Monday, April 8, 2019

Pandora's Box — April 8, 2019

Big Tech has gifted us with our own Pandora's box; robots that can identify emotions; accomplishing autonomous driving using only cameras and reinforcement learning; two major U.S. advertising market milestones; standing up to influencers; another competitive move for Walmart; how Facebook's algorithm change affected different verticals; what happens when Instagram steals your handle; a three-year trend in pay-TV subscribership; with 300 streaming services available, one thing sets them apart; Spotify has some competition for paid subscribers; how to stop Google from tracking you; data visualization errors from the experts; leadership lessons from Game of Thrones; and more in the Pandora's Box edition of The Full Monty for the week of April 8, 2019.

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


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Top Story

It took the Roman Empire some hundreds of years to fall; social media is already seeing cracks a decade and a half in.

According to an NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll, the American public isn't too keen on social media companies like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, sizable majorities say these sites do more to divide the country than unite it, and that they spread falsehoods rather than news.

Some of the highlights:
  • Six in 10 Americans say they don’t trust Facebook at all to protect their personal information.
  • Eighty-two percent say social media sites do more to waste people’s time, versus 15% who say they do more to use Americans’ time well.
  • Fifty-five percent believe social media does more to spread lies and falsehoods, versus 31% who say it does more to spread news and information.

Bottom line: if America was giving social media a Yelp review, a majority would give it zero stars.

This is a serious problem. Not just for Big Tech and its own issues with reputation and regulation. But for society.

We've got what amounts to a public utility via multiple platforms (lest we forget, Facebook owns four of them) that have effectively spiraled out of control. In granting netizens the ability to communicate as freely and anonymously as we wish, these platforms have brought out the best and the worst of human nature.

What's more, it's not clear that regulation is going to do anything to rein this in. And the founders themselves don't seem to be able to claw back or control their creations. The end result is that we're left with an imperfect world in which to operate our businesses (nothing new there).

Here's an idea:
Given that this is what we have to work with right now, why not make a commitment to less advertising and more community-building? That is, put fewer resources into competing for what little attention is left out there, and instead create a sense of belonging for your customers.

Put your efforts into retention and relationship building rather than chasing down someone who might not want to hear from you in the first place.

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About this week's image: James Barry created The Birth of Pandora to bring to life the mythological story of the gods' revenge on humans. Prometheus stole fire from heaven, and Zeus took revenge by presenting Pandora to Prometheus' brother Epimetheus. In the painting, the gods are contributing to Pandora's creation, including the three cherubs approaching with the jar. Pandora opened this jar (later translated as a box) she gave to Epimetheus containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world. In modern times the idiom Pandora's box means "Any source of great and unexpected troubles," or "A present which seems valuable but which in reality is a curse."

Artificial Intelligence / Autonomous

The latest in A.I., machine learning, and bots; mobility and autonomous everything.
Aʀᴛɪꜰɪᴄɪᴀʟ Iɴᴛᴇʟʟɪɢᴇɴᴄᴇ / Mᴀᴄʜɪɴᴇ Lᴇᴀʀɴɪɴɢ
  • Researchers at Case Western have developed robots that can identify emotions by analyzing facial expressions in real time with a 98% accuracy rate. (Phys Org) Let's hope they can't recognize fear.
  • Natural language processing (NLP) is one of the most visible forms of A.I. (seen most commonly through voice assistants). Here's why NLP will be huge in 2019. (Venture Beat) It has to do with more than what we already see; there's lots of hidden orchestration that bots are doing at the enterprise level.
  • I mentioned the problem of robocalls in the March 18 edition (with a hilarious video by John Oliver); it turns out that robocalls are getting even worse, using your own and your friends' phone numbers to spam you. (CNN Business)
  • And just last week, I mentioned Google's ethics advisory board. Not so fast: Google has canceled its ethics advisory board amid concerns about the impartiality and ethics of its members. (Vox) Um, maybe select your board members a little more carefully rather than trashing the entire program.
Aᴜᴛᴏɴᴏᴍᴏᴜs / Mᴏʙɪʟɪᴛʏ
  • Lyft is banking on robotaxis to replace high-priced drivers and help turn ride-hailing into a profitable enterprise. Don't count on it. (Axios) In fact, autonomous vehicles will be even more expensive
  • Wayve is a British self-driving car company that claims to have an end-to-end self-driving system that uses standard cameras, no Lidar, no high-resolution maps, all powered by reinforcement learning. (Wayve) This could be interesting.

