Jul 12, 2019

Axios Login

Ina Fried

Hi from D.C. I've got a bunch of words for you, 1,041 to be specific (<4 minutes).

1 big thing: Trump won't leave Big Tech alone

Photo: NicholasI Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump said Thursday he doesn't trust social media companies to "self-correct" their alleged anti-conservative bias, multiple sources tell Axios' David McCabe and Jonathan Swan.

Why it matters: It's another strong signal that Trump would support harsh regulations or antitrust action against social media companies.


  • One source recalled, paraphrasing from memory, that Ryan Fournier, the chairman of activist group Students for Trump, asked after the White House's live stream ended, "I know some conservatives have some issues with the idea of regulations. Do you think by doing what we’re doing and continuing to put pressure on these social media companies, that they will continue to self-correct?”
  • Trump replied, "I don't trust them to self-correct," according to the same source. A second source agreed with that recollection of Trump's comments, but a third source in the room recalled it as "No, I don’t think they can self-correct."

The big picture: Conservatives have increasingly been open to regulating tech companies, alleging they suppress content produced by the right.

Yes, but: The charges that anti-conservative bias is programmed into social media algorithms have never been backed up by evidence or reporting, even if tech companies are predominantly staffed by liberal employees in famously blue Silicon Valley.

Meanwhile: There were no representatives of the big social media companies at the Thursday White House meeting, but Trump said he would invite them to a second event later this month, per Reuters.

Go deeper: White House summit spotlights right's new split on tech

2. White House convenes 5G showdown

Tensions over 5G have come to a head within the Trump administration, prompting acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to convene a high-level White House meeting on Thursday, sources tell Axios' Alayna Treene and David McCabe. The goal, they say, was to hammer out policy disputes between government agencies.

What we're hearing: The Thursday morning meeting, led by President Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, included high-level attendees such as Commerce Department official Earl Comstock and FCC chair Ajit Pai, as well as multiple officials from Defense, State and Education, one source said.

Why it matters: Comstock has been at the center of disagreements over how to repurpose airwaves for commercial 5G services, in addition to being at odds with several officials, particularly Kudlow, on a number of other issues, the sources said.

  • However, one official stressed that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross doesn't share those frustrations.
  • "The Trump administration is supportive of a private sector, free enterprise approach," a White House official told Axios. "We believe the U.S. is winning the race to 5G with record deployments in cities across the United States."

The intrigue: Repurposing valuable wireless airwaves almost always ends up in a bureaucratic tug of war.

  • A key point of contention is the use of a chunk of super-fast airwaves (known as the 24 GHz band) that the White House and FCC want to free up for 5G.
  • But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (within the Commerce Department) and NASA have raised alarms that doing so will cause interference with existing weather forecasting sensors located near those airwaves.

The big picture: The Trump administration has taken steps to help speed up the U.S. rollout of 5G networks to try to stay ahead of China. The FCC has aggressively tried to free up airwaves for commercial 5G use.

3. Streaming choices overwhelm consumers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

How stressed are consumers about finding the right thing to watch on their streaming services? Well, according to Axios' Sara Fischer, they are stressed enough that many are choosing to watch something they've already seen, revert back to traditional TV or turn the tube off altogether.

Why it matters: As more companies jump into the streaming wars, the choice-overload problem could alienate customers, drive away subscribers and limit the industry's growth.

By the numbers: U.S. adults typically spend a little over 7 minutes searching for something to watch on a streaming service, according to a new report from Nielsen's MediaTech Trender, a quarterly consumer tracking survey focused on emerging technology.

  • Younger adults ages 18–49 take between 8 and 10 minutes to browse before giving up, while older adults typically spend around 5 minutes.
  • Overall, 21% of respondents say that "when they want to watch, but they don’t know exactly what," they end up giving up the hunt.

Be smart: Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu that categorize programming by category, not brand, may have a tough time competing with traditional TV for easy choice-making by consumers.

  • More than half of users (58%) said they were more likely to go back to their favorite traditional TV channels if they didn’t know what to watch on a streaming service.
  • Meanwhile, only one-third of adult respondents say they use the content menus on their subscription streaming services to actually help them find content.

Flashback: Psychologist Barry Schwartz introduced "the paradox of choice" in his 2004 book of that name, finding that a surfeit of options paralyzes people instead of delighting them.

The big picture: Not only is choice difficult within streaming services, but selecting which service to subscribe to is becoming harder, as more and more big entertainment and tech companies start to create their own services.

  • On Tuesday, WarnerMedia revealed that its new streaming service, HBO Max, would include the entire library of "Friends" exclusively, as well as a plethora of other new and old titles.
  • This new service joins a long list of on-demand video services that consumers will have to choose from, both with their wallets and time.
  • Data from media research firm Magid finds that people are only willing to spend around $38 monthly on streaming services. The average subscription streaming service costs anywhere between $7 and $17 per month.

The bottom line: Stressed-out viewers become less engaged.

  • According to Nielsen's report, when consumers know exactly what to watch, they are 3 times more likely to view content (66%) than when they do not know what to watch prior to viewing (22%).
4. Twitter outage leaves addicts scratching heads

A massive Twitter outage on Thursday left social media addicts wondering what to do. I mean, when Facebook or Google are down, you tweet about it. But what do you do when Twitter is down?

  • The outage occurred in sync with the White House summit gathering conservative critics of alleged social media bias.
  • The coincidence provided fodder for suspicions, but there seemed to be no relationship between the events.

The outage also left people itching to make their best jokes. Here were a few of my favorites.

"The outage was due to an internal configuration change, which we're now fixing," Twitter said in a statement.

Go deeper: A bad month for internet outages

5. Take note

On tap


  • YouTube says it is working on "creator-on-creator harassment" rules. (The Verge)
  • PC sales grew 1.5% year-on-year, per Gartner, with Lenovo gaining and Asus and Acer losing share. (VentureBeat)
  • Ford-VW alliance expands to include autonomous and electric vehicles (The Verge)
6. After you Login

It's one thing to have an Xbox in your hotel room. But in one room at this Japanese hotel, you can have a whole life-size flight simulator.

Ina Fried