"Unriddled" is HubSpot's weekly digest of the tech headlines you need to know. We give you the top tech stories in a quick, scannable way and break it all down. It's tech news: explained.
Mark Zuckerberg Speaks: The Future of News on Facebook
Last January, Facebook made a major announcement -- and said that, moving forward, it would overhaul its News Feed to shift the type of content users see first, and most often. The reason, according to the company's official statement: "So people have more opportunities to interact with the people they care about."
More recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with Mathias Döpfner -- CEO of Axel Springer, one of Germany's largest publishers -- that the company is considering a future in which Facebook pays publishers what is essentially a licensing fee for what "high quality news."
In addition to the significant change in tune after last year's pivot to less news and publisher content, there are two key elements of this story that we're watching the closest.
The first is how and where this publisher content would appear: a dedicated news tab, which would likely come in the form of an icon on the footer of the Facebook app, much like the current Facebook Watch app.
Similar to the approach of Facebook Watch -- and other premium video content services and models -- a Facebook news tab would build on what Zuckerberg described as a potential "direct relationship" between the company and publishers, so as to make "high-quality content" accessible to users.
That idea somewhat strays from Zuckerberg's other recent remarks on his vision for (eventually) pivoting Facebook -- and its portfolio of companies, including Instagram and WhatsApp -- to a "private, encrypted services" platform, with a specific focus on messaging.
But that dichotomy between Zuckerberg's seemingly contrasting schools of thought is a catalyst for the second element of this story that we're watching the closest: the timing of Zuckerberg's news-related remarks.
Last week, Apple unveiled a host of new services, including Apple News+: A news subscription service where users can subscribe to their choice of more than 300 magazines and newspapers.
The pro: Human editors hand-selecting high-quality news stories from a range of publishers, for a monthly fee of $9.99 (in the U.S.). The con: Apple is said to be taking as much as 50% cut of the subscription revenue, cutting into publisher revenue.
At the time of the Apple event, Sarah Frier of Bloomberg compared Apple's approach to the concept a news platform or aggregate, to Facebook's:
To address fake news —— Sarah Frier (@sarahfrier) June 25, 2018
-3rd party fact checkers
-Algorithm ranked by news trustworthiness poll
-“how to spot fake news” education
- less news in feed
- publishers in political ad database
- not being “arbiters of truth”
Then, an article about Zuckerberg's conversation with Döpfner appeared in the Guardian with the title, "Facebook Considering Hiring Editors to Pick Quality News for Users".
As Recode's Peter Kafka puts it, "Facebook's newest news idea [is] free for users ... may pay publishers a license fee [and] may give them a (better) cut of ad" revenue. In other words, Facebook appears to have taken a cue from the Apple News+ model -- with a potentially better deal or outcome for publishers.
Facebook, meanwhile, is making other, more subtle changes to the role and appearance of news on its network -- including the introduction of a "Why am I seeing this?" label that explains why a user might be seeing a certain post based on her past interactions with other content on the News Feed. Read full story >>
Can I Get Some Fries With That AI?
Fast food chain McDonald's is reportedly acquiring Dynamic Yield: an artificial intelligence (AI) company that uses machine learning to personalize online shopping experiences (e.g., product recommendations). The deal, according to sources, is worth about $300 million.
So, why is McDonald's throwing its deep-fried hat into the AI ring? According to TechCrunch, the company will use Dynamic Yield's technology to create smart, self-taught drive through menus that are updated in realtime to reflect things like weather ("Hey, it's hot -- fancy an ice cream cone?"), restaurant wait times, and trending orders.
Plus, the system is also self-taught to learn customer preferences. "Once you’ve started ordering," writes Anthony Ha, "the display can also recommend additional items based on what you’ve already chosen."
The acquisition is a reflection into the explosive entrance of a growing number of companies into the AI realm, and the variety of use cases for the technology. As digital analyst Benedict Evans puts it, "Pretty soon there will not be any 'AI' companies - there are just companies using software to solve specific problems." Read full story >>
Apple Cancels the Launch of Its Wireless Charging Pad
Following its star-studded services launch event last week, Apple is taking a cue to exit the stage -- at least, when it comes to its plans for one item of hardware.
At the same time Apple unveiled the iPhone X in 2017, it also announced the wireless charging capabilities for all of the iPhone models launched that day -- which would be powered by the AirPower wireless charger.
But over a year later, Apple has pulled the plug on AirPower, citing the product's inability to "achieve our high standards" as the chief reason behind the cancellation.
As others have pointed out, it's not unusual for Apple to release an arguably half-baked product only to face disappointing feedback and reviews (e.g., its HomePod smart speaker). What is unusual, however, is for Apple to delay a product launch for more than a year, only to cancel it. Read full story >>
Happy Birthday Gmail: How Google Is Celebrating 15 Years of Email
Ah, email services. They grow up so fast -- and Gmail is no exception. Right before our and Google's eyes, it's turned 15. Of course, Google had to ring in its email service's birthday with a proper celebration -- which, for that particular company, comes in the form of announcing new features and updates. Here's a look at some of them. Read full story >>
What (Else) You Missed Last Month in Google
In addition to Gmail's 15th birthday, Google had a very busy March. From a core algorithm update and a big gaming service announcement, to a dedicated hotel search site and shoppable ads on image search -- these are the top stories from Google that you may have missed last month. Read full story >>
How Breaking Glass Ceilings and a Collaboration With "Wired" Boosted a Rebrand: An Interview With ADP CMO Lorraine Barber-Miller
As Women's History Month came to a close last week, we wanted to look back at one of our favorite SXSW brand activations -- where barriers were broken, and lessons on co-marketing emerged. Read full story >>
Why the Gig Economy’s Minimum Wage Debate Matters to Platforms
Contractors at multiple delivery platforms have partnered with labor advocacy groups to demand a $15/hour minimum wage across the entire gig economy. Here's why we should all be watching. Read full story >>