Facebook to Team With News Orgs on Story ‘Packages’

Facebook on Wednesday launched a new program aimed at establishing stronger ties with the media.

As part of its new Journalism Project, Facebook will be «collaborating with news organizations to develop products, learning from journalists about ways we can be a better partner and working with publishers and educators on how we can equip people with the knowledge they need to be informed readers in the digital age,» Director of Product Fidji Simo wrote in a blog post.

 
 

Though Facebook has worked with members of the media in the past, the social network plans to ramp up that collaboration by involving news partners in its product development process from the start. The company said it wants to work with media to tweak its current formats, like Live and Instant Articles, and build new ones «to better suit their needs.»

One idea it’s working on: Giving editors the ability to present «packages of stories» on the platform. «We’re going to start testing this using Instant Articles, so that readers can start to see multiple stories at a time from their favorite news organizations,» Simo wrote.

Facebook is also looking into subscriptions; this month, it collaborated with German publisher BILD to offer free content trials within Instant Articles. In the future, it may also be easier to get local news on Facebook.

These new efforts come as many media organizations feel an increasing reliance on Facebook. As of May 2016, 62 percent of U.S. adults said they get news from social media sources, according to Pew Research. Reddit had the largest number of users who said they get their news on the site at 70 percent, followed by Facebook users at 66 percent and Twitter at 59 percent.

Facebook, however, has battled a flood of so-called «fake news.» People create Pages for dubious news sites that traffic in salacious and often-incorrect news stories with the express purpose of getting clicks and, in turn, ad revenue. Facebook (and Google) cracked down on this practice in mid-November, but the move came after the 2016 presidential election, prompting some to complain that the misinformation on Facebook — much of it critical of Hillary Clinton — swayed the election in Donald Trump’s favor.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially pushed back on that, but has since rolled out new tools that make it easier to identify and report hoaxes you see in your Facebook News Feed. The company is now working with third-party fact-checking organizations to flag fake news, which might in turn show up lower in people’s feeds and with a warning.


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What to Expect at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017

The biggest mobile industry trade show of the year, Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017, is coming from February 27 to March 2 this year. It’ll be full of new phones as usual, but that’s only the beginning: tablets and networks have played big roles in previous years, and we should expect a lot of AR, VR and voice interfaces this year as well.

MWC is the kind of show where a lot of things lock in about two weeks before the event; we don’t even know what the keynote speeches will be. We’ll update this story as we learn more about what’s coming at MWC, but here’s what we expect so far.

LG vs. Samsung

With the Samsung Galaxy S8’s official launch rumored for April 18, the biggest phone at the show is likely to be the LG G6. LG will ditch the G5’s modular form and its «friends» in exchange for a sleeker, more «usable» look, according to current rumors. A teaser video, posted above, promises a big, but unusually narrow screen; a waterproof body; and «reliability.» LG’s traditional slot is Sunday afternoon, so expect a press conference on February 26.

Samsung won’t take this lying down, so there are rumors that the company will do some sort of buzzy, early S8 reveal that falls short of a full launch, in part to take the wind out of LG’s sails. The company also has a huge booth, and needs to fill it with something.

Without the S8, Samsung is going to have to fall back on tablets. It hasn’t updated the Galaxy Tab S series in more than a year, and its pen-enabled Note android tablets appear to have died of old age. Bringing the pen back on an Android Nougat tablet would keep the Note dream alive even though the Note 7 was recalled.

The return of BlackBerry and Nokia

Two old-school names will return to MWC in a big way. MWC will be where TCL introduces the BlackBerry «Mercury,» its new keyboarded Android phone which looks to have a much brighter potential future than BlackBerry’s 2015 Priv handset did. Hopefully, BlackBerry’s John Chen will give one of his annual updates on his business as well.

Meanwhile, Nokia’s back, and it’s going to be absolutely huge at MWC. The company is teasing a press conference for Sunday, February 26. While most Americans think of Nokia as a long-ago irrelevancy, it has a frothing level of fandom remaining in Europe, and that’s where the show is. HMD, the Finnish company that owns the Nokia name, just launched its first phone in China, and expect more of a lineup at MWC.

Android Wear’s second act

Google typically has a big, whimsical presence at MWC, with a Willy Wonka-like booth full of snacks and games. MWC lines up pretty neatly with Google’s promise to finally deliver Android Wear 2.0 early this year, and the show could see the first official Android Wear 2.0 upgrades and watches.

Another Huawei laptop?

