US Tennis Hopes Fans Tune In

This fall, millions of sports fans expect that their favorite pro athletes will be back in action, in some form or another, as all major US sports leagues have announced some working plans for reopening their next seasons, or in some cases, restarting their season already in progress. NASCAR is already racing, the NBA is working on a playoff plan, as is the NHL; and the NFL plans to begin the regular season with fans in the stands, though that’s subject to potential change.

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IBM Shifts Conversation on AI in Law Enforcement

The collision of technology and privacy has become a hot topic internationally in the digital age. Consumers worry if too much of their personal data is being shared online, and others wonder if there’s any limit to what kind of data companies can gather on them. However, they still love being connected and the convenience of online mobile devices and social media applications, for whom data collection is a key part of their business model.

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Times Leadership Shaken Up Over Cotton Op-Ed

Another week, and the New York Times editorial team is still in the headlines, as the fallout continues over the publication of an op-ed by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, which some Times’ staffers considered controversial. Now, editorial page editor, James Bennet, has resigned and Jim Dao, a deputy editorial page editor, has been “reassigned” to the newsroom. Deputy editorial page editor, Katie Kingsbury, will take over for Bennet and Dao at least through the national election in November.

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Macy’s Numbers Signal a Department Store Comeback

Not long ago, most retail market experts were forecasting the end of malls and their anchor department stores. More and more big brands were closing locations or going out of business altogether. Then came COVID-19 closures, and many said those empty shopping centers were the last straw. But, something interesting and, some have said, unexpected has happened. Macy’s is putting up better-than-expected numbers after reopening since COVID-19 temporarily closed its doors.

While the company expected to see at least a one-billion-dollar operating loss in Q1, customers have come flocking back, which has led Macy’s to drop its loss projections well under a billion. Still not great, but much less bad news in this environment is still good news.

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Facebook Responds to Employee Protest

In recent weeks, social media titans Facebook and Twitter have been at odds publicly over Twitter’s handling of tweets the company feels are misleading. When Twitter’s new policy was announced, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company would maintain a different policy. This statement was almost immediately tested by President Donald Trump, who stepped away from Twitter a bit to post some things on Facebook that some users found “controversial.”

After Facebook did nothing to censor or fact-check the President, some Facebook employees chose to stage a public protest. Since many are working from home anyway, they staged a “virtual” walkout, opting not to do any work on a certain day. As a result, media reports that Facebook told department managers to take no retaliatory action against these employees, nor were they to require these employees to use their paid time off.

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Uber Eats Promotes Black-Owned Businesses

The ongoing topic of race and its place in public life is raging in the United States, and that discussion is spilling over into Canada as well. While most of the country is discussing how to talk about race and race relations and protests continue to rage in many American cities, one company is taking the conversation in another direction.

Uber Eats recently announced the release of a feature on its platform that allows users to specifically find and support black-owned businesses in the United States and Canada. According to media reports about the release, users will not have to pay delivery fees for orders made from participating black-owned restaurants.

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Disney Message: Parks Will be Safe

One of the biggest questions that Disney fans have been asking has been answered: “When will the parks reopen, and will they be safe when they do?” Recently, Disney announced that Disney World in Florida will open some parks for business on July 11 and others on July 15. This will be the first time any parks have invited guests since closing in mid-March due to concerns about COVID-19.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek sat down with CNN to discuss how the parks are working to keep guests safe, a very important message for both his company and fans who have missed visiting the parks. Chapek said guests would definitely experience new guidelines, though he said safety was paramount.

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VW Apologizes for “Tasteless” Video Some Called “Racist”

Volkswagen is apologizing after a social media ad was called “racist” by some consumers. In the ad, a giant white hand initially shoves a dark-skinned man away from a Volkswagen car. When the man tries to hold his ground, the giant hand flicks him away from the car.

That might have been enough for some to cry foul, but there’s more. According to reports in the Associated Press and other media outlets, the name of the café into which the man is “flicked” translates as “Little Colonist,” and, when the name of the vehicle comes on screen, the initially jumbled letters reportedly, and briefly, spelled out a racial slur.

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Pizza Maker Responds to Jordan’s “Flu Game” Allegations

It has become one of the most iconic performances in sports history: The Flu Game. During the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls megastar Michael Jordan scored 38 points, helping his team take game five in the series 90-88. A tight margin in what would be a hard-fought series. That game helped cement Jordan’s already incredible legacy, as people are still using it as the bar against which all ‘will to win’ is measured.

For decades, basketball fans believed a flu-stricken Jordan led his team to victory through the sheer force of his indomitable will and incredible talent. But, an episode of the popular ESPN docu-series, The Last Dance, tells a different version of the story. At least, in the episode, Jordan does.

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Quibi Coming After Netflix in Streaming Space

On paper, a time when vastly more people are watching streaming media, but the industry itself is still in a building phase, seems like a great time to dive into the market. That said, upstart streaming service Quibi is struggling to connect with consumers and get them to sign up in numbers that will allow the brand to compete with industry heavyweights like Netflix and Disney.

Quibi hit the ground running when the company debuted its streaming service back in April, however, growth, as well as interest in the brand, has not been stellar. Speaking to the New York Times about what has been called an “anemic” launch, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said the slow start can be attributed in part to COVID-19, but that “we own it.”

Speaking with CNN Business, CEO Meg Whitman was more optimistic, saying: “You have to remember, we’re a new brand with original content, a new tech platform that was built from the ground up… We came into the market with no library, no legacy product… We’re starting from scratch.” The unspoken implication is that the company is doing fine and has tremendous upside potential.

Currently, Quibi has about 1.3 million active users. This is a very small audience when compared to the more than 50 million Disney+ customers and 183 million Netflix streamers. Even those million users may not be a realistic number, as most of them are still well within the 90-day free trial phase.

Whitman, however, is nonplussed, saying she expects growth in this sector to be slow, and that finding the right audience in this market is a challenge. “It’s hard to gain people’s attention, particularly in a pandemic… But I feel really good about where we are…”

While optimism about a young business is healthy, especially when the boss is speaking to consumers, the market is not currently working in Quibi’s favor. With more people at home, streaming services are picking up a lot of new subscribers, and Quibi is struggling to keep pace.

Katzenberg was blunt when speaking about the growth pattern, saying, “Is it the avalanche of people we wanted? No… It’s not up to what we wanted… It’s not close.”

That said, principles and stakeholders are still banking on the uniqueness of their product to see them through in the long run, as long as they can grab the attention of enough streamers. They believe there’s an audience out there for shorter, easily watched content with solid production value.

Critics say the company has more pressing issues, though. First, the fact that Quibi was built for people “on the go.” It is only available on mobile devices and its biggest competitors are all multiplatform, which makes them a more obvious value for consumers, especially those stuck at home for the moment.

The fact that people are not “on the go” as much as they had been or eventually will be hurts the company’s initial market position. Content is another challenge. If people don’t really know what they’re getting, will they be willing to pay for it? That remains to be seen, and Quibi has a serious uphill challenge in the near future as they seek to shift their unique value proposition for an audience with many other options. 

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