LA Tech Updates: Spotify Misses Revenue Mark, Snap Releases Diversity Report, TikTok Jabs Facebook
- Spotify has more listeners, but ad revenue drops
- 'We Must Do More': Snap Releases Dismal Diversity Report
- TikTok CEO Promises More Transparency, Jabs Facebook for 'Copycat Product'
TikTok CEO Promises More Transparency, Jabs Facebook for 'Copycat Product'LA Tech Updates: TikTok Says it Will Pay Creators — and Universal Music Group
TikTok is promising more transparency.
The Culver City-based social media platform will release its algorithms and content moderation policies, CEO Kevin Mayer wrote in an open letter Wednesday. Owned by China's ByteDance, the company has been facing pressure as speculation grows that its content is being shared with Beijing.
"We accept this and embrace the challenge of giving peace of mind through greater transparency and accountability," Mayer wrote. "We believe it is essential to show users, advertisers, creators, and regulators that we are responsible and committed members of the American community that follows US laws."
Earlier this month, the Trump administration said it was "looking at" banning the app over those concerns. Then last week, the House prohibited U.S. federal employees from downloading the app on government-issued devices.
It's also notable that his letter was published the same day Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg as well as the CEOs of Twitter, Google and Apple testified before Congress on antitrust law. In the letter, Mayer takes a swipe at Zuckerberg for this upcoming Reels product.
What you need to know:
- Calling it the Transparency and Accountability Center, TikTok will let experts view the company's data practices and algorithms.
- Investors of parent company ByteDance are now valuing the app at $50 billion — surpassing the projected 2020 revenue by 50 times. Some are pushing for ownership over the platform.
- Mayer took jabs at the other tech giants in the letter:
- "This puts us a step ahead of the industry, and we encourage others to follow suit."
- "At TikTok we welcome competition. We think fair competition makes all of us better. To those who wish to launch competitive products, we say bring it on."
- Then he hit Facebook's forthcoming Reels feature, calling it a "copycat product."
'We Must Do More': Snap Releases Dismal Diversity ReportSnap's Accelerator Program Expands with 'Yellow Collabs'
While much of the tech world was fixated on a blockbuster congressional hearing of four executives from top tech companies, Snap Inc. quietly released its first report on diversity since the company was founded in 2011 and the numbers were dismal.
Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, which has faced allegations of a racist and sexist workplace, as recently as last month told employees he wouldn't release the numbers publicly. The company has good reason to try to bury the news.
Blacks only represent 4.1% of Snap's U.S. workforce while Hispanic/Latinx makeup 6.8%, far below their numbers in the general population. At the top, 2.6% of leadership roles are held by Blacks while seven percent are held by Hispanic/Latinx. Women make up 32.9% of Snap's global workforce but only 16.1% of tech teams and just 6.7% of tech teams' leadership.
"To date, our DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) outcomes simply have not been good enough," the company said in the report. "We must do more." Snap has set a goal of doubling the number of women in tech roles by 2023 and doubling the number of underrepresented minorities at the company by 2025.
While its diversity numbers are low, Snap is not much worse than other tech giants, though most of those companies have released their numbers for years.
Last month, Snap was forced to remove a Juneteenth filter that prompted users to smile in order to break a series of chains, and that was not the first time the company was criticized for an offensive filter.
"We deeply apologize for the offensive Juneteenth Lens," the company said in a tweet.
Snap outlined a number of steps to improve its numbers, including changes to recruiting, setting representation goals for underrepresented groups, and instituting a $70,000 minimum living wage for employees working at its Santa Monica headquarters.
Spotify Has More Listeners, but Ad Revenue DropsSpotify Earnings: The Music Streaming War Is Heating Up farm5.staticflickr.com
Spotify's second quarter earnings, released today, show listening and podcast streaming up even as revenue missed the mark with the pandemic hurting ad sales.
The Swedish music streaming service acknowledged slower business in April and May across emerging regions. Still, Spotify said its strength in North America offsets the setback, noting that it turned a corner in June.
"We believe the improved momentum we saw in the back half of the quarter has continued into Q3 and we expect to hit our full year targets," the company told shareholders.
What you need to know:
- Ad revenue, which makes up less than 10% of total revenue, is down 21% from last year, a nod to dropping sales brought on by the pandemic.
