GOOG - Alphabet Inc.

NasdaqGS - NasdaqGS Real-time price. Currency in USD
1,514.94
-5.80 (-0.38%)
As of 11:47AM EST. Market open.
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Previous close1,520.74
Open1,515.00
Bid1,518.56 x 1400
Ask1,519.45 x 1100
Day's range1,512.84 - 1,531.63
52-week range1,025.00 - 1,531.63
Volume429,245
Avg. volume1,460,149
Market cap1.041T
Beta (5Y monthly)1.04
PE ratio (TTM)30.81
EPS (TTM)49.16
Earnings dateN/A
Forward dividend & yieldN/A (N/A)
Ex-dividend dateN/A
1y target est1,616.37
  • Walmart, Apple warn of coronavirus hit to bottom line
    Yahoo Finance

    Walmart, Apple warn of coronavirus hit to bottom line

    Yahoo Finance is maintaining a working list companies that have been affected by the outbreak, and are expected to feel the effects through the first half of the year.

  • Apple Outlook Cut Renews Questions About China Over-Reliance
    Bloomberg

    Apple Outlook Cut Renews Questions About China Over-Reliance

    (Bloomberg) -- For the second time in as many years, Apple Inc. has had to temper its sales outlook because of unexpected shifts in China, the country that’s served as the engine of its growth and success. First a trade war with the U.S. and now the outbreak of a novel coronavirus have called into question China’s role as a reliable market and supply chain partner for the world’s most valuable maker of consumer electronics.The coronavirus that’s stifled China’s meticulously orchestrated production and logistics has hit both Apple’s supply and demand -- factories are resuming work slower than expected, the company announced, and most of its 42 stores in the country lie dormant -- illustrating how heavily exposed its business is to disruptions in the world’s most populous country. A fall in sales within China is likely to be the most immediate impact this quarter, while widespread production bottlenecks there risk hurting global iPhone revenue in subsequent months.Amid its coronavirus troubles, Apple has been preparing to launch a new low-cost iPhone at around $400, Bloomberg News has reported. The model is still on track to launch in March, though the plans are still fluid, according to people familiar with the matter. Apple has also been preparing updated iPad Pro models with a new camera system for the first half of 2020 and the virus may yet impose delays or constraints on those plans.Apple Won’t Meet Quarterly Revenue Target Due to CoronavirusUpon joining the company in the late 1990s, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook transformed Apple’s supply chain into the efficient juggernaut that’s been the longtime envy of the industry. Products are manufactured in China with the help of low-cost, but skilled, labor and shipped around the world in a matter of days. Relying on Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group to run on-the-ground operations and China’s abundant investment in transport to ensure logistics, Apple has become a trillion-dollar company largely by selling made-in-China iPhones, iPads, Macs and accessories.Responsible for millions of jobs in the country, Cook’s Apple has also garnered enough goodwill with the Chinese government to gain access to its market that is unmatched among U.S. tech heavyweights. Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google are looking in from the outside, whereas Apple can sell all of its gadgets there. The Cupertino, California firm brings in more than $40 billion per year from Greater China, shy only of its takings from the U.S. and Europe. This strength is also the source of Apple’s vulnerability.On Monday, Apple cut its earnings guidance for the quarter ending Mar. 31, which was already wider than usual because of the unpredictability of the coronavirus fallout. U.S. stock index futures and shares in Apple suppliers from Japan to Hong Kong fell after the outlook warning kindled concerns about the damage the epidemic is causing global corporations and the Apple ecosystem. Last year, the company adjusted earnings because of a shortfall in iPhone demand in China, which it blamed in part on the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing.Production snarls at Apple’s main iPhone-making base of Zhengzhou may extend well into the June quarter and possibly beyond. Foxconn’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. only started seasonal recruitment on Monday, weeks behind schedule, and it’s been severely hindered by new policies intended to curb the spread of Covid-19 on campus. One recruiter, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg News that the company was only hiring new workers from the local Zhengzhou area, tightening restrictions and eliminating the vast majority of available labor pool.Implementing a rolling quarantine of up to 14 days for returning workers from more distant provinces, Foxconn faces additional challenges in managing the movement of untold numbers of staff. In Shenzhen, as many as 10 workers are packed in each dorm room as they endure their assigned sequester period. The available beds are running short as a growing number of workers travel back, according to one person who helped arrange the program.‘Nightmare’ for Global Tech: Virus Fallout Is Just BeginningVirus contagion has shuttered plants across China for weeks longer than anticipated after the Lunar New Year break, and the nightmare scenario feared by Foxconn and its ilk is the infection spreading across factory floors, which could potentially freeze parts of the supply chain and trigger cascading shortages. Apple’s facilities have all reopened, said the U.S. firm, but evidence on the ground suggests they’re still far from fully operational.Existing iPhone inventories at retailers will soften the immediate blow of slower manufacturing, but analysts anticipate worldwide shortages will follow, extending the impact of the present disruption.“I expect we’re going to start seeing iPhone shortages outside of China, which plays into the guidance,” said Apple analyst Shannon Cross from Cross Research. “In theory, it shouldn’t be demand destructive. It should just mean there should be a larger backlog of demand when these issues are resolved.”The immediate reaction to Apple’s forecast cut has been a drag on Asian tech shares, especially those of suppliers to the company. But some impact on Apple was already widely anticipated.Tech Investors Jolted by Apple Pin Hopes on a Fast Turnaround“We’ve been getting nothing but headlines about the virus for weeks. Starbucks is closing its stores, Caterpillar is shutting its facilities. Company after company has been saying this,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group, said by phone, expressing investor optimism for a fast turnaround. “We have been expecting bad sales headlines, this isn’t good, but it’s not surprising.” (Caterpillar closed its plants in China at the beginning of February at the direction of the Chinese government. It is re-opening them as the government allows; currently most are open.)Moving entirely out of China would be practically impossible for Apple in the short term, given the scale of its established network and the country’s incomparable ability to mobilize a workforce of millions. Similarly strong disruption threats to its supply chain arose in 2018 and 2019, largely spurred by trade war conflagrations, but Cook’s team has held steadfast in its commitment to the region and hasn’t shown any significant momentum toward a major move out.“Apple’s supply chain in China is so tight and large, it would be difficult to replicate outside the region,” Cross said. “I think you’ll continue to see small expansions into India, but the vast majority of production will remain in China.”Apple has indicated that its overall business is still strong, saying that it remained on track revenue-wise in regions outside of China for both products and services. The company is engaged in a long-term diversification shift that’s seen it pour billions of dollars into creating its own streaming content for Apple TV+ and building out subscription services like Apple Music and Apple Arcade. Its strongest step to reduce its China dependence to date has been this move to be less reliant on pure hardware sales for the bulk of its revenue.Addressing the wider smartphone industry in China, Strategy Analytics this month projected a significant hit to shipments in the first half of 2020, to be followed by a recovery and a slight increase in shipments in the closing months of the year. If Apple follows a similar trajectory, it could see iPhone demand shift into later quarters rather than vanishing entirely.“I think Apple remains in a very good position long-term,” Cross said. “I would assume there would be some pressure on the stock, but assuming this is a short term bump in the road, investors will look through it.”(Updates with comment from Caterpillar in 13th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Joe Deaux.To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at mgurman1@bloomberg.net;Debby Wu in Taipei at dwu278@bloomberg.net;Gao Yuan in Beijing at ygao199@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net, Vlad Savov, Edwin ChanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: NVIDIA, Cisco, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft
    Zacks

