Google and Facebook are stepping up their roles in combating terrorism and fake news; Amazon gets primed for Whole Foods; the state of the chatbot economy; using bots to build relationships; email and content marketing are essential to each other; trusted news sites and ads pair well; the three forces at play against brick-and-mortar retailers; report: how propagandists abuse the Internet; Instagram gives influencers tools to better disclose paid relationships; YouTube is heatmapping VR; Netflix has surpassed cable subscriptions; Spotify is more popular than ever and losing money; Airbnb wants more uniformity; Lyft is gaining on Uber; the fallout from the report on the investigation of Uber’s culture; pressure is mounting to measure marketing’s impact and performance; leadership titles matter less than you think; and more in the disruption edition of The Full Monty. Be sure you subscribe to The Full Monty podcast, and don’t forget check out where Brain+Trust is speaking (final section below).
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- Two moves by Google and Facebook — leaders of the online world — indicate their willingness to take responsibility for solving some of the most thorny issues we’re dealing with as a society:
- Following Sunday’s terrorist attack in London, Google announced “We are working with government, law enforcement and civil society groups to tackle the problem of violent extremism online,” specifically through four steps it is taking to fight online terror:
- Devote more engineering resources to apply the most advanced machine learning research to train new “content classifiers” to help more quickly identify and remove extremist and terrorism-related content.
- Greatly increase the number of independent experts in YouTube’s Trusted Flagger program and expand their work with counter-extremist groups to help identify content that may be being used to radicalize and recruit extremists.
- Videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content will appear behind an interstitial warning and will not be monetized, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements.
- Implement the “Redirect Method” more broadly across Europe, harnessing the power of targeted online advertising to reach potential ISIS recruits, and redirect them towards anti-terrorist videos that can change their minds about joining.
- Last week, Facebook solicited feedback on the toughest issues it is grappling with, publishing a list of seven “hard questions” (such as its role amid terrorism, how to define false news versus politicized speech) and an email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — where users can send feedback and suggestions for more questions the company should address.
Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning / Autonomous
The latest in AI, machine learning, bots, and autonomous everything.
- A look at the state of the chatbot economy for those who are new to it, or who simply want to catch their breath amid the advances.
- Google leads in the race for AI domination, having acquired 11 artificial intelligence companies since 2012.
- Facebook is building bots that are becoming more human, gaining the ability to negotiate and plan ahead like people. I may make my teenager talk to Messenger the next time he wants something.
- With the conversational intelligence capabilities available today, it’s finally possible for every brand to take the customer on a digital journey that builds a relationship rather than merely executing a siloed, standard transaction, according to Ben Lamm of Conversable.
- There’s a debate over just how many jobs will be lost to computers in the near term. Here it is in black and white.
- According to Tim Cook, Apple is still in the autonomous car business; however, its focus is on autonomous systems rather than building vehicles.
- The future of self-driving cars, as predicted in 1911, was ahead of its time:
Industry developments and trends, including retail, fake news, customer experience, content marketing, and influencer relations.
- Email is the most powerful marketing channel and content marketing is the most effective way to grow it, but content marketing is also the toughest to execute.
- Marketers are turning less to media agencies for strategic advice in favor of bringing data and media functions in house, putting agencies at risk of “losing their positions as owners of consumer insight” and becoming mere “executioners” of brand campaigns.
- CMOs are finding their voice as they become the corporate face of political resistance amid controversial decisions made by world leaders.
- A NASCAR reporter for USA Today left his job and launched a Patreon account. A lesson on how an employee with a following can turn their job into a potentially sustainable solo gig. And a reminder why you should support us on Patreon.
- There’s a significant benefit to brands partnering with a trusted news source: quite simply, readers notice ads from trusted news sites.
- The New York Times is redesigning its site to match the quality of its journalism. With its business model squarely built around reader revenue, getting users logged in is a critical step toward payment. So the Times is making a “shift from platform to reader.”
THIS WEEK IN RETAIL:
- Of course, the big news last week was Amazon’s surprise offer of $13.7 billion for Whole Foods. It was a bold move in the clash of the titans, as Amazon is trying to become Walmart before Walmart can become Amazon. A reminder that last year’s Jet.com acquisition by Walmart (a Brain+Trust client) is what has propelled the traditional brick-and-mortar retailer into a more competitive position against Amazon.
- Grocery stocks took a massive hit, down between 3% and 18% on the day of the announcement.
- Mark Cuban said the only thing that matters with this news is “Can they get your groceries to you faster than you can get to the store to shop in an Uber/Lyft world?” While it’s certainly a relevant question, it’s not the only question. Whole Foods’ footprint is only about 10% of Walmart’s; and a combination of online-only and online-ordering and pickup are what will serve the market. This acquisition was more of a distribution platform for Amazon.
