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Microsoft allies with European publishers to push for ‘Australian-style’ laws on news content, pitting itself against Facebook and Google

Microsoft president Brad Smith. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson Microsoft has allied with four publisher lobbying groups in Europe to push for new legi…



microsoft brad smithMicrosoft president Brad Smith.

REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

  • Microsoft has allied with four publisher lobbying groups in Europe to push for new legislation targeting tech giants.
  • The Alliance wants to ensure Big Tech pays news publishers to host news content.
  • It comes as Australia prepares to force tech giants to pay publishers for hosting their content.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

As Facebook and Google brace themselves to start paying news publishers in Australia, rival Microsoft is pressing its advantage internationally.

Microsoft announced Monday it had struck an alliance with four major European publishers’ lobbying groups to push for an “Australian-style arbitration mechanism” that would force it to pay news publishers for hosting their content.

“Europe’s press publishers and Microsoft today agreed to work together on a solution to ensure that Europe’s press publishers get paid for the use of their content by gatekeepers that have dominant market power,” Microsoft said in a blog post.

Specifically, Microsoft says it will be pushing for arbitration provisions in law, meaning lawmakers could decide what they think a digital giant, such as Google or Facebook, should be paying publishers.

Australia is getting ready to pass its new News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, a law that would force digital media platforms to pay news publishers for hosting their content, and mandate that they give publishers forewarning about any changes to their algorithms.

In preparation for the law, Google struck deals with major publishers including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Facebook reacted by temporarily booting all news content off its Australian site, a move which resulted in a significant drop in traffic to news sites. Facebook reversed its decision on Monday following amendments to the proposed law.

The EU has already shown some appetite for adopting a similar law to Australia’s, and could potentially weave one into its recently proposed and wide-ranging Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act.

Microsoft operates Bing, a rival search engine to Google’s, and has already been vocal in its support for the Australian law.

“I’m hopeful that the Biden administration will support and embrace this kind of policy to redress the imbalance between something like a search service by Google and the position of the news publishers,” Microsoft President Brad Smith told Insider last week.

Canada’s government has also said it will introduce a bill to make tech companies pay publishers for news content.



Business insider

Ergatta’s CEO reveals how the connected-fitness startup generated $2.5 million in monthly revenues within a year of launching

Ergatta Ergatta found a gap in the market by targeting fitness-minded people who don’t like exercise classes. It conducted months of research…





  • Ergatta found a gap in the market by targeting fitness-minded people who don’t like exercise classes.
  • It conducted months of research before launching the product, and raised $5 million in funding.
  • Sales have boomed during the pandemic, but its CEO says the at-home fitness trend is here to stay.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Ergatta only launched sales in March 2020, but the home-fitness startup has already reached $2.5 million in monthly revenues, it says.

Business has been so good that the company has already sold out of its luxury rowers multiple times during the pandemic.

The waves of lockdowns and gym closures made 2020 the ideal time for Ergatta to launch sales, but the stay-at-home fitness trend is here to stay, Tom Aulet, the brand’s CEO and co-founder, told Insider.

Ergatta was founded back in 2018, long before anyone knew that a pandemic would shake up the fitness industry. Two of the founders were marketers, Aulet told Insider, and they were outsiders to the fitness industry. This could have been pivotal to its success, Aulet said.

Because of their backgrounds in marketing, from the start, they focused on understanding the influences and resources that people consult when purchasing fitness equipment. Because rowing machines are such a major investment – Ergatta’s model costs $2,200 – customers undertake a lot of research before deciding whether to buy one, Aulet explained.

As a result, Ergatta decided to focus on searchable channels that impact lower-funnel consideration, such as YouTube reviews, blog, and press coverage, rather than paid-for adverts, Aulet said.

“This is an expensive product, those people have never heard of it before, it’s going in your home, likely in your living room or bedroom,” he said. “You’re not going to buy it after seeing an Instagram ad.”

The company got $5 million in funding from two rounds. Its biggest backers are New York-based venture capital Greycroft, but it got pre-seed capital from angel investors including Mark Pincus, Scott Dorsey, and Rhode Island-based WaterRower, which it struck up a partnership with. WaterRower now manufactures Ergatta’s machines.

