Yesterday’s essay was on Google’s philosophy of “don’t be evil” – both its origins, and what it says about their decision to give into extortion last week in Australia. The first set of links are follow-ups from that essay.
The rest of the briefing this week is 70% normal, but 30% a little different. I have linked to five different videos – all relevant to the briefing themes in different ways. All five are worth watching for different reasons, but if you have to choose just one, make it the Von Trapp family…
Onto the briefing:
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- Paying for Links: Media companies have been relatively united arguing that Facebook and Google should pay to link to their content. But these same publications had no problem publishing video of the United Flight 328 engine catching fire - without any attribution (let alone payment). Great thread with lots of examples of the hypocrisy.
- Test Run: A few years ago Google turned off their news product in Spain. Some Stanford researchers have looked into the impact on Google in that country. Conclusion: No damage to Google, but “…[reduction of] overall news consumption by about 20% for treatment users, and it reduces page views on publishers other than Google News by 10%”. Turns out linking to news websites is GOOD for news websites. Who knew?
- Treasury Secretary: I don’t think I made this clear enough in yesterday’s essay: The way the law is written the Australian Treasury Secretary has full discretion to decide which companies are and are not covered by the law. And since Google came to the agreement with News Corp last week he has said that he believes he will opt Google out of the other requirements. This is pure “rule by law” rather than “rule of law”.
- Kevin Rudd: The former Australian Prime Minister told The Guardian that Australian politicians are terrified of upsetting Rupert Murdoch.
- Amazon Regulation Avoidance: Reuter’s has summarized internal Amazon documents which shows how the firm got around India’s restrictive regulations on third party and first party selling. Effectively Amazon was able to do what they wanted to do, but had to pay significant sums to a few of India’s richest men in order to comply with the law. Sound familiar?
- Maryland: Meanwhile Maryland wants to just straight-out tax online advertising revenue that takes place within the state. Tech companies are fighting back, but this is still a much better way to do things than what they are trying in Australia.
- Microsoft: Yesterday Microsoft announced they would be working with Europe’s four largest lobbying groups to “mandate payments” for content by “gatekeepers”. Microsoft was once the “evil empire”, but has completely turned around it reputation in the last few years. This seems like a reversal - only this time they are evil with a populist tilt.
- Amazon: The company has announced the purchase of Selz - a Shopify competitor. Last year Amazon created a secret team “Project Santos” to replicate Shopify. If Facebook can do it to Snapchat, why not Amazon to Shopify? Related: YouTube is launching a TikTik copycat and LinkedIn is building an Upwork copycat.
Satirical Advertisements (the new section you have been waiting for)
- Robin Hood ad: It’s a fake satirical ad created by u/haupt91 and shared on r/wallstreetbets, but it’s very very good…
Totally Fixed Where We Are: This family is unbelievably talented. They produced a hilarious parody of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” about being trapped in a COVID lockdown for a year. The same family uploaded a parody of “One Day More” last April. It was also good, but their capabilities have increased dramatically in the last ten months…
Wilkin’s Coffee: From 1957-1961 Wilkin’s Coffee created advertisements with Jim Henson Muppets, where one muppet would kill the other one for not liking the coffee. Wild!
- Mike’s Hard Lemonade: Last week I shared the Zoom meeting video of the lawyer who could not turn off his cat filter. Mike’s Hard jumped on the bandwagon and tried to duplicate the model that Ryan Reynold’s company used to follow-up on the viral Peloton Christmas ad. The Lemonade ad currently has ~5000 views and is unlikely to come anywhere close to the millions achieved by Reynold’s hit. Going viral is HARD - especially if you do not have a celebrity to kick start the distribution. Here is the ad
- Ads on spec: SNL had a short video about a job interview for a creative agency that “works on spec”. Really well done.
- SEO A/B testing: BlindFiveYearOld writes about SEO A/B testing. He identifies a big problem: “within a year I realized there was a very big disconnect between the SEO A/B tests and overall SEO growth. In essence, if you totaled up all of the SEO A/B testing gains that were rolled out it was waymore than actual SEO growth”. He gives some good explanations for why this is, and I agree. But this problem is not just in SEO. It generalizes to ALL A/B testing… Same problems happen on standard CRO work…
- Option Value: The best negotiating give is to offer something the other side values, but then won’t take advantage of. TV advertisers have recently won more favorable terms for ad buy cancellation options. But then they never used them.
- Review Fraud 1: Trust Pilot removed 2.2MM bogus reviews in 2020
- Review Fraud 2: The NYTs has a story of a woman who went to the extreme to smear a family she had a disagreement with. Shows what can be done to influence a reputation on the internet with a little bit of effort… Unlike the Trust Pilot story, no one is working to eliminate the fraud on individual people.
- Superbowl ads: This is an old study that shows Superbowl ads lead to a short term boost in revenue UNLESS a competitor also advertises during the big game.
- Creative: Having a model look away from the camera makes an emotional ad more effective but an “informative ad” less effective. Wake me up when this replicates…
- iHeartMedia: The broadcaster is buying Triton Digital to improve its “audio ad tech and measurement capabilities”. Everyone wants to be the platform for programatic advertising on podcasts
- Roku: The Netflix spin-off is slowly becoming a direct competitor. They purchased Quibi’s content (and email list) and are now making a push into producing their own shows.
- Rock Paper Scissors: A new robot wins 100% of the time (unfortunately not through sophisticated AI, but rather incredibly fast reaction time - it can change its answer to the winning choice faster than the human eye). Here is a video.
- Facial Politics: Facial recognition technology can expose political orientation from facial images with 72% accuracy (vs 55% success from human guesses). This seems like it might be a simple matter of guessing based on demographics, but “accuracy remained high (69%) even when controlling for age, gender, and ethnicity”.
- Biden’s Immigration Plan: Doug Rand has a nice summary of the proposed bill. It would be pretty game changing if it passes.
- Bezos vs Zuck: Dan Rose worked for both. He wrote about the differences working for the two men.
- Equity: A KKR executive is pushing for more equity agreements for more junior employees of industrial companies. This sounds great in theory, but in practice I have found most junior employees (and many senior ones) put no value on stock options. Most do not even exercise the options when they leave. So you it ends up costing you money without incentivizing talent. You are usually better off putting those dollars into traditional income or benefits (most of the time for most people)
- Paul Graham: The founder of YC walks through his entire life and how he made decisions on what he worked on. Incredible that he walked away from Yahoo while he was vesting $3MM/month in equity in order to become a painter. Lots of gems in here.
- Dunbar Number: The old belief was that an individual could only have ~150 people they “knew” at any given time. New mobile phone data says… yep. That is about right…
- Icebergs: “Tip of the Iceberg” refers to the fact that most of an iceberg is hidden under the water. But traditional representations of the giant spike sticking upward into the sky are just wrong. Megan Thompson-Munson made some drawing of what icebergs REALLY look like when floating in the ocean. Then an enterprising software engineer created a program that allows you to draw any shaped iceberg you like and the program will show you how it would float. My six-year old had a lot of fun seeing how bar-belled and “face-shaped” icebergs would position themselves.
- Infohazards: An Infohazard is an idea I have shared in briefings before. It is a new piece of knowledge that makes you worse off. When Norway made everyone’s tax records (and income) searchable in 2001, it did not result in any decrease in income equality, but it DID result in more happiness inequality - rich people became happier and poor people became even more depressed.
Keep it Simple,