Monday, March 4, 2019

Too Much of a Bad Thing — March 4, 2019

An excess of technology may be negatively impacting us—particularly the younger generation; A.I. made a significant impact to the global economy; scooters are a bad deal; consumers prefer voice ads; should influencers be regulated?; pick your Amazon Day; the secret to Best Buy's success; why Facebook and Google won't change; a consumer revolt against cable is brewing; Spotify is powering more podcast listeners; how seriously your privacy is actually taken; Lyft's IPO and recent financials; Nielsen's move toward a product-driven technology company; charisma, charm, and the ability to persuade; and more in the Too Much of a Bad Thing edition of The Full Monty for the week of March 4, 2019.

Special thanks to colleagues who inspired me with link-worthy stories: Tamsen Webster, Heidi Cohen, Christopher Penn, Michael Rubin, Ann Handley, Mark Schaefer, and Ken Burbary.

The Full Monty makes you smarter faster, by curating essential digital business intelligence every week. Links are below with commentary in italics. Please sign up for our email updates to make sure you don't miss a thing.


Top Story
Artificial Intelligence / Autonomous
Communications / Marketing / Business Strategy
Retail Apocalypse
Privacy / Security / Regulatory
Measurement / Analytics / Data
Mental Nourishment


On March 12, 2019 at 1:00 pm ET / 10 am PT, I'll be giving a webinar for AdWeek in conjunction with Sprinklr titled Is Your Corporate Culture Transformation-Friendly? What's at Stake.
In it, I'll share the elements of a successful digital transformation plan. You’ll find out:
  • The building blocks of strategic transformation
  • Ways to change your culture to prepare for digital transformation
  • How to move digital transformation beyond marketing

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Top Story

Have we taken technology too far?

Smartphones in particular have become an appendage, and in doing so, have created a sort of dependency that we can't seem to shake. It's one thing for generations who didn't grow up with these devices, who have become what we once used to call "digital immigrants." But it's entirely another for the digital natives.

In particular, teens are seeing depression and anxiety as a major problem among their peers. They feel pressure from the usual places: academic performance, appearance, social acceptance. But it's likely that these areas of concern are amplified, thanks to technology — the ubiquity of social media and messaging apps being the prime suspects.

Is it any wonder? A recent story on NPR indicated that emotions can spread like viruses: in particular, anger is contagious online (as are other emotions). When teens, whose brains are not yet fully evolved, feel the lure of technology and addictiveness of social media, combined with their fluctuating emotional states, it's a dangerous combination. And because they might have a harder time creating boundaries or limitations on themselves, they're at a higher risk.

A group of researchers decided to get off of Facebook for four weeks to determine the effects. They discovered four things: (1) people spent less time on technology overall, and more time with friends and family; (2) they were less informed, but also less politically polarized; (3) those who gave up Facebook felt “small but significant improvements in well-being”; (4) those who left Facebook said they planned to spend less time on it after the study concluded.

Perhaps it's time that we reassess our priorities and put our attention where it can do the most good. While we don't have to go to the extreme of giving up technology or Facebook, we should determine just how much of it is good for us.

"Out of moderation a pure happiness springs." 
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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About this week's image: The Glorification of Art and Diligence and the Punishment of Gluttony and Earthly Pleasures by Jeremias van Winghen depicts the dual nature of humanity: virtue and vice. The arts are prominently represented among the virtuous group in the foreground. A gentleman carves a sculpture while behind him another pair of men sketch in red chalk. Vice, on the right hand side of the canvas, is filled with gluttonous individuals consuming alcohol, being lustful, and eating excessive amounts of food.

