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All posts by Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley

Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley
Tom Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist and the Founder and Publisher of Silicon Valley Watcher, which is an online news site reporting on the business of Silicon Valley and the culture of disruption.
  • Does Google’s Motorola sale signal the end of its bid to become like Apple?

    Google sells its handset business at a huge loss and helps Lenovo finance the deal. It ends an expensive chapter in Google’s attempts to diversify from publishing ads. As Larry Dignan and Zack Whittaker at ZDNet report: Google confirmed after markets closed on Wednesday that Lenovo has acquired Motorola Mobility in a deal valued at $2.91 billion, just two years after the search giant bought it for $12.5 billion. Lenovo will pay US$1.41-billion when the deal closes in cash and shares and the remainder will be in a US$1.5-billion note over three years. In a company blog post, Motorola confirmed Google will...

  • Paper: a media display technology without equal

    If paper were announced today, as an alternative technology to digital screens, its tech specs would be madly impressive. Paper is a media technology without equal: - Imagine a lightweight display as thin as a single hair, capable of displaying high resolution color images. - It’s always on and more than one hundred of these paper displays can be stacked together into a $5 information appliance (called a magazine, or book). - Each display is flexible, tearable, and can be folded into a myriad of origami forms. - It is very green. It is constructed from a sustainable substrate that is 100%...

  • Cultish isolation: the most harmful side-effect of all those Silicon Valley office perks?

    San Francisco is rapidly polarizing against its tech workers as protests mount about shuttle bus use, and a huge rise in rents and evictions. There would be less of a problem if tech workers were known in their communities but they aren’t. I know only one Google worker outside of my work circle and I have a large social circle of non-techies built over two decades. Here are the many ways Silicon Valley tech workers are deliberately kept isolated: The tech workers are scooped up in shuttle buses early in the morning and dropped off late in the evening. No time to...

  • Creativity and innovation: the only way PRs can outgun massive ad agencies

    The advertising industry is going through big changes and that means opportunities for PR firms to compete for large marketing budgets normally allocated for advertising. PR agencies have a window of opportunity while the advertising industry is distracted in a wave of consolidation, such as the huge Omnicom and Publicis merger; and the agencies are distracted with responding to disruptive trends, such as algorithmic ad buying. This is a very good time for the PR industry to move against the ad agencies. But with what? How? Richard Edelman leads the world’s largest privately held public relations company. He writes that PR firms...

  • What The New York Times tells us about the weaknesses of native advertising

    Native advertising is the world’s worst idea and I can’t believe the New York Times management is so gullible and clueless in agreeing to its publication. Gullible — because they were talked into giving away their hard-won position as the nation’s top newspaper by marketing people looking for short-term gains. Clueless — because they can’t see the stupidity of their actions and how they’ve shot themselves in the foot, groin, and brains. The brands and marketing agencies are clueless, too. The practice is exceptionally harmful because it makes it seem as if all content is corrupt. Native advertising poisons the well of...

  • Blogging was supposed to topple mass media — so what happened?

    Om Malik, publisher of GigaOm, recently posted some thoughts about his 12 years of blogging and he came to the conclusion that blogs today are where he can aggregate all his fractured expressions across the web: Instagram photos, articles, comments, and whimsical musings. But he writes, “The concept of blogging as we knew it has lost some of its meaning and even a bit of meaningfulness.” It certainly has and Om is being too gentle in his criticism because blogging has fallen very far from the promise it once had, and in attaining real meaningfulness. I started blogging in mid-2004 when I left...

  • Is Business Insider really worth $100m?

    It looks like Business Insider, the New York based news site is for sale as co-founder Henry Blodget does an extensive round of media interviews. Blodget needs a high valuation so that he can discount the price against that, and please the buyer. It’s always good to leave some money on the table, as Twitter did in its IPO, it sweetens the deal. But how do you value a private media company? It all depends on the story you tell. USA Today’s media industry columnist Michael Wolff’s recent column focused on “savvy operator” Henry Blodget, “who took brilliant advantage of the...

