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Gracenote, Privacy, and the Rise of Metadata As a Valuable Asset

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the making-paper dept.

Cloud 33

Nerval's Lobster writes "Earlier in February, Tribune Company completed the $170 million acquisition of Gracenote, a deal originally set in motion in late 2013. The merger is an unusual one: Gracenote owns a massive library of media metadata, and the Tribune Company is best known as the publisher of print newspapers and tabloids, most notably its flagship paper in Chicago. Regardless of the Tribune Company's specific plans for Gracenote's datasets and technical infrastructure, it spent a hefty amount of cash on an entity devoted solely to compiling metadata about copyrightable works owned by third parties: In other words, Gracenote still commands a nine-figure price tag when its primary product, to put it bluntly, amounts to footnotes and annotations to media for which it doesn't have licenses or rights. But here's where it potentially gets a little spooky: while the titles of the songs in your playlists shouldn't be conflated with records of your phone calls, services such as Gracenote's upcoming Rhythm Internet-radio service (which leans heavily on user preferences and behavior) may help Gracenote partially convert its library of media metadata into a library of user data. 'We do have big hopes for that part of our business going forward,' Gracenote president Stephen White confirmed to Slashdot. That makes privacy advocates a little nervous. 'We're seeing, especially with the ad space, that companies are trying to get user information from all different sources, and it's not just what brands are looking for anymore,' Ari Kamdar, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Slashdot. 'They're trying to get location data, financial data, habits, family so I'm not surprised that audio data could be one of the big facets.' (For his part, White insists that Gracenote is careful with data collection.) The Gracenote saga suggests that metadata — even the type that doesn't come from phones or social networks — is more valuable than ever, which is liable to get some companies really excited... and make a whole lot of people very, very nervous."

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Timothy Lord is NOT a Valuable Asset (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46269585)

Hey Dice management, could we get this guy fired? I'd cave in and use Beta if you outright fired him. Not laid him off so that he could collect unemployment, but really FIRED him.

Moderators!l!!!!!lll!!!!!!l!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46269785)

Mod parent up!

Re:Moderators!l!!!!!lll!!!!!!l!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46275369)

Bullshit, OFFTOPIC, FLAMEBAIT, TROLL. Mod every fucking one of the comments that responded as "troll" too (including this one).

Re:Timothy Lord is NOT a Valuable Asset (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46269855)

Terminate your relationship with Alice Hill, Dice Holdings

Mod parent up! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46271267)


Not sure how much they know about me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46269589)

Most of the CDs I buy aren't listed in CDDB.

First (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46269599)


Useless (3, Interesting)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a year ago | (#46269601)

Considering that the Gracenote database only covers audio CDs it seems rather pointless in a world moving toward digital formats with embedded metadata.

Re:Useless (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#46270523)

Audio CDs are digital. Music went digital when CDs began.

Re:Useless (2)

wiredlogic (135348) | about a year ago | (#46271391)

You missed the "with embedded metadata" part. The music industry effectively ignored CDText such that most audio CDs are dumb PCM streams with no metadata.

holding a grudge (5, Informative)

mattdm (1931) | about a year ago | (#46269625)

Back in the 1990s, I helped run one of several mirrors for CDDB. When the company suddenly took a proprietary turn, they shut all of those down. They sent message promising to give some sort of reward to everyone who had run a mirror, but nothing ever showed up.

I guess a couple of million would probably make it up....

In seriousness, this was an early wakeup call about contributing to "community" projects without clear licenses for submitted data. And here I will put in a plug for FreeDB, which forked the original and continues to run it in an open way, with submissions under the GPL. http://www.freedb.org/en/about... [freedb.org]

Re:holding a grudge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46272609)

Forget Freedb. It's a mess of badly formatted and conflicting data. MusicBrainz [musicbrainz.org] is a much better alternative and has a cddb/freedb compatible gateway for software that doesn't support MusicBrainz directly.

