The YouTube-ification of TikTok is almost complete - Protocol

TikTok wants to do longer videos. If it’s done right, that could bring in more ad revenue.
Moving forward with longer videos is a risk TikTok is willing to take, even if it means users will fast forward videos or skip longer clips entirely.
TikTok knows how to get people hooked. But the platform still can’t generate the same kind of money creators can make on YouTube. Experts think its foray into 10-minute-long videos could change that.
The platform has gradually raised the maximum length of a video from 15 seconds, to one minute, to three minutes, and now to a whopping 10. Social media experts aren’t surprised by the uptick; the platform has still managed to keep users around, even as its videos get longer. Plus, longer video formats include more space for ad slots and let creators spend more time promoting products, allowing the platform to profit more from ads and shopping.
“Advertisers are going to want to spend somewhere where there’s rapt attention, where they know their ads are going to be around long enough and considered long enough to be seen,” Margo Kahnrose, CMO at intelligent marketing platform Skai, told Protocol. “TikTok has struggled with that, whereas the other platforms that have longer-form content really just command so much focus. That advertising performs.”

Social media consultant Mari Smith said longer videos could let TikTok monetize much more like YouTube does. YouTube places ads at the beginning of or throughout a video, whereas TikTok places ads as individual, separate clips that a user scrolls through just like they would a regular video. Those pre- and mid-roll ads on YouTube have historically brought in more cash for creators: A recent Forbes study found that about half of the money earned by YouTube’s top 10 creators came directly from ad revenue, whereas many of TikTok’s highest-earning stars are making a lot of their money elsewhere.
TikTok already knows creators will stick around for longer videos, too. Some creators may post a multipart video and ask followers to visit their channel to watch the other segments. “But this solution is not as elegant as simply being able to create and publish longer videos,” Smith said.
TikTok has a history of getting people to buy products — #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt seems to be perpetually trending — and it has also used live events hosted by creators as a way to get people shopping. A longer format may help TikTok get even better, by allowing creators to form deeper relationships with their audiences, according to Ali Fazal, VP of influencer marketing software platform GRIN. Users want to get to know creators just like they would a friend, and longer videos allow those creators to appear more authentic when they’re trying to promote a brand.
“TikTok is seeing that maybe less people will watch a 10-minute TikTok than will engage with a 15-second TikTok, that’s probably for sure,” Fazal told Protocol. “But the depth of those relationships is actually stronger between the audience and the creator. And if we’re looking ahead at what’s important, I think it actually is moving away from the number of followers or a number of impressions or number or clicks, and more toward the depth of the creator and their audience.”
Those relationships matter for brands, too. Over time, Fazal said that longer videos will make it harder to differentiate between an ad and a regular post because products will be placed more “seamlessly” in creators’ lives. “It opens up so many more opportunities for creativity between brand creator partnerships, going beyond the typical pay-to-post.”

Still, as everyone else tries to be like TikTok, the platform is clearly trying to be like YouTube — and encroaching on another platform’s image could hurt TikTok’s own reputation in the end, Kahnrose said. People have gone to YouTube for the product reviews and the long videos where they can really get to know creators for years. On the contrary, they go to TikTok for the easy, endless scrolling. Long videos might not change that, but it definitely won’t help its reputation as the place for short-form videos, she said.
TikTok knows it does exceedingly well with short-form video. In fact, an internal presentation last year found that half of users thought videos longer than a minute — the maximum length of a TikTok at the time — was stressful. But moving forward with longer videos is a risk TikTok is willing to take, even if it means users will fast forward videos or skip longer clips entirely.
“I do think they’re totally at risk with this move, in losing what they stand for in this mix of social media apps that you have on your phone,” Kahnrose said. “What do you like TikTok for? It’s going to be harder to answer that question.”
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Sarah Roach is a news writer at Protocol (@sarahroach_) and contributes to Source Code. She is a recent graduate of George Washington University, where she studied journalism and mass communication and criminal justice. She previously worked for two years as editor in chief of her school’s independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet.
The data broker is building out its TalentOS platform.
Comparably has been growing 150% year-over-year, Jason Nazar told Protocol,
Job boards won’t cut it anymore — even for non-technical roles. That’s why ZoomInfo is buying the employer review site Comparably to build out its TalentOS candidate acquisition platform.
The companies announced the acquisition for an undisclosed sum on Monday, which will help ZoomInfo — a $19 billion data broker that sells to marketers and salespeople — level up TalentOS. Comparably will bring its employer branding service to TalentOS, which helps clients find candidates and contact them.
“It was always hard to fill engineering roles on job boards, but you could fill sales and marketing and finance and design, and certainly retail jobs,” said Jason Nazar, co-founder and CEO of Comparably. “Today, it’s a completely different dynamic, where you have to spend so much time and money directly sourcing candidates.”
Comparably has been growing 150% year-over-year, Nazar told Protocol, and saw more than 20 million visitors come to its reviews site last year. The site is free to job seekers, and doesn’t run ads.

