Friday, February 10, 2017
News Corp slides into loss; Tim Cook says fake news killing people's minds; Ford bets $1bn on robotics startup
1 News Corp slides into loss (BBC) Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has reported a loss for the three months to December, amid a difficult environment for print advertising. The group made a loss of $219m compared with the same time last year when profits were $106m.
However, a growing demand for "accurate and timely journalism" was helping to lift subscriber numbers for some of its news outlets, it said. News Corp gets more than half its revenue from outside the US. The firm's chief executive Robert Thomson said The Wall Street Journal now had more than 2.1 million paid subscribers and that for the first time, more than 50% of those subscribers were digital.
The group reported strong performances at its book publisher Harper Collins and its digital estate agency division. Rapid expansion meant "digital real estate" was "well on the way to becoming the largest contributor to our profitability", said Mr Thomson. He said a reduction in the value of print-related fixed assets at the firm's Australian newspaper business had hurt income for the quarter, together with non-cash charges related to Foxtel.
2 Tim Cook says fake news killing people’s minds (Kevin Rawlinson in The Guardian) Fake news is “killing people’s minds”, Tim Cook, the head of Apple, has said. The technology boss said firms such as his own needed to create tools that would help stem the spread of falsehoods, without impinging on freedom of speech.
Cook also called for governments to lead information campaigns to crack down on fake news in an interview with a British national newspaper. The scourge of falsehoods in mainstream political discourse came to the fore during recent campaigns, during which supporters of each side were accused of promoting misinformation for political gain.
While instances were seen among supporters of both sides of the recent US election battle, Donald Trump’s campaign was seen by many as a particular beneficiary of fake news reports. And the US president’s team has been caught sending aides out to insist that a huge crowd had attended his inauguration, when the evidence showed a relatively modest audience was there.
Fake anti-Trump stories during the election included one in which it was falsely claimed that he had groped the drag queen and television presenter RuPaul. Hillary Clinton was scrutinised over her claim that there was “no evidence” her emails had been hacked because the FBI director, James Comey, had concluded it was likely they had been.
A study by economists at Stanford University and New York University published two months after November’s US presidential election found that in the run-up to the vote, fake anti-Clinton stories had been shared 30 million times on Facebook, while those favouring her were shared eight million times.
3 Ford bets $1bn on robotics startup (San Francisco Chronicle) Ford Motor is spending $1 billion to take over a budding robotics startup to acquire more expertise needed to reach its ambitious goal of having a fully driverless vehicle on the road by 2021. The big bet comes just a few months after the Pittsburgh startup, Argo AI, was created by two alumni of Carnegie Mellon University's robotics program, Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander.
The alliance between Argo and Ford is the latest to combine the spunk and dexterity of a technologically savvy startup with the financial muscle and manufacturing knowhow of a major automaker in the race to develop autonomous vehicles. Last year rival General Motors paid $581 million to buy Cruise Automation, a 40-person software company that is testing vehicles in San Francisco.
The Argo deal marks the next step in Ford's journey toward building a vehicle without a steering wheel or brake pedal by 2021 — a vision that CEO Mark Fields laid out last summer. The big-ticket deal for the newly-minted company clearly was aimed at getting Salesky and Rande. Salesky formerly worked on self-driving cars at a high-profile project within Google — now known as Waymo — and Rander did the same kind of engineering at ride-hailing service Uber before the two men teamed to launch Argo late last year.
The two will develop the core technology of Ford's autonomous vehicle — the "virtual driver" system, which Nair described as the car's "brains, eyes, ears and senses." "This is likely a realization that Ford is behind relative to companies like GM, Audi, Volvo, Waymo and Uber, and is trying to catch up," said Raj Rajkumar, a Carnegie Mellon computer engineering professor who leads the school's autonomous vehicle research.
Ford isn't just racing General Motors and other automakers to gain robotics experience. Uber bought autonomous trucking startup Otto for an estimated $680 million last summer primarily to get Otto's engineers on its team working on driverless vehicles. Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski, another former Google engineer, is now overseeing Uber's testing of driverless cars in Pittsburgh and Arizona.