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Data Sheet—Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Erin Griffith is a writer at Fortune.

Spotify launches a lot of things that don’t stick. Said things are often revealed at elaborate, highly produced pitch events where male models serve haute breakfast foods and high-profile musical acts like D’Angelo perform.

Take, for example, the company’s “open API” launch from 2011. Partners like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Billboard built apps inside Spotify. These apps were meant to help Spotify’s users figure out what to listen to and find out about concerts. The apps are now gone. Instead, Spotify has built its own music discovery tools.

Another abandoned project: Spotify Landmark, the company’s foray into original content. In 2013, Spotify touted a series of radio interviews about Nirvana’s In Utero album alongside the 20th anniversary of its release. Landmark published a total of four projects; its website is now defunct.

A year ago, Spotify held another flashy launch event to announce it would now host videos from Comedy Central, MTV, ESPN, and others. The company has followed through—clips from Inside Amy Schumer, Vice News and BuzzFeed are available in the mobile app. But as happened with its music discovery tools, Spotify ultimately opted for the DIY approach. The company on Monday announced plans to produce 12 original video shows. It is even reviving Landmark as a show (or in the words of a publicist, “evolving” it).

Spotify’s slate of programs feature elaborate concepts, like solving true crimes from the music world, a Tim Robbins mockumentary, and Rush Hour, which sounds like a series of logistical nightmares. Here’s the concept:

Two hip-hop artists (one legend, one young buck) are picked up in a van during the height of LA rush hour. As they drive to an undisclosed location they must come up with a remix or mashup of one of their well-known tracks. Once done, they arrive at the downtown LA parking lot stage of Russell Simmons’s new company, All-Def Digital, where they perform their new collaboration before a crowd of raucous super fans.

Spotify’s hype machine can get tiresome, but at least the company—which is 10 years old and under pressure to go public and turn a profit—isn’t afraid to experiment.

Erin Griffith

This essay is part of “A Boom With a View.” Find past editions of Data Sheet.



Get ready for Oracle-Google copyright fight 2.0. With a 10-person jury selected, opening statements in the retrial are scheduled to begin today in San Francisco. The multibillion-dollar case will consider whether Google overstepped its bounds by using certain code from the Java software language in its Android mobile operating system. The outcome will have huge ramifications for all software developers that use unlicensed application programming interfaces in their work. (Fortune, Ars Technica)

Feds probe how Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others respond to security threats. At issue is whether these software giants react quickly enough to perceived weaknesses in smartphone operating systems that could leave consumers and businesses vulnerable to cyberattacks. Both the FCC and the FTC are conducting separate investigations. (Fortune, Bloomberg)

FBI: Looks like insider was involved in Bangladesh bank heist. The theft of more than $81 million from accounts housed at the Federal Reserve in New York—up to $1 billion was targeted—has underscored vulnerabilities in the fintech underlying the international banking system. Government officials blame the attack on weakness in the messaging software managed by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)

Groupon counters IBM over software patents. The daily deals company alleges that the “dial-up-era dinosaur” improperly relies on its location-tracking technologies and methods as part of IBM WebSphere Commerce, software used by online merchants. The move comes two months after IBM accused Groupon of infringing on software patents created before the Internet boom of the late 1990s. (Fortune)

LendingClub CEO is out, underscoring the travails of online lenders. Renaud Laplanche resigned after an internal investigation highlighted gaps in the internal controls governing its lending processes. It’s the latest in a string of bad news for the sector, including big layoffs last week at Prosper. (New York Times, Bloomberg)

BlackBerry promotes insider to lead mobile hardware division. Ralph Pini, who was in charge of the struggling Canadian tech company’s radio technologies, is replacing Ron Louks. The latter left BlackBerry last Friday for undisclosed reasons. The company is trying to expand beyond smartphones into other devices, such as tracking systems for truck fleets. (Wall Street Journal)

Microsoft shutters MSN in China. The move comes amid the government’s crackdown on content and media owned by foreign companies—Apple recently abandoned its iTunes book and movie sales there. Microsoft faces an additional twist: It’s dealing with a Chinese antitrust investigation. A Microsoft spokeswoman reiterated the company’s commitment to the country. (Wall Street Journal)

BMW jump-starts car-sharing initiative. The company hired an outsider from the tech industry to lead its ReachNow program, which it relaunched last month. Steve Banfield most recently was CMO at real-time traffic data company Inrix, but he previously held posts at Sony, Microsoft, and RealNetworks. (Fortune)

Drone-related sales set to skyrocket. The global market for commercial applications related to unmanned aerial technologies could balloon to $127 billion by 2020, according to projections by consulting company PricewaterhouseCoopers. Which nation is leading the way in regulatory support? Poland. (Bloomberg)


Facebook must own up to being an increasingly powerful media outlet. Now and then, the giant social network does something that forces us to consider its oversized influence on the way we see the world, and the larger implications of that influence.

Sometimes it’s when Facebook removes a breastfeeding photo, or censors a page about the war in Syria. Other times, it’s something that seems a little more trivial—such as a recent report by tech news site Gizmodo that human editors in charge of the “Trending Topics” section of the site routinely prevented conservative topics and news items from making it into the rankings.

As Peter Kafka at tech news site Re/code notes, this isn’t quite the same as Facebook itself deciding that conservative topics and websites weren’t worthy of being included—individual editors apparently made these decisions themselves. But that hardly removes the problem, which is that Facebook is making editorial choices about what news to include and which sites get preferential treatment. (Fortune)


Zenefits investigation leaves questions unanswered by Kia Kokalitcheva

Amazon sets table for meal kit delivery service by Leena Rao

IBM Watson brings AI wonders to cybersecurity by Robert Hackett

The makers of Siri preview Viv, a scary-smart voice-controlled assistant by Barb Darrow

HTC sales crater as company pins hopes on virtual reality
by Jonathan Vanian

Uber leaves Austin over fingerprinting, but will continue meal deliveries by Kia Kokalitcheva

Don’t buy Apple stock after Tim Cook goes on TV by Aaron Pressman

Palantir bucks report that company is stumbling by Robert Hackett


John McAfee is back in business. The eccentric antivirus pioneer and Libertarian presidential candidate was named CEO of tech firm MGT Capital, which specializes in gaming services. (Fortune, Bloomberg)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.