Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Elsevier Adds Fourth California Acquisition:

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 15, 2017

Elsevier, the European publishing giant has acquired Bepress, a 73 person academic publishing service based in Berkeley, California for an undisclosed amount as it expands its publishing, analytics and metadata services for leading US universities.

Elsevier acquires a business with more than 500 academic institutions as customers and about $20m in annual revenues based on an annual subscription model averaging about $37,000. This compares favorably with the cost of a full-time IT person to run the publishing services using open source software which is the alternative choice.

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The Future Will Be Voice Operated Only When Digital Assistants Learn To Use Apps

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 1, 2017

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Our voice is important for Democracy… and in getting more productivity from our technologies.

The future sounds a little like Cold War Eastern Europe as the digital assistants try to listen-in and construct individual dossiers on each of us — to sell us goods and services rather than sell us out as secret policemen — but then again there’s all types of data buyers and digital assistants will only get better.

I have been reading some of the reviews of the improved and updated digital assistants — a growing crowd — and there is a common theme of disappointment.

Steve Kovach at Business Insider says it’s time to admit digital assistants are overrated:

The hype around digital assistants is real. But for now, it's just that. Hype. And it’s arguably the more overrated than any other emerging technology…digital assistants have turned into a fragmented mess and they're all little more than a minor convenience, assuming they work at all.

The biggest disappointment seems to be that they all handle applications poorly.  Yet we live in a 24/7 app world and each of us rely on dozens of daily apps to get work, life and the people and things we love organized. 

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Hertz Foundation: 6 Decades of Finding And Funding Top Scientific Talent

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 27, 2017

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The SF/Bay Area based Hertz Foundation has found a way to surface the best young scientists and fund their work which accelerates the timeline for new breakthroughs. It’s attracted attention from the GatesFoundation with a $5m grant.

John Hertz is known as the eponymous founder of one of the largest car rental companies in the world; less well known is his foundation which in its 60 year history has discovered and funded hundreds of talented young scientists across applied disciplines in science, maths, engineering and biology.

Every year the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation chooses 12 to 15 Hertz Fellows from more than 750 merit-based graduate candidates.It is one of the most prestigious awards in academia and valued for its no-strings attached funding.

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More Bad News For Media Industry In KPCB Internet Report

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 1, 2017

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There's no good news for media companies in the latest Internet Trends report from VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as Google and Facebook share an astounding 85% of all new Internet advertising.

Last year it was 74% — an acceleration that demonstrates the competitive advantage of scale these companies have in the media sector or as Mary Meeker the report's author succinctly writes: "Big Get Bigger & Go After Other Bigs."

Meeker is a partner at KPCB, one of the first VC firms in Silicon Valley's famed Sand Hill Rd. She was a popular Wall Street analyst during the dotcom boom.

Here are some of the very bad Internet trends for those media companies that are not Google or Facebook:

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Analysis: Facebook's 3,000 New Editors - Is it still a tech platform?

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 4, 2017

Timothy Lee at Vox reports:

Facebook is hiring 3,000 people to stop users from broadcasting murder and rape

Facebook has faced a string of incidents where users have filmed shocking events — like rape and murder — and uploaded them to the site. Critics argued the company wasn’t doing enough to address the problem.

Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took action to address those complaints, announcing that the company was going to hire 3,000 people — on top of the 4,500 staff it already had — to help it respond more quickly to reports of abusive behavior in the platform.

 

Facebook, Google, Youtube,  and Twitter define themselves as platform companies and not as media companies for a very important reason: as a media technology platform they are not legally responsible for publishing content posted by users as long as there are mechanisms to flag and remove the content.

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Spiceworks Survey Of IT Workers: Women Are Better Educated But Paid Less

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 3, 2017

Women in IT jobs are more likely to have a college degree than their male colleagues but are paid about 6 per cent less.

The survey commissioned by Spiceworks, a professional network for IT workers, found that despite the salary and education gap between genders, most IT professionals are happy with their jobs and with their colleagues.

The survey polled 607 IT staff in the US with jobs such as IT managers, network/ system administrators and help desk technicians. 

Here are some of the findings:

- Women earn a median salary that's about 6% below male colleagues. It's a much smaller pay gap than in the US average of 20% lower.