Instead, employers — which range from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses — pay for branding and recruitment marketing tools, salary data and competitive analysis. (Comparably touts that it only allows current employees to post reviews, and doesn’t allow customers to remove or alter ratings or reviews.)
TalentOS has also taken off since it launched in June 2021. The platform has more than 1,000 customers, with TalentOS revenue growing 50% between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022.
Nazar said Comparably’s more than 15 million reviews should bolster the platform further.
“If you look at our combined reach of traffic, and what we add to the footprint of already the millions and millions of people that come to ZoomInfo every single month, that’s pretty powerful,” Nazar said.
Nazar, a serial entrepreneur who sold his startup Docstoc to Intuit in 2013, co-founded Comparably in 2015 with Yammer co-founder George Ishii, InvestedIn co-founder Yadid Ramot and DebtMarket co-founder Michael Sheridan. Greycroft Partners led Comparably’s $7.25 series A investment round in 2017, with other investments from Comcast Ventures, Crosslink Capital, Upfront Ventures, Lowercase Capital, Alpha Edison, Cornerstone on Demand, Accelerator Ventures and Rincon Ventures.
Ramot and Sheridan remain at Comparably as its CTO and COO, respectively.
Nazar and the rest of the Comparably team will join ZoomInfo, Nazar said. ZoomInfo, which has 3,000 employees, will also grow Comparably’s team of under 100. The Comparably brand and product will remain intact, Nazar said, but will “integrate deeply” with the TalentOS platform over this year. Later in 2022, companies will be able to buy both products together, Nazar said.
Sameer Sharma is the Global GM (Smart Cities & Transportation) for IOT Solutions at Intel and a thought leader in IOT/AI ecosystem, having driven multiple strategic initiatives to scale over the past 20+ years. Sameer leads a global team that incubates and scales new growth categories and business models for Intel. His team also focuses on establishing leadership across the industry playing a pivotal role in deploying solutions for the development of smart cities around the world—an important effort in furthering the goal of sustainability. These solutions include Intelligent Transportation, AI/Video, Air Quality Monitoring and Smart Lighting. With far-reaching impact, each of these solutions is providing local governments a plethora of data to enhance the daily quality of life for citizens while simultaneously promoting responsible practices to protect the environment. As a leading authority on Cities and AI, Sameer is a frequent keynote speaker at top global events and has been featured in publications such as Economist, Forbes, WSJ and New York Times. His high-energy talks cover pragmatic examples of impact and reflect his passion and belief that technology can and must be a force for good in our society. Sameer has an MBA from The Wharton School at UPenn, and a Masters in Computer Engineering from Rutgers University. He holds 11 patents in the areas of IOT and Mobile. He can be reached through LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sameersharma/) or Twitter (@sameer_iot)
“We have a once-in-a-generation chance to build an infrastructure that equitably creates opportunities for Americans, instead of further isolating them. We must act.” – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
Infrastructure Transformation: The Time is Now
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a $1.2 trillion investment in US infrastructure, is a “once-in-a generation” bipartisan law that will fund upgrades and modernization of U.S. transportation systems and physical infrastructure while expanding access to broadband internet access. It is also an opportunity explore how digital technologies can transform our infrastructure, making it more resilient, innovative, and efficient and providing more value to our communities, municipalities, and states. The underpinning of this transformation is the connection between transportation and public safety, economic strength, equity, and sustainability.
The potential of the IIJA to shape our future is immense; if we don’t spend the funds wisely, the effects will be felt for generations. Physical infrastructure alone does not fully address the diverse needs of our modern, information-driven economy and set us up for future success. Digital advancements, built on the ‘superpower technologies’ of IoT connected devices, 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing, will be critical to the success of this infrastructure buildout. These technologies are available today, deployment-ready and are already foundational to many elements of our daily lives.

