Weekly output: Mark Vena podcast, Firefox’s redesign

My work calendar for this coming week has a strange event: meeting another person, in-person, to get lunch. It also has me spending all of Tuesday (Virginians, y’all do know we have a primary election then, right?) working once again as an election officer.

6/1/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast (6-1-21), Mark Vena

My major contribution to this week’s edition of the podcast hosted by Vena, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, was unpacking Google’s move to start charging for Google Photos storage after you hit the 15 GB cap on your account’s storage. I am okay with the idea of charging for storage, but I do think Google could provide more useful tools for people looking to keep their picture archives under that limit. We (meaning my analyst friend as well as fellow tech scribes John Quain and Stewart Wolpin) also talked about the ongoing ransomware epidemic, Roku’s fight with Google, and the Apple WWDC event that kicks off Monday; in addition to the audio of our banter at the above link, you can watch a video version on YouTube.

Firefox story as seen in Firefox, with the browser's privacy report card for Fast Company's site displayed6/4/2021: Firefox still wants to be the ‘Anti-Chrome.’ Can it beat Edge, too?, Fast Company

The release of a fairly major update to Mozilla Firefox’s desktop interface gave me an opportunity to look at how this browser compares to the competition–by which I really mean Microsoft Edge, the other major privacy-optimized browser that you can run in Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. I still find Firefox a better product on privacy grounds; for example, Firefox displays a more comprehensive privacy report card for sites, as seen in the screengrab here, and uses end-to-end encryption to synchronize your search and browsing history between computers while Edge does not. But Microsoft is putting serious effort into the browser that already represents a bigger competitive threat to Google’s Chrome. And it can bring exponentially more resources that Mozilla to closing any feature gaps.

Weekly output: Scripps’ broadcast bet, AT&T CEO, Discovery downgrade, Betacom, ransomware lessons, Boost Mobile + DraftKings, exploding ISP prices

This month is ending in a flurry of deadlines, and I am profoundly grateful to have tomorrow as a day off to think about people who have had much harder jobs than me.

5/24/2021: Scripps CEO on why he’s bullish on OTA TV, FierceVideo

I talked to E.W. Scripps CEO Adam Symson about his ambitions for distributing the company’s new Newsy channel via old-school broadcast TV.

5/24/2021: AT&T’s Stankey defends WarnerMedia spinoff at J.P. Morgan event, FierceVideo

My editors at Fierce asked if I could fill in to cover some breaking news Monday, and the first result was this recap of AT&T’s CEO defending his decision to unwind the company’s expensive media strategy.

5/24/2021: MoffettNathanson disses Discovery with ratings downgrade, FierceVideo

I also filed this post on a clueful market-research firm’s pessimism about one apparent beneficiary of AT&T’s retreat from media.

5/25/2021: Betacom makes its private-wireless-network bid with $15M in funding, Light Reading

My other trade-pub client wanted me to cover a wireless-infrastructure firm’s pivot.

Screengrab of ransomware post5/26/2021: Why the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack is a sign of things to come, Fast Company

I spent a fair amount of the previous week watching panel discussions at the RSA Conference, and a series of talks about the ransomware plague at that information-security event yielded this piece.

5/27/2021: Boost Mobile bets on DraftKings as a partner, FierceWireless

FierceVideo’s sister publication requested my help in covering another bit of breaking news: an unusual marketing tie-in between an online sportsbook and an ambitious reseller of T-Mobile’s service.

5/30/2021: Buyer, beware: Internet providers may have ‘exploding prices’ after year one or two, USA Today

As I wrote to my editor when I filed this piece: “After I invoice USAT for this, I would like to invoice Comcast for pointing out their broken Web design.” It’s one thing to offer promotional prices that end after a set period of time, but it’s another to send a would-be customer on a dark-pattern detour to figure out what the real price will be after the new-subscriber honeymoon ends.

Weekly output: Celona, streaming TV, social media moderation, Android 12, Google’s privacy pitch, Mark Vena podcast

This afternoon, I went to a baseball game for the first time since Oct. 27, 2019. I also brought a much better camera than usual, thanks to my neighbor across the street loaning me a Panasonic point-and-shoot model with a 30x zoom, and you can now see the results in the Flickr album I just posted.