  • What PandoDaily’s NSFW merger tells about the state of tech reporting

    Tech news site PandoDaily is merging with NSFW, a magazine based in Las Vegas, in a bid to “double down on investigative reporting.” The financially troubled NSFW was founded by Paul Carr, a former columnist for The Guardian. Sarah Lacy, founder of PandoDaily, wrote: "We aren’t just getting Paul. I’m equally thrilled to announce that we’re also adding Mark Ames, Brad Jonas, Yasha Levine, and David Sirota as full-time staffers.” It’s tough making money in online media and it gets tougher when you take on even higher costs as in the five full-time staff plus additional part-timers from NSFW. That’s...

  • Pierre Omidyar adds staff to news venture, but who’ll cover Silicon Valley?

    Ebay co-founder Pierre Omidyar’s news venture has been adding staff to the as yet unnamed organization, with the latest being New York university journalism professor and news media critic Jay Rosen. The Omidyar news venture (ONV) is being led by Glenn Greenwald, the former blogger and Guardian newspaper journalist. Rosen, who has virtually no experience in news journalism, did not say what his role will be in ONV, which is backed with US$250-million of the billionaire’s personal money, the same amount that Jeff Bezos paid for the Washington Post newspaper. Rosen’s long experience as a news media critic would suit...

  • All of Google’s big work perks aren’t really necessary for keeping top talent

    There’s enormous competition for software engineers and many companies offer an ever larger array of work perks convinced that it will help them recruit the best. Kathleen Pender at SFGate.com reports: Tech workers are being wooed with napping stations, unlimited vacation, free housekeeping and errand-running, yoga classes, on-site doctors and masseuses, and gourmet cafeterias… Social Print Studio of San Francisco is a good example of the modern startup. Along with health care, but no 401(k) yet, it offers unlimited vacation, napping boxes, and a fully equipped jam room where its 20 employees and their friends can record a song or video. Are...

  • Hey tech optimists, we need a little activism for the unmonitored self

    Historians will look back at the past 20 years as a unique period, a time when there was great opportunity to see deep into the collective soul of entire societies because people’s online behaviour was largely naked of any fears of being judged or monitored. Novelist Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez wrote: “All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.” We once had insight into that secret world. People now go “dark” — ditching their natures, becoming self-monitored, self-critical, and second guessing themselves and everything around them, in the wake of the NSA disclosures and the enormous amount of corporate...

  • Journalism might need a saviour, but billionaires aren’t the answer

    Billionaires love buying media businesses and they've been doing it for decades but recent purchases are being viewed as philanthropic rather than vanity projects. The recent media venture by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and Jeff Bezos' Washington Post have spurred the decimated ranks of US news organizations as potentially being able to save journalism. The problems in building sustainable news businesses aren't caused by a lack of apps or technology, or by paper versus electron. They are caused by a business model reliant on advertising, which continues to degrade despite the best efforts of leading news sites. The New York...

  • Google’s AdSense is in trouble: where does its future lie?

    Google's latest quarterly financial report shows problems in its AdSense network, which was responsible for 29% of last year's $43.7 billion in revenues. It means a lot less money for Google's network of publishing partners, such as the New York Times. $GOOG's Q3 report showed zero growth for AdSense compared with 22% yearly growth for its AdWords network. Not only has yearly growth come to a stop but AdSense revenues have shrunk every quarter this year (see chart below). The continuing plunge in AdSense is in sharp contrast to robust 20% revenue growth in 2012, which outpaced AdWords' growth of...

  • Want proof of big data’s dismal failure? Look at economics

    The excitement about "big data" in tech circles is very optimistic and many companies are rushing to hire "Data Scientists" to profit from the explosion of hype about the reams of data collected inside their own organizations, and in the world outside. But having access to big data doesn't guarantee that companies, or individuals, will understand or be able to derive much value from it. The very few examples of companies doing that, are very few. And for a good reason – finding insight in all that data is difficult and becomes more difficult the bigger the data sets. Take...

  • Is Google’s anti-aging startup all about keeping its employees on forever?

    Fortune Senior Editor Dan Primack recently returned from a visit to Silicon Valley and he reports new details on the Calico Google venture that is funding research into extending human life spans. He reports that Calico, co-founded by Bill Maris, managing partner at Google Ventures, had commitments of investment from wealthy tech execs and VCs, but that Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page decided to fund the venture entirely from Google's balance sheet: Maris began raising money, largely from wealthy tech executives and venture capitalists… One of those Maris called on was Google co-founder and director of special projects...