- 82% of women have a college degree or higher, compared with 69% of men. The salary data shows that a college degree only provides an average of 4% extra pay, likely due to the female underpayment.

"In the era of technology dependence and heightened security breaches, prioritizing all tech talent, regardless of gender, is more important than ever," said Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks. "To attract and retain top tech workers, employers must compensate IT professionals based on their skillsets and experience without bias."

IT salaries are not as high as might be expected:

-- The majority make under $75,000 a year. About one in six earn under $35,000; 10% earn between $75,000 and $100,000; 3% earn more than $100,000.

- 41% said they are underpaid.

- IT managers reported a media slary of $65,000.

- Network/System Admins earned a media salary of $54,000.

- Help Desk Technicians earned about $40,000 a year.

The most common degrees were Computer and Information Science (71%), business (11%), Liberal Arts (5%) and Engineering (4%). One-third said they had not planned for an IT career.

It can be a stressful job:

- 83% said they were somewhat stressed, 29% reported high stress, but 62% said they were happy in their job.

Small and medium sized companies had slightly happier IT workers than large enterprises.

There are more results from the survey here.

Alphabet/Google Q1 Fails To Reverse Ad Value Slide

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 27, 2017

Alphabet/Google announced first quarter financial results that beat Wall Street analyst estimates. But the jump in revenues hides a large problem.

From Matthew Lynley at Techcrunch

The Google core business is, as usual, quite boringly efficient. We tend to see the same story every quarter — the value of each ad (cost-per-click) goes down while the number of ad impressions goes up, and Google makes a ton of money in the process.

The financial results contain Google’s little huge secret:

Google is incredibly bad at creating ad value — it is forced to grow revenues by chasing quantity over quality.

From Q1 2017:

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Alphabet/Google is making huge profits but all web users lose because to make money Google has to find new ways of grabbing attention for less effective ads.

The tens of thousands of the world’s top computer engineers employed at Google have quarter-after-quarter failed to reverse this loss in ad value. Instead Google distracts the curious by pointing to self-driving cars and “moon-shots” that have nothing to do with its core business. 

This loss of ad value hasn’t harmed Google’s profits but it greatly affects the media industry which faces high content production costs. 

Wasting people’s time on ever larger numbers of ineffective ads is not a sustainable business strategy — and it is unethical, imho. Yet this is the only way this company knows how to drive revenues. 

Look over there — that car is driving itself!

The web user experience stinks

With a ransom malware epidemic and suspiciously fake content everywhere — added to an expanding universe of trillions of crappy ads — the web experience feels ever more corrupt and icky than sticky. And watch what you touch — even hyperlinks from friends are suspicious. If you can’t trust the hyperlink there is no web (and no Google).

As the web experience becomes less appealing people will likely rediscover the delights of a simple walk along a street or in a park —  experiencing the high-definition multi-sense reality of reality. No ad blocker needed. But watch where you step. 

The Endangered CMO: Survival Tips From Microsoft's Grad Conn

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 27, 2017

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The average job tenure of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) continues to decline and is now less than half that of the CEO’s average of 7.2 years. It’s tough being a CMO in today’s fractured media landscape and its ephemeral social media trends — repeatable and predictable marketing processes are hard to find.

I recently met Grad Conn, CMO of Microsoft USA and I was impressed by what he had to say and his approach. He was speaking at a media roundtable dinner organized by Sprinklr — an enterprise-ready social media tool set used by Conn and a team of more than 150 social media managers.

The first thing Conn told me was that he has been in his job nearly twice long as the industry average. Here’s some of my notes from the conversation and some insights into Conn’s approach to social media.

- Conn said that he had to accept some harsh facts that much of what he had learned about marketing in school and as a former P&G product marketing executive no longer worked or had lost much of its effectiveness. 

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S&P Teams With Girls in Tech To Launch Free Tech School For Females

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 5, 2017

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S&P Global, a top financial services firm, has teamed with Girls in Tech to offer free online classes for 350 “girls and women around the world.”

The eight-week course is focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Students only need a web browser and an Internet connection.

Adriana Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, said: "No matter where she may be located, what social constraints she may have, we want to make sure that all girls and women have access to technical skills that will define their future."

