On Facebook and Privacy

Mark Suster:

Everybody knew 3rd party apps had access to data on you, your friends & family. I’ve been highlighting this publicly for years. Nobody cared because every app company benefited. My presentation to Caltech nearly 8 years ago slideshare.net/msuster/social…

After years of testing, The Wall Street Journal has built a paywall that bends to the individual reader

Shan Wang:

visitors to WSJ.com now each receive a propensity score based on more than 60 signals, such as whether the reader is visiting for the first time, the operating system they’re using, the device they’re reading on, what they chose to click on, and their location (plus a whole host of other demographic info it infers from that location). Using machine learning to inform a more flexible paywall takes away guesswork around how many stories, or what kinds of stories, to let readers read for free, and whether readers will respond to hitting paywall by paying for access or simply leaving. (The Journal didn’t share additional details about the score, such as the exact range of numbers it could be. I asked what my personal score was; no luck there, since the scores are anonymized.) “I think back to maybe eight months ago, when we were looking at all these charts with a lot of different data points. Now we’ve got a model that’s learned to a point where, if I get a person’s score, I pretty much know how likely they will be to subscribe,” Karl Wells, the Journal’s general manager for membership, told me when we spoke last week, with a Journal spokesperson on the call. “What we’ve found is that if we open up the paywall — we call it sampling — to those who have a low propensity to subscribe, then their likelihood to subscribe goes up.” (The Journal’s model looks at a window of two to three weeks.)
The Journal has found that these non-subscribed visitors fall into groups that can be roughly defined as hot, warm, or cold, according to Wells. Those with high scores above a certain threshold — indicating a high likelihood of subscribing — will hit a hard paywall. Those who score lower might get to browse stories for free in one session — and then hit the paywall. Or they may be offered guest passes to the site, in various time increments, in exchange for providing an email address (thus giving the Journal more signals to analyze). The passes are also offered based on a visitor’s score, aimed at people whose scores indicate they could be nudged into subscribing if tantalized with just a little bit more Journal content.

Brand Building: 2018, With acquisition of ModiFace, L’Oreal enters next phase of digital evolution strategy

Bethany Biron:

L’Oréal announced today that it acquired the augmented reality platform ModiFace, becoming the first technology company purchased by the global beauty conglomerate and serving as a testament to the rapid growth of AR within the industry.
 Lubomira Rochet, chief digital officer of L’Oréal, said the acquisition marks the next phase of L’Oréal’s digital growth plan, with a focus on investing in research and development after concluding a recent overhaul of its e-commerce and marketing strategies. Though L’Oréal has partnered with large technology companies in the past such as Google and Alibaba, the acquisition will bring ModiFace in-house and give the company a significant edge over its competitors. Since it was founded in 2001, ModiFace has worked closely with L’Oréal, as well as brands like Covergirl, Sephora and Ulta on a variety of mobile app and in-store activations.
 “We believe brands, products and services will come together to create a store of the future using technology such as AR, artificial intelligence and conversational commerce,” she said. “This is why, for us, this is a natural step to acquire ModiFace. By doing so, we create an internal R&D capability for digital services.”

Who maps the world?

Sarah Holder:

“For most of human history, maps have been very exclusive,” said Marie Price, the first woman president of the American Geographical Society, appointed 165 years into its 167-year history. “Only a few people got to make maps, and they were carefully guarded, and they were not participatory.” That’s slowly changing, she said, thanks to democratizing projects like OpenStreetMap (OSM).
 OSM is the self-proclaimed Wikipedia of maps: It’s a free and open-source sketch of the globe, created by a volunteer pool that essentially crowd-sources the map, tracing parts of the world that haven’t yet been logged. Armed with satellite images, GPS coordinates, local community insights and map “tasks,” volunteer cartographers identify roads, paths, and buildings in remote areas and their own backyards. Then, experienced editors verify each element. Chances are, you use an OSM-sourced map every day without realizing it: Foursquare, Craigslist, Pinterest, Etsy, and Uber all use it in their direction services.
 When commercial companies like Google decide to map the not-yet-mapped, they use “The Starbucks Test,” as OSMers like to call it. If you’re within a certain radius of a chain coffee shop, Google will invest in maps to make it easy to find. Everywhere else, especially in the developing world, other virtual cartographers have to fill in the gaps.

Say goodbye to the information age: it’s all about reputation now

Gloria Orrigi:

The paradigm shift from the age of information to the age of reputation must be taken into account when we try to defend ourselves from ‘fake news’ and other misinformation and disinformation techniques that are proliferating through contemporary societies. What a mature citizen of the digital age should be competent at is not spotting and confirming the veracity of the news. Rather, she should be competent at reconstructing the reputational path of the piece of information in question, evaluating the intentions of those who circulated it, and figuring out the agendas of those authorities that leant it credibility.
 Whenever we are at the point of accepting or rejecting new information, we should ask ourselves: Where does it come from? Does the source have a good reputation? Who are the authorities who believe it? What are my reasons for deferring to these authorities? Such questions will help us to get a better grip on reality than trying to check directly the reliability of the information at issue. In a hyper-specialised system of the production of knowledge, it makes no sense to try to investigate on our own, for example, the possible correlation between vaccines and autism. It would be a waste of time, and probably our conclusions would not be accurate. In the reputation age, our critical appraisals should be directed not at the content of information but rather at the social network of relations that has shaped that content and given it a certain deserved or undeserved ‘rank’ in our system of knowledge.
 These new competences constitute a sort of second-order epistemology. They prepare us to question and assess the reputation of an information source, something that philosophers and teachers should be crafting for future generations.

“A tenet of the Estonian system is that an individual owns all information recorded about him or her”

Nathan Heller:

It was during Kotka’s tenure that the e-Estonian goal reached its fruition. Today, citizens can vote from their laptops and challenge parking tickets from home. They do so through the “once only” policy, which dictates that no single piece of information should be entered twice. Instead of having to “prepare” a loan application, applicants have their data—income, debt, savings—pulled from elsewhere in the system. There’s nothing to fill out in doctors’ waiting rooms, because physicians can access their patients’ medical histories. Estonia’s system is keyed to a chip-I.D. card that reduces typically onerous, integrative processes—such as doing taxes—to quick work. “If a couple in love would like to marry, they still have to visit the government location and express their will,” Andrus Kaarelson, a director at the Estonian Information Systems Authority, says. But, apart from transfers of physical property, such as buying a house, all bureaucratic processes can be done online.