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: NVIDIA, Cisco, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft

    The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: NVIDIA, Cisco, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft

  • Elon Musk Calls Bill Gates Underwhelming After Billionaire Buys a Porsche
    Bloomberg

    Elon Musk Calls Bill Gates Underwhelming After Billionaire Buys a Porsche

    (Bloomberg) -- Bill Gates paid Tesla Inc. a compliment for coaxing the car industry to go electric. If he was expecting kind words in return from Elon Musk, he apparently shouldn’t have spoken about challenges that still lie ahead -- or about his new Porsche.Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft Corp., spoke with a YouTube influencer last week about the challenges of reducing emissions to slow climate change. He called the passenger-car industry “one of the most hopeful” sectors taking action in this regard.“And certainly Tesla, if you had to name one company that’s helped drive that, it’s them,” Gates told YouTuber Marques Brownlee.Then Gates discussed recently buying a Porsche Taycan. While he called the electric sports car “very, very cool,” he acknowledged its premium price -- the initial Turbo S models start at $185,000 -- and said consumers still have to overcome anxieties about EVs offering limited range and taking longer to recharge. Gasoline-powered cars travel longer between quick refuels at stations that outnumber charging points.When a Tesla enthusiast posted about being disappointed in Gates’s decision to buy a Taycan instead of a Tesla and his comments about range anxiety, Musk replied: “My conversations with Gates have been underwhelming tbh.”Musk, 48, is of course no stranger to tweeting dismissively about fellow billionaires. The Tesla chief executive officer questioned Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s understanding of artificial intelligence risks in 2017. Last year, he called Jeff Bezos a copycat after the Amazon.com Inc. CEO embarked on an internet-satellite project that could rival one that Musk’s closely held company SpaceX is pursuing.The Tesla CEO’s commentary on Porsche’s Taycan has been mixed. After chiding the sports car brand for using internal combustion engine nomenclature for the high-end version of its debut electric vehicle, he tweeted in September that it “does seem like a good car.”(Updates with Musk’s tweets on Taycan in last paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in New York at ctrudell1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Trudell at ctrudell1@bloomberg.net, Will DaviesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • 20 years after dot-com peak, tech dominance keeps investors on edge
    Reuters

    20 years after dot-com peak, tech dominance keeps investors on edge

    SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - As Wall Street approaches the 20th anniversary of the piercing of the dot-com bubble, today's decade-old rally led by a few small players shows some similarities that cautious investors are keeping an eye on. March 11, 2000 marked the beginning of a crash of overly-inflated stocks that would last over two years, lead to the failure of investor favorites including Worldcom and Pets.com and take over 13 years for Wall Street to recover from.

  • Graphic: 20 years after dot-com peak, tech dominance keeps investors on edge
    Reuters

    Graphic: 20 years after dot-com peak, tech dominance keeps investors on edge

    SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - As Wall Street approaches the 20th anniversary of the piercing of the dot-com bubble, today's decade-old rally led by a few small players shows some similarities that cautious investors are keeping an eye on. March 11, 2000 marked the beginning of a crash of overly-inflated stocks that would last over two years, lead to the failure of investor favorites including Worldcom and Pets.com and take over 13 years for Wall Street to recover from. Now, after hitting a record high on Feb. 13, the Nasdaq has reached over 9,700 points, almost double its high point in 2000 and about eight times the level of its trough in 2002.

  • Bloomberg

    Facebook’s Business Model Is What Brussels Hates

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- It’s not very surprising that Mark Zuckerberg’s state-visit-style trip to Brussels got a pretty chilly reception from European Union officials. The Facebook Inc. co-founder is pleading for more regulation to solve what he and his top lobbyist Nick Clegg consider to be a failure of public policy: If only governments could agree on how to regulate the internet without curbing free expression, the social network would be only too happy to comply.This analysis is not new, and entirely misdiagnoses the problem in the Europeans’ view: It is Facebook’s business model, which hoovers up billions of users’ intimate thoughts and behavior patterns to better target ads, which is the issue. And it’s one that the social network would prefer just to tinker with at the margins, given the costs involved.Judging by Facebook’s new 22-page paper on regulating online content, and Zuckerberg’s published speeches, the company views its own misadventures as simply symptoms of a bigger online disease. If regulators could just define harmful or illegal content, set the limits on free speech, quantify targets for the quality control that tech platforms should perform on their networks’ content — and do so at a global level — the results would be clear.There’s a clear self-interest on display here. Aside from being short on detail and big on “stakeholder” dialog, Facebook’s vision would conveniently raise the barriers to entry for smaller rivals in a market that is already dominated by a handful of players, while itself continuing to benefit from the scale effects of keeping Whatsapp and Instagram under one roof. Together, Facebook and Google controlled over half of digital ad revenue in 2018.One-size-fits-all regulation would be ideal for a globe-straddling company that boasts billions of users, an array of interlocking and addictive apps, and plans to launch its own digital currency to further lock people into its walled garden. There would be less to fear from the idea of data “portability” — even if users had the freedom to leave with all of their data and contacts, where else would they go? Facebook might also be only too happy to push quantifiable regulatory targets onto its 30,000 frazzled and overloaded content moderators. No wonder European Commissioner Thierry Breton dismissed Zuckerberg’s ideas as “too slow” and “too low” in terms of accountability.The real blind spot for Zuckerberg is the Facebook business model, which is precisely what the EU wants the firm to address. Mark Zuckerberg says he cannot be responsible for 100 billion pieces of content — but that’s not really true. It’s more that it would be very painful — possibly existential — for the economics of Facebook to hire the necessary moderators and engineers to make it happen. Zuckerberg’s idea that Facebook is somewhere between a newspaper and a telecom operator is exactly the kind of vision that European regulators reject: They are more inclined to view Facebook as a financial-services firm, where valuable consumer deposits — or personal data — rub up against speculative and risky activity, such as targeted advertising and monopoly power. Systemic risk merits systemic scrutiny.Therein lies the challenge for Brussels. So far, the sum total of regulatory action against Facebook is akin to “being nibbled to death by ducks,” a view recently expressed by Roger McNamee, one of Facebook’s earliest investors.  Facebook’s stock price slumped last month after its results showed slowing growth and higher expenses, but it has since rebounded. This is still a $610 billion company with an adjusted net income margin of 35% that makes over $20 billion in revenue per quarter. Shareholder challenges to company management have hit the brick wall of Zuckerberg’s absolute control of voting rights. And despite some U.S. politicians’ calls to break up Facebook, there’s increasing convergence between Zuckerberg’s interests and Donald Trump’s geopolitical ambitions. European attempts to better tax tech companies have resulted in swift U.S. counter-blows on trade; Trump also sees Facebook’s financial-services push as an extension of the U.S. dollar’s power.If the aim is to change the way Facebook works, there will have to be a lot more biting going forward, from enforcement of privacy law and upgrading of antitrust law to more scrutiny of how the company’s algorithms and content moderation are working. Otherwise Zuckerberg’s next visit to Brussels risks being depressingly familiar.To contact the author of this story: Lionel Laurent at llaurent2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Brussels. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Apple Is Handcuffed to the iPhone. Just Like Its Customers
    Bloomberg

