The Information’s 411 — Job Mirages


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

Zoe and Cory join to discuss how the pandemic has hit the job market in tech. Zoe talks about the phenomenon of job postings that turn out not to be real. And Cory gives some historical context around how the current job losses in tech compare to previous recessions.

The Information’s 411 — TikTok on the Clock


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Cory joins to discuss Mark Zuckerberg's announcement that Facebook is fully embracing the work from home workforce. We explore the reasons tech is rushing to adopt the policy and whether it will have a big effect on cities. Then Tom gives the backstory on Kevin Mayer, TikTok's new US CEO. He explains what it means for Disney to lose its top streaming executive and the challenges Mayer will face coming to the politically embattled Chinese company.

Disney Shakes Up Streaming Group Following Leader’s Departure


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

Not long after Kevin Mayer arrived at Walt Disney Co. in the mid ’90s, employees gave the 6-foot, 3-inch former football player from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a nickname befitting his beefy frame: Captain America. Now, with Mayer exiting the company for the top role at TikTok, he leaves a giant hole at the head of the company’s streaming division.

The group is already shrinking in his absence. On Monday, the company quietly announced to employees that Disney’s advertising and cable distribution businesses would now be part of its television groups instead of its streaming division, according to multiple people with knowledge of the move. The organizational changes haven’t been previously reported.

The Information’s 411 — The Oracle and the JEDI


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Chris Stern gives us an update on the ongoing battle to win the Pentagon's cloud computing contract. He explains why Amazon is still fighting to win the account back from Microsoft in the courts. And how Oracle fits into the puzzle.

Disney Streaming Unit Slows Hiring Despite Subscriber Gains


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

The Walt Disney Co.’s new streaming service may be the best thing going right now at the struggling entertainment giant, which is facing a once-in-a-generation crisis that has ravaged its movie, theme park and cruise businesses. But the company hasn’t spared the division that includes the fast-growing service—Disney+—from the frugality it has imposed on other businesses.

Employees across the sprawling streaming division have been told that any hiring now needs to be done strictly on an “as needed” basis, according to people familiar with the matter. Kevin Mayer, the head of the streaming division, is signing off on all new employees brought onto the team, the people said—part of a companywide policy that requires division heads to limit hiring to only those positions deemed essential. That has left dozens of open positions in the streaming unit unfilled, and executives have warned that isn’t likely to change until the downturn ebbs, according to one of these people.

The Information’s 411 — Uber in a Pandemic


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Amir joins to talk all things ride hailing, including why Uber and Lyft had to undergo massive layoffs. We also explain how Uber's side businesses like food delivery and bikes are on diverging paths during the crisis.

AT&T Had Talks About Selling Crunchyroll


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

AT&T’s WarnerMedia has had discussions about selling Crunchyroll, a streaming service that specializes in Japanese anime, according to people familiar with the matter.

Possible buyers include Sony, which owns a rival anime service called Funimation and which has had discussions with WarnerMedia in recent months. There are no active negotiations at the moment, however, according to people familiar with the situation. It is possible the Covid-19 pandemic has slowed WarnerMedia’s sale efforts.

The Information’s 411 — Earnings and Learnings


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

Alex walks us through the first quarter earnings for Snap, Twitter and Facebook to see how they fared at the onset of the pandemic. We break down why Snap ended up posting a surprisingly strong quarter, powered by its growing direct response ad business. 

Secret to Snap’s Recent Success: Discover and Direct-Response Ads


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

In late March, a week or so after Snap stock had plunged to as low as $8—half where it was trading a month earlier—CEO Evan Spiegel reassured employees. His message was that the company was well positioned to weather the downturn. At the time some ad executives were skeptical, asking why Snap would be better off than other companies.

Today, the skeptics are quiet. After strong first-quarter earnings, Snap stock has regained all the ground it lost through the sell-off. One major reason is a surge of audiences for Discover, a feature of the Snapchat app that for the past few years had likely been an afterthought for investors and even users. Carrying short news programs produced by media companies, Discover is winning over audiences keen for information about the coronavirus.