Ride-hailing apps are now 65% bigger than taxis in NYC, and the impact of “DeleteUber”


In Brooklyn, Uber is now bigger than taxis
 October 12, 2015 marked the first day that Uber made more pickups in Brooklyn than yellow and green taxis combined. As of June 2016, Uber makes 60% more pickups per day than taxis do, and the gap appears to be growing. Lyft has also surpassed yellow taxis in Brooklyn, but still makes fewer pickups than green boro taxis.

Building a Brand: 2018

The micro mobility market is getting a great deal of attention and growing piles of investor cash. To wit, Bird Rides, offering a “dockless electric scooter sharing service” provides a worthwhile look at brand building in 2018.

I became aware of Bird via a friend working in this space. I was curious about their brand and awareness building methods. That said, their initial $15M of capital, supplemented by a $100M “Series B” round certainly offers a deep pocket.

March 6, 2018, Joanna Goddard:

This year, we also discovered Bird Scooters, the new shared electric scooters. Have you tried them? They’re scattered around the sidewalks; you unlock one with an app, ride it to your destination (for a couple dollars), and then just lock and leave it wherever. Alex and I rode them to dinner one night, and it felt so fun and freeing!

March 1, 2018 Ojai Valley Inn Instagram mention.

March 6, 2018: Bob Lefsetz:

I saw two on my walk to the grocery store. All I had to do was scan the QR code and away I’d go.

But I didn’t.

They say that California is passe. That it’s too expensive to live here. That we have Blue Stateitis. Used to be California was a paradise, a Garden of Eden, the final destination. Now, if you pay attention to the media, it’s a disaster.

But it’s not.

Everything cool still starts in California. Can you say TESLA? Can you say APPLE? Can you say BIRD?

Huh, what’s a Bird?

It’s a motorized scooter.

But it’s not one of those RAZRs, it’s not for kids, it’s for adults, and a couple of months ago everywhere you were in Santa Monica you started to see people riding down the sidewalks, as if they were getting their trips for free, as if the sidewalk was the new Disneyland, WHAT WAS GOING ON?

First and foremost, Bird didn’t ask permission. You cannot ask permission in today’s world. You do your business and then you pay the penalty, assuming you’ve got any traction at all. We learned this from Napster. And the funny thing is the violators are the enemy until they’re embraced. They’ll sue you and then befriend you. Kinda strange, but that’s the way it is.

So they litter Bird scooters everywhere. And you can pull up the app and find one, or bump into one, and when you’re ready to ride, you scan the code with your phone and pay a buck plus 15 cents a minute. But this is not a monetary proposition, this is about pushing your own personal envelope, are you ready to take a risk?

Now the one thing you’ll notice is helmets are required but no one ever wears one, even though Bird will send you one for free, FOR FREE I TELL YOU! Because people think they’re immune, it’s the same kind of thinking that has folks refusing to buckle up when they’re close to home, as if that protects them from being injured. You don’t want a brain injury, it’s worse than any broken bone, but since the scooters only go 15 MPH, people somehow think they won’t fall, or that drivers will act responsibly.

Yes, you’re supposed to stay in the road or on the bike lane, but no one ever does, everybody’s on the sidewalk.

And it seems like a novelty until you think… It’s about the last mile. Getting from public transportation to your front door.

March 9, 2018, Jonathan Shieber:

“It feels like investing in Uber when it first launched.”

That’s what one investor said of the hot new Santa Monica, Calif.-based startup, Bird — an electric scooter company that’s now in the process of raising as much as $100 million on a $300 million valuation, according to several people with knowledge of the company’s plans.

Bird, which has become a phenomenon in the Los Angeles neighborhoods where it’s available, shares a lot with America’s most valuable ride-hailing and logistics company.

The company was founded by a former Uber (and Lyft) executive, Travis VanderZanden, who (like his namesake) is no stranger to controversy. Lyft sued him for allegedly breaking a confidentiality agreement when Uber hired him and the two sides later settled for undisclosed terms.

Like Uber, Bird has also rolled out its services with little regard for the regulations imposed by the neighborhoods in which it operates. When TechCrunch first reported on the company’s $15 million raise less than a month ago, we noted that the company had surreptitiously put 1,000 of its electric scooters on the streets — to the delight of the 50,000 people who have taken 250,000 rides on them, and disregarding many laws put in place by the city of Santa Monica.

As a Washington Post article notes, the Santa Monica Police Department has made 281 traffic stops and issued 97 tickets since the beginning of the year and late February — and the coastal, Los Angeles-adjacent city’s fire department has responded to 8 accidents involving Bird’s scooters — seeing injuries to both minors and adults.

February 15, 2018: Matt McFarland:

Since its September 2017 launch, Bird’s system has served more than 50,000 riders who have taken 250,000 trips — more than half of which have been in the last month. It’s since expanded to Venice, California, and some neighborhoods in Los Angeles and San Diego. Bird plans to expand to dozens of markets by the end of 2018.

Competitors, backed by Silicon Valley investors, are emerging. Two dockless bikeshare startups, LimeBike and Spin, have announced plans to deploy electric scooters in cities this year.

Meanwhile, another rival, URB-E, has sold thousands of foldable electric scooters to consumers since 2015. The company’s electric scooters range in price from $900 – $2,000.

Late last year, it began renting URB-Es on the University of Southern California’s campus. It plans to launch its own shared service in cities such as San Francisco and New York by the end of the year.

“It took a couple years for the mass market to realize this is not a toy industry or for rich people,” said URB-E CEO Peter Lee. “But this solves an everyday commuter problem, no matter your social class or how much you make. It was seen as a novelty three years ago, but now it’s seen as a necessity.”

Electric scooters have also captured the attention of Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana. The city, which has limited transit options due to its moderate density, is interested in using them as a way to improve transportation access. South Bend was one of the first to embrace dockless bikeshare systems, which allow people to park rented bikes on public land.

March 9, 2018, Tim Bradshaw:

Since it launched in September, Bird’s app-based rental system has become hugely popular in areas of Los Angeles such as Santa Monica and Venice, where hundreds of scooters are available on the street for anyone to pick up and drop off.

Hire of the scooters, which resemble the Razor and Micro kick scooters popular with children but have an electric motor that can go up to 15mph, is charged by the minute, with the devices tracked by GPS. More than half a million rides on Bird were taken in the past 30 days, the company says, doubling over the previous month.

“We believe Bird is writing the next chapter in transportation and is poised to become the next great company in this space,” said Antonio Gracias of Chicago-based Valor, who also sits on the boards of Tesla and SpaceX.

Nonetheless, $100m is an unusually large sum for such a young business. By way of comparison, Uber raised about $37m in its Series B round in December 2011, according to Crunchbase, 18 months after it first launched its car-booking app.

Bird’s iOS and Android apps.



