The Death of Propaganda “News”

The mainstream media model was always fraudulent, and is now an artifact of a bygone era:

Wealthy traders and merchants underwrote the first news in the Americas, and it was all route intel. In the colonial period political parties footed the bill for most papers—party organs that were far more partisan and acrimonious than what we cry foul at today. It wasn’t until the penny-press era—the 1830s on—that a new funding model developed: scale up the circulation, then sell readers’ attention to advertisers. That advertising revenue could bring the cost of the paper down to something many could afford.

Writing to a mass audience, publishers began to recognize there was a market for real, honest news that could cross political divides and speak with a relatively neutral voice. This paved the way for professional journalism standards. And for most of the 20th century, it made newsrooms the information power brokers.

Then the internet smashed the model.

“For the last decade, we have seen a steady erosion of the advertising economy for newspapers,” says Campbell. That’s the nice way of saying it. Revenue streams have been gutted.

Department stores and auto malls, the go-to advertisers, cut back on ads, facing their own disruptions: e-commerce competition and recession. Craigslist happened to the classifieds. And reader eyeballs, once concentrated among a few media outlets, are now diverted to Facebook, YouTube, and that thing you just Googled—and the bulk of advertising has followed them.

As they say in the industry, the digital transition traded print dollars for digital dimes and, in turn, digital dimes for mobile pennies.

One thing is certain: it’s a fascinating time to study the news. Alum Seth C. Lewis (BA ’02) holds the Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media at the University of Oregon and is a leading scholar on the digital transformation of journalism.

“We’ve gone from media monopoly to media disruption and ubiquity,” says Lewis. And in ubiquity, no one gets a sizable piece of the economic pie.

Lewis suggests that maybe the last century of advertising-based news subsidy—which fostered these objective, non-partisan notions—“was just a happy accident. Maybe instead we’re returning to other forms of funding and thinking about the news.”

Now, instead of feigned objectivity provided by a limited number of tightly controlled sources paid for by advertisers with a surreptitious influence over what is, and is not reported, we're returning to the openly subjective model, which is to be preferred because it is more honest and accountable.



Disney, Google and Facebook Caught Manipulating the

Minds of Millions Of Children and Adults


DISNEY Accused of Illegally Tracking Children Via Apps...

How Corporations Use A.I. To Alter Consumer Behavior...



Michael W. Sobol (SBN 194857) 275 Battery Street, 29th Floor San Francisco, CA 94111-3339 Telephone: 415.956.1000 Facsimile: 415.956.1008



 Nicholas Diamand Douglas I. Cuthbertson Abbye R. Klamann (SBN 311112) 250 Hudson Street, 8th Floor  New York, NY 10013-1413 Telephone: 212.355.9500 Facsimile: 212.355.9592



Hank Bates (SBN 167688) Allen Carney David Slade 519 West 7th

 St. Little Rock, AR 72201 Telephone: 501.312.8500 Facsimile: 501.312.8505


Disney Accused of Illegally Tracking Children Via Apps in New Lawsuit

The suit claims Disney is violating the Children's Online
        Privacy Protection Act.

The suit claims Disney is violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

A San Francisco mom says her child was illegally tracked while using the Disney Princess Palace Pets app.

Amanda Rushing, on behalf of her child referred to as "L.L.," is suing The Walt Disney Company, Disney Electronic Content and others in a proposed class action filed Thursday in California federal court. 

Rushing claims an advertising-specific software development kit is surreptitiously embedded in the code for the app, and that's how Disney is collecting personal information and tracking online behavior.

"App developers and their SDK-providing partners can track children’s behavior while they play online games with their mobile devices by obtaining critical pieces of data from the mobile devices, including 'persistent identifiers,' typically a unique number linked to a specific mobile device," writes attorney Michael Sobol in the complaint. "These persistent identifiers allow SDK providers to detect a child’s activity across multiple apps and platforms on the internet, and across different devices, effectively providing a full chronology of the child’s actions across devices and apps. This information is then sold to various third-parties who sell targeted online advertising."

Sobol argues this is exactly the kind of practice the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act was enacted to prevent. Under COPPA, app developers and any third-parties working with them can't legally collect personal information about children who are under the age of 13 without verifiable consent from their parents. 

"Disney has failed to safeguard children’s personal information and ensure that third-parties’ collection of data from children is lawful," writes Sobol.

