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

Be Prepared To Be Judged Today ...By The Higher Standards Of The Future

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 10, 2017


Futuremorality  69 of 73

Peggy Noonan WSJ writes :

“The Franken case represents not a collapse of tolerance for flawed human behavior but a rise of judgment about what is acceptable.”

This means that you always have to choose a higher morality than is available today. The future has only one lens.

It reminds me of this post from 2006:

“Welcome to the future transparency of your life”

Event: The Atlantic Fights The Backlash Against Inclusion In Tech Industry

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 7, 2017


This coming Tuesday in San Francisco, The Atlantic magazine is hosting a free day-long event about diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

Women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups continue to make up a small fraction of its workforce. And some in the industry have questioned whether efforts to turn the tide have gone too far. This backlash, along with numerous reports of sexism throughout the Valley, have left many wondering how to create real belonging in the innovation capital.

The Atlantic event wants to move ahead “and explore what change is needed to create lasting equity for all who work in the field."

9am Tuesday, December 12 - Terra Gallery 511 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

Free with RSVP

The Atlantic has pulled together a great collection of speakers and topics plus there are several lunch workshops. I like the focus on doing and moving forwards rather than just talking about the problems.

Take a look at the day’s agenda here: 

It starts at 10am with: 

Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women, And What’s Being Done About it? A Town Hall Conversation

- - -

Please see:   Rent the Runway CEO: Gender discrimination is larger workplace issue than sexual harassment

Ben Bradlee Documentary Shows How To Create A Fearless Newsroom Culture

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 6, 2017


Above, still from the film, Ben Bradlee talking about newspapers being allowed “ go about our business. Which is not to be loved …but to go after the truth.” 

The Ben Bradlee documentary on HBO is fascinating for its inside-the-newsroom stories of building a defiantly aggressive news reporting culture at the Washington Post. It’s a culture that’s become pervasive and its creation story continues to serve as an inspiration for every reporter when times get tough.

When Ben Bradlee ran the Washington Post he was fearless in taking on US Presidents Johnson and Nixon but that wasn’t the case with fellow Bostonian Kennedy.

He was unable to reconcile his role as a tough reporter on the Washington beat *and* being extremely close friends with JFK. Bradlee and his wife Toni were John and Jackie’s closest friends. The documentary shows numerous photos and home videos of all four boating, golfing and partying.

Being inside Camelot was glamorous. But there was a dark side. The film reveals that Bradlee’s wife Toni was “seriously assaulted” by JFK as she tried to lock herself into a Ladies room during a drunken boat party. She told her husband but the Bradlees continued their friendship with the President.

Bradlee had by this time honed an unassailable position as a hard hitting reporter. JFK’s assualt on Toni Bradlee sounds like a scoop to me — Bradlee was running Newsweek. But in those days private lives were private — especially when your pals are running important things. Bradlee was the establishment.

Bradlee certainly redeemed his fearless reporter image following Kennedy’s assassination. He has been lauded and recognized for decades of legendary work at the Washington Post.

And Henry Kissinger still lives! He makes several appearance and has some choice words to say about the Washington Post’s coverage of the Pentagon Papers which faced huge opposition from the government and judiciary and revealed top secret information much as with Edward Snowden’s leak.

Bradlee with full support from the Post’s owner Katharine Graham stood by his guns fighting the courts for the right for newspapers to publish in the public interest.

“No politician can tell you what to read. It’s as simple as that.”

Kissinger says in a growl, “Indubitably, the point had to be made.” 

The point had to be made against an incredibly dramatic backdrop. No matter the popularity of the revelation or not — governments cannot restrict the public’s right to critical information relevant to informing the democratic process.

Garbage in — garbage out. We need accurate information to make the right decisions. And we have a lot of important decisions to make these days. It has been an incredibly important legal and moral precedent.

Ironically: Nixon’s hatred of the media, his enemies list and his attempts to lie and suppress the story of Watergate served to energize and boost the reputation of the media.

Nixon was relentlessly pursued by Bradlee’s news teams. They owned that story. And Bradlee’s refusal to back down — or slow down even during the Washington Post’s IPO(!) — helped boost the trust and reputation of all newspapers — even the ones not called the Washington Post.

His aggressive newsroom culture still stands today. Every newsroom reporter knows what Ben Bradlee would do.

I’ll certainly watch it again. The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee

Here’s a trailer:

Deloitte's crystal ball: These tech trends will create the Symphonic Enterprise

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 6, 2017


Deloitte sees a future where businesses are able to use new technologies in concert rather than trying to master each one individually.

In its just released ninth annual Tech Trends report Deloitte notes that companies approached the integration of new technologies through a domain specific approach. The old way was domain specific.

The lead authors, Bill Briggs, CTO of Deloitte Consulting, and Craig Hodgetts, Managing Principal of Technology at Deloitte, write: 

In the past, organizations typically responded to such disruptive opportunities by launching transformation initiatives within technology domains. For example, domain-specific cloud, analytics, and big data projects represented bold, if singleminded, embraces of the future. Likewise, C-suite positions such as “chief digital officer” or “chief analytics officer” reinforced the primacy of domain thinking.

But it didn’t take long for companies to realize that treating some systems as independent domains is suboptimal at best. Complex predictive analytics capabilities delivered little value without big data. In turn, big data was costly and inefficient without cloud.

 A holistic approach…

Deloitte sees some of the more “forward thinking” companies moving away from domain-specific initiatives. 

Instead, they are thinking about exploration, use cases, and deployment more holistically, focusing on how disruptive technologies can complement each other to drive greater value.

For example, blockchain can serve as a new foundational protocol for trust throughout the enterprise and beyond. Cognitive technologies make automated response possible across all enterprise domains. Digital reality breaks down geographic barriers between people, and systemic barriers between humans and data. Together, these technologies can fundamentally reshape how work gets done, or set the stage for new products and business models.

This will lead to the Symphonic Enterprise — business organizations able to combine several disruptive technologies to support highly successful business ventures.