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The Limits Of Persuasive Realities: Hacking The Brain Stem With VR Marketing Technologies

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 8, 2017

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Successful technologies start life by being good enough to be useful. Could some technologies become unbelievably good at what they do—and become too good to be used?

Todays marketing technologies have improved greatly thanks to all that personal data we constantly give away. And they are about to rocket to a new level.

With the addition of Virtual Reality environments bolstered by artificial intelligence and personalization — it will be possible to create the Dream Marketing Machine.

Prime the Dream Machine with any Brand and it will reliably churn out passionate and emotionally committed customers. You’ll get Fanboys and Fangirls by the stadium-load and for pennies on the dollar that Apple pays in marketing costs.

We could be very close to this Dream Marketing Machine. 

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Silicon Valley Innovators Warned About Hyperscale Tech Companies

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 17, 2017

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We are in an era of “Hyperscale companies” such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple that limit opportunities for startups warns Sam Altman, head of Y Combinator,  Silicon Valley’s influential investment group, accelerator and educator. 

The warning was part of a long 2017 YC Annual Letter:

Altman wrote: “We’re now in the era of hyperscale technology companies…
Companies like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft have powerful advantages.”

“I expect that they will continue to do a lot of things well, have significant data and computation advantages, be able to attract a large percentage of the most talented engineers, and aggressively buy companies that get off to promising starts."

This situation “is unlikely to reverse without antitrust action.” 

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The Crunchies: An Aspirational Fantasy Of Startup Diversity; Plus Chelsea Peretti's App Ideas

Posted by Tom Foremski - February 7, 2017

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Chelsea Peretti (above) a comedic actress, introduced the 10th Annual Crunchies — awards celebrating startups and VCs in Silicon Valley — and managed some decent jokes poking fun at the techie audience and coming up with some great app ideas. (The final one is a killer app — people will need full-cycle tracking of nutrients to create total body datasets. See my video here.)

Diversity was once again the bold theme of the event as seen in the careful selections of the nominees for the awards. Time and again the stage was filled with winners: startup teams of mixed color and gender. 

People viewing from outside Silicon Valley would be tremendously impressed that our young startups are so progressive and clearly want to build the future the right way.

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Do No Evil, Google And The Year Of The Monkey...

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 31, 2017

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According to the Chinese zodiac Google became a public company in the year of the Monkey, in August 2004.

In Western culture we are familiar with the story of the three monkeys who very wisely: see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. In some Asian cultures there is a fourth monkey: Do no evil.

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The Summer Of Love - Photos And Stories - SF Leads In Culture Not Just Tech

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 26, 2017

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 The California Historical Society has opened a Summer of Love photo exhibit and is collecting people’s stories about this very important cultural event.

To riff on the famous call to action voiced by Timothy Leary at the Human Be-In "turn on, tune in, drop out", we invite you to "log on, tune in, and join us" in this journey. If you have something to share—your first hand experience of the Summer of Love, an event you are planning, a book or article you are writing, or your memories of the era— or if you are interested in supporting this effort, please contact us.

It’s not just in technology that this small little place in the world leads the world. 

Here’s more information from Anthea Hartig, Head of the California Historical Society:

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The #FakeNews Effect On Commerce And Critical Thinking

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 26, 2017

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The issue of fake news is extremely serious and it requires immediate attention.  Its proliferation will undermine trust in everything. Everything will look fake. Including the truth.

Without reliable and trusted information:

- Consumers and commercial buyers will delay purchases.

- Businesses won’t have good information for investment decisions.

- Shareholders won’t have a clear view into investment risks.

The rich get richer…

The winners will be special self-interest interest groups — a variety of organizations with nefarious agendas. They will do very well in a fake news future and will learn to operate with impunity. Because even if outed — the truth will look fake. And anti-truth technologies will act as a red herring for a lot of censorship of valid content. 

It’s very bad for the economy. Fake news is also bad for your head. 

"The point of modern propaganda... is to exhaust your critical thinking"

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The Rise Of Fake News Amidst The Fall Of News Media

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 24, 2017

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The Fake News epidemic is a direct result of our continued failure to create a stable business model around professional news media. We seem to have forgotten that the news media sector continues to be in turmoil.

