Marketplace Tech with Molly Wood

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 Aug 16, 2018

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Marketplace Tech host Molly Wood helps listeners understand the business behind the technology that's rewiring our lives. From how tech is changing the nature of work to the unknowns of venture capital to the economics of outer space, this weekday show breaks ideas, telling the stories of modern life through our digital economy. Marketplace Tech is part of the Marketplace portfolio of public radio programs broadcasting nationwide, which additionally includes Marketplace, Marketplace Morning Report and Marketplace Weekend. Listen every weekday on-air or online anytime at From American Public Media. Twitter: @MarketplaceTech

Episode Date
LA homeless advocates have a new tech tool for affordable housing
If you need a ride somewhere, Uber or Lyft will match you up with a car and a driver. If you're a landlord renting a house, you post it on Zillow and renters can find you. Tech has made it really easy for most of us to get matched up with what we need with just a few clicks. But like so much technology, this convenience is not evenly distributed. A new platform called Lease Up is tackling that problem by better matching homeless people with housing in Los Angeles. The website makes it easier for landlords to list affordable housing units and for nonprofits to find those homes for clients. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and Indeed.  
Feb 21, 2019
Amazon knows what we buy, and it's turning that into a huge ad business
You know how there's this sense that if Amazon gets into your line of work, you're in trouble? Well, hello, digital advertising. Amazon has been slowly building up its ad business, letting brands target ads to people on and its other sites, like the live-streaming platform Twitch, IMDB, Zappos and all across the web. Its pitch is simple: Amazon is telling advertisers that the best predictor of what you, the consumer, are going to buy is what you've already bought. A report out today from research firm eMarketer says Amazon has been a distant third behind Facebook and Google and is starting to look like a dangerous third. Host Molly Wood talks about it with Monica Peart, senior forecasting director for eMarketer. Today's show is sponsored by Topo Athletic, Evident and Indeed.
Feb 20, 2019
Targeted ads aren't just online, they're on TV
By now, if we’re doing our job right, you should kind of get how digital advertising works. Companies collect information about you — like where you live, your age, what you buy online, what websites you visit and much more. And they use that information to target you with ads they think you will like so you'll buy their stuff. But you may not know that this is also happening on television. It's called addressable advertising, and it means your cable or satellite TV provider is showing you ads on your TV that your neighbor might not see. Right now only a small number of the ads you see are targeted ads, but it's evolving fast because the money is good. Molly Wood talks about it with Tim Peterson, a senior reporter at Digiday. She asked him how the tech works. Today's show is sponsored by WellFrame, Nulab  and Lenovo for Small Business.
Feb 19, 2019
Before facial recognition tech can be fair, it needs to be diverse
As facial recognition software spreads, it brings the challenge of diversity along with it. So far, programs identify male, white faces far more accurately than they do black women, for example. A new IBM project aims to change that. Diversity in Faces is a data set of a million faces pulled from public domain pictures on Flickr. It gives computers a lot more to look at and process, and it introduces a way to better measure diversity in faces. John R. Smith is an IBM fellow and lead scientist of Diversity in Faces. He tells Jed Kim that there's nothing else like this. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and Indeed.
Feb 18, 2019
What internet search is like behind China's Great Firewall
This week, activist shareholders in Alphabet, the parent company of Google, spoke out against development of Google's Dragonfly. That's the internal code name for a project reportedly working on a censored search engine for China. We hear a lot about web censorship in China, but how does it work? What's it like to use? Host Jed Kim talks with Marketplace correspondent Jennifer Pak about it. Now based in Shanghai, Pak has reported from inside China for years. She says censorship is getting stronger. Today's show is sponsored by Nulab  and Indeed.
Feb 15, 2019
A major trade sticking point between the U.S. and China has deep roots
This week, trade talks continue between the United States and China. U.S. officials complain that China has long failed to protect U.S. intellectual property rights, a charge China rejects. The U.S. wants China to put an end to what's known as "forced technology transfers." That's when U.S. companies have to share their valuable tech secrets with local partners in order to access China's much-coveted market. Finding a solution has been a big sticking point in trade negotiations. And the history of countries sparring over IP issues goes back centuries. Marketplace’s Tracey Samuelson talks with Greg Clark, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis. He says, in its infancy, the United States took advantage of some stolen tech. Today's show is sponsored by Topo Athletic, WellFrame and Indeed.
