The September issue of Fortune magazine is dedicated to “Blockchain Mania”—a phenomena that Editor-in-Chief Clifton Leaf says “may well change everyday business in scores of industries.”
The public focus has been on an explosion of digital “currencies” that has made “ICOs” (initial coin offerings) the modern equivalent of turn-of-the-century “IPOs.” It’s not just the well-known Bitcoin and its sibling Ethereum; there’s now a digital currency for cloud storage (FileCoin), digital advertising (adToken), marijuana (Potcoin) and even for dentists (Dental Coin). The total value of all virtual currencies has rocketed past $135 billion, up from just $20 billion at the beginning of the year.
But the real promise of blockchain technology goes much further. Fortune’s Robert Hackett provides a fascinating look at how, for instance, Walmart is exploring blockchain technology as a way to track the provenance of fresh food, in case of an outbreak of food-related disease; or shipping giant Maersk is using it to track its massive flow of cargo all over the world.
Of course, like every technology making its way through the hype cycle, the blockchain may start as more marketing mush than real meat. Hackett quotes Google’s Vince Cerf saying he thinks “claims that blockchains will change the world are hyperbolic for the most part.” But behind the hype, Hackett concludes, there is something that every business leader needs to pay attention to. “It’s no exaggeration to believe blockchains could, in the long term, revamp business, government, and even society itself, just as surely as the Internet did last century, and double-entry bookkeeping did centuries earlier.”
By the way, if you’ve been watching the value of Bitcoin and Ethereum soar recently, and are tempted to put some money in the game, you’ll be interested to learn those investments aren’t nearly as secure as most people think. Read Jen Wieczner’s frightening story about the rise in cryptocurrency heists, here.
More news below.
• BHP Billiton Selling U.S. Shale Business Amid Activist Pressure
BHP Billiton, the world’s largest miner, announced plans to sell its U.S. shale assets, which the Australian company acquired as part of a $20 billion spending spree just six years ago. The move follows months of pressure from activist investor Elliott Management to rethink strategy. Wall Street Journal, subscription required
• Shake-Up at Los Angeles Times as Tronc Taps New Publisher
Tronc Inc., the Chicago-based newspaper publisher formerly known as Tribune Publishing, announced a major shake-up at its flagship paper, the Los Angeles Times, where digital media veteran Ross Levinsohn will take over as CEO and publisher. Jim Kirk, formerly of the Chicago Sun-Times, will also join the newspaper as interim executive editor after Tronc ousted Los Angeles Times veteran Davan Maharaj as editor and publisher while also cutting ties with three more senior editors. Reuters
• Macy’s Poaches EBay Exec
Macy’s has hired Hal Lawton, a senior vice president for North America at eBay, to be the new president of the department store chain. The move comes at a time when Macy’s is looking to shake up its slimmed-down senior management with an eye toward more efficient decision making among its higher ranks. The company, which recently reported its 10th straight quarter of declining comparable sales, will also look to the eBay veteran for help in growing its e-commerce business. Fortune
• Walmart Expands Uber Delivery
Walmart is expanding the online grocery delivery service it’s testing, with Uber as its partner, to Orlando and Dallas. The two additional cities brings the total number of test markets to six, with more likely to come. The retail giant sees just over half of its total U.S. revenue from food sales and the company is bracing for a grocery-delivery war with Amazon, which recently agreed to buy Whole Foods Market. Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
• Snapchat Could Soon Top Facebook, Instagram in Young Demos
Research company eMarketer’s forecast for 2017 predicts that Snapchat will top both Facebook and Instagram for the first time in the U.S. in terms of monthly users in two age groups (12-to-17 and 18-to-24) that are highly-coveted by marketers. Facebook is having trouble maintaining growth among younger users, with most of its overall user growth this year being spurred by older people joining social media. Fortune
• Yahoo Owes $5.5 Million for Busted Bracket Deal
A federal appeals court ruled that Yahoo owes prize promoter SCA Promotions $5.5 million after the online search company backed out of an agreement to pay out a $1 billion prize for fans who could pick the winners of every game of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Yahoo, which is now owned by Verizon, pulled out of the SCA contract to instead co-sponsor a similar contest for perfect “March Madness” brackets with Quicken Loans and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Fortune
• J.P. Morgan Giving $1 Million to Groups Fighting Hate
In the wake of this month’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., J.P. Morgan Chase said it will donate $1 million in total to two nonprofit organizations, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, to fight extremism from hate groups. The country’s biggest bank said the gift is part of efforts to address “deep divisions” in the U.S. Fortune
Summaries by Tom Huddleston Jr. email@example.com