What is “Smart Infrastructure”?
The digital revolution is already here – transforming the way we live, work, and communicate. Smart infrastructure is a key part of this revolution. It brings the power of the digital world to physical components like energy, public transportation, and public safety by using sensors, cameras, and connected devices to collect data and provide real-time information to city planners and other decision-makers. This powerful combination of physical upgrades and digital advancements will enable goals like Vision Zero, a multi-national road safety project that aims to reduce traffic and highway fatalities and serious injuries from over one million every year to zero. Bottom line: the next generation of infrastructure is as much about bits, bytes and transistors as it is about cement and steel.
We have entered an era where citizens, businesses and institutions understand the impacts and benefits that technology can bring to our daily lives. A clear indicator of the success of the IIJA act is whether communities choose to augment physical infrastructure upgrades with digital technologies to “future-proof” their investments. It is imperative that cities and communities become more sustainable, affordable, environmentally safe, and equitable, ultimately providing all citizens with a higher quality of life.
Equitable and Sustainable Development
Advances in infrastructure have driven growth and prosperity since the beginning of civilization. The basic structures, systems, and facilities that citizens use for transportation, water, energy, and communications are vital to economic and social development. However, these advances have not always been distributed equitably and have even disrupted communities and displaced tens of thousands of citizens in historically Black communities from Miami to Detroit. Meanwhile, lack of access to transportation hinders access to jobs, education, healthcare, and other vital services. According to a 2020 report by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, 20% of Black households do not have access to an automobile and 24% of public transit riders are African American. We believe that access to transportation is an on-ramp to opportunities, economic prosperity and equality.

Meanwhile, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this percentage is predicted to grow. But cities are also a driver of climate change; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reports that they are responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Smart infrastructure can ameliorate these effects by increasing the use of remote sensing devices to monitor air pollution, make recycling systems smarter, and reduce traffic congestion.
Why Intel – and Why Now
At Intel, we have an over 50-year history of manufacturing development and are a leading provider of edge-to-cloud technology. As a pillar of U.S. innovation, we understand the possibilities of combining digital technology with physical infrastructure upgrades. Over the last few decades, we have invested in a thriving ecosystem of partners and driven interoperable, open standards-based solutions. We are also working directly with cities and communities to solve issues such as transit capacity management.
We are deeply committed to helping our world face critical challenges like climate change, the digital divide, and lack of inclusion. Our RISE strategy defines our goal to create a more responsible, inclusive, and sustainable world that is enabled through technology and our collective actions. Earlier this month,, we committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. We fully support the U.S. government’s vision to enable growth and prosperity for American people through IIJA funding.
Want to learn more about how smart infrastructure can support a more sustainable future for all? Visit us online for more insights on the power of technology to transform our world.
Sameer Sharma is the Global GM (Smart Cities & Transportation) for IOT Solutions at Intel and a thought leader in IOT/AI ecosystem, having driven multiple strategic initiatives to scale over the past 20+ years. Sameer leads a global team that incubates and scales new growth categories and business models for Intel. His team also focuses on establishing leadership across the industry playing a pivotal role in deploying solutions for the development of smart cities around the world—an important effort in furthering the goal of sustainability. These solutions include Intelligent Transportation, AI/Video, Air Quality Monitoring and Smart Lighting. With far-reaching impact, each of these solutions is providing local governments a plethora of data to enhance the daily quality of life for citizens while simultaneously promoting responsible practices to protect the environment. As a leading authority on Cities and AI, Sameer is a frequent keynote speaker at top global events and has been featured in publications such as Economist, Forbes, WSJ and New York Times. His high-energy talks cover pragmatic examples of impact and reflect his passion and belief that technology can and must be a force for good in our society. Sameer has an MBA from The Wharton School at UPenn, and a Masters in Computer Engineering from Rutgers University. He holds 11 patents in the areas of IOT and Mobile. He can be reached through LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sameersharma/) or Twitter (@sameer_iot)
Square Enix is offloading Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and its North American studios. Here’s why.
Square Enix wanted, but never got, a big hit.
Nick Statt is Protocol’s video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Another week, another major video game acquisition. But this time, it’s different. Square Enix, the Japanese publisher known best for Final Fantasy, said it has agreed to sell off its Western studios and intellectual property to the acquisition-hungry Swedish holding company Embracer Group, including the Tomb Raider franchise, for just $300 million.
The sale speaks to the state of the game industry in many different ways at once: about single-player gaming as a business, Square Enix’s management style and how classic properties as well-known and beloved as Tomb Raider can be worth peanuts compared to mobile, free-to-play games.
Square Enix wanted, but never got, a big hit. The history of Square Enix’s Western game business can be summed up in two words: “missed expectations.” The company repeatedly threw its own games under the bus for underperforming, and it was never exactly clear what sales milestone Square Enix was hoping to achieve with its reboots of Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and Hitman.