- Amazon (and Whole Foods, for that matter) is geared more toward higher income families, particularly with respect to Amazon Prime, which has the highest penetration with families that earn more than $112,000 a year.
- And Amazon has filed a patent on technology that prevents people from doing online price comparisons while in its stores. The system would intercept certain URLs, search terms, and other web activity that takes place on its in-store Wi-Fi. That’s right. The brand that helped coin the term ‘showrooming‘ objects to showrooming in its own stores. Quick: look up the price of irony.
- Walmart (a Brain+Trust client)
- On the same day that Amazon announced the Whole Foods bid, Walmart announced it would be buying online men’s clothing company Bonobos for $310 million. Many people tried to draw a sad comparison between the two disparate announcements; in fact, neither have anything to do with the other.
- The founder of Bonobos had this to say: “When we sat down and started talking in the context of Walmart x Jet x Bonobos, my mind exploded.”
- Walmart has created an all-season cantaloupe. As the largest U.S. grocer, the company can use its scale to affect positive change on how food is perceived as well as purchased.
- Gymboree is filing for bankruptcy and closing up to 450 of its nearly 1,300 stores. The retail bloodbath continues.
- Recent data from RetailWire underscores the importance of personalizing the in-store experience, and the need to take a broad view of customer interactions when thinking about working with shoppers in the store.
- Brick and mortar retailers are under attack from three trends: people are staying home to consume entertainment; more brands are selling directly to consumers; and convenience always wins out.
THIS WEEK IN FAKE NEWS:
- Fake news is hardly new. In fact, the ancient Romans knew a thing or two about fake news, particularly under the reign of Augustus Caesar.
- Now, of course, there’s technology involved and things happen at a much quicker pace. Here’s an interactive article on exactly how a piece of fake news got spread around.
- A paper by Trend Micro that studies and explores the techniques and methods used by actors to spread fake news and manipulate public opinion to serve various motives ranging from personal and financial to political. It also discusses the three legs of the fake news triangle: the services that enable them, their appearance on social media sites, and the motivations behind these activities.
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News to know about relevant social, virtual, and augmented reality platforms that may affect your business.
TWITTER / PERISCOPE
FACEBOOK / INSTAGRAM / WHATSAPP
- Facebook is working on plans to let people pay to subscribe to publications through its app by year-end, according to publishers.
- Facebook is turning on features that will make the platform more useful for elected officials. Specifically, the social network is rolling out three new features: constituent badges, constituent insights, and district targeting.
- June 15 marked the 30th birthday of the animated GIF. That’s right, the GIF is a Millennial. Hold your tongue. To celebrate, Facebook turned on GIF functionality in comments. One columnist thinks this will turn Facebook into a big flashing mess.
- A new report found that 93% of ads by the top 50 Instagram celebrities are not disclosed as being ads.
- Instagram has implemented a “paid sponsorship” tag to its posts to make it easier for such busy, overpaid celebrities follow the legal guidelines set out by the FTC. No word on what will happen if they still refuse to comply.
- The main reason Tumblr never worked out is that no one at Yahoo understood it and the platform never figured out a way to turn its large user base into ad dollars.
- At a conference last week, Marissa Mayer, ex-CEO of Yahoo, said “I’m looking forward to going back to Gmail.” She later clarified in a tweet that she’d be using Yahoo Mail too. Convinced? Neither are we.
- Last week, Snap closed at $17, a 4.9% drop from opening price, and below its IPO price, amid investor concerns about future growth and profit.
- Slack is raising $500 million at a $5 billion post-money valuation and has drawn interest from the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Salesforce.
- YouTube introduced heatmaps for VR, letting creators see where viewers look during 360° videos. Surprise: viewers spend 75% of their time looking straight ahead. No mention of a barmaid, though.
The latest in the world of streaming video, audio, and the advertising, pricing and bundling models related to them.
- According to a report by Leichtman Research, Neflix subscriptions have surpassed cable for the first time. Netflix has 50.85 million subscribers compared to 48.61 million for major cable networks. Cable subscriptions are down 4 million in the five years that Netflix subscriptions doubled.
- How YouTube is taking on big TV: to outmaneuver traditional TV — and secure Google’s future — YouTube’s CEO must satisfy homegrown creators, risk-averse advertisers, Hollywood celebs, and a billion-plus viewers.
- Spotify reached 140 million MAUs and grew revenue in 2016 over 50% to $3.3 billion, with a net loss of $601 million. It has guaranteed to pay big music labels more than $2 billion over the next two years.
- Only 50 million of those 140 million Spotify listeners are paying subscribers, leading to that widening loss. Spotify’s fans are loving it to death. It may be time to consider raising the price of a subscription.
