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Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Hulu’s can of worms

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Good morning! Hulu announced yesterday that it would allow political issue ads on the platform. But Democrats might not want to celebrate just yet.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Democrats were frustrated that Hulu wouldn’t allow ads related to sensitive political issues. Hulu changed course yesterday, and will now allow issue ads. A win for the Dems, but one that comes with its own set of problems.

Disney changed its mind on political ads. It’ll now let Hulu accept ads tied to touchy political topics like abortion and guns, as well as ads that are already running on the company’s entertainment and sports cable networks.

  • Democrats are happy about the change. “It’s really heartening to see Hulu reverse course on this damaging policy before the midterms,” Rising Tide Interactive’s Stephanie Grasmick told Protocol’s Issie Lapowsky.
  • But allowing the ads Democrats want means allowing the ads they don’t want. Hulu would also have to accept anti-abortion ads (which abortion-rights activists would call misinformation).

A transparency system, like ones Meta and Google have created, that describes information on who’s running an ad and how much they’re spending on it, is one possible solution. But Hulu doesn’t have anything like that in place right now.

  • The Federal Election Commission has been urging streamers to update their transparency requirements, and Hulu itself has gotten heat for its political ads in the past.
  • Hulu doesn’t have any legal obligation to be more transparent about its advertising, though. Meta and Google created systems voluntarily and after public pressure.

Without a way for people to see who’s buying ads, Hulu might be digging itself a hole. And the Democrats might be too.

— Sarah Roach

Google’s RTO plan: Buy more offices

Tech companies are still grappling with whether going back to the office makes sense. But Google is jumping in headfirst: Yesterday, it bought the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago for $105 million.

Google is looking to expand in Chicago. It has around 2,000 employees in the city.

  • Google bought St. John’s Terminal for $2.1 billion — the most money spent on an office building in the U.S. since the pandemic started.
  • Google’s also been more pushy than its counterparts with its return to the office. In April, Google started requiring workers to come in three days a week, which many said at the time felt arbitrary and unfair.

Meanwhile, other companies are scaling back, walking away from leases and halting construction amid the economic downturn.

  • Twitter, which has leaned hard into remote work, cut office spaces in San Francisco, New York and Sydney. One building it's vacating sits directly behind its San Francisco headquarters.
  • Meta cut back its plans in New York: It decided against expanding one office space by hundreds of thousands of square feet and walked away from plans to buy another.
  • Amazon nixed its plans to lease office space from J.P. Morgan in New York, and it paused construction on six new towers in Bellevue, Washington, and Nashville. The pause, however, won’t affect its plans to open a total of 30,000 new jobs in those cities, it said.

People largely prefer remote work, and companies are listening, providing various ways to make remote or hybrid work more accessible for their employees. It’s unclear what Google has in mind when it comes to its future office plans — especially as it’s pumping the brakes on hiring.

— Nat Rubio-Licht

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The post-Facebook platform

I chatted with Tinder co-founder Christopher Gulczynski and Facebook’s Zaven Nahapetyan about their new app, called Niche, which they’re touting as a “less toxic and less problematic” social network: one based on common interests. Here are a few highlights from the interview, which you can read in full here.

  • Social media is taking on a new meaning: “It might turn into a giant advertising platform in 10 years. Who knows? It's definitely changing now. And people are like, ‘What's the next evolution of quote-unquote social media? Or what's it going to be called?’”
  • There was only so much Nahapetyan could do at Facebook: “The story of Facebook and the 2020 election was that there wasn't really much of a story, which was a resounding success as far as the people on my team and the people I worked with were concerned. And that kind of felt like: OK, my work here is done. That's about as good as it's going to get. And now it's time to move on.”
  • The duo is focused on connecting people around shared interests: “People are moving away from these giant social networks into more close-knit or more intimate spaces usually centered around shared interests.”

— Sarah Roach

People are talking

Vijay Shekhar Sharma said Paytm's IPO was just the start:

  • "The public listing was a sort of graduation, and taking Paytm to break-even and to profits gives me a clarity of purpose."

Public Citizen's Matt Kent said Meta’s acquisition of Within getting blocked was “extremely necessary”:

  • “For too long Meta has gotten away with acquiring adjacent competitors, such as Instagram and WhatsApp, without serious government scrutiny on behalf of the public.”

Making moves

Apple, Intel, Comcast and others report earnings today. You can find other earnings dates in our tech calendar.

David Wehner will be Meta’s first chief strategy officer starting Nov. 1, transitioning from his current role as CFO.

Luigi Taraborrelli joined Apple to help design its EV, sources told Bloomberg. Taraborrelli was one of Lamborghini’s top car-development managers.

Rachael De Renzy Channer is Egon Zehnder’s new global head of sustainability. She led the company’s global Sustainability Practice Group for three years.

Philip Giordano joined Xerox’s board. He’s the founder and CIO of Livello Capital Management.

Robyn Marshall joined Legible’s advisory board. Marshall was most recently J.P. Morgan’s VP in equity capital markets.

In other news

The Senate passed the long-awaited $280 billion chips subsidy bill, and now the bill is heading to the House.

Meta's quarterly revenue dropped for the first time, down 1% to $28.8 billion year-over-year.

Portugal’s the latest to take on Apple and Google’s commission rates. It’s suing the two companies over what it calls “anti-competitive and excessive” fees.

Jack Ma wants to cede control of Ant Group, sources told The Wall Street Journal. Ant Group's gotten a lot of pressure from China regulators over the past year, and the company has tried to reduce Ma's influence as a result.

Pony.ai wants all the self-driving trucks. It plans to mass produce the trucks in China with the goal of building 10,000 a year.

FTX US is expanding its stock-trading service to all users, including those who don’t invest in crypto.

Google delayed phasing out third-party cookies on Chrome until 2024 to give marketers time to test the system that will replace the trackers.

Microsoft is getting support from cloud computing companies to stop the U.S. government from spreading its spending and not make Amazon its biggest cloud provider.

Meta will steadily reduce headcount growth over the next year, Mark Zuckerberg said, with plans to "shift energy to other areas inside the company."

Where are people digital nomad-ing?

The North American Digital Nomad Index found that a lot of people are still traveling while they work. And Airbnb is one of the biggest sites employees use to get around. The company released the top-earning and most hospitable locations for digital nomads:

  • La Quinta, California; Delray Beach, Florida; Marco Island, Florida; Palm Springs, California; and Indio, California, are the top-earning locations for Airbnb hosts accommodating workers on long-term stays.
  • Bend, Oregon; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Boulder, Colorado; Key West, Florida; and Fresno, California, ranked the most hospitable places for digital nomads.

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