    Apple Is Handcuffed to the iPhone. Just Like Its Customers

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Apple Inc.’s earnings warning is an unfortunate reminder that, for all of its work to change investor perceptions over the past few years, it remains “the iPhone company.”For much of its six-year reign as the world’s biggest company by market capitalization through to the end of 2018, Apple was actually less valuable than Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. on one crucial measure. The smartphone maker’s shares traded at a discount to those of the advertising technology giants based on its projected earnings — meaning investors were willing to pay more for a share of its rivals’ future profit. Even in its pomp three years ago, Apple’s stock traded at just 14 times forward earnings. Alphabet and Facebook traded at 20 times and 24 times earnings respectively.This showed that investors were more confident in Google and Facebook maintaining, or increasing, their profits than they were in Apple doing the same. That was largely because Apple is fundamentally a hardware company: At the time it was getting almost two-thirds of its revenue from the iPhone. It has lower gross profit margins since it has to pay for all the components used to make the handsets, as well as the labor and shipping costs. And, in order to meet its earnings targets, Apple has to convince consumers to spend another $800 on a smartphone every two years. If it ever came up with a dud iPhone, then earnings would suffer.As software companies, Google and Facebook have much higher gross profit. And given their stranglehold on internet advertising, they can count on regularly recurring revenue from that business. Back in 2017, Facebook knew it could generate an average of $21 per quarter for each user from fees that brands would pay to get their ads in front of users’ eyeballs. It wasn’t dependent on any one consumer product to keep that income flowing.Apple, unhappy about its relative discount, has spent much of the past four years working to lose it by moving beyond hardware. In 2019, iPhone sales represented 55% of its total revenue, down from a 2015 peak of 66%. In part, that’s because sales of the smartphone have declined, but Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has also invested aggressively in new services (think Apple Music, TV+, News+, Arcade and so on), as well as wearable devices such as the Apple Watch and AirPods.This has made Apple less dependent on the iPhone. And it’s made the company’s customers more dependent on the device. Since the Apple Watch must be paired with an iPhone, for instance, it reduces the chance of customers trading in their Apple handset for a phone that runs on Android. The handcuffs are tightened every time somebody installs a new game from Arcade or adds songs from Apple Music to their library – they’d lose them all by abandoning the company’s operating system.Apple’s valuation has reacted commensurately. The stock is trading at 23 times forward earnings, more than Facebook’s 21 times and just shy of Alphabet’s 24 times. That’s partly down to the adtech giants’ own regulatory troubles — brought on by their troubling use of personal data and disquiet about their online ads duopoly. But Apple has succeeded too in convincing investors that it has dependable recurring revenue.That faith will have been shaken a little on Tuesday morning, after the company said revenue in the first three months of the year won’t hit the low end of its expected $63 billion to $67 billion range. The stock was trading some 4% lower in out-of-hours trading. The new coronavirus has stifled demand from Chinese shoppers less able to leave the house, and made it harder to recruit the workers needed to make its new low-cost handset.That stifled demand will no doubt recover once the virus abates. Nonetheless, this is a clear reminder that, for all its efforts, the iPhone is still Apple’s chief source of income. And that it will always be vulnerable to the capricious nature of consumer demand.To contact the author of this story: Alex Webb at awebb25@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Edison, Morse ... Watson? AI Poses Question of Who’s an Inventor
    Bloomberg

