Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

NSA's Crypto-Kids - It's Never To Early To Start Recruitment

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 21, 2014

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The National Security Agency (NSA) has lots of computer power but what it needs the most is brain power. It's not too early to plan ahead. A friend gave me a copy of an activity book for kids published by the NSA. Here's a few pages:

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San Francisco's Extraordinary Media Heritage - 12 Daily Newspapers

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 21, 2014

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SF historian Gary Kamiya signing a copy of his book "Cool Gray City of Love."

San Francisco's transformation into a bedroom community for Silicon Valley's business parks is a huge mistake because tech companies should be exposing their people to the city's rich diversity and its incredible culture, a history steeped in more than 150 years of media innovations.

San Francisco historian Gary Kamiya, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, tells the story of San Francisco's early newspapers (and the passionate duels using the pen and the gun):

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The Media Industry Is Blind, Dumb And Dumber: The Great Media (Train) Robbery - Billions Missing

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 19, 2014

The media industry, including digital media companies, is breathtakingly silent on the issue of advertising fraud.

What other industry would sit quietly while being robbed in broad daylight on such a massive scale? As huge as $6 billion to an astounding $16 billion a year is being siphoned away from the media industry through fraudulent advertising methods.

Why isn't the media industry screaming mad about this?! Instead it is blind, dumb, and dumber about this issue.

The media industry needs to band together to stop ad fraud today. It should insist that its advertisers, the big brands, sign a pledge not to support ad fraud and only advertise on real media sites.

It's in the advertisers' interests to support a healthy independent media sector staffed by professionals producing quality content on which their ads will perform fabulously. It's a virtuous circle that keeps producing professional quality media.

But what we have instead, is a race to the bottom as quality of media goes down on falling ad revenues and advertising performance plunges. 

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What’s Driving Investor Interest in HR Services?

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 18, 2014

Editor's Note: Wall Street and VC investors seek out companies selling services in the human resources (HR) sector, as compliance with new legislation grows in complexity.

Guest column: By Burton Goldfield, CEO, TriNet.

If you look at the HR cloud market, you’ll find recent growing financial interest and investment in cloud-based, human capital management. Companies like TriNet, Paylocity, Workday and Paycom have all had recent IPOs, while ZenPayroll and Zenefits have received VC funding. Additionally, within the last two years Oracle and have acquired Internet-based HR software firms.

So, what fuels the recent interest in HR services companies?

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Coffee And Big Data With Ray Wang - Video Series

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 18, 2014

Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research, has a new video interview series sponsored by Actian, a "Big Data 2.0" company. I watched the latest one, an interview with Vibhor Rastogi from Intel Capital Group. What's the subject? Big data.

Here's the video:

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Forensiq: Tracking The Media Industry's Stolen Billions

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 16, 2014


An article from Ad Age about a recent campaign from video ad server firm Vindico.

I recently spoke with Forensiq an interesting startup based in New York that has technologies capable of shutting down advertising fraud — a huge problem for the media industry.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) trade body estimates ad fraud in 2013 to be at least $6 billion to $7 billion but it could be as high as $16 billion in the US. The Wall Street Journal reports that 35% of Internet traffic is bogus.

And no one is prosecuted.

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Tales From Off-The-Bus: Original Ideas Come From Original Experiences...

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 15, 2014

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I'm adamant that San Francisco shouldn't be allowed to be made into a bedroom community for Silicon Valley's business parks. Original ideas require original experiences and companies should take advantage of that and not force their staff onto a bus and ship them to a central holding facility for the day.

San Francisco offers a treasure trove of original experiences. Silicon Valley staff should be told to stay off the bus, telecommute, and get out and about. It'll generate new experiences and possibly new ideas. The same experience every day, waiting for your cubicle to pick you up, won't generate anything new.

Why do we have hundreds of To-Do list apps, Email managers, calendars, get-food-delivered apps...? There's a cornucopia of mundane and me-too apps. Original ideas come from original experiences. Watching the world on Youtube or from a bus window doesn't work. You have to be in it which is a good thing.

By staying off the bus the tech workers become integrated into their neighborhoods. If they stay off the bus their neighbors might even get to know them.

City or company culture?

Inclusion works better for communities than division. The tech workers might even notice some city problems and come up with an app for that.

Separation works better for establishing company culture and that's why Google and the others do it. It never used to be cool to be seen as a "company man" or woman. Eating at the company store and hanging with the company all day, and only using company services. That's a cultural win for Google et al, because that was not considered remotely cool for many decades.

Can the needs of corporate culture trump community culture? Maybe, but in the long term community needs will always win out over the demands of company culture and that's what city officials will ultimately choose. Because company culture is in its very nature and reason for existence, divisive and not inclusive. That's not a good thing especially for a city, where every kind of people have to live together and learn how to sort out problems together.