When technologies act in unison, we no longer see the enterprise vertically (focused on line of business or isolated industries) or horizontally (focused on business processes or enabling technologies). In the symphonic enterprise, the old lines become blurred, thus creating a diagonal view that illuminates new business opportunities and creative ways of solving problems.

Here are the key enterprise tech trends for the next 18 to 24 months:

Reengineering IT. The IT department is being rebuilt from top to bottom into a more agile and important business partner that, “will define the technology organization of the future.”

- Hybrid-human workforce: Don’t be afraid of robots and AI taking away your job — they will become your work colleagues. “Human workers and machines will work together seamlessly, each complementing the other’s efforts in a single loop of productivity.”  Human Resources organizations will need to rethink how to recruit and train a “hybrid human-machine workforce.”

- Advanced Data Management: As enterprises seek to unlock value in their data they will have to adopt a additional data management technologies. 

- The new Mission critical core: The digitization of business has mostly been in customer-facing initiatives. There’s lots of untapped potential in middle and back office processes which have been largely been left unchanged.

- Virtual and augmented realities: Deloitte groups these under Digital Realities and says it represents a powerful new way for companies to engage with customers.

- Blockchain technologies: These are about to breakthrough into broad adoption in many important business functions.

- API technologies: These offer enterprises a way to increase the efficiency of their in-house IT systems by easily reusing those resources across their organization. 

- Exponential Technology Watchlist: These are the technologies that Deloitte’s forecasters say could create an impact three to five years from now. They are: Human-like Artificial General Intelligence; and quantum computing and its effect on breaking computer security.

Here is the entire report. Tech Trends 2018

Silicon Valley Ties To Russian Fake News Tops Tech Scandals List

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 1, 2017

What do you get if you ask 600 tech industry news readers to rank the top tech scandals of 2017? You get a very long infographic!

Here’s the nutshell details of the survey courtesy of Brionna Lewis at  Instamotor, an online used car market:

Top Five Tech Scandals of 2017

  1. Facebook, Twitter and Google testify about Russian meddling in the 2016 election
  2. Equifax announces data breach
  3. Uber admits to 2016 data breach and hacker bribing
  4. Google engineer sends sexist memo
  5. Female engineer unveils sexist culture at Uber

Instamotor found a large amount of goodwill towards the scandal ridden companies:

Facebook: 3 in 5 respondents (60%) say Facebook is at least “somewhat trustworthy”, with nearly 1 in 5 (19%) ranking them as “very trustworthy”

Uber: More than half (51%) of respondents say Uber is at least “somewhat” trustworthy, with 12% ranking them at “very trustworthy”

Equifax: More than 2 in 5 (42%) say Equifax is at least “somewhat” trustworthy, with nearly 1 in 5 (19%) ranking them as “very trustworthy”

Here is the timeline of the scandals as an infographic:

Story continues...

Study: No Shortcuts From SEO — Old Web Dominates Google Search

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 29, 2017

Old web pages dominate the first page of Google’s search results and new pages less than one year old represent only 0.3 percent of the top ten Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for 2 million randomly selected keywords.

The Web Site Group prepared the following infographic based on a study by Ahrefs, a marketing tools company. It shows that the position of a website in Google’s results is a function of its age rather than on its content alone.

Older web pages dominate the first page of Google's search results and new page -- less than one year old -- represent just 0.3 percent of the top ten Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for 2 million randomly selected keywords.

The Web Site Group prepared the following infographic based on a study by Ahrefs, a marketing tools company. It shows that the rank of a webpage in Google's results is largely a function of its age rather than on its content alone.

It's an important discovery because businesses large and small worry constantly about their position in Google's search results. Google changes its algorithm on a regular basis so that it can stay ahead of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques that try to get around Google's ranking algorithm.

Every business wants to be on the coveted first page of 10 links returned for a Google search. And they collectively spend large sums on SEO services and tools that promise to improve their Google ranking.

The Ahrefs study, however appears to show that businesses are wasting money pursuing SEO as a quick short-cut to attaining first page ranking. Ahrefs discovered that it takes two to three years to attain number one ranking on a keyword. Trust is a relationship that needs to be consistent over time in order to build. There is no shortcut through SEO and it's risky business, IMHO.

Google punishes companies that use SEO that goes beyond the basics in its web master guidelines because it sees it as a flagrant attempt to manipulate its search -- it's the mark of a spammer.

Manipulating Google...

Even if certain SEO techniques work today -- they could become very problematic in the future when Google moves to close such loopholes and sees who was trying to deliberately manipulate their ranking.

SEO practices that used to be common such as buying links on other sites to generate thousands of backlinks can now cause Google to lower the rank of the web site because Google can now distinguish link farms from organic links. Large numbers of backlinks from link farms is a clear and unerasable marker of attempted SERP manipulation.

SEO content editors...

Many businesses are concentrating on content marketing as they realize that every company needs to be a media company -- to some extent -- because if you are not seen you don't exist. 

Companies are trying to produce high quality online content according to Google's claim that it will rank such pages higher. It is common to use SEO tools to edit the content to make sure it'll get a great response from Google.

But SEO tools do not test content for comprehension. The Googlebot can read but it cannot understand -- it's not that smart. And editing web page content with SEO tools is not that smart.

I've always advised businesses to focus on making sure their content is optimized for people and not bots. Let the search engines work on optimizing their own algorithms.

Create content for human visitors because the bot will be back but the human might not. Plus, it's people that buy stuff and bots generally do not.

Trust no shortcuts...

Trust takes time to build and SEO tricks can become a marker of mistrust. It takes time to rank highly in Google search and that's the way it should be.

The time it takes to develop trust and a high Google rank is a clear business advantage because it is something that cannot be bought.

The Ahrefs report clearly shows that businesses cannot buy their way onto the first page of results. Strategic stuffing of keywords into web page content and header data will not work.  And there is no way to create a three-year old web page.

Here is the infographic of the Ahrefs study:

Story continues...

Media Disruption: Is the Race To The Bottom Bottoming Out?

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 28, 2017

The media industry continues to be disrupted and former high flying new media companies are being hit as revenues from advertising continue to fall despite increased readership.

