Quotulatiousness

November 22, 2017

QotD: Anti-smoking fanaticism

Filed under: Health, Liberty, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Whenever I am in Paris I stay near Père-Lachaise, the greatest cemetery in the world, and I always take at least one walk in it. It is, like life and literature, inexhaustible; and after all, the paths not only of glory but of journalism, too, lead but to the grave.

On the way there this time I was passed by a road-sweeping vehicle with an excellent advertisement on its side. It showed a vast pyramid of cigarette ends, with the legend “350 tons of cigarette ends per year”: the sum of such annual sweepings in Paris. This must equate to an awful lot of death.

On the matter of smoking I suffer not so much from cognitive as from emotional dissonance. On the one hand I detest the filthy habit, and whenever I see the slogan SMOKING KILLS on a discarded packet on the ground, I think, “Yes, but not quickly enough.”

On the other hand, I detest the antismokers, the Savonarolas of public health. I want people to spite them by smoking, though not in my breathing space.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Of grave concern”, Taki’s Magazine, 2016-04-02.

October 23, 2017

Today I learned a new word: Pigmentocracy

Filed under: Africa, Business, Health, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, Afua Hirsch writes about the recent Nivea skin cream video to explain why the ad is so controversial:

“Now I have visibly fairer skin, making me feel younger,” declares the Nigerian actor Omowunmi Akinnifesi in an advert for a new face cream. The ad, for the global skincare brand Nivea, was only ever intended to reach a west African audience, but predictably – has Nivea heard of the internet? – it has been watched and shared millions of times around the world including in the UK, where most of us live in blissful ignorance of the fact that some of our most popular brands openly promote the idea in other markets that white is right.

Nivea says the ad was not intended to offend, but offence is not the point. The global market for skin lightening products, of which west Africa is a significant part, is worth $10bn (£7.6bn). Advertising has a long and unbroken history of promoting and normalising white beauty standards, and if Britain built its empire as a geopolitical and ideological project, the advertising industry commodified it. Soap brands such as Pears built a narrative that cast Africa as dark and its people as dirty, the solution to which – conveniently – was soap. Cleansing, lightening and civilising in one handy bar.

These days the marketing has become much more sophisticated. Ads speak of “toning” as code for whitening. Lancôme, which a few years ago got in trouble for using Emma Watson’s image to market its Blanc Expert line in Asia, emphasised that it does not lighten, but rather “evens skin tone, and provides a healthy-looking complexion … an essential part of Asian women’s beauty routines”.

[…]

Shadism, pigmentocracy – the idea of privilege accruing to lighter-skinned black people – and other hierarchies of beauty are a complex picture in which ads such as Nivea’s are only the obvious tip of an insidious iceberg. Celebrities with darker complexions, such as the Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech – nicknamed Queen of the Dark – and actors such as Lupita Nyong’o, are so often discussed in the context of having achieved the seemingly impossible by being both dark and beautiful, that they become the exceptions that prove the rule.

It is often observed that light-skinned black women are more likely to become global superstars, the Beyoncé-Rihanna effect. They are, however, still black women and therefore not immune from the pressure to lighten – most recently by fans following a new Photoshopping trend of posting pictures of whitened versions of their faces and remarking upon the improvement.

In countries such as Ghana, the intended audience for the Nivea ad, and Nigeria – where an estimated 77% of women use skin-lightening products – the debate has so far, understandably, focused on health. The most toxic skin-lightening ingredients, still freely available, include ingredients such as hydroquinone, mercury and corticosteroid. It’s not unusual for these to be mixed with caustic agents ranging from automotive battery acid, washing power, toothpaste and cloth bleaching agents, with serious and irreversible health consequences.

September 8, 2017

Google’s unbridled market power and ability to quash critics and competitors

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Wired, Rowland Manthorpe reports on another case of Google roughing up someone for being critical of their current “be evil” business philosophy:

The latest allegation against Google? Jon von Tetzchner, creator of the web browser Opera, says the search giant deliberately undermined his new browser, Vivaldi.

