Weekly output: Google’s RCS messaging, PBS comes to YouTube TV (x2), 5G and IoT, Telaria + Rubicon, pay-TV fee transparency, Dish boxes + Nest Hello video doorbells, car2go gone, best DNA tests

My last full work week of the year and the decade had me busy, which is another way of saying this was a real bag of stress. I am looking forward to enjoying a few more tranquil days, and I hope you all also get some downtime in the rest of the December.

12/16/2019: Google’s new RCS text messaging: Will it work with my wireless carrier?, USA Today

I explained this upgrade to SMS that Google has taken to calling “chat features,” and which continues to see apathetic support from carriers.

12/17/2019: Cord cutters, you can finally stream your PBS stations online – on YouTube TV, USA Today

The reporting I did in January for a FierceVideo piece about PBS’s digital strategy paid off when I got a heads-up from public television’s Boston station WGBH about their impending arrival on YouTube TV. That allowed me to get this post on USAT’s site right after the news that cord cutters could finally watch many local PBS affiliates without needing either reliable over-the-air reception or a cable or satellite TV subscription.

12/18/2019: 5G deployment stands ready to supercharge the Internet of Things, Ars Technica

My last feature-length explainer covered the potential of 5G’s network-slicing and edge-computing capabilities in IoT markets. Like the earlier two, this was sponsored by a company that I assume was Verizon, going by the presence of their ads atop each one in the series. But Ars has yet to confirm that, and they certainly didn’t tell me in advance–which is exactly how this sort of arrangement should work.

12/19/2019: PBS lands on YouTube TV, FierceVideo

I spent the last two days of the week filling in at this trade-pub client to cover breaking news. My first post provided some more context about PBS’s debut on a streaming-TV service, including more details about participating stations than I had for the USA Today piece.

12/19/2019: Adtech firms Telaria and Rubicon to merge, FierceVideo

Thursday’s other post was a writeup of this merger of two adtech companies that I must admit I didn’t know much about prior to Thursday.

12/20/2019: New law mandates pay-TV fee transparency, FierceVideo

Friday morning, I wrote up the Television Viewer Protection Act, a just-passed measure mandating a little more disclosure of such tacked-on pay-TV expenses as the surcharge for local broadcasts and equipment-rental fees.

12/20/2019: Dish Network says hello to Google’s video doorbell, FierceVideo

Some Dish DVRs and receivers can now show a Nest Hello video doorbell’s view of who’s at your front door.

12/21/2019: An elegy for Car2Go, the smarter Zipcar rival that lost its way, Fast Company

The demise of D.C.’s leading point-to-point car-sharing service made me and many other transportation geeks sad.

12/21/2019: The best DNA test kit of 2019, Tom’s Guide

The fourth big story I wrote about DNA tests for this reviews site offers a ranking of the two I tested myself, 23andMe and AncestryDNA, plus an assessment of three others that have ranked high in other reviews: MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and Living DNA.

Weekly output: D.C. United’s online-TV experiment, 5G’s home-broadband potential, how the four carriers offer 5G, a 5G forecast for 2020

One of this week’s stories isn’t like the others–because it doesn’t mention 5G wireless at all.

12/9/2019: What D.C. United’s streaming experiment can teach about soccer’s TV future, FierceVideo

D.C.’s soccer team tried to cut its own cord and go with online-only video coverage of matches. That didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean D.C. United was wrong to dump traditional pay TV–or that Major League Soccer has much use for broadcast partners that require an old-school cable or satellite TV package.

12/11/2019: Can 5G replace everybody’s home broadband?, Ars Technica

The second feature in this series for Ars covered 5G’s potential as a source of uncapped home broadband. I struggled mightily to find somebody, anybody, who could testify to their experience of the 5G Home service Verizon sells in small areas of a handful of cities and finally found a few users on Reddit willing to share their experiences.

