Mar 25, 2020 Facebook and Twitter see massive usage surges — but their ads can't capitalize on it Read More Well, this is awkward... We're familiar with the concept that if a product is free, our attention likely is the product. With everyone cooped inside because of coronavirus, virtual communication is more important than ever. So is not going outside. That means way less shopping/spending, and puts ad-reliant social media giants in an awkward situation:
Facebook: Messaging across FB's apps in the hardest hit countries has surged 50%, while video chatting has more than 2X'd. In Italy alone, group video calling is up 1,000% from a month ago, and FB app usage is up 70% across the board.
Twitter: Daily usage has jumped a whopping 23% this year thanks to desperately inactive Twitter fingers.
But social media relies on ad sales... While people need social media more than ever, advertisers have never needed it less. Marketers won't waste big marketing bucks on ads if you won't buy their products anyway (no one cares about the new spring eyeshadow palette when all you need is a robe to stay home). So Facebook and Twitter haven't translated the usage surge into ad $$$.
The Takeaway:We could face ad-pocalypse 2020... When spending drops during economic downturns, so do ad sales. Twitter revealed its ad sales may have dunked as much as 20% in March. Facebook expects something similar. The bright spot for ad-reliant media companies is that they might retain this larger/more engaged user base when the economy rebounds. But think about the 2 types of companies and their demand for ads:
Companies that sell essentials (like food/TP) don't need ads right now (you're buying TP no matter what).
Companies that sell non-essentials don't want ads because their stores are closed. Mar 19, 2020 Netflix gets asked to chill, but investors are just glad it doesn't have ads Read More Netflixing while stretching and video-conferencing... That Love is Blind episode might be coming in a little fuzzier than usual. Netflix is a leader of the "stay-at-home" stock pack, and we've been doing a preternatural amount of staying-at-home lately. So the EU asked it to stop streaming HD video to "secure internet access for all" — aka, not break the internet:
The EU Commissioner literally called Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to tell him to cut out the HD stuff because it's causing an internet traffic jam. He even started a hashtag for it: #SwitchtoStandard.
At least for the next month, Netflix will reduce its streaming quality in Europe. Because not being able to stream in HD is probably the least of our problems. Plus...
Videos account for a massive bulk of network traffic, like a giant weight on the internet's back. Netflix's HD vids use 3GB of data/hour, as opposed to 1GB/hour for standard def.
Netflix isn't the only one pushing the web's limits... Facebook also had a massive viral-surge in usage for its "family of apps" (Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Messenger) — and it admitted it's being stretched to the limits of its tech infrastructure. Google, which is now offering its enterprise WFH software for free, has been working on increasing its capacity, too.The Takeaway:While media usage is surging, media is not equal... The key difference is in the business model: Google/Facebook/Snapchat rely on ad sales, while Netflix has a subscription-based model (starting at $8.99/month). If the economy hits recession, advertisers are expected to cut back on their ad budgets. That's a threat to ad-based biz models — Netflix's subscription-focus might be more reliable in the long-term. Feb 13, 2020 Facebook adds Reuters to its fact-checking army against quasi-impossible odds Read More What's a Deepfake, again?... Facebook, with its 2.5B users sharing billions of posts, just made a new addition to its fact-checking army: a whopping 4 journalists. The 4 Reuters journalists will join a US fact-checking team that includes the Associated Press, PolitiFact, Factcheck.org, and thousands of FB-employed contractors. Oh, and don't forget machine-taught AI bots that spot potentially false news and flag ALL-CAPS!!! posts.
'Tis the Season: Political ads season. Presidential primary elections are happening — and the outflow of political ads and posts is just gonna increase. FB's been in hot water for misinformation on its platform — and the jacuzzi is getting hotter.
Cue the Fact Squad: We're calling it: Factual Accuracy Investigation League (or F.A.I.L., for short). This crew of moderators, journalists, and bots has a lot on its plate (billions of posts per day, including generous servings of misleading, false, and manipulative information).