In a blogpost titled, “My friends at Google: it is time to return to not being evil,” von Tetzchner accuses the US firm of blocking Vivaldi’s access to Google AdWords, the advertisements that run alongside search results, without warning or proper explanation.

According to Von Tetzchner, the problem started in late May. Speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum, the Icelandic programmer criticised big tech companies’ attitude toward personal data, calling for a ban on location tracking on Facebook and Google. Two days later, he suddenly found Vivaldi’s Google AdWords campaigns had been suspended. “Was this just a coincidence?” he writes. “Or was it deliberate, a way of sending us a message?” He concludes: “Timing spoke volumes.”

Von Tetzchner got in touch with Google to try and resolve the issue. The result? What he calls “a clarification masqueraded in the form of vague terms and conditions.” The particular issue was the end-user license agreement (EULA), the legal contract between a software manufacturer and a user. Google wanted Vivaldi to add one to its website. So it did. But Google had further complaints.

According to emails shown to WIRED, Google wanted Vivaldi to add an EULA “within the frame of every download button”. The addition was small – a link below the button directing people to “terms” – but on the web, where every pixel matters, this was a potential competitive disadvantage. Most gallingly, Chrome, Google’s own web browser, didn’t display a EULA on its landing pages. Google also asked Vivaldi to add detailed information to help people uninstall it, with another link, also under the button.

The links Vivaldi says it was forced to add to comply with Google’s demands (image via Wired)

June 3, 2017

Secondary boycotting

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Ace describes the way political groups can exercise economic pressure on third parties to influence or even to eliminate media voices with which they disagree:

The tactic being objected to — and I didn’t make this clear yesterday — is the tactic created by the left called a “secondary boycott.”

None of you can “boycott” Rachel Maddow — you’re already not watching her, and you enjoy not watching her, and you recommend not watching her to all of your friends.

Well, leftists realized that about Rush Limbaugh — you can’t boycott that which you already don’t use — and so invented the tactic of telling advertisers: Stop advertising on his show or we will boycott you.

That’s the “secondary” part of the boycott: You’re not boycotting the primary target. Which is obviously your right. You’re now conducting political campaigns against businesses to make them stop advertising, and get the show taken off the air entirely.

This is why Cars Dot Com and USAA boycotted Hannity — because the losers of this movement decided to start pressuring the advertisers to stop advertising there.

This is what I mean by “constant political campaigns being run against people not actually running for any office.” These are actual political campaign style efforts — with websites, donor buttons, etc. — being run not just during campaign season, and not just against an office-seeker, but 24 hours a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year, against just about anybody.

Note that the fringe actors who do this shit do so to raise money. They’re fringe, and they’re not going to be hired by actual political campaigns, for the most part.

But they have to make money, don’t they?

So they just decided to invent their own political campaign which is not time-limited as ordinary campaigns are, and just buckrake endlessly to get this or that person silenced.

And they’ve had some success.

Even where they don’t succeed outright, they make themselves permanent residents of your mind: Because they’ve taught you to fear them.

This is what I’m objecting to — I understand that there will be politics in politics, but I don’t want fundraising political campaigns constantly running against anyone the left doesn’t like making all of lives, every single day, every single hour, part of and endless and ugly War of All Against All just so some energetic obsessives can make a dime and feel powerful.

April 27, 2017

Our Channel And The YouTube Adpocalypse I THE GREAT WAR

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 26 Apr 2017

Our Patreon: http://patreon.com/thegreatwar
Our Merch Store: https://shop.spreadshirt.net/thegreatwar/

A good explanation how YouTube Ads work by CGP Grey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW0eUrUiyxo

In light of the news surrounding YouTube and their ad policy we got a lot of comments asking how and if all this affects our show and production. We want to make a few things clear and also underline how you can support us.

