Digital media has always been a turbulent business, but last week’s layoffs suggest a reason for panic.
The cause of each company’s troubles may be distinct, but collectively the blood bath points to the same underlying market pathology: the inability of the digital advertising business to make much meaningful room for anyone but monopolistic tech giants.
.. In the troubles at Verizon, we see a behemoth that tried to take on Google and Facebook. Under a former executive, Tim Armstrong, the phone company bought up Yahoo and other media brands as useful pawns in a strategic war against internet giants. For similar reasons, Comcast has also plowed money into media start-ups.
But Verizon quickly learned that Facebook and Google are insurmountable. When new management took over last year, it began dumping the news in favor of readier ways to make money.
.. It’s the cuts at BuzzFeed that sting most. You may regard the site as a purveyor of silly listicles and inane quizzes. I think of it as a relentlessly experimental innovator: It’s the site that gave us The Dress and published The Dossier, a company that pushed the rest of the industry to regard the digital world with seriousness and rigor.
More than anyone else in media, BuzzFeed’s founder, Jonah Peretti, bet on symbioses with the tech platforms. He understood that the tech giants would keep getting bigger, but to him that was a feature, not a bug. By creating content that hooked into their algorithms, he imagined BuzzFeed getting bigger — and making money — along with them.
At the least, the layoffs suggest the tragic folly of Mr. Peretti’s thinking. Google and Facebook have no economic incentive for symbiosis; everything BuzzFeed can do for them can also be done by the online hordes who’ll make content without pay.
So where does that leave media? Bereft.
It is the rare publication that can survive on subscriptions, and the rarer one that will be saved by billionaires. Digital media needs a way to profitably serve the masses. If even BuzzFeed couldn’t hack that, we are well and truly hosed.
For the past several decades, world leaders, CEOs, tech titans, billionaires, philanthropists, and celebrities have descended upon Davos, Switzerland with the goal of “improving the state of the world.” Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, says they are part of the problem.
Trade wasn’t working for everyone.
Dynamic scheduling, underpaid, contractors, fight minimum wage, more flexible labor, tax cults for the wealthy anti-inheritance taxes, evade existing taxes, rewards offshoring, expresses no loyalty to communities. (5 min)
I don’t think arsonist need to attend at a firefighter’s convention.
Poor people are very accessible. They want someone to bear witness. They don’t have publicists.
You can’t understand inequality without understanding rich people and the systems they use to justify themselves (10 min)
Today’s elites are among the most socially away, yet also predatory
I don’t think we have free markets, we have a capitalism of monopoly, and rent seeking
Jane Meyer’s Dark Money: how we got here.
Business didn’t have power (Nixon started the EPA) and worked to understand it. They used an alliance with evangelicals and philanthropy to build power.
History is life a mob boss: we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way. It can go down like the civil war or women’s suffrage.
82% of new money was in the 1 percent’s hands.
It’s going to require many to become traitor’s to their class. If Gates devoted as much to pushing an estate tax, he could have a bigger impact.
I think things are changing. There aren’t going to be as many Goldman Sachs and McKinsey people in the next administration.
Artificial intelligence is spreading beyond the technology sector, with big consequences for companies, workers and consumers, says Alexandra Suich Bass
Sundar Pichai, Google’s boss, has said that AI will have a “more profound” impact than electricity or fire.
.. Bosses of non-tech companies in a broad range of industries are starting to worry that AI could scorch or even incinerate them, and have been buying up promising young tech firms to ensure they do not fall behind. In 2017 firms worldwide spent around $21.8bn on mergers and acquisitions related to AI
.. Around 85% of companies think AI will offer a competitive advantage, but only one in 20 is “extensively” employing it today
.. Chinese firms have an early edge, not least because the government keeps a vast database of faces that can help train facial-recognition algorithms; and privacy is less of a concern than in the West.
.. If they invest huge sums in AI early on, they run the risk of overcommitting themselves or paying large amounts for worthless startups, as many did in the early days of the internet. But if they wait too long, they may leave themselves open to disruption from upstarts, as well as from rivals that were quicker to harness technology.
.. Gurdeep Singh of Microsoft speaks of AI systems as “idiots savants”; they can easily do jobs that humans find mind-boggling, such as detecting tiny flaws in manufactured goods or quickly categorising millions of photos of faces, but have trouble with things that people find easy, such as basic reasoning.
.. In the near future AI will reshape traditional business functions such as finance, HR and customer service
.. But over time it will also disrupt whole industries, for example by powering the rise of autonomous vehicles or the discovery of entirely new drug combinations.
.. many bosses are more interested in the potential cost and labour savings than in the broader opportunities AI might bring
.. Some companies may not actually eliminate existing jobs but use technology to avoid creating new ones.
.. And workers who keep their jobs are more likely to feel spied on by their employers.
.. A longer-term concern is the way AI creates a virtuous circle or “flywheel” effect, allowing companies that embrace it to operate more efficiently, generate more data, improve their services, attract more customers and offer lower prices. That sounds like a good thing, but it could also lead to more corporate concentration and monopoly power—as has already happened in the technology sector.
Antimonopoly law, I learned, dates to the founding of our nation. It is, in essence, an extension of the concept of checks and balances into the political economy. One goal of antimonopoly law is to ensure that every American has liberty, to change jobs when they want, to create a small business or small farm if they want, to get access to the information they want. Another goal of antimonopoly is to ensure that our democratic institutions are not overwhelmed by wealth and power concentrated in the hands of the few.
.. since the early days of the Reagan Administration, power over almost all forms of economic activity in America has been steadily concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.
.. As hospitals continue to merge into giant chains, for example, they are able to pass along ever higher prices without having to worry about losing business to competitors. And anyone who flies these days can attest to what happens when just four airlines control 80 percent of the market.
..It means that fewer and fewer companies are competing for our labor, allowing employers to gain more and more power not only over how we do business, but also how over we speak, think and act.
.. his last June 27, my group published a statement praising the European Union for fining Google for violating antitrust law. Later that day I was told that Google — which provides substantial support to other programs at New America — said they wanted to sever all ties with the organization. Two days later I was told that the entire team of my Open Markets Program had to leave New America by September 1.
.. No think tank wants to appear beholden to the demands of its corporate donors. But in this instance, that’s exactly the case. I — and my entire team of journalists and researchers at Open Markets — were let go because the leaders of my think tank chose not to stand up to Google’s threats.
.. But today we are failing. Not only are we not preventing concentration of power over our economy and our media. We are not protecting the groups that are working to prevent and reverse that concentration of power.