Huawei has announced a press event for Sunday the 26th, but the timing isn’t right for a major new phone. The Mate 9 was just released, and the P10 probably won’t come out until April. Last year at MWC, Huawei went in a different direction with the Matebook, a convertible Windows laptop. The company’s lineup of Mediapad tablets is also looking a bit long in the tooth. Expect something from the less handheld computing direction from Huawei.

Something involving mobile content

The highest profile keynote speakers at the show so far are all in the entertainment industry: the CEOs of AT&T Entertainment (aka Time Warner), Netflix and Turner. What could these guys possibly be talking about? Well, they could engage in dull back-patting, or they could be talking about a broader international rollout of streaming services.

5G face-off

Prominent carrier CEOs aren’t on the MWC list yet, but they’ll be there, and infrastructure will play a big role at the show. Ericsson and Huawei, two major infrastructure vendors, have booths the size of small towns, and AT&T is sponsoring a smart cities area. I’m thinking that AT&T, Verizon or Sprint execs will make a late appearance at the show to put firmer dates on their planned 5G rollouts.

…And more

Lenovo, Sony, ZTE, Nubia, WIKO, HTC, Gionee and others all have significantly sized booths at the show, and they’re going to have to show something off. HTC just announced its U Ultra phone, but rumors continue to swirl about whether it will have a real successor to the One M10. ZTE might bring a smartwatch


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Despite $34M in Preorders, Lily Camera Drone Canceled

RIP Lily: Makers of the «world’s first throw-and-shoot camera» are closing their business and refunding customers who pre-ordered one.

Unable to secure financing to manufacture and ship its drone, the startup today announced plans to «wind down the company.»

«We have been delighted by the steady advancements in the quality of our product and have received great feedback from our beta program,» founders Antoine Balaresque and Henry Bradlow wrote in a blog post. «At the same time, we have been racing against a clock of ever-diminishing funds.»

Bradlow and Balaresque built their first prototype in September 2013 in the basement of a U.C. Berkeley robotics lab, but Lily didn’t make her debut until May 2015.

Users simply place a tracking device in a pocket or the waterproof wrist case, throw Lily in the air, and watch as she flies herself, using GPS and computer vision to follow you while shooting video and stills. A lithium-ion battery promised 20 minutes of flight time on a two-hour charge; the drone also has an IP67 waterproof rating.

Early-bird buyers pre-ordered the Lily Camera for $899 — $100 off the expected U.S. retail price. As of January 2016, the firm had collected $34 million in pre-sales.

«Our community was the drive that kept us going even as circumstances became more and more difficult,» the blog said. «Your encouraging words through our forums and in your emails gave us hope and the energy we needed to keep fighting.»

Now, the company is focused on handling refunds, which will happen over the next 60 days.

«After so much hard work, we are sad to see this adventure come to an end,» Balaresque and Bradlow wrote. «We are very sorry and disappointed that we will not be able to deliver your flying camera, and are incredibly grateful for your support as a pre-order customer.»

«Thank you for believing in our vision and giving us the opportunity to get this far,» they added. «We hope our contribution will help pave the way for the exciting future of our industry.»


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Google Is No Longer Working on High-Altitude Drones

Google has suspended research on its solar-powered drone, the company confirmed on Wednesday, less than three years after inheriting the project through its acquisition of Titan Aerospace.

First reported by 9to5Google on Wednesday, the drone cancellation took place early in 2016, according to a representative from the X subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. The representative told PCMag that X plans to refocus its efforts on development of a high-altitude balloon called Loon that can deliver internet access to remote areas, as well as the Project Wing drone delivery service.

 
 

«The team from Titan was brought into X in late 2015,» X Communications Manager Jacquelyn Miller wrote in an email to PCMag. «We ended our exploration of high altitude UAVs for internet access shortly after.»

Miller explained that the decision to stop drone research was one of several reorganizations that occurred after Alphabet was established, but that X’s overall mission to expiriment with alternative ways of delivering Internet access hadn’t changed.

«By comparison, at this stage the economics and technical feasibility of Project Loon present a much more promising way to connect rural and remote parts of the world,» she wrote. «Many people from the Titan team are now using their expertise as part of other high flying projects at X, including Loon and Project Wing.»

The challenges of delivering Internet access via solar-powered drones have not deterred Facebook, which performed a test flight of its own Aquila drone last year. That flight ended in disaster, however, when the prototype crashed due to a structural failure.

Facebook was also rumored to be interested in Titan Aerospace before Google acquired it in 2014. The company instead picked up UK-based Ascenta, which had also been working on solar-powered drones.


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Comcast Is America’s Most Hated Company

In business, perception is everything: A single bad experience can burn a brand name and ruin a company’s reputation.