Monika Bauerlein, CEO of Mother Jones magazine lists some the recent troubles:

Buzzfeed, the big media success story of the past decade, projects missing its earnings targets by some 20 percent.  CNN faces shortfalls, despite its incredible scoops and a political climate that’s had all of us glued to the headlines.  Mashable, another investor darling, announced its sale for about a fifth of its valuation just two years ago.  The Daily Beast, owned by the same parent company as Tinder, is looking at a sale, and    Univision is on the hunt for someone to take a piece of the former Gawker sites.  Alternative weeklies are on life support and Conde Nast is making cuts. 

Journalism Is Imploding Just When We Need It Most – Mother Jones

Bauerlein writes:

Some blame the Google and Facebook algorithms (could real news getting caught up in the fight against the fake stuff?). Others speculate that readers and viewers are simply tiring of the 24/7 onslaught of crazy.

Her strategy for magazine survival is to build trust with readers through important investigative journalism projects in the hope they will donate money.

I hope you’ll consider joining (or re-joining) the community of some 50,000 MoJo donors with a tax-deductible gift here

Foremski’s Take: 

Asking for money seems to work for a specialist magazine such as Mother Jones which has never had to completely rely on advertising. But asking for handouts is not a sustainable business model -- it can only work for a very small number of publications.

We need something viable, scalable and available to all.

The darlings of the new media sector such as Buzzfeed, Gawker, and Mashable attained massive amounts of traffic yet even they were unable to run fast enough to stem the race to the bottom on declining advertising revenues.

Google is also racing to the bottom. Every quarter it reports less money per click than the same period in the prior year. In it's most recent quarter it reported 18% less -- a larger than expected decline. But it beat Wall Street estimates because it found more places to show more ads.

Traditional and new media companies cannot match the scale and the low costs of the platform-based media companies. They have additional advantages such as avoiding the label of a media company and thus able to shun the costs of maintaining community standards in regards to hate speech and fake news.

Google and Facebook can survive the race to the bottom for much longer than the media companies that rely on people rather than software to create content. But they are media companies run by engineers and they don't understand the economics of the business and their effect on the industry.

Unequal relationship...

Google and Facebook need news content but they take too much of its value and return too little. Media companies complain that the traffic is of poor quality and hard to monetize.

For example, Mother Jones spent $350,000 on an investigative series that was tremendously popular online but was only able to recoup $5,000 in online advertising revenues.

Media beggars...

Billionaires such as Jeff Bezos and Warren Hellman have stepped in to try and help out the media industry, and Patreon collects donations for worthy media ventures.

But begging is not a business. Handouts cannot scale and they mask a very serious problem that is not addressed -- the continuing instability in the media business model.

We need innovation in the media business model so that it rewards quality journalism with reasonable profit margins that enable reinvestment, growth and vigorous competition. We do not have this or anything like this. And there's nothing on the horizon.

Garbage collection...

This is an incredibly serious problem because without a trusted and healthy media sector we cannot make the right decisions to govern ourselves and lead our future.

Garbage in -- garbage out.

- - -

Please see: Fake news problem: Facebook is a media company run by engineers

$GOOG Analysis: Google's rapidly narrowing future

Journalism+Silicon Valley: What Balance Of Power?

No good news for media industry in Internet Trends report

Analysis: Facebook's 3,000 editors...Is it still a tech platform?

Arc Publishing: The Washington Post's Software Startup

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 20, 2017

Harry McCracken has written an excellent profile of the Washington Post's Arc Publishing business which sells access to the same technology that is used to publish the online newspaper. 

[Arc Publishing] allows other news organizations to use the Post's tools for writers and editors. ...It's like a high-end version of Squarespace or, tailored to solve the content problems of a particular industry.

The Washington Post Is A Software Company Now

Revenues could start adding up to a substantial stream. Small customers pay from $10,000 per month to $150,000 for large customers and payment depends on bandwidth. Get a top story and it will cost you but Arc makes more in revenues.

McCracken adds:

By offloading the creation of publishing tools and the hosting of sites, media companies can concentrate on the journalism itself rather than the technical requirements of getting it in front of readers.

Foremski's Take: It looks like a smart move by the Washington Post to sell the same tools it uses. But does it know what it takes to become an enterprise software company?

It takes a substantial engineering effort to maintain and improve any set of commercial software tools. It is not a trivial task.

To make it a business you need to have all sorts of support people, you need customer success engineers, you need a sales force and you need marketing staff. It is a big commitment.  It requires a very big investment.

The management of the Washington Post understands how to run a media company but not a tech company. 

The Washington Post could release its tools as open source software projects and let others help improve them rather than try to commercialize them itself and have to make a very substantial investment in building the business.

Also: in charging by bandwidth it implies the value of the platform is in shifting bits from place to place rather than in the tools and platform expertise.

Spin Arc Publishing off and let it raise money rather than become a constant distraction to management. Media disruption requires full attention and Jeff Bezos cannot stop it.

Facebook's Fake News Problem: It's A Media Company Run By Engineers

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 9, 2017

During the recent hearings in Washington representatives of Facebook, Google and Twitter were asked if they were media companies-- they replied that they identify as technology companies.

Facebook and Google don't want to be classed as media companies because then they have to pay for the responsibilities of being media companies.

But these are rich companies and they can afford the extra costs of employing editorial staff. It would create a little bit of a level playing field with traditional media companies who have to carry the costs of civil responsibility.

Apart from expensive regulatory issues Facebook faces another problem: it’s a media company run by engineers.

This is why it has trouble dealing with media problems such as fake news. It doesn't have any media professionals that understand the issue and know what to do about it -- and have the seniority to execute. Facebook employs former journalists and editors but they were not hired to deal with fake news.

Engineering fake news...

The Pew Research Center recently surveyed 1,000 technologists about the problem of fake news and 51 percent said nothing can be done while 49 percent said the opposite. Which means these "tech experts" don't really know one way or the other.

Why not ask media professionals? It's a media problem not an engineering problem. After all, you wouldn't ask reporters about Javascript's scalability in web projects.

Facebook is a media company that doesn't know how to be a media company.