    Edison, Morse ... Watson? AI Poses Question of Who’s an Inventor

    (Bloomberg) -- Computers using artificial intelligence are discovering medicines, designing better golf clubs and creating video games.But are they inventors?Patent offices around the world are grappling with the question of who -- if anyone -- owns innovations developed using AI. The answer may upend what’s eligible for protection and who profits as AI transforms entire industries.“There are machines right now that are doing far more on their own than to help an engineer or a scientist or an inventor do their jobs,” said Andrei Iancu, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “We will get to a point where a court or legislature will say the human being is so disengaged, so many levels removed, that the actual human did not contribute to the inventive concept.”U.S. law says only humans can obtain patents, Iancu said. That’s why the patent office has been collecting comments on how to deal with inventions created through artificial intelligence and is expected to release a policy paper this year. Likewise, the World Intellectual Property Office, an agency within the United Nations, along with patent and copyright agencies around the world are also trying to figure out whether current laws or practices need to be revised for AI inventions.The debate comes as some of the largest global technology companies look to monetize massive investments in AI. Google’s chief executive officer, Sundar Pichai, has described AI as “more profound than fire or electricity.” Microsoft Corp. has invested $1 billion in the research company Open AI. Both companies have thousands of employees and researchers pushing to advance the state of the art and move AI innovations into products.International Business Machines Corp.’s supercomputer Watson is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a research lab to develop new applications of AI in different industries, and some of China’s biggest companies are giving American companies a run for their money in the field.The European Patent Office last month rejected applications by the owner of an AI “creativity machine” named Dabus, saying that there is a “clear legislative understanding that the inventor is a natural person.” In December, the U.K. Intellectual Property Office turned down similar petitions, noting AI was never contemplated when the law was written.“Increasingly, Fortune 100 companies have AI doing more and more autonomously and they’re not sure if they can find someone who would qualify as an inventor,” said Ryan Abbott, a law professor at the University of Surrey in England. “If you can’t get protection, people may not want to use AI to do these things.”Abbott and Stephen Thaler, founder of St. Louis-based Imagination Engines Inc., filed patent applications in numerous countries for a food container and a “device for attracting enhanced attention,” listing Thaler’s machine Dabus as the inventor.The goal, Abbott said, was to force patent offices to confront the issue. He advocates listing the computer that did the work as the inventor, with the business that owns the machine also owning any patent. It would ensure that companies can get a return on their investment, and maintain a level of honesty about whether it’s a machine or a human that’s doing the work, he said.Businesses “don’t really care who’s listed as an inventor but they do care if they can get a patent,” Abbott said. “We really didn’t design the law with this in mind, so what do we want to do about it?”Still, to many AI experts and researchers, the field is nowhere near advanced enough to consider the idea of an algorithm as an inventor.‘Just Computer Tools’“Listing an AI system as a co-inventor seems like a gimmick rather than a requirement,” said Oren Etzioni, head of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle. “We often use computers as critical tools in generating patentable technology, but we don’t list our tools as co-inventors. AI systems don’t have intellectual property rights -- they are just computer tools.”The current state of the art in AI should put this question off for a long time, said Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, who suggested the debate might be more appropriate in a “century or two.” Researchers are “very far from artificial general intelligence like ‘The Terminator’.”It’s not just who’s listed as the inventor that is flummoxing patent agencies.Software thus far can’t follow the scientific method -- independently developing a hypothesis and then conducting tests to prove or disprove it. Instead, AI is more often used for “brute force,” where it would simply “churn through a bunch of possibilities and see what works,” said Dana Rao, general counsel for Adobe Inc.Human v. Machine“The question is not ‘Can a machine be an inventor?’ it’s ‘Can a machine invent?”’ Rao said. “It can’t in the traditional way we view invention.”A patent is awarded to something that is “new, useful and non-obvious.” Often, that means figuring out what a person with “ordinary skill” in the field would understand to be new -- for instance, a knowledgeable laboratory researcher. That analysis gets skewed when courts and patent offices have to compare the work of a software program that can analyze an exponentially greater number of options than even a large team of human researchers.“The bar is changing when you use AI,” said Kate Gaudry, a patent lawyer with Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton in Washington. “However this is decided, we have to be consistent.”Iancu likened it to debates a century ago over awarding copyrights to photographs taken with a camera.“Somebody must have created the machine, somebody must have trained the machine and somebody must have pushed the ‘on’ button,” he said. “Do we think those activities are enough to count as human contributions to the invention process? If yes, the current law is enough.”Still, Rao said, there needs to be some way to help companies using AI to protect their ideas. That’s particularly true for copyrights on photographs created through a type of machine learning systems known as Generative Adversarial Networks.“If I want to create images to sell them, there needs to be ways of determining ownership,” Rao said.The evolution of machine learning and neural networks means that, at some point, the role of humans in certain types of innovation will decrease. In those cases, who will own the inventions is a question that’s critical to companies using AI to develop new products.Iancu said he sees AI as full of promise, and notes that agencies have had to address such weighty questions before, such as genetically modified animals created in a lab, complex mathematics use for cryptography and synthetic DNA.“It’s one of these things where hopefully, the various jurisdictions around the world can discuss these issues before it’s too late, before we have to play catch up,” Iancu said.To contact the reporters on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net;Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, ;Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Elizabeth WassermanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Crypto Giant Binance Launches Cloud Service in Revenue Shift
    Bloomberg

    Crypto Giant Binance Launches Cloud Service in Revenue Shift

    (Bloomberg) -- Binance Holdings Ltd., one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency-trading platforms, has made its first foray into business services by lending its technology and liquidity to those who want to start their own exchanges.The Malta-based crypto behemoth announced its cloud operation to help business clients and partners set up crypto exchanges using Binance’s tech infrastructure, ranging from matching engines to risk controls and data security systems, according to a company statement.Tech giants like Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc. have over the years evolved beyond their core consumer-facing services and become some of the world’s biggest cloud providers -- and Binance envisions the same type of success in crypto. Binance Cloud will overtake the company’s main exchange to become its biggest source of revenue in five years, co-founder and CEO “CZ” Zhao Changpeng estimates.“Theoretically speaking, we can let anyone in the world create their own exchanges, and the demand is huge,” the 43-year-old coder-turned-entrepreneur said in an interview. “Even during the crypto winter of 2018 and 2019, hundreds of new exchanges popped up every day.”The cloud division -- which started just three months ago and now has nearly 20 people -- complements Binance’s strategy of attracting fiat money. Like its peers, Binance makes money mostly via transaction fees on its trading platforms, which fluctuate wildly with crypto prices. The shift into enterprise-oriented businesses could also help the startup unlock a more steady revenue stream.Binance started off in 2017 as a crypto-to-crypto trading platform, and gained momentum quickly by handling only tokens like Bitcoin and Ether, which allowed it to avoid dealing with banks and government watchdogs. Now a major player, Zhao’s firm is working to shake off its reputation as a regulatory arbitrageur: It has set up regulatory-compliant fiat exchanges in jurisdictions like Singapore and Jersey as it seeks to appeal to a much larger user base that hasn’t bought digital money yet.Binance Applied for Singapore’s New Crypto License, CEO SaysAnd this isn’t Zhao’s first crack at the cloud business. Before Binance, he was the founder of a Shanghai-based startup called BijieTech specializing in outsourcing tech solutions for crypto exchange operators.Zhao said Binance would favor fiat exchanges as its cloud clients, especially those that target regions or communities where the company doesn’t yet have a strong foothold. Ideally they would also have “good compliance status, relationships, and even strong influence with regulators,” he said.Competition is still nascent in cloud services for crypto exchanges. Binance rival Huobi rolled out its cloud operation in 2018 and has signed up partners including Russia’s VEB Bank and Taiwan’s Chi Fu Group, according to its website.Binance will announce the first fiat exchange powered by its cloud service in the coming weeks, while it has confirmed four other clients in the lineup, Zhao said, without sharing specifics.Aside from tapping into Binance tech, Zhao said clients will also be able to access the order books of all the existing trading pairs on Binance.“Liquidity is a chicken-and-egg problem for small exchanges,” he said. “Without liquidity, they won’t have users.”To contact the reporter on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at zhuang245@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at echan273@bloomberg.net, Joanna Ossinger, David ScanlanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Apple Won’t Meet Quarterly Revenue Target Due to Coronavirus
    Bloomberg