» HOW CAN I SUPPORT YOUR CHANNEL?
You can support us by sharing our videos with your friends and spreading the word about our work.You can also support us financially on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/thegreatwar

You can also buy our merchandise in our online shop: http://shop.spreadshirt.de/thegreatwar/

Patreon is a platform for creators like us, that enables us to get monthly financial support from the community in exchange for cool perks.

April 13, 2017

United Airlines Honest Commercial [Jimmy Kimmel]

Filed under: Business, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on Apr 11, 2017

“No one wanted to volunteer to get off the plane because the next flight wasn’t until 2 p.m. the next day, which is almost a full 24 hours later,” said Bridges, who added that the airline selected which flyers to eject “based on an internal algorithm that weighs in … who was the last to purchase.” Bridges said the unidentified passenger was told he had to leave, but the man refused to do so.

“He said he was a doctor, he had patients he had to see in the morning, he wasn’t going to get off the plane,” Bridges recounted, “and the gate agent was like, ‘You have to get off the plane. If you don’t get off, we’ll call in security.’ And he was like, ‘Fine, call security, I’m not getting off the plane.’”

Bridges said the man wasn’t being violent with security and police officers who responded, but did say he was “kind of [flailing] his arms and trying to keep them away from him and ultimately they had to use the force, as you can see in the video.”

The shocked passengers berated United employees who boarded the plane in the ejected flyers’ place.

Late Monday, United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement apologizing for having to “re-accommodate these customers.”

“Does that look like re-accommodation to you?” Carlson asked. “There’s no mention of the fact that this guy is bloody and unconscious. That’s re-accommodation, according to United Airlines.”
[http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2017/04/10/united-airlines-passenger-describes-moment-unconscious-man-was-dragged-off-plane.html]

April 2, 2017

QotD: Gluttony and nutrition

Filed under: Health, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… in what kind of culinary culture could a product advertise itself, apparently with success, as a Whopper? The answer, of course, is crude and childish. We are almost back to the stage of some of the Stone Age tribes of New Guinea, who, at a feast, eat so much pig meat that they die of acute protein poisoning afterward. Except that we do not have their excuse of living in conditions of food insecurity in which the possibility of feast is very uncommon. Increasingly in our supermarkets it is difficult to find small portions of anything, which is a paradox because more and more of us are living alone and therefore need small portions. But once you have bought more than you need it is tempting to eat it because not to do so seems a waste, though in fact it is just as wasteful, and bad for your health to boot, to eat more than you need or even want as it is to throw it away. We need more self-control in matters of food consumption than ever before, unfortunately just as self-control has been derided as an inherently oppressive or even ridiculous notion.

Not long ago I read a book by Dr. Robert Lustig about the evils of sugar. It was abominably written but came, persuasively enough, to the conclusion that John Yudkin, a professor of nutritional science, came to 40 years ago or more: namely that sugar was the root of all evil (Yudkin’s famous, but also neglected, book had the splendid title Pure, White and Deadly).

Lustig blamed the food companies and government farming subsidies for the epidemic of type 2 diabetes (they are, of course, guilty as charged), but never the people themselves. This is because it is nowadays regarded as proper to blame only the rich and powerful for anything and never “ordinary” people, including the fat: Though where the sins of the rich and powerful come from then becomes a little mysterious unless it is assumed that they are a caste biologically apart from the rest of humanity. However, Lustig does relate the story of a young mother who gave her child a gallon of orange juice a day, with the natural result that the child soon came to resemble a prize pig at Blandings Castle. To explain her strange child-rearing practices the mother told Lustig that the government said that orange juice was good for children, from which she concluded that the more the better. Against stupidity the gods themselves, let alone mere government public health departments, struggle in vain, though in extenuation it must be entered that Linus Pauling, one of the few men ever to win two Nobel Prizes, believed more or less the same thing, and that heroic doses of vitamin C were the path if not quite to immortality, at least to much increased longevity. (I don’t want to sound like an American liberal, but honesty compels me to admit that it will now be very difficult for the fat boy raised on orange juice ever to lose weight, and I doubt that he will ever be slender.)