A much smaller, but interesting example: The Ojai Valley in.

February 16, 2018 Em_Henderson

March 1, 2018 cupofjo

March 2, 2018 thebalancedblonde


There are a few, interesting email newsletters, including:

Detour in Detroit.

The State of Texas

My Little Paris

This cheap 3D-printed home is a start for the 1 billion who lack shelter

Tamara Warren:

Food, water, and shelter are basic human needs, but 1.2 billion people in the world live without adequate housing, according to a report by the World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. Today at SXSW, an Austin-based startup will unveil its approach to combat that deficiency by using low-cost 3D printing as a potential solution.

ICON has developed a method for printing a single-story 650-square-foot house out of cement in only 12 to 24 hours, a fraction of the time it takes for new construction. If all goes according to plan, a community made up of about 100 homes will be constructed for residents in El Salvador next year. The company has partnered with New Story, a nonprofit that is vested in international housing solutions. “We have been building homes for communities in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia,” Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story, tells The Verge.

Marketers are clueless about media effectiveness – here’s the proof

Mark Ritson:

It is clear that there are four main drivers for media selection in 2018. Marketers are looking for clear targeting cut-through, the ability to show strong ROI, a positive emotional response to the message and increased brand salience at the same time. If you put Byron Sharp, Peter Field, Les Binet and the IPA in a big industrial blender this is probably the juice that the concoction would produce. So, no real surprises.

In contrast, many of the industry’s other obsessions appear to be far less important to marketers. The push for transparent third-party measurement and brand safety might be hot topics for most marketing conferences but they are not on the radar for the average advertiser. Low cost does not appear to be much of an attraction either.

If I could be critical of the sample’s responses just once it would be the relative weak performance of ‘gets your ad noticed’. There is a ton of evidence to suggest that most advertising simply does not even break into the consciousness of the target market and I would have expected marketers to push this issue higher up the agenda.

But the interesting part of the report is examining how marketers think the various media perform against these dozen demands and then looking at what the hard evidence says their actual performance is. For reasons of focus and length I will keep my assessment to the top four main drivers for this column but interested readers are encouraged to download the full report here.

Re-evaluating Media:

Re-evaluating Media is a study commissioned by Radiocentre and independently conducted by Ebqiuity which makes an impartial and robust re-evaluation of online and offline media. The results highlight a major discrepancy between perceptions of individual media and what the evidence says, suggesting that it is time for the industry to re-evaluate media decisions to optimise advertising budgets.

Selling your Location Data

Christopher Mims:

As location-aware advertising goes mainstream—like that Jack in the Box ad that appears whenever you get near one, in whichever app you have open at the time—and as popular apps harvest your lucrative location data, the potential for leaking or exploiting this data has never been higher.

It’s true that your smartphone’s location-tracking capabilities can be helpful, whether it’s alerting you to traffic or inclement weather. That utility is why so many of us are giving away a great deal more location data than we probably realize….

Why advertising always works, using science, not ———-


Its my life’s work to persuade indie game developers, computer programmers and other ‘smart’ people, that they are wrong and that advertising works. A lot of people think ads dont work, and some even arrogantly think ads work, but ‘not on them’ because they are ‘too smart’. This is totally and utterly wrong, and the reason these otherwise ‘smart’ people are so wrong is they fundamentally misunderstand how ads work.
 The top assumption about ads is that they are trying to consciously persuade you to purchase the product. Ha. No. That was maybe 50-100 years ago. Thats not how ads *actually* work, although frankly 75% of people who actually work in advertising have no idea about this. Sometimes you see really bad ads and its clear they have no idea, but there is plenty of scientific research into ads, and more importantly the working of the brain, which shows how they really work.
 Our brains are basically super-parallel pattern recognition machines. Pattern recognition is an excellent way to structure the brain, and also explains why we are so amazing at recognizing faces, but so awful at basic maths. First and foremost, we are not philosophers, scientists, programmers or politicians. First and foremost we are a lump of flesh and bone that wants to find food, and not get killed. Everything else, even sex, is secondary. By having our brains work as big pattern recognizers, we get very good, very accurate and very FAST at recognizing visual images. Computers can run rings around us at math, but still struggle to match our ability to navigate our 3D world by driving a car. We are awesome at recognizing stuff.
 If you had to write a very FAST (and thus very short) program for staying alive, and could do only on the basis of visual input, yet had amazing pattern recognition, how would you write the pseudo code? Here is the simplest (and best) code.
 IF IfSeenThisBefore() {Relax()} ELSE { RunLikeHell()}
 It makes perfect sense. Our basic, animal selves have seen fellow humans all the time, but never seen a lion. So when we see a lion, we run like hell, because it MIGHT be dangerous. Any visual pattern we have hundreds of copies of stored in our brain is a sign that we saw those things a lot AND LIVED. It really is that simple. To put this in less ‘scared mammal’ terms… Fear the unknown.

App meets bus


The Responsive Network & the Future of Cities
 Why are we so excited about this?
 The Responsive Network is INFRASTRUCTURE. We can provision mobility anywhere transportation is lacking, or needs additional capacity. Unlike cabs, which are free to roam, our technology can commit supply to an area or a time of day, at more accessible prices. Unlike buses, which are stuck on a fixed route, our network can support an entire coverage area. Unlike metros, which take years to build, we can get going quickly.
 The Responsive Network can adapt to the city. It can evolve with the expanding needs of a city, in a more responsive manner than a bus network. It can adjust to time of day, catering to the different needs of the cities around commutes, days, night and weekends. It can adapt to traffic and congestion by finding routes that are optimised. It can cater to special events like sports and festivities.
 The Responsive Network requires no physical infrastructure like bus stops or advertising. Everything can be updated and communicated digitally.
 The Responsive Network can utilise vehicles more efficiently. We can manage cars around known demand patterns. This will reduce waiting times for users. And it’s better for the city and congestion than vehicles moving around aimlessly or using outdated schedules or headway. It’s how the future smart city should operate.
 The Responsive Network can bring down pricing through sharing, making quality transportation affordable to more people.

Smartphones and the digital age

Jamie Barlett:

A couple of years back, while writing my book Radicals, I secured an interview with Beppe Grillo, leader of the Italian Five Star Movement. M5S (its Italian abbreviation) is the radical anti-establishment party that’s on track to top next week’s general election. We met in the restaurant of the hotel he always stays when in Rome. There was a small crowd outside as I walked in, hoping to get a glimpse of the man. Beppe wandered in late – he enjoys daily siestas – waving his smartphone. ‘This,’ he said, as he sat down, ‘this is what changes everything!’ Then something weird happened. Before I’d even pressed ‘record’, he picked up the small spoon that came with his espresso, and starting staring at it, making it bend like a la Uri Geller. He looked at me, and then back at the spoon, and then back at me, and laughed.