    Apple Won’t Meet Quarterly Revenue Target Due to Coronavirus

    (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. doesn’t expect to meet its revenue guidance for the March quarter because of work slowdowns and lower smartphone demand, showing that the virus outbreak in China is taking a bigger-than-predicted toll on one of the world’s most valuable companies.The company said that the iPhone, which generates the bulk of Apple’s revenue, is temporarily constrained due to production ramping up more slowly than anticipated. “Work is starting to resume around the country, but we are experiencing a slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated,” the company said in a statement Monday. In addition, demand for iPhones has been reduced because stores in China have been closed or operating with reduced hours and few customers, the company said.Apple had forecast revenue of $63 billion to $67 billion for the fiscal second quarter ending in March. Analysts on average estimated $65.23 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company said in January when it announced its guidance that it anticipated factories reopening beginning Feb. 10. That process however has been slow as factory workers and manufacturing partners look to contain the virus, which has resulted in about 1,800 reported deaths in China, from spreading further.U.S. stock futures slid after Apple amplified worries about the blow to corporate earnings and economic growth from the deadly coronavirus. Apple suppliers TDK Corp. and Murata Manufacturing Co. slid more than 3% in early Asian trade.“This is the double-edged sword of being in China,” said longtime Apple analyst and Loup Ventures co-founder Gene Munster. “They’re the only big company with China exposure, so they are working through the pain of what has largely been a success for the company over the past decade.” Apple is the only major U.S. technology giant to offer the majority of its products and services in China. Products from Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc. are either limited or unavailable.Still, Apple isn’t the only big tech company impacted by the virus. Nintendo Co. is likely to struggle with production of its Switch gaming device due to coronavirus, while Facebook previously said that it will see production of its Oculus VR headsets drop due to the epidemic.Apple said that, outside of China, products and services sales have been “strong to date and in line with our expectations.”The Cupertino, California-based technology giant didn’t say what its new revenue outlook is for March but that situation is “evolving.” The company said it will share more information during its April earnings call. The disclosure marks the second time in two years that Apple has readjusted its earnings forecast due to China-related factors. For fiscal 2019, it cut holiday earnings projections on slower than expected iPhone sales in China, which it attributed in part to the trade war with the U.S.Apple had been planning to start producing a new low-cost iPhone in February, putting it up for sale as early as March, Bloomberg News has reported. It’s unclear how coronavirus has impacted those plans.Read more: ‘Nightmare’ for Global Tech: Virus Fallout Is Just Beginning (3)“This unexpected news confirms the worst fears of the Street that the virus outbreak has dramatically impacted iPhone supply from China/Foxconn with a demand ripple impact worldwide,” Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said in a research note. He kept an outperform rating on the stock and remains bullish on the longer-term outlook.The company said that despite missing its guidance, all of its manufacturing sites for iPhones in the region have reopened. In addition to iPhone constraints, the company cited its inability to sell products at its retail and partner stores in China due to the virus. China represents Apple’s third-biggest market in terms of revenue and has 42 stores, which have been closed for much of February.“Stores that are open have been operating at reduced hours and with very low customer traffic,” Apple said in its statement. “We are gradually reopening our retail stores and will continue to do so as steadily and safely as we can.” Apple said its contact centers and corporate offices in China have already reopened. It has opened a few stores in China, including in Beijing and Shanghai, but with limited operating hours.(Updates with Asian share action from the third paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Gurman in Los Angeles at mgurman1@bloomberg.net;Sarah Frier in San Francisco at sfrier1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Martin, Catherine LarkinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Tech Daily: Zuckerberg in Europe, EU Industrial Data, YouTube Dumps App Store, More
    Zacks

    Tech Daily: Zuckerberg in Europe, EU Industrial Data, YouTube Dumps App Store, More

    Top stories covered here include Zuckerberg in Europe, EU stand on industrial data, Google talks with publishers and YouTube dumping the App Store.

