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How Facebook’s Tiny China Sales Floor Helps Generate Big Ad Money

SHENZHEN — Facebook’s apps and websites have been blocked in China for years. The company has no office in the country that supports its social networking services. And its attempts to open a subsidiary have been quickly snuffed out.But here in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, Facebook has managed to quietly build a presence with the help of a local partner.In Shenzhen’s Futian district, on the ninth floor of a concrete tower, there is an open-air sales floor that works as a sort of corporate embassy for the social network. The 5,000-square-foot space is run by the local partner, called Meet Social, but has been designed…

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Meet the Creator of the Egg That Broke Instagram

When Chris Godfrey learned in early January that the record for “likes” on an Instagram post was held by the celebrity and businesswoman Kylie Jenner, he took it as a challenge. He remembers thinking: “Could something as universal and simple as an egg be great enough to beat that record?”It could! Just nine days after the thought, that record was cracked. Mr. Godfrey had beaten Ms. Jenner’s post about her infant daughter with a simple picture of an egg. The original egg post now has more than 52 million likes — her post is shy of 19 million — and the egg’s account now has more than…

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Amazon’s Sales Growth Slows, Even as Cloud Business Stays Hot

SEATTLE — Amazon held off stiffer competition for online shoppers during the holiday season, once again increasing its sales. But the company said on Thursday that growth slowed from its usual breakneck pace — and it came at a cost, with the company spending far more on shipping to win customers.While strong, the latest quarterly results suggested that Amazon’s retail business not only faces more competition, it is also maturing. The company reported that its revenue from retail sales and services grew 17 percent to almost $65 billion globally, while its shipping costs rose 23 percent, to $9 billion, compared with the same quarter a year ago.The…

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Alibaba, an Icon of China’s Growth, Now Reflects Its Slowdown

SHANGHAI — Alibaba became one of the world’s biggest internet companies thanks to the growing wealth and online shopping habits of Chinese consumers. Now, as China’s economy slows, it has become a symbol of their new sense of caution.The company, China’s largest e-commerce business, said on Wednesday that its earnings growth fell last quarter. Its revenue was slightly below analysts’ expectations, growing 41 percent, its slowest pace since early 2016, reflecting both the sheer size of the company and widening troubles in the Chinese economy, the world’s second largest.Alibaba’s shares rose in premarket trading, however, because it beat analysts’ estimates on adjusted earnings per share, posting growth…

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Amazon Knows What You Buy. And It’s Building a Big Ad Business From It.

SEATTLE — When a chain of physical therapy centers wanted new patients, it aimed online ads at people near its offices who had bought knee braces recently on Amazon.When a financial services provider wanted to promote its retirement advisory business, it directed ads to people in their 40s and 50s who had recently ordered a personal finance book from Amazon.And when a major credit card company wanted new customers, it targeted people who used cards from other banks on the retail site.The advertisers found those people by using Amazon’s advertising services, which leverage what the company knows better than anyone: consumers’ online buying habits.“Amazon has really straightforward…

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The Shift: Juul’s Convenient Smoke Screen

Juul Labs, the company behind the insanely popular vaping device, has a message for the nation’s estimated 37.8 million adult smokers:It really, really, really cares about them. And it wants them (and only them — got that, teens?) to try vaping instead.“For smokers. By design,” blares the company’s website. A new $10 million TV ad campaign, called “Make the Switch,” echoes that theme, featuring testimonials from ex-smokers, all comfortably above the legal smoking age, who have swapped their cigarettes for a Juul.This benevolent-sounding mission — helping nicotine-addicted adult smokers switch to something far less likely to kill them — is Juul’s new pitch, and the way it…

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Los Angeles Accuses Weather Channel App of Covertly Mining User Data

The Weather Channel app deceptively collected, shared and profited from the location information of millions of American consumers, the city attorney of Los Angeles said in a lawsuit filed on Thursday.One of the most popular online weather services in the United States, the Weather Channel app has been downloaded more than 100 million times and has 45 million active users monthly.The government said the Weather Company, the business behind the app, unfairly manipulated users into turning on location tracking by implying that the information would be used only to localize weather reports. Yet the company, which is owned by IBM, also used the data for unrelated commercial…

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Why Do You Love a L.O.L. Surprise?

According to our e-commerce and big-box retail overlords, the hottest toy this holiday season was the L.O.L. Surprise! Bigger Surprise. It didn’t reach fist-fighting-in-store-aisles levels of frenzy; it’s no Tickle Me Elmo, and it’s not 1996. But, according to NPD Group, a market research firm, L.O.L. Surprise! was the best-selling toy brand of the year (excepting December, for which sales numbers haven’t been released), and L.O.L. Surprise! Bigger Surprise was the top-selling toy in November.So, what is the L.O.L. Surprise! Bigger Surprise? It is a glittering, baby-pink plastic suitcase that one buys without knowing what’s inside. It is filled with doe-eyed plastic dolls and many sparkly accessories…

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Advertising: Sharing Data for Deals? More Like Watching It Go With a Sigh

The diapers ad that shows up on your computer when you are expecting a child. The coupon on your smartphone for a fast-food chain you just walked past. The sneaker offer appearing in your mailbox after you sign up to run a race.For years, marketers and technology companies have crept further into the homes and habits of Americans, arguing all the while that there is a fair and voluntary exchange taking place. The more we know about you, the argument goes, the more we can show you products you actually want instead of ads that just annoy you. Consumers, they say, are happily trading very specific information…

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France, Not Waiting for European Union, to Tax U.S. Tech Firms as ’19 Starts

PARIS — With the so-called Yellow Vest movement forcing concessions that have widened the country’s budget shortfall, the French government is accelerating a plan to place hefty taxes on American technology giants that have long maneuvered to keep their bills low while reaping huge sums of money.France has been working with other countries on a European Union-wide digital tax on companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, but some members of the bloc have balked at the proposal.Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, said last week that France would move ahead on its own if the union did not approve such a tax by March.On Monday,…

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