Summary of “Applebee’s is done trying to win over millennials”

Applebee’s says it’s made a mistake: It’s been trying too hard to be cool.
The chain’s parent company, DineEquity, is also bringing on a new chief executive and closing up to 160 Applebee’s and IHOP locations in a bid to boost profits.
“Over the past few years, the brand’s set out to reinvent Applebee’s as a modern bar and grill in overt pursuit of a more youthful and affluent demographic,” John Cywinski, president of Applebee’s said in a call with analysts this week.
Even IHOP, which has traditionally been a source of stability for the company, has seen sales slip in recent quarters.
In all, Glendale, Calif.-based Dine Equity plans to close up to 135 Applebee’s restaurants and about 25 IHOP locations.
“These restaurants need to close and perhaps should have closed long ago.”
The company plans to remodel IHOP stores and beef up the company’s online ordering capabilities.
Last month, IHOP celebrated its 59th anniversary by aggressively advertising a 59-cent pancake special at some locations.

The orginal article.

Summary of “China’s Plan for World Domination in AI Isn’t So Crazy After All”

Most Chinese mega-cities have set up institutes for AI that include some data-sharing arrangements, according to Xu. “In China, the population is huge, so it’s much easier to collect the data for whatever use-scenarios you need,” he said.
China just enshrined the pursuit of AI into a kind of national technology constitution.
“Data access has always been easier in China, but now people in government, organizations and companies have recognized the value of data,” said Jiebo Luo, a computer science professor at the University of Rochester who has researched China.
Advanced AI operations, like DeepMind, often rely on “Simulated” data, co-founder Demis Hassabis explained during a trip to China in May. DeepMind has used Atari video games to train its systems.
“Sure, there might be data sets you could get access to in China that you couldn’t in the U.S.,” said Oren Etzioni, director of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
“China currently has a talent shortage when it comes to top tier AI experts,” said Connie Chan, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
The firm recruited Qi Lu, one of Microsoft’s top executives, to return to China to lead the search giant’s push into AI. He touted the technology’s potential for enhancing China’s “National strength” and cited a figure that nearly half of the bountiful academic research on the subject globally has ethnically Chinese authors, using the Mandarin term “Huaren” 华人- a term for ethnic Chinese that echoes government rhetoric.
“China has structural advantages, because China can acquire more and better data to power AI development,” Lu told the cheering crowd of Chinese developers.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Uber Dilemma – Stratechery by Ben Thompson”

This is why what happened last week was so shocking: the venture capital firm Benchmark Capital filed suit against former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for fraud, break of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty.
Giving three extra seats on the board to the CEO was certainly founder friendly; that the expansion happened at the same time Uber accepted a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which came with a board seat, suggests Benchmark viewed the board expansion as a way to protect its own interests and influence as well.
Longtime Benchmark general partner and Uber board member Bill Gurley had been pursuing ride-sharing years before Uber came along, and the investor had penned multiple essays on his widely-read blog defending and extolling Kalanick and company.
The sheer size of Uber though, and the potential return it represents, means that Benchmark is no longer playing an iterated game.
The most straightforward is that Benchmark hopes to push Uber to an IPO sooner-rather-than-later; clearly Kalanick was an obstacle as CEO, and according to reports, has sought to reestablish control of the company via his control of the board, driving away Meg Whitman, who was reportedly Benchmark’s choice for CEO.4 This also explains the urgency of this suit: Benchmark is trying to prevent Kalanick from naming two more members to the board, further complicating the CEO selection process.
Which is looking to dominate car-sharing globally, has reportedly had discussions with Benchmark and other investors about buying their shares; reports have been mixed as to who wants to make a deal – Kalanick or Benchmark – but if it is the latter a lawsuit is an excellent way of getting the former to agree to a sale.
There is a third possibility: that Uber broadly and Kalanick specifically are in big trouble when it comes to Waymo’s lawsuit against the company, and that Benchmark is making clear that it is not culpable.
A full six pages of Benchmark’s lawsuit were dedicated to describing Kalanick’s role in the Otto acquisition and Benchmark’s obliviousness to alleged wrongdoing; I noted when the lawsuit was filed that it, more than any of Uber’s scandals, had the potential to be Kalanick’s doom, and apparently Benchmark agrees.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Google Doesn’t Want What’s Best for Us”