5/18/2021: Celona unveils ‘edgeless enterprise’ architecture, Light Reading

My new trade-pub client asked me to write up embargoed news from this business-wireless firm, allowing me to reacquaint myself with that branch of industry jargon.

5/19/2021: Streaming Services, WWL First News with Tommy Tucker

I spent about 40 minutes talking about streaming-TV services with this New Orleans radio station. A major theme of the host’s questions: Why is all this so complicated?

5/19/2021: Social media moderation, Al Jazeera

I made a rare phone-only appearance on the Arabic-language news channel to talk about reports of social-media companies suppressing Palestinian and Arabic voices.  I emphasized, as I have before, that on one hand, content moderation gets increasingly difficult as social platforms get larger; on the other hand, Facebook has a history of waiving its own rules only for right-wing voices in the U.S.

Screen grab of the article as seen in an Android phone's Chrome browser5/20/2021: Here’s what’s new in Android 12, from big changes to subtle tweaks, Fast Company

Google’s I/O developer conference returned in an online-only form after last year’s pandemic-forced cancellation, and in this post I covered the key features in the next version of its Android mobile operating system. The screen grab you see here was taken in a loaner Pixel 4 XL phone on which I’d installed the beta release of Android 12; if you have any questions about how this release works, please ask and I’ll try to answer them here.

5/20/2021: Google touts ‘privacy by design’ at I/O conference, but privacy from whom?, USA Today

Two years ago, I wrote a USAT column about the somewhat nebulous privacy pitch at Google I/O 2019; this column advances that story and finds more cause for optimism in Android than in Chrome.

5/21/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast (5-20-21), Mark Vena

This week’s edition of this podcast from my tech-analyst pal at Moor Insights & Strategy initially featured two other tech journalists, but John Quain’s Starlink satellite-Internet connection dropped out too many times, leading Vena to decide to continue the podcast with just me and my fellow tech journalist (and baseball fan) Stewart Wolpin.

Weekly output: Mark Vena podcast, Discovery’s streaming video ambitions

Ten years ago today, I finally crossed “see a space launch” off my to-do list, and I’m still working on the best words to describe what it was like to see, hear and feel Endeavour rocket into a cloudy Florida sky. Sometimes, I can’t quite believe that I did that–or that I’ve since had the immense privilege of returning to the Kennedy Space Center’s press site for two other launches. Fortunately, I have a framed print of the photo I took of the shuttle’s liftoff hanging on the far wall of my home office to remind me that I really did accomplish the goal I’d had in my head since I was 10.

5/11/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast (5-11-21), Mark Vena

After a couple of weeks off, I returned to this podcast to talk about the tech business with our host from Moor Insights & Strategy and fellow tech scribes John Quain and Stewart Wolpin. Among this week’s topics: the legal battle between Apple and Epic over the former’s App Store governance, a newly announced smart-home standard, and the plague of ransomware.

Screenshot of the article as seen on an iPad5/12/2021: Discovery CEO says SVOD success won’t end its TV-bundle role, FierceVideo

My trade-pub client asked me to write up Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s interview at a conference hosted by the market-analysis firm MoffettNathanson. I figured Zaslav would wax optimistic about the company’s Discovery+ subscription video on demand (SVOD) service, but I didn’t expect him to explain that Discovery makes as much or more money off a D+ streaming subscriber than a cable or satellite viewer–and yet he expects no pay-TV provider will be able to get away with dropping Discovery from its lineup. I don’t imagine that many of you are feeling terribly sorry for those cable and satellite operators at this point.

Weekly output: Boost Mobile bundles telemedicine, Tegna’s local-ads sales pitch, Facebook Oversight Board (x2), dark patterns

This week’s biggest accomplishment doesn’t appear on the list below: getting my second dose of the Moderna novel-coronavirus vaccine Thursday morning.

5/4/2021: Dish’s Boost Mobile to add telemedicine to the bundle, Light Reading

My newest client asked me to write up the news that Dish Network’s T-Mobile reseller Boost Mobile will bundle K Health’s telemedicine service–an interesting departure from marketing as usual in the wireless industry.