Artificial Intelligence / Autonomous

The latest in A.I., machine learning, and bots; mobility and autonomous everything.
Aʀᴛɪꜰɪᴄɪᴀʟ Iɴᴛᴇʟʟɪɢᴇɴᴄᴇ / Mᴀᴄʜɪɴᴇ Lᴇᴀʀɴɪɴɢ
  • Robots took on a record number of jobs in U.S., Canada and Mexico last year, according to the Robotic Industries Association. According to the RIA’s data, 35,880 robots were shipped in 2018 to the U.S., Canada and Mexico, up 7 percent from the previous year — and half went to non-automotive companies. (CNBC)
  • A.I. contributed $2 trillion to the global GDP last year, according to a report. The industry could contribute $15.7 trillion to the world economy by the year 2030. (PwC) Who stands to gain the most? China, with its improving technology and momentum-happy economy.
  • A.I. in content marketing: what it is, how to use it, and companies to demo. (Marketing AI Institute) We could all use some practical advice.
  • Microsoft unveiled an A.I. camera at Mobile World Congress. The Azure Kinect is “new intelligent edge device that enables developers to create a wide range of A.I.-powered experiences." (CNBC) Other companies such as Amazon and Google have their sights set on the A.I. camera market as well. A.I. Uses for grab-and-go retail, healthcare, and gaming await.
  • How recommendation algorithms favor conspiracy theories and outrage over fact. (NBC News) The squeaky wheel gets the link?
  • Letting your customers know when they're dealing with bots would be helpful. Then they can decide how to engage. After all, "spam decorated as human interaction is still spam." (Seth's Blog)

Aᴜᴛᴏɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs / Mᴏʙɪʟɪᴛʏ

Communications / Marketing / Business Strategy

Industry developments and trends, including advertising & marketing, journalism, customer experience, content, and influencer relations.

Sᴛʀᴀᴛᴇɢʏ / Mᴀʀᴋᴇᴛɪɴɢ / Cᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ
Jᴏᴜʀɴᴀʟɪsᴍ / Cᴏᴍᴍᴜɴɪᴄᴀᴛɪᴏɴs / Rᴇᴘᴜᴛᴀᴛɪᴏɴ
  • Given the debacle at the Fyre Festival and the usual blatant disregard for FTC guidelines, is it time to regulate social media influencers? (Mark Schaefer) My take: no, because enforcement is nigh impossible; brands need to step up and ensure the influencers they're working with aren't being duplicitous.
  • Today's influencer economy can be shared by a Victorian-era economic theory. In the 1899 book Theory of the Leisure Class, the author writes: “The motive is emulation—the stimulus of an invidious comparison which prompts us to outdo those with whom we are in the habit of classing ourselves.” (Quartz) TL;DR — even those in the 19th century wanted to keep up with the Joneses.
  • Whether you're an employee or a manager, here are seven communications skills you need in the workplace. (Fast Company)
  • How to build a crisis-ready communications team before you need them. (Agility PR) I did a fair bit of crisis work in my corporate days, and speak on the subject. LMK if you'd like to chat.

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Retail Apocalypse

Humans are a transactional species, and the practice — if not the very notion of what retail is  is undergoing a historical metamorphosis. 
  • Amazon is planning to open dozens of grocery stores at a lower price point than its subsidiary Whole Foods in cities across the country. (WSJ) The grocery wars are heating up, and it isn't yet clear whether this will cannibalize Whole Foods.
  • More than half of U.S. households will be Amazon Prime members by the end of 2019. (eMarketer) New membership is driven by expanding Prime categories such as grocery, apparel, and media.
  • Prime members can pick an Amazon Day — a single day of the week when all of their Amazon packages are delivered. (CNET) A clever play by Amazon — predictability, and a lower chance of package theft — that will help reduce shipping costs. The question is whether logistics will make this possible
  • More than 300 store closures were announced in one day by J.C. Penney, Victoria's Secret, and Gap. (Business Insider)
  • J.C. Penney pulled the plug on its subscription service. (Reuters) I hope you'll join me in shock when I say, "J.C. Penney had a subscription service?"
  • While other retailers have struggled against Amazon, Best Buy has managed not only to stay afloat, but to thrive. How? (CNN Business) Best Buy has focused on customer services (like in-home tech support) to boost sales, and is matching prices fulfilling online orders at stores

If you haven’t taken a moment to recommend The Full Monty in the past month, please find a couple of minutes. Three effective tactics (do one, two or all three):
1. Share the URL with a group of your friends at work, a community of practice that is relevant, on Slack, a Facebook Group, etc. with a recommendation.
2. Write a review on your blog, LinkedIn or in your column.
3. Tweet a recommendation. You could try this one or create your own.