But it can learn. And it doesn't have to learn the hard way by making business mistakes that the media industry solved many decades ago.

There's several things that can be done very quickly that would go a long way to curbing fake news at Facebook, Google and elsewhere.

Engineers know how to code but media professionals know how to code the culture and spot the fakes. Media engineers will one day be a hot new profession.

- - -

Please see: Analysis: Facebook's 3,000 editors...Is it still a tech platform?

No good news for media industry in Internet Trends report

Media company or tech platform? The hugely important battle to redefine Facebook

Journalism+Silicon Valley: What Balance Of Power?

Taste Of Science: Meet Marie Skłodowska Curie In 'Humanity Needs Dreamers'

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 9, 2017

1208780 583830771675190 771545354 n

This evening (November 9) you can see a free showing of “Humanity Needs Dreamers” an immersive science film in which you meet Marie Skłodowska Curie - the two-time Nobel prize winner — played by Susan Marie Frontczak.

I saw an early version of the film and it’s very good. Filmmaker Jen Myronuk and her team have produced a highly original work and the subject of the Polish scientist Marie Skłodowska Curie is very inspirational.

The screening is part of the Taste of Science educational festival and also commemorates the 150th birthday of Marie Skłodowska Curie.  

Humanity Needs Dreamers will be shown at 7pm - Monument House, 140 9th St, San Francisco - Light snacks and drinks - Free with rsvp.

Written and performed by former engineer & living history scholar Susan Marie Frontczak, Humanity Needs Dreamers presents a first-hand look at Curie's early life in Poland through her groundbreaking research in France.

Filmmaker Jen Myronuk will lead a post-screening Q & A with the performer live via Skype followed by trivia with prizes in celebration of Curie's 150th birthday, including an edible elements birthday cake.

We'll be joined by Holly Million, Founder of Artists United, on the global need for artists and scientists to collaborate plus ideas for bringing science stories to the stage.

SF Day 2: Marie Curie's 150th Birthday Film Screening — taste of science

Facebook Fake News Problem: It's A Media Company

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 7, 2017

Facebook (and Google) is finding it harder and harder to avoid being seen as a media company. I’ve called Facebook, Google, Yahoo and many others — high-tech enabled media companies for more than a decade. I’m glad others are seeing that: publishing pages of content with advertising around it is a media company. 

This video interview with Scott Galloway, marketing professor at NYU, underlies this issue of is Facebook a media company? If it were classed as a media company it would create a little bit of a level playing field with traditional media because it would have to hire a lot of humans and its costs would rise dramatically. If Facebook loses its platform status you can bet it will make sure Google does as well.

Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU and author of the new book "The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google," discusses Facebook.

He says the company has embraced many aspects of a media company, but seems allergic to many of the associated responsibilities. He worries that the youthful management at Facebook doesn't have the historical context for the importance media plays in our society, citing Russia's manipulation of it during the 2016 presidential election. He doesn't buy the excuse that Facebook can't possibly screen its advertisers, and says they don't want to do it because it would hurt their profitability.

Scott Galloway says Facebook could screen its advertisers if it wanted - Business Insider

$GOOG: AI And Auto-Cars Can't Help A Rapidly Narrowing Future

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 26, 2017

Alphabet/$GOOG reported strong earnings per share for its third quarter handily beating Wall Street estimates as revenues per click fell faster than expected and traffic costs rose substantially.

Natalie Gagliordi reports

The tech giant reported a net income of $6.73 billion, with non-GAAP earnings were $9.57 per share on revenue of $27.8 billion, when including traffic acquisition costs (TAC). On average, Wall Street was looking for Q3 earnings of $8.83 per share with $27.2 billion in revenue.

Foremski's Take: $GOOG shares jumped more than $41 or 4% in after hours trading as investors welcomed the unexpected bonus of $1.23 earnings per share.

This ignores an ongoing trend that should cause concern for investors: Google continues to make less revenue per click but somehow finds ways of showing ever more numbers of advertisements.

Every quarter Google has to find more ways to get more ads in front of people because each ad makes less money. Its traffic acquisition costs rose substantially this quarter. How is this a sustainable business model?

As Google's ads fall in value it needs to find new places to show more ads. Yet the huge shift in Google users to mobile screens severely limits how much more advertising can be shown. 

How long can Google keep finding more clicks to make up for less effective advertising?

$GOOG needs to fix this time bomb in its core business because none of its other businesses such as cloud computing services are anywhere near being profitable enough - or scalable enough - to diversify away from a rapidly narrowing future: running out of places to place ever less effective ads.

Big Drop in Tech, Media And Telecoms Deals

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 23, 2017

Acquired 56

Europe’s Brexit problem could be to blame…

There's a big slowdown in dealmaking in the global Technology, Media &Telecommunications (TTM) sector with the value dropping by $92 billion or nearly a quarter during the first nine months of this year reports Mergermarket.

There have been $299.5bn of deals compared with $391.1bn during the year ago period. The number of deals: 2,370 held steady.

The US has the largest market share at 43% of global deal value with 892 transactions worth $127.9bn including the largest deal of the year so far: The $14.4bn acquisition of Scripps By Discovery Communications.

Europe reported 813 deals valued at $47bn and is likely to end the year at a record low market share due to uncertainty from Brexit.

Elizabeth Lim, senior analyst at Mergermarket singled out Japanese giant Softbank in a "buying frenzy" acquiring a wide range of companies in AI, chips, and robotics. Softbank has acquired 26 companies so far this year — three times last year's investments.

She included a quote from Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank:

"Every industry that mankind created will be redefined. The medical industry, automobile industry, the information industry of course. Every industry that mankind ever defined and created, even agriculture, will be redefined."

The top three deals in the global TTM sector for the first nine months of 2017:

  1. $14.4bn Discovery Communications acquiring Scripps Networks Interactive.
  2. $12.7bn Idea Cellular acquiring Vodafone India
  3. $10.6bn Bain Capital consortium acquiring Toshiba Memory stake.

Mergermarket report.