12/11/2019: Want crazy-fast internet? Here’s what AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint offer right now, Fast Company

The four nationwide U.S. carriers are selling four degrees of 5G, and I couldn’t explain them all adequately without going over my usual word count. Note that we updated this post after publication to add a quibble from Verizon over my use of the 5G hotspot that firm sells to judge its 5G connectivity: That $650 M1000 hotspot apparently can’t share more than 400 Mbps or so of 5G speed over WiFi. (My friend Sascha Segan called that out in his review at PCMag, but I had missed that.)

12/12/2019: 5G’s rollout is confusing, uneven, and rife with problems, Fast Company

I wrote up an Opensignal forecast of 5G’s prospects in North America next year. Like me, the people at that London network-analysis firm have serious concerns over the confusion the carriers are introducing by hyping millimeter-wave 5G that many people won’t be able to use.

Weekly output: Comcast broadcast-TV fee hike, Starz app, Disney+ downloads, Ericsson mobile-broadband study, Opensignal video-quality study, Black Friday media-player deals, inactive Twitter accounts

Hello, December–as in, the month in which the only uncertainty left about my income for the year concerns which clients will not pay an outstanding invoice until after Dec. 31.

11/25/2019: Comcast readies another round of rate hikes, FierceVideo

I spent the first three mornings of the week filling in at this trade-pub client to write up breaking news. Comcast obliged me by prepping its latest in a long series of rate hikes–one topped by a nearly 50 percent increase in the broadcast-TV fee that didn’t even exist before 2015.

11/25/2019: Starz takes streaming-TV app overseas, FierceVideo

Monday didn’t have much else in the way of breaking video news, so I wrote up this international expansion of Starz’ streaming app.

11/26/2019: Disney+ mobile apps hit 15.5 million downloads: Report, FierceVideo

My editor at Fierce flagged the New York Post’s writeup of the news, which extrapolated from the app-download estimates of Apptopia to conclude that almost a million people were signing up for Disney+ a day. I’m glad I asked Apptopia for comment, because they declined to associate themselves with the Post’s assumptions.

11/26/2019: Ericsson study: video will eat 76% of mobile bandwidth in 2025, FierceVideo

I wrote up a new Ericsson forecast calling for a boom in streaming video–fueled by rapid adoption of 5G broadband.

11/27/2019: Opensignal study slams U.S. carriers’ streaming-video quality, FierceVideo

My first item Wednesday morning was an Opensignal study that gave streaming-video quality in the U.S. the equivalent of an F- and ranked us between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

11/27/2019: Streaming video players spotted less at early Black Friday sales, FierceVideo

The headline on this was supposed to read “Streaming video plays spotted for less.” I was also supposed to have Wednesday afternoon free after filing this, but I didn’t finish writing another post for a separate client (not yet posted) until 5 p.m.

11/28/2019: Inactive Twitter accounts, Al Jazeera

I took a short break from Thanksgiving cooking to pop in via Skype and discuss Twitter’s quickly-walked-back plans to start culling inactive accounts. Most of the questions from AJ’s host involved what Twitter should do for the accounts of deceased members, and I had to admit that it crazy for Twitter still not to have any policy for that.

Weekly output: Xumo, AT&T TV, Roku Kids & Family, Disney+, Apple TV+, wireless video throttling

I spent the first two mornings of this week wearing a single client’s hat, thanks to my trade-pub outlet FierceVideo asking if I could cover breaking news for them Monday and Tuesday of this week. I was a little worried that I might get swamped, but I soon realized that I still enjoy the uncomplicated craft of quickly writing 400-word pieces in inverted-pyramid structure.

But this exercise also exposed the shallowness of my “analysts who can deliver value judgments quickly” list–as in, all the people quoted in these pieces are men.

If you signed up for my Patreon page, you would have seen one other item from me this week: a post I wrote Saturday about the kind of freelance rates I make and the kind I’d like to make.

8/19/2019: Xumo comes to Comcast’s X1 as well as Android TV, FierceVideo

Xumo, if you weren’t familiar with the name, is a free-with-ads streaming-video service with a channel lineup that features a striking number of established media brands.

