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12 gifts for the holidays: Between Apple, Google, DJI, and Amazon there’s something for everyone



12 tech gifts for Christmas: Something for everyone
Jason Perlow and Jason Cipriani cover their top tech gift recommendations this holiday season in this week’s episode of Jason Squared. Read more:

The holidays are upon us, and that means it’s time to go shopping. Tech gifts usually sit near the top of everyone’s list, but if you’re struggling to come up with ideas this year, we’re here to help. 

Below you’ll find 12 gift ideas for the holidays, sprinkled in with some additional gifts for those who want to save a little bit of money or are looking for another recommendation. 

Keep in mind the prices listed below are the usual retail prices, but you’re likely to find some of, if not most, of the tech products on sale leading up to Christmas. 


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple AirPods Pro (regularly $250)

The AirPods Pro is arguably the best wireless earbuds you can get for an Apple user, and to Jason Cipriani, they’re worth every penny of the $250 asking price. Jason Perlow likes Anker’s Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro, currently priced at $110 (with a regular price of $150). 


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple iPhone 11 (regularly $699)

Apple’s iPhone 11 may be the least expensive iPhone, but it’s still more than enough phone for most users. From battery life to its two-camera setup, the iPhone 11 is one of the best deals you’ll find on an iPhone this year. If you’re looking for an Android phone, Samsung’s Galaxy S10, ZTE’s Axon 10 Pro, or Motorola’s Moto G7 are all respectable — and affordable — options. 


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple Watch Series 5 (regularly $399)

The Apple Watch Series 5 is the best smartwatch on the market, with the latest hardware available from Apple right now. At $399, it’s expensive, but will be supported for years to come. If you’d rather save some money on an Apple Watch, the Series 3 starts at $199. 


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple iPad (regularly $329)

Apple’s iPad is the best tablet available right now and has been for some time. The latest base model has a slightly larger display and now works with Apple’s Smart Keyboard Cover. At $329, it’s hard to beat. 



DJI Mavic Mini Fly More Combo (regularly $499)

The DJI Mavic Mini is a steal. It’s a fully capable drone with a range of up to 4km, a good camera, and a battery life of nearly 30 minutes. The Fly More Combo includes the drone, a controller three batteries, a charging pack, extra propellers, and a charging case. Or if you only want the drone and a controller, you can get the basic package for $399.



Nintendo Switch (regularly $299)

The Nintendo Switch is a powerful gaming device that’s fully portable, or it can be connected to your TV. The Nintendo Switch Lite is slightly cheaper at $199, but it can’t be connected to a TV. If you’d rather not get a dedicated gaming device, the iPod Touch is a versatile device that comes with the iOS ecosystem of games, including Apple Arcade. 


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Disney+ subscription (regularly $70 for a year)

Disney+ is one of the hottest streaming services that launched in 2019, with a content library that never seems to end. Not to mention Baby Yoda has all but taken over the internet. You can sing up for an account for a loved one, or purchase a Disney gift card in a Disney store to cover the cost of a year’s subscription. Jason Perlow is a Star Trek fan, so he recommends doing the same for a CBS All Access subscription.



Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (on sale for $35, regularly $60)

The Echo Dot with clock gives your gift recipient an Alexa-powered speaker for controlling smart home devices or asking random questions, as well as a constantly visible clock. Amazon keeps adjusting the price, but right now it’s $35 down from $60. Jason Perlow recommends spending a little more and getting the standard Amazon Echo with a better speaker for listening to music for $99. 


Image: Google

Nest Hello for (regularly $229)

Nest’s Hello Doorbell provides peace of mind and helpful alerts while monitoring your door. It’ll let you know when a package has been left, or when it sees someone it recognizes (or doesn’t recognize). Jason Perlow likes Ring’s $249 Video Doorbell Pro, which if you watch for the right promotion can also get you a free Echo device. Right now, for the same price, you can get a free Echo Show 5. 


Image: Goal Zero

GoalZero Sherpa 100PD (regularly $136)

The Goal Zero Sherpa 100PD is a portable battery pack that does it all. It has Power Delivery of up to 60W, a wireless charging pad and multiple USB ports. It’s a little pricey, but worth it. Jason Perlow recommends the Zendure SuperTank USB-C PD and SuperPort 4.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

1Password subscription (regularly $60)

Not enough people take password security serious enough, but with a little nudging and guidance, you can help get them on track. 1Password is a password managing service with apps for nearly every platform. It creates and stores random passwords and will even enter them for you. A family plan that includes five users is $60 a month, and it just so happens 1Password sells digital gift cards. 


Sonos Beam (regularly $399)

See it now: Amazon

You can’t go wrong any of the Sonos lineups. Sonos speakers connect wirelessly to each other and the internet allowing you to stream your music library from nearly every streaming service, and if you opt for something like Sonos Beam it acts as a soundbar for a TV. Jason Perlow has been testing the Anker Nebula Soundbar and recommends it, partly because of its sound quality but also because it pulls double-duty as a Fire TV device.

