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Google Reorganizes; Algorithm Biases


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A Whole New Google

Google unveiled a major overhaul of its operating structure late Monday. Under the new plan, Google and its multiple divisions are now subsidiaries of a company called Alphabet, with Larry Page at the helm. Google gets Sundar Pichai as CEO in the reshuffle. “We are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products,” Page wrote in a blog post. “The whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.” Page defines Alphabet as a collection of companies, adding that the “newer Google is a bit slimmed down,” as some of its Internet products get transferred to Alphabet (products like Life Sciences and Calico). Read the blog post.

Algorithm Issues

Algorithms are increasingly key in the decisioning for targeted ads, but there’s a dark side to that, the NYT reports. Biases in code can lead to digital discrimination, such as serving ads for high-interest loans to low-income demographics. In another recent debacle, research showed algorithms served ads for high-paying jobs to men but not to women. Is faulty code to blame? “Here is a different plausible explanation,” proposes Cynthia Dwork, a computer scientist at Microsoft Researcher. “It may be that there is more competition to advertise to women, and the ad was being outbid when the web surfer was female.” More.

Touchdown for Twitter!

The National Football League (NFL) renewed a strategic deal with Twitter for two more years following an original Twitter Amplify alliance, which began in 2013. Expect more football clips in your news feeds, since Twitter will syndicate in-game highlights throughout the preseason leading up to Super Bowl 50. The NFL also touts improved delivery of video, sponsored ads and brand integrations as a result of the extension. Variety has more. In related news, after interim CEO Jack Dorsey purchased 31,627 shares of the stumbling company, its stock shot up nearly 7%, according to Business Insider.

Facebook Throws Developers A Bone

On Monday, Facebook released a reference app for its marketing API that offers sample interfaces and code for ads creation, ads management and ads insights. “We’ve heard from the developer community over the years about the challenges getting started with our Marketing API,” said the company in a blog post. “It can be difficult to envision a final product when only looking at reference docs, authentication can be confusing, and too much time and energy is spent on building foundational technology rather than product innovation.” Read the blog post.

One App To Rule Them All

Connie Chan, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, published a blog post on the products and prospects of Chinese messaging firm WeChat. The company offers a system of apps within apps (like web pages on the Internet), overlapping with operating systems and app stores. WeChat’s Wallet (one of its native apps), is also a payment portal. (Don’t forget: Facebook hired a former PayPal CEO to lead its competitive messaging service.) In the age of social behemoths, messaging platforms are gaining ground. Read on.


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Foursquare’s Breakup Anniversary

One year after Foursquare split into two apps (Swarm for checking in and Foursquare for recommendations), VentureBeat checks in with company chief Dennis Crowley about the firm’s ads biz. “We’re licensing our data out to the Twitters, the Microsofts, and the Pinterests, and the 80K other developers, and we’re doing it with this entire ad tech stack,” he said. Foursquare’s product Pinpoint, for instance, displays ads on and off Foursquare’s app, including in other apps and on other sites. “It’s helping to take advertising that’s slightly targeted and turning it into richly targeted media,” said Crowley. But Foursquare will have to prove its worth if it means to conquer Yelp’s turf. Read it.

Flowing From Channel To Stream

FX Networks President John Landgraf said that the next year will see the zenith of American TV programming, before going into a decline. Speaking to the Television Critics Association, Landgraf predicted the current glut of programming (with more than 400 scripted programs this year, not to mention an endless archive on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime) will dampen the prospects for new shows. But he doesn’t think advertising will suffer, as “brands will become increasingly important as mediating filters for the overwhelmed viewing public.” More.

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