Data Sheet—Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Twice in the last two weeks, I’ve attended convivial dinners in San Francisco jam-packed with young entrepreneurs who’ve asked me the same question: What can they do to help journalism at a time journalism needs so much help. That’s easy, I told them: Pay for it. Get out your credit cards and subscribe to every news outlet you like to read that offers a subscription. In other words, stop reading the news for free just because you can and support something that gives you great value.
While you’re at it, donate money to non-profit journalism organizations whose sole purpose is to conduct the kind of investigations that allow democracy to flourish. Three examples are ProPublica, The Marshall Project, and The Center for Investigative Reporting. Each has a prominent “donate” button in the upper right-hand corner of their home page. A fourth idea is a non-profit that does public-spirited journalism and entertains you: your local National Public Radio station.
It is a fascinating moment. Technology has been eroding the business model for going on 15 years now. Unexpectedly, the news-gathering industry is receiving at least a short-term shot in its ink-stained and digital arms courtesy of a president who has labeled it an “enemy of the people.” (My friend Jean-Louis Gassee, a former Apple executive and a current Renaissance man, had this to say about that.) A confusing time for the history of the republic seems to have awakened consumers to the fact that quality news, information, and analysis take money to produce. Fortune’s Mathew Ingram details the financial benefits of the moment to publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, and others here. These publications would fairly be described as critical of the current administration. The Wall Street Journal, whose editor has taken heat from his own staff for insisting on a balanced tone, also has seen a bump.
There’s more good news for those who scribble. French media savant Frederic Filloux, clearly affected by temporarily residing in sunny California, supports a scheme whereby media companies would band together to negotiate with Google and Facebook to sell subscriptions on their behalf.
Unexpectedly aided by an unlikely president, journalism just might yet be rescued by a longer-standing nemesis: technology.
Fortune releases its annual 100 Best Companies to Work list tomorrow (Thursday, March 9). Data Sheet readers in New York are invited to attend a panel at our world headquarters Thursday night, where top executives from companies on the list will talk about building great workplaces. RSVP here.
BITS AND BYTES
China’s ZTE will pay almost $900 million to settle U.S. sanctions case. The big telecommunications and smartphone company has been under investigation over the past five years for an alleged scheme under which it acquired equipment from U.S. technology companies and sold products into Iran. (Reuters, New York Times)
Sprint is becoming a victim of its own success. The carrier saw big subscriber growth by being early with unlimited data plans last summer. But Verizon’s recent decision to counter those offerings has triggered a higher rate customer churn rate than average, Sprint’s chief financial officer Tarek Robbiati revealed Tuesday. (Fortune)
Airbnb opens up board meetings to hand-selected hosts. Brian Chesky, CEO of the home-sharing company, is inviting some property owners to listen in on strategy conversations, so that they can offer feedback. The company is also creating a host advisory board. One of the motivations is to ensure that Airbnb anticipates potential regulatory challenges—such as string of investigations into its tax arrangements revealed this week. (Reuters, Fortune)
Pirelli and Goodyear are reinventing the wheel. Both companies are working on “smart tires” that send data about metrics such as pressure or wear status to mobile apps, where the information can be used to inform maintenance decisions. (Wall Street Journal)
Extreme Networks is picking up Avaya’s networking business. It’s paying $100 million to take over the bankrupt telecommunications equipment company’s wireless and wired product portfolio. The deal is pending approval from the bankruptcy court. (NetworkWorld)
Brace yourself, Slack. Microsoft’s rival workplace messaging service, called Teams, should be generally available by March 14. (Computerworld)
John Deere floats drones as next big tool for construction workers. The equipment manufacturing giant said Tuesday it’s partnering with drone technology startup Kespry, a deal that will involve John Deere’s sales teams selling drones and related services to the construction industry.
As part of the deal, John Deere’s network of more than 400 American and Canadian dealers will “introduce customers” to Kespry’s various drone services, while the startup handles customer support and flight training. More details from Fortune‘s Jonathan Vanian.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Uber’s CEO wants some leadership help. Travis Kalanick is on the hunt for a chief operating officer, ideally a woman, who can help the ride-sharing upstart steer clear of future scandals such as recent revelations over its questionable handling of sexual harassment allegations. (Fortune, New York Times)
Mark Zuckerberg is finally getting his Harvard degree. He was asked to deliver the university’s commencement speech in May, following in the footsteps of another famous dropout, Bill Gates. (Fortune)
More Fitbit execs are out after its terrible fourth quarter. Long-time employees Woody Scal, chief business officer, and Tim Roberts, executive vice president who oversaw efforts to build up social networking, are leaving by the end of March. (Fortune)
It looks like the new FCC chairman will be around for a long time. Ajit Pai, a foe of net neutrality who took over in January, has been nominated for a second five-year term. (Wall Street Journal, Ars Technica)
Jeff Bezos has a paying customer for his rocket company. Satellite TV company Eutelsat has hired Blue Origin to launch one of its satellites, roughly five years from now if everything goes right. The Amazon founder and CEO talked up progress during an industry conference this week. (New York Times, Fortune, Ars Technica)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Facebook Under Fire for How It Handles Child Pornography, by Mathew Ingram
GoPro’s Flailing Expansion Strategy Could Drag Down Stock Further, by Aaron Pressman
This Ford-Backed Startup Can Create Maps in Real Time, by Kirsten Korosec
Shazam Wants to Mix Augmented Reality With Hornitos Tequila, by Jonathan Vanian
Here’s Why HPE Is Paying More Than $1 Billion for Nimble Storage, by Barb Darrow