Communications / Marketing / Business Strategy

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

Sᴛʀᴀᴛᴇɢʏ / Mᴀʀᴋᴇᴛɪɴɢ / Cᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ
Jᴏᴜʀɴᴀʟɪsᴍ / Cᴏᴍᴍᴜɴɪᴄᴀᴛɪᴏɴs / Rᴇᴘᴜᴛᴀᴛɪᴏɴ
  • A small business owner who runs a beach club in the Philippines stood up to "influencers," telling them they couldn't barter their social media posts for a stay. (New York Times) Amen. So-called 'influencers' are often no more than freeloaders.
  • Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, who succeeded Roger Ailes after his ouster amid scandal, says she is focused on communication as a way to rescue the firm's reputation and power through boycotts. (Variety)

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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. 


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

Fᴀᴄᴇʙᴏᴏᴋ / Iɴsᴛᴀɢʀᴀᴍ / WʜᴀᴛsAᴘᴘ
  • After criticism over data leaks, Facebook will stop asking users for their email passwords as a means of verifying some new accounts. (Axios) Smart move.
  • A little over a year ago, Facebook announced changes to its algorithm that would impact publishers. Here's how the algorithm change affected various verticals, according to (Marketing Charts):
    • Hardest hit: Arts & Entertainment
    • 62% decrease for Style & Fashion
    • Politics, news and social issues least affected
    • 61% decrease for Family/Parenting
  • WhatsApp announced it is rolling out a new privacy setting that will help you decide who can add you to groups, preventing spam additions that have been a pain point for many users
  • When your Instagram handle is @SussexRoyal and you haven't used it for years, here's what happens: Instagram reclaims it for Prince Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The original account owner, a 55 year-old football fan, had this to say: "I can tell you that Twitter's gone mental. I used to have four followers and in 24 hours I've gone up to about 198." (BBC) He must be completely barmy now: following the news article, he has over 1,600 followers.


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

  • The Definitive Oral History of TiVo bring us the dark origins of binge-watching. (OneZero)
  • Hulu is analyzing what the commercial experience might look like for binge-watchers. (AdAge) Makes sense. Binge-watchers shouldn't be subjected to the same kind of interruption or repetitive ads as other watchers. This could open up the opportunity for ad experiences that are multi-episodic or mini-stories themselves.
  • The top pay-TV providers in the U.S. — representing close to 95% of the market — have seen their percentage of lost subscribers double year-over-year for three consecutive years. (Leichtman Research) That's not what you'd call a positive trend.
  • There are more than 300 streaming video services available to consumers. With all these services, one feature that sets them apart from each other is original content. (Marketing Charts)
  • As expected, Netflix is raising prices across the board in May. (Variety) Hey, they've gotta find some way to pay for all of that original content.
  • In the March 4 edition, I shared Steven Spielberg's threat to exclude non-theatrical releases from Oscars consideration. Well, the Justice Department has warned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that its potential rule changes limiting the eligibility of Netflix and other streaming services for the Oscars could raise antitrust concerns and violate competition law. (Variety)
  • Apple Music has passed Spotify in paid U.S. subscribers, up to at least 28 million for Spotify’s 26 million. (Wall Street Journal)
  • In 2018, streaming accounted for nearly half of music revenues worldwide. (IFPI)
  • Program of the Week: This week's show is Business Wars from Wondery. This is a show we've highlighted before, but because they keep introducing new 6-part series, it's worth revisiting. The current battle is Hasbro vs. Mattel — something for the kid in all of us.

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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
  • Pinterest and Airbnb are teaming up on a spring and summer travel guide, designed to curate experiences for discovery by travelers. (AdWeek)
  • Waze is using data pacts, beacons, and carpools to win over municipalities that are looking to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and other conundrums. (Venture Beat)

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.
  • The Economist takes data visualization seriously, but that doesn't mean it isn't guilty of a few mistakes now and then. Here are some data visualization errors from their team. (The Economist - Medium)
  • Microsoft, SAP and Adobe announced the expansion of their Open Data Initiative as they look to bring in additional partners. The core principle of the alliance is that the customers own their data and they should be able to get as much value out of it as they can. (TechCrunch)


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    Mental Nourishment

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

    Top image credit: The Birth of Pandora by James Barry, 1804 (ArtUK - Creative Commons)


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