Ergatta is just one player in a booming business. The fitness-equipment industry was valued at $11.5 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $15.2 billion by 2027.

Peloton, which makes bikes and treadmills, has largely dominated the connected-fitness space during the pandemic. It doesn’t yet make a rower, but other companies including Hydrow, CityRow, Nautilus, and NordicTrack all do.

Michael Farello, a managing partner at L Catterton, told Insider in July that rowing was “the fastest-growing modality in fitness.”

Ergatta found a gap in the market. Around half of people don’t enjoy fitness classes, its research found, and so the company decided to make a competitive, gamified alternative to target this currently under-served market. As well as pitting you against the machine for its goal-based plans and interval workouts, the rower while allows you to compete against other Ergatta users in simulated races.

Because of this, Ergatta’s customer base isn’t centered around a specific demographic. The product instead attracts a certain personality type, Aulet said. Most consumers tend to be competitive and introverted, and it skews male. Its users include a lot of engineers, teachers, doctors, fire-fighters, lawyers, and finance people, he said.

WaterRower produces Ergatta’s rowing machines in Rhode Island from sustainably harvested cherry wood. Aulet said the company is the only major connected fitness brand that manufactures in the US. This is a huge competitive advantage in the current environment, he said: Most other fitness companies make their hardware in China, and logistics have been under strain during the pandemic.

And, as well as performance, design is an important part of Ergatta’s rowers.

“It’s really easy to sell when a thing is beautiful,” Aulet said.

The machine can fit into the space of a barstool when not in use, Ergatta says, and can be easily wheeled to a new room. The rowers come with a five-year warranty – but they’re built to outlast this, the company says.



Customers who already own a WaterRower can pay to upgrade their existing rowing machine with Ergatta technology. For $550, Ergatta sells its hardware add-ons for WaterRower S4 owners to turn their machine into a connected-fitness device.

Though customers need the hardware to use Ergatta, the startup describes itself as a software company at its core. It sells its software through a subscription model where customers pay $29 each month. The company releases new software every one to two weeks, with the input of customer feedback, meaning that users’ experiences constantly improve and evolve.

And this approach seems to be working. Ergatta’s users work out on average 12 times a month, and 99.5% of users stick with Ergatta each month, Aulet told Insider.

The company could have sold more rowers it hadn’t occasionally sold out, he added.

Ergatta is scaling up production to meet rising demand and is building up its workforce, too. It directly employs 18 full-time employees at the moment, and it has seven open roles, too.

The home-fitness boom is here to stay, Aulet said.

Two-thirds of Americans prefer working out at home, and 59% don’t expect to go back to the gym after the pandemic, he said.

“If you can deliver substantially the same or better experience much more conveniently, that will always win out.”

  • Sales have boomed during the pandemic, but its CEO says the at-home fitness trend is here to stay.
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    Business insider

    Now on ‘Mars time,’ NASA’s Perseverance team has to shift their work hours 40 minutes later every day

    The Perseverance surface-operations team celebrates the rover's landing from their mission-control room at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laborat…



    perseverance rover landing mars nasa mission control celebratesThe Perseverance surface-operations team celebrates the rover’s landing from their mission-control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, February 18, 2021.


    NASA just landed a new rover on Mars, the culmination of a 300-million-mile journey that sent the robot into ancient lake bed.

    But the landing is just the beginning of the Perseverance rover’s mission. It’s set to explore Mars’ Jezero Crater for the next two years. It will search for signs of ancient microbial life that could have gotten trapped in sediment from the river that flowed into the lake. Perseverance aims to collect about 40 samples of Martian rock and soil, which it will save so that a future NASA mission can bring them back to Earth.

    At NASA, the team of scientists and engineers behind the Perseverance surface operations have to work around the robot’s schedule. That means about 350 people will be keeping “Mars time” for the next three months – shifting their workdays 40 minutes later every day.

    “The team is going to get used to getting up later and then working a little bit into the night. That’s not bad, to be on a different shift, but the problem with Mars time is that the Mars days are 40 minutes longer than the Earth days,” Jennifer Trosper, who has worked on all five of NASA’s Mars rovers and serves as deputy project manager for this one, said in a briefing before the landing.