5/4/2021: Tegna outlines local-content strategy at NewFronts, FierceVideo

My other regular trade-pub client then asked me to fill in with coverage of the ad-industry group IAB’s conference. I was struck to see the TV company spun out of Gannett several years ago sound so confident about the ad prospects for local news when so many local Gannett papers seem to feel otherwise.

5/5/2021: Facebook Oversight Board’s Trump ruling, Al Jazeera

The Arabic-language news network had me on for the first time in a while to discuss the Facebook Oversight Board’s May 5 ruling that while Facebook was right to kick Donald Trump off the platform after the January 6 riots at the Capital, suspending him indefinitely instead of just deleting his account was without precedent.

Fast Company FTC dark-patterns post5/6/2021: Can the FTC stop the tech industry’s use of ‘dark patterns’?, Fast Company

I “attended”–meaning I watched from my home office–a conference the Federal Trade Commission held at the end of April about the abuse of “dark pattern” interfaces by tech companies to push customers into making decisions against their own interests. The FTC had a great lineup of speakers, I learned a lot, and at the end I really wished I could have walked over, said hi and asked follow-up questions like in the Before Times.

5/6/2021: (Face)book ’em Donno!, Bipodisan

My friend Robert Schlesinger had me back on the podcast he co-hosts with Jean Card for the first time since last May. We mostly talked about the Facebook Oversight Board’s decision–in particular, its implicit scolding of Facebook’s habit of letting its policy shop override the content-policy enforcement calls–but also discussed broader concerns about the influence of Facebook and what political and technological developments might help check that.

Weekly output: password managers, streaming-TV forecast, Limelight earnings, EU vs. Apple

The most important item on my calendar this week: getting my second dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.

Screengrab of story as shown in USAT's iPad app4/28/2021: A cheaper deal from Dashlane invites a new look at password managers, USA Today

Dashlane’s PR firm offered me an advance on their addition of a new, cheaper price plan, which I used as a news peg for an overview of the password-manager market.

4/29/2021: Expect To Spend More On Streaming Video Than On Traditional Pay TV By 2024: New Report, Forbes

I wrote up a Strategy Analytics report predicting a slow demise for pay TV as we’ve known it. Sports fans, take note of the streaming deal for Italy’s Liga Serie A that one SA analyst described for me.

4/30/2021: Limelight revenues drop and losses widen, FierceVideo

I filled in at this client to cover this content-delivery network firm’s disappointing earnings.

4/30/2021: EU’s Answer To Spotify’s Complaint: Apple’s Rules Have Consumers Losing Out, Forbes

Writing this post about the European Commission’s preliminary finding that Apple abused its App Store authority to suppress competition from Spotify took me back to 2011–when it already seemed obvious that Apple demanding a 30% share of in-app subscriptions while forbidding app developers from pointing iPhone and iPad users to their own payment systems represented an abuse of power.

Weekly output: T-Mobile and Verizon wireless home broadband, sports on streaming TV, MLB streaming (x2), Netflix earnings, WiFi hotspots, the future of live events, Fios TV, WWE, Facebook’s new audio features, Mark Vena podcast

The list you see below reflects a lot of work done in earlier weeks–three virtual panels recorded in advance, plus a Wirecutter update that I started researching last year.

4/19/2021: Time to cut internet cords: T-Mobile, Verizon up their bids to be your next home broadband, USA Today

I wrote about the fixed-wireless home-broadband services now available from these two carriers–one of which looks better positioned to let more Americans dump their local cable or telco monopoly.

4/19/2021: A key lesson of sports on OTT: first, do no lag, FierceVideo

An editor at this trade pub asked if I could fill in with coverage of an online event they were hosting. That work started with a write-up of a panel about lessons learned in distributing live sports events on over-the-top (aka “OTT,” meaning delivered on a third party’s broadband) video services.

Screenshot of the panel as seen on an iPad, with me at the left and Marinak at the right4/20/2021: Keynote Interview: Producing OTT Sports Content, StreamTV Sports Summit

I didn’t just write about Fierce’s conference, I also participated in it by interviewing Chris Marinak, Major League Baseball’s chief operations and strategy officer. You can watch our banter after registering with your e-mail or Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts; meanwhile, take a close look at the screenshot at the right and you may be able to recognize the Nationals bobblehead I’d placed on my desk for this recording.