8/19/2019: AT&T launches AT&T TV streaming service in 10 markets, FierceVideo

AT&T’s latest streaming-video service–there have been quite a few in the last few years–does not look likely to stop that telecom giant from bleeding TV subscribers.

8/19/2019: Roku launches ‘Kids & Family’ section on Roku Channel, FierceVideo

Roku announcing a human-curated video-for-kids section sure looked like an answer of sorts to YouTube’s unreliable algorithms, but after publication their publicist asked that we clarify the story to indicate that they did not mean to diss Google’s video service in particular.

8/20/2019: Disney+ poised to launch absent Amazon Fire support, FierceVideo

The absence of an announced Disney+ app for Amazon’s Fire TV platform seems odd, but history suggests both Disney and Amazon will find some compromise that lets each company make a little more money.

8/20/2019: Apple TV likely to debut at $9.99 a month in November, FierceVideo

TV-industry analyst Alan Wolk made an excellent point to me in this piece: The Apple that knew it had to ship the iPad nano would have figured out that it needs a cheap streaming-media stick to compete in the online-TV business.

8/20/2019: Wireless video throttling pervasive but pointless, FierceVideo

I wrote up a new study that found that the big four U.S. wireless carriers all curtail the resolution of streaming video–but they don’t throttle all such sites equally, nor do they necessarily need to do that to ensure a quality connection.

Weekly output: tech talk with Mark Vena

MWC 2019 badgeBARCELONA–I’m now into my seventh Mobile World Congress, and the experience has been reminding me that it’s a treat to come to this city for work. Plus, the WiFi generally works at MWC.

(Minus: I’m typing this from my second morning press event at which there’s no free coffee. What kind of monsters run these things?)

2/21/2019: Moor Insights & Strategy Podcast (2-21-19), What’s Hot in Tech

I talked to analyst Mark Vena, an occasional source, about 8K television, cord cutting, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 announcements, and foldable phones. He also gave me a little grief about my city’s football team, and I can’t blame him for that one bit.

Weekly output: Data Privacy Day, PBS digital strategy, trust in traditional media, Huawei charges, Trump’s DoJ on Facebook, VPN reality check

This week featured a personal record of sorts: three stories published in a day, each at a different outlet and one at a first-time client.

1/28/2019: Big tech firms still don’t care about your privacy, The Washington Post

I wrote most of this essay about the fauxliday that is “Data Privacy Day” in an hour or two on Friday of the previous week.

1/28/2019: PBS’ most-of-the-above digital-video strategy, FierceVideo

This piece started with my researching streaming-TV options for a relative and discovering that none included the local PBS station. Fortunately, it ended with Boston’s WGBH telling me that it expects to be one or two “over the top” video services by this fall.

1/28/2019: New study finds trust in traditional media (mostly) transcends partisanship, Columbia Journalism Review

This is my first byline at CJR. This publication offering an exceptionally author-friendly contract encourages me to make sure that it’s not the last.

1/29/2019: Huawei allegations, Al Araby

i made a quick appearance on this Qatar-based news channel, overdubbed live into Arabic, to recap two new rounds of federal charges against the Chinese telecom-hardware giant.

2/1/2019: Why Trump’s DOJ doesn’t want to break up Facebook, Yahoo Finance

I wrote up assistant attorney general Makan Delrahim’s talk at the State of the Net conference Tuesday, outlining why he seems uninterested in revisiting the Department of Justice’s approvals for Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.

2/1/2019: Why VPNs won’t always keep you safe online, Yahoo Finance

The immediate motivation for writing this reality-check reassessment of virtual-private-network services came from a comment a reader left on Monday’s Washington Post story, but I’ve had the idea floating around my head for a while.

Weekly output: Senate privacy hearings (x2), a split Internet, Chrome vs. Flash, cord cutting, D.C. tech, Chrome sync, Facebook hack

The last few days of Brett Kavanaugh drama in the Senate really took a hammer to my productivity. Yours too, I’m sure.