Feb 14, 2019
In the golden age of streaming, does film history have a place?
It's Oscar season, a time when we celebrate the history of film. But what if you want to sit down and watch some classics? That was the selling point of one streaming service, FilmStruck, that AT&T recently shuttered. FilmStruck showcased directors like Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick. It was the darling of cinephiles for the two years it existed. Given that streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon seem to be focused on making original content, could the golden age of streaming mean that film history falls through the cracks? Jed Kim talks with Ann Hornaday, a senior film critic for the Washington Post, about the death of FilmStruck and the future of classic film. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and Indeed.
Feb 13, 2019
Expect a boom in the business of supersonic flight
Can we agree that flying these days is kind of the worst? It feels like the changes airlines have made are rarely in our favor. Take smaller seats, narrower aisles and baggage restrictions. Plus, consumers have lost some technological ground. When the Concorde stopped flying more than 15 years ago, we lost access to super fast flights across the ocean. Now some companies are working on ways to bring supersonic travel back for commercial flights within the next decade. They're talking everything from Mach 1, the speed of sound, to many times faster than that. Jed Kim talks with Guy Norris, a technology editor at Aviation Week. He says at Mach 2.2, flights from New York to London would go from six hours long to just under three. He expects we'll see companies ease into this market rather than make a space-age leap. Today's show is sponsored by Indeed, Ultimate Software, Topo Athletic and Lenovo for Small Business.
Feb 12, 2019
And the Oscar goes to ... innovations in movie tech
Over the weekend in Beverly Hills, California, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held its annual Scientific and Technical Oscars ceremony. These awards, handed out two weeks ahead of that "other" Oscars broadcast, are specifically for scientific and technical achievements. This year the academy honored technologies like a security system that lets production teams share raw footage or drafts over the internet without them being stolen or leaked. And, of course, there were awards for motion graphics, 3D modeling, all the things that create incredible visual worlds in the movies. The process of evaluating which technologies warrant awards is the really interesting part. Molly Wood talks with Doug Roble, a visual effects artist and chair of the committee that chooses the winners. He says a whole lot of research goes into every choice. Today's show is sponsored by Kronos, WordPress and Indeed.
Feb 11, 2019
Was this the week Fortnite went from video game to social network of the future?
The video game Fortnite is a cultural phenomenon that has the whole entertainment industry on notice. Last weekend it took a step toward becoming an even bigger social platform, when it held a live, in-game concert with the electronic music DJ Marshmello. A reported 10 million players watched the concert all at the same time while their virtual characters danced around in the game. There was even in-game merch to buy after the show. Molly Wood talks with Peter Rubin, a senior editor at WIRED, who wrote about the concert and how it was definitely a winner for Marshmello. Today's show is sponsored by WellFrame  and Topo Athletic.
Feb 08, 2019
Behind every great cloud is a whole bunch of expensive computers
As we saw in tech company earnings over the last couple of weeks, tech giants are making a lot of money in cloud computing. Amazon, Google and Microsoft rent out computer storage and computing power to smaller companies for lots of profit, and they spend a lot of money on the business themselves. "Cloud" is kind of a misleading name because it's really a very expensive physical infrastructure on the ground, lots of powerful computers that live in huge temperature-controlled buildings called data centers. All big tech companies spend a lot on data centers for storage, computer power for artificial intelligence and to deliver services to their customers. And the business is only growing. Molly Wood talks with Rich Miller, the founder and editor of Data Center Frontier, a news site that covers cloud computing and data centers. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and Ultimate Software.
Feb 07, 2019
Wisconsin may not get the high-tech jobs it expected
In June, President Donald Trump stuck a gold-colored shovel in a Wisconsin field, breaking ground on an enormous factory for the Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn. The company negotiated nearly $4 billion in tax incentives in exchange for creating 13,000 jobs. But last week Foxconn announced a change in plans. Instead of hiring manufacturing workers to make flat-screen TVs, it would shift to research and development and engineering. A few days later, another surprise. After a talk with Trump, the company said it would go back to manufacturing. Sruthi Pinnamaneni has been following this back and forth for the podcast "Reply All." Marketplace’s Tracey Samuelson asked her what she has heard from Mount Pleasant, the Wisconsin village where this massive plant is supposed to be built. Today's show is sponsored by Avery Publishing, WellFrame and Evident.  
