Murdoch to Zuckerberg: Hey Buddy, Can You Spare Some Change?

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Money Quote January 23, 2018

There’s a lot going on in the world (scroll down). But man, the Facebook news is beyond fascinating these days.

Honestly, I really do not set out to write about Facebook every time I sit at my keyboard, but the past few (months, weeks, days) have been riveting, as we watch the most influential company in the media world (yes, that’s you Facebook) attempt to think its way through what has to be its most difficult of transitions: From adolescent King of the Valley to adult Citizen of the World. This past few days have been particularly trying, with Rupert Murdoch asking for a handout (really!), multiple press outlets eviscerating the company’s approach to decision making, and the Economist — the Economist!!! — doling out management advice. To the news:

Statement of Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman of News Corp, on a Carriage Fee for Trusted Publishers

Hi. My name is Rupert Murdoch. I own a lot of publishing assets. I’m in the gloaming of my influence, and I’ve not got many bullets left to spend. So I’m pointing my gun at… YOU Mark! MQ: “The time has come to consider a different route. If Facebook wants to recognize ‘trusted’ publishers then it should pay those publishers a carriage fee similar to the model adopted by cable companies. The publishers are obviously enhancing the value and integrity of Facebook through their news and content but are not being adequately rewarded for those services. Carriage payments would have a minor impact on Facebook’s profits but a major impact on the prospects for publishers and journalists.”

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Taming the Giants

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Photo by Rami Al-zayat on Unsplash

More people are getting vocal against the dominance of big tech—this is my selection of some of the most thoughtful pieces from the past week.

I’ve raised the questions on societal risks of the dominance of a handful of internet giants from the early days of starting my newsletter. It’s good that it is getting mainstream attention. My friends at The Economist have put together a must-read memo to the bosses of Amazon, Facebook and Google:

You are an industry that embraces acronyms, so let me explain the situation with a new one: “BAADD”. You are thought to be too big, anti-competitive, addictive and destructive to democracy.

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Maybe Facebook Should Abandon the News Feed Altogether.

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By devaluing journalism, Facebook risks abandoning the public square. By becoming a true platform, it could *build* that square.


There was a time, about a decade ago, when for a brief moment I thought Facebook would become the platform underpinning the open internet. Such a platform was desperately needed — the open web was a wonderful but messy place that lacked structure and discipline. Facebook’s young CEO claimed he wanted to make the world more “open and connected,” and for a minute it seemed his company might provide the infrastructure to power a people-driven next generation of the web. I even asked him about the idea — a few times, in fact — during interviews on stage at the Web 2 Summit, an event I used to convene back in the early days of the web boom. At the time, he’d point to Facebook’s “Platform” as an initial response to my queries.

A bit of history. Ten years ago, Facebook announced “Platform,” an audacious attempt to corral the World Wide Web’s open, messy nature and funnel developer (and startup) energies into the Facebook universe. The move shook the startup world — most of which were focused on creating independent web sites. But after Facebook’s announcement, every company got busy developing a “Facebook Platform strategy.” Countless hours (and dollars) were expended by firms large and small, all attempting to create their own version of themselves in Facebook’s white and blue walled garden.

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When Fake Becomes the Benchmark for True

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Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

Our faith in the process of science is damaged, and it could be replaced by something worse

In a desperate attempt to curb the negative wave of attention it garnered in 2017, Facebook stepped into 2018 announcing its own resolutions. The big one is backing away from news publishers, and favouring content that user’s friends and family put out. Here are a few other alarming headlines from this past week:

Fake news and distrust of science could lead to global epidemics.

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Maybe Bitcoin Can Save Nafta, Facebook, and Walmart?

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Money Quote Friday Jan. 12 2018

Or, how to get three stories into one headline. Happy Friday.

It was a week crammed with worthy stories, so here’s a bit of a retrospective, with a dollop of today’s most interesting stuff on top. Enjoy, and have a great weekend (oh, and by the way, the Shift Forum agenda is up. And it’s awesome. More on that in my next column).

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It’s as if they read my piece last Friday! But of course these changes have been in the works for more than a year. Unfortunately, this changes nothing in the ad model, which is the driver of the toxic externalities. MQ: “Thursday’s changes raise questions of whether people may end up seeing more content that reinforces their own ideologies if they end up frequently interacting with posts and videos that reflect the similar views of their friends or family. And bogus news may still spread — if a relative or friend posts a link with an inaccurate news article that is widely commented on, that post will be prominently displayed.” Also: Did Zuck Just Drop Acid?

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Big Money Hits Apple In The Nose

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Money Quote, Jan. 8 2018

AI buys smarter, Tech policy goals, more Facebook, and Google hits CES.

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If 2017 was the year tech got called out, it looks like 2018 is the year it gets punched in the nose, then the gut, and then gets its lunch money stolen. Oh, and kicked while bleeding on the ground. Here’s your first Money Quote of the year. I’m going to try to do about two or three of these a week. And for those of you who read, responded, and recommended my Facebook piece from Friday, thanks. It felt like ten years ago, when folks used to read posts and engage thoughtfully with them again. It kind of swamped my predictions post, so if you’d like to review that (so as to call me out when I’m proven wrong, naturally), head here.

iPhones and Children Are a Toxic Pair, Say Two Big Apple Investors

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Facebook Can’t Be Fixed.

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Dept. of Acid Trips

Facebook’s fundamental problem is not foreign interference, spam bots, trolls, or fame mongers. It’s the company’s core business model, and abandoning it is not an option.

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Mark Zuckerberg has announced his annual “personal challenge,” which in the past has ranged from eating meat he personally kills to learning Mandarin.

This year, his personal challenge isn’t personal at all. It’s all business: He plans to fix Facebook.

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Predictions 2018

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A pivotal year for business and its role in society.

So many predictions from so many smart people these days. When I started doing these posts fifteen years ago, prognostication wasn’t much in the air. But a host of way-smarter-than-me folks are doing it now, and I have to admit I read them all before I sat down to do my own. So in advance, thanks to Fred, to Azeem, to Scott, and Alexis, among many others.

So let’s get into it. Regular readers know that while I think about these predictions in the back of my mind for months, I usually just sit down and write them at one sitting. That’s what happened a year ago, when I predicted that 2017 would see the tech industry lose its charmed status. It certainly did, and nearly everyone is predicting more of the same for 2018. So I won’t focus on the entire industry this year, as much as on specific companies and trends. Here we go….

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Can Facebook Wait This One Out?

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Unless Facebook and its peers take a bath on Wall Street, nothing will really change. Your move, advertisers.


On the very same day that Facebook’s general counsel faced an alarmingly combative set of Congressional hearings, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was presiding over a world-beating earnings call. The hearings ended with a push — Facebook and its colleagues Twitter and Google were given a firm dressing down, but it was mostly practiced theatrics. But Facebook’s earnings were a home run: The company reported its first ever quarter with more than $10 billion (yes, with a ‘b’) in earnings. The Facebook monopoly on our attention was on raw display, and its stock jumped 12 percent on the news.

During the call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the issues driving the Congressional inquiries. “Our community continues to grow and our business is doing well,” he declared at the very top of Facebook’s earnings release. “But none of that matters if our services are used in ways that don’t bring people closer together. We’re serious about preventing abuse on our platforms. We’re investing so much in security that it will impact our profitability. Protecting our community is more important than maximizing our profits.”

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