Take a look at a few of the headlines above from last year. And in just the first few days of 2017:

- Medium — one of the most popular online publishing sites says it will cut 50 jobs and change to an unspecified business model. Medium was founded by Ev Williams, founder of Blogger, co-founder of Twitter.

It doesn't pay for much of its content yet this digital-first social media savvy media company is struggling. All media companies are in the disruptive path - not just digital.

Ev Williams wrote:

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US Venture Capital Investments Plunge In Fourth Quarter 2016

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 11, 2017

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Two major reports on venture capital activity from PricewaterhouseCoopers/CB Insights and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) showed a steep drop in US venture capital investments in the last months of 2016 but a strong overall year. 

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The Advantages Of A Ten-Year Overnight Success

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 10, 2017

Lots of great observations on the value of ten-year old startups in this post by Irish entrepreneur Cronan McNamaraYour Overnight Success will be 10 Years in the Making + 10 Innovation Tips for the Long Term

He makes a good case that over a ten-year period the founders and management teams have learned a lot and now can leverage that expertise very effectively by using new tools and resources that provide global business opportunities. 

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Wearables Are Generating A Tsunami Of Useless Medical Data

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 12, 2016

At a recent media roundtable discussion about the future for wearables, hosted by Vivalnk, I was sitting next to two doctors who have been working in this field as advisers.

They told me they don't know what to do with all the data that patients keep sending them from their wearables, heart rate, steps taken, etc. And some wearables collect data on biometric data that's unknown to medical science. 

All of that big data and it has no medical value. I was astounded.

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Illuminate - Duarte Debuts New Movements Marketing Practice

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 2, 2016

Illuminate

The Silicon Valley firm that helped Al Gore create a movement to curb climate change introduces strategy team to help leaders spark and sustain change. Guest post by Chris Knight 

In 2012, Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez set out to write a book to help business leaders envision the future and make their big, audacious visions a reality. In their 2016 book Illuminate: Ignite Change through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies and Symbols, they lay out a five-part taxonomy for leadership movements.

Based on four years of in-depth research, Illuminate is rich in case studies about how great leaders like Apple's Steve Jobs, Starbucks' Howard Schultz and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used speeches, stories, ceremonies and symbols to mobilize the masses.

In a review of Illuminate, Forbes’ contributor Nick Morgan highly recommends the book for organizations that are keen on thinking through and telling stories that take

“best advantage of human cultural symbols, signs and signposts along the way. You can run an organization without telling stories to bring employees, customers, and the public into your fold – but you can’t run it very well.”

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Facebook is a tech-enabled media company

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 18, 2016

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Every day Facebook publishes millions of pages of content with advertising - what's "not a media company" about that?

Yet Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has lately been determined to identify Facebook as a tech company who's engineers are on a global mission of simply trying to connect people with each other.

Reuter's Giulia Segreti reported on Zuckerberg's recent comments in Rome, where he visited the Pope.

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Redfin: Big Jump In Women On Tech Boards Could 'Reshape' Business

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 16, 2016

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The number of women on the boards of tech companies has more than tripled since 2013 according to analysis of 100 public technology companies by Redfin, a national real estate brokerage.

The study says that tech company boards began to change because of a newspaper story. The New York Times pointed out that Twitter, which was preparing to go public in 2013, had an all-male board.

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HBO Comedian Loves That Silicon Valley Can't Take A Joke

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 15, 2016

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The winter issue of CNET Magazine is out and comedian T.J. Miller is on the cover and featured in an interview.

Miller is one of the characters in HBO’s sitcom Silicon Valley. In the interview he says,

I consider everybody who takes themselves seriously to be a little bit off,” Miller says. “And Silicon Valley seems to be the most effusive about how important their contributions are to society.

Miller proved his point last year when he hosted The Crunchies awards and upset many in the audience with his jokes about startups and the organizers said he would not be asked back.