- The average revenue per Spotify Premium user (ARPU) is also down 9% as a fewer percentage of users pay the standard $9.99/month rate. More are opting in for family and student plans. Users in some countries also pay a lower price for subscriptions.
- 13 million new monthly active members brings Spotify's total to an all-time high of 299 million. Plus, 8 million new subscribers brings the total of ad-free premium customers to 138 million.
- Overall listening times have returned to pre-pandemic levels in all regions except Latin America.
- More users are listening on at-home smart speakers and smart TVs.
- In an effort to diversify Spotify content and move away from music, podcast options are expanding — including exclusive deals with big names like Joe Rogan, Kim Kardashian, DC Franchise, the Obamas and TikTok star Addison Rae.
- Since the start of 2019, overall podcast listening has doubled since. One fifth of monthly active members are tuning in.
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It's almost 90 degrees outside in Los Angeles as lines of cars pull up to Dodger Stadium, home to a mass vaccination site that opened Friday.
"Please make sure that they're not under the sun in the cart," Edith Mirzaian is telling a volunteer as she directs the person to put ice packs on coolers that hold up to 20 COVID vaccines. Mirzaian is a USC associate professor of clinical pharmacy and an operational lead at one of California's largest vaccination sites.
Dodger Stadium alone — once the nation's largest COVID-19 testing site — is slated to vaccine up to 12,000 people each day, county and city health officials said this week. Officials plan to finish vaccinating some 500,000 health care and assisted care employees by the end of this month before opening appointments up to people 65 and older.
Mirzaian is desperately trying to make sure that the vaccines don't spoil.
"We have to be the guardians of the vaccine," she said.
Earlier this month, hundreds of vaccinations were lost after a refrigerator went out in Northern California, forcing the hospital to rush to give out hundreds of doses. Mirzaian's task tells a larger story of the difficult and often daunting logistical process required to roll out a vaccine that requires cold temperatures.
"You know they can't be warm so just keep an eye out," she gently reminds the volunteer.
The volunteers and staff from USC, the Los Angeles Fire Department and Core Laboratories prepared enough doses to vaccinate around 2,000 residents on Friday and they plan to increase capacity each day after.
Local health officials are holding the vaccination syringes in coolers after they leave the air-conditioned trailers. The coolers are then covered in ice packs and wheeled on carts to clinicians administering shots to health care workers and nursing home staff eligible under the state's vaccination plan.
"Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery, so the City, County, and our entire team are putting our best resources on the field to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible," said mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement announcing the plan.
Health officials around the world are racing against time as the virus mutates and poses greater dangers.
"We have a little bit of borrowed time here right now because these variants are not here in great numbers from what we can tell," said Susan Butler-Wu, an associate professor in clinical pathology at USC's Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Curbing the spread of the virus is a vital way to prevent mutant strains from developing, she said.
Mirzaian, who arrived at the site before it opened at 8 a.m., said that there were logistical challenges as volunteers scrambled to assemble what will likely be the hub of the region's vaccination efforts.
"It's challenging to make sure that everyone knows what the process is and what we're doing and what to tell the patients who receive the vaccines."
After a few hours, the procedure moved quicker.
Residents have to show identification and proof of employment before they're taken through a list of pre-screening questions and given the vaccine through their car window. They're required to then wait for 15 minutes while clinicians monitor them for side effects.
Mirzaian said the process took each car about an hour. While eligible residents can walk-in for vaccinations, she recommends they make appointments so that enough doses are made available each day.
"As long as people have their appointments, they will get in," she said. "We are ready. We are like an army ready to give vaccines."
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As part of the reorganization, Chief Strategy Officer Jared Grusd, who previously oversaw content, will become a strategic advisor to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.
As a casting director, Lacey Kaelani has a leading view on Hollywood's content pipeline. Based on what she's been seeing on her venture-backed casting platform, Casting Depot, prepare for a deluge of unscripted shows.
"It's all gonna be handheld videos where everything looks like a Zoom call," she said. "Dating shows, talk shows, food competition shows – that's what was cast and is going into production."
The Casting Depot launched its latest beta version on Friday, with a "six-figure" investment from global venture capital firm Antler. Its board includes leaders from companies including CAA, Airtime, iHeartMedia, WorkMarket and IAC.