  • Facebook Needs Regulation to Win User Trust, Zuckerberg Says
    Bloomberg

    Facebook Needs Regulation to Win User Trust, Zuckerberg Says

    (Bloomberg) -- For years, Facebook Inc. lobbied governments against imposing tough regulations, warning in some cases that they could harm the company’s business model. Now, it’s pleading for new rules for the good of its business.In a white paper published Monday, Facebook detailed its push for internet regulation, calling on lawmakers to devise rules around harmful content, a different model for platforms’ legal liability and a “new type of regulator” to oversee enforcement.“If we don’t create standards that people feel are legitimate, they won’t trust institutions or technology,” Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in an op-ed in the Financial Times on Monday. That and the publication of the white paper coincided with a visit to Brussels, home of the European Union institutions that have crafted some of the toughest rules in recent years.Silicon Valley firms have suffered from what’s been dubbed as a “tech lash,” with users frustrated over how web platforms profit from their data. Facebook has borne the brunt of that disenchantment following a series of missteps including privacy breaches and accusations it didn’t do enough to stop election manipulation on its platform. Meanwhile, Facebook’s user growth is stagnating in the U.S. and Canada – its most important markets.“I believe good regulation may hurt Facebook’s business in the near term but it will be better for everyone, including us, over the long term,” Zuckerberg said in the op-ed, echoing comments he made over the weekend at the Munich Security Conference.Read more about Zuckerberg’s visit to Brussels here.In Brussels, Zuckerberg has Monday meetings with EU tech czar Margrethe Vestager and other senior officials as the bloc prepares new legislation in areas including artificial intelligence, gate-keeping tech platforms and liability for users’ posts, all of which could impact Facebook’s business.Zuckerberg has previously called for global regulation covering election integrity, harmful content, privacy and data portability.Political Ads, Harmful ContentIn the op-ed, Zuckerberg said Facebook was hoping for clarity around what constitutes a political ad - especially if paid for a group not directly affiliated with a political party, such as a non-governmental organization. Companies also need clearer lines around data ownership to enable users to move their information between services, he said.In addition, the company would look into opening up its content moderation systems for external audit to help governments design regulation in areas like hate speech, he said.Any new rules should hold internet companies accountable for having certain procedures in place and platforms should meet specific performance targets when it comes to handling content that violates their policies, Facebook said in Monday’s white paper. Rules should also define forms of speech that should be prohibited online, even if they’re not illegal, it said.When it comes to liability for what users post on its platform, Zuckerberg said in a media roundtable in Brussels on Monday that a different regulatory system should be created -- somewhere between newspaper publishers, who can be sued for what journalists write in their pages, and telecommunications companies, who aren’t liable for customer conversations. This legislation may require a new type of regulator that is proficient in data, operations and online content, the company said.European Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a press briefing he had discussed platform regulation, market dominance and liability in a meeting with Zuckerberg this afternoon.Breton took note of Facebook’s use of AI systems to take down more harmful content, but said “if we see that it’s not what we need regarding our own standards, then we will have to regulate.” He also warned the EU could regulate the market dominance of platforms like Facebook’s.Brussels VisitsZuckerberg reiterated that companies shouldn’t be in charge of making decisions that balance competing social values, and said he hopes that new laws will draw cleaner lines to help companies navigate those decisions -- even as regulators in Europe are also investigating Facebook over its compliance with existing privacy and antitrust rules.“People need to feel that global technology platforms answer to someone,” Zuckerberg said in the op-ed, but also stressed that the plea “isn’t about passing off responsibility.” He said that Facebook is continuing to make progress on some of the issues on its own.The Facebook chief’s Brussels visit follows a recent trip by Alphabet Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai in January who came to discuss regulating artificial intelligence. The EU is expected to unveil planned rules for the technology this week, when it’s also likely to flag proposed liability rules for tech platforms coming later this year.It’s not a coincidence that the chief executives of tech firms like Facebook and Google are making the pitch for regulation in the EU capital. They have seen before that, when the EU sets sweeping laws on tech, like the General Data Protection Regulation, the impact can reverberate far beyond its borders.(Updates with Breton comments in 12th, 13th paragraphs)To contact the reporter on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at ndrozdiak1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Amy Thomson, Jennifer RyanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • EU Fights For ‘Purpose’ in Grand Plan for Tech, AI Rules
    Bloomberg

    EU Fights For ‘Purpose’ in Grand Plan for Tech, AI Rules

    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world threatened by trade wars. Sign up here. China might have data and the U.S. might have money, but Europe has purpose.That’s the message European Union tech czar Margrethe Vestager aims to convey on Wednesday when she unveils plans to help the bloc compete with the U.S. and China’s technological might on its own terms, conforming with fundamental EU rights including strict privacy and non-discrimination rules.On the EU’s menu: new rules for AI, possible legislation for gate-keeping platforms, plans to make data centers carbon-neutral, as well as incentives for businesses to share information with the aim of forming data pools that bolster innovation.Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president for digital affairs, is trying to reassure anxious Europeans that she can handle concerns Europe is becoming irrelevant while Asian and American companies dominate high-tech markets.The strategy “will produce and deploy much more artificial intelligence” in Europe, but “it will not be the same” as in the U.S. and China, Vestager said in a press briefing to journalists ahead of the announcement. Based on what she knows about their practices, Chinese AI might not meet European standards, she said.Artificial intelligence has started to penetrate every part of society, from shopping suggestions and voice assistants to decisions around hiring, insurance and law enforcement, provoking concerns about privacy, accuracy, safety and fairness. The EU wants to ensure technology deployed in Europe is transparent and has human oversight, particularly for high-risk cases.In situations where the use of AI could pose risks to people’s safety or their legal or employment status, such as those involving self-driving cars or biometric identification, the EU’s requirements could include implementing conformity checks by public authorities, Vestager said.Facial Recognition RulesAccording to a recent draft of the EU document, companies could have to retrain their systems with European data sets if they can’t guarantee the facial recognition or other risky technology was developed in accordance with European values.Facial recognition has sparked an intense debate in the U.S. and Europe as police departments have started testing the technology. In the U.S., reports that police were using technology from Clearview AI -- a startup that’s scraped billions of photos from social media accounts with the aim of helping law enforcement find suspects without criminal records -- caused a backlash from privacy groups and lawmakers.The same groups are urging legislation to prevent abuses of a technology they say is often inaccurate and could restrict people’s freedom to assemble. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials warn against banning a tool that can make societies safer.With the EU’s AI white paper, Vestager said she wanted to start a debate to determine which circumstances it would be justified to deploy remote facial-recognition technology, warning that without such a debate agencies and companies would steam ahead.“Then it will just be everywhere,” Vestager said. She added that one solution for the EU could be to draw up a European-wide legal framework to govern use of the technology.Valley ViewsFollowing Wednesday’s announcement, the EU will begin a 12-week consultation, inviting the public to submit comments to their AI plans before the commission formally proposes legislation as soon as the end of the year.The EU’s plans have already drawn top executives from Silicon Valley to Brussels, including Alphabet Inc.’s Sundar Pichai, to voice their views on how AI should be regulated.Vestager and other EU officials are due to meet Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, who is capping off a trip to Europe with a visit to Brussels to discuss new regulations for the internet.Tech firms have seen before that when the EU sets sweeping laws on tech, like the General Data Protection Regulation, the impact can sprawl far beyond its borders. The EU’s GDPR has spurred similar legislation in Brazil and forced businesses selling into Europe to revise how they collect, store and process information.”EU regulation in this area is likely to have an effect similar to GDPR. People outside Europe are watching the commission,” said Mark Coeckelbergh, a professor of philosophy of media and technology at the University of Vienna. “This is a chance for the EU to set an example of regulation that supports ethical development of AI.”Other parts of the EU’s digital strategy will also serve to rein in U.S. and Chinese companies, potentially to the benefit of European business.Antitrust RulesVestager is also promising a review of antitrust rules, including potential legislation for “gate-keeping platforms,” that would give the EU the ability to crackdown on big tech. While she has fined Google, investigated Amazon.com Inc. and ordered Apple Inc. to pay a massive back-tax bill, the EU has also been criticized for failing to make real changes to how mostly U.S. tech companies have gained power in digital markets.Meanwhile, China’s rapid success in moving into new business areas, taking a global lead on technology and manufacturing where Europe and the U.S. were once ascendant, has also alarmed both Washington and Brussels. German firms have pushed for more barriers to Chinese takeovers and for looser antitrust rules that hinder consolidation between rivals, measures Vestager said she would examine.While EU officials have come to terms with the fact the next Facebook or Google probably won’t come from Europe, they are optimistic about local innovation in robotics, machinery, payments and other business-to-business companies.Plans to encourage data sharing among businesses and with governments -- also to be announced Wednesday --could further boost these firms’ leadership positions. That scheme is also designed to advance the bloc’s AI ambitions by pooling large sets of high-quality industrial data.“We are what we eat and that also goes for artificial intelligence,” Vestager said. “If you eat crappy stuff, well you’re not likely to be a fit for purpose algorithm either.”(Updates with Zuckerberg’s trip to Brussels in 15th paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at ndrozdiak1@bloomberg.net;Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Amy ThomsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Big Data Won't Save You From Coronavirus
    Bloomberg