Beppe has been one of Italy’s best-known comedians since the 1980s, partly due to his wildly popular TV show. Back in 2009, frustrated with Italian politics but enamoured with blogging, he set up Five Star, hoping to spark a digital revolution in politics. Thanks to the internet we can do away with political parties and corrupt media, he said. Big decisions can be taken on my blog via frequent plebiscites. Ordinary people can set up their own local branches of the group on www.meetup.com and select their own candidates. Five Star crashed through Italian politics like a tsunami. By the 2013 election, it won roughly 25 per cent of the vote. It has come first in the last 96 consecutive opinion polls. (Although it still might not win the upcoming election because of a centre-right alliance).

People often say that Trump is the perfect politician for the digital age. I also say that. But Grillo is a better sign of what’s coming. He’s the personification of the problems and opportunities that digital technology lays out to our ailing democracies. On one hand, he’s using all the new kit to get more people involved, circumnavigating crony party politics, and rallying people together. Bravo. But he’s also a populist iconoclast who wants to smash the system. ‘Politicians are parasites,’ he says. ‘We should send them all home!’ A few years back he held a successful ‘Fuck Off Day’ directed at the establishment. He called previous Prime Minister Monti ‘Rigor Montis’. To be fair, that’s quite a good one.

Why data science is simply the new astrology

Karthik Shashidhar:

I’ve spent most of the last six years playing around with data and drawing insights from it (a lot of those insights have been published in Mint). A lot of work that I’ve done can fall under the (rather large) umbrella of “data science”, and some of it can be classified as “machine learning”. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve been rather disappointed by what goes on in the name of data science.

Stripped to its bare essentials, machine learning is an exercise in pattern recognition. Given a set of inputs and outputs, the system tunes a set of parameters in a mathematical formula such that the outputs can be predicted with as much accuracy as possible given the inputs (I’m massively oversimplifying here, but this captures sufficient essence for this discussion).

One big advantage with machine learning is that algorithms can sometimes recognize patterns that are not easily visible to the human eye. The most spectacular application of this has been in the field of medical imaging, where time and again algorithms have been shown to outperform human experts while analysing images.

In February last year, a team of researchers from Stanford University showed that a deep learning algorithm they had built performed on par against a team of expert doctors in detecting skin cancer. In July, another team from Stanford built an algorithm to detect heart arrhythmia by analysing electrocardiograms, and showed that it outperformed the average cardiologist. More recently, algorithms to detect pneumonia and breast cancer have been shown to perform better than expert doctors.

The Rise of Virtual Citizenship

James Bridle:

“If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what citizenship means,” the British prime minister, Theresa May, declared in October 2016. Not long after, at his first postelection rally, Donald Trump asserted, “There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag.” And in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has increased his national-conservative party’s popularity with statements like “all the terrorists are basically migrants” and “the best migrant is the migrant who does not come.”
 Citizenship and its varying legal definition has become one of the key battlegrounds of the 21st century, as nations attempt to stake out their power in a G-Zero, globalized world, one increasingly defined by transnational, borderless trade and liquid, virtual finance. In a climate of pervasive nationalism, jingoism, xenophobia, and ever-building resentment toward those who move, it’s tempting to think that doing so would become more difficult. But alongside the rise of populist, identitarian movements across the globe, identity itself is being virtualized, too. It no longer needs to be tied to place or nation to function in the global marketplace.

Digital nomads are hiring and firing their governments

Danny Crichton:

The nation state has survived wars, plagues, and upheaval, but it won’t survive digital nomads, not if people like Karoli Hindriks have something to say about it. Hindriks is the founder of Jobbatical, a platform that allows digital nomads to find work in other countries and helps with the logistics of getting there.
 The company also embodies a new world of highly-skilled, global migratory workers who work wherever they please. “Our own team today is forty people and they have flown in from sixteen different countries,” Hindriks explained about a recent all-hands gathering. “One of our engineers is from Colombia, and living in Talinn, and he was hosting a Couchsurfer who flew in from Malaysia and he was our engineer in Mexico, and he was now moving to Denmark. This is the perfect example of how the world should be, and how it will be in five or ten years.”
 Benedict Anderson famously called the population of a nation state an “imagined community,” but today’s global workers have a very different community that they are imagining.

How Trump Conquered Facebook—Without Russian Ads

Antonio García Martínez:

(Speaking of Manhattan vs. Detroit prices, there are some (very nonmetaphorical) differences in media costs across the country that also impacted Trump’s ability to reach voters. Broadly, advertising costs in rural, out-of-the-way areas are considerably less than in hotly contested, dense urban areas. As each campaign tried to mobilize its base, largely rural Trump voters were probably cheaper to reach than Clinton’s urban voters. Consider Germantown, Pa. (a Philly suburb Clinton won by a landslide) vs. Belmont County, Ohio (a rural county Trump comfortably won). Actual media costs are closely guarded secrets, but Facebook’s own advertiser tools can give us some ballpark estimates. For zip code 43950 (covering the county seat of St. Clairsville, Ohio), Facebook estimates an advertiser can show an ad to about 83 people per dollar. For zip code 19144 in the Philly suburbs, that number sinks to 50 people an ad for every dollar of ad spend. Averaged over lots of time and space, the impacts on media budgets can be sizable. Anyway …)

Nobody Wants to Let Google Win the War for Maps All Over Again

Mark Bergen:

On any given day, there could be a half dozen autonomous cars mapping the same street corner in Silicon Valley. These cars, each from a different company, are all doing the same thing: building high-definition street maps, which may eventually serve as an on-board navigation guide for driverless vehicles.
 These companies converge where the law and weather are welcoming—or where they can get the most attention. For example, a flock of mapping vehicles congregates every year in the vicinity of the CES technology trade show, a hot spot for self-driving feats. “There probably have been 50 companies that mapped Las Vegas simply to do a CES drive,” said Chris McNally, an analyst with Evercore ISI. “It’s such a waste of resources.”
 Autonomous cars require powerful sensors to see and advanced software to think. They especially need up-to-the-minute maps of every conceivable roadway to move. Whoever owns the most detailed and expansive version of these maps that vehicles read will own an asset that could be worth billions.
 Which is how you get an all-out mapping war, with dozens of contenders entering into a dizzying array of alliances and burning tens of millions of investment dollars in pursuit of a massive payoff that could be years away. Alphabet Inc.’s Google emerged years ago as the winner in consumer digital maps, which human drivers use to evade rush-hour traffic or find a restaurant. Google won by blanketing the globe with its street-mapping cars and with software expertise that couldn’t be matched by navigation companies, automakers and even Apple Inc. Nobody wants to let Google win again.
 The companies working on maps for autonomous vehicles are taking two different approaches. One aims to create complete high-definition maps that will let the driverless cars of the future navigate all on their own; another creates maps piece-by-piece, using sensors in today’s vehicles that will allow cars to gradually automate more and more parts of driving.