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5 tips for brands that want to succeed in the new era of influencer marketing – TechCrunch



If I told you a decade ago that a spin bike would be a social community, you’d have had a good laugh. But that’s precisely what Peloton is: A spin bike with a social community where the instructors are the influencers.

Peloton is just one example of how social is being integrated into every aspect of the customer experience in an increasingly digital world. Whether it’s considering a new restaurant to check out, a movie to see or a product to buy, most people look at reviews before making a final decision. They want social proof as an indicator of quality and relevance.

Influencers are a natural byproduct of this desire for social validation, and as social permeates the customer journey, creators have become an essential source of validation and trust.

Influencers are a natural byproduct of this desire for social validation, and as social permeates the customer journey, creators have become an essential source of validation and trust. Indeed, social validation is what social platforms are built on, so it’s a significant component of how we derive relevance online — and the deeper integration of social is changing the dynamic between brands and digital creators.

The shifting economy of creator monetization

Brand sponsorships are the holy grail for creators hoping to monetize their online influence. According to an eMarketer report, brand partnerships are still the No. 1 source of revenue for most digital creators.

However, digital creators have a lot more monetization options to choose from, thanks to Patreon, affiliate platforms, paid content platforms and platform revenue sharing, making it easier to earn a living without relying so heavily on brand sponsorships.

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As a result, creators are diversifying their revenue streams, which, for some creators, allows them to be more selective about the brands they work with. What’s more, creators aren’t reliant on just one channel or one form of revenue.

YouTube creators probably have the most diversified revenue, often combining brand sponsorships, subscription models, affiliate deals, tipping/donations, their line of branded products and revenue share. However, it’s important to note that not all monetization options apply to every creator. But with so many options to choose from, making a living as a digital creator is more accessible than ever.

Here are a few of the ways online creators can monetize their content:

Ad revenue sharing: Advertising is the most traditional form of revenue for online creators. With this model, ads are injected into and around the creator’s content, and they make a certain percentage of revenue based on impressions. However, the revenue split can vary based on the platform, and some platforms have a specific threshold creators must hit before they can participate in ad revenue sharing.

Affiliate marketing: Similar to advertising or a brand sponsorship, affiliate marketing is an agreement for a share of revenue based on products sold. This kind of arrangement generally works best when the creator has a blog, website or YouTube account. Affiliate links allow the influencer to proactively choose the products they want to talk about and earn from, rather than having to wait for a brand deal to come their way.

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Instagram’s TikTok rival, Reels, rolls out ads worldwide – TechCrunch



Instagram Reels are getting ads. The company announced today it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform and TikTok rival, Reels, to businesses and advertisers worldwide. The ads will be up to 30 seconds in length, like Reels themselves, and vertical in format, similar to ads found in Instagram Stories. Also like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment, and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

The company had previously tested Reels ads in select markets earlier this year, including India, Brazil, Germany, and Australia, then expanded those tests to Canada, France, the U.K. and the U.S. more recently. Early adopters of the new format have included brands like BMW, Nestlé (Nespresso), Louis Vuitton, Netflix, Uber, and others.

Instagram tells us the ads will appear in most places users view Reels content, including on the Reels tab, Reels in Stories, Reels in Explore, and Reels in your Instagram Feed, and will appear in between individual Reels posted by users. However, in order to be served a Reels ad, the user first needs to be in the immersive, full-screen Reels viewer.

Image Credits: Instagram

The company couldn’t say how often a user might see a Reels ad, noting that the number of ads a viewer may encounter will vary based on how they use Instagram. But the company is monitoring user sentiment around ads themselves, and the overall commercially of Reels, it says.

Like Instagram’s other advertising products, Reels ads will launch with an auction-based model. But so far, Instagram is declining to share any sort of performance metrics around how those ads are doing, based on tests. Nor is it yet offering advertisers any creator tools or templates that could help them get started with Reels ads. Instead, Instagram likey assumes advertisers already have creative assets on hand or know how to make them, because of Reels ads’ similarities to other vertical video ads found elsewhere, including on Instagram’s competitors.

While vertical video has already shown the potential for driving consumers to e-commerce shopping sites, Instagram hasn’t yet taken advantage of Reels ads to drive users to its built-in Instagram Shops, though that seems like a natural next step as it attempts to tie the different parts of its app together.

But perhaps ahead of that step, Instagram needs to make Reels a more compelling destination — something other TikTok rivals, which now include both Snap and YouTube — have done by funding creator content directly. Instagram, meanwhile, had made offers to select TikTok stars directly.

The launch of Instagram Reels ads follows news of TikTok’s climbing ad prices. Bloomberg reported this month that TikTok is now asking for more than $1.4 million for a home page takeover ad in the U.S., as of the third quarter, which will jump to $1.8 million by Q4 and more than $2 million on a holiday. Though the company is still building its ads team and advertisers haven’t yet allocated large portions of their video budget to the app, that tends to follow user growth — and TikTok now has over 100 million monthly active users in the U.S.