[London is an excellent example of how the culture has managed to teach people from so many countries, how to peacefully live together, marry together, and create a future together. The UK media deserves much of the credit.]

Please see:  

San Francisco's Incredible History Of Media Innovation -SVW

 San Francisco's Culture War With Silicon Valley's Cubicle Culture -SVW

San Francisco: An Epicenter Of Creativity -SVW

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Where's Wireless Charging? An Old Idea Gathering Momentum

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 15, 2014

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Wireless power pioneer Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe lab building, seen in 1904. (Image source:

By Intel Free Press

If you’ve been keeping up with trade shows and tech blogs, you might think that some new breakthrough in wireless energy transfer has taken place in the past year. It hasn’t.

Intel and others have been talking about wireless charging for years. Intel’s former lab located at the University of Washington in Seattle had wireless charging as part of its charter. And in 2009 researchers were demonstrating a magnetic resonance project sending radio signals and power in the same transmission.

Today, the idea and the technology is gaining momentum.

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Yet Another Study Finds Readers Don't Trust Native Ads

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 14, 2014

I'm a strong opponent of native advertising in key publications such as the New York Times. It's a bad strategy for the publisher and advertiser.

Here is yet another study that shows readers don't trust native ads. Contently commissioned the survey reports Matthew Flamm at AdAge:

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Ray Zinn: 'Do The Hard Things First' - Advice From Silicon Valley's Longest Serving CEO

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 14, 2014

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A massive metal cast of a sailfish seems to soar out of the desk of Ray Zinn, Silicon Valley's longest serving CEO, founder of Micrel [MCRL:NASDAQ GS], a leading chip company that produces essential components for smartphones, consumer electronics and enterprise networks. 

At 76, he's been running Micrel since its creation in 1978. In 2014 Micrel celebrates 20 years as a public company and a highly profitable one for its long-term shareholders.

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PRWeek Investigation: The Death Of PR Agencies... And The Rise Of Ad Agencies

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 10, 2014


All the evidence gathered from PRWeek's investigations over the past month points to a couple of crucial conclusions...

Danny Rogers, Editor-in-Chief of PRWeek spells out the future in his recent column: The death of PR agencies — as we know them

Attending the recent International Festival of Creativity, I was struck once again by the fact that advertising and PR are increasingly the same thing...

There used to be a fundamental difference between the two marketing disciplines. Advertising was about paid-for promotion; TV commercials and billboards. PR was about editorial persuasion; selling stories to journalists. And while the distinction between bought media and earned media still exists, you now find their executives working across both.

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Content Marketing - Here's What's Missing: Media As A Service

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 8, 2014

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David Matahai, Director of Marketing Communications at Hyundai.

Every company is a media company because it has to be, because the traditional media outlets no longer have the means, or pageviews to help tell the stories of companies, and their communities. 

The explosion of content marketing is proof that the concept of 'every company is a media company' is becoming understood by the mainstream. It is resulting in a tidal wave of media content about companies, commissioned by the companies themselves.

However, this is nothing to do with being a media company. Media companies don't write or produce media about themselves. What do media companies do?

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Afghan Female Entrepreneur Roya Mahboob In Silicon Valley For Fundraiser

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 7, 2014

Roya on Fox News

Susan Lucas-Conwell is helping to organize a fundraiser for Women's Annex Foundation, at IBM's offices in Foster City this Thursday July 10, featuring Roya Mahboob, a young female entrepreneur from Afghanistan. She is building classrooms for female students and runs her own IT company.

Dana Nachman, award winning documentary filmaker will interview Roya. Pre-registration is required: An Evening with Roya Mahboob Tickets, Foster City - Eventbrite

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Intel Woos App Makers

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 7, 2014


(image credit: Dennis Stachel for GDC Europe)

By Intel Free Press

When Asus announced its first Android smartphones several months ago, the top-five PC maker played up the product line’s range of sizes, a new interface called ZenUI and an array of striking pastel colors.

But the company’s announcement also included mention of a factory-installed feature that it didn’t even make — an app called Omlet Chat that was developed by MobiSocial, a startup comprising Stanford University computer science Professor Monica Lam and three doctoral students.

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Google's Matt Cutts Is Not Checking Email - Webspam Chief Taking 'Few Months' Off

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 3, 2014


After 15 years as head of the webspam team at Google, Matt Cutts says he is taking a long break, to spend more time with his wife and family.

It's the same language that senior executives often use when suddenly departing their employer. I wouldn't blame him if he doesn't come back because he is often the target of much vitriol and anger from the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) communities every time Google changes its algorithm every few months.

Cutts has one of the toughest jobs at Google he has to explain Google's mysterious search algorithm and why some sites rank high or low. It's a highly charged arena because the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people depend on Google ranking their business as a trusted online entity.