The Role of Technology in Mortgage Lending

Andreas Fuster, Matthew Plosser,. Philipp Schnabl and James Vickery:

Technology-based (“FinTech”) lenders increased their market share of U.S. mortgage lending from 2 percent to 8 percent from 2010 to 2016. Using market-wide, loan-level data on U.S. mortgage applications and originations, we show that FinTech lenders process mortgage applications about 20 percent faster than other lenders, even when controlling for detailed loan, borrower, and geographic observables. Faster processing does not come at the cost of higher defaults. FinTech lenders adjust supply more elastically than other lenders in response to exogenous mortgage demand shocks, thereby alleviating capacity constraints associated with traditional mortgage lending. In areas with more FinTech lending, borrowers refinance more, especially when it is in their interest to do so. We find no evidence that FinTech lenders target marginal borrowers. Our results suggest that technological innovation has improved the efficiency of financial intermediation in the U.S. mortgage market.

Hacking “ai” and “ml” systems

Sarah Jamie Lewis:

But very seriously, as a general rule people who build ML systems don’t know how to secure them, just don’t do enough to tip off finance and you sit there for years.

The Case Against Google Critics say the search giant is squelching competition before it begins. Should the government step in?

Charles Duhigg:

Once Foundem.com was available to everyone, the company’s honeymoon lasted precisely two days. During its first 48 hours, the Raffs saw a rush of traffic from users typing product queries into Google and other search engines. But then, suddenly, the traffic stopped. Alarmed, Adam and Shivaun began running diagnostics. They quickly discovered that their site, which until then had been appearing near the top of search results, was now languishing on Google, mired 12 or 15 or 64 or 170 pages down. On other search engines, like MSN Search and Yahoo, Foundem still ranked high. But on Google, Foundem had effectively disappeared. And Google, of course, was where a vast majority of people searched online.
 The Raffs wondered if this could be some kind of technical error, so they began checking their coding and sending email to Google executives, begging them to fix whatever was causing Foundem to vanish. Figuring out whom to write, and how to contact them, was a challenge in itself. Although Google’s parent company bills itself as a diversified firm with about 80,000 employees, almost 90 percent of the company’s revenues derive from advertisements, like the ones that show up in search. As a result, there are few things more important to Google’s executives than protecting the firm’s search dominance, particularly among the most profitable kinds of queries, such as those of users looking to buy things online. In fact, at about the same time the Raffs were starting Foundem.com, Google executives were growing increasingly concerned about the threats that vertical-search engines posed to Google’s business.

Apocalypse now: London’s property crash has begun

Damien Reilly:

The average age of a first time mum at London’s Chelsea and Westminster hospital is 37, a statistic that tells you everything you need to know about the choices supposedly affluent city dwellers are being forced to make in the capital. For the middle classes, the cost of living in London — the cost of getting by — long ago went past insane (£17,040: the cost per year of educating a four year-old child at Thomas’s school in Fulham, not including uniform). It’s the incredible price of property, of course, that’s been the engine driving this madness, ratcheting the pressure ever higher on Londoners who don’t own a home while making very wealthy, on paper at least, those who do.
For the last two decades and more, the capital’s property market to all intents and purposes has behaved like a giant Ponzi scheme played on a global scale. Money from all over the world has poured into London bricks, inflating values unrealistically in relation to wages, while the lavish bonuses paid to European bankers working in the City have also stoked momentum responsible for pushing up, for example, the average price of a London semi-detached house by 553 per cent between January 1995 and November 2017, from £133,820 to £873,603.

The Hierarchy of Engagement, expanded

Sarah Tavel:

Almost a year ago, I published a framework I called The Hierarchy of Engagement, that synthesized my thinking on how to build a product that endures.

Since then, I’ve had countless conversations with founders about the hierarchy and how it impacts their product roadmaps. And over the past year, each time I presented it, I found myself tweaking, clarifying, adding layers.

The presentation is still mostly the same, but there are enough differences I figured it was worth publishing the expanded version, pasted below. As always, please let me know if you have any feedback or questions.

From Disruption to Dystopia: Silicon Valley Envisions the City of the Future

Joe Kotkin:

The tech oligarchs who already dominate our culture and commerce, manipulate our moods, and shape the behaviors of our children while accumulating capital at a rate unprecedented in at least a century want to fashion our urban future in a way that dramatically extends the reach of the surveillance state already evident in airports and on our phones.
 Redesigning cities has become all the rage in the tech world, with Google parent company Alphabet leading the race to build a new city of its own and companies like Y Combinator, Lyft, Cisco, and Panasonic all vying to design the so-called smart city.
 It goes without saying, this is not a matter of merely wanting to do good. These companies are promoting these new cities as fitter, happier, more productive, and convenient places, even as they are envisioning cities with expanded means to monitor our lives, and better market our previously private information to advertisers.
 This drive is the latest expansion of the Valley’s narcissistic notion of “changing the world” through disruption of its existing structures and governments and the limits those still place on the tech giants’ grandest ambitions. This new urban vision negates the notion of organic city-building and replaces it with an algorithmic regime that seeks to rationalize, and control, our way of life.
 In reality, Google is entering the “smart city” business in no small part to develop high-tech dormitories for youthful tech workers and the cheaper foreign noncitizen workers in the U.S., including H1B indentured servants; overall noncitizens make up the vast majority of the Valley’s tech workforce. Even as the tech fortunes have grown ever larger, the companies own workers have been left behind, with the average programmer earning about as much today as she did in 1998 even as housing costs in tech hubs have exploded.

Fiction is outperforming reality’: how YouTube’s algorithm distorts truth

Paul Lewis:

It was one of January’s most viral videos. Logan Paul, a YouTube celebrity, stumbles across a dead man hanging from a tree. The 22-year-old, who is in a Japanese forest famous as a suicide spot, is visibly shocked, then amused. “Dude, his hands are purple,” he says, before turning to his friends and giggling. “You never stand next to a dead guy?”
 Paul, who has 16 million mostly teen subscribers to his YouTube channel, removed the video from YouTube 24 hours later amid a furious backlash. It was still long enough for the footage to receive 6m views and a spot on YouTube’s coveted list of trending videos.
 ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia
 The next day, I watched a copy of the video on YouTube. Then I clicked on the “Up next” thumbnails of recommended videos that YouTube showcases on the right-hand side of the video player. This conveyor belt of clips, which auto-play by default, are designed to seduce us to spend more time on Google’s video broadcasting platform. I was curious where they might lead.
 The answer was a slew of videos of men mocking distraught teenage fans of Logan Paul, followed by CCTV footage of children stealing things and, a few clicks later, a video of children having their teeth pulled out with bizarre, homemade contraptions.