Feb 06, 2019
Yet another plan to save the media with technology
In the last week alone, digital media outlets have laid off hundreds of people. The publishers of USA Today are fighting off a takeover attempt. The Washington Post ran a Super Bowl ad about how important journalism is. But subscriptions don't make enough money and ads are annoying, data-sucking and don't even work most of the time. Enter tech. Jim McKelvey is the co-founder of the payments and processing giant Square. He's got a startup called Invisibly that's part micro-payments where you pay for individual articles and part ad tech where you, the reader, can earn free articles by trading more data. Choose to pay for no ads at all or strike a balance somewhere in the middle. McKelvey told Molly Wood the whole point is control. Today's show is sponsored by Avery Publishing, Kronos  and Lenovo for Small Business.
Feb 05, 2019
Investors are hungry for meat-replacement technologies
Today the Impossible Burger 2.0 arrives in restaurants around the country. The company Impossible Foods won all kinds of "best of CES" awards at the big tech show in Las Vegas last month for creating a plant-based meat replacement that smells, tastes and looks like real beef. There's also all kinds of science going into growing meat from real meat cells. Molly Wood speaks with Larisa Rudenko, biotechnology expert and visiting scholar in emerging technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She says climate change, animal welfare and human health are all driving huge investment in meat-replacement technologies. Today's show is sponsored by Kronos, Pitney Bowes and Mozilla Firefox.
Feb 04, 2019
Facebook seems to be doing everything wrong, but it's working for them...
A busy week in Facebook news: One report said it was paying people to use a research app that sucked up basically all the activities on their phone. That got Facebook in huge trouble with Apple. Meanwhile, two senators were demanding answers about kids buying things on Facebook without their parents' knowledge. Then, on Wednesday, the company reported its earnings and... they were fantastic. The number of users everywhere, including in the U.S., was up, along with increased ad revenue. A tech reporter for The New York Times, Mike Isaac covers all of these stories. Molly Wood asks him if it’s possible people just actually don't care about their privacy after all. Today's show is sponsored by Triple Byte_JD and Evident.
Feb 01, 2019
5G networks could pose a cybersecurity risk. Who's in charge of making sure they don't?
The United States and several other countries have made it clear that they don't want hardware from Chinese telecom giant Huawei to be part of future fifth-generation wireless networks. They're worried that Huawei could install back doors in a 5G network that could let the Chinese government, companies or hackers spy on information crossing that network. But no matter who is building a 5G network, there will be cybersecurity threats. So who's in charge of making sure that protection against hacking, spying or other cyberthreats is built in from the ground up? Molly Wood talks with Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 2013 to 2017. He's now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He says the government should be in charge. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and Indeed.
Jan 31, 2019
What might help Apple sell more iPhones? Cheaper iPhones
Apple released its earnings Tuesday afternoon, and although it met its lowered expectations, revenue from iPhones was down 15 percent over the same quarter last year, and the future trend is still down. For years, Apple's smartphone strategy has been to make premium devices with a premium price tag. The starting price is basically $1,000 for a new flagship iPhone. But those prices are hard to swallow in China and India, markets Apple is depending on to grow its global market share. Even here in the United States, consumers aren't upgrading their phones as much as they used to. Molly Wood talks with Julie Ask, principal analyst at Forrester Research, about whether Apple can keep commanding such high prices. Today's show is sponsored by Kronos, the University of Florida Warrington College of Business and Lenovo for Small Business.
Jan 30, 2019
Costs are falling for renewable energy stored in batteries
One of the major challenges of using renewable energy like wind or solar is that there's overproduction. The sun shines and the wind blows mostly during the day but then drops off at night — when people tend to use the most power. Batteries can help smooth out those peaks and valleys, but cost has limited wider adoption. Now battery storage is maturing as an industry. So what does that mean for regular people? Marketplace’s Jed Kim talks with Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, who says the tech is getting to houses through transmission lines, maybe even yours. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and WellFrame.
