Skip to Content

Data Sheet—After Thrashing the News Business, Google Seeks to Make Amends

Things are moving so fast part of me wishes it would all slow down. The other part of me finds the velocity exhilarating.

Broadcom-Qualcomm is a distant memory. Facebook’s cluelessness continues. Twitter seems to have caught its bigger brother’s cold. The forecast is cloudy at Oracle, and not in a good way. Salesforce just made its biggest acquisition ever. And Travis Kalanick is getting into the … wait for it … real estate business.

The story I’m most interested in this minute though is Google’s $300-million commitment to helping news publishers cope with, well, Google. For today, at least, I come to praise Google, not to bury it. But I’ll start anyway with the damage it caused through its ordinary course of business—as opposed to Facebook having empowered liars, trolls, and sneaky right wingers. Liberally interpreting a legal doctrine called “fair use,” Google years ago helped itself to the work of others, namely professional journalists, and indexed their words as part of Google’s search results. A multi-hundred-billion-dollar business was born, and a formerly proud business was too timid to withhold its wares to stop it.

That was then. Now Google is offering its smarts and a small (to Google) chunk of change to begin to atone for its sins. It will help publishers sell subscriptions, understand their readers, drive traffic and so on. The details are in a blog post by Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer.

Let’s be clear: Google—this is a good place to remind you my wife works there—has not been good for the news business. If it can be better, we’ll cautiously accept the help.

***

Thank you for reading Data Sheet every day. My colleagues and I would like to know a little more about what you like about it and also what we can do better. May I please persuade you to take this short survey?

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

We want our money back. In the aftermath of the controversy surrounding Cambridge Analytica, Facebook is being sued by investors over a share price slump that the plaintiffs claim is due to Facebook failing to responsibly safeguard user data. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly planning to address mounting criticism against his company during an all hands meeting on Friday, and possibly even before then.

Nixed. Cambridge Analytica has suspended its CEO, Alexander Nix, after undercover Channel 4 News reporters in the U.K. captured him on film making off-color remarks. The video shows Nix bragging about swaying the U.S. presidential election and suggesting that prospective clients entrap and extort political rivals.

Are you sure you want to delete… WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton piled onto the Facebook hate train, tweeting, “It is time. #deletefacebook.” Acton sold his messaging app to the social network operator for billions of dollars in 2014. He recently poured $50 million into a non-profit organization, the Signal Foundation, that aims to develop privacy enhancing technologies.

Guess who’s back? Back again? Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is back in the captain’s chair, this time at a real estate firm. On Tuesday, Kalanick announced his purchase of a controlling stake in a distressed company, City Storage Systems, for $150 million as well as his installation as CEO. “There are over $10 trillion in these real estate assets that will need to be repurposed for the digital era,” the boss wrote in a tweet.

Around the world in 880,000 days. Orbitz disclosed Tuesday that it suffered a security breach that impacts 880,000 payment cards. Attackers may have gotten their hands on customer information, including names, street and email addresses, and birthdays, from the travel booking website operator owned by Expedia. The company said records from purchases made between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 22, 2017 were at risk.

The tax man cometh. The European Commission released a proposal for a plan that would tax tech companies based on where their digital users are based, rather than merely where the companies are based. The plan proposes to take a 3% cut of turnover from the European operations of tech giants, such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Estimated proceeds: about $6 billion.

Kind of a big deal. Salesforce has agreed to pay $6.5 billion in cash and stock for the business software company Mulesoft. The deal is poised to be the biggest acquisition in Salesforce’s history, and it comes a year after Mulesoft went public. Mulesoft’s products, which link corporate apps and data into unified IT systems, seem to pair nicely with Salesforce’s cloud offerings.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Women are rising in the ranks to become tech companies’ top lieutenants. Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is the most well-known example—perhaps even the trend’s stimulus. But we see plenty of other superstars, like Marne Levine at Instagram, Belinda Johnson at Airbnb, and Claire Hughes Johnson at Stripe, who strike us CEOs in the making. What’s behind the trend of the ascendant female chief operating officer? Fortune’s Leigh Gallagher interviewed 19 female current or former COOs, among many other industry players, to better understand the phenomenon.

There’s a famous saying: “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” You might just as easily say, “Give it to a COO.” ­Reese is part of a growing cohort of high-­profile, high-performing chief operating officers who command increasing respect and attention in Silicon Valley. She’s also emblematic of another commonality among these stellar seconds-in-command: An unusually large percentage of them are women.

The corporate world—and the tech industry in particular—has a lot of trouble minting female CEOs. But when it comes to the COO role in this sector, women are enjoying a golden age. The rise of these operations masterminds comes at a pivotal time, given the sector’s abysmal dearth of female leaders and the recent revelations of the pervasiveness of “bro” culture. And their growing representation is especially noticeable in the universe of high-growth tech startups, where rapid growth, high financial stakes, and the glare of publicity give the role extra heft.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Its Time for Tech Companies to Build More Humane Products, by Andrew Nusca

Here’s Why Apple’s Face ID Has a Two-Year Advantage Over Android Alternatives, by Don Reisinger

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty Is Trying to Keep the Modest Momentum Going, by Jonathan Vanian

WiFi Might Soon Be Coming From New York City Street Lights, by Grace Donnelly

NBA Star Kevin Durant on His Social Media Hiatus: ‘I Felt So Free’, by Daniel Bentley

Biology Explains Why Your Teen Seems So Crazy, by Sy Mukherjee

PayPal CEO: Actions Define You, Not Your Words, by Susie Gharib

BEFORE YOU GO

The land that time forgot. Just off the eastern coast of Nicaragua lies the site of a doomed colonial experiment, Isla de Providencia (also known as “Old Providence”). The Seaflower, a sister ship to Plymouth’s Mayflower, ferried hopeful English Puritans to the island around 1630 in order to establish a rival settlement. They failed in their goal, and the island became a base for pirates. Here’s an excerpt from a new book, The Island That Disappeareddescribing the island as it exists today.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Robert Hackett. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.