November 24, 2015
I often find myself at Business Insider, reading about a recent development. That’s why I was intrigued by the article, “Sold! Axel Springer Bets Big on Digital, Buys Business Insider” at re/code. Though for me the name conjures an image of a sensationalistic talk-show host with a bandana and a wide vocal range, Axel Springer is actually a publisher based in Germany, and has been around since 1946. We note that they also own stake in the Qwant search engine, and their website touts they are now the “leading digital publisher in Europe.” This is one traditional publisher that is taking the world’s shift to the digital realm head on.
Writer Peter Kafka sees a connection between this acquisition and Axel Springer’s failed bid to buy the venerable Financial Times. He writes:
“Axel Springer is a Berlin-based publisher best known as the owner of newspapers Die Welt and Bild. In July, it missed its chance to buy the Financial Times, the august, 127-year-old business news publisher, when it was outbid at the last second by Japan’s Nikkei. Business Insider shares very little in common with the FT, other than they both deal with financial topics: While the FT has built out its own digital operations in recent years, it’s a subscription-based business whose stock-in-trade is sober, restrained reporting. Business Insider is a fast-twitch publisher, pitched at readers who’ve grown up on the Web and based on a free, ad-supported business model. While the site was famous for its you-bet-you’ll-keep-clicking headlines and slideshows, it also did plenty of serious reporting; in the last year it has been on an expansion binge, adding a British outpost, a new tech site and a new gambit that’s supposed to create viral content that lives on platforms like Facebook. Today’s transaction appears to link the FT and BI: Industry executives think Springer’s inability to land the Financial Times made them that much hungrier to get Business Insider.”
Perhaps, but this deal may be a wise choice nevertheless. Digital news and information is here to stay, and Business Insider seems to have figured out the format. We’ll see how Axel Springer leverages that know-how.
Cynthia Murrell, November 24, 2015
November 19, 2015
The article titled Petition: Facebook Betrayed Us By Secretly Lobbying for Surveillance Bill on BoingBoing complains that Facebook has been somewhat two-faced regarding privacy laws and cyber surveillance. The article claims that Facebook publicly opposed the Cybersercurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) while secretly lobbying to push it through. The article explains,
“Facebook has come under public fire for its permissive use of user data and pioneering privacy-invasive experiments in the past. They have also supported previous versions of the cybersecurity info-sharing bills, and their chief Senate lobbyist, Myriah Jordan, worked as General Counsel for CISA’s sponsor, Senator Richard Burr, immediately before moving to Facebook. Facebook has declined to take a public position on CISA, but in recent days sources have confirmed that in fact Facebook is quietly lobbying the Senate to pass it.”
This quotation does beg the question of why anyone would believe that Facebook opposes CISA, given its history. It is, after all, a public company that will earn money in any acceptable way it can. The petition to make Facebook be more transparent about its position on CISA seems more like a request for an apology from a company for being a company than anything else.
Chelsea Kerwin, November 19, 2015
November 10, 2015
Google and Facebook have put their differences aside to expand Internet access to four billion people. Technology Review explains in “Facebook;s Internet Drone Team Is Collaborating With Google’s Stratospheric Balloons Project” how both companies have filed documented with the US Federal Communications Commission to push international law to make it easier to have aircraft fly 12.5 miles or 20 kilometers above the Earth, placing it in the stratosphere.
Google has been working on balloons that float in the stratosphere that function as aerial cell towers and Facebook is designing drones the size of aircraft that are tethered to the ground that serve the same purpose. While the companies are working together, they will not state how. Both Google and Facebook are working on similar projects, but the aerial cell towers marks a joint effort where they putting aside their difference (for the most part) to improve information access.
“However, even if Google and Facebook work together, corporations alone cannot truly spread Internet access as widely as is needed to promote equitable access to education and other necessities, says Nicholas Negroponte, a professor at MIT’s Media Lab and founder of the One Laptop Per Child Project. ‘I think that connectivity will become a human right,’ said Negroponte, opening the session at which Facebook and Google’s Maguire and DeVaul spoke. Ensuring that everyone gets that right requires the Internet to be operated similar to public roads, and provided by governments, he said.”