Yet Google's algorithm changes can sometimes plunge a site's rank for no apparent reason, which leads to a lot of hate aimed at Matt Cutts — largely because he's the only Google representative that people know. 

It's a frustrating job because Cutts can't reveal how Google uses its 200+ signals in determining search quality and rank because spammers would take advantage of that information. He can only advise that certain behaviors, such as publishing guest posts on blogs, might be punished by Google.

I've long advised businesses to let the search engines optimize themselves and invest their money on optimizing their web sites for their visitors first, and the searchbots second.  [It always generates a lot of hate mail from the SEO sector.]

Here's Matt Cutts announcement:  

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The Soviet Union's First Computer Engineer - Intel Fellow Boris Babayan

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 3, 2014


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Eighty-year old Boris Babayan was the chief designer of the Soviet Union's Elbrus supercomputer, a unique combination of real-time control and high-performance.

 By Intel Free Press

Babayan, 80, began his student career in 1951 doing some of the world’s earliest work in computer science, including inventing one of the ways that computers execute calculations: carry-save arithmetic, which is still used today. He became one of the pioneers of supercomputing during the Soviet-era.

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FutureComms14 - Here's the lineup...

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 17, 2014

I'm looking forward to speaking at FutureComms14 conference in London Wednesday (tomorrow). It's a brand new conference organized by Mynewsdesk, a Norwegian media technologies company that provides companies with a digital newsroom.

The wonderful Deirdre Breakenridge will kickstart the morning. I'm speaking late morning on: What Happens When Every Company is a Media Company? 

And I'll be on a panel discussion in the afternoon (post 3pm coffee break thankfully) on: "What are the technologies of PR?" chaired by the always insightful Neville Hobson.

Here's the lineup:

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Every Company Is A Media Company: What Comes Next? 'Media As A Service'

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 12, 2014

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I'm setting off to London and Warsaw (above) and will be back in early July.

Next week on June 18 I will be speaking at FutureComms14 in London, a brand new conference organized by Mynewsdesk, a Swedish media technologies startup. 

It was nearly ten years ago that I started talking and writing about how every company is a media company. Maybe that's an obvious statement today but it certainly wasn't then and I had to do a lot of education around this subject. I did a lot of talks, at conferences, at lunchtime brown bag meetups, and at many evening events.

I did them because I believe it's an important idea and that once it is fully understood it will transform every business.  And that's exactly what is happening.

Every Company is a Media Company.     EC=MC -- the transformative business equation of our times.

What's next? It's not questions such as: How does a company become a media company? How do I produce video content? What technologies do I need? Do I need a newsroom? They are easy to answer.

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The 2014 Europas Awards: The Best European Tech Startups - Soundcloud Wins Again

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 10, 2014


In 2009 I attended The Europas Awards in London (above), celebrating the best European tech startups. It was a very boozy, rowdy, and fun event presented by Mike Butcher, Editor of Techcrunch Europe.

I couldn't make it this year but I'm sure that the 2014 awards very much the same in tone and booze. Mike Butcher was the MC, and even one of the winners was the same: Soundcloud. The other 2014 Europas winners included: FoodPanda, Babbel, Startup Bootcamp, Brainient, Supercell, EyeEm, GoCardless, DataSift, Petcube, BlaBlaCar, BigHealth, ZenMate, Bitstamp, Hailo, Evrythng, Swiftkey, FarFetch, CodeClub, Index Ventures, and Telegram.

[At the time of writing I found no US coverage of today's Europas Awards, not even at Techcrunch. I scooped the US press. It shows how little interest there is in European startups.]

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CultureWatch: Internet Archive Celebrates Nuala Creed's 100 Ceramic 'Archivists'

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 10, 2014

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The Internet Archive is housed in a wonderful San Francisco building that used to be a Christian Science church. In the pews along both sides of the large, skylight-lit auditorium, there is always a congregation: half-sized ceramic figures representing 100 "archivists" — people that contributed at least three years of service to the non-profit organization.  

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The Media's 2nd Apocalypse: The Nightmare Rise Of Mobile Tech

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 6, 2014


The huge challenge facing media companies as readers shift to mobile platforms, is far worse than is generally known. 

Say Media, an online publisher and advertising network based in San Francisco, last year reported that mobile ads generate just one-fifth the revenue of a desktop ad. It's become even worse.

An industry source with access to massive amounts of advertising data tells me mobile ads are a disaster for media companies. He has seen detailed reports from large publishers and ad networks that show advertising on mobile platforms is generating as little as one-tenth the revenue compared with desktop advertising.

