Are You Buying Facebook?

Google makes an interesting play for short-form video. Does Facebook have the backs of small businesses? And wisdom from Seth Godin on what types of chances to take.

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I'm thrilled to jump into 2021 with you. 


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🗣 Social

In our last issue, we unpacked the known details of the Apple iOS 14 vs. Facebook debacle. I mentioned that most in our industry view Facebook's 'helping small business' PR campaign to be disingenuous. The response from this campaign has gotten even louder in the weeks since. 

Facebook’s Laughable Campaign Against Apple Is Really Against Users and Small Businesses | Electronic Frontier Foundation

The reality is that only a handful of companies control the online advertising market, and everyone else is at their mercy. Small businesses cannot compete with large ad distribution networks on their own. Because the ad industry has promoted this fantasy that targeted advertising is superior to other methods of reaching customers, anything else will inherently command less value on ad markets. That not only means that ads have a lower ad value if they aren’t targeting users, but it also drives the flow of money away from innovation that could otherwise bring us different advertising methods that don’t involve invasive profiling and targeting. Facebook touts itself in this case as protecting small businesses, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Facebook has locked them into a situation in which they are forced to be sneaky and adverse to their own customers. The answer cannot be to defend that broken system at the cost of their own users’ privacy and control. 

Facebook Employees Say Apple Fight Is “Self Serving”

A change in Apple’s iOS 14 mobile operating system — which requires iPhone owners to opt in to allow companies to track them across other apps and websites — hurts Facebook, some employees argued on the company’s private message boards, and their employer was just using small businesses as a shield.

“It feels like we are trying to justify doing a bad thing by hiding behind people with a sympathetic message,” one engineer wrote in response to an internal post about the campaign from Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president for ads.

Nice Try, Facebook. iOS Changes Aren’t Bad for Small Businesses | WIRED

These are manageable changes—minor coding fixes—for small businesses who depend on Facebook to reach their customers and know their buying habits. But more to the point, they are changes that hurt Facebook and its affiliated data brokers and ad networks—not the main-street small businesses evoked by Facebook’s newspaper ads.

Meanwhile, the criticism of Facebook isn't just in the media. 

Facebook Managers Trash Their Own Ad Targeting in Unsealed Remarks

The complaint features Facebook documents indicating that the company knew its advertising capabilities were overhyped and underperformed.

A “February 2016 internal memorandum” sent from an unnamed Facebook manager to Andrew Bosworth, a Zuckerberg confidant and powerful company executive who oversaw ad efforts at the time, reads, “[I]nterest precision in the US is only 41%—that means that more than half the time we’re showing ads to someone other than the advertisers’ intended audience. And it is even worse internationally. … We don’t feel we’re meeting advertisers’ interest accuracy expectations today.”

Tangentially, I would like to shine a spotlight on this one detail that may have been lost in our last issue:

iOS 14 and Facebook Ads: What We Know - Jon Loomer Digital

Remember that this is mobile only. If a user visits your website directly via desktop or clicks a link from desktop on Facebook that drives to your website, the Facebook pixel should be functional. That is, of course, if local laws and browser settings allow it.

Telegram, nearing 500 million users, to begin monetizing the app | TechCrunch

Instant messaging app Telegram is “approaching” 500 million users and plans to generate revenue starting next year to keep the business afloat, its founder Pavel Durov said on Wednesday.

The service, which topped 400 million active users in April this year, will introduce its own ad platform for public one-to-many channels — “one that is user-friendly, respects privacy and allows us to cover the costs of server and traffic,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.

A helpful update for community managers.

⚖️ Legislation

Facebook offered to help create new competitor to prevent antitrust lawsuits - The Washington Post

For months, watchdogs in Washington and around the country had been probing Facebook and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, over allegations that the company had become an illegal monopoly. Regulators had grown increasingly convinced that the social-networking behemoth over its nearly 17-year history systematically had sought to acquire or eliminate all of its rivals, engaging in unlawful tactics to become one of the most profitable digital services in the world.

Facebook had long disputed the claims. In an attempt to illustrate its commitment to competition, the company’s top lawyers signaled that they would be open to changing some of its business practices, according to three people familiar with the matter. One of the ideas Facebook floated would have allowed another firm or developer to license access to its powerful code — and its users’ intricate web of relationships — so that they could more easily create their own version of a social network, said the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a nonpublic law-enforcement inquiry.

But the investigators ultimately rejected the idea, believing Facebook’s proposal — part of a vague early menu of remedies the tech giant presented this year — failed to fully address their competition concerns. In the end, the Federal Trade Commission and nearly every state’s attorney general, led by New York’s Letitia James, filed twin lawsuits this month that seek to break Facebook apart.

Google, Facebook Agreed to Team Up Against Possible Antitrust Action, Draft Lawsuit Says - WSJ

Ten Republican attorneys general, led by Texas, are alleging that the two companies cut a deal in September 2018 in which Facebook agreed not to compete with Google’s online advertising tools in return for special treatment when it used them.