Both apps, Instagram and TikTok, now have over a billion monthly active users on a global basis, though Reels is only a part of the larger Instagram platform. For comparison, Instagram Stories is used by some 500 million users, which demonstrates Instagram’s ability to drive traffic to different areas of its app. Instagram declined to share how many users Reels has as of today.

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Twine raises $3.3M to add networking features to virtual events – TechCrunch



Twine, a video chat startup that launched amid the pandemic as a sort of “Zoom for meeting new people,” shifted its focus to online events and, as a result, has now closed on $3.3 million in seed funding. To date, twine’s events customers have included names like Microsoft, Amazon, Forrester, and others, and the service is on track to do $1 million in bookings in 2021, the company says.

The new round was led by Moment Ventures, and included participation from Coelius Capital, AltaIR Capital, Mentors Fund, Rosecliff Ventures, AltaClub, and Bloom Venture Partners. Clint Chao, founding Partner at Moment, will join twine’s board of directors with the round’s close.

The shift into the online events space makes sense, given twine’s co-founders —  Lawrence Coburn, Diana Rau, and Taylor McLoughlin — hail from DoubleDutch, the mobile events technology provider acquired by Cvent in 2019.

Coburn, previously CEO of DoubleDutch, had been under a non-compete with its acquirer until December 2020, which is one reason why he didn’t first attempt a return to the events space.

The team’s original idea was to help people who were missing out on social connections under Covid lockdowns find a way to meet others and chat online. This early version of twine saw some small amount of traction, as 10% of its users were even willing to pay. But many more were nervous about being connected to random online strangers, twine found.

So the company shifted its focus to the familiar events space, with a specific focus on online events which grew in popularity due to the pandemic. While setting up live streams, text chats and Q&A has been possible, what’s been missing from many online events was the casual and unexpected networking that used to happen in-person.

“The hardest thing to bring to virtual events was the networking and the serendipity — like the conversations that used to happen in an elevator, in the bar, the lobby — these kinds of things,” explains Coburn. “So we began testing a group space version of twine — bringing twine to existing communities as opposed to trying to build our own, new community. And that showed a lot more legs,” he says.

By January 2021, the new events-focused version of twine was up-and-running, offering a set of professional networking tools for event owners. Unlike one-to-many or few-to-many video broadcasts, twine connects a small number of people for more intimate conversations.

“We did a lot of research with our customers and users, and beyond five [people in a chat], it turns into a webinar,” notes Coburn, of the limitations on twine’s video chat. In twine, a small handful of people are dropped into a video chat experience– and now, they’re not random online strangers. They’re fellow event attendees. That generally keeps user behavior professional and the conversations productive.

Event owners can use the product for free on twine’s website for small events with up to 30 users, but to scale up any further requires a license. Twine charges on a per attendee basis, where customers buy packs of attendees on a software-as-a-service model.

The company’s customers can then embed twine directly in their own website or add a link that pops open the twine website in a separate browser tab.

Coburn says twine has found a sweet spot with big corporate event programs. The company has around 25 customers, but some of those have already used twine for 10 or 15 events after first testing out the product for something smaller.

“We’re working with five or six of the biggest companies in the world right now,” noted Coburn.

Image Credits: twine

Because the matches are digital, twine can offer other tools like digital “business card” exchanges and analytics and reports for the event hosts and attendees alike.

Despite the cautious return to normal in the U.S., which may see in-person events return in the year ahead, twine believes there’s still a future in online events. Due to the pandemic’s lasting impacts, organizations are likely to adopt a hybrid approach to their events going forward.

“I don’t think there’s ever been an industry that has gone through a 15 months like the events industry just went through,” Coburn says. “These companies went to zero, their revenue went to zero and some of them were coming from hundreds of millions of dollars. So what happened was a digital transformation like the world has never seen,” he adds.

Now, there are tens of thousands of event planners who have gotten really good at tech and online events. And they saw the potential in online, which would sometimes deliver 4x or 5x the attendance of virtual, Coburn points out.

“This is why you see LinkedIn drop $50 million on Hopin,” he says, referring to the recent fundraise for the virtual conference technology business. (The deal was reportedly for less than $50 million). “This is why you see the rounds of funding that are going into Hoppin and Bizzabo and Hubilo and all the others. This is the taxi market, pre-Uber.”

Of course, virtual events may end up less concerned with social features when they can offer an in-person experience. And those who want to host online events may be looking for a broader solution than Zoom + twine, for example.

But twine has ideas about what it wants to do next, including asynchronous matchmaking, which could end up being more valuable as it could lead to better matches since it wouldn’t be limited to only who’s online now.

With the funding, twine is hiring in sales and customer success, working on accessibility improvements, and expanding its platform. To date, twine has raised $4.7 million.

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