    The team usually starts work during the Martian afternoon, because that’s when the rover’s data dump reaches Earth. They work for 12 to 14 hours to prepare an upload to send back to the rover. The first shift in this cycle began at around 2 p.m., Trosper said, then it is shifting 40 minutes later every day. After 37 days – a full “cycle” – the shifts are back where they started.

    mars rover perseverance helicoper ingenuityAn artist’s illustration shows NASA’s Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter on Mars.


    “The reason we do Mars time is because it is the most efficient way to have the rover make progress on a day-to-day basis. And that’s really important early in the mission to get it kind of unbuckled and ready to go,” Trosper said.

    The first tasks the team will do with the rover on this strange schedule involve checking all its systems, science instruments, and hardware. Then it has to drive to a field and release the tiny helicopter it carried to Mars. The drone will conduct some test flights, and after that, Perseverance can begin its sample-collecting work.

    But the constantly changing work hours are not easy for humans, so NASA only asks people to do that for three months.

    “The first cycle everybody’s excited: ‘This is cool. I’m on Mars time,'” Trosper said. “By the next cycle, people start to get a little bit tired. And by the third, by the time we finish Mars time, they are well ready to be finished with Mars time. It’s hard on your body. It’s like being jet lagged.”

    jennifer trosper nasa perseverance rover marsJennifer Trosper during a NASA Perseverance landing update on February 17, 2021.

    NASA/Bill Ingalls

    Ahead of Perseverance’s landing, she added, she finally bought an eye mask to help her sleep through sunlight hours.

    “It took me five missions to figure this out,” Trosper said. “So I’m ready. I have my earplugs, and we’ll be on Mars time.”

    The wonky schedule is especially complicated this year, since the pandemic means so many team members are working home. Taking 4 a.m. conference calls might be disruptive to sleeping family members or roommates.

    So NASA has set up some socially distanced on-site places for team members to come in if they want to.

    Trosper said “a couple dozen people” plan to take advantage of this option during the next three months. That way, she said, “they can not interfere with their family’s life, which is not on Mars time.”



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    A new game set during the bloodiest battle in the Iraq War is infuriating critics. Its producer says he wants the game to explain the complexity of war.

    A screenshot from upcoming game "Six Days in Fallujah," which is based on the real-life battle in November 2004. Victura/Highwire Games …



    Six Days in Fallujah (game)A screenshot from upcoming game “Six Days in Fallujah,” which is based on the real-life battle in November 2004.

    Victura/Highwire Games

    • “Six Days in Fallujah” is an upcoming video game based on the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War.
    • The game’s subject matter is so controversial that a previous version of the game was canceled.
    • In an interview with Insider, the CEO of the game’s publisher responded to criticism.
    • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

    “Six Days in Fallujah” is a video game wrapped in a nesting doll of controversies, and it hasn’t even been released yet.

    The game, which looks similar to the “Call of Duty” franchise, is a “first-person tactical military shooter” set during a six-day period in the weeks-long second Battle of Fallujah – a siege on the Iraqi city that led to the greatest loss of life during the Iraq War.

    Peter Tamte’s upcoming project – which has been in some form of development since the mid-2000s – attempts to convey the experience of the invading forces, from the perspective of the invading forces.

    “What we really want people to take away from this experience is an understanding of the actual complexity and human costs of urban combat,” Victura CEO Peter Tamte told Insider in an interview this week.

    But critics say the history of the Iraq War is once again being written from the American perspective.

    Estimates from the Iraq Body Count project put the number of Iraqi civilian casualties around 200,000 as of last February, and the US Department of Defense reported over 4,400 American deaths as of February 2021, but historians say there may never be an accurate way to count the true number of lives lost due to the invasion.

    “The massacre carried out by American and British forces in Fallujah in 2004 is amongst the worst of the war crimes carried out in an illegal and immoral war,” Stop The War Coalition spokesperson Tansy Hoskins told TechRadar in 2009, when “Six Days in Fallujah” was originally announced. “To make a game out of a war crime and to capitalize on the death and injury of thousands is sick.”