    Big Data Won't Save You From Coronavirus

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- How often do you see a piece of economic or financial information revised upward by 45%? And how reliable would you regard a data set that’s subject to such adjustments?This is the problem confronting epidemiologists trying to make sense of the novel coronavirus spreading from China’s Hubei province. On Thursday, the tally there surged by 45% — or 14,480 cases. The revision was largely due to health authorities adding patients diagnosed on the basis of lung scans to a previous count, which was mostly limited to those whose swab tests came back positive.The medical data emerging from hospitals and clinics around the world are invaluable in determining how this outbreak will evolve — but the picture painted by the information is changing almost as fast as the disease itself, and isn’t always of impeccable provenance. Just as novel infections exploit weaknesses in the body’s immune defenses, epidemics have an unnerving habit of spotting the vulnerabilities of the data-driven society we’ve built for ourselves.That’s not a comforting thought. We live in an era where everything seems quantifiable, from our daily movements to our internet search habits and even our heartbeats. At a time when people are scared and seeking certainty, it’s alarming that the knowledge we have on this most important issue is at best an approximate guide to what’s happening.“It’s so easy these days to capture data on anything, but to make meaning of it is not easy at all,” said John Carlin, a professor at the University of Melbourne specializing in medical statistics and epidemiology. “There’s genuinely a lot of uncertainty, but that’s not what people want to know. They want to know it’s under control.”That’s most visible in the contradictory information we’re seeing around how many people have been infected, and what share of them have died. While those figures are essential for getting a handle on the situation, as we’ve argued, they’re subject to errors in sampling and measurement that are compounded in high-pressure, strained circumstances. The physical capacity to do timely testing and diagnosis can’t be taken for granted either, as my colleague Max Nisen has written.Early case fatality rates for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome were often 40% or higher before settling down to figures in the region of 15% or less. The age of patients, whether they get sick in the community or in a hospital, and doctors’ capacity and experience in offering treatment can all affect those numbers dramatically.Even the way that coronavirus cases are defined and counted has changed several times, said Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the University of New South Wales’s Biosecurity Research Program: From “pneumonia of unknown cause” in the early days, through laboratory-confirmed cases once a virus was identified, to the current standard that includes lung scans. That’s a common phenomenon during outbreaks, she said. Those problems are exacerbated by the fact that China’s government has already shown itself willing to suppress medical information for political reasons. While you’d hope the seriousness of the situation would have changed that instinct, the fact casts a shadow of doubt over everything we know.How should the world respond amid this fog of uncertainty?While every piece of information is subject to revision and the usual statistical rule of garbage-in, garbage-out, epidemiologists have ways to make better sense of what is going on. Well-established statistical techniques can be used to clean up messy data. A study this week by Imperial College London used screening of passengers flying to Japan and Germany to estimate the fatality rate for all cases was about 1% — below the 2.7% of confirmed ones found in Hubei province, but higher than the 0.5% seen for the rest of the world.When studies from different researchers using varying techniques start to converge toward common conclusions, that’s also a strong if not faultless indication that we’re on the right track. The number of new infections caused by each coronavirus case has now been identified in the region of 2.2 or 2.3 by several separate  studies, for instance — although that number itself can be subject to change as people quarantine themselves and self-segregate to prevent infection.The troubling truth, though, is that in a society that expects to know everything, this most crucial piece of knowledge is still uncertain.Google can track my every move and tell me where I ate lunch last week, but viruses don’t carry phones. The facts about this disease are hidden in the activity of billions of nanometer-scale particles, spreading through the cells of tens of thousands of humans and the environments we traverse. Big data can barely scratch the surface of solving that problem.To contact the author of this story: David Fickling at dfickling@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Here's why Big Tech is winning the war against the government
    Yahoo Finance

    Here's why Big Tech is winning the war against the government

    The U.S. government has never been a model of consistency but lately the inconsistencies—foolish and otherwise—emerging from Washington directed at the tech industry have become truly mind-blowing.