Theodore Dalrymple, “Gluttons for Punishment”, Taki’s Magazine, 2015-07-25.

March 31, 2017

“You can’t buy my internet data. You can’t buy your internet data. That’s not how this works

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Techdirt, Mike Masnick bravely attempts to tamp down the hysteria over this week’s vote in Congress to kill broadband privacy protections (which, as he notes, hadn’t yet come into effect anyway):

People are rightfully angry and upset about this. The privacy protections were fairly simple, and would have been helpful in stopping truly egregious behavior by some dominant ISPs who have few competitors, and thus little reason to treat people right. But misleading and misinforming people isn’t helpful either.

[…]

But here’s the real problem: you can’t buy Congress’ internet data. You can’t buy my internet data. You can’t buy your internet data. That’s not how this works. It’s a common misconception. We even saw this in Congress four years ago, where Rep. Louis Gohmert went on a smug but totally ignorant rant, asking why Google won’t sell the government all the data it has on people. As we explained at the time, that’s not how it works*. Advertisers aren’t buying your browsing data, and ISPs and other internet companies aren’t selling your data in a neat little package. It doesn’t help anyone to blatantly misrepresent what’s going on.

When ISPs or online services have your data and “sell” it, it doesn’t mean that you can go to, say, AT&T and offer to buy “all of Louis Gohmert’s browsing history.” Instead, what happens is that these companies collect that data for themselves and then sell targeting. That is, when Gohmert goes to visit his favorite publication, that website will cast out to various marketplaces for bids on what ads to show. Thanks to information tracking, it may throw up some demographic and interest data to the marketplace. So, it may say that it has a page being viewed by a male from Texas, who was recently visiting webpages about boardgames and cow farming (to randomly choose some items). Then, from that marketplace, some advertisers’ computerized algorithms will more or less say “well, I’m selling boardgames about cows in Texas, and therefore, this person’s attention is worth 1/10th of a penny more to me than some other company that’s selling boardgames about moose.” And then the webpage will display the ad about cow boardgames. All this happens in a split second, before the page has fully loaded.

At no point does the ad exchange or any of the advertisers know that this is “Louis Gohmert, Congressional Rep.” Nor do they get any other info. They just know that if they are willing to spend the required amount to get the ad shown via the marketplace bidding mechanism, it will show up in front of someone who is somewhat more likely to be interested in the content.

That’s it.

* Amusingly, Rep. Gohmert voted to repeal the privacy protections, which makes no sense if he actually believed what he was saying in that hearing a few years ago…

H/T to Amy Alkon for the link.

On a related note, LifeHacker posted a recommendation for “The Laziest, Cheapest Way to Circumvent Your Snooping ISP“. (Spoiler: it’s Opera). I use Opera, but not exclusively … I also use Brave, Chrome, and Firefox on a daily basis.

February 5, 2017

What a finely crafted Super Bowl ad can convey to different audiences

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

ESR linked to this Audi ad analysis saying, “The author may not have intended it this way, but this brilliant analysis could be part of the continuing “Why Trump won” series. Because eventually people get fed up with the contempt, and they push back.”

The Internet is in the proverbial tizzy about Audi’s “feminist” Super Bowl advertisement, in which the automaker comes out in favor of equal pay for women.

At first blush, the spot seems to be nothing but the usual corporate slacktivism, a feel-good fluff-vertorial making a “brave stand” in support of an issue that was decided long ago. I’m reminded of Joaquin Phoenix’s brilliant portrayal of Commodus in Gladiator, arriving in full armor as soon as he can do so without any risk. “Father, have I missed the battle?” Well, Audi, you’ve missed the war; if there’s a place in the United States where women are actually paid significantly less for doing the same job as men, it’s not evident from what I’m reading.