Jan 29, 2019
Your social media posts are likely way more predictable than you think
Social media was invented to keep up with friends, but if you're fed up with data leaks and privacy concerns, you might decide to quit. It turns out social media may not even need you to know you, because your friends and their posts are pretty good indicators of who you are. In a new study, scientists took to Twitter and found people who interacted regularly. By analyzing the tweets of just eight or nine of a user's friends, they could predict the kinds of things the original user would post. Marketplace’s Jed Kim talks with Jim Bagrow, a professor at the University of Vermont who led the study. Today's show is sponsored by the University of Florida Warrington College of Business and Triple Byte.
Jan 28, 2019
An American's quest to track down his digital data... in the UK
Many people are still active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram despite digital privacy concerns. But even if you set out to truly understand all the information tech companies have about you, it's close to impossible to get your hands on all of the data. Witness the plight of one American professor who's waging a multiyear legal battle against political data firm Cambridge Analytica, trying to see what it collected, bought and sold about him. It's a David and Goliath story, and in this case, David is David Carroll, a media design professor in New York. Marketplace’s Jed Kim talks about Carroll's quest with Issie Lapowsky, a senior writer at Wired. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and Indeed.
Jan 25, 2019
Using smartphones to better understand homelessness
Each year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development asks local governments to count the number of homeless people in their areas. The task on the ground falls to officials partnered with nonprofits and volunteers. The data is required if you want federal dollars to address homelessness. The count includes those staying in shelters and transitional housing, but in odd-numbered years, like this one, people also go out on the streets to count the homeless population sleeping on sidewalks and in cars. It's a massive undertaking, especially in regions with high levels of homelessness, like Southern California. This year, some areas near Los Angeles are using an app to improve the quality of data they collect. It's a big change from the pen and paper method still used by most. Marketplace’s Jed Kim talks with Jill Replogle, the Orange County reporter for Southern California Public Radio. The O.C. is one of the places using the new tech, and she joined the count and downloaded the app to see how it works. Today's show is sponsored by the University of Florida Warrington College of Business and WellFrame.
Jan 24, 2019
There's tons of money in venture capital, as long as you're a big company
In 2018 venture capital firms invested $130 billion in private companies — an all-time high. Sounds like a thriving startup ecosystem, right? The movie industry similarly hit a new high in 2018... because ticket prices were way higher and people paid more to go to a few big blockbusters. A similar thing happened with venture capital: Firms invested a lot of money in a few big blockbuster companies, like $1.3 billion in Fortnite maker Epic Games, or they made big investments in so-called "unicorn" companies with billion-dollar valuations, such as Uber or Airbnb or Pinterest. How is this pattern changing the landscape for smaller startups? Molly Wood talks with Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of the National Venture Capital Association, about where all the money is going. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and WellFrame.  
Jan 23, 2019
Why more streaming services won’t necessarily mean better prices
In 2019, media giants Disney and Warner both plan to enter the streaming service fray, as if there weren't a whole lot of on-demand content options already out there. Streaming has definitely disrupted the way we watch TV. What about the way we pay for it? With predictions of widespread cord cutting and the demise of cable television, are we actually seeing that? Marketplace’s Jed Kim talks with Brian Wieser, who focuses on media and advertising as a senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group. Today show is sponsored by the University of Florida Warrington College of Business and Triple Byte_JD.
Jan 22, 2019
The blockchain is coming to Wall Street
In 2018, ICOs, or initial coin offerings, were the hot new thing in startup fundraising. A company could raise money by selling you a little bit of value or equity in the form of a digital coin, similar to bitcoin but specific to that company. ICOs raised about $22 billion, or so we think. It's hard to know because the practice has been unregulated. A lot of them turned out to be scams. The Securities and Exchange Commission started fining celebrities like Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled over sketchy paid promotions for ICOs. It got weird, and now it's regulation time. That means that future ICOs and their digital coins might start to look a lot more like good old-fashioned stock, except traded on the blockchain, and that has big ramifications for Wall Street. Molly Wood talks with Kristen Howell, a partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild who helps companies create ICOs.  Today's show is sponsored by Kronos, Mozilla/Firefox and Lenovo for Small Business
Jan 21, 2019
Tech IPOs were set for a comeback, then the government shut down
It's been a big story that tech companies are staying private longer. And there are fewer and fewer tech IPOs. It seemed like the drought was lifting: Uber and Lyft have filed for initial public offerings, and there were rumors that Airbnb, Pinterest and Slack might finally pull the trigger. But three weeks into 2019 and the Securities and Exchange Commission isn't picking up the phone. The SEC lawyers and accountants who work on IPOs are shut down along with the government. And if this shutdown goes on much longer, the big names might be fine, but it could chill the whole tech IPO resurgence. Molly Wood talks about it with Corrie Driebusch, a reporter who covers markets for The Wall Street Journal. Today's show is sponsored by Triple Byte_JD and Amazon Web Services.