  • Facebook Prepares for Wave of Influencer Marketing in Politics
    Bloomberg

    Facebook Prepares for Wave of Influencer Marketing in Politics

    (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. is trying to clarify how it will handle a new wrinkle in the world of digital political advertising: politicians paying influencers to post on social media platforms like Instagram, which it owns.In the past, political entities were technically barred from offering money for posts, which has become a common practice for marketers. But Facebook is changing its policy after a New York Times report this week about how Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is paying Instagram creators to make and distribute posts making him “look cool.”(Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)A company spokeswoman said Facebook has heard from multiple campaigns about the subject, and wanted it to be easy for users to identify paid political speech, whether it was direct advertising or branded content. “Branded content is different from advertising, but in either case we believe it’s important people know when they’re seeing paid content on our platforms,” the spokeswoman said.Now Facebook is stepping up enforcement of rules — which had been inconsistent —  requiring influencers to use Facebook’s tool to tag paid posts with a prominent disclaimer. It said Friday it will require users who worked with the Bloomberg campaign to retroactively add these disclaimers to branded posts the campaign sponsored. “The campaign was explicitly clear that these posts were ads and sponsored content,” said Sabrina Singh, a Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman. “We went above and beyond to follow Instagram’s rules and the text of the post clearly shows that these are the campaign’s paid ads.” Facebook will now require political candidates buying branded content to register as political advertisers with the company. Unlike other political ads, branded posts won't end up in Facebook's ad archive unless the politician also pays Facebook to promote the posts.  Elizabeth Warren criticized Facebook for creating a new loophole. "Refusing to catalogue paid political ads because the Bloomberg campaign found a workaround means there will be less transparency for the content he is paying to promote. Mike Bloomberg cannot be allowed to buy an election with zero accountability," she wrote on Twitter.  The emergence of political branded content is a reminder of how hard companies have to work to keep up with the changing landscape of political speech.  These posts, also known as sponsored content —  or, if you must, “sponcon” — have pushed the boundaries of advertising for the last half-decade or so. As individual users on Instagram, Google’s YouTube, Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch and other platforms amassed large audiences, marketers began seeing them as a viable alternative to standard advertising. Influencers now regularly tout products in their posts.  Regulators have complained for years that they often do so without explaining that they’re being paid. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission sent dozens of letters to influencers and marketers requiring them to disclose any “material connection” that someone pitching a product had to advertisers. The commission is currently reviewing its endorsement policies, with an eye toward social media. “We may need new rules for tech platforms and for companies that pay influencers to promote products,” FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra wrote on Twitter this week. While Bloomberg’s campaign has drawn unprecedented attention to political branded content, he isn’t the first politician to fall for the charms of social media influencers. And as more money pours into political advertising in coming months, there will likely be candidates and other political entities willing to explore any potential advantage.  Gil Eyal, the chief executive of Hypr, a company that helps marketers find influencers for sponsored content deals, said he’s noticed a recent wave of interest from political entities. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries about how we can do this,” he said. He declined to name anyone who had contacted him, and said they’ve turned down the proposals. “We truthfully say this isn’t our forte,” he said. “I think they underestimate how hard this is to do.”  Main Street One, a New York-based startup, has been pitching Democratic and progressive organizations on influencer campaigns for months as a way to drown out online disinformation. It has run several such experiments. Late last year, it helped run an influencer campaign promoting Cory Booker funded by United We Win, a Democratic super PAC. This sparked a debate among influencers about whether accepting money from politicians was appropriate, and whether doing so would be bad for their personal brands.   Curtis Hougland, Main Street One’s chief executive officer, said the group doesn’t always pay influencers for posting — it’s also seeking out volunteers. But those it does pay can get as much as $500 per post. Finding the right influencers, he said, is a side-door way to effectively target messages. The company might pay more, he said, for posts from someone whose followers are clustered in a particular geographic region, or who fall into some other demographic they’re trying to reach.  The response has been mixed, said Hougland, with some potential clients concerned that the risk of such campaigns outweigh the benefits. In his view, mobilizing left-leaning social media influencers is the best way to reach voters in a distracted and messy online media environment. “Can we live with that risk tolerance?” he said. “I think by being less precious we can be more effective.” (Updates with comments from Bloomberg campaign in the sixth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Mark Niquette.To contact the author of this story: Joshua Brustein in New York at jbrustein@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Molly Schuetz at mschuetz9@bloomberg.net, Andrew PollackFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Tech Daily: NVIDIA & Intel Earnings, JEDI Stay Order, Facebook App, More
    Zacks

    Tech Daily: NVIDIA & Intel Earnings, JEDI Stay Order, Facebook App, More

    Earnings reports from NVIDIA and Cisco, a stay order on the JEDI contract, Facebook's app to compete with Pinterest and other stories are covered in this daily.

  • Shopify’s Sweetheart Week Has It Encroaching on Market Stalwarts
    Bloomberg

    Shopify’s Sweetheart Week Has It Encroaching on Market Stalwarts

    (Bloomberg) -- Canada’s homegrown tech company Shopify Inc. is on a tear.After surging annually since its 2015 initial public offering, it has rallied 36% to a market value of almost C$82 billion ($62 billion) in 2020, making it the seventh largest company on the S&P/TSX Composite Index. That puts it about C$8 billion away from usurping Bank of Nova Scotia -- the fifth biggest company. Canadian National Railway Co. -- is No. 6 on the benchmark.Shopify’s value has climbed about C$7.9 billion just this week as fourth-quarter revenue topped analysts’ estimates and the provider of online shopping tools gave an optimistic forecast for the year.Shares of Shopify have skyrocketed to fresh records amid a dearth of quality tech companies on the S&P/TSX Composite Index. The benchmark tech gauge has a mere 10 members compared with over 71 on the S&P 500’s tech index, which includes FAANG giants such as Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Netflix Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc.Still, Shopify’s meteoric rise has some analysts calling for caution. Credit Suisse analyst Brad Zelnick downgraded the stock to the equivalent of a hold on its “lofty valuation” but raised his share price target for the U.S.-listed stock to $575 from $450. He did, however, contend that company has a “great business.” The stock is currently sitting at about $527.Markets -- Just The NumbersChart of The WeekPoliticsPrime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will do everything it can to resolve protests that have crippled parts of the country’s railways, leading to disruptions in passenger travel and the shipment of key goods. RBC Capital Markets said the demonstrations are another reason the Bank of Canada will be “biased to ease.”Get the latest news on the pipeline protests hereThe coronavirus continues to spread within China. Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that the epidemic will take a “real” toll on Canada’s economy given it’s global knock-on effects. Reduced tourism from China and lower commodity prices will also impact Canada’s growth.EconomyA new survey showed that Canadians are growing increasingly confident of getting a job with better pay were they to leave their current workplace, another indication of the health of the nation’s labor market as the unemployment rate sits at historic lows and wages climb near the fastest pace since the recession.The housing market in major Canadian cities continued to tighten as home sales fell and prices rose in January. A combination of steady population growth, low unemployment and cheap borrowing costs have brought buyers into the market but shrinking supply is damping transactions and driving bids for homes higher in places like Toronto.Up next, economists will be watching manufacturing sales figures on Feb. 18, inflation data due Feb. 19 and retail sales expected on Feb. 21. The stock market is closed on Monday for a holiday in Ontario and some other provinces.TrendingInCanada1\. Former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, also known as “Hurricane Hazel” turned 99 with NHL’s Maple Leafs team celebrating her birthday. She was in office for 12 terms before stepping back in 2014.2\. An extreme cold warning alert was issued for the city of Toronto Friday as temperatures dip below 30 degrees Celsius (that’s -22 degrees Farenheit).\--With assistance from Shelly Hagan.To contact the reporter on this story: Divya Balji in Toronto at dbalji1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyung Bok Cho at kcho7@bloomberg.net, Jacqueline Thorpe, Danielle BochoveFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Google’s Critics Dismiss Move Posting Competitors’ Travel Links as Window Dressing
    Skift

    Google’s Critics Dismiss Move Posting Competitors’ Travel Links as Window Dressing

    Google competitors in Europe and the United States aren't putting much stock in the search engine's test in Europe where it is placing rivals links in a "carousel" above its own far-more-elaborate boxed collection of vacation rental offerings. Michelle Schwefel, who heads the office of political communications for Deutsche Ferienhausverband (the German Holiday Home Association), […]

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