The Information’s 411 — Let’s Not Go Out To The Movies


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Tom and Jessica Toonkel talk about the chaotic world of the movie industry as theaters remain shuttered. We discuss what it will take to get people to again feel comfortable going to theaters and whether the movie industry will finally change from its hard set ways of not making new releases available to rent at home.

The Information’s 411 — Pimp My Zoom


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Nick Wingfield walks us through the ways Silicon Valley execs—and the rest of us—can upgrade their working-from-home video conference technology.

The Information’s 411 — How Viruses Affect Hosts


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Cory joins to talk about the layoffs at Opendoor. We also discuss how Brian Chesky is leading Airbnb through this bleak period in the company's business and if it stands a chance of going public this year.

The Information’s 411 — Tangled Up in Azure


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Kevin talks about the problems that Microsoft's Azure has had providing service to its customers. While the work-from-home era has complicated things, the real story is that the issues cropped up long before the pandemic.

Animation Escapes the Pandemic


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

In normal times, when animators at Snowball Studios are figuring out how a scene should look, they’ll gather in a room and look through sketches frame by frame. The director will note the tweaks to make, even acting out how the characters should move. Nowadays, Snowball’s animators—who make cartoons like “Fancy Nancy” for Disney—are still conducting the same production meetings, but over videoconference calls.

It isn’t a perfect solution, according to CEO Eran Barel. But it is workable. And it’s better than the scenario for live action film and TV shows, which the pandemic has forced to shut down production entirely. Unlike live action productions, animated movies and series are mostly made on computers. As a result, animation studios at both big companies like Disney and independents like Snowball are able to continue work on many projects. And that is creating an opportunity for animation. 

The Information’s 411 — Mind Your Zs and Qs


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

Zoe breaks down the new strange world of video conference etiquette. We discuss how the new remote lifestyle has raised questions about the proper way to interact over video chat. And she explains why an etiquette coach said you technically don't have to wear pants when you're on a Zoom conference (or any video conference for that matter). 

The Information’s 411 — Apple’s Remote Control


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Nick Bastone dives into the way Apple has tried to manage the work-from-home era, where employees have to keep secret products under wraps while working in a non-secretive location. They've also had to deal with the challenges of employees staying put in the U.S., unable to travel to China and oversee manufacturing, even as China's economy comes back online. 

The Information’s 411 — Are You There, Pod? It’s Me, Spotify


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

Jessica Toonkel talks about why Spotify decided to go on a spending spree to get into the podcasting business. In the past year the company has made a number of expensive acquisitions, buying podcasting production companies and tech platforms in an effort to build its ad revenue. We discuss how this can pay off for the company, and how long it could take to show results. 

Is Amazon Too Essential?


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

Priya dives into how Amazon has become one of the central services holding things together as large swaths of the country lives under stay-at-home orders. We also discuss whether Amazon's increasing role as a utility servicing the nation will change the way people view the company—and what it means for regulatory efforts.

The Information’s 411 — There’s Hope, There’s Hope, There’s Light


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

We talked to Shai Oster, our Hong Kong bureau chief, who spent most of the past few weeks in New York as the coronavirus threatened from China—and has now returned to Hong Kong. He gives us a look at what life looks like after the quarantine ends and people attempt to return to normal. And why people in Hong Kong at appalled at how U.S. government officials have handled the crisis.

The Information’s 411 — Gimme Shelter


This post is by Tom Dotan from The Information

For the next few weeks, as the country and the world grapples with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, we're bringing you an extra podcast in the middle of the week, looking at the impact on tech. In the first episode, Cory explains why Airbnb decided last week to offer full refunds to guests whose stays had to be cancelled. It put the interests of guests over hosts, a choice that could cause problems for the company in the future.