Jan 18, 2019
New tech doorbells have cameras, and that's an ethics problem
Internet-connected doorbells with cameras built in are becoming very popular. Amazon-owned Ring is the best-known product. Google also has the Nest Hello. But the phenomenon of doorbell video has privacy experts worried. There's the potential for misuse and abuse of these home surveillance devices by people who are shaming each other or labeling people as suspicious. And the companies that make them may have access to video at a level customers don't understand. Molly Wood talks with Laura Norén, director of research at Obsidian Security. She says part of the problem is that owners of video doorbells are filming a lot more territory than the terms of service say they should. Today's show is sponsored by the University of Florida Warrington College of Business and Indeed.
Jan 17, 2019
Facebook is looking to Instagram for the future of digital ads
In yesterday's show we talked about how advertisers are not leaving Facebook. But lots of them are migrating from Facebook proper to another platform it owns: Instagram. One analyst estimates that ads on Instagram will account for 70 percent of Facebook's new revenue by 2020. And the most exciting thing for the company is Stories, the little posts that expire after 24 hours. Instagram may have stolen the idea from Snapchat, but it's working. There are even Stories on Facebook now. Mark Rabkin is vice president of ads and business platform at Facebook. In the second part of his conversation  with host Molly Wood, he says people are posting over a billion Stories a day, and advertisers better get on board. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and Indeed.
Jan 16, 2019
The world might be mad at Facebook, but advertisers still love it
You, or people you know, might have quit Facebook over the last year or so. But you know who hasn't left? Advertisers. Facebook is still the second-biggest digital ad platform in the world, just behind Google. And in 2018, a lot of us realized just how Facebook uses our posts, our connections, photos, location, the quizzes we take, to help advertisers target us. But there have been changes. The past year brought the Cambridge Analytica scandal, new privacy rules in Europe and days of getting yelled at by Congress. Now Facebook says it's trying to clean up and streamline what it calls the "data supply chain": where the data comes from, who gets access to it and how it gets used. Molly Wood talks about it with Mark Rabkin, vice president of ads and business platform at Facebook. Today's show is sponsored by Indeed.
Jan 15, 2019
5G is here! Well, it's almost here
If you ask the major U.S. telecom companies, they'll tell you the next generation of mobile wireless technology, 5G, has arrived. But things are a little messy right now. Carriers still might mean different things when they say "5G." There aren't any 5G phones that operate on 5G mobile networks. And when there are, how much is the service going to cost? The big carriers are plowing ahead because they'll make a ton of money with business opportunities far beyond just our talk, text and data plans. Molly Wood talks about the promise of 5G with Nicki Palmer, chief network officer at Verizon. Today's show is sponsored by Pitney Bowes and Indeed.
Jan 14, 2019
The biggest tech conference has some of the same old problems with women
Today is the last day of the huge Las Vegas tech conference CES, and it's ending on a mixed note when it comes to gender and diversity. On one hand, the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on CES, announced a $10 million fund at the show to support women and minority tech founders. On the other hand, the CTA gave an innovation award to a company that makes a robotic vibrator for women, but then, before the show even started, took it away and banned the company and its product from the show floor (while sex tech like augmented reality porn did show up on the CES floor.) And CES still has no explicit ban on what are commonly called booth babes, models in skimpy clothes hired to draw attention to company booths at the event. Molly Wood talks with Heather Kelly, a tech reporter at CNN. Kelly was also at CES and says progress is just ... slow. (1/11/2019)
Jan 11, 2019