Blog About It: Reuters' 4 journalists will review user-generated vids, pics, and headlines that were flagged or submitted for review. Then, they'll blog about whether something is true, false, or partially true. FB will use those conclusions to label bad info and limit its spread in the News Feed algorithm (by up to 80%).
The Takeaway:It would really take an army... to actually fact-check and verify every single Facebook post for misinformation, since most is user-generated content. Even with its F.A.I.L. army, Facebook has become nearly too big to moderate. And Zuck still insists that it's a social network — not an editorial operation like The Wall Street Journal. Since Facebook is failing to keep up, you'll need to stay vigilent. Feb 6, 2020 Instagram reportedly makes more ad money than YouTube Read More Do it for the 'gram... Or for the $20B. Facebook-owned Instagram brought in that much ad revenue last year, according to Bloomberg and PFWTM (people familiar with the matter). That Insta-ad money represents over 25% of Facebook's total revenue and beats YouTube's $15B (YouTube's parent, Alphabet, just revealed its revenues this week).
YouTube: We've all seen (and skipped) the ads before a video. You'd think 2B+ users would mean more ad money for YouTube. Buuut, over half that ad $$$ goes to video creators.
Instagram: Doesn't pay creators because it throws ads between friends' Stories and sprinkles them into your feed. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1B — but since Facebook's now worth $600B and Insta is 25% of its revenues, the 'Gram is arguably worth $150B now.
The whole family... Facebook doesn't disclose revenue for its individual "children," bundling their financial info instead into their so-called "family of apps."
Facebook: The old parent, always cracking dad-jokes and sharing pictures of ferns and grandchildren.
Instagram: The too-cool-for-school teen child. Super fashionable, always taking Valencia-filtered selfies, and perennially drinking craft coffees while chilling on a white-sand beach.
WhatsApp: The cool, foreign cousin that's always studying abroad somewhere and reading Kant.
Messenger: The distant aunt that you always forget exists but go to when you need some random specific thing.The Takeaway:Focusing on "the family" could be a strategic move... FB's social media dominance is why it's being investigated by the government. Zuck's giant baby could get broken up to restore competition — that could include dropping Insta. Since Instagram generates more ad revenue than NBC, ABC, and Fox combined, Zuck may downplay that alarming fact by keeping Instagram's numbers on the down-low. Jan 30, 2020 Facebook's profits are skinnier (not good), but the global "Zuck fee" is strong Read More All those ads interrupting your Insta-scrolling?... They added up to $70B of revenue for Facebook in 2019. Although that sounds like Zuck & Co. should be celebrating their dominance in online ads sales, that was up only 27% from last year (and slower than the 35% revenue growth the year before). Shares fell almost 8% on word Facebook's profit got squeezed:
Revenue growth is slowing: 240M new people joined a member of the Facebook "Family" (Insta, FB, WhatsApp, Messenger) over the past year — that's a smaller number than years past. The Book's also losing people to TikTok and Snap (or you just put your phone down).
Cost growth is speeding up: Facebook's feeds are the #1 targets for bad people to manipulate and abuse others online. Humans and algorithms to police those online streets are expensive — and so are the fines Facebook's seemingly always paying.
The result is skinnier profits: In 2017, Facebook made 50 cents of operating profit for each dollar of ad sales. In 2019, that came down to 34 cents.The Takeaway:The whole world pays a 7 cents per day "Zuck fee"... To show investors that Facebook is growing despite weakness in its core Facebook app, Zuck included Instagram for the first time in its "average revenue per user" category. Globally, Facebook made $25 off each user last year. That's 2.85B people with Facebook accounts, "paying" 7 cents per day in mid-scrolling attention to Facebook's ridiculously-targeted ads that know you like chocolate. Nov 13, 2019 Instagram unveils Reels, its TikTok killer Read More The 1 billion download club... Big number, tiny membership. TikTok just got there faster than any company — just 2 years (that makes the 8 years Instagram needed look like a crawl). If you've never TikTok'd (we haven't either) here's what you should know:
More raw, less polish: Instagram is for the polished life milestone like graduation day pics. TikTok is for sharing raw videos of yourself trying to karaoke Levon the night before graduation.
