As a kid, we always received daily newspapers. We’d get the Worcester Telegram in the morning, the Clinton Daily Item, and the Evening Gazette at night. Of course, much like the rest of America’s newspapers, they’ve gone through massive upheaval with the onset of the digital age. The Item and Evening Gazette don’t really exist anymore. The Telegram seems to be holding on somehow. Interesting side note: I had a girlfriend my junior and senior year of high school whose father was the Managing Editor of the Worcester Telegram. I thought that was so cool! He’s now in the “New England Newspaper Hall of Fame.”
My mom would read through the newspapers each day, and I would only be allowed to read them myself after she was finished with them, but as soon as she put them down, I picked them up and combed through. I’ve always loved the physical newspaper and even now, I receive the Boston Globe and New York Times on Sundays, delivered to my porch.
Back then, I thought of newspapers as actual authorities – balanced reporters doing the hard work to inform Americans of important news and local information. My, how times have changed. Today I harbor no “good old days” notion that the press back then wasn’t somewhat influenced or coerced by large corporations or government entities who needed to steer Joe Smith on Main Street in one direction or another. Of course, it happened back then and there’s plenty of evidence to show it, but today it’s getting really hard to trust any mainstream media outlet.
You should really read The Twitter Files. Dare I say it might be the craziest and most important thing you’ll read in years. I won’t spoil it all for you because it’s a whopper, but in short, government agencies have been strong-arming and partnering with Twitter and other social media outlets to totally shape the content you see on social media platforms to the government’s narrative. Social Media literally took direction from the government on whose accounts to ban, where to slap “fact check” labels, etc. It’s nauseating…and fascinating. If Elon Musk has done one good thing, it’s releasing all this information to longtime journalists who are not beholden to mainstream media anymore. These aren’t cranks either – we’re talking about Matt Taibbi at TK News and Bari Weiss crew at The Free Press – people who in the past wrote for national publications (Rolling Stone, New York Times, etc) and do not pull any punches against Republicans or Democrats. They are truly part of the only real “free press” we have left. You would be well served to subscribe to their Substack news feeds, which you can sample before you buy. I pay for both now after sampling their output for a couple of weeks. They are interesting, talented, serious, funny, they break real news – and they serve YOU.
And The Twitter Files? Good luck finding out about it in any national mainstream publication. They won’t touch it for the most part. They’re just as much in bed with the government. And listen, I’m not some far left or far right nut job, ok? I’m a pretty normal person that is curious, into news and I want it straight, without influence from meddling and shape-shifting entities and organizations. TK News and The Free Press give that to me (and you) far more than the mainstream press and tv news do. I dare you to read TK or Free Press and tell me otherwise! Which isn’t to say that the New York Times or Boston Globe are BAD newspapers. There is plenty of good content in both. But there’s also plenty of content that I now am forcing myself to question. And that’s not good.
Here’s a couple of good recent tidbits from The Free Press’s last newsletter:
? Latest from the Twitter Files: The Twitter Files—internal documents, emails and chats involving the past Twitter regime—continue to show how the U.S. government sought to silence its critics. The latest, from Matt Taibbi, shows that Adam Schiff, a Democrat and the head of the House Intelligence Committee, specifically asked the social network to ban a journalist, Paul Sperry. Even Twitter employees, usually perfectly happy to censor the politically inconvenient, balked at this.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
? Of course this is happening in the U.S.: A new law in California paves the way for doctors to lose their license for “dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.” That sort of behavior is now considered “unprofessional conduct.”
Longtime TGIF readers know my stance, but for all the newcomers: Misinformation and disinformation are real phenomena. But most of the time these days the words are political terms applied to any information a ruling clique doesn’t like. Often, it’s used by progressive journalists who want to see various voices censored on social media.