So it’s no surprise that well-known tech companies including Comcast, Facebook, Dish, Sprint and Charter Communications landed on a list of America’s most hated businesses.

 
 

Financial news site 24/7 Wall St. this week released a report identifying «12 companies hated by customers, employees and the general public.» Their findings are based on consumer satisfaction surveys and worker reviews.

Comcast topped the list, boasting a «significantly worse» score than the internet and subscription TV service industry averages, according to 24/7 Wall St. In J.D. Power’s rating of major wireline services, the firm received the worst scores in cost to consumer, performance, billing and reliability.

Clients are understandably perturbed: The Federal Communications Commission in the fall fined Comcast for $2.3 million over allegations the cable company charged customers for services they never authorized.

But it seems service providers can’t catch a break: Dish Network came in at No. 8 with one of the lowest employee satisfaction ratings of any major company reviewed on Glassdoor. Sprint customers report the lowest customer satisfaction of any wireless telephone enterprise.

«Sprint is in the midst of a multi-year turnaround and in the past 12 months we’ve made substantial improvement in important metrics including customer and employee satisfaction levels,» a company spokeswoman told PCMag. «We know we have more work to do, but with an internal motto of ‘Getting Better Every Day,’ we will continue enhance our experience for our customers and our employees.»

Fresh off its Time Warner Cable acquisition, Charter Communications, meanwhile, has one of the poorest reputations for customer service in the subscription TV industry, 24/7 Wall St. said.

Surprise entry Facebook landed at No. 6, thanks to recent criticism over its privacy policies and mass user data collection, not to mention the spread of fake news leading up to the U.S. presidential election.


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Watch Incredible Footage of a Drone Crashing Into Seattle’s Space Needle

The above video posted by GeekWire shows just what the headline of this story implies: a drone’s eye view of a nosedive into the Seattle Space Needle’s observation tower.

“It looks like the drone tractor beam we installed on the Space Needle is working,” Space Needle CEO and president Ron Sevart joked in a statement. “This is the third time we’ve recovered a drone on our property.”

Related: There Is Now a Global Competitive Drone Racing League. Seriously.

Geekwire identifies the drone as a DJI Inspire 1 with a 4K camera that sells for about $1,700. Now in possession of the Seattle Police Department, it is going to take a lot of willpower to resist taking it out of the evidence room for a joy ride in the parking lot.

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Are Self-Driving Cars Finally Ready for Consumers? What Entrepreneurs Need to Know

Yes, I know. We’ve been waiting for the self-driving car revolution for what seems like forever. Google seemed on top of things in the years after 2009, when the company first started its self-driving car project. But now it’s 2017, and we still aren’t surrounded by fleets of autonomous vehicles. What gives?

Related: Google, Automakers Object to California Rules for Self-Driving Cars

Well, if recent developments are any indication, 2017 could be the year that self-driving cars finally start to go mainstream. And as a business owner, you need to be prepared for the ramifications of this quickly approaching massive technological and cultural shift.

What entrepreneurs need to watch for

So, how might the emergence of autonomous vehicles affect your business?

  • Consumer needs. For starters, consumers who have access to fully autonomous vehicles are going to have new needs that, as an entrepreneur, you’ll have to accommodate. Any products designed for drivers may have to be completely reimagined, and people will have more free time to fill if they’re able to move and focus on tasks during their hour (or longer) total commute time every day. Think ahead and prepare for that change.
  • Cost of goods. Self-driving trucks will function more cheaply and efficiently than their manually driven counterparts, which means the cost and ease of transporting your goods are going to decrease. Prepare your logistics division to transition early and take advantage of these changes before your competitors do, so you can lower your prices accordingly.
  • Space. With less need for roads and other transportation institutions, there’s going to be far more space for residential and business constructions. Depending on the nature of your business, this could be a major opportunity for expansion.
  • Employee commutes. If you encourage your employees to opt for self-driving cars, or even have autonomous company cars that enable easy carpooling, your employees will suddenly have far more time every day to do their work. They’ll be simultaneously more productive and less stressed, which means your business stands to thrive.

Related: Ford Doubling Silicon Valley Workforce in Push Toward Self-Driving Cars

Where we stand

So, where exactly are we with self-driving cars? Is 2017 a realistic possibility?

Google’s self-driving car project is now called Waymo, and is looking to partner with auto manufacturers to get a fleet of cars on the street shuttling consumers by 2020. We may start seeing early versions, or not yet-fully autonomous cars hitting the streets before then.

Google isn’t the only company on the verge of a breakthrough, however. Self-driving taxi service nuTonomy is fully active in Singapore, though ride availability is limited, and there have been some complications already with the service. Uber isn’t far behind, with its goal to convert its fleet of drivers into a fleet of autonomous vehicles as soon as possible.