Music-first: TikTok is where 2019's megahit "Old Town Road" got huge before radio even knew it.
Gen Z is addicted: Over 60% of US TikTokers are under 24 — and they spend 52 valuable minutes per day on TikTok, flipping between videos.
It's Chinese-owned: Which is causing squeamishness from US Senators worried that kids' data could get snatched by the Chinese Communist Party.
TikTok's also a threat to Zuck... User-wise, TikTok is shockingly as big as Facebook's Instagram. The last company that threatened Insta's user growth was Snapchat — so Facebook copied its core feature with "Stories." It's doing it again with TikTok, yesterday unveiling "Reels:" 15-second music-videos users make of themselves, then pop into their story. It starts in Brazil, but is expected to rollout worldwide.The Takeaway:American companies knockoff Chinese innovation, too... Facebook might as well have called this "DikDok" -- it's a straight-up copy of TikTok's core feature, a defensive move to prevent users from leaving Zuck's apps. It's usually the other way around, but this Chinese-invented social media platform is getting duplicated by America's king of social media. Oct 24, 2019 Zuckerberg tells Congress he won't launch Libra without US regulators' blessing Read More No-friend zone... Facebook's Zuckerberg put a suit on for like the 2nd time in his life, showed up in DC, and got poked by politicians on the House Financial Services committee. He should've worn body armor. The representatives scolded Facebook's political ad policies, misinformation on newsfeeds, and even discrimination at the company. Then, finally, they talked about Libra. For hours.
A digital-only currency for the billions of Facebookers worldwide... Mark tried to explain how his proposed cryptocurrency, Libra, should be regulated and how it'll operate. It was a struggle. But we did learn this:
How Zuck's pitching this to skeptical politicians: Do goodyness. “There are more than a billion people around the world who don't have access to a bank account, but they could through mobile phones if the right system existed.”
How Zuck plans to make money: Through ads. "Buy with Libra" is a powerful button that would increase the value of ads on Facebook, letting it charge more.
How Zuck will launch Libra: This one's key — Only with US regulators' blessing.The Takeaway:That last promise could doom Libra... The majority of the un-banked Zuck wants to help? They live outside the US — but Libra is now at US regulators' mercy. That's totally different than Facebook's move fast and break things past, or Uber's entire expansion strategy. So far, politicians aren't impressed — the top Republican on the committee put it simply: "I’m not sure we learned anything new here as policy makers." Sep 26, 2019 Facebook unveils "Horizon": A huge virtual world Read More We were happy with air hockey... Facebook prefers virtual worlds. It just unveiled one through Oculus, the virtual reality startup it acquired in 2014 for $2B. Facebook offered up this charming video to entice you to enter the digital land of "Horizon" — a massive-multiplayer world to interact with anyone who can afford the $399 VR headset.
Picture Ready Player One without the violence... Your avatar (the digital version of you, like a 3D-ish emoji) enters Horizon around a central town square. Then you customize your virtual shirt, or build a virtual island to hang out on with your other real friends playing virtually. Meta. Here's what else surprised us:
No coding: Don't need the skill set. Use your hands and building blocks to whip up an arena where you can play virtual soccer with real friends.
No pants: For some reason, none of the avatars in Horizon have lower bodies.
Yes, privacy/policing/enforcement: Facebook clearly focused on this one. You can mute people who bother you and create space boundaries. Plus, there are "Horizon Locals" — Avatar guides who are real people, dressed casually, cracking down on trolls.The Takeaway:Welcome to Facebook 2.0... Facebook acquired Instagram on the bet that users may head there when they were bored of the 'Book. They did. Now it's betting you'll hit up virtual reality when you're tired of reality. Here's the big question: Will Zuck introduce virtual billboards and stores to Horizon so it makes real ad money just like Facebook does? Sep 19, 2019 Facebook launches Portal TV — this just started "The Living Room Wars" Read More The "I-don't-know-what-to-get-mom/dad-for-Christmas" gift... Facebook's $149 Portal TV turns your tube into an eerily smart and aggressively social streaming device (it's a spinoff of Zuck's AI-powered Portal tablet). ETA is November, but the high-tech camera/speaker bar boasts 1 crucial gadget: A low-tech privacy knob you slide to block the camera.