Foremski’s Take: Fewer big deals means bad news for Wall Street bankers but small deals are good news for Silicon Valley’s startups because it means exits for the investors. And capital comes back to go around again.  

Fewer big deals could signify something else: there are few large target companies left that are worth acquiring. And will there be others to take their place? Startups are rarely able to grow larger than 100 people before being acquired.

Digital vulnerability…

There’s another trend at work with a longer horizon: The tech industry is becoming the media industry as an example of how the transformation of all business into digital businesses means every industry is vulnerable to high tech large scale business platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and maybe Apple. 

If you are a top competitor in the bricks and mortar world,  you would have to build stores and warehouses and expand into new geographies — scaling takes years. In the digital world — if you are the better competitor — business scaling takes just days. And scale always wins. 

The global digital transformation that is underway — of all businesses across all industries — leaves every company vulnerable to disruption from highly efficient business tech platforms. Take a look at the digitization of the media industry. It will be repeated in other industries.  Deal flow value will shrink again.

Rent the Runway CEO: Gender Discrimination Is Larger Workplace issue Than Sexual Harassment

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 20, 2017

JHYMAN 00027

Jennifer Hyman, CEO of Rent the Runway clothing service said that she was the victim of sexual harassment but that gender discrimination is the larger issue and it’s not being addressed.

Hyman was speaking to 200 female startup CEOs at the Project Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco.  The conference had to turn away more than 500 applicants.  

Project Entrepreneur is a joint venture between Rent the Runway and financial services giant UBS with the goal of creating a pipeline of highly effective female startup CEOs with the skills to build fast growing companies. 

Sexual harassment can happen at anytime, she said. “It happened once when I had already raised $80 million and I had revenues. He then went to my board and tried to get me fired. He tried to destroy me and my business.”

She had immediately reported the incident to her board. “I was lucky in that I had great relations with my board and they supported me completely.”

She advised female CEOs to speak about such incidents from the very beginning. They should not feel trapped or alone. She said that gender discrimination is the larger issue and urged her audience to pay attention to gender diversity within their companies.

The gender pay gap is substantial and discrimination is found in the latest tech jobs. A report in 2016 from Glassdoor found that many tech jobs have wider gender pay discrimination than other professions. 

She said that male CEOs are treated with more respect by investors and by their own staff.  And male CEOs have a greater margin to make mistakes. She also criticized the lack of female visionaries quoted in the media. 

Some organizations such as Silicon Valley Forum do name female visionaries in their annual awards which honor four recipients. Over the 20 year history of the SVForum Visionary Awards the majority have been male but in 2017 the majority were female.

Three women were named a 2017 Visionary: Linda Rottenberg – CEO and Founder of Endeavor; Neri Oxman professor at MIT’s Media Lab; Megan Smith U.S. CTO. The fourth is Steve Jurvetson partner at venture firm DFJ. 

Hyman co-founded Rent the Runway with Jennifer Fleiss and launched in November 2009. The company has funding of more than $176 million — the latest Series E raised $60 million in December 2016 followed $60 million in December 2014.

Project Entrepreneur organizes half-day conferences for female founders of very early startups. They are taught many skills such as: how to pitch their ideas; the metrics that investors want to see; how to recruit a board of directors. Most of the teaching is done by female executives. 

The organization also hosts a startup competition with 200 applicants and five winners offered $10,000 each and a five-week intensive accelerator program in New York City in April.  Application deadline is November 27 and the startups must have one woman founder, be at least 50% female-owned with less than $100,000 in funding.

- - -

Please see: Big jump in women on tech company boards

Crunchies Awards for Silicon Valley startups focus on diversity

Large gender bias in US tech salaries reports Glassdoor


CultureWatch: A Crowded Bus All To Myself

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 17, 2017

BusStop 1578

When I was commuting to Menlo Park last year my journey would start on the San Francisco 38 Geary bus. It was always crowded and I’d be fortunate to squeeze in.

I remember one particular gorgeous sunny morning and I’m on a very crowded bus. I look around and everyone’s eyes are on their phones.  

I’m one of the tallest on the bus yet I don’t see a single person — across the entire double-length bus — looking up or around. Everyone’s eyes are down — subservient — I can’t meet anyone’s gaze at all.

I’m thinking, wow! I have this whole bus to myself. Everyone’s mind is somewhere else.

I love this photo of Marc Zuckerberg strolling with a huge grin through a large auditorium where everyone is wearing VR goggles except him.

It amuses me to think that Zuckerberg wants reality all for himself —  a private domain — while everyone else is immersed in manufactured virtual realities.  Just like he buys up houses next to his so no one can see into his world.  



Zuckerberg’s goal is to have 1 billion people in virtual reality writes Dean Takahashi in VentureBeat:

“We all have limits to our reality, and opening up more of those experiences to all of us is not isolating,” [Zuckerberg] said. “It is freeing.”


- - - 

I’m discovering a new appreciation for reality — the original kind. I like its razor-sharp definition, it has many levels of challenging gameplay plus the tactile feedback is exquisite.  Reality — it’s the real thing — the others are made by others. 

The Automation Of Jobs And The Beach...

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 16, 2017

About a year or more ago I was at an event that featured a panel of top Artificial Intelligence  (AI) experts. It was held at SRI International — Silicon Valley’s famous and at times, infamous research institute— responsible for the spun-out Nuance voice recognition software used in Siri and other responsive voice-apps. 

During question time several people voiced concern for AI replacing their jobs.  I raised my hand and told the panel I was also concerned: I was worried my job wouldn’t be automated. 

The panel was confused. I explained: “What if my job isn’t automated and I still have to go to work while my friends are all at the beach?”

They asked me about my job. I said I worked as a reporter. Oh, nothing to worry about, they happily assured me. “We already have software that rewrites press releases,” one of the panelists told me.

I said thanks! But reporters sometimes do more than just rewrite press releases. (I was more than a little shocked by their view of the reporters role.)

I was reminded of that SRI panel by this infographic sent to me earlier today. It seemed like a way to jumpstart automating your job and get to the beach faster :) 


$GOOG's X And The Science Of Media Distraction

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 12, 2017


The November issue of The Atlantic magazine celebrates its 160th anniversary with a cover story on a search for the Science of Creativity —  “Inside Google’s Moonshot Factory”.

