there will not be any changes in advertising for now. “Business per usual here, no changes to advertising model with this update,” she says.