How I Cracked Facebook’s New Algorithm And Tortured My Friends

Katie Notopoulos:

Last Saturday — 12 days ago now — I shared a cringeworthy video on Facebook: a 6-minute clip of a twentysomething white woman showing off her small, blandly decorated Brooklyn apartment. Sort of the pumpkin spice latte version of MTV Cribs — innocuous, but annoying. Ever since, this video has been waging a reign of terror over my friends and family, showing up at the top of their feeds every single day, over and over and over. They are complaining to me on Facebook. They are complaining to me in real life. They are tweeting me about it and emailing me. Begging me to remove this cursed video that greets them each time they open Facebook.
 And of course, they commented on my post. And then people commented on the comments. The more people commented, the more the video showed up on other people’s feeds. As the rage around this post intensified, so did the comments. Coworkers I sit next to commented. College friends commented. Someone I went to preschool with commented. A vicious, algorithmically delicious cycle.
 After a few days, the comments shifted from “I hate this woman’s apartment” to “why is this video constantly at the top of Facebook?” or “please, I beg you, delete this video,” and eventually, my boss commenting “please write about this.”

Eight reasons Facebook has peaked

Amol Rajan:

On the surface, Facebook is one of the most successful commercial propositions in the history of business. Its market capitalisation is today over half a trillion dollars. Shares are six times more valuable today than five years ago. Though they trade at a lower price to its forward earnings multiple than at any time since Facebook went public, in 2012, the overall picture is one of astonishing growth and wealth.

As the unmissable Miles Johnson wrote in the Financial Times yesterday: “The social network… is increasing revenues at more than 50 per cent a quarter and earnings per share at more than 70 per cent, making its profitability and growth light-years ahead of the average US-listed company”.
That analysis comes in an article which suggests that, for now, Facebook is “valued at a discount to the wider market despite giddy growth”. As short-term advice for investors, this strikes me as correct.

Yet the medium and longer-term picture look very different. In fact, Facebook is accumulating enemies and challenges at such a rate that its horizons have suddenly become somewhat clouded.

Advertisers Tuning Out TV in Sign of Trouble for Media Companies

Lucas Shaw:

Television-advertising sales in the U.S. fell 7.8 percent to $61.8 billion last year, the steepest drop outside of a recession in at least 20 years, while sales at cable networks slumped for the first time in almost a decade. And there’s no sign of a pickup in 2018, excluding cyclical events like the Olympics and the midterm elections, according to data from Magna Global.

The decline in TV viewership is accelerating as online rivals Google and Facebook have increased their investments in video, capturing almost every new advertising dollar entering the marketplace. Television ad sales have fallen even as global advertising grows, leading research firms and analysts to predict that the business may never recover.

Sustainable Sources of Competitive Advantage

Morgan Housel:

David Paul Gregg invented the CD, which is amazing and changed history. But you’ve probably never heard of him because CDs aren’t difficult to make, and lost relevance over time.

Most things work this way. As soon as a smart product or business idea becomes popular, the urge to copy it and commoditize it is the strongest force economics can unleash. Jeff Bezos summed this up when he said “Your margin is my opportunity.”

The key to business and investing success isn’t finding an advantage. It’s having a sustainable advantage. Something that others either can’t or aren’t willing to copy once your idea is exposed and patents expire.

The effect of ad blocking on website traffic and quality

Benjamin Shiller, Joel Waldfogel and Johnny Ryan:

Ad blocking software allows Internet users to obtain information without generating ad revenue for site owners, potentially undermining investments in content. We explore the impact of site-level ad blocker usage on website quality, as inferred from traffic. We find that each additional percentage point of site visitors blocking ads reduces its traffic by 0.67% over 35 months. Impacted sites provide less content over time, providing corroboration for the mechanism. Effects on revenue are compounded; ad blocking reduces visits, and remaining visitors blocking ads do not generate revenue. We conclude that ad blocking poses a threat to the ad-supported web.

Less-cool Facebook losing youth at fast pace: survey


With mom, dad and grandma signing up in increasing numbers, Facebook is losing younger users in the United States at a faster pace than previously estimated, researchers said Monday.

A report by eMarketer said Snapchat is drawing youths away from Facebook at a quicker clip than Facebook-owned Instagram.

Facebook is still growing in the US market, according to research firm, mainly due to increases in usage by older age groups.

The report is the latest to highlight Facebook’s problem with attracting and keeping young people, who have long been a core user base for the world’s biggest social network.

The research firm said it expected the first-ever decline in the 18-24 age group in the US, a drop of 5.8 percent this year.

It also said that for the first time since its research began, less than half of the 12-17 age group in the United States would be on Facebook, with a 5.6 percent drop in that segment.

The under-12 age group meanwhile will see a decline of 9.3 percent this year, eMarketer said.

German court rules Facebook use of personal data illegal

Hans-Edzard Busemann, Nadine Schimroszik:

The verdict, from a Berlin regional court, comes as Big Tech faces increasing scrutiny in Germany over its handling of sensitive personal data that enables it to micro-target online advertising.
 The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzvb) said that Facebook’s default settings and some of its terms of service were in breach of consumer law, and that the court had found parts of the consent to data usage to be invalid.
 “Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy-friendly in its privacy center and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register,” said Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the vzvb.
 “This does not meet the requirement for informed consent.” The vzvb posted a copy of the ruling on its website. A court spokesperson confirmed that a judgment had been handed down but declined further comment.

Inside the Two Years that Shook Facebook—and the World

Nicholas Thompson:

In any case, Facebook’s move into news set off yet another explosion of ways that people could connect. Now Facebook was the place where publications could connect with their readers—and also where Macedonian teenagers could connect with voters in America, and operatives in Saint Petersburg could connect with audiences of their own choosing in a way that no one at the company had ever seen before.

