MediaFile

50 shades of like

We are losing our faith in TV news as fast as those high-speed chases it’s so happy to show us. At the same time, we’re driving like maniacs on the social-media highway, letting it all hang out with the top down.

What do they have to do with each other? Both are advertiser-supported media. One prints money, the other not so much, at least not yet. And yet one is on the downswing, the other ascendant. What does this say about human nature and tapping into elusive and guilty pleasures?

In its annual poll, Gallup Politics found that only 21 percent of respondents expressed a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in TV news – less than half what it was when the poll was first conducted in 1993, but down only a point from last year.

But then this report, from RTDNA and Hofstra: TV news hiring is up – way up:

The survey found that TV news added 1,131 jobs in 2011 to reach a total full-time employment tally of 27,653, representing a 4.3% gain over the previous year. (The highest level of TV news staffing occurred in 2000).

42.9% of stations reported that they increased staff in 2011 and 46.2% said that staff size stayed the same. Fox-affiliates were more likely than any other group to increase staff size, and stations in the South were more likely to have added employees than stations in other regions.

Google’s Schmidt wants to put you in a self-driving car

Google executives never miss a chance to talk up the futuristic self-driving cars the company is developing.

Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt gave an update on Google’s automotive efforts during a chit-chat with reporters at the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley on Thursday.

“We have had conversations with all of the manufacturers globally, when politicians come by we love to put them in the car and drive them around at full blast,” Schmidt said.

Fortune 500 executives behind on social networking

With more than half of the U.S. public on Facebook and more than 200 million tweets sent each day (about 30 percent from the U.S.), American life is continuing to enmesh itself with social networks. But for the CEOs of the top 500 U.S. companies, social networking is a small — if existent — piece of successful living.

In a report released Thursday by Domo and CEO.com, the online presence of Fortune 500 companies’ top executives was compared to that of the general public, revealing that less than 30 percent have at least one profile on social networks. The vast majority have none.

Some of these accounts sit inactive — five of the 19 CEOs on Twitter have never tweeted — while others seem underutilized — 25 of the 38 CEOs on Facebook have less than 100 friends. The only social network that these executives outdo the U.S. public on is LinkedIn, the “world’s largest professional network.”

Google enters the tablet wars with a small, safe bet

Google took another bite at the hardware apple with the announcement Wednesday of the Nexus Seven tablet. The tablet, very wisely, is not looking to compete with Apple’s iPad – the indisputable leader — but rather the smaller, cheaper tablets from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Outside of the iPad monolith, the Kindle Fire and Nook Color have been the most competitive entrants (albeit modestly) since Apple created the market in 2010.

Google’s Nexus Seven is a safe bet and, especially given Microsoft’s (sort of) foray into tablets, not entirely unexpected from the search and advertising giant.

And that’s why Google is smart to go after a part of the market where Apple doesn’t compete — the iPad is a “full-sized” device of 9.5 inches that starts at $500. There’s no reason to believe Apple is interested in making a 7-inch model, a size the late Steve Jobs derided. But both Amazon’s Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet are 7-inch models that retail for $200, the same as Google’s Nexus Seven. By going after less-entrenched – but still huge! – companies, Google’s success doesn’t have to be measured against Apple’s. It can start small – literally – and see if it makes inroads against two companies still trying to make inroads themselves.

Apple, Google and the price of world domination

In his first appearance at the World Wide Developer’s Conference as spiritual leader of the Apple faithful, CEO Tim Cook made it clear that he intends to not just further Steve Job’s vision but expand upon it. It’s never been more clear that Apple is intent on world domination.

Conspiracy theory? No. Try inescapable conclusion.

What else are we to make of Apple removing Google Maps from the iPhone? Google Maps was a core feature on the very first iPhone, but it will disappear in an iOS software update announced Monday at Apple’s developer conference.

Apple’s tension with Google is legendary. They began as friendly neighbors in largely complementary businesses – former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was even on Apple’s board. But after the introduction of the Android, Steve Jobs’s anger at Google’s entry into the mobile phone business was palpable.

Google sets Zagat free

This morning, Google took the wraps off  how it plans to use Zagat, the popular restaurant guide known for its burgundy pocket books. The Zagat restaurant  listings are now incorporated in Google + and its local service and, more to the point, are now free. People can access more than 35,000 summarized user reviews from Zagat for more than 90 cities across the globe using either Google +, its search function or through maps.