9/24/2018: What to expect when Apple, Amazon, and Google get grilled in Congress this week, Yahoo Finance

This was what you saw me talk about the previous Friday on Yahoo Finance’s Midday Movers show. One point I wish I’d made in this post: the absence of customer voices in this hearing.

9/24/2018: China’s Internet, Al Jazeera

I come on at about the 5:30 mark in the linked video to discuss remarks by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt that China’s increasingly-tight control of the Internet inside its borders means we’re now dealing with two Internets.

9/24/2018: Google’s latest Chrome update tightens the locks on Adobe Flash, USA Today

With Chrome now making it harder than ever to run Flash content, I checked in with two Flash holdouts: Intuit’s Mint.com, which requires it to view stock charts, and United Airlines’ “personal device entertainment” inflight service, which demands it to stream most TV shows and movies to a browser.

9/25/2018: Your wireless carrier may stop you from dumping cable TV, Yahoo Finance

I got an advance look at two studies that came out Tuesday: one looking at cord cutters’ motivations, another at how reliably wireless carriers deliver streaming video. The second provided important context to complaints cited in the first, so I wrote up both in this post.

9/26/2018: Are you ready for the spotlight?, DC Startup Week

SilverStrategy founder Tara Silver quizzed me, Technical.ly DC‘s Michelai Graham, and DC Inno’s Kieran McQuilkin about how startups try to get media attention, the state of the D.C.-tech scene, and this region’s odds of landing Amazon’s second headquarters. Update, 10/8: The organizers posted video of our panel to their Facebook page.

9/27/2018: Why now is a good time to reconsider browser-sync options on Google Chrome, USA Today

The latest Chrome release’s barely-documented switch to logging you into the browser if you log into any Google sites both upset some information-security types and gave me an opportunity to write this post, reminding readers that you can add a sync password to stop Google from monitoring and monetizing your Web activity and that Mozilla Firefox’s own Web-activity synchronization comes encrypted end-to-end.

9/27/2018: Tech execs to senators: Regulate us, but not too much, The Parallax

I wrote up Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee tech-privacy hearings, noting the questions the senators asked of executives with Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Charter, Google, and Twitter as well as the queries that didn’t come up.

9/29/2018: Facebook hacked, Al Jazeera

I made a second appearance on AJ’s Arabic-language channel (overdubbed live as usual) to talk about the series of bugs that could have let unknown attackers into 50 million Facebook accounts. Unlike my earlier appearance this week, this show doesn’t seem to be online.

Weekly output: Verizon WiFi testing, cord cutting, Sprint + T-Mobile, Sprint unlimited plans

Not that the weather around here ever takes me up on any suggestions, but it sure would be nice to have a little rain every other day instead of having a few weeks of drought followed by a week of almost nonstop downpours.

7/17/2018: Inside Verizon’s unique approach to Wi-Fi testing, FierceWireless

I had a field trip two weeks ago to Ashburn to check out some of the testing facilities Verizon has set up there. Verizon PR offered to have an Uber fetch me from home, but instead of subjecting a driver and myself to morning I-66 traffic, I asked if they could move that pickup to the current end of the Silver Line–which let me get some work done on the train and then gawk at Silver Line Phase II construction on my way to Loudoun County.

7/18/2018: Cord-cutting will cost cable companies $5.5B this year: Survey, Yahoo Finance

I wrote up a new survey of cord cutting from the NYC-based management consultancy cg42. Some of the numbers in this survey looked a little out there, and quizzing cg42’s managing partner Stephen Beck revealed some reasons why.

7/19/2018: Why the Sprint and T-Mobile merger could be good for you, Yahoo Finance

My default attitude towards giant telecom mergers remains skepticism. But when two different studies of wireless network performance suggested that a combination of Sprint and T-Mobile would yield significantly better results than a simple addition of their coverage maps would suggest, I had to put that in the story–while noting that the effects of such a combination on pricing are another issue.

7/22/2018: How to tell if Sprint’s new unlimited data plans are worth the upgrade, USA Today

Speaking of wireless, yet another reshuffling of plans at Sprint led to this piece advising readers how to compare that carrier’s two new unlimited-data (read: unlimited on-phone data) plans. The column also takes yet another whack at Apple for shipping a data-usage meter in iOS that doesn’t break down bandwidth consumption by month.

Weekly output: smartphone-only Internet access, data discussion, Credit Karma, GDPR notices, ad agencies, Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks, live music, encryption politics, future of the FTC

I spent most of this week in New Orleans for the Collision conference–that event’s finale there, as it’s moving to Toronto next year. (The clip the organizers put together to announce the change of host cities includes a snippet at the 0:21 mark of a panel on VR and AR that I did at Collision last year, something that completely escaped my attention when they played that clip Tuesday.) I’m sad that I won’t have an obvious reason to put NOLA on my Schedule C next year, but I don’t want to complain too much after three years in a row of being able to do just that.

Meanwhile, Conference Month continues with my departure Monday for Google I/O in Mountain View. I return Thursday, and then Tuesday of the week after has me off to Toronto for RightsCon.

4/30/2018: Study: 1 in 5 American homes get broadband through smartphones, Yahoo Finance

After filing this write-up of a new Pew Research Center study from a “real” computer, my editor sent back some questions as I was boarding my flight to New Orleans. I had free Internet access on my phone thanks to T-Mobile’s deal with Gogo, so I wound up finishing this post on smartphone-only Internet access on my mobile device. My comment to my editor: “I’ve basically become one with the story.”

5/1/2018: Data do nicely: Metrics that matter, Collision

My first of four panels at Collision had me quizzing Node co-founder Falon Fatemi and Branch Metrics co-founder Mada Seghete about how their firms collect and crunch large amounts of data for various clients. About five minutes in, I realized that I only had 15 minutes’ worth of questions for this 20-minute panel–a clock-management fail I should know to avoid–and started improvising. As I watched the timer tick down and silently implored each of my fellow panelists to keep talking, I thought the situation vaguely reminded me of watching the Caps grinding out a penalty kill.

 

5/1/2018: From 0-$4bn: Building Credit Karma, Collision

Tuesday’s second panel was an onstage interview of Credit Karma co-founder Nichole Mustard. After the morning’s timing troubles, I took care to write down more questions than I thought I’d need, then didn’t have to worry about timing since my panel partner could hold forth on everything I asked about.

 

5/1/2018: Pay attention to those privacy notices flooding your email, USA Today

This column explaining why so many sites, apps and services are rolling out new privacy policies effective May 25 was one of two posts that benefited from an interview I did with the Federal Trade Commission’s Terrell McSweeny–as in, one of my Web Summit co-panelists last year–on her second-to-last day in office.

5/2/2018: The agency of tomorrow today, Collision

I had a great chat with DDB Worldwide’s CEO Wendy Clark about the state of the ad business. This panel also featured some audience questions–routed through the Slido app, so I could pick which ones to answer instead of pointing to somebody in the audience and hoping they wouldn’t begin “this question is more of a comment.”

 

5/3/2018: Why Sprint customers should hope the T-Mobile deal succeeds, USA Today

This column walked readers through four independent assessments of Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks–three of which found Sprint’s to be well behind, even after notable improvements.

5/3/2018: Tech changed consumption: What’s the next disruption?, Collision

My last Collision panel had me quizzing Ticketmaster’s Ismail Elshareef (with whom I’d worked in 2012 when I did a talk at his then-employer Edmunds) and the UCLA Center for Music Innovation’s Gigi Johnson about the state of live music. You’ll hear a couple of shout-outs from me to such current and former D.C.-area venues as the 9:30 Club and Iota.

 

5/3/2018: The Trump administration is pushing hard for smartphone backdoors, Yahoo Finance

I’m not sure what led this recap of recent developments in encryption politics to get 1,280 comments, but I’m not going to turn down that kind of attention.

5/3/2018: The agency that protects your privacy is in for big changes, Yahoo Finance

Most of my notes from the McSweeny interview went into this post, along with a few conversations with outside observers of the Federal Trade Commission.