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Content Marketing: Don't Trust SEO — Publish Content For People And Not Robots

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 5, 2014

There's a huge quality mismatch between content created for SEO purposes, and human edited content. With an explosion of content marketing — it is vital to understand the difference.

Every company is a media company and now every company wants content to publish but how do they judge if it's any good?  

On the blog of Virante, an SEO marketing agency, Russ Jones provides a case study on how to determine the quality of three separate articles on the same subject, produced by writers at services such as WriterAccess, TextBroker, and ContentRunner: 

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Frictionless Philanthropy And The Cure For Childhood Leukemia - Doing Good In Fewer Clicks

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 5, 2014

By Christina Resasco, Founder of Mobilize For the Cure.

The tech community is not always doing all it can to get involved with philanthropy. The truth is that sometimes, the tech community just has a different approach to getting involved, compared to other industries.

The same way the technorati have embraced low-commitment services like Uber and GrubHub, they like philanthropy to be tailored to their lifestyles and busy schedules. That's why the philanthropic sector needs to develop new ways to get tech folks involved.

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SVForum Visionary Tim O'Reilly Calls On Tech Community To Help Government

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 4, 2014

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Tim O'Reilly, one of the recipients of SVForum's 2014 Visionary Awards, called for the tech community to give back and help government with its use of IT. He also urged more recognition for "people who make a difference" instead of people that make money.

He is the founder of O'Reilly Media, a very successful computer book publisher and conference organizer. He was speaking at SVForum's 2014 Visionary Awards in Los Altos Hills, an upscale suburb of Silicon Valley. Fellow recipients were Jessica Jackley, founder of Kiva; Tina Selig, the head of the entrepreneurship center at Stanford University; and Tim Draper, partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, one of Silicon Valley's oldest VC firms.

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'Sharing' Is Not An Economy - But Renting Is - The Disruptive Power Of A True Sharing Network

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 2, 2014

The article "The Case Against Sharing" by Susie Cagle is a good vehicle for her cartoons and a soft critique of the "sharing economy" based on the recent Share conference organized by the lobbying group Peers.

Peers is funded by more than 22 companies that include its founder Airbnb, Lyft, TaskRabbit, and others – to "protect the sharing economy." Natalie Foster, the CEO of Peers, has her work cut out because it's not protection that is needed but rather legalization, a much tougher job. She has said many times that the biggest issue with the sharing economy is that it is not legal.

Despite this simple fact, VCs have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into "sharing" startups. All that capital carries the substantial risk that laws won't be repealed or modified. Especially if legitimate businesses lobby to protect themselves from what is clearly illegal competition.

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Latest Google Algorithm Seems To Punish Press Release Sites

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 30, 2014


Above, Search Engine Land shows traffic plunge for Businesswire for certain search terms.

Google's latest algorithm update, Panda 4.0 appears to be punishing sites that host and distribute press releases, by demoting them in its search rankings reports Barry Swartz at Search Engine Land:

since Panda 4.0 hit..., PR Newswire, BusinessWire and PRLog all seem to have lost significant rankings in Google.

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Mobile: The Media Industry's Death Card In Mary Meeker's Internet Deck

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 29, 2014


Former Wall Street analyst Mary Meeker this week published her annual analysis of Internet trends and market projections. It's useful data especially all the charts and numbers which are often reused in tens of thousands of startup business plans.

The section that interests me the most is in mobile media and mobile advertising because there is a massive revenue chasm for media companies in the rush to mobile.

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Gray Area Arts Finds New Home In Old Mission Theater

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 28, 2014


I'm a big fan of the Gray Area Foundation For The Arts (GAFFTA) and its projects, which generally try to link the art and tech worlds of San Francisco, along  with an awareness of the challenges facing urban residents of all incomes and backgrounds.  GAFFTA has found a new home (2665 Mission Street, above) after several exhausting short-term moves. Co-founder Peter Hirschberg announced on Facebook:

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Ben Parr's Captivology Book Update

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 28, 2014

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I ran into Ben Parr, former editor at Mashable, and asked him about his book, Captivology: The Science of Capturing People's Attention. He says it's been finished for a while and the author photos have been taken and it'll be for sale in early March, 2015.  Ben's already talking about the parties for the launch.

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Hoopla Digital: Transforming Public Libraries Into Free Digital Media Hubs For Movies And Music

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 28, 2014

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Hoopla Digital is based in Toledo, Ohio proving that you don't have to be in Silicon Valley to come up with great business ideas. Hoopla has pulled off a stunning achievement, it has managed to negotiate the right for local libraries to lend digital versions of Hollywood movies and music as if they were physical artifacts on their shelves -- and library members can view them on Hoopla's smart phone and tablet apps.

Here's my notes from a recent conversation with Hoopla founder Jeff Jankowski (above, showing off the smart phone and tablet apps):

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