Google said it will continue to publish the guidebooks and expand to other cities like Dubai, Sydney and Melbourne.

Google picked up Zagat for $151 million last September in a move to broaden its offerings for local based content. Founded by Tim and Nina Zagat,  the 30-plus year old eponymous guide  takes customer surveys and compiles them into brief and snappy summaries . It was a pioneer of amassing local restaurant reviews by people but over the years it  faced stiff challenges from upstarts such as Yelp– especially when a majority of Zagat’s content was subscription based.

Google touts its ad metrics as Facebook confronts hurdles

Google just put out a study touting metrics as a way to sell more advertising.

But the most interesting part of the study is the timing. It comes on the heels of the Facebook advertising fiasco, when just days before its hotly anticipated IPO, General Motors said it would stop advertising on the social network, raising the question of the value of a Facebook ad.

The lure of online advertising has always been the promise of immediate and precise information (in theory at least) about how an ad worked. In industry speak, it is referred to as ROI– return on investment.

Google and Facebook are fierce rivals for online advertising and part of the reason for Facebook’s astronomical valuation (yes, even though its IPO was widely considered a flop)  is the promise of it sucking up more ad dollars down the line.

Facebook’s passive-aggressive friendship

We are witnessing a fascinating changing-of-the-guard moment in tech. The old Internet, represented this week by once-mighty Yahoo, is fumbling with another leadership crisis it must solve before it can even think about restoring some semblance of relevance. The new Internet, Facebook, is ruled by a young man in a hoodie who is on the verge of creating a massive public company that, as was the nascent Yahoo back in the early ’90s, will be an Internet darling longer on potential than track record, but running hard on an open field.

The common thread might seem to be the “If it’s big, it’s gotta be BIG” illusion that got us all in trouble at the turn of the millennium, when Internet investment hysteria equated today’s eyeballs with tomorrow’s profits. But it’s always about the profits, and the people who promise them. This time that person is Mark Zuckerberg, who as the books on the Facebook IPO closed Tuesday, well in advance of Friday’s first trade, seems to have convinced Wall Street that his seven-year-old company could be worth more than $100 billion — the richest-ever launch in Silicon Valley.

When you value your company at 100 times revenues, investors are banking on the belief that Zuckerberg has perfected the unstable compound that is social abandon and advertiser hunger.

Instagram’s Facebook filter

The startup had millions of users, but, from the beginning, just one customer.

The predominant way of interpreting Facebook’s billion-dollar purchase of Instagram, in light of the social-networking giant’s forthcoming IPO, is that Mark Zuckerberg had to pick up the photo-sharing app to boost his company’s mobile engagement. That would allow him to guard the mobile flank against incursions from Google, Twitter, and whatever other social-media tools might next arise.

That may be true – and it may even be the way Zuck thought about the deal when he swallowed hard and ponied up the purchase price. But that way of analyzing Facebook’s pickup, and the pickup of dozens of other startups, not just by Facebook but by Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and others, is probably not telling the whole story. Here’s a different theory, one that better describes the tech world that we, the users of the Internet, now inhabit: Instagram may have had millions of us as its users, but it was really built for just one customer: Facebook.

Silicon Valley, for too long, has confused the issue of what it means to be a user of a website, service or app, and what it means to be a customer of the app. Intuitively, you’d think they would be one and the same: The person using the app is the person consuming the app. But increasingly, apps are being made to grab the attention of the hegemonic companies in tech. Whatever it takes to get bought.

A looking glass into the post-smartphone era

Permit me to not act my age.

I was all grown up already when the Internet became a big deal, scarcely two decades ago. I was like a kid in a candy store. Still, I’ve only had a couple of heart-stopping moments in those 20 years in which everything has changed.

My heart skipped a beat (along with probably only thousands of others) when I downloaded Mosaic, the first Web browser, on the first day it was released. It consistently froze up. But that small, terribly flawed piece of software was really a time portal, showing me the future, and I could barely breathe.

Two years ago I got my hands on the first iPad on the first day it went on sale. My unboxing was unceremonious because I had to rush and show it off during a couple of TV interviews. But when I got home late on that Saturday in April and finally had a chance to put it through its paces, it took my breath away. I was a kid again: full of wonder and utterly immune to negativity.