Uber is now testing in multiple states, with those tests supervised by engineers, so it may be a little ambitious to expect its effort to expand nationwide in 2017. In any case, both companies stand to make significant progress this year, and are only a few rounds of testing away from the next stage.

The big obstacles

So far, there have been only a handful of collisions involving self-driving cars, most of which were the fault of a human driver, and only one of them was fatal. So, what’s stopping autonomous cars from rolling out?

  • Snow and weather. Most self-driving car tests have been in California, Arizona, Florida and other areas with predictable, calm states of weather. In the American Northeast, where snow, hail and other complicated weather conditions are commonplace, autonomous cars still have many problems to solve. It’s much harder to make predictions and judgments about the environment there.
  • Ethical dilemmas. Driving choices won’t always be black and white; for example, should an autonomous car kill its own driver if that action saves multiple other lives? Engineers have contemplated, but not come close to, solving these ethical dilemmas. In fact, they’re hypothetically unsolvable. What we really need to solve is how self-driving cars should approach these problems, should they come up.
  • Legality. Legal concerns have always been a main stopping point for autonomous driving technology, but recently, companies like Uber have escalated the intensity. Uber has been involved in a vicious legal battle with the state of California since its autonomous test vehicles were caught running red lights, but the complexity of new laws poses a problem everywhere. Currently, even the testing of self-driving vehicles is legal only in California, Michigan, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, North Dakota, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.
  • Certainty. No amount of PR in the world could salvage the reputation of a company whose self-driving cars cost innocent human lives. For tech companies, being 99.9 percent certain about the success of their software isn’t enough — they need to be as close to 100 percent as possible, and that means testing far beyond what any of us feel is “enough.”

Related: Google Makes Progress on Self-Driving Cars as it Hits the 2 Million Mile Mark

I think it’s a bit ambitious to say that 2017 will be the year self-driving cars take over, but it’s reasonable to expect massive progress throughout the year. If I had to put a date on it, I’d project that we’ll see self-driving cars transforming our economy by 2020, and that means you need to start thinking now about how your business is going to adapt.

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The Surprising Reason Why This Founder Says Not to Be Afraid of the Competition

Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur’s “20 Questions” series features both established and up-and-coming entrepreneurs and asks them a number of questions about what makes them tick, their everyday success strategies and advice for aspiring founders.

In 2013, Chieh Huang and his three co-founders were feeling ambitious. They decided to take on Amazon and big-box retailers.

They launched Boxed, a company that is dedicated to shipping bulk groceries and home products to customer’s doors at competitive prices.  

“We just identified a problem we had in our daily lives,” explains Huang. “Before, people would drive an hour for price, but with technology, value is a function of price and convenience now. That changing of the formula allows us to come in and take advantage of that.”

Related: First, It Was College Tuition for His Employees’ Kids. Now, This CEO Launches Program to Foot the Bill for Employees’ Weddings.

Four years ago, Huang was running the business out of his garage. The first item the team ever shipped was some rolls of paper towels. Today, the company operates four fulfillment centers around the country, including its home base of Edison, New Jersey. Boxed has raised more $100 million in funding and surpassed $100 million in annual sales.

Boxed has also been in the news for some of its company wide initiatives, like a college fund for employee’s children and putting money towards the weddings of employees.

Related: This Company Is Offering Discounts to Fight Sexist Product Pricing

We caught up with Huang for our 20 Questions series to find out what motivates him and makes him tick.

Interview was edited for length and clarity.

1. How do you start your day?
I start the day just with the family. I don’t check emails until my commute, and I make sure my phone isn’t close to me until I’m out the door. I’m guilty just like everyone else. When you’re at the dinner table with family and checking email, you make nobody happy. I try to keep true to that and that’s why I don’t check it.

2. How do you end your day and
I end my day reading a [physical] book. It is the way I actually wind down. It gives me a little bit of clarity on things. I do it because I read this article about how right before you go to bed, the blue light [from mobile devices] disrupts your sleep. I do think I wake up more rested, but it could be the placebo effect.

3. What’s a book that changed your mind
50 Strategies That Changed History by Daniel Smith. It just basically went down this list of interesting moments in history. It kind of changed the way I thought about people who do things that change the arc of history. When I read the book and how they did what they did, most of these people were random people who had to step up and make a strategy to make it happen. You don’t have to be a superhero to change the arc of history.

Related: 10 Successful Entrepreneurs Reveal the Books That Changed Their Lives

4. What’s a book you always recommend
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Every entrepreneur out there has challenging days. What you read about what he’s gone through, you think it is tough, but he still got through it. Definitely recommend that one.