In the case of Covid, many, many very real facts were considered mis-and-disinfo. Like: The vaccine does not prevent transmission of Covid. That was considered fake news, verboten. Had this law been in place you would have lost your medical license for saying it. In that case, people saw with their own bodies that, although vaccinated, they were very much coughing. But thanks to this new law that muffles doctors, who knows what we won’t know going forward.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
? Vaccine-skeptical, sit this one out: When Damar Hamlin, a football safety for the Buffalo Bills, got hit in the chest and collapsed on the field, who was ready to jump in and opine but the vax skeptics. On Tucker Carlson, there was speculation that Hamlin was suffering vaccine-induced myocarditis.
Obviously there are vaccine side effects that were under-reported and lied about, but that does not mean anyone with an injury or anyone who dies young was killed by Pfizer. Just like progressives see a twinge in their ankles as #longcovid, the conservative vax skeptic movement is a hammer looking for nails.
Nellie Bowles, The Free Press
So…who do you rely on for the truth? Who do you trust?
I tweeted this the other day, it was really a passing thought. The more I let it stew, though, the more I realized there was probably a fuller blog post in there somewhere. So here we are.
Some people are always skeptics. That must be hard, though I bet it can come in awfully handy on occasion. I’m happy to say that I’m not one of them, but I could also describe myself as situationally skeptical. I think this is probably the most normal, but I don’t have any sociological data to support that notion.
I’ve always been skeptical of the reporting that companies spit out, particularly internet companies who rely so heavily on the impression, the click, the interaction or my favorite one, the “active” user.
Some companies claim an active user is someone who has interacted with their site in the past 12 months. Some only count active users if they’ve done something on their site in the last 30 days. That’s a wide swing. Personally, I believe an active user should only be in the 1-3 day range for most sites.
The one I’ve been thinking about lately, as my tweet mentions, is the “unintentional engagement.” This doesn’t exist. But it should.
Have you ever been scrolling through your Twitter feed on your phone, using your finger to swipe down, down, down and you accidentally click instead of swipe, so a photo or video comes up? Of course you have. I think it might happen to me every day.
If you’re looking at the bottom tweet, the auto-play video on top is counted as a view. Wrong.
Well, Twitter is counting that as engagement. It’s a click. If it’s a video and it plays for just 3 seconds, Twitter considers that a video view. Three seconds!
If you were an advertiser paying Twitter, wouldn’t you want your reporting about video views or tweet views to be more true? Can’t they detect when you click and revert back to the main feed right away, like in 1-2 seconds? Of course they can. And they should.
Facebook, same idea. Have you ever been scrolling down your feed and a good friend of yours posts a paragraph or two of deep thoughts and you read it for a bit? Yes, you have. But just above that, a video starts playing on it’s own (that’s called “auto-play”) and it continues to play while you read something else? Facebook considers that an engagement, a video viewed! That you didn’t pay attention to it or see it matters none. They have the same 3 second rule in place, too.
YouTube is a little better. They don’t consider a video viewed for their analytics platform until :30 seconds. That seems much more reasonable to me. Unless your video is 20 minutes long, I guess.
Auto-play seems a little misleading to me, too. For example, the sound never goes on. That’s why you’re seeing a lot of recipe videos with text overlaid on them. Clever. But 3 seconds on auto-play counts as a viewed video? Facebook and Twitter say yes. I say no. There have been recent reports saying that as much as 85% of videos aren’t even heard!
So let’s get back to the main point of the tweet. I think it would be great if the social media sites actually reported “unintentional engagement.” They can absolutely do it. They can track if I click something and immediately head back. Facebook could easily not count an auto-played video as an official view for my brand if people have engaged (commented, liked, shared) with a post right below or above mine. It can be done.
But it won’t. Because they need to show HUGE numbers to advertisers as a carrot to get them to spend and keep spending.
Let me also say this, to play devil’s advocate for a moment. I’ve purchased plenty of video advertising on Facebook at my last couple of jobs. I don’t pay much attention to views or impressions, because those are bullshit measurements.