Quality Internet access not only could curb poor education, but it could also improve daily living. People in developing countries would be able to browse information to remedy solutions and even combat traditional practices that do more harm than good.
Some of the biggest obstacles will be who will maintain the aerial cell towers and also if they will pose any sort of environmental danger.
Whitney Grace, November 10, 2015
November 6, 2015
As newspapers fall, what is rising to take their place? Why, social media, of course. The Pew Research Center discusses its recent findings on the subject in, “The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook.” The number of Americans getting their news from these platforms continues to rise, across almost all demographic groups. The article informs us:
“The new study, conducted by Pew Research Center in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, finds that clear majorities of Twitter (63%) and Facebook users (63%) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues outside the realm of friends and family. That share has increased substantially from 2013, when about half of users (52% of Twitter users, 47% of Facebook users) said they got news from the social platforms.”
The write-up describes some ways the platforms differ in their news delivery. For example, more users turn to Twitter for breaking news, while Facebook now features a “Trending” sidebar, filterable by subject. The article notes that these trends can have an important impact on our society:
“As more social networking sites recognize and adapt to their role in the news environment, each will offer unique features for news users, and these features may foster shifts in news use. Those different uses around news features have implications for how Americans learn about the world and their communities, and for how they take part in the democratic process.”
Indeed. See the article for more differences between Facebook and Twitter news consumers, complete with some percentages. You can also see the data’s barebones results in the report’s final topline. Most of the data comes from a survey conducted across two weekends last March, among 2,035 Americans aged 18 and up.
Cynthia Murrell, November 6, 2015
October 15, 2015
The article on Life Hacker titled Detox For Facebook Replaces Your Feed with Actual News begs the question: why search when you can graze like a millennial info ruminant? The idea of Detox is that Facebook wastes time. It is difficult to argue with that, especially as someone who has, on more than one occasion, closed a tab opened to Facebook only to be confronted with another tab, also open to Facebook, and perhaps even another. It is this mindless arena of continuous distraction. The article says,
“If you can relate, consider Detox: it replaces your Facebook feed with an actual news feed.
The browser extension is from previously mentioned news feed Panda. You simply download the extension, turn it on via Facebook, and it will replace your feed with content from sites available at Panda: Product Hunt, Hacker News, and Designer News to name a few. You can also use Detox’s “Auto Activation” and schedule specific days and times you want the extension to work.”
Perhaps you are someone immune to the onslaught of trite and meaningless status updates. But most of us are coping with a level of addiction that we really have no means of overcoming unless we “gasp” sign off entirely. If you aren’t quite ready for that, but hope to make your Facebook feed at least somewhat worth your perusal, this might be a nice compromise.
Chelsea Kerwin, October 15, 2015
October 13, 2015
The article on ZDNet titled The Price of Your Identity in the Dark Web? No More Than a Dollar provides the startlingly cheap value of stolen data on the Dark Web. We have gotten used to hearing about data breaches at companies that we know and use (ahem, Ashley Madison), but what happens next? The article explains,
“Burrowing into the Dark Web — a small area of the Deep Web which is not accessible unless via the Tor Onion network — stolen data for sale is easy to find. Accounts belonging to US mobile operators can be purchased for as little as $14 each, while compromised eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and Uber accounts are also for sale. PayPal and eBay accounts which have a few months or years of transaction history can be sold for up to $300 each.”
According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse the most common industries affected by data breaches are healthcare, government, retail, and education sectors. But it also stresses that a high number of data breaches are not caused by hackers or malicious persons at all. Instead, unintended disclosure is often the culprit. Dishearteningly, there is really no way to escape being a target besides living out some Ron Swanson off the grid fantasy scenario. Every organization that collects personal information is a potential breach target. It is up to the organizations to protect the information, and while many are making that a top priority, most have a long way to go.
