🤔 Should I write about Facebook or something else?
Every week the same dilemma. Every week Facebook is the biggest story.
👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.
In this edition
Those Facebook scandals
Earnings: Alphabet, Microsoft, Spotify
You might not be able to buy that new Apple product just yet
Why is the media obsessed with Facebook
Let's start with the recent revelations: After whistleblower Frances Haugen approached the Wall Street Journal with leaked documents from Facebook and the paper kept the company in the news cycle for weeks with Facebook Files investigations, she says she felt more media should start covering this and gave the files to major media outlets (both US and EU).
That’s how the Facebook Papers have been born (rebranded because other outlets did not want to promote WSJ).
NYT’s Ben Smith wrote the background story of how big media outlets failed to coordinate the release of the documents. I wonder whether that sounds funny to non-journalists because it cracked me up. Every journalist has an ego and, generally, the bigger the outlet they are working for the bigger the ego and greater the competitiveness. Anyway, that’s for another column.
So far, there have been so many stories regarding the Facebook Papers that several news outlets had to write summaries. Here is a good listicle explainer on The Verge, Protocol seems to have links to all the stories and NiemanLab has another list of the “most important drops”.
From a European perspective, the most impactful revelation I have read in Facebook Papers was that the social media giant spends 87% of global budget on classifying misinformation in US, only 13% for the rest of the world, yet North American users make up only 10% of daily active users.
A cynic would say Facebook wants to be everywhere but only really cares about the US where it could face the most legal harm. Maybe not even that. Maybe the company just found out how really hard it is to cater to so many various cultures and languages and just gave up because it would hurt its bottom line.
Somewhere there lies the answer to the obsession question.
Facebook and Google have both become a sort of information gatekeeper, after the press, which makes them No.1 targets for deep scrutiny by the media.
Even though Facebook has become the main target, Google is very much not without blame as the recent revelations from an unsealed antitrust lawsuit against Google show. Here is a good thread on some of them.
Also, Facebook gets more attention as its algorithm functions almost as an editorial decision-maker similar to how a newsroom operates. It chooses what to show from hundreds of posts (stories) to the user (reader).
It’s almost a media story and that’s why it drives so much scrutiny, although I would love to know whether various audiences around the world are not tired of hearing about another Facebook scandal.
📊 Big Tech earnings, round 1. (Amazon and Apple report on Thursday, so look out for those in the next issue of this newsletter)
Microsoft had a very good quarter as well. Microsoft has seen strong revenue performance in its cloud, server, and Office businesses. [The Verge]
Spotify reported decent Q3 earnings, ad revenue jumps 75% with growing podcast slate. The streaming service has 381 million users of which 172 million are Spotify Premium subscribers. [Variety]
😶 The global chip shortage threatens to undercut what could be Apple’s biggest sales quarter in its history. Orders for the company’s newest products - the iPhone 13, iPad mini, ninth-generation iPad, Apple Watch Series 7 and MacBook Pro - won’t be fulfilled until November or December.[Bloomberg]
👀 Adobe announced Photoshop and Illustrator web apps to improve collaboration, make quick edits, and more. The company’s MAX event is still ongoing. [Engadget]
💣 Sequoia Capital just blew up the VC fund model. One of the world's oldest and most successful venture capital firms believes the traditional fund structure has prompted it to sell shares too early (including in companies like Google). One internal analysis of distributions over the past 15 years shows that had Sequoia held onto shares for just 12 additional months, it would have resulted in over $8 billion in added returns. [Axios]
Ben Thompson writes: Sequoia wants to keep long-term positions in companies that have proven business models and are embarking on the decade (or longer) process of improving their products and expanding their markets to the entire world.
🚗 Tesla has become the first carmaker to be valued at over $1 trillion. Company’s shares were boosted by two spots of good news: Hertz announced a record order of 100,000 Teslas for its fleet, and influential Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas recently raised his price target on Tesla to $1,200 a share. [CNN]
👏 Twitter now lets users subscribe to Revue newsletters directly from tweets in the timeline. This is great, though it’s web only, so will truly matter once it’s deployed in the mobile apps. [Revue]
🙃 How Vox built a YouTube channel with 10 million subscribers. This a great explainer of how explainers became a growth driver for Vox’s video ambitions. Plus, staff shares their favorite resources. Very useful. [Vox]
📺 HBO Head Casey Bloys talks ‘Succession,’ DC Comics and international programming. Succession has been renewed for season 4 and at the moment it’s probably the biggest show for HBO. [Bloomberg]
🤔 Dave Chappelle responded to the criticism of his Netflix special “The Closer” in a five-minute video on Instagram. The Economist published a controversial opinion defending Chappelle.
1️⃣ Dynamic paywalls: the latest must-have tool for publishers? Tracking readers via cookies will die out soon. There are other methods that claim to be more effective. [Jessica Vomiero]
2️⃣ Growing a newsletter from scratch via Instagram – one year later, what I learned. Started off by experimenting with Instagram as a new format for squeezing loads of information. The next steps made a difference by trying different formats on various mediums. [David Tvrdon]
3️⃣ The phenomenon of Toutiao. A similar platform as Tiktok but for news has emerged. Shows exceptional performance in China. [Sofiia Padalko]
4️⃣ Retiring media legend warns, ‘stay independent’. It is time to reflect on who is a journalist and what they set out to do. The message is powerful and immediate action is required. [James Breiner]
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😯 Spotify said in Q3 earnings it had 3.2 million podcasts on the platform (up from 2.9 million at the end of Q2). [Spotify]
🎥 Anchor, Spotify’s free podcast hosting platform, added video support. At the moment, you have to apply for a waitlist. [Anchor]
€ A new study from WARC and iHeartMedia reveals a major audio investment gap for marketers. Consumers spend 31% of their media time with audio, yet audio is only allocated 8.8% of media budgets. [Westwood One]
🎙 Global Podcast Listener Forecast 2021–2025. This year, the number of monthly podcast listeners will increase by 15.5% among the 18 countries we break out, for a total of 383.7 million. Next year, listenership will surge again, to 424.2 million. [eMarketer]
🎧 Amazon is building a top-secret live audio app. Codenamed “Project Mic”, it gives anyone the ability to make and distribute a live radio show, complete with music. Listeners will be able to tune in through the app, as well as through Audible, Amazon Music, Twitch, and Alexa-equipped devices. [The Verge]
🤔 Facebook is a good opportunity to market your podcast, but not great for podcast listening. [Tom Webster]
🤓 This is a good podcast interview with Ben Smith. [Longform]
❓📊 Poll: Are you tired of reading about the Facebook scandals?
Last poll results: Which recently announced product are you most excited about? 24% are not excited about anything, 22% excited about Google Pixel 6, 20% excited about 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro.
👀 If you like having your news curated for you - and why wouldn't you? you're reading this - then you might also enjoy What Happened Last Week. Every Monday, journalist Sham Jaff brings you under-reported world news stories, in words that you actually use. As she says herself, it's the newsletter for people who would like to read the New York Times but don't. 👉 You can sign-up here.