👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.
Let's start with some housekeeping: This newsletter has been nicely edited for the many past issue (since its restart last year) by Celine Bijleveld. This week I’m at the International Journalism Festival and although I’ve tried to prepare everything on time for editing, things happened and I’m writing and editing FWIW by myself, so sorry for not delivering a nice English-sounding version of the newsletter. Thanks for understanding, next week will be better. (If you are also in Perugia and want to meet for a coffee, just hit reply, I have a free afternoon on Saturday.)
In this edition
Twitter & Elon trouble
Le Monde goes after the international English-speaking audience
Spotify’s podcast hosting tool is available in 35 languages
What’s going on at Twitter
ℹ️ At this point it might not even be news for you, still, some FWIW readers tell me they don’t read other tech newsletters, so consider this part for them, feel bette about yourself and skip to the digest.
For the rest of you who continued reading, here is what happened and why was (is and will be) Elon Musk in the headlines.
The Tesla CEO bought 9,2% shares of Twitter making him the biggest shareholder of the company.
That’s big enough news in itself, although the way he bought the shares and reported he owns them is another story (once a shareholder of a public company in the US reaches over 5% ,under the rules he has 10 calendar days to file a public notice with the SEC).
I’m not going to go deep on that one because Matt Levine over at Bloomberg has done a great job explaining it. TL;DR: SEC will probably go after Musk as he filed late and that saved him over $140 million.
Musk had actually reached out to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal weeks before it was made public he own so many shares.
Shortly after the announcement Musk became a Twitter board member but had to sign an agreement he won’t go above 14.9% of the stock as long as he’s on the board (and for 90 days after he leaves).
Unlinke other board members, Musk is not restricted from talking to product people and executives. I guess Twitter employees don’t love it. The company will host Elon Musk for a question-and-answer session with employees after a week of internal outcries over his appointment to the social network’s board of directors.
In my view, having Elon with his disruptive ideas might slow down the transformation the platform is undergoing after Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and former CEO, left.
Publicly, all three of them (Agrawal, Musk, Dorsey) are happy with the way things are going. Now would be a great time to be able to read thoughts. I guess Agrawal might be re-reading the Art of War.
The level of uncertainty around Twitter’s future has just increased which is not great.
Oh, and Trump fans are already asking Musk to restore his account. Musk is a free speech advocate and is not a fan of bans. Let’s hope there are enough walls around the decision to a Trump lifetime ban that it does not happen.
Other (related and unrelated) Twitter news:
Twitter tests out edit button, says work began before Elon Musk polled his 80 million followers few days ago.
Twitter's latest change shows how link rot is ruining the internet (Takeaway for newsrooms: Stop embeding Tweets, use screenshots).
Twitter begins “drastically” reducing the reach of Russian government accounts and will remove tweets from government-affiliated accounts with prisoners of war (it was about time…).
Twitter said Thursday that it is testing an "unmentioning" feature that allows people tagged in a conversation to remove themselves.
🤥 Are Microsoft’s days as the ‘friendly’ tech giant over? In Brussels and across Europe, the Seattle-based giant faces a flurry of antitrust complaints about its cloud business as well as fresh claims that the company is not living up to its word on paying press publishers for their content. Until recently, Microsoft had managed to craft a best-in-class image with policymakers. [Politico.eu]
🤷♂️ Apple will hold its annual developers conference virtually again. [Bloomberg]
🚀 Amazon has secured deals to launch up to 83 rockets carrying its internet satellites into low earth orbit. They will provide the backbone to Project Kuiper, Amazon’s high-speed broadband network aimed at consumers, business, government agencies and others. It seeks to compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink, which has launched more than 2,000 satellites and boasts download speeds of up to 200 megabits per second.[FT]
🇺🇦 'We became like a big startup.' How Kyiv adapted the city's tech to save lives. [TIME]
🎨✍️ OpenAI announced DALL·E 2, a new AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. The algorithm builds on earlier work, but generates higher resolution images and adds the ability to make specific edits to parts of an image and to generate variations of an image from the same prompt. [Axios]
ALSO: The Pope is also worried about AI. Father Paolo Benanti, a Franciscan monk, has become one of the Pope’s chief advisers on the potential harms of new tech and is helping the Vatican take on — and tame — AI. [FT]
🔍 Google Lens just got better, it will now let you search a combination of text and image. Lens let’s you take a photo of an object and will return results of what that object might be. The new upgrade, currently in beta, will let users add extra words to the image and “multisearch”. [9to5Google]
📣 Ben Thompson has a compelling case on why Netflix should sell ads. [Stratechery]
🐍 A snakelike robot slithers down your lungs and could spot cancer. Though still a prototype, the robot can reach the inner recesses of the human body with minimal invasion, a task that has long frustrated doctors. [Washington Post]
🤨 The New York Times has issued a Twitter 'reset,' urging reporters to 'meaningfully reduce' how much time they spend on the platform. The memo says reporters “can rely too much on Twitter as a reporting or feedback tool” and “can be overly focused on how Twitter will react” to their work. Baquet adds that journalists “can make off-the-cuff responses that damage our journalistic reputations.” [Insider]
RELATED: An interview with NYT’s executive editor Dean Baquet. This is a weird interview. Baquet wants people off Twitter and doing more reporting, but some of them use it for reporting. [NiemanLab]
ALSO: The New York Times tries to find new kinds of subscribers as its audience ages. One thing the Times explicitly isn’t doing is telling its reporters and editors to reshape their coverage to reach new readers. [Vox]
🤓 Google has opened a GNI Innovation Challenge for Europe, its grant fund for news innovations. Google will fund up to €150,000 for selected projects. Out of the total project budget, Google will finance up to 70% while at least 30% must be provided by the applicant. [GNI]
😲 Le Monde, the leading French daily, is launching an English version. The newspaper has 425,000 digital subscribers and plans to reach 1 million paying readers in the next two to three years, with a quarter of them reading the English version. Le Monde is profitable, with 320 million euros ($349 million) of revenue in 2021 and a net result of 11 million euros. Le Monde will invest 3 million euros annually in the international push, and target readers from countries like the U.S, the U.K, Scandinavia and Australia. [Bloomberg, Press Gazette]
📺 An exit interview with WarnerMedia's CEO Jason Kilar who is leaving the company as it merges with Discovery. He thinks the economic engine of video streaming is going to be paid subs but at the same time is very bullish on FAST - free ad-supported platforms. [Vulture]
RELATED: Nine top WarnerMedia executives exit the company, including HBO Max chief Andy Forssell, ahead of the merger with Discovery. [HR]
FROM THE FIX
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🎙 Substack wants you to podcast with them. The company released two blog posts, announcing that “The same way we made it simple to start a paid newsletter, we’re making it just as easy to produce a paid, subscription-based podcast on Substack”. They have offered paid and free podcasting before, now they poached some paid podcasters from Patreon and probably want to show off they are also a player. [Substack]
👏 Anchor, Spotify’s free podcast hosting platform is now available in 35 languages. Slovak, Czech, Polish and other European and non-European languages included. This is a nice upgrade, wonder whether the helpdesk is also prepared for questions (e-mails) in 35 languages. [Anchor blog]
👀 Behind the scenes of podcast curation with Spotify podcast editorial. [Spotify]
❓ Poll: How do you feel about Elon Musk at Twitter?
Last poll results: Do you listen to podcasts on YouTube? 47% doesn’t, 31% do and 22% sometimes.