    But that isn’t the intent of the upcoming game, Tamte said.

    “There is an assumption that we are going to whitewash decisions that were made by the United States and Great Britain and Iraqi leaders at that time,” he told Insider. “But in truth, I don’t think it’s possible for us to put players into the second Battle of Fallujah without understanding the events that led up to the second Battle of Fallujah. And those events are based on choices by policy makers that in hindsight have proven to be some poor decisions.”

    One such poor decision, according to the US military leader who commanded troops and created operational plans for both battles in Fallujah, was starting the Iraq War in the first place.

    “We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake,” 1st Marine Division Commanding Gen. James Mattis said in 2015. “I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea.”

    It’s this conflict at the heart of the battle that Tamte hopes “Six Days in Fallujah” can accurately represent, 12 years since it was first announced and 17 years since the battle that inspired it.

    “When those four contractors were hung from the bridge outside of Fallujah, and people around the world, especially the United States, were hollering for the United States to go in there and take care of business – I don’t think people understood what the military leaders were saying at the time, which was, ‘Please don’t make me do this,'” Tamte told Insider.

    Six Days in FallujahA screenshot from upcoming game “Six Days in Fallujah,” which is based on the real-life battle in November 2004.

    Victura/Highwire Games

    How does a video game convey the disputed history of a real life battle?

    Following a series of conflicts – including an incident where US forces fired on unarmed Iraqi protesters which killed at least 17 Iraqis, and an incident where four American private military contractors were murdered and hung from a bridge – US forces laid siege to the city in two major battles.

    The first, in April 2004, lasted several weeks before US-led troops withdrew. The second, in November 2004, also lasted several weeks. It’s the second battle that “Six Days in Fallujah” focuses on, with players tasked with going from building to building as a member of the coalition armed forces clearing the city. That gameplay is interspersed with dialog and video from actual people who fought in the battle. During parts of the game, players control an Iraqi family attempting to flee the city as battle rages around them.

    But critics of the game’s concept persist in 2021.

    When “Six Days in Fallujah” was re-revealed in February 2021, Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad said the game’s developer is, “basing its game on excusing US war crimes.”

    In a subsequent Twitter thread, Ahmad said, “The game is very much from an American point of view, as shown in the description.” He said what he’s seen of the game thus far, “strikes me as just another war game filled with US propaganda about the actual events that took place.”

    By some accounts, thousands of civilians were killed in the second Battle of Fallujah by a military coalition primarily made up of American and British soldiers. It was the bloodiest battle in a bloody, controversial war, and has become symbolic of the US policies that led to the Iraq War in the first place.

    The US government admitted to using white phosphorus in the battle – a substance commonly used for smoke screens that can also be used as a weapon of chemical warfare. Its use as a weapon is a violation of the Geneva Conventions that govern international conflict, and may have contributed to a years-long spike in birth defects.

    An Iraqi soldier guards the railroad station in Fallujah, Iraq. November 9, 2004.An Iraqi soldier guards the railroad station in Fallujah, Iraq. November 9, 2004.

    AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

    Though “Six Days in Fallujah” intends to tell the harrowing story of the Marines charged with taking a city, it’s unclear how it will convey the complexity of the use of chemical weapons.

    “I don’t have a good answer to that, to be honest with you,” Tamte said when asked how the game would deal with its use. “I don’t have a good answer for it because I do understand part of the argument of: If you’re going to talk about this battle, you need to at least have some reference to white phosphorus.”

    The concern, Tamte said, is how to handle player interactivity when it comes to international war crimes.

    “I don’t want to give players white phosphorous as a weapon,” he said. “We don’t want to ask players to commit war crimes, or even things that are in the gray area of being a war crime. We don’t want to do that. That would actually be kind of the opposite of what we’re hoping players will take away from us.”

    His intent, he said, is “to share these remarkable stories of people and let people experience these stories.” And doing that, he said, doesn’t stop the game from “discussing some of the tougher aspects of the battle – we can do both.”

    After three years in development, and 15 years of total germination time, “Six Days in Fallujah” is scheduled to launch in late 2021 for the PC and undisclosed consoles.

    Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email ([email protected]), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
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