In February of 2016, just as the Trending Topics fiasco was building up steam, Roger ­McNamee became one of the first Facebook insiders to notice strange things happening on the platform. McNamee was an early investor in Facebook who had mentored Zuckerberg through two crucial decisions: to turn down Yahoo’s offer of $1 billion to acquire Facebook in 2006; and to hire a Google executive named Sheryl Sandberg in 2008 to help find a business model. McNamee was no longer in touch with Zuckerberg much, but he was still an investor, and that month he started seeing things related to the Bernie Sanders campaign that worried him. “I’m observing memes ostensibly coming out of a Facebook group associated with the Sanders campaign that couldn’t possibly have been from the Sanders campaign,” he recalls, “and yet they were organized and spreading in such a way that suggested somebody had a budget. And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘That’s really weird. I mean, that’s not good.’ ”

But McNamee didn’t say anything to anyone at Facebook—at least not yet. And the company itself was not picking up on any such worrying signals, save for one blip on its radar: In early 2016, its security team noticed an uptick in Russian actors attempting to steal the credentials of journalists and public figures. Facebook reported this to the FBI. But the company says it never heard back from the government, and that was that.

The post text future

Farhad Manjoo:

THIS MULTIMEDIA INTERNET has been gaining on the text-based internet for years. But last year, the story accelerated sharply, and now audio and video are unstoppable. The most influential communicators online once worked on web pages and blogs. They’re now making podcasts, Netflix shows, propaganda memes, Instagram and YouTube channels, and apps like HQ Trivia.

Consider the most compelling digital innovations now emerging: the talking assistants that were the hit of the holidays, Apple’s face-reading phone, artificial intelligence to search photos or translate spoken language, and augmented reality — which inserts any digital image into a live view of your surroundings.

These advances are all about cameras, microphones, your voice, your ears and your eyes.

Together, they’re all sending us the same message: Welcome to the post-text future.

The number of people using Facebook daily in North America dropped for the first time

Matt Rosoff:

The number of people in the U.S. and Canada who check Facebook every day dropped between the third and fourth quarter of 2017, the first such quarterly drop in company history.
 Facebook usage in North America has been largely flat for the last several years, leaving international growth to pick up the slack. But the drop suggests that Facebook usage has reached a saturation point in its first and most lucrative market, and could foretell similar usage drops around the world.
 The drop could also be a result of a steady drumbeat of negative press about Facebook, including concern over foreign governments using Facebook posts to divide the U.S. electorate during the 2016 election season, and growing concern over violent and other inappropriate content on the site.
 If usage flattens, Facebook will have to pack more ads into the News Feed, charge advertisers more per impression, or figure out new and similarly profitable business areas to maintain long-term growth.

The Death of Clothing

Lindsey Rupp, Chloe Whiteaker, Matt Townsend and Kim Bhasin:

The apparel industry has a big problem. At a time when the economy is growing, unemployment is low, wages are rebounding and consumers are eager to buy, Americans are spending less and less on clothing.
 The woes of retailers are often blamed on Amazon.com Inc. and its vise grip on e-commerce shoppers. Consumers glued to their phones would rather browse online instead of venturing out to their local malls, and that’s crushed sales and hastened the bankruptcies of brick-and-mortar stalwarts from American Apparel to Wet Seal.
 But that’s not the whole story. The apparel industry seems to have no solution to the dwindling dollars Americans devote to their closets. Many upstarts promising to revolutionize the industry drift away with barely a whimper. Who needs fashion these days when you can express yourself through social media? Why buy that pricey new dress when you could fund a weekend getaway instead?
 Apparel has simply lost its appeal. And there doesn’t seem to be a savior in sight. As a result, more and more apparel companies—from big-name department stores to trendy online startups—are folding.

Tackling the Internet’s Central Villain: The Advertising Business

Farhad Manjoo:

Pretend you are the lead detective on a hit new show, “CSI: Terrible Stuff on the Internet.” In the first episode, you set up one of those crazy walls plastered with headlines and headshots, looking for hidden connections between everything awful that’s been happening online recently.
 There’s a lot of dark stuff. In one corner, you have the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election with digital propaganda. In another, a rash of repugnant videos on YouTube, with children being mock-abused, cartoon characters bizarrely committing suicide on the kids’ channel and a popular vlogger recording a body hanging from a tree.
 Then there’s tech “addiction,” the rising worry that adults and kids are getting hooked on smartphones and social networks despite our best efforts to resist the constant desire for a fix. And all over the internet, general fakery abounds — there are millions of fake followers on Twitter and Facebook, fake rehab centers being touted on Google and even fake review sites to sell you a mattress.
 So who is the central villain in this story, the driving force behind much of the chaos and disrepute online?

Publicis’ Tobaccowala: Advertising Will Decline 30% In Next 5 Years

Umair Haque:

Media’s in cataclysmic shape these days — publishers closing big and small, newspapers going out of business, consolidation and layoffs everywhere — and it’s easy to blame technology.
 There was a war that happened here — and media lost. Who won? Well, the truth is that no one did. The monopolies that Google and Facebook made money, sure — but now they face a steep backlash, social ridicule, oversight, and regulation. A pyrrhic victory, if you ask me.
 Who started this war for attention? What was at the heart of it? Who should have ended it? The truth is that the lion’s share of responsibility for a fatally broken media industry lies with advertising, not technology. Let us think about it one step at a time.
 Ad agencies had two roads before them, as the digital revolution dawned. One, go on selling the same old ads — nuisances, basically, that people had to put up with, in order to get to what they really valued — only in greater volume, because they would be cheaper. Two, innovate — and turn ads into things that people genuinely benefit from a little bit. Road one was an algorithmic, dehumanized road. Road two was the human, creative one.

Publicis’ Tobaccowala: Advertising Will Decline 30% In Next 5 Years

Joe Mandese:

At a time when it seems there are more opportunities to advertise than ever before, one of Madison Avenue’s most visionary futurists predicts the ability of advertising to actually reach consumers will decline “20% to 30%” over the next five years.
 “We will increasingly have less and less advertising,” Publicis Groupe’s Rishad Tobaccowala said during the opening session of CIMM’s Cross-Platform Media Measurement & Data Summit in New York City Thursday afternoon.
 That’s an ironic prediction for an ad executive whose title is chief growth officer, but Tobaccowala predicted it’s inevitable that the ability to reach people with ads will drop precipitously over the next several years because of a variety of factors, but especially because it’s simply not a good experience for most people.

The craft Life

Ryan Avent:

The craft distillery business is booming in the District of Columbia, as it is around the country. Within the context of industrialised economies as a whole, these businesses represent a drop in the sea. On one estimate, craft spirits account for roughly 2% of the American market. Yet they are part of a growing movement that is transforming the consumer economy in cities around the world. The District’s first winery opened not long ago, and the city’s bars inevitably carry several locally brewed beers on draught. There are craft-made pickles and craft-roasted coffee beans. There are craft, nose-to-tail butchers selling cuts of locally raised beef. There are potters and leatherworkers. There are traditional barbershops, which will cut your hair and trim your handlebar moustache, and tailors who will make an appropriately Victorian suit to go with it. There are – no joke – sellers of artisanal ice.