4/20/2021: MLB to RSNs: It’s time to think direct-to-consumer, FierceVideo

Fierce then invited me to write up my own appearance at its show, so I led with Marinak’s answer to my question about his statements in a March season-preview event that MLB wants regional sports networks to sell game coverage direct to subscribers instead of making them sign up for a big pay-TV bundle. (I’d covered those earlier comments in an Opening Day post at Forbes.) Marinak reiterated that stance, and my recap got picked up at a few places; among them, Awful Announcing‘s Andrew Bucholtz and The Streamable‘s Jason Gurwin provided useful context.

4/21/2021: Netflix subscriber growth downshifts in Q1, FierceVideo

I wrote one more post for Fierce, in this case because the usual reporter was taking a just-in-case day off after getting his second dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Netflix earnings are less annoying to cover than those of other tech companies, because NFLX posts an “earnings interview” video instead of making people listen to an audio-only recording on which all the executives usually sound alike.

4/21/2021: The Best Wi-Fi Hotspot, Wirecutter

This overdue update to the guide I’d last revised in those innocent days of early 2020 brings a new 5G-specific pick, T-Mobile’s M2000 hotspot. AT&T and Verizon’s 5G hotspots, lacking the midband 5G T-Mo offers, were nowhere close–and yet Verizon’s LTE remains so good that the top pick went to the same Vz 4G hotspot as last year.

4/21/2021: Preparing for the return to live, Collision

I started this interview of Nathan Hubbard (formerly of Musictoday, Ticketmaster, Twitter and Rival) by mentioning the last game and concert I’d attended in the Before Times. That last musical event was a John Hiatt set at the Birchmere, which led Hubbard to recount how he’d once played that Alexandria venue himself.

4/21/2021: Verizon’s Slumping Video-Subscriber Numbers: Here’s What A Post-TV Provider Looks Like, Forbes

Seeing Verizon lose another stadium’s worth of pay-TV subscribers led me to take a closer look at both its Fios TV service and its sales pitch for it online, which at this point represents the softest of sells.

4/22/2021: WWE: Breaking down the data, Collision

I talked to WWE CTO Rajan Mehta about the network’s applications of technology… after offering the disclaimer that not only am I not anybody’s idea of a WWE viewer, as a D.C.-based journalist I must self-identify as a C-SPAN man.

4/22/2021: Facebook Exec Sounds Off On Its New Audio Features, Forbes

Fidji Simo, who heads Facebook’s app efforts, spoke at a couple of Collision panels about the social network’s upcoming audio features–while other Collision speakers made some good points about Facebook’s history of not thinking through the implications of new products and features.

4/24/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast (4-23-21), Mark Vena

I returned to my tech-analyst friend’s podcast to discuss Apple’s announcements from its “Spring Loaded” event and talk about my findings from testing 5G hotspots around the D.C. area.

 

Weekly output: finessing 5G pricing, cruise-ship apps, RootMetrics 5G report

The significance of April 15 this year didn’t involve filing my taxes, thanks to the IRS moving back the deadline to May 17. Instead, Thursday happened to be the 10th anniversary of my last day of work at the Washington Post. Looking that up made me realize that I’d never quite decided when my freelance existence began, but now I know: April 29, the date of my resignation from the paper after the two weeks of vacation time I took following that final Friday in the newsroom.

Screenshot of 5G-details post as seen in Safari on an iPad mini4/14/2021: Here’s how AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile slice and dice 5G plans and pricing, Light Reading

This is my first post for a new client–thanks to an old editor working there. Freelancers, remember to be nice to your editors. Readers, give Mike Dano a follow on Twitter if you want to stay current about the wireless business.