According to the suit, a Disney subsidiary, Playdom Inc., paid the largest civil penalty to date ($3 million) for violating COPPA in 2011.

Rushing says L.L. was tracked while using the princess pets app, but the suit claims dozens of other games also track their users, including Club Penguin Island, Star Wars: Puzzle Droids, Frozen Free Fall and Disney Emoji Blitz. (Read the full list on pages 9 and 10 of the complaint, which is posted below.)

Rushing is seeking class certification with a class defined as: "all persons residing in the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia who are younger than the age of 13, or were younger than the age of 13 when they played the Game Tracking Apps, and their parents and/or legal guardians, from whom Defendants collected, used, or disclosed personal information without verifiable parental consent."

She's also seeking certification of a sub-class of California residents who could also have claims for violation of the state's right to privacy.

Disney has not yet replied to a request for comment on the complaint.

America's Most Powerful Companies Are Using Creepy Artificial Intelligence to Alter Your Behavior. From Starbucks to IBM, artificial intelligence is hot.


Brian Sozzi

Chris Tompkins

Michelle Lodge


From Starbucks ( SBUX) to IBM ( IBM) , the use of artificial intelligence by big companies to alter your behavior is becoming a major thing.    The most recent example is coffee giant Starbucks, as TheStreet recently reported.  If you always have a caramel macchiato on Mondays, but Tuesdays call for the straight stuff, a double espresso, then Starbucks is ready to know every nuance of your coffee habit. There will be no coffee secrets between you, if you're a Rewards member, and Starbucks.


This fall as Starbucks rolls out more of its new cloud-based Digital Flywheel program, backed by artificial intelligence (AI), the chain's regulars will find their every java wish ready to be fulfilled and, the food and drink items you haven't yet thought about presented to you as what you're most likely to want next.

So targeted is the technology behind this program that, if the weather is sunny, you'll get a different suggestion than if the day is rainy. Or expect suggestions to vary on the weekend or a holiday, as opposed to a regular workday. If it's your birthday, Starbucks will offer a personalized birthday selection. If you patronize a Starbucks other than you're regular haunt, Starbucks will know that too.

Like it or not, what Starbucks has developed represents a smart melding of technology into e-commerce tools that will pay off long term for the company and drive sales, Brian Solis, a principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, told TheStreet in an interview.

"Starbucks is one of the best companies in the world that connects brand, user and consumer experience between digital mobile and the real world," said Solis. " They are still pushing forward, rolling out their Digital Flywheel strategy to be more dynamic to further integrate digital and real world."

Matthew Ryan, global chief strategy officer at Starbucks, said during an earnings call on Thursday, July 27, that the personalization technology behind Digital Flywheel will allow the company to offer exclusive benefits to subsets of customers and put forth new ways to order. He said the program offers "real-time triggers and push[es] notifications to engage customers more deeply, building on the momentum that is generating the higher spend per members."  

In spite of this push, Starbucks has been challenged, according to Stifel analyst Mark Astrachan in a note on Thursday, in which he downgraded the stock to hold from buy.

"Starbucks estimates mobile customers, which are among its most productive, account for 8-9 million of the 13 million MSR [My Starbucks Rewards] members," wrote Astrachan in the note. "We estimate mobile transactions per store growth is slowing, up mid-teens y/y for the last two quarters and decelerating on 2-year basis. Non-mobile transactions per store, accounting for about 2.5x more transactions than those via mobile, has declined low double-digits for the past four quarters, with the two-year CAGR [compound annual growth rate] decelerating for the past seven quarters."

Meanwhile, Starbucks shares plunged nearly 10% on Friday to $54 a share.

Solis is a fan of Starbucks, who sees it as a technology company as much as anything else, with solid growth potential. Any downward moves, he contends, are typical growing pains of an innovator and disruptor. "The fact that the stock has tumbled is a reflection of what happens in the face of disruption," he said. "Shareholders tend to want shorter-term results, versus longer-term investments." 

"Mobile is one of many promises in which Starbucks is going to grow," Solis added. "That is because we are on the forefront of a new movement in consumer engagement, which marries mobile, loyalty and sales with AI to deliver extreme personalization, which Starbucks, is priming itself for and consumers are going to start demanding more."

Being that this is a Sunday, Starbucks thinks you might like to splurge a bit, say on a chewy chocolate cookie with that decaf cappuccino you always order. Of course, you were about to think that too, right?