After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

Let me tell you up front: chances are you won’t like what Audi has to say.

January 15, 2017

Corporate sponsors should have no place at national memorial sites

Filed under: Cancon, Government, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell reacts to the news that corporate logos will be included at the updated Vimy Ridge Centre:

I’m not faulting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr for starting this, but they can and should put a stop to it. The business of getting the private sector to “support” public projects is not new and, generally, the public, including me, approves of it: in almost all cases it is good to have commercial sponsorships … almost all. National memorials are different […]

The Welcome Centre of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France flying the Canadian Red Ensign ( 1868 – 1921 version ). This flag along with The Maple Leaf fly at national memorial as Canada was only using the Red Ensign at the time of the First World War Engagement.

I don’t doubt the generosity or patriotism of Bell Canada or WalMart are anyone else, but a few things have to be sacrosanct, and our national memorials honouring our war dead must be amongst them.

Let is be very clear: it is the visitors’ centre, not the memorial itself that is being rebuilt and I’m guessing that the officials close to the project can see a very big difference between the little visitors’ centre building and the memorial, proper, but I, and many others, do not and will not; If the see even an understated, dignified sign in the visitors’ centre they will likely conclude that a corporation is, now, responsible for the whole monument. From the very first moment one sets foot on the land which France ceded, in perpetuity, to Canada it is “our” place, honouring our war dead and, more broadly, the significance of our contribution to the Great War. It is a small, $10 million, project and I am sure that officials will say that they are only trying to make the best use of their budget so that they can devote more to providing much needed care to veterans by spending less on this little building … and I would, normally, applaud them, but not on this.

January 11, 2017

Colby Cosh boldly speaks out for a tiny minority of Canadians

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Football, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

For some reason, Colby Cosh has decided to drag out Rocinante to defend the rights of Canadian broadcasters to continue substituting the same fricking commercials they play all year during the Super Bowl:

I am here today to speak for the voiceless. To embolden the powerless. To raise awareness of the nation that lives unseen among us. I am referring, of course, to the invisible SimSub race: Canadian Super Bowl viewers who may actually prefer to have Canadian commercials broadcast on TV along with the football game.

For years we have remained in the shadows while opponents of “simultaneous substitution” dominated the conversation. The antis won a great victory in 2015 when our federal broadcast regulator, the CRTC, ruled that the Super Bowl was a unique TV event — one in which the expensive ads on the originating American broadcast were conceptually inseparable from the rest of the show. The Super Bowl ads, the CRTC said, ought not to be obscured by boring, artless commercials for Canadian tire stores and investment accounts.

The first Super Bowl broadcast to be non-simsubbed by CRTC fiat is scheduled for Feb. 5. But Bell Media, which bought the Super Bowl TV rights expecting to be able to show bad Canadian commercials to Canadian viewers, is joining up with other threatened interests to ask the Liberal government for an extreme, last-minute ministerial intervention in favour of another year of simsubbing. I am trying very hard not to describe this as a “Hail Mary pass”, but, well, there is a reason that metaphor is popular. And Hail Mary passes sometimes work.

I am kidding about the existence of a pro-simsub constituency — kind of. The CRTC made its decision partly because everyone agrees that the substituted advertising is always disappointing. It gave the commission the opportunity to do something populist that would reverse its own political reputation as a force-feeder of dismal CanCon, a drearifier of Canadian media.

October 12, 2016

This generation gap thingy is bigger than I thought

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I’m far from a McDonalds fan … I darken their doors less than yearly, although I’ve had a long-running “joke” that I need to have a Big Mac at least once a year, if only to remind me why I don’t eat at McDonalds more often. But is the iconic Big Mac a victim of its own success? Has it stopped being relevant in the fast food world? Colby Cosh investigates:

The Wall Street Journal reports that a big McDonald’s franchise owner did some market research recently and stumbled upon a surprising fact: only one in five Americans of “millennial” age has ever tried a Big Mac. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know what my reaction was to this news: a paroxysm of skeptical eye-rolling.

