These are dark days for the media business, and the industry I cover, technology, is the chief culprit.
Not so long ago established media companies blamed Google and its ruthlessly efficient search-word advertising network for hollowing out the profits of newspapers. Today, Google has faded as the scariest arriviste to spoil the media party. Facebook now is the bane of our existence. It is vacuuming up the revenue that once accrued to publishers because so many people learn much of what they know on Facebook.
Some of what people learn on Facebook turns out to be fake. Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, appeared on NBC’s Today show Thursday and told Savannah Guthrie Facebook isn’t responsible for Donald Trump’s election. “We don’t think it swayed the election,” Sandberg said, offering no evidence to defend the assertion. “But we take that responsibility really seriously.” You could tell just how seriously Facebook takes its responsibility by the way Sandberg then deflected the conversation toward the advent of Facebook Live and its impact on the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the most talked-about topics on Facebook in 2016, including Pokemon Go.
Another potent force in journalism that declaims its role as a force in journalism is LinkedIn. It cleverly turned itself into an opinion firehose, a high and low version of what newspaper op-ed pages used to be. Microsoft completed its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn Wednesday and promised not to screw up the largest merger in its history.
(I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Time Inc., which owns Fortune, reportedly has retained investment bankers to field acquisition and partnership offers. That too is a sign of the times. Time Inc. remains the largest U.S. publisher of magazines in an era when magazines are yesterday’s news.)
Perhaps the biggest threat to journalism right now has nothing to do with technology. Washington Post Editor Marty Baron, whom I interviewed for my March profile of Jeff Bezos, spoke powerfully last week about why even in these troubling times the role of the press is so important. Read his comments here.
And buy a magazine or newspaper today, for goodness’ sake.
BITS AND BYTES
Satya Nadella’s plan for reviving LinkedIn. Microsoft’s $26 billion takeover of the social networking company is officially complete. In a blog post, Nadella suggested short-term priorities would include services that link LinkedIn more closely with the Office applications suite (including a resume helper) and the creation of a business news desk. (Fortune)
Here’s how Costco plans to catch up in e-commerce. It may sound like simple stuff, but the bulk discounter is focusing on simplifying the returns process and tightening up delivery times. It has a lot of work to do: its e-commerce sales are under $4 billion annually, or 3% of sales. That’s less than Macy’s, which is a smaller retailer. (Fortune)
This construction software startup is now valued at more than $1 billion. Procore Technologies, which sells collaboration apps for project managers and workers, has raised another $50 million, led by returning investor Iconiq Capital. (Wall Street Journal)
Salesforce sets its sights on $20 billion. When it comes to digital transformation, most companies don’t know what they don’t know. That could prove crucial for Salesforce, the San Francisco business software company led by Marc Benioff and lately known for its unsuccessful pursuit of social media stalwarts LinkedIn and Twitter.
Over the past three years, Salesforce has quietly assembled an elite team of strategists (it won’t reveal how many) with pedigrees from the likes of Booz Allen, IBM, McKinsey, and Oracle. Its task: guide companies that are struggling to translate the promise of so-called digital technologies—cloud computing, data analytics, mobile devices, and so forth—into some kind of meaningful investment strategy. Why Salesforce is so intent on driving companies toward the digital precipice.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Tinder swaps CEOs. Sean Rad is trading jobs with the dating app company’s current chairman, Gregg Blatt, who is also CEO and chairman of Tinder’s parent, Match Group. (It’s owned by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp.) Rad will focus on Swipe Ventures, an investment vehicle inside Match. (Fortune)
AT&T’s top international exec is retiring. AT&T Vice Chairman Ralph de la Vega, who played a critical role in bringing the iPhone to the U.S. market, will leave Dec. 31. His replacement is Thaddeus Arroyo, who heads AT&T’s Mexico operations. (Reuters)
Veteran Apple analyst is turning venture capitalist. Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster is leaving the research firm after 21 years to start a firm focused on early stage investments in robotics, artificial reality, augmented reality, and virtual reality. (Bloomberg)
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Privacy Groups Claim These Popular Dolls Spy on Kids, by Jeff John Roberts
4 Things to Know About KKR’s New Tech Fund, by Erin Griffith
Snapchat Is Making Its Geofilters Simpler for Businesses to Buy, by Kia Kokalitcheva
ONE MORE THING
Surgeon general warns on e-cigarettes. Since 2014, “vaping” has been the most popular way for teenagers and young people to consumer tobacco products. We now have enough data to know this should be a major public health concern, according to the U.S.’s chief doctor. (Washington Post, Fortune)
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Consumer Electronics Show: An annual conference and exhibition dedicate to the business of consumer technology. (Jan. 5-8; Las Vegas)
IBM Connect 2017: Redefine work with Watson. (Feb. 20-23; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (West): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (Feb. 26-28; Phoenix)
Microsoft Envision: Drive digital transformation. (Feb. 28-March 2; Los Angeles)
Google Cloud Next: Products and perspectives for developers and customers. (March 7-10, 2017; San Francisco)
CIO Leadership Forum (East): Strategy in the age of digital disruption. (March 19-21; Hollywood, Fla.)
IBM Interconnect: Tap into advanced cloud technology. (March 19-23; Las Vegas)