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Big Revolution - Vice capital

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Welcome to Wednesday's Big Revolution, coming to you from the confusing place that is Brexit Britain.
 
March 13 · Issue #370 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Wednesday’s Big Revolution, coming to you from the confusing place that is Brexit Britain.
– Martin from Big Revolution

Big things you need to know today
  • Google is downsizing the hardware division responsible for laptops and tablets, Business Insider reports. The move could impact on the future of devices like the Pixelbook and the Pixel Slate.
  • Tune is a new Chrome extension designed to clean up comment sections on the web. It’s created by Alphabet’s Jigsaw, and uses the company’s ‘Perspective’ A.I., which has been used on sites like the New York Times and Wikipedia.
  • Switzerland’s new online voting system can be secretly manipulated, researchers say. They’re calling for plans to put it to use in real elections to be suspended.
  • The latest version of Google Chrome introduces dark mode and brings support for progressive web apps (websites that ‘install’ on your computer or phone) to the Mac.
The big thought
Vice capital
A few years ago, it seemed like any media company with a hip New York City address and the right story could raised eyewatering amounts of venture capital funding.
Working at the time at a media company that didn’t raise VC, I was jealous of our rivals during this period. They shot ahead of us in terms of hires and traffic, and I wanted a taste of that sweet investor money to allow us to compete on equal terms.
These days, not taking VC was clearly the wisest move. The recent layoffs at VC-funded media companies reflect the fact they have failed to find a sustainable business model with all that cash.
It was never a secret that media companies generally don’t generate the kinds of return on investment VCs look for. The whole thing was a mirage. Media companies needed cash for their chance at becoming the next Disney or News Corp. VCs were looking for big, bold bets. Common sense went out the window in the face of too much money.
That’s why it’s exasperating to see The Information’s report that Vice Media is looking to raise an additional $200m on top for the $1.4 BILLION it’s already raised. The company reportedly hopes to be profitable within a year. It’s hard not to roll your eyes and say “really?” Why would you run a media company like a tech company anyway?
Now, Vice has a new CEO who is focused on getting the company into shape. She’s already laid off 10% of the workforce, but it’s hard to see how taking on more investment will save the struggling company in the current climate.
The shakeout in online media isn’t over yet, and most of all I feel sorry for the journalists and other creatives facing uncertain futures.
One big read
Facial recognition's 'dirty little secret': Millions of online photos scraped without consent Facial recognition's 'dirty little secret': Millions of online photos scraped without consent
Where do facial recognition developers get the faces from to train their technology? These days the answer is often ‘scraped from social media without permission.’
One big tweet
Everything old is new.
Lauren Goode
2010: "Bundling is BAD for consumers, I'm going a la carte"
2019: "Hulu is part of my Spotify sub now and Netflix is packaged into my phone and I'll soon pay Apple a monthly fee for a bunch of news and video subscriptions bundled into one, this is much better"
6:46 PM - 12 Mar 2019
That’s all for today...
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