The Big Mac might easily be described as the single most successful consumer product of the 20th century. Of all the various kinds of sandwiches that the human imagination has conceived since the lifetime of the 4th Earl of Sandwich (peace be upon him), the Big Mac might be the specific sandwich that has been prepared and eaten the most. It has a recipe that children everywhere can recite by heart. How is it possible that an entire generation has collectively skipped it, never thinking it might have some merit?

Well, whether or not I would have imagined it, the reactions I got when I asked around convinced me quickly that it is probably true. (Big surprise: a businessman’s expensively gathered information about his customer base turns out to be more accurate than some jackass’s wild guess.) Dozens of young people immediately told me that they have never tried a Big Mac. Plenty of these sandwich-spurners were careful to specify, all with evident shame, that they do visit McDonald’s often; at least one had worked there. A few correspondents had specific reasons for avoiding the Big Mac, but for the most part, the prevailing attitude toward the item seemed to be apathy, rather than hostility.

[…]

As it happens, I was raised in the boonies, and we would visit McDonald’s just a few times a year. I have to acknowledge that my fondness for Big Macs is a matter of generational and circumstantial happenstance. They are, even though I’ve certainly had a thousand of the things, still attainably glamorous — a dream of childhood now indulged at will.

Fortunately, my inherited cheapness protects me from a nightmare of special-sauce overdose. I can never order a Big Mac without an inner Presbyterian voice — Socrates’ daimon, with my grandfather’s accent — grumbling that this damned thing should really cost about $2. What the Wall Street Journal has me wondering is how long the Big Mac can remain on the menu at all, if it has really been bypassed by progress and fashion in the manner of marmalade or pickled eggs. If I knew my next Big Mac was my last — though any one might be! — I might pay more like $50.

Colby and I are of a similar generational group, but I’d probably top out at $25 for my “very last” Big Mac.

September 19, 2016

QotD: Mad Men

Filed under: Humour, Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Look at Mad Men, the widely acclaimed TV series about Madison Avenue in the ’60s. (It starts back up April 5.) One of the things the show is acclaimed for is its authenticity, which is significant because, if the show really is authentic, then people in the advertising industry back then spent roughly 90% of their time smoking, drinking or having extramarital sex.

If Mad Men really is authentic, it explains much about the TV commercials of my childhood, which, in terms of intellectual content, make the commercials of today look like Citizen Kane. Back then many commercials featured a Male Authority Figure in the form of an actor pretending to be a doctor or scientist. Sometimes, to indicate how authoritative he was, he wore a white lab coat. The Male Authority Figure usually spoke directly to the camera, sometimes using charts or diagrams to explain important scientific facts, such as that certain brands of cigarettes could actually soothe your throat, or that Anacin could stop all three known medical causes of headaches:

1. Electrical bolts inside your head.

2. A big coiled spring inside your head.

3. A hammer pounding inside your head.

Another standard character in those old commercials was the Desperately Insecure Housewife, who was portrayed by an actress in a dress. The Desperately Insecure Housewife always had some hideous inadequacy as a homemaker — her coffee was bitter, her laundry detergent was ineffective against stains, etc. She couldn’t even escape to the bathroom without being lectured on commode sanitation by a tiny man rowing a rowboat around inside her toilet tank.

Even back then, everybody thought these commercials were stupid. But it wasn’t until years later, when I started watching Mad Men, that I realized why they were so stupid: The people making them were so drunk they had the brain functionality of road salt.

Dave Barry, “The Greatest (Party) Generation”, Wall Street Journal, 2015-02-26.

May 21, 2016

“Social media needs social relevance to disguise the narcissism at the center of its appeal”

Filed under: Business, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Daniel Greenfield explains how Facebook got into the business of “curating” your user experience:

Despite the denials, the stories about Facebook’s bias are real. But the bias isn’t there because of the company’s new technology. Facebook is biased because of its reliance on the biased old media.