Re:holding a grudge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46272803)

I find FreeDB to be much more accurate than MusicBrainz

Re:holding a grudge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46278103)

Could you provide an example, please?

Re:holding a grudge (1)

gmhowell (26755) | about a year ago | (#46274325)

If not your mirror, I used a mirror of one of your colleagues back in the day.

Thank you, sir.

corporate world (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#46269643)

The corporate 'survival of the fittest' totally confuses me. "Five years ago, Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy as advertising revenues declined, the result of the global recession; at the time, Gracenote had just been acquired by Sony for almost $100 million more than its most recent price."

So now, somehow Tribune owns Gracenote, and spent $170 million for a database of metadata on music that it doesn't even own.

Bad decision company makes a bad decision. (1)

khasim (1285) | about a year ago | (#46269851)

I see it as one of those instances where company X spends millions of dollars for company Y ... and 5 years later sells it off for thousands of dollars (or just closes it).

It's a stupid move and I'm betting that someone knows or is related to someone else who will be taking a big chunk of that money.

More metadata owned by Tribune (2)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about a year ago | (#46269691)

Tribune Media Company, owned by Tribune Company, publishes TV listings for various guides (set-top boxes, TiVo, etc).

Soylent News is Live! -- Slashdot without corpor (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46269745)


Re:Soylent News is Live! -- Slashdot without corpo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46269859)


Thanks for the link I like the name too so much so I signed up oh and Fuck Beta.

Metadata is the *important* stuff (1)

davecb (6526) | about a year ago | (#46269771)

It's data people conciously created and saved because it is important to them. In the trivial example of telephony, it's
  • - who you are
  • - who you're taking to
  • - when
  • - how long
  • - where you were at the time
  • - where they were
  • - where you were going, if in motion.

Note (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#46269881)

They provide a way to look up artist and album for .mp3s, etc., which are missing that data. People include Gracenote in their product becaise this is a desirable feature.

IIRC, not only do they catalog known binaries for recognition, but have a hashing function to take unknown binaries, including analog re-recordings and redigitization, and look it up that way.

This is useful precisely because it does not require an Internet connection.

Privacies of Minors (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#46269899)

Given that the most lucrative demographic of music purchases is (probably) under eighteen, preventing literal exploitation of minorities might have some teeth.

And musical taste hints at your political leanings (1)

Myself (57572) | about a year ago | (#46269925)

It'd be a lot less ominous without the news that music services are able to predict your political party based on the music you listen to [wsj.com] .

What's the max temperature ramp rate before the frog jumps out of the water, anyway?

Re:And musical taste hints at your political leani (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46270079)

Musical taste is a proxy for social group membership, but what if you have no taste in music? Back in high school, folks would ask me, "What music do you listen to?" I never had an answer, because I listen to everything. I don't belong to a social group, I'm not a team player, I have no friends, and no one ever talks to me. I don't vote for political parties, I vote for policies.

You "listen to everything"? Bullshit. (1)

Phil Urich (841393) | about a year ago | (#46271571)

Musical taste is a proxy for social group membership, but what if you have no taste in music? Back in high school, folks would ask me, "What music do you listen to?" I never had an answer, because I listen to everything.

This is offtopic, and do feel free to prove me wrong (although don't necessarily expect me to just take your word for it...howabout the irony of a Last.fm profile?) but I honestly doubt that you listen to 'everything'. I've yet to run into a person that said that that didn't just mean "anything on the radio". Do you listen to french punk? German post-punk? Post-rock? Ambient drone? Black metal? Death metal? Chiptunes? Bluegrass? Baroque? Classical? Classic hip-hop? Early acid jazz? Jazz? Inuit throat singing? Industrial? I'm guessing the answer to many (if not most) is "no". And that's not exactly a complete list of the kinds of genres that are out there . . .