4/14/2021: The Rise of Digitalization & Mobile Apps: Travelling Smarter and Safer, Seatrade Cruise Virtual

I was going to have a panel at this cruise-ship conference on my calendar last spring, but then the pandemic sank those plans. Instead, the event resurfaced as an online gathering, at which my role was to interview three executives at cruise lines–Jay Schneider of Royal Caribbean Group, Scott Piccolo of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and Luca Pronzati of MSC Cruises–as well as Greg Ross-Munro, CEO of the app-development firm (and panel sponsor) Sourcetoad. We had a good conversation about the design principles that go into cruise-ship apps and where these folks think the industry is heading with them.

4/15/2021: RootMetrics 5G report puts AT&T in first place, Light Reading

RootMetrics PR gave me an advance on their latest report on 5G network performance, which I then wrote up for my new trade-pub client. Lesson re-learned from this: Always read through to the end of a study to see where they tested, which in this case was a grab-bag of mostly medium and small cities.

Weekly output: online-news problems and possibilities, Mark Vena podcast

Sometimes these weekly recaps only feature me talking about my coverage instead of, you know, actual examples of my coverage. This week is one of those times.

Screenshot of CPI page showing my event, with a still frame from the video4/7/2021: The Future of Innovation in News Production, Competition Policy International

I moderated this panel on problems and possibilities for online news publishers, featuring eco – Association of the Internet Industry policy adviser Thomas Bihlmayer, tech-policy lawyer Cathy Gellis, and Public Knowledge competition policy director Charlotte Slaiman. Spoiler alert: We did not solve the media’s business-model problems in the hour we had, but the participants all made great points, and I would be happy to pick up the discussion with any of them.

4/7/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast (4-6-21), Mark Vena

The topic I discussed on this week’s installment of this tech analyst’s podcast: the Supreme Court’s termination of Oracle’s attempt to get courts to grant it a new intellectual-property monopoly, a quest that would have had disastrous effects on interoperability and competition in the software industry. As I said on the show (also available in video form): You can hate Google and still like this ruling.

Weekly output: Qwoted, 5G frontiers, T-Mobile turns off TVision, pay-TV-free MLB, Mark Vena podcast, “Other” iOS storage

It’s Easter Sunday, and my favorite sign of reborn life today is the CDC reporting another 3.37 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered yesterday.

3/29/2021: ‘Qwestion’ & Answer with Rob Pegoraro, Freelance Journalist, Qwoted

This platform set up to connect experts to journalists quizzed me over e-mail at the end of last year.

Screengrab of my CCA panel, showing one panelist's cat perching on this chair.

3/30/2021: New Frontiers For 5G, Mobile Carriers Show

A year ago, I was supposed to moderate a panel discussion about 5G wireless possibilities at the Competitive Carriers Association’s spring conference. That event got scrubbed, and then I wound up doing an online panel about 5G at the same organization’s virtual event this spring. My fellow panelists: T-Mobile chief network officer Ulf Ewaldsson, U.S. Cellular chief technology officer Mike Irizarry (his cat makes a cameo in the screengrab here), Ericsson consumer lab head Jasmeet Sethi, and Nex-Tech Wireless director of operations, network and engineering Nathan Sutter (who somehow has his caption swapped with mine in the screengrab above). Two days later, panel host Fierce Wireless wrote up our talk.

3/30/2021: T-Mobile Turning Off TVision, Will Bundle Philo And YouTube TV Instead, Forbes

T-Mobile dumping the streaming TV service it launched half a year ago, and which I wrote up at the time, made this an obvious story candidate. 

4/1/2021: As Streaming Services Drop Baseball Networks, Many Cord-Cutters Can Only Say ‘Wait Till Next Year’, Forbes

This year’s version of what’s become an annual fixture covered how multiple streaming-TV providers have run away from the regional sports networks that carry most baseball games, and which have socked local viewers with regional-sports-network fees that increase a little more every year. 

4/1/2021: SmartTechCheck Podcast (4-1-21), Mark Vena

This week’s episode of this podcast (also available in video form) involved my gripes about the thin availability of baseball games on streaming TV (see above), Amazon’s clumsy stabs at persuading politicians and their voters via Twitter, and more. 

4/2/2021: What does ‘Other’ mean in your device storage? Dealing with the dark matter of iPhone and iPad data, USA Today

Once again, a family member’s request for tech support led to a tech-support column for USAT.

Updated 4/6/2021 to add a link to the video version of Vena’s podcast.