Facebook’s trending topics wasn’t the automatic system that the company wanted people to think it was. Instead it hired young journalists with new media experience to “curate” its news feed. And plenty of them proved to be biased against conservative news and sources. Meanwhile someone at the top of Facebook’s dysfunctional culture wanted to play up Syria and the Black Lives Matter hate group.

Mark Zuckerberg’s fundamental mistake was recreating the biases and agendas of the old media in a service whose whole reason for existing was to allow users to create their own experience. The big difference between social and search is that social media is supposed to let you be the curator.

But, like Facebook’s trending topics, social curation was another scam. Facebook users don’t really define what they see. It’s defined for them by the company’s agendas. This includes the purely financial. It would be foolish to think that the fortunes that Buzzfeed spends on Facebook advertising don’t impact the placement of its stories by Facebook’s mysterious algorithm. And there is the more complex intersection of politics and branding in an age when business relevance means social relevance.

Twitter piggybacked on the Arab Spring to seem relevant. Facebook has used Black Lives Matter. Social media needs to be associated with political movements to seem more important than it is. Zuckerberg doesn’t want to head up a shinier version of MySpace that was originally set up to rate the attractiveness of Harvard girls. Being socially relevant is better for business. Especially when the business is vapid at its core.

Social media needs social relevance to disguise the narcissism at the center of its appeal.

December 20, 2015

Are you the customer or are you the product?

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Howard Tayler explains why he’d be willing to pay real money to Twitter for the use he gets out of the service and in the process, change from being a product to be resold into an actual customer:

Facebook’s actual plans were far more problematic. At a high level, the plan was to monetize their user base as a product, rather than as customers. This meant selling the product to OTHER customers — advertisers and market research firms, for starters. I don’t mind being advertised to, but in order for the monetization to work, Facebook had to step into our feeds and adjust the content we were seeing.

Facebook became less useful to us, and this loss of utility was hidden much of the time. When we actually noticed it, it was status quo.

Twitter is doing similar things to monetize their user base. The insertion of Promoted Tweets is the most immediately intrusive, but recently they’ve begun mucking with our timelines in order to adjust the content we see.

Look, I get it. These companies are providing an exceptionally valuable communication service to hundreds of millions of users. They deserve to be paid for that. The question is, what’s the best way to pay them? What will make them the most money, while keeping their users not just happy, but loyal?

Twitter’s 2014 revenue was $1.4B. They have over 900 million users, but most of those users do not tweet things. If we assume, conservatively, that there are only 100 million human beings actively using Twitter’s service, they were worth $14 each during 2014. Much of that money was paid in by advertisers.

$14 isn’t much. It’s less than $1.20 per month. I would cheerfully round up, and pay $20 for an annual Twitter membership without batting an eyelash.

For that money I would obviously expect to NOT be monetized further. Don’t market to me, don’t promote Tweets, don’t mess with my feeds. Maybe give me instead some cool tools that let me better manage this awesome communications tool.

If those 100 million users were willing to pay $20/year for “Twitter Prime,” Twitter’s revenues would be $2B. It’s not beyond the pale to further assume that their profit margins would be better, since all the overhead that goes into making a useful advertising engine could be dust-binned. Additionally, Twitter would become far more valuable to its users (who are now CUSTOMERS,) and they’d attract more paying users pretty quickly.

My ISP is Rogers, and I’ve been a customer for more than a decade. I use their web client for my personal email most of the time and it’s part of the services I pay for. At some point, Rogers decided that they needed to take over part of the screen to advertise at me. That was what finally induced me to install AdBlock Plus in all of my web browsers. Had the email been a free service, I wouldn’t have objected, but I was paying real money for it and chose not to be subject to having to put up with animated ads every time I needed to read or write an email message.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress