What you're watching, mutual fund scrutiny, and Uber's 'bloodbath'


stranger things

When you sit down to watch a TV show or movie on Netflix, you’re helping fine tune the streaming giant’s recommendation engine. 

As BI reporter Ashley Rodriguez reported this week, algorithms sort through the thousands of titles available to determine which to display, in what order, and with what artwork or other features, based on your interests. I might see one show and one set of artwork, my neighbors another. 

And as more and more of us watch more hours of entertainment on platforms like Netflix, Netflix should get better and better at showcasing what we might enjoy most. Data gleaned from viewers’ participation in new interactive shows like “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” could take that a step further, helping Netflix better understand why people are drawn to certain attributes in content, such as the emotional tonality of characters.

YouTube’s algorithms similarly have the power to put a show or star in front of millions of eyeballs. BI reporter Amanda Perelli talked to Jennelle Eliana, who has posted only three videos to the video-sharing site yet already has 1.5 million subscribers. How? YouTube’s algorithm picked up her first two videos and recommended them to its users, which is the likely cause of her instant success.

(Unsurprisingly, creators have found ways to game the algorithm. Perelli also talked to YouTube star MrBeast, who has 22 million subscribers, about his use of keywords to maximize views.)

Old-school TV channels are getting in on the act, too, with MTV using insights from tech giants to build buzz for a reality-TV revival. When MTV premiered “The Hills: New Beginnings” in June, the marketing team worked with Google’s insights lab to test content on YouTube.

MTV found that “The Hills” theme song, “Unwritten,” resonated with audiences, regardless of whether they had seen the show. MTV then partnered with artist Natasha Bedingfield and social music app Smule to record a version of the song that fans could sing along with and share across social channels.

And in the ad world, tracking what you watch is becoming big business. Lauren Johnson talked to TV-tech entrepreneur John Hoctor, the CEO of buzzy TV-measurement firm Data Plus Math, who sold his company for $150 million.

“Advertisers know that TV works, but they haven’t had the granular reporting to understand what parts of it were working better than others,” Hoctor said. 

In short, remember: You’re being watched when you watch. 

— Matt

Quote of the week

I’m interested in – and looking to acquire – lots of companies who are going and reprogramming people’s DNA.” – Tej Kohli, a tech billionaire and chairman of Tej Kohli  Ventures, on his interest in DNA reprogramming. He said his children will live to at least 125 years old because of tiny robots, DNA reprogramming, and artificial blood

In conversation

  • Marley Jay talked to JR Gondeck, who was just named the fourth-best wealth adviser under the age of 40 by Forbes. He said millions of millennials are making a mistake by investing in 529 savings plans to pay for their kids’ college.
  • Dan DeFrancesco talked to Samik Chandarana, the head of data analytics, applied artificial intelligence, and machine learning for JPMorgan‘s corporate and investment bank. He explained what the bank’s doing to avoid costly mistakes in AI and machine learning.
  • Jeremy Berke talked to Hershel Gerson, CEO of ELLO Capital, a new boutique investment bank focused on the cannabis business, about the competitive cannabis landscape in the US, why he thinks the market is underserved, and how he’ll fill his pipeline of deals.
  • Ben Pimental talked to Arvind Krishna, IBM senior vice president in charge of cloud and cognitive software. He revealed the game plan for its $34 billion Red Hat acquisition and says it’ll give it “massive reach” in a $1.2 trillion cloud market. 
  • Rosalie Chan talked to Dustin Moskovitz, cofounder and CEO of Asana, about the firm’s new product to address worker burnout. He said it uses a concept he learned from his time as cofounder of Facebook.
  • Lucia Moses talked to Best Western CMO Dorothy Dowling about the company’s use of AI to personalize ads. She said the results are crushing the industry average.

Finance and Investing

How a little-known Goldman Sachs partner took over the LSE and orchestrated an industry rattling $27 billion buyout

As a Goldman Sachs banker in 2005, David Schwimmer offered some prescient advice: He helped the New York Stock Exchange buy the electronic-trading platform Archipelago Holdings, ending NYSE’s 200 years of mutual ownership and moving it beyond the realm of human traders.

The SEC is stepping up scrutiny of mutual funds that have poured money into unicorns like WeWork and Airbnb

The Securities and Exchange Commission is stepping up scrutiny of mutual fund investments in private companies, according to people with knowledge of the agency’s interest.

Lone Pine Capital stock-pickers explain why they’re investing in Tiffany and Nintendo and how they value “disruptors” like Beyond Meat.

What do Nintendo, World Wrestling Entertainment, and Tiffany & Co have in common?

Tech, Media, Telecoms

How VMware became a secret superpower in the cloud wars and why Amazon Web Services should not be happy but Google and Microsoft are thrilled

Earlier this week, Google’s cloud boss, Thomas Kurian, triumphantly announced he had expanded Google’s partnership with VMware — bringing VMware’s core technology, and hopefully its customers, to Google Cloud.

$3.2 billion cyber company Cloudflare is eyeing a September IPO, just months after raising a $150 million funding round

Cloudflare, a company that speeds up content delivery and protects websites from outside attackers, has its eye on a September IPO, according to people familiar with the company.

A top P&G advertising exec who overhauled how the CPG giant works with its agencies is leaving for Snapchat

Craig Stimmel, Procter & Gamble’s head of digital media and global partnerships, is leaving after more than eight years to be Snap’s head of brand partnerships based in Chicago, sources familiar with the move told Business Insider.

Healthcare, Retail, Transportation

A $4.5 billion biotech working on tech-driven cancer treatments told us how it’s using AI in areas rivals are ignoring, and why companies that aren’t could struggle

For biotech company Moderna, which went public last year in the biggest biotech IPO in history, the emphasis is as much on the tech as the biology.

Investors from Greycroft, Science, Lerer Hippeau, and others who control millions of dollars name the direct-to-consumer startups that will blow up this year

Many consumer products categories face attacks from direct-to-consumer upstarts that have upended everything from how we sleep (Casper) to how we buy glasses (Warby Parker).

Uber marketing employees describe this week’s ‘bloodbath’ when the company laid off 400 employees in more than a dozen countries this week

On Monday morning, around 8 am California time, hundreds of Uber employees around the world received an ominous email from Jill Hazelbaker, the ride-hailing company’s head of marketing, communications, and public policy.

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