The success – depending on your goal – is usually in the engagement of it, the clicks to your website and the performance once they get there. I’ve generally been happy with the performance, particularly on Facebook.
I just think social media sites could be a lot more honest about this stuff. Or the IAB should come out with universal standards for engagement metrics. I’m not holding my breath.
I’m not what you would consider adventurous when it comes to investing. The older I get, the better this position seems to be. Do I regret not being more aggressive when I was younger? Maybe, but when it comes to money, I’m all about safety. I will gladly forego the dramatic highs of gain if I don’t have to experience the harrowing lows of major loss. I’m just not built that way. Financially, anyway. In other ways, I am. Topic for another day.
I have a small amount of play money set aside in an individual stock account at Fidelity. This little pile was created as part of a performance bonus I received at Ask.com maybe ten years ago. I parked it in three stocks, one was a renewable energy technology, another was a backend technology provider to telcos and cable/internet providers. The third is a pretty safe Fidelity Mutual Fund. I vowed to sit on them for years. And I did. Until this week.
The mutual fund stays (see: safe). I made a little money on the other two, but times are changing and that calls for me to change, too. I’ve sold them and am now going long on Netflix and Twitter.
Twitter is the riskier gamble, but I keep thinking that when it comes to consumer internet technology, they’re the best value right now. I also think about it practically and how I use it in my own life. If I ever need to read more about a breaking news story or find something quick – I go to Twitter right away. And I ALWAYS find it.
Case in point: the other day my wife and I heard zillions of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks whizzing by our house. Something is up. You’re not going to find it on Facebook or Instagram. Or Snapchat. Or the local newspaper website.
It took me literally 10 seconds to find it on Twitter – a house fire right down the street. Now, this was not a monetized event for Twitter, but I’m banking that more and more of their solution will be soon enough. It’s utility. And utility pays the bills.
Netflix seems obvious. A consumer play that is strong and only getting stronger. They have good competitors, but I believe Netflix is the equivalent to the IPhone – a market share beast. If you look at their plans, they’re not even global yet and their proprietary content is in its infancy. I think there’s a lot of room for growth in their stock. Plus, I loved Bloodline. So awesome.
Look, I’m no expert. But I do look at the trends and the financials and do my best and I think these two are poised for growth. It also helps that the market has been down so much in the last week – great time to buy. So I’m sticking with them (hopefully for 10+ years!) and we’ll see what happens.
As a Marketing guy, I’m also long on the opportunity for video in 2016-2017. The way it’s setting up for social media and digital content, there’s going to be a LOT of opportunity, not to mention fun things to do, for marketers. Whatever my next role is – and I’m actively looking – I hope to make video (both canned and live) a huge part of the plan.
Normally I wouldn’t relay the highlights of any conversation that goes on in a hockey locker room, because, hey, I have kids. And someday they’ll read this. But last night there was a brief and fairly comical discussion about Twitter, the new hottest trend on the internet. You know something has gone mainstream when you put a bunch of 25-40 year old guys together from varying walks of life and Twitter is the topic of conversation. Most of the guys in the locker room were completely dismissive, one went so far as to say that he would enjoy punching anyone in the face who had a Twitter account and used it. Most viewed it as useless.
One guy, though, hit a double when he said it was just something that the press is tripping over themselves about and that’s the reason for its snowballing. To me, it’s a chicken-and-egg thing. Is Twitter so good that it deserves the building hype and seemingly endless press coverage? Or is the press’s insatiable desire to pump something up and then move on to the next thing just rearing its head as usual? I don’t know the answer to this. I DO know that first it was Friendster, then it was MySpace, then it was Facebook and now it’s Twitter. I do believe Twitter has some very strong value and I can make a very good argument for that, although I didn’t in the locker room. That said, I do think there’s some level of over-hype there as well.
Final hockey locker room quote about Twitter: “I don’t give a fuck what you had to eat today.”