Please see: The Crunchies’ Bitchgate: High Horses With Fake Unicorn Horns Ignore Decades Of Silicon Valley Misogyny -SVW

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Glassdoor Study: Big Gender Gap In Key Tech Salaries

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 15, 2016

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Robert Hohman, CEO of  Glassdoor announces gender pay gap study at Stanford University

Many US tech jobs show high levels of gender pay discrimination, well above other professions reports online jobs site Glassdoor in a study of more than 500,000 salaries.

The report listed the widest gender pay gap as 28% for computer programmer, 16% for game artists, 15% for information security specialists, 11% for software architects, and 10% for SEO strategist. A further 11 jobs were singled out for gender pay gaps, the lowest 2% for hardware engineers.

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A 'Tumultuous Decade' Rolls On... More Lost Generations Of Journalists

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 3, 2016

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Journalism’s uncertain future

This book looks interesting- Journalism’s Lost Generation: The Un-Doing of U.S. Newspaper Newsrooms by Scott Reinardy, a journalism professor at the University of Kansas.

Deron Lee at CJR, writes

When Scott Reinardy began studying the state of morale in newspaper newsrooms more than 10 years ago...He didn’t know the industry was about to enter a traumatic period of upheaval that would deplete the ranks of journalists around the country and force newspapers to reassess their mission...in that tumultuous decade.

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Media Disruption Accellerates As Paper Ads Plunge

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 2, 2016

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The disruption in the media industry is far from over as the transformation to a digital business model continues to challenge large newspaper groups according to recent financial reports.

Gannett and The New York Times Company are among companies reporting a steeper than expected drop in print advertising revenue in their latest financial quarter.

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The Brexit Silver Lining: 20% Discount On Top Euro Talent Says Radius

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 26, 2016

 

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Stephen Chipman and his teams at Boston-based Radius have helped a lot of  US companies set up their European headquarters in the United Kingdom especially London, and they are understandably concerned about what to do in the wake of the country’s referendum to leave the European common market.

Those UK offices employ a lot of people, a lot of skilled engineers, technicians, marketing and sales staff. So the prospect of moving their operations because of restricted access to the much larger European market is a top concern.

“There’s no need to worry right now,  I tell them,“ says Chipman. “And there’s nothing that can be done right now, until we know what the terms of the exit will be. It could take years.”

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GE startup will test ideas that could lead to a radical restructuring of its manufacturing business

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 13, 2016

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General Electric (GE), the largest industrial company in the US, says it has developed processes that more than double the speed of innovation and which have the potential to completely restructure its own business.

GE will next week launch its first business venture, called Fuse that will test a hugely ambitious and radical approach to creating new companies through processes and technologies designed to harness the work of global crowds of experts. 

The GE startup “will usher in what we believe is the future of work,” said Dyan Finkhousen, Director of GE’s Open Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing group.

She was speaking at Brightidea’s Synthesize user conference in San Francisco. Brightidea is an enterprise software platform that helps organizations generate innovative ideas. Finkhousen said the Brightidea platform was important to GE because it supported internal and external teams of people.

It’s the first details of GE’s ambition to be at the forefront of the future of work and a strong measure of its conviction that it already knows what the future of work looks like.

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What race is your AI? Obama discussion adds politics to tech

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 12, 2016

 

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Above photo by Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos for WIRED

Joi Ito, head of the prestigious MIT Media Lab told President Obama he is concerned that the core development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is being built by a “mostly white” and “predominately male gang of kids."

Ito's remarks were made at a recent meeting with Barack Obama and Scott Dadich, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine. They have been published here: Barack Obama on Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Cars, and the Future of Humanity | WIRED

Ito said:

This may upset some of my students at MIT, but one of my concerns is that it's been a predominately male gang of kids, mostly white, who are building the core computer science around AI.

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Intuit Has Big Plans For Small Business With New Quickbooks Platform Initiative

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 25, 2016

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Vinay Pai leads Intuit's developer initiative.

Intuit is planning a major expansion of its online Quickbooks business group into a machine learning advice, data and services platform for creating, managing and operating all types of small businesses.

The expansion of the Quickbooks platform and new partners will be announced at Intuit's Quickbooks Connect conference in late October, in San Jose, California. The event will feature some of the top developers of apps for Quickbooks' users, such as payroll services. 

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Tom Foremski is a Founding Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research - a Silicon Valley based think tank focused on developments in media and PR.


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