Did Embracer Group get a bargain? Much of the conversation around Monday’s sale is concerned with just how cheap it seems: Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, three studios and a back catalog of 50-plus games for less than a third of what Embracer paid for Borderlands studio Gearbox last year. It sure seems undervalued at first glance, but the numbers may tell a different story.
Embracer Group has a plan. So what can a fast-growing gaming conglomerate do that one of the oldest and largest Japanese publishers can’t? It’s not totally clear right now. Square Enix’s Western business always felt messy and mismanaged, and its games poorly marketed.
This should not be read as Square Enix giving up on single-player games. The company is still heavily invested in Final Fantasy, with a new main entry in development, and has Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts and other related role-playing series squarely in its bread-and-butter zone. Square is also keeping control of the Just Cause and Life is Strange series and planning to publish the action game Forspoken later this year.
But Square’s winding and underwhelming attempt to break into the Western game market over the last decade by trying to revive old classics has ended with what many industry watchers are calling a fire sale. It’s not a triumphant end to this chapter of Lara Croft, but it’s an exciting and hopefully more financially sound beginning of an all-new one.
Nick Statt is Protocol’s video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Here’s what tech workers think about your most recent blog post.
Is it more of a risk to stay quiet, or to take a stance that might provoke backlash among employees, customers or investors?
Welcome back to Ask a Tech Worker. For each installment, I head out to the streets of downtown San Francisco to chat with tech employees and entrepreneurs about issues affecting the workplace. Got an idea for a future edition? Email me.
It’s expected at this point: Tech companies — especially big ones — taking a public stance on social and political issues. Between threats to abortion rights, LGBTQ+ issues, the climate crisis, racial justice and the war in Ukraine, there’s no shortage of issues for companies to speak out about, or take action on. At the same time, there’s some interest in the tech world in being less political about issues that don’t directly serve the company’s mission.
But what do workers actually expect from their companies here? Is it more of a risk to stay quiet, or to take a stance that might provoke backlash among employees, customers or investors? I returned to Salesforce Park last week to ask workers when they want their employers to speak out, when they want them to step back — and when it all just looks like a PR stunt.

What I found: The workers I met had few reservations about their employers taking a stand on social and political issues, leaning toward wanting them to speak out. But they notice when companies hesitate, when they sound phony and when their statement is watered down to the point that no one could ever disagree with it.
“All these companies have accrued vastly disproportionate amounts of power, and along with that comes some sort of social responsibility to the communities that we exist within,” said software engineer Dan Spaeth of X, Alphabet’s so-called “moonshot factory.” “It’s definitely something to be wielded cautiously because when you have that power, making those statements is a form of exercising it.”
Sanika Doolani, a product designer at Salesforce, said she usually likes when companies speak out, offering the war in Ukraine as an example of a high-impact issue that some companies have been vocal about.
“When I see companies speaking about all these things, it feels like we are all in it together,” Doolani said.
And when companies wait to speak out — or take a stance that proves unpopular — that can provoke action from employees.
Philip, a Salesforce employee who declined to give his last name, pointed to Disney’s initial unwillingness to condemn Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law that will ban schools from teaching kids in the third grade and below about sexual orientation and gender identity.
After Disney employees challenged that decision, Disney CEO Bob Chapek flipped and opposed the law. But it was too late by that point, and employees still held a walkout.
Philip applauded the grassroots effort.
“You look at the Disney thing going on right now, and they didn’t make a decision until employees made it a problem,” Philip said. “I feel like, ‘Good job, employees.’ And now they’re getting some backlash [for] it.”
Politics are a minefield, and companies will risk backlash no matter what. So how do you calculate that risk? Spaeth said he’d be more likely to get angry at an employer for not saying anything than for saying something with which he disagreed. He’s watched as past employers put out statements that were “not fully representative of their own situation,” he said, but noted that he hasn’t objected to social and political statements that they’ve made.