Last week, Google fired a software engineer for writing a memo that questioned the company’s gender diversity policies and made statements about women’s biological suitability for technical jobs.
The company said that releasing that information would cause “Competitive harm.” It was not until 2014 that Google began to disclose statistics showing that only 17 percent of its technical work force was female.
The rise of Google and the other giant businesses of Silicon Valley have been driven by a libertarian culture that paid only lip service to notions of diversity.
Google had to fire the offending engineer, James Damore, but anyone who spends time on the message boards frequented by Valley engineers will know that the “Bro” culture that gave us Gamergate – an online movement that targeted women in the video game industry – is much more prevalent than Mr. Pichai wants to acknowledge.
Google employees who opposed Mr. Damore found their internal company profile pictures posted on Breitbart, the Verge reported.
Companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook are coming under the same cultural microscope that questioned the “Greed is good” culture of the 1980s.
We have an obligation to care about the values of the people who run Google, because we’ve given Google enormous control over our lives and the lives of our children.
As the former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris points out, “Without realizing the implications, a handful of tech leaders at Google and Facebook have built the most pervasive, centralized systems for steering human attention that has ever existed, while enabling skilled actors to hijack our attention for manipulative ends.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “TV’s Ad Apocalypse Is Coming”

Disney announced on Tuesday that it will stop selling content to Netflix by 2019 and will instead launch two streaming services-one with sports content from ESPN and another for movies.
As a result, Disney’s cable-television business, once the crown jewel of the company, is now weighing down its stock.
Old Disney’s television strategy was: Focus on making great content and then sell it to distribution companies, like Comcast and DirecTV. This worked brilliantly when practically the entire country subscribed to the same television product.
When Disney sold its goods to Comcast, it stimulated demand for the cable bundle, which meant more people had access to ESPN, which meant ESPN’s advertising revenues soared, which meant Disney profited.
Thanks to virtuous cycle of bundling, separating content and distribution used to be the obvious play for Disney.
Disney is the envy of the entertainment industry by virtue of its catalogue, which includes Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and a legendary animated-films portfolio.
Disney’s streaming products will debut in a crowded marketplace.
This isn’t a radical extrapolation; it’s already happening inside of pay TV. In Disney’s last quarter, subscription fees for its cable networks grew slightly while ad revenue declined 7 percent.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Netflix doesn’t want to be a better streaming service”

Disney delivered what could only be perceived as a fierce punch back: it will end its distribution deal with Netflix in 2019, launching its own standalone subscription service instead. Disney’s deal has no doubt been in the works for months, but the timing seemed particularly pointed – especially since Disney’s press release touting its streaming service plans gave the Netflix split its own breakout paragraph.
Netflix’s ambitions clearly go far beyond creating a streaming service, but both the Millarworld acquisition and the Disney reaction point to a changing media landscape.
Variety’s Andrew Wallenstein characterized it as Netflix “Trying to become more like Disney by bringing in a superhero factory,” and Netflix certainly did everything it could to fuel that perception.
That amounts to Netflix getting into the publishing business, turning it from a streaming service that creates related content into a full-fledged entertainment company that operates across multiple mediums.
The same logic has been behind its original content push, as well as that of Hulu, Netflix, and every other self-respecting service.
If its new goal were to become Disney faster than Disney could become Netflix, then it would have already lost.
Disney’s decades of movies and TV shows are all ready to go, and its standalone streaming service is set to launch in 2019.
The company will lose Disney’s licensed content, but Netflix execs seemed to recognize long ago that the best way for the company to control its own destiny was to control the content it was distributing.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Are Index Funds Bad for the Economy?”

The top three families of index funds each manage trillions of dollars, collectively holding 15 to 20 percent of all the stock of major U.S. corporations.
Best of all for their investors, index funds have consistently beaten the performance of stock-pickers and actively managed funds, whose higher fees may support the Manhattan lifestyle of many bankers, but turn out not to deliver much to customers.
Over the past year or two, a growing chorus of experts has begun to argue that index funds and shareholder diversification are strangling the economy, and need to be stopped.
One journal article argues that large index funds are violating antitrust law; another recommends a limit on index funds owning stock in more than one company in an industry.
Would common owners actually pressure company managers to collude and raise prices? Would those managers, facing less investor pressure, simply stop competing so hard with one another, enjoying fat paychecks and allowing prices to float up and cost-saving innovation to wither? And would any of that plausibly happen when index funds own just 15 percent of an industry?
Not surprisingly, the managers of index funds have thrown cold water on these possibilities, and on the empirical research itself.
Even if index funds could cause airline fares to go up, they might not benefit: Those higher fares would mean higher business-travel costs to many other companies in their portfolios.
Azar emphasized to me that common ownership is less problematic if index funds own only a small share of a company’s stock, or if the company has other very large shareholders who don’t also own shares in the company’s competitors.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Andrew Ng’s Next Trick: Training a Million AI Experts”