The Atlantic's Senior Editor Derek Thompson, “was granted rare access to the secretive lab at X to see what it can teach us about breakthroughs and the lost art of invention.”

 It's a well written piece:

A snake-robot designer, a balloon scientist, a liquid-crystals technologist, an extra dimensional physicist, a psychology geek, an electronic-materials wrangler, and a journalist walk into a room…

The setting is X, the so-called moonshot factory at Alphabet, the parent company of Google… The people in this room have a particular talent: They dream up far-out answers to crucial problems.

 Thompson’s conclusion after several days in the lab: 

“Insisting on quick products and profits is the modern attitude of innovation that X continues to quietly resist.”

Foremski’s Take: There’s little that’s secretive about Google’s X initiatives. The company gets enormous attention for its far out ideas in far space such as mining asteroids and reducing greenhouse gases with stem-cell burgers. Its most popular one is the self-driving car initiative which gets so much news coverage you’d think Google was a car maker. 

It has been so incredibly successful in publicizing its futuristic ideas that reporters rarely ever report on its actual business.

Google makes no money from any of its lab projects. They have absolutely no material impact on its business today and well into the future.  And as Thompson noted,  Google is in no hurry to make them into profitable businesses. So why do they exist?

Look over there…

There’s no need to develop those ideas further because they already serve a valuable purpose — they are engineered to be a series of clickbait distractions for reporters to write stories about science and innovation.

Look over there!… that car’s driving itself! It’s an easier story than delving into how Google made $90 billion last year.

If reporters looked closely at Google’s business they would find better and more important stories that impact our world and our communities today — not in a fictitious future.

However, few reporters understand how Google makes money — ask them something basic such as to name Google’s two largest business groups and they cannot. It means they cannot even start to understand the deeper complexities of how money is made on the Internet.

Google’s X is not about the science of creativity — it’s about the use of science as a distraction of public attention — from a very secretive business organization controlled by insiders that influences industries and the economies of nations.   IMHO, it’s a better, bigger story. I’d rather be working on the biggest stories I can find.

- - -

Please see: Analysis: Google fails to stop slide in ad value

Innovative Ideas Will Eliminate $5bn In Costs Says General Electric

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 12, 2017

JoshMook 00030

Ideas generated by General Electric’s workforce will produce more than $5 billion in production cost savings said Joshua Mook (above), engineering leader at GE speaking at a conference in San Francisco for users of Brightidea’s innovation management platform.

Mook said that the use of advanced 3D printers is creating disruption in manufacturing. And by combining the ideas and knowledge of GE's vast ranks of technologists, new products can quickly be produced: such as aircraft engines with hundreds of fewer parts, higher fuel anyone and lower weight.

"If I have 300 fewer parts that means I don't need to spend months signing 300 contracts with suppliers. I can print the parts that I need. And my inventory costs have almost gone away - all that cash siting in warehouses is now free to be invested," said Mook.

Innovative ideas and how to harvest and harness them are the key concerns of Mook and his team. The lessons learned are being rolled out across the company.

Because of its earlier success, Mook's team was given the task of finding $5 billion in productivity cost savings over a ten year period across the company. By engaging GE staff in generating ideas and also offering them a percentage of the savings the idea generates - it took just 9 months to identify and start implementing billions of dollars in cost savings.

"We have a backlog of more than 1000 great ideas that have already been approved by our committees that are waiting for resources."

Mook said that GE realized several years ago that its global manufacturing groups could be disrupted by advances in 3D printing and so it formed the GE Additive business group "to disrupt GE before anyone else did."

GE engineers have the freedom to come up with ideas and get the funding and resources internally. But it requires people that are comfortable with that type of workplace culture.

"We are good at choosing people that are the best fit for the job rather than the best at what they do," Mook said.

Brightidea's Synthesize conference featured several large users of its idea management platform including US Bank and Cisco Systems.

Chip Sales hit Record Levels - Costs Of Innovation Rise

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 5, 2017


Gordon Moore’s Law describes the economics of innovation

Demand for chips is huge with chip prices jumping higher every month and shortages of key components such as memory halting product manufacturing lines. The Semiconductor Industry Association this week reported a record $35 billion in August sales -- a jump of 24% -- the thirteenth consecutive monthly increase over the year ago period.

John Neuffer, head of the Semiconductor Industry Association, said:

"Sales in August increased across the board, with every major regional market and semiconductor product category posting gains... Memory products continue be a major driver of overall market growth, but sales were up even without memory in August."

A big jump in sales doesn't mean a big jump in units sold -- it means prices have risen sharply. It means higher prices for new servers, network equipment, consumer electronics, to put it simply: the entire digital fabric of our future -- including all of its promises of advanced AI, superior healthcare and a myriad other projects of technological progress -- will cost more; and there will be less of it. And there's no guarantee that prices will come down this time -- as they usually do.

This problem of chip shortages and higher prices is normally solved quite quickly by the chip industry.

Every boom spurs an over-investment of capital in new chip fabs and the resulting glut crashes prices and the bust cycle begins. But the availability of cheap chips creates new applications and new markets and new investments and new progress is made. This has been the economic cycle that underpins the innovative leaps and bounds of the technological miracles that enable our modern world.

Cheap chips...

The semiconductor industry does not get the recognition it deserves for its role as the foundational technology that has fueled the engines of innovation in every industry and in every market. Every two years the chips get twice as fast at half the cost. Sloppy software runs like a gazelle -- and faster chips makes for a a faster route to innovation of all types.

For more than 50 years the chip industry has been vital to our fast pace of innovation and in making technologies affordable on massive scales. But this time those cheap chips might be a memory and prices could remain high and shortages lengthy and even ruinous to some companies.

The chip industry is struggling with sub10 nanometer manufacturing and the challenges are becoming ever more expensive to overcome. The slowing of Moore's Law means stalled innovation: AI needs brute force computing power, so does scientific research such as drug discovery; and so do a trillion business processes. Computing costs are not zero even though programmers write code as if they were.

