AOL wants you to stop clipping coupons or even printing them. The company is launching a new service, Shortcuts, for manufacturers to distribute coupons on the Internet. Instead of clipping them out of your newspaper insert, you choose the ones you want online and add them to an account tied to a grocery store's loyalty program. To redeem those coupons, you simply present your loyalty card at the register. The program is free for consumers and retail chains, while manufacturers pay to have their coupons listed. Charges will be based on how many get selected and redeemed. Manufacturers can buy banner ads to accompany the coupon listings at Shortcuts.com. The service, the latest aimed at distributing paperless coupons online or by cell phones, comes as Time Warner Inc.'s AOL continues trying to boost advertising revenue to offset steep declines in subscriptions for dialup Internet access. Although AOL expects manufacturers to continue distributing coupons in print publications, Shortcuts director Sharon Baker said companies could eventually offer exclusive deals online. That could leave out people with little or no Internet access, who often are poorer and the ones who most need such discounts. But Baker said that, because it will be free to consumers, Shortcuts will break down barriers — no longer would you need to buy a newspaper. Shortcuts was scheduled to launch with the Kroger Co. grocery store chain and one food manufacturer, General Mills Inc. Coupons from Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Kraft Foods Inc. are to come this month.
Dutch say security pass can be hacked
The Dutch interior affairs minister says a technology being used in up to a billion security cards around the world can easily be hacked. The "Mifare" chip technology owned and licensed by NXP Semiconductors is frequently used in public transport systems. It is also used by corporations and governments in "swipe" access cards. Guusje ter Horst said recently that researchers at the Radboud University in Nijmegen have "developed a method by which a large number of (Mifare) chip-cards is relatively easy to crack and duplicate." Ter Horst said the chip is used in an estimated
2-million cards in the Netherlands and a billion globally. The company said it was "taking these claims very seriously," was investigating and would inform its customers.
Startup RatePoint referees reviews
A startup called RatePoint Inc. wants to play referee for reviews posted on the Internet. RatePoint has built a rating system that businesses can run on their Web sites for a $149 annual subscription. The unusual aspect is what happens after a review is submitted. If it's negative (one or two stars out of five), the reviewer is asked to provide an e-mail address and a phone number so the merchant can follow up. RatePoint then forwards the negative review to the merchant, giving the business a chance to rectify the problem. If the customer agrees the business has righted the wrong, the negative review won't get posted. RatePoint CEO Neal Creighton argues that this approach gives businesses an incentive to listen to their customers' online feedback.
TiVo, YouTube will deliver videos to TVs
TiVo users will be able to watch YouTube clips on their televisions by year's end, TiVo Inc. said recently. Fans of the popular online video provider can view its videos on their cell phones and Apple TV, a box that streams movies from people's computers to their TV. Now TiVo users with a broadband Internet connection and a TiVo Series3 box will be able to search, browse and watch YouTube videos directly on their TVs. Each month, 66-million viewers watch about 2.6-billion videos on YouTube, according to the latest data by Nielsen Online. That's 57 percent of the
116.7-million monthly online video viewers. YouTube is owned by Google Inc., which paid $1.76-billion for the company in November 2006.
EU says it needs
to change IT image
The information technology industry needs to show that it isn't just for "geeky, unsociable" people if it is to attract more women to fill a skills shortage, says the EU's top technology official. EU Commissioner Viviane Reding said stereotypes that IT careers are "boring and too technical" for women need to be overcome because few women are taking engineering and technology degrees despite huge demand. The field will need 300,000 qualified workers by 2010 in Europe alone, according to EU estimates. But that means a radical change. "We need to show that IT … is interesting, is mainstream, is part of everyone's daily life — and that an information and communications technology career is a choice for a creative person," she said.