Google’s per click revenue continues to decline, TAC grows 33%

Jack Nicas:

RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney attributed the earnings miss to higher expenses related to so-called traffic acquisition costs, or fees Alphabet pays to such partners as Apple Inc. to put its services front and center on their devices. Those fees rose 33% to $6.45bn from a year ago.

“The negative is expenses came in heavier than expected,” he said. “That raises a question: How much revenue is this company having to give away to maintain these growth rates?” Ms. Porat blamed the rise in traffic-acquisition costs on the company’s highest-growth areas—mobile search and so-called programmatic ads where Google places ads on partners’ content—which carry higher fees. Ms. Porat said some of these costs would ease after the first quarter.

Yet the amount of money Google rakes in for each ad click has fallen steadily in recent years. It earns less from mobile-search and YouTube ads, which are rapidly growing, than from traditional desktop search ads. Google said its revenue per click fell 14% in the quarter from a year ago, after an 18% decline in the third quarter.

It’s time to address the elephant in the room: Influencers don’t really influence anything or anyone!

Elinor Cohen:

Earlier this week a major shitstorm hit the Internet, when a boutique hotel owner posted a screenshot of an email he received from a travel blogger and “influencer”, asking for a free stay (in the period of Valentine’s day no less!) in return for “coverage” and promotion to her (80k) followers. He posted a very sarcastic and direct reply, rejecting the request. He did not name the blogger, and even hid her details from the screenshot, yet somehow, this blew out of proportions, with her getting “shamed” and “outed” (how, exactly? One has to wonder…) and posting a viral video that only made things worse.

I can go into many details about what is wrong in the way she approached the hotel, the mistakes both parties made, and about the things that are actually awesome about the parties’ behavior. In fact, to me it appears like a well-orchestrated “crisis” that benefits all from the virality of the matter. However, this is neither the time nor the place for an influencer outreach “how-to” post.

New York’s Hidden Home Buyer Closing Costs: Luxury Boxes and Mint Mojitos

Shane Goldmacher:

And New York home buyers picked up the tab, at least indirectly.

The extravagant evening was just one night of entertainment in the title insurance industry, an obscure corner of the real estate world that has spent tens of millions of dollars to win the favor and business of its clients at ballparks, Madison Square Garden luxury suites, exclusive country clubs, expensive steakhouses, even strip clubs.

All that spending has been baked into the title insurance rates that New Yorkers seldom scrutinize in the stressful rush to complete a closing, which state regulators say are hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars higher than in neighboring states like Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jerse

Google and Facebook are watching our every move online. It’s time to make them stop

Gabriel Weinberg:

To make any real progress in advancing data privacy this year, we have to start doing something about Google and Facebook. Not doing so would be like trying to lose weight without changing your diet. Simply ineffective.

The impact these two companies have on our privacy cannot be understated. You may know that hidden trackers lurk on most websites you visit, soaking up your personal information.

What you may not realize, though, is 76 percent of websites now contain hidden Google trackers, and 24 percent have hidden Facebook trackers, according to the Princeton Web Transparency & Accountability Project. The next highest is Twitter with 12 percent. It is likely that Google or Facebook are watching you on many sites you visit, in addition to tracking you when using their products.

Fannie Mae CEO reflects on housing 10 years after the financial crisis

Kai Ryssdal and Bridget Bodnar:

Look, I have no doubt that private capital ought to play the primary role of backing the housing finance system —
 Ryssdal: Say that again. Here’s a guy who runs Fannie Mae saying private capital ought to be doing it.
 Mayopoulos: Private capital ought to be the primary source of funding for the housing markets in the United States. And in fact, the innovations that we’ve been a big part of since conservatorship was imposed nine years ago have contributed to that. So if you think historically, Fannie Mae has this enormous balance sheet, we’re making all these loans, we have 18 million mortgage loans on our balance sheet. Historically, we would have held all of that credit risk for the life of those assets. Today we don’t do that. We now transfer a very significant part of that credit risk to private capital. In other words, we’re essentially getting reinsurance on what we have. So people have the impression that Fannie and Freddie are continuing to take all this risk. We still take some risk, but we are transferring a very very big part of that risk to private capital.

The Problem Isn’t Technology. It’s Us.

Bob Hoffman:

A few years ago we entered what might be termed the “technological” era of advertising. In this era, machines and software took a lot of the tasks that used to be done by people and started to do them quicker, and in some cases better.
 Recently, we have thought of ad technology mostly in terms of media. But technology has influenced the advertising business in many other ways including film production, computer design, data collection and analysis, etc.
 Technology, in fact, has influenced all aspects of the advertising business. In many instances for the better, in some, for the worse.
 The problem we have yet to come to terms with is that there is a difference between technology and science. We view our modern technological tools as giving us a scientific way of doing advertising. Before technology we were mostly guessing at what was working and what wasn’t. Today we believe that technology gives us a much truer picture of advertising reality.
 I am not convinced.

Tech Giants Brace for Europe’s New Data Privacy Rules

Sheera Frankel:

Over the past two months, Google has started letting people around the world choose what data they want to share with its various products, including Gmail and Google Docs.

Amazon recently began improving the data encryption on its cloud storage service and simplified an agreement with customers over how it processes their information.

How Amazon’s Ad Business Could Threaten Google and Facebook

Christopher Mims:

It’s easy to see how Amazon.com Inc. threatens the world’s retailers. But analysts, brands and advertising agencies are waking up to the fact that a growing piece of Amazon’s business impinges on turf now controlled by two other tech titans, Google and Facebook.

Amazon’s decade-old advertising business hasn’t generated much revenue or notice until recently. One sign of the turning point was last June, at the annual meeting of advertising giant WPP PLC. Calling the retailer “highly disruptive in many ways,” WPP Chief Executive…

Financial State of the Cities 2016

Truth in Accounting :

On January 24, Truth in Accounting released its second Financial State of the Cities report, a comprehensive analysis of the fiscal health of the nation’s most populous cities based on fiscal year 2016 comprehensive annual financial reports. This year, we have expanded our study to include the 75 most populated cities.
 This year, the study found that 64 cities do not have enough money to pay all of their bills, and in total, the cities have racked up $335.4 billion in unfunded municipal debt. The study ranks the cities according to their Taxpayer Burden or Surplus™, which is each taxpayer’s share of city bills after available assets have been tapped. Check out the data for your city at the State Data Lab.