Re:You "listen to everything"? Bullshit. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#46277493)

You're splitting hairs. What he obviously means is that he listens to everything he's exposed to. Me, about the only music I don't like are disco, hip-hop, and opera (nails on a blackboard screeching). Marylin Manson? Love his stuff. Tennessee Ernie Ford? Even better but it's getting scarce, thanks to perpetual copyright. My grandmother used to love listening to his gospel music, today I can find no gospel music by him although you can hear Sixteen Tons on jukeboxes and college radio stations.

Someone measuring what I listened to would probably think I was gay (lots of great rockers are/were gay), Republican (I like country) but... what about Steppenwolf Monster?

That "I know your political leanings from your music" is bullshit. half the time I not only don't listen to the lyrics, lots of times you can't even understand the singer.

And MUSIC? How about internet postings?

Slashdot making news? (2)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | about a year ago | (#46270387)

'We do have big hopes for that part of our business going forward,' Gracenote president Stephen White confirmed to Slashdot.>

Since when is /. in the news-making department rather than just the news aggregating department? Maybe I'm just out of the loop on this....

Is all metadata universally valuable? (1)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#46270563)

There sure seems to be a gold rush mentality on metadata, and while some of it, like financial transactions or phone logs seems like it would be valuable to some people, some of the metadata grabbing seems kind of like fool's gold.

Maybe I'm just too thick to see how valuable all of it is, but at some point I wonder if maybe people are linking metadata together and reaching the conclusions they want to reach and not actually finding something that's really there, like getting a connect-the-dots picture with no numbers and just drawing your own lines and saying "Look what the picture is!"

Re:Is all metadata universally valuable? (2)

hey! (33014) | about a year ago | (#46271067)

Well, let's start by stipulating that there's no inherent difference between "data" and "metadata"; it's all just data.

"Metadata" is simply data that's not germane to a particular task. For example, the IP address you are posting from is not germane to this discussion we're having, but it might be useful for figuring out whether you're a sock puppet astroturfing the site. The metadata on a MP3 track is not germane to the task of listening to that song, but it is germane to selecting other songs like it.

I can think of three reasons to purchase a company that curates a body of metadata. The first is to build and sell services based on that data. The second is to charge for access to that data. The third is to do commercially useful stuff with that data, or as a side effect of providing that data -- e.g. marketing to users of the database based on their request records. If you have a very high tolerance for false positives, you can find out a lot of things about people by the songs they listen to.

I suspect the value of Gracenote is that it has the most complete database of its kind, which also happens to be the most widely used database of its kind. That makes it an unique property. The Tribune isn't paying $170 million for Gracenote's current revenues, I'm guessing, but rather as part of a plan to exploit Gracenote's unique market position for some other purpose.

With all the tracking, why are adds badly targeted (2)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a year ago | (#46272001)

I'm not particularly careful about my online behavior and with all of the news about massive tracking of consumer habits, why are the adds I see so badly targeted? I went to key west for a week, and for months later received banner adds on Google for things in Key West. I stayed at a Las Vegas hotel, and immediately afterwards received tons of adds for....Las Vegas hotels. I'm quite sure that if I bought a car, I'd see tons of car adds. It seems that advertisers haven't learned that simply collecting data does not provide the information they need - the goal is to provide adds to people for things that the WANT TO BUY, not to provide add for things that the NO LONGER NEED.

This leads me to wonder if advertisers are getting any real value out of all this tracking information that they are paying for.

value of metadata? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46272683)

if my metedata is so valuable what is it worth? how can i copyright it? how can i charge these companys for it? and if it gets stolen how can i sue the piss out of these billion dollar companys for private data that they lost?

Where have I heard that before... (2)

n3r0.m4dski11z (447312) | about a year ago | (#46273725)

Gracenote sounds familiar, but they are the ones who commercialized CDDB! Also now they are owned by sony.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

That's the problem with these for profit companies. Now everyone is selling my meta data, for lookups that I had never even considered left a footprint. Hopefully my DNS servers are not thinking of commercializing my metadata! how far can they go in search of every last scrap of profit? commercialize ntp! why the fuck not!!!! profit profit profit! stocks go up up up!!!

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