Rew Ng, one of the world’s best-known artificial-intelligence experts, is launching an online effort to create millions more AI experts across a range of industries.
Ng, an early pioneer in online learning, hopes his new deep-learning course on Coursera will train people to use the most powerful idea to have emerged in AI in recent years.
Deep learning involves teaching a machine to perform a complex task using large amounts of data along with a large simulated neural network.
Several years ago, Ng was also the founding director of the Google Brain project, an effort to deploy deep learning across the company.
Even though a lot of the buzz in AI has been around large tech companies-and clearly the large tech companies are creating huge amounts of value with AI through better Web search, online advertising, better maps, better payment systems, and so on-if you look across an entire economy, really any Fortune 500 company can create a lot of value with AI as well.
Even though universities are ramping up their teaching capacity, there are so many people who are already out of the university system that need to learn these new systems.
Could deep learning help automate education itself?
One is just bringing a lot more people into deep learning.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Amazon owns a whole collection of secret brands, USPTO trademark filings reveal”

The only indication that any of these other brands might have an affiliation with Amazon is the fact that their company pages-like this one from Arabella-say that their products are “Exclusively for Prime members.” It’s not clear that they’re exclusive because they are Amazon products, rather than products from companies that have struck deals with Amazon.
Calls and emails to the intellectual-property lawyer, James F. Struthers, who filed these trademark applications-and has filed some of the above applications for Amazon, and other Amazon trademarks-went unanswered.
Many of these brands also appear under the “Amazon Fashion” section of the company’s website, right next to the generic house brands that Amazon owns.
When reached for comment about its branding strategy, Amazon did not have an explicit answer, but a spokesperson confirmed the following brands are indeed Amazon’s: “Amazon has a range of brands including Amazon Basics, Happy Belly, Mama Bear, Pinzon, Presto!, Wickedly Prime, Goodthreads, Amazon Essentials, Mae, Ella Moon, Buttoned Down, The Fix and Lark & Ro.”.
Amazon has confirmed that some of the brands Quartz uncovered-including Goodthreads, The Fix, and Presto!-are indeed house brands, even though they are not listed as such on Amazon’s website, and Amazon’s name does not appear on the USPTO trademarks.
Mark DiMassimo, direct-economy expert and CEO of the New York-based advertising agency DiMassimo Goldstein, told Quartz there’s logic to Amazon’s clandestine approach to house brands, as the Amazon brand name can only stretch so far.
“There are limits to the Amazon brand that Amazon would be wise not to cross.”
Perhaps what Amazon is trying to do as it rapidly expands into new businesses-especially business areas where it might not have forged partnerships with well-known brands-is to give the impression to customers that there are tons of options to choose from, when in fact, they’re really just choosing between different Amazon brands.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why the Hatchet Men of 3G Spent $10 Million on a Better Oscar Mayer Wiener”

Kraft Heinz is controlled by the private equity firm 3G Capital, which is known less for nurturing growth at the companies it buys than for firing people, shutting factories, and taking cost-cutting to exceptional lengths.
Does a company that can execute a whirlwind wiener turnaround sound like one that knows only how to slash and burn? Hees, a trim 47-year-old who calls Kraft Heinz “My life project,” is determined to change the storyline.
All of which means that unless 3G finds another merger partner for Kraft Heinz, its future in food depends on processed cheese, cheap coffee, and old brands such as Kool-Aid, Cool Whip, Jell-O, and A.1.
The executive overseeing the project is Oscar Mayer marketing chief Greg Guidotti, a Kraft holdover.
Kraft Heinz, which was selling about $450 million in wieners annually, allocated $10 million to reformulate the dogs and create packaging.
In 2013, 3G joined with Buffett to buy Heinz for $23 billion and take it private.
In mid-August, a six-month hiatus required by the U.K. will expire, and Kraft Heinz, via 3G, could take another run at the company-perhaps hostile this time.
Hees won’t comment on deal speculation but says, “We are always looking for opportunities where two plus two is more than four.” The equation could get a lot more complicated if 3G can’t find Kraft Heinz another partner.

The orginal article.