News to know about relevant social media and technology platforms that may affect your business.

Fᴀᴄᴇʙᴏᴏᴋ / Iɴsᴛᴀɢʀᴀᴍ / WʜᴀᴛsAᴘᴘ
  • Without a doubt, the must-read of last week was Casey Newton's widely circulated piece on The Secret Lives of Facebook Moderators in America. Facebook relies on third party contractors, sparing the sensibilities and psyches of its own employees. (The Verge) My take: if you've created the conditions that allow the basest instincts of humanity to surface, you should do your own dirty work.
  • Facebook has rolled out a new feature across the globe that enables users to combine Stories with events. (AdWeek)
  • Facebook is offering a Fan Subscriptions feature, but wants a 30% commission, compared to Patreon's 5%. (TechCrunch) You would think that with Facebook's size and profit margin, they'd undercut Patreon, not make a blatantly greedy grab for six times Patreon's fee.
  • eMarketer has raised its outlook on Twitter, estimating that its U.S. ad revenues will grow 22.8% between December 2018 and December 2020 to $1.62 billion.What's driving it? Having seen increased spending in the 2018 midterm elections, they predict that the 2020 elections will have a similar impact. (eMarketer)
  • Twitter confirmed that it is working on a Hide Tweet feature. It functions as an alternative to muting or blocking a user, while still offering some control over a conversation. (TechCrunch)
  • Users can apply to a Beta test group to preview new features coming to Twitter. (Social Media Today)


The latest in the world of streaming video, audio, and the advertising, pricing and bundling models related to them.


  • New podcast listener growth is happening, thanks to Spotify. (Panoply)
  • Apple Podcasts issued a new rule last week: that podcast creators should refrain from using episode numbers in their shows. They later clarified, saying that creators should ideally use the iOS season and episode tagging features. (Apple Insider)
  • Pandora launched Pandora Stories, which will allow artists to intersperse spoken tracks with their music almost like an annotation. It will appeal to creators who wish to tell music-driven stories, made possible because the feature provides access to Pandora’s catalog of fully licensed songs to use in Stories. (TechCrunch) This is an interesting and smart play to leverage their music in the quest for more podcast relevance.
  • Dipsea has raised $5.5 million for its app that features short-form erotic stories. (TechCrunch) Quick — someone give me $5.5 million and I'll read Penthouse Forum into a microphone.
  • Program of the Week: The featured show is Should This Exist? hosted by Caterina Fake, who invites the creators of radical new technologies to set aside their business plan, and think through the human side

If you're not already, please subscribe to The Full Monty podcast, 7 minutes of weekly business commentary, many times with a historical or literary twist. It's like Paul Harvey for business. New episodes every Wednesday.

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Privacy / Security / Regulatory

Business disruptions in the legal, regulatory, and computer security fields, from hacking to the on-demand economy and more.

Pʀɪᴠᴀᴄʏ / Sᴇᴄᴜʀɪᴛʏ / Hᴀᴄᴋɪɴɢ
Rᴇɢᴜʟᴀᴛᴏʀʏ / Oɴ-Dᴇᴍᴀɴᴅ Eᴄᴏɴᴏᴍʏ
  • Ride hailing company Lyft filed for its IPO, showing a 39 percent market share versus Uber in the U.S. (CNBC) While it lost $911 million last year, one thing to note is the cash burn as a percent of revenue: the three-year trend is going in the right direction.
    • Year / Revenue / Cash burned / Cash burn as % of revenue
    • 2016 / $343.3 million / -$682.8 million / 199%
    • 2017 / $1.1 billion / -$688.3 million / 63%
    • 2018 / $2.2 billion / -$911.3 million / 41%
  • Both Lyft and Uber are considering giving pre-IPO stock to some of their earliest drivers. (Marketplace)


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.


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    Mental Nourishment

    Other links to help you reflect, improve, or simply learn something new.

    Top image creditThe glorification of art and diligence and the punishment of gluttony and earthly pleasure by Jeremias van Winghe (Attr.), c.1580-1600 (Wikimedia Commons - public domain)


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