The snuggling is sold separately... True to Facebook's original mission — connecting people online — the Alexa-powered Portal TV lets you and bae be together even when you're apart. Here are its 2 most powerful features:
Video call using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. The face-recognizing camera follows you around while you wash lettuce, bake a pie, and set the table mid-call.
"Watch Together" lets you stream videos on Facebook Watch but keep the corner of the screen on video chat — Your remote plus-1 is watching with you on the screen. Portal TV then adjusts the volume when you need to chit-chat about where you've definitely seen that actor from before.The Takeaway:The Living Room Wars... They're 1 chapter away from The Streaming Wars. You've heard about the battles between Netflix, Disney+, and others over who owns Seinfeld and Peter Pan. Even Comcast announced yesterday it's making its "Xfinity Flex" streaming device free for all cord-cutters, which dropped Roku shares 14%. Now it's all-out conflict for the living room, and Zuck wants in. Sep 6, 2019 Match drops 5% as Facebook Dating just happened Read More Whip out the pint of gelato and romcom marathon... Tinder-owner Match is feeling the pain as Facebook's dating feature goes live in the US (just update your app and opt-in if you're looking to mingle). Technically, Facebook told us last year that this was coming, but here's the love story timeline.
1st date (fall 2018): Colombia. The magic begins when Facebook started testing in the land of Arepas.
1st trip (winter 2019) Latin America. Facebook expands the tests regionally to Mexico and Argentina.
1st fight (spring 2019) Feedback. Listening to early users, Facebook updates the feature to make it easier to set up a profile (and creepily proposes a pic for you).
Facebook makes it Facebook official (today): Another 19 countries enjoy access, including the US (Europe waits 'till 2020).
"If you're a bird, I'm a bird"... The Facebook dating concept is that simple. Since Facebook knows what you like/click/join/share, Zuck thinks he can play match-maker better than Tinder. But the most unique feature we could find in our Snacks research is "Secret Crush":
Facebook Dating defaults to not matching you with friends, but there are 9 exceptions.
If your sophomore Geography class partner is the one that got away, you can "Secret Crush" tag them.
If they unknowingly reciprocate, Facebook makes the connection (warning: You get 9 "Secret Crushes" max).The Takeaway:Instagram is Facebook's surprise +1... That's what crushed Match. Match investors have known for months what Facebook was up to. What they didn't know was how much Facebook's Insta would be involved. Turns out Facebook integrates photos from Insta profiles into the dating feature. Since Instagram is where a whole generation's digital-selves obsessively live, FB Dating is now much more of a threat than Match expected. Sep 4, 2019 A side-hustler reveals Facebook's test to hide your "likes" Read More #AnxiouslyWaitingForLikes... Been there. You post a pic of you and that friend — or worse — a pic of just you. After 5 minutes you've got 2 likes. After 10, 6. After an hour, 14. DELETE POST. The like-struggle is real. Facebook is aware and just confirmed its test to remove the number of a post's social media affirmations from public view.
Side hustle... Jane Manchun Wong enjoys one as a "reverse engineer" — while you're reading Snacks, she's mining code, searching for deep-app irregularities. We'll let her describe what happened next in her own words:
"I observed that Facebook has recently begun prototyping this hidden like/reaction count feature in their Android app by reverse-engineering the app and playing with the code underneath."
Facebook confirmed it's testing a way to hide the likes from your followers/friends, but still showing you. Letting go 100% is hard.The Takeaway:This is a classic cost-benefit analysis... It's testing to see how users react first before it makes the thumbs-up invisible. The cons could hit Facebook's bottom line (less user engagement and potentially ad revenue), the pros are mostly for society (less anxiety). But Facebook could win valuable PR points if it makes the right decision — just as it separately faces political tech-lash over its privacy problems and anti-competitive size. Aug 9, 2019 Facebook is reportedly planning a new initiative to fix the news it helped break Read More This has rom-com written all over it... We're at the last 30 minutes when Facebook tries to rekindle its fraught relationship with the news industry. According to the WSJ, Facebook is offering news publishers up to $3M per year to license entire articles and stick them in your newsfeed.
The last time Facebook dated news, it didn't go well... Promises were broken, and the breakup was bad.
How the relationship worked: Just as news publishers were getting disrupted by the internet, Zuck welcomed them to post articles on Facebook, which it would promote in newsfeeds.
The promise to news: People will click on your articles! And you can make money through that web traffic (with ads) or by getting them to subscribe!
What actually happened: FB traffic didn't lead to much money for news publishers, who struggled. Then Facebook tweaked its algorithm to demote news, and promote baby pics instead.
The really bad part: Fake news replaced real news, and the troll-authored content got loads of likes, shares, and comments.The Takeaway:Facebook knows news got burned last time... so it's offering money this time. News agencies aren't buying the "traffic will convert to subscriptions" story. Facebook's eager to prove it can now help news agencies by paying them $$$ for their product. As soon as this fall, we could get a new tab on the FB app for news, with real, paid news in there. Jul 25, 2019 Facebook's living its best life (as it shrugs off the $5B fine) Read More Fun fact... Facebook's stock price is just 5.5% away from its record high. That's despite Wednesday's big official settlement with US regulators for handing over 87M users' personal details to Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook knew this was coming... So it guestimated back in April for investors that a $3B-$5B fine was coming. It even put money aside to prep for the government's hammer. A+ for FB's forecasting department.
The fine: $5B. Even though that's a record fine from the FTC, it's equal to less than 1% of Facebook's net worth (when measured by its $577B value by market capitalization).
Strings attached: Hardly any. A huge criticism is that the privacy of 2B humans is controlled by 1 human — Mark Zuckerberg — who owns majority voting power at FB. This settlement installs a new "independent privacy committee" within the board that he'll have to check in with monthly.
Personal accountability: A tad. Zuck must personally certify (with a real-life signature) every quarter that his company is following every privacy order from the settlement. Pinky swear.The Takeaway:BTW, Facebook also announced profits. Big ones... In the Western world, we're obsessed with Facebook-owned Instagram, which doesn't have Zuck brand baggage. In the rest of the world, Facebook's rep is fine and people use WhatsApp and Facebook at a carpal tunnel-inducing pace. Facebook's investigations aren't over, but they've barely slowed it down so far. Here are the Q2 highlights.
Revenues up 28% to $16.9B
Operating profit up 14% to $6.6B (if you exclude the big fine)
Monthly users up 8% to 2.4B
Jul 17, 2019 3 Congressional hearings. 4 scrutinized tech giants Read More 1 four-pack of shade... coming right up for Silicon Valley. The main event yesterday was David Marcus, Facebook's head of cryptocurrency, who suffered a grilling by the Senate (he hits the House tomorrow). But all 4 of America's tech-powered giants sent lambs to get questioned and criticized by elected officials.
Facebook: Defending Zuck's new cryptocurrency, Marcus promised Libra wouldn't launch until it "fully addressed regulatory concerns." Politicians from both sides didn't like Facebook's crypto-moves given its marred privacy record. PS: Bitcoin dropped 10% on DC's overall anti-crypto tone.
Google: President Trump said he would investigate whether Google has been infiltrated by the Chinese military. That's based on a claim from Peter Thiel (Facebook board member) that Google is an unpatriotic company engaged in treason.
FB, Google, Apple, and Amazon: Execs from all four faced a different set of lawmakers who accused them of breaking rules set up to protect consumers from monopolies as well as for having a bias against conservatives in search results.The Takeaway:Despite the politi-hate, record highs... The stocks of all these companies are close to their record highs. They've scaled their business models across the world and kept growing as people in developing countries adopt smartphones and the internet. And 2+ years of tech as a political punching bag hasn't resulted in laws or policies to rein in profits. Jul 12, 2019 Facebook's cryptocurrency faces big resistance — like from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell Read More Unfriend... The Chairman of America's central bank visited Congress this week. Most focused on his interest rate plans — Jerome Powell strongly hinted that the Fed would lower rates to support the economy during the trade war. But he also opined on Mark Zuckerberg's latest project, Facebook's cryptocurrency "Libra." He's just not that into it.