As it is, corporate political statements tend to be watered down and “very anodyne,” to the point where the only people who might be upset by them are people who would “get mad at anything,” Spaeth said.
Companies should also avoid phoniness. Many of these statements can come across as PR stunts, workers told me.
“Sometimes, it is a PR stunt,” Philip said. “There are times when they speak out, and I’m like, ‘Oh, is that because of the bottom line, or is it because of actually wanting an outcome that has nothing to do with business?’”
But, Spaeth said, scoring PR points isn’t always a bad thing.
“Whenever these statements are made, they are a PR thing, on some level,” Spaeth said. “That said, I don’t think it’s the worst thing to generate PR in a way that is positive.”
From ad-targeting disruption and voter contact confusion to donor stalling and voter registration obstacles, undecided electoral maps mean serious data headaches.
Voters, candidates and government election authorities are feeling the brunt of a tardy census and late redistricting throughout the country.
Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media,” a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.
Patricia Goetz couldn’t wait any longer. The physician and Democrat running for an Ohio state senate seat finally got to knocking on voters’ doors in late April in her hometown of Hudson, the charming city between Cleveland and Akron known for its preserved 19th century homes, old-timey storefronts and historic clock tower.

It was time to kick her campaign into gear, but she still doesn’t know for sure whether the district she aims to represent will include the city where she lives, a requirement for holding office.
With 2020 census data coming in late, some states — including Ohio — have yet to finalize their redistricted electoral maps. Amid political rancor, lawsuits and accusations of extreme partisan gerrymandering by a Republican-led redistricting commission, the Great Lakes swing state has already rejected four maps. Some of those didn’t include Hudson in the 27th district, where Goetz thinks she’s running.
“I’m having trouble getting donors. They don’t want to donate — the big-ticket donors — until they know what district I’m in,” Goetz, a psychiatrist, said.

“Ohio state legislative maps, going through a fifth round of revisions, are a perfect example of the chaos created when the redistricting process goes awry,” said Grace Briscoe, senior vice president of Client Development at digital ad company Basis Technologies, which recently added an option for political advertisers to pinpoint their ad targeting to people in specific state legislative districts, in addition to U.S. congressional districts.
But right now, there’s no interest in targeting Ohio’s 27th state Senate district using the ad system. “At the moment, no one is looking to target [the district] because no one is sure what that district will be, who will be running there, who will even be eligible to run and who the voters will actually be. It has created a standstill for now,” Briscoe said.

Patricia Goetz Patricia Goetz Photo: Courtesy of Patricia Goetz
Without those would-be big donors, Goetz said she is paying out of her own pocket for a campaign manager, treasurer, digital media consulting and fundraising help. And rather than narrowly focusing her efforts to reach specific voters in an undefined district, she’s going wide, getting her message out in social media and trying to reach a broad audience of people she hopes will be receptive to her pro-science message. In part because of the map fluctuations, it appears as though Goetz will not face any Democratic primary opponents.
But that could change. Voters won’t go to the polls in a state legislative primary until sometime this summer. Meanwhile, the state’s congressional races will go ahead on Tuesday in a congressional primary using a temporary map.
The dearth of finalized data has a trickle-down effect. Voters, candidates and government election authorities are feeling the brunt of a tardy census and late redistricting throughout the country.
From ad-targeting disruption and voter contact confusion to donor stalling and obstacles to voter registration efforts, unsettled electoral maps mean serious data headaches. Redistricted maps in 10 states including Ohio are in litigation, and five do not have maps drafted, according to Princeton’s nonpartisan analysis.