We don't have anything that can drive innovation at the same pace, and as broadly, as the chip industry. It means that the future will be delayed and the fruits of innovation will be far less affordable and shareable.

Former Intel CEO Dies In His Sleep - Paul Otellini's Legacy

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 3, 2017


Paul Otellini, the former CEO of Intel, the world’s second largest chipmaker, died in his sleep the company announced Tuesday - he was ten days shy of 67 years old.

His retirement from Intel in May 2013 capped nearly 40 years working at Intel. He was on the fast track early in his career as Technical Assistant to Andy Grove, CEO and Chairman, and then served in key leadership positions in Intel's business groups.

Otellini was Intel’s fifth CEO but the first chief executive without a technical background  — he held a Bachelor Degree in Economics for University of San Francisco. He was also the first Intel CEO to retire suddenly, leaving the board to scramble in a search for his successor. Intel's CEOs are forced to retire at 65 years old and then transition to a chairman role.

There is always a planned succession but Otellini surprised the board with his early retirement And he did not serve as Chairman.

He was replaced by Brian Krzanich - an executive with an engineering background.

Krzanich said. "He was the relentless voice of the customer in a sea of engineers, and he taught us that we only win when we put the customer first."

His legacy at Intel stands out in several ways. He had to layoff about 10,500 staff in 2006 -- the company's largest layoffs.

He admits he missed the importance of the smart phone market where rival ARM scored major design wins. 

And several business initiatives had to be closed or scaled back including the Itanium microprocessor -- which cost billions of dollars to develop and support. 

Intel's $7.68 billion acquisition of McAfee security software firm in 2010 was spun out earlier this year into a joint venture with private investment fund TPG.

Intel’s move back into the chip foundry business in which it makes custom chips has yet to show results in terms of clients and revenues.

During Otellini’s tenure Intel continued its dominance as the world’s largest chipmaker. Earlier this year it lost the top spot to Samsung. 

Otellini was also a current member of Google's Board of Directors.

From Intel:

Paul and his wife, Sandy, were married for 30 years. He is survived by his wife; his son, Patrick; and his daughter, Alexis. Since he retired in 2013, Otellini dedicated time to mentoring young people and being involved with several philanthropic and charitable organizations, including the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco General Hospital Foundation.

Elsevier Adds Fourth California Acquisition:

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 15, 2017

Elsevier, the European publishing giant has acquired Bepress, a 73 person academic publishing service based in Berkeley, California for an undisclosed amount as it expands its publishing, analytics and metadata services for leading US universities.

Elsevier acquires a business with more than 500 academic institutions as customers and about $20m in annual revenues based on an annual subscription model averaging about $37,000. This compares favorably with the cost of a full-time IT person to run the publishing services using open source software which is the alternative choice.

Story continues...

The Future Will Be Voice Operated Only When Digital Assistants Learn To Use Apps

Posted by Tom Foremski - August 1, 2017


Our voice is important for Democracy… and in getting more productivity from our technologies.

The future sounds a little like Cold War Eastern Europe as the digital assistants try to listen-in and construct individual dossiers on each of us — to sell us goods and services rather than sell us out as secret policemen — but then again there’s all types of data buyers and digital assistants will only get better.

I have been reading some of the reviews of the improved and updated digital assistants — a growing crowd — and there is a common theme of disappointment.

Steve Kovach at Business Insider says it’s time to admit digital assistants are overrated:

The hype around digital assistants is real. But for now, it's just that. Hype. And it’s arguably the more overrated than any other emerging technology…digital assistants have turned into a fragmented mess and they're all little more than a minor convenience, assuming they work at all.

The biggest disappointment seems to be that they all handle applications poorly.  Yet we live in a 24/7 app world and each of us rely on dozens of daily apps to get work, life and the people and things we love organized. 

Story continues...

Hertz Foundation: 6 Decades of Finding And Funding Top Scientific Talent

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 27, 2017


The SF/Bay Area based Hertz Foundation has found a way to surface the best young scientists and fund their work which accelerates the timeline for new breakthroughs. It’s attracted attention from the GatesFoundation with a $5m grant.

John Hertz is known as the eponymous founder of one of the largest car rental companies in the world; less well known is his foundation which in its 60 year history has discovered and funded hundreds of talented young scientists across applied disciplines in science, maths, engineering and biology.

Every year the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation chooses 12 to 15 Hertz Fellows from more than 750 merit-based graduate candidates.It is one of the most prestigious awards in academia and valued for its no-strings attached funding.

Story continues...

More Bad News For Media Industry In KPCB Internet Report

Posted by Tom Foremski - June 1, 2017

Internet trends 2017 report 15 638

There's no good news for media companies in the latest Internet Trends report from VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as Google and Facebook share an astounding 85% of all new Internet advertising.

Last year it was 74% — an acceleration that demonstrates the competitive advantage of scale these companies have in the media sector or as Mary Meeker the report's author succinctly writes: "Big Get Bigger & Go After Other Bigs."

Meeker is a partner at KPCB, one of the first VC firms in Silicon Valley's famed Sand Hill Rd. She was a popular Wall Street analyst during the dotcom boom.

Here are some of the very bad Internet trends for those media companies that are not Google or Facebook:

Story continues...

Analysis: Facebook's 3,000 New Editors - Is it still a tech platform?

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 4, 2017

Timothy Lee at Vox reports:

Facebook is hiring 3,000 people to stop users from broadcasting murder and rape

Facebook has faced a string of incidents where users have filmed shocking events — like rape and murder — and uploaded them to the site. Critics argued the company wasn’t doing enough to address the problem.

Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took action to address those complaints, announcing that the company was going to hire 3,000 people — on top of the 4,500 staff it already had — to help it respond more quickly to reports of abusive behavior in the platform.


Facebook, Google, Youtube,  and Twitter define themselves as platform companies and not as media companies for a very important reason: as a media technology platform they are not legally responsible for publishing content posted by users as long as there are mechanisms to flag and remove the content.

Story continues...