Google used language from “Star Wars” as a code name for the deal, according to the lawsuit, which redacted the actual name. The draft version of the suit says it was known as “Jedi Blue.”

The lawsuit itself said Google and Facebook were aware that their agreement could trigger antitrust investigations and discussed how to deal with them, in a passage that is followed by significant redactions.

The draft version spells out some of the contract’s provisions, which state that the companies will “cooperate and assist each other in responding to any Antitrust Action” and “promptly and fully inform the Other Party of any Governmental Communication Related to the Agreement.”

In the companies’ contract, “the word [REDACTED] is mentioned no fewer than 20 times,” the lawsuit says. The unredacted draft fills in the word: Antitrust.

📦 Distribution

Amazon checks out with more 767s | Cargo Facts

Amazon has acquired seven 767-300ERs from Delta Air Lines, forming the second batch of 767s purchased outright as opposed to dry leasing the aircraft, as Amazon has done with all the freighters currently in service on its behalf

USPS inundated by crush of holiday packages, leading to delivery delays - The Washington Post

“We’re really gridlocked all over the place,” said a Postal Service transportation manager in Ohio, who like others in this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “It’s bad. I’ve never seen it like this before.

“UPS and FedEx have shut us off. Nobody can keep up right now, but we don’t have the luxury of turning people down. They’re sitting on so much mail right now that it’s almost one day at a time in these facilities.”

Anecdotal, but I have seen worse USPS service since Christmas than I did before. 

Walmart and Amazon launch return options as some predict holiday onslaught | Retail Dive

Walmart has partnered with FedEx to allow online shoppers to return items from their homes, according to a company post Monday. 

The new free service, Carrier Pickup by FedEx, lets customers set up an appointment online for a FedEx associate to pick up packages from their doorsteps. Walmart also added features to its app to make in-store returns faster. 

Walmart's announcement comes days after Amazon announced an extended return policy for the holiday period and "no-box, no-label" returns at more than 500 Whole Foods Market locations.

🔒 Security

Firefox to ship 'network partitioning' as a new anti-tracking defense | ZDNet

Firefox 85, scheduled to be released next month, in January 2021, will ship with a feature named Network Partitioning as a new form of anti-tracking protection.

The feature is based on "Client-Side Storage Partitioning," a new standard currently being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium's Privacy Community Group.

"Network Partitioning is highly technical, but to simplify it somewhat; your browser has many ways it can save data from websites, not just via cookies," privacy researcher Zach Edwards told ZDNet in an interview this week.

"These other storage mechanisms include the HTTP cache, image cache, favicon cache, font cache, CORS-preflight cache, and a variety of other caches and storage mechanisms that can be used to track people across websites."

Edwards says all these data storage systems are shared among websites.

The difference is that Network Partitioning will allow Firefox to save resources like the cache, favicons, CSS files, images, and more, on a per-website basis, rather than together, in the same pool.

This makes it harder for websites and third-parties like ad and web analytics companies to track users since they can't probe for the presence of other sites' data in this shared pool.

🦠 Coronavirus

Covid-19 Propelled Businesses Into the Future. Ready or Not.

In many ways, digitization is simply the next chapter of a process under way for a century: the dematerialization of the economy. As agriculture gave way to manufacturing and then services, the share of economic value derived from tangible material and muscle shrunk while the share derived from information and brains grew. Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan liked to note that economic output has steadily gotten lighter.

The pandemic isn’t the only force at work here. So is the climate-driven imperative to substitute renewable energy for fossil fuels. Solar and wind power require no fuel, storage tanks, pipelines, railcars or tanker ships. The pandemic sped up the shift by depressing prices and investment in fossil fuels.

But the dominant driver is information technology. Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University, said one of its most important and least appreciated roles is the “great fake”: It enables “increasingly accurate lifelike representations of some kind of reality through analog or digital mimicry, what you could call virtualization.”

In 1850, he said, “the only way to listen to music was physical presence at a concert or play it yourself.” Then came player piano rolls, vinyl records, CDs and now streaming, innovations that whittled the tangible contribution to music down to almost nothing.

Author Greg Ip unpacks several other examples of this trend, from automobiles to Peloton. It is worth considering the threats to (and perhaps opportunities for) your own business. 

🤷🏻‍♂️ Just For Fun

A simple 2 x 2 for choices | Seth's Blog

It’s useful to have a portfolio of projects, because not all of them are going to work.

Twitter will make Joe Biden’s @POTUS account start with zero followers - The Verge

President Biden is going to need some Twitter followers. Twitter plans to wipe out all followers from the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts once Biden is sworn in on January 20th, rather than transferring the accounts’ existing followers over to the new administration, according to Rob Flaherty, Biden’s digital director.

The accounts for @VP, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, @Cabinet, and @LaCasaBlanca will also have their followers wiped, Twitter said. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that there was contention between the Biden camp and Twitter over whether followers would transfer over.

👋 Holla!

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