“It’s not a stretch to say it affects every decision you’re going to make about how you’re going to target in your campaign,” said Paul Westcott, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing at L2, a nonpartisan political data provider. L2 sends customers including Basis Technologies an updated feed of fresh data that it then plugs into to its digital ad platform, allowing political advertisers to aim ads at people based on their actual voting district boundaries, rather than the typical approach of using ZIP code targeting as a proxy.
Still, “there’s no database I have seen yet that makes it easy to target the 6th district of Ohio,” said Matt Dole, a Republican campaign consultant at Communications Counsel in Ohio.
Dole’s client, Rep. Bill Johnson, is a Republican running for reelection in that U.S. congressional district. But so far, even though there is a map that will apply for the impending primary, it remains subject to legal challenges afterwards. That means Dole’s first stop for voter list data — GOP Data Center, the Republican National Committee’s national voter database — has not incorporated the updated information he needs to easily generate lists of gun-rights advocates or women aged 35-and-over in Johnson’s district for targeted canvassing, ad targeting, printed mail delivery and voter outreach efforts.
It’s a pain in the rear end for the person who has to pull that data.
That means Dole and his team have had to track down precinct and corresponding ZIP code data from at least 75 local election board authorities, then manually enter that information into the GOP system. “It’s a pain in the rear end for the person who has to pull that data. It’s a lot of precincts,” Dole said. “That’s painful because we’re into early voting and [Johnson is] on the ballot in May, and we have to do some targeting.”
Post-primary, Dole hopes a map is decided and Ohio’s election authorities report their local-area data to the Secretary of State in a timely manner. “Congressional data can be slow,” he said.

But compiling that data takes time.
“When the lines come out at 5 p.m. on a Friday and they call us at 5:03 and say, ‘Hey, where are the lines?’ In some cases they’re mad at us when the state hasn’t even decided the lines yet,” Westcott said, referring to the district boundary lines and geographical shape files his company receives from state redistricting bodies. Once L2 gets that information, the company overlays it with the information it has on voter households within those boundaries.
It’s BallotReady’s mission to make sense of the data maze created by the jumble of U.S. election processes and authorities. The nonpartisan organization, which provides information on upcoming elections, candidates, ballot measures and other local election data, has a team of researchers whose job it is to contact local authorities for data on rules for voting by mail, which candidates are running in every district and where ballot drop boxes are located.
When election time nears, BallotReady hires additional contractors to manage the workload, said CEO and co-founder Alex Niemczewski. In March, the organization had around 80 people making calls and digging around municipal, city and county websites for updated election information. By November, there could be as many as 120, Niemczewski said.
“We kind of assume stuff is going to be messy. We have to be very good at gathering and changing frequently updated data,” she said. If district maps and data are still undecided, the BallotReady site might err on the side of too much data, for example, listing voter information for all city council seats even though someone might only be able to vote for two of them. “It’s a suboptimal user experience,” she said.
The 2022 midterms bring a new obstacle to data gathering. Partisan bullying has put so much pressure on local election authorities and even created genuine security threats, leading some of those authorities to be less accessible to organizations seeking out updated data, Niemczewski said. “There used to be someone who would answer the phone, but now it goes straight to voicemail; they have received so many violent threats,” she said.

Even when information is available, it is not formatted in a standardized way, could include errors and might be provided using antiquated technology. “We got a floppy disc in 2019,” Niemczewski said.
That data might not even be digitized. “We have gotten letters in the mail that are responses to emails, and it’s, like, signed; there’s a signature at the bottom,” she said.
“You just have this decentralized, disconnected and fragmented ecosystem where no one is responsible for correcting errors,” said Jeremy Smith, CEO and co-founder of Civitech, which provides information for people interested in running for office and helps advocacy groups find potential candidates to endorse who are trained to run for school boards or other hyperlocal seats.
Civitech buys some of its election data from BallotReady, L2 and Democratic data supplier TargetSmart, according to Smith. But that doesn’t cover all the bases, so the startup has a data acquisition team and is building a crowdsourcing tool that local advocacy groups and nonprofits can use to help fill in the blanks.
Smith pointed to a planned voter registration campaign in Maryland that has been held up by redistricting data hurdles. “They don’t know who those people are because they don’t know where their district is,” he said.
The lack of finalized district data, said Smith, means “there are groups waiting in the wings to do these things, and we don’t have a good option to sell them because the data is not there.” Not only does the lack of data result in lost or delayed revenue for his company, when customers have no choice but to go ahead with a project, “we can’t do any geographical analysis” of voters or the campaign landscape, he said.
“It matters quite a lot for any chance for improvement in innovation,” Smith said, explaining that customers “are often resorting to unsophisticated methods.”
Meanwhile, in Ohio, it looks like Goetz will not have a challenger in this summer’s state legislative primary, so she is setting her sights on November’s general election. “If there was a primary it would be really bad,” she said.

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of “Campaign ’08: A Turning Point for Digital Media,” a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.
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