Regulators and politicians are anti-ZuckBucks... It's not just Powell. We've seen resistance to the idea of Facebook owning an alternative financial system from all over. And it runs deep.
🏛 US Congress: The Financial Services Committee wants Facebook to "immediately cease implementation plans." One senator called it "Monopoly Money."
👔 The 27 corporate partners: Uber, Mastercard, Spotify, and other companies that paid $10M to oversee the future stablecoin with Facebook are reportedly nervous about the whole thing.
🌍 The world: Central bankers from China, Europe, and Singapore are all concerned. The Bank of England head won't let Facebook "learn on the job."
The Takeaway:Facebook could actually get stopped... Since sophomore year, Zuckerberg's done what he's wanted to do. But now the Fed has set up a working group of regulators with broad political backing to investigate Facebook's financial plans. Here are Powell's concerns:
Money laundering: FB's non-regulated financial pipes could make it easier for drug deals to go down.
Privacy: No explanation needed.
Consumer protection: Fraudulent schemes could run as wild on Facebook as fake news did/does, out of reach of regulatory oversight.
Financial stability: What if Libra, the global currency, had an outage? That could spread to other markets. Worldwide. Fast.
Jun 3, 2019 The Regu-tech-lation wars just began — And Google and Facebook fell over 6% Read More According to extra scoops of WSJ journalism... Two of the nation's main business regulators, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department (DOJ), are divvying up which tech companies to regulate. And they've been training: FTC and DOJ can enforce antitrust laws — the power to investigate, sue, fine, and break up monopolies.
DOJ: It's focused on Apple and Google.
FTC: It's taking on Facebook and Amazon.
Fun party game... Try naming a bipartisan political issue. Answer: Regulate Silicon Valley. Conservatives think tech is too liberal and censors conservative voices, liberals think it kills jobs/equality/competition. But Capitol Hill hasn't teamed up to do anything about it — Then we learned regulators game planned X's and O's, and Google fell 6% while Facebook face-planted 8% Monday.
$130B: That's the total market value lost by tech companies in just Monday's drop.
10%: That's how much lower the tech-heavy Nasdaq stock index is from its high in April (that means it's technically in "correction" status).The Takeaway:Tech is free, but it still has a price... Regulators used to tackle monopolies only when customers were hit by high prices. Now Google and Facebook definitely could fit the definition of monopolies — they own nearly 60% of all US online ads — but they're free for us to use. So if regulators finally regulate tech, they won't be looking at prices — they’ll look purely at power (too much of it). That's a new frontier. May 1, 2019 Facebook rolls out dating and one big redesign Read More Welcome to Zuckapalooza. Now please update your FB app... Mark began Facebook's F8 developer conference with a preview/tour of the redesigned Facebook: aka "FB5" (it's rolling out to users starting today). Facebook Dating is also expanding to the US later this year and 14 more countries right now — Swipe right on any friend or indicate a friend-of-a-friend "Secret Crush."
Operation FB5-star is a Group team effort... Go look at Facebook's app in the App Store — it has about as many 1-star as 5-star ratings. It's polarizing. This redesign is intended to improve that by focusing on Groups:
Better privacy: Worried those embarrassing freshmen year pics may go viral? Facebook's concerned, too. So it's emphasizing Groups and Messaging, which keep posts more contained.
Admins = Policemen: It doesn't have enough humans or AI to stop extreme content from reaching innocent eyes. So it's de-emphasizing the newsfeed, and letting your Group's Admin take down bad stuff.
Potentially worse isolation: Limiting chats to Group life means conspiracy theories, hate, and misinformation could potentially thrive even more.The Takeaway:This could hurt profits. It doesn't matter... It's not clear how this privacy focus will affect the Book's ad-tastic business model. But 18-29-year-olds are ditching Facebook fastest (usually for Insta, which Facebook also owns) because FB posting is too public. So it's disrupting itself with a more private version before a competitor does.