Spiceworks Survey Of IT Workers: Women Are Better Educated But Paid Less

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 3, 2017

Women in IT jobs are more likely to have a college degree than their male colleagues but are paid about 6 per cent less.

The survey commissioned by Spiceworks, a professional network for IT workers, found that despite the salary and education gap between genders, most IT professionals are happy with their jobs and with their colleagues.

The survey polled 607 IT staff in the US with jobs such as IT managers, network/ system administrators and help desk technicians. 

Here are some of the findings:

- Women earn a median salary that's about 6% below male colleagues. It's a much smaller pay gap than in the US average of 20% lower.

- 82% of women have a college degree or higher, compared with 69% of men. The salary data shows that a college degree only provides an average of 4% extra pay, likely due to the female underpayment.

"In the era of technology dependence and heightened security breaches, prioritizing all tech talent, regardless of gender, is more important than ever," said Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks. "To attract and retain top tech workers, employers must compensate IT professionals based on their skillsets and experience without bias."

IT salaries are not as high as might be expected:

-- The majority make under $75,000 a year. About one in six earn under $35,000; 10% earn between $75,000 and $100,000; 3% earn more than $100,000.

- 41% said they are underpaid.

- IT managers reported a media slary of $65,000.

- Network/System Admins earned a media salary of $54,000.

- Help Desk Technicians earned about $40,000 a year.

The most common degrees were Computer and Information Science (71%), business (11%), Liberal Arts (5%) and Engineering (4%). One-third said they had not planned for an IT career.

It can be a stressful job:

- 83% said they were somewhat stressed, 29% reported high stress, but 62% said they were happy in their job.

Small and medium sized companies had slightly happier IT workers than large enterprises.

There are more results from the survey here.

Alphabet/Google Q1 Fails To Reverse Ad Value Slide

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 27, 2017

Alphabet/Google announced first quarter financial results that beat Wall Street analyst estimates. But the jump in revenues hides a large problem.

From Matthew Lynley at Techcrunch

The Google core business is, as usual, quite boringly efficient. We tend to see the same story every quarter — the value of each ad (cost-per-click) goes down while the number of ad impressions goes up, and Google makes a ton of money in the process.

The financial results contain Google’s little huge secret:

Google is incredibly bad at creating ad value — it is forced to grow revenues by chasing quantity over quality.

From Q1 2017:


Alphabet/Google is making huge profits but all web users lose because to make money Google has to find new ways of grabbing attention for less effective ads.

The tens of thousands of the world’s top computer engineers employed at Google have quarter-after-quarter failed to reverse this loss in ad value. Instead Google distracts the curious by pointing to self-driving cars and “moon-shots” that have nothing to do with its core business. 

This loss of ad value hasn’t harmed Google’s profits but it greatly affects the media industry which faces high content production costs. 

Wasting people’s time on ever larger numbers of ineffective ads is not a sustainable business strategy — and it is unethical, imho. Yet this is the only way this company knows how to drive revenues. 

Look over there — that car is driving itself!

The web user experience stinks

With a ransom malware epidemic and suspiciously fake content everywhere — added to an expanding universe of trillions of crappy ads — the web experience feels ever more corrupt and icky than sticky. And watch what you touch — even hyperlinks from friends are suspicious. If you can’t trust the hyperlink there is no web (and no Google).

As the web experience becomes less appealing people will likely rediscover the delights of a simple walk along a street or in a park —  experiencing the high-definition multi-sense reality of reality. No ad blocker needed. But watch where you step. 

The Endangered CMO: Survival Tips From Microsoft's Grad Conn

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 27, 2017

GradConn 5100

The average job tenure of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) continues to decline and is now less than half that of the CEO’s average of 7.2 years. It’s tough being a CMO in today’s fractured media landscape and its ephemeral social media trends — repeatable and predictable marketing processes are hard to find.

I recently met Grad Conn, CMO of Microsoft USA and I was impressed by what he had to say and his approach. He was speaking at a media roundtable dinner organized by Sprinklr — an enterprise-ready social media tool set used by Conn and a team of more than 150 social media managers.

The first thing Conn told me was that he has been in his job nearly twice long as the industry average. Here’s some of my notes from the conversation and some insights into Conn’s approach to social media.

- Conn said that he had to accept some harsh facts that much of what he had learned about marketing in school and as a former P&G product marketing executive no longer worked or had lost much of its effectiveness. 

Story continues...

S&P Teams With Girls in Tech To Launch Free Tech School For Females

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 5, 2017


S&P Global, a top financial services firm, has teamed with Girls in Tech to offer free online classes for 350 “girls and women around the world.”

The eight-week course is focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Students only need a web browser and an Internet connection.

Adriana Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, said: "No matter where she may be located, what social constraints she may have, we want to make sure that all girls and women have access to technical skills that will define their future."

Story continues...

The Limits Of Persuasive Realities: Hacking The Brain Stem With VR Marketing Technologies

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 8, 2017

Untitled 00486

Successful technologies start life by being good enough to be useful. Could some technologies become unbelievably good at what they do—and become too good to be used?

Todays marketing technologies have improved greatly thanks to all that personal data we constantly give away. And they are about to rocket to a new level.

With the addition of Virtual Reality environments bolstered by artificial intelligence and personalization — it will be possible to create the Dream Marketing Machine.

Prime the Dream Machine with any Brand and it will reliably churn out passionate and emotionally committed customers. You’ll get Fanboys and Fangirls by the stadium-load and for pennies on the dollar that Apple pays in marketing costs.

We could be very close to this Dream Marketing Machine. 

Story continues...

Contact: [email protected]
If urgent: send text or call 415 336 7547

Bacon's names Silicon Valley Watcher one of the
most influential blogs in the US.

Tom Foremski is a Founding Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research - a Silicon Valley based think tank focused on developments in media and PR.


The Holmes Report names Tom Foremski one of the top 25 Innovators of 2013.

Tom Foremski #28 on San Francisco - Silicon Valley
Top 50 Most Influential

Best Bay Area Blog

SF Publicity Club's ninth annual awards
celebrating excellence in media.