Chelsea Kerwin, October 13, 2015
October 7, 2015
While Facebook is a common social media tool and it does not make headlines as much as it used to, except when it added the new GIF function and angers users by rearranging its options, it now has something even more exciting to shout about. Business Insider reported that, “Facebook’s WhatsApp Hits Another Major Milestone” with a messaging app that it bought back in 2014.
Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion and since its purchase its growth has exploded. There are now nine hundred million active users and it could jump to one billion by the end of the year. Compared to its competitors Viber and WeChat, however, is not bringing in much profit. Zuckerberg has plans for WhatsApp and has asked his investors to be patience. He wants WhatsApp to be a “natural place for people to communicate with businesses.”
” ‘The long-term bet is that by enabling people to have good organic interactions with businesses, that will end up being a massive multiplier on the value of the monetization down the road, when we really work on that, and really focus on that in a bigger way,’ Zuckerberg said.”
Zuckerberg knows what he is doing. He is setting up a messenger platform that people trust, enjoy, and is popular. When you have access to nine hundred million active users and want to grow it to one billion, there are definitely plans to monetize it. We just have to wait.
October 1, 2015
The article titled Permission Based Publishing Lets Users Keep Control of Content on Beta News describes an innovative approach to allowing online content publishers a tighter grip on how their content is disbursed. StoryCloud, the permission-based publishing provider of Share By, explains the myriad potential uses for their platform, from teachers measuring a class’s understanding of the homework assignment to a musical group sharing a song with specific subscribers. The article explains how the platform functions,
“By using permission-based technology that is tightly integrated with social networking, analytics and ecommerce, Share By allows content providers to easily determine who sees their content, when, and from what location. Other permissions include duration, view or download limits and scheduling time periods for sharing and the devices that are permitted. Once content providers upload content to StoryCloud and determine permissions, they receive a unique URL which can be shared with any online audience, including Facebook and Twitter.”
Beyond the privacy and control aspects of Share By, there is also the ability to graphically analyze the content they have released online. For most individuals, this might just mean checking in on who really spent time consuming the content, but for companies it means monetization. They can charge per viewing and offer subscriptions without worrying about people getting the content without consent.
Chelsea Kerwin, October 01, 2015
September 9, 2015
Developers have a new tool for incorporating search data directly into apps, we learn in “Bing Snapshots First to Bring Advanced In-App Search to Users” at Search Engine Watch. Apparently Google announced a similar feature, Google Now on Tap, earlier this year, but Microsoft’s Bing has beaten them to the consumer market. Of course, part of Snapshot’s goal is to keep users from wandering out of “Microsoft territory,” but many users are sure to appreciate the convenience nevertheless. Reporter Mike O’Brien writes:
“With Bing Snapshots, developers will be able to incorporate all of the search engine’s information into their apps, allowing users to perform searches in context without navigating outside. For example, a friend could mention a restaurant on Facebook Messenger. When you long-press the Home button, Bing will analyze the contents of the screen and bring up a snapshot of a restaurant, with actionable information, such as the restaurant’s official website and Yelp reviews, as well Uber.”
Bing officials are excited about the development (and, perhaps, scoring a perceived win over Google), declaring this the start of a promising relationship with developers. The article continues:
“Beyond making sure Snapshots got a headstart over Google Now on Tap, Bing is also able to stand out by becoming the first search engine to make its knowledge graph available to developers. That will happen this fall, though some APIs are already available on the company’s online developer center. Bing is currently giving potential users sneak peeks on its Android app.”
Hmm, that’s a tad ironic. I look forward to seeing how Google positions the launch of Google Now on Tap when the time comes.
Cynthia Murrell, September 9, 2015
September 3, 2015
Alphabet Google can spell dominance. The problem is that in the social media department, spelling is not the same as doing. Navigate to the Zuck’s post here. Here’s the social media reality:
We just passed an important milestone. For the first time ever, one billion people used Facebook in a single day.
The Alphabet Google thing is likely to point out that it has more users every day. So there.
Stephen E Arnold, September 3, 2015