- GE remains confident of branded podcasts after 8 million downloads of its two programs.
- Program of the Week: Following the mention of Augustus Caesar in the This Week in Fake News section above, this week’s program is The Life of Caesar(s). It started as a linear, relatively serious podcast about the life of Gaius Julius Caesar, the general, the consul, the dictator. Fairly quickly it morphed into an over-the-top, balls to the wall version of the same podcast, replete with potty mouths, rock songs, and political rants. Do you have a program to recommend? Add yours to our Google Sheet: smonty.co/yourpodcasts.
- And don’t forget to subscribe to our show via email or on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker or SoundCloud.
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Regulatory / Security
Business disruptions in the legal, regulatory, and computer security fields, from hacking to the on-demand economy and more.
SECURITY / HACKING:
- The Russian cyber attack on the U.S. electoral system was far wider than previously acknowledged; in all, Russians hit systems in 39 states.
- The CIA infected Wifi routers from 10 manufacturers, turning them into covert listening posts that allow the agency to monitor and manipulate incoming and outgoing traffic and infect connected devices.
- Airbnb is urging its hosts to make their rentals more like hotels as they cater to more business travelers. And less like B and Bs, one would infer. So, will they be renaming the company Airhotel?
- Lyft is gaining ground in the U.S. as Uber’s woes mount and its market share has dropped from 84% at the beginning of 2017 to 77% in May. Meanwhile, Uber’s $68 billion valuation may be at risk amid its culture crisis.
THIS WEEK IN #DELETEUBER
In last week’s edition, we gave Uber its own section due to the various developments around its leadership and culture. We continue this week with further news.
- As was widely expected, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is taking an unspecified leave of absence and SVP of business Emil Michael has left the company.
- This was of course following the board discussion of Eric Holder’s report on the investigation into company culture and practices:
- As if to demonstrate how deeply diseased the company is, board member David Bonderman made a sexist remark to Arianna Huffington during a company town hall discussing that very report. One really has to wonder…
- An early advisor to Uber has some recommendations as to what it should do next.
- Meanwhile, the company’s top management org chart looks like Swiss cheese, and it’s like a corporate version of Game of Thrones with 14 senior executives being put in charge of the company in Kalanick’s absence.
- Uber faces a fresh probe from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practices, this one focused on data-handling mishaps that have plagued the company in recent years.
- The passenger raped by an Uber driver in India is suing Uber, Kalanick and others in US federal court for defamation and more after it emerges they obtained her medical information.
- Why do companies like Uber get away with bad behavior? In short: growth.
- As far as users are concerned, the app’s efficiency trumps sexual harassment and corporate intrigue.
- The bottom line is, there’s one way to fix what’s wrong at Uber: think twice before using Uber. What are your other options? Lyft? Traditional taxi? You’re aware of the issues at stake and what you’re supporting.
Measurement / Analytics / Data
The future is not in plastics, but in data. Those who know how to measure and analyze it will rule the world.
- Pressure is mounting on marketers to measure marketing’s performance and impact. Currently, an MPM study finds that marketing is doing best at using data in order to improve its effectiveness, but is having less success in using data to make course adjustments and improve operational efficiency.
- It bears repeating this week: Apple is making major changes to its Podcast app that include analytics for podcasters.
Other links to help you reflect, improve, or simply learn something new.
- Shane Parrish writes on Farnam Street: People Don’t Follow Titles: Necessity and Sufficiency in Leadership. “Titles often come with the assumption people will follow you based on a title. Whether by election, appointment, or divine right, at some point you were officially put in the position. But leadership is based on more than just titles… A necessary condition for leadership is trust, which doesn’t come from titles. You have to earn it.”
- Emotional intelligence is another aspect of leadership that inspires. And Elon Musk demonstrated it in this email to employees.
- Leadership typically underestimates or neglects the impact of culture in digital transformation.
- Quick, draw a circle in the air (or on a piece of paper). Where did you start and in what direction did you draw it? The way you draw a circle holds clues about where you come from.
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Upcoming Brain+Trust Speaking Engagements
- Keynote at Health:Further in Nashville, August 23-25, 2017 (Frank and Scott)
- Session at Content Marketing World in Cleveland, September 6, 2017: “How to Build and Maintain an Audience with a Remarkable Newsletter” (Scott)
- Automotive and Transportation Lab at Content Marketing World, September 8, 2017 (Christopher, Tim and Scott)
- Digital Summit Detroit, September 12-13, 2017 (Christopher)
- Content and Commerce Summit in Los Angeles, September 18-201, 2017 (Christopher)
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Top photo credit: Kurt Edblom, Redcrest Grocery and General Store (Flickr)
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