Technology * Innovation * Publishing Newsletter #230

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Important Items

Repeat COVID-19 infections increase risk of organ failure, death

Researchers recommend masks, vaccines, vigilance to prevent reinfection #CovidIsNotOver

G.O.P. State Lawmakers Push a Growing Wave of Anti-Transgender Bills

Four states could ban transition care into young adulthood. Lawmakers in several others want to restrict drag shows in ways that could affect transgender performers broadly. It’s part of a long-term plan.

National Study Reveals 1 in 4 Teachers Altering Lesson Plans Due to Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws

Rand Corporation surveyed over 8,000 educators from across the country. It asked whether officials had passed policies limiting the teaching of topics related to race and gender and, if so, how those rules had impacted their instructional decisions. Nearly 1 in 4 said they have altered their curricula so parents and officials won’t find their teachings controversial. Teachers said they had to skip over classic texts like To Kill a Mockingbird and avoid historical figures like famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass out of concern for parental complaints and possible legal blowback. One high school science teacher who the study quoted anonymously described an atmosphere of “fear and paranoia” around simply covering the content laid out within state standards.

#OscarsSoMale: Academy Awards Shut Out Women for Best Director

The Oscars failed to nominate any women for directing this year, following two consecutive years of women winning the category. The Academy Award nominations, announced on Tuesday, did not include women filmmakers such as Sarah Polley (“Women Talking”), Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Woman King”), Maria Schrader (“She Said”) and Charlotte Wells (“Aftersun”) in the best director lineup.

New Research Shows Persistent Limitations on Women’s Opportunities on Big Films

According to the 25th annual The Celluloid Ceiling report, the percentage of women in these principal creative jobs still has not risen higher than 25% for the 250 top-grossing theatrically released movies each year at the U.S. box office.


Microsoft Confirms Its $10 Billion Investment Into ChatGPT, Changing How Microsoft Competes With Google, Apple And Other Tech Giants

Microsoft confirmed that they were extending the partnership with OpenAI, the maker of the revolutionary ChatGPT tool. AI has the potential to change the landscape when it comes to how tech giants compete with each other. Some experts believe there will be a competitive AI landscape as companies seek ways to optimize business operations with machine learning. #Microsoft #AI

Google, not OpenAI, has the most to gain from generative AI

While OpenAI has captured the public’s imagination with ChatGPT, ultimately the technology may not change the balance of power among the tech giants.

After inking its OpenAI deal, Shutterstock rolls out a generative AI toolkit to create images based on text prompts

Customers of Shutterstock’s Creative Flow online design platform will now be able to create images based on text prompts, powered by OpenAI and Dall-E 2. Key to the feature is that Shutterstock says the images are “ready for licensing” right after they’re made. This is significant given that one of Shutterstock’s big competitors, Getty Images, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against Stability AI — maker of another generative AI service called Stable Diffusion — over using its images to train its AI without permission from Getty or rightsholders. #AI #copyright

A watermark for chatbots can expose text written by an AI

The tool could let teachers spot plagiarism or help social media platforms fight disinformation bots.

‘Consciousness’ in Robots Was Once Taboo. Now It’s the Last Word.

ICYMI “Millions of yrs of evolution increased humans’ chances of survival. Replicating this natural selection in code would create an intelligence that could learn about its body & function no matter what body looked like or function was.” #robots


Visual Podcasting Is Now a Thing and Here’s What Advertisers Should Know

Along with an ever-increasing number of creators, listenership is rising, and every media platform is looking to get into the distribution game — including visual media. In the past few months alone, YouTube released a podcast homepage and TikTok is rumored to be launching a new podcast app. What do these businesses know that others don’t, and how do advertisers capitalize on this momentum? #podcasting

Where Is Tech Going in 2023?

Meta Pays BuzzFeed Millions to Generate Creator Content for Facebook and Instagram

Meta is paying BuzzFeed to help generate creator content for Facebook and Instagram and to train creators as part of a ~$10M deal reached in 2022

CNET found errors in more than half of its AI-written stories

They didn’t fact check? CNET issued corrections on 41 of the 77 stories the outlet published that were written using an AI tool. Staff sometimes didn’t know if content was written by a machine or a human co-worker. The AI-written articles are designed to game Google searches with SEO-friendly keywords so lucrative affiliate ads can be plastered on the pages. CNET’s parent company, Red Ventures, which also owns publications like Bankrate, The Points Guy, and, stands to benefit every time a reader signs up for a credit card from one of the highly trafficked articles. #AI

Inside CNET’s AI-powered SEO money machine

Fake bylines. Content farming. Affiliate fees. What happens when private equity takes over a storied news site and milks it for clicks?

Google created an AI that can generate music from text descriptions, but won’t release it

An impressive new AI system from Google, MusicLM, can generate music in any genre given a text description. Its songs, remarkably, sound something like a human artist might compose, albeit not necessarily as inventive or musically cohesive. It’s hard to overstate just how good the samples sound, given that there aren’t musicians or instrumentalists in the loop. However, during an experiment, they found that about 1% of the music the system generated was directly replicated from the songs on which it trained — a threshold apparently high enough to discourage them from releasing MusicLM in its current state.

What the Tech and Media Layoffs Are Really Telling Us About the Economy

About 130,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs at large tech and media companies in the past 12 months. Why?

Amazon Is Now Selling a Prescription Drug Subscription Covering 80 Common Conditions for Just $5 a Month

Amazon RxPass is a subscription that allows shoppers to choose from among 50 different generic medications treating roughly 80 common conditions. They can fill as many prescriptions as they like for a $5 monthly fee. The list covers many of the most widely-used drugs, from statins to antibiotics to antidepressants to Viagra. Why so low? The service may boost revenue in other areas: People looking to Amazon for cheap medication may buy other goods or opt for their more expensive brand-name drugs via their Amazon Pharmacy service, which sells a wider variety of drugs. The fine print: Owing to the low cost of the service, RxPass won’t accept insurance; Medicare or Medicaid recipients aren’t eligible to sign up, either. You also need to be an Amazon Prime member to use the prescription feature. And they won’t deliver to California, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Washington — at least not yet.

The State Department is in turmoil over a font change

A crisis has shaken the core of the State Department: a mandated font switch from Times New Roman to Calibri. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is changing the font for high-level internal documents to be more readable for those with low vision (at the suggestion of the secretary’s office of diversity and inclusion). This was not well received within the State Department, with employees complaining about the inconvenience of the change and the un-aesthetic font choice. One Foreign Service officer said that casual discussion on the font mandate took up “half the day.” Another employee said they expect an “internal revolt.” One officer even went so far as to say the switch is “sacrilege.”

Causal Machine Learning for Creative Insights

RT @neilperkin How Netflix uses ML and computer vision to help their creatives design promotional artwork that optimises people selecting and watching particular shows. #ML #design

Publishing & Media

Indie bookshop numbers hit 10-year high in 2022 defying brutal UK retail year

ICYMI HT @BISG Lockdowns were good news for book trade as people read more and sought out bookshops when they reopened #bookstores

The book-buying behavior of Canadians in 2022

HT @jafurtado In 2022, @BookNet_Canada surveyed a total of 10,840 Canadians — 18% were book buyers. Canadian book buyers bought an average of 2.6 books a month last year — 1.6 print books, 0.8 ebooks, and 0.3 audiobooks. All told, 73% of books purchased by Canadian book buyers in 2022 were print books, 17% were ebooks, and 6% were audiobooks.

Little Free Library to Launch an Indigenous Library Program

RT @BookRiot “Boxes will be shipped to volunteer stewards for free and will come with two sets of books, one centering Indigenous people and one of other BIPOC voices.”

Tools for turning listeners into fans

RT @IsabethKahlo Producers + Podcasters, what do y’all have on deck? Let us know by pitching to editors at Apple Podcasts here: (scroll all the ways down to “Get featured on Apple Podcasts”)

Book Banning Is Getting Worse

Via @lutzfernandez: I’ve been very worried about the current wave of book bans. I haven’t been worried enough. As state after state and town after town has made moves in recent years to over-regulate books, the issue has received a lot of media coverage. Alarmed, I’ve written about it. Still, until now, I haven’t allowed myself to become as alarmed as I should be. Frog-in-pot syndrome is one reason. Another may be that too much false comfort is swaddling the discussion. I want to strip away some of that here.

Florida teachers forced to remove or cover up books to avoid felony charges

School teachers in Florida’s Manatee county are removing books from their classrooms or physically covering them up after a new bill went into effect that prohibited material unless deemed appropriate by a librarian, or “certified media specialist.” If a teacher is found in violation of these guidelines, they could face felony charges.

I Helped Thousands of Teens Impacted By Book Bans. Here’s What They Had To Say

Last year, Brooklyn Public Library asked kids to write about censorship in their schools and libraries. The results were both sobering and hopeful. #BookBans #libraries

What parents can do when schools ban books

RT @thatkristen I wrote about my district’s library materials policy, with insight from @jonfreadom from @PENamerica here.

Resources & Opportunities

Scholastic and LitWorld: A 24-Hour ‘World Read Aloud Day’ Event

Scholastic’s 2023 World Read Aloud Day program has a new format, in which authors read aloud through the Storyvoice app and at events throughout the world.

Las Hermanas Mentorship Program

Las Hermanas is a selection-based mentorship program for traditionally unpublished Latinx kidlit writers and illustrators. It will connect unpublished creatives with current Madrinas. Mentees will benefit from the craft and industry experience of their mentor and will have the opportunity to ask for publishing/marketing related advice and/or receive help with a specific manuscript.

Renée Watson Scholarship

The Renée Watson Scholarship annually supports a week-long independent writing retreat for a Black woman writer.

Tin House 2023 Summer Workshop Scholarships

Tin House actually offers 21 scholarships! RT @Tin_House We are excited to partner w/ @ShieldsPrize in offering a #THSW Scholarship for Indigenous Female and Non-Binary Fiction Authors. This award covers tuition/room & board/and travel. There is no application fee, with a deadline of 1/31.

Sustainable Arts Foundation

RT @SustainableArts get ready! our application opens Friday 1/27 at noon PT and is FEE FREE for the first week #grantsforwriters #grantsforartists #writerparent #artistparent

Students: Apply for a NYWICI Scholarship

MT @NYWICI The 2023 NYWICI Scholarship Program is open! Students planning a career in any field of communications can apply, but don’t wait, the deadline to apply is February 28.

Celebrating Salman Rushdie’s Victory City

FREE, virtual program -> RT @PENamerica PEN America, @englishpen and @PENCanada invite you to join us online Feb 9 to celebrate @SalmanRushdie’s new novel #VictoryCity. @EricaWgnr will chair a discussion between @neilhimself and @MargaretAtwood. With readings by Sarita Choudhury.

Reporters Shield: New Program Launches to Help Investigative Reporters Tackle Lawsuits

To confront threats to journalists, the Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project have launched Reporters Shield, a legal support program and defense fund for investigative journalists and newsrooms. The program has $9 million in initial funding from USAID with a further $2 million in private support secured. The program is designed to help shield investigative journalists from defamation, libel, and other vexatious lawsuits by covering the costs of lawyers, providing training on how to handle legal complaints, and offering pre-publication review.

Media Changemakers: Real Actions You Can Take To Make A Difference

Did you have a New Year’s Resolution to make a difference? Hear how you can make it happen! 2/8 6pm ET FREE for @WMG_NYC members, $15 for non-members.

Come to this Master Class with some powerful and purposeful media changemakers who will share their stories, vision, and how they made it happen. Learn how you can take action for the causes you believe in from:

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Sr Mgr, Content Applications, Penguin Random House * Innovation * Technology * Publishing * Opinions expressed are my own

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Kathy Sandler

Sr Mgr, Content Applications, Penguin Random House * Innovation * Technology * Publishing * Opinions expressed are my own