5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
Having a chief of staff. They aren’t just managing a calendar, they can fill in the gaps for you. My chief of staff writes me an email at the end of every day, and makes a list of the decisions that I need to make that people are counting on. Having someone to send that every day has made my life better and made things here a lot clearer for everyone.

6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew I did not want to be a doctor, my parents kept talking to me about that. I wanted to be an NBA player but around freshman and sophomore year I stopped growing, so that was the end of that.

Related: 6 Tips for Goal-Setting That, Trust Me, They Don’t Teach You in College

7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
I learned just what not to do when it was my turn to be the boss. When it comes to running a business and interacting with people, you need to be very transparent.

8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
I think it would have to be my mom. My mom started off as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant and ended up being an EVP of a decent sized company. Throughout that time, she never complained once. She just got up and did what she needed to do. In the morning if I’m sluggish I think if my mom could do that, I could do this.

9. What’s a trip that changed you?
Emotionally, it was a trip to Tibet. I definitely saw not only the beauty of the place but what some folks in life are truly going through. I didn’t have an easy childhood but compared to kids who are growing up in poverty in China and Tibet, that changed the way I thought about opportunity.

A trajectory changer for my professional life was teaching English in Japan for two years. I was sent off into the countryside. I felt like I wasted those two years at first, but it turned out that our first investor in Boxed actually grew up in that area. Without that initial spark, I don’t think we’d be here today.

Related: 11 Strategies for More Efficient Business Travel

10. What inspires you?
The folks in our performance centers who do a very difficult job. My life at Boxed started there — the CEO was packing boxes at the start, too. There are a lot of people counting on us to make the right decisions to make sure that we do well, so they can put food on the table and that inspires me.

11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
When I was in fifth grade I sold candy to all the kids on the block. I saw how much they loved the ice cream truck, but it only came around once a day. So, being outside with the kids from the neighborhood, I was always around. That was my start.

12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful that you still use today?
One of my first jobs was an internship with this consulting firm going through international strategy for them. Even big companies needed help with strategy. On the outside it would seem like they have it figured out, but on the inside there’s a lot of things that need figuring out.

Related: The Top 20 First Jobs in the U.S. According to Facebook

13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
It’s to trust your gut. It’s what got me here today, and it seems like it’s served us pretty well, so why change that.

14. What’s the worst piece of advice you ever got?
When I was working at a law firm, I was thinking about leaving, and a co-worker said not to leave the comfort of the job to start my first company. I didn’t take that person’s advice, and I’m better for it.

15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
I try to do inbox zero. I get pretty close most nights. That allows me in the morning to not have to get to emails and know that nothing really pressing is waiting. In the morning I’m sharpest. I can use that time to think about how to make things better for the company, instead of focusing on email.

Related: Entrepreneur’s Best Advice for Super Productivity

16. Is there an app or tool you use to get things done or stay on track?
It’s a little cliche, but honestly it’s Uber. Uber has a pick up at a certain time feature that is really helpful. It gets me where I need to go on time.

17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
It means that you’re not having regrets on either front. You got to this point where you’re not worrying about what you should have done with your job or your family.

I’m not perfect and sometimes I do have regrets, but that is what it means to me overall: getting to that place where you don’t have them.

18. How do you prevent burnout?
I don’t know if I’m built differently, but I found something that I love and enjoy and I’m decent at it. When you find that marriage in life, you don’t feel burned out. I could do this all day, and it’s what I want to do during the waking hours.

Related: How to Recognize and Beat Burnout

19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
I separate myself from email and internet and sit down with pen and paper. Some of my most productive time is on airplane. Being forced to sit down with just your thoughts is really helpful to me.

20. What are you learning now?
A few years ago we were a tiny company in my garage. I have to learn something new every day. I can’t even enumerate them. Every day is something new.

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Watch Mark Zuckerberg 3-D-Print a Mini Version of His Dog

Forget about tennis balls or generic pet toys — why not get your dog a miniature 3-D-printed version of him or herself? That’s what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did.

For the sixth birthday of his Hungarian Sheepdog Beast, Zuckerberg — with the help of some crafty Oculus staff members — created a 3-D-printed mini replica of his furry friend.

Zuckerberg turned to his cuddly canine to help put the recently announced Oculus Medium software in the spotlight. With more than 4 million video views on Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Beast seemed to have done the trick.

So if you’ve ever wondered how 3-D printing works — or better yet, how you can 3-D print a version of your pet, watch Zuckerberg and the Oculus staff make some magic. If beast was expecting a chewy bone toy — maybe next birthday.

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