Archive for May, 2009

Why Facebook will be a HUGE business…

Late last year one of my predictions for 2009 was that Facebook would go public, sparking a mini-rally in the markets. Yet a lot of what I read about in the press lately is all about the company’s struggles – having trouble raising money at the valuation they want, having trouble hiring the workers they want, having trouble generating significant ad revenue.

To which I say, bullshit.

Seriously, you’d think the company was on the brink of failure, as opposed to being within 12-18 months, tops, of scoring the biggest Internet IPO since Google (And hell, I like my job just fine, but if you want to toss me a bunch of those pre-IPO options, Mr. Zuckerberg, I’m ready to chat)

I could go into all sorts of detailed analysis why I remain a committed bull on Facebook’s prospects, but all I need to do is show off a very simple demonstration.

Here are the sidebar ads I recently received on Facebook:



Damn, Facebook. Are you reading my diary, or what? The next thing you know they’ll be sending me an ad for McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish!

Now my assumption is the wedding ads are due to my recently updated ‘engaged’ status, and as for the hair restoration one, maybe it’s just the thirtysomething-year-old male demo.

But however they’re doing it, there’s no question Facebook has a friggin’ treasure trove of data on what their users like, what they need, what they do, who they hang out with etc. etc., and marketers should be able to use that information to their advantage.

People in the online marketing space have for years been talking about using the power of the Internet to effectively target specific users with relevant ads, but while there’s been some progress made on that front (search advertising is, after all, the holy grail of targeted advertising), no one company has been able to assemble the kind of information on its users like Facebook has.

The only real question is how much Facebook can get away with using. Personally, I think it’s great being served up relevant ads and as long as they don’t pass on personally identifiable information, I’m fine with it, but I know a lot of others find it all creepy and scream about invasion of piracy whenever Facebook tries to do something innovative with their data to make some money

But the privacy worrywarts should at least be comforted by the fact they certainly don’t always get it right. I pressed refresh and this was one of the ads that came up:

Not very relevant, unless, of course, Facebook has somehow figured out how to see into the future!! Perhaps they’ve scanned all my data and decided through some sort of complex scientific/actuarial data mining analysis that I’m a ripe target for breast cancer (men can get it you know!) Is it time for a mammogram????

Newspaper bailout? Please no … but we do need The Watchmen

What a shock. A reporter (fearing for his own job, perhaps?) asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs if the potential imminent closure of the venerable Boston Globe calls for yet another government bailout, this time to save the flailing newspaper industry.

Gibbs was sympathetic to the plight of the industry but at best non-committal with his answer. Yet Clusterstock writer Joe Wiesenthal seems to think such a bailout is coming (although not in time to save the Globe), and that the Obama administration and Congress will justify such largess by carping “about how the lack of a thriving fourth estate posed (sic) ‘systemic risk’ to democracy.”

I don’t think Wiesenthal is right. The public appetite for more bailouts is basically nil, and if the auto industry is now getting the stiff arm from Congress then I can’t see how newspapers are going to be able to feed in any significant way at the public trough. The Obama administration has already rejected calls from house Speaker Nancy Pelosi asking for looser antitrust restrictions created under the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970.

However, I’ve also seen our government do some stupid and surprising things over the past year, and it did after all once create a Newspaper Preservation Act, so perhaps we will see government intervention in the newspaper industry.

And make no mistake, a widespread newspaper bailout would be a stupid thing to do. No one under the age of 50 wants to read newspapers anymore. So what? Most of these people haven’t stopped staying up to date on current events, but are finding the news – at least the news they want – through other means, such as our beloved Internet and the emerging blogosphere.

As a former journalist, trained at one of our nation’s finest J-schools, I want to be sympathetic to the cry and hue I hear everyday from folks in the industry. But media companies should have to deal with the same technological creative destruction forces that numerous other industries have been forced to confront.

The newspaper industry will have to find a way to stay relevant amid emerging technological (perhaps the new large-screen Kindle will offer one answer) and societal changes, or die the slow death it deserves. I am confident a market will always exist – or at least eventually reemerge – for people who know how to effectively create and/or edit content.

However, I have one important caveat here. There is one function that newspapers perform that I do think is vital to our democratic society: Investigative journalism. I cannot begin to enumerate all of the political and business scandals that would likely never have seen the light of day had it not been for the fine investigative work funded by the newspaper industry.

Indeed, much of that investigative work is already disappearing as the industry adjusts to the new economic realities by paring their operations to the bone. Whether newspapers survive or not, the days are already numbered when editors would allow their best investigative journalists to go off the grid for months at a time pursuing a potential scoop that could net the publication a bunch of Pulitzer prizes.

Other media – like magazines and television – have occasionally shed some light on some very dark corners of American history, and certainly some in blogland would pick up the muckraking mantle of the newspaper industry, but it is possible that the private market will no longer be interested in supporting the important investigative work the newspaper industry has historically done.

If the newspaper industry does not survive, and no other privately funded source emerges to effectively replace the investigative work it once did, then the government should step in to create and fund an investigative agency that would perform that function.

A group of Watchmen, if you will (and Watchwomen, of course).

I haven’t given much thought about the organization or mandate such an agency would have – although it would have to have an extraordinary amount of independence from government interference and electoral politics, even more than the Fed and the Supreme Court currently enjoy – and certainly we’d need to figure out who would watch the watchmen. It could be that the creation of such an agency may be too complicated or costly for the federal government.

In any case, I can live easily in a world without newspapers. But a world without a functioning investigative journalism system would be scary indeed.

MOFT: Episode 14 (The soon-to-be Mrs. Deadman)

Sorry for my extended absence the last couple of weeks, but the excuse is a good one: I’m engaged!!

So as much as I may have wanted to make the clementine My One Favorite Thing of the Week – I mean, really, it’s got all the health-filled, sunshine-y goodness of the orange but with more sweetness, less seeds and in an adorable little easy-to-peel package to boot – it’s only fitting that I bestow that honor instead on the amazing girl who finally convinced me to give up 35 glorious years of singlehood.

The soon-to-be Mrs. Deadman is sweet, smart, sensitive, silly and sexy (yes, she too comes in an adorable little easy-to-peel package). Even though we’ve been together for just under 2 years, it is tough to imagine my life without her. She has a very caring soul, is incredibly nurturing (you should see her coddle our dog – and to think she wasn’t a dog person when I first met her) and totally trustworthy. Her smile and laugh are infectious. She keeps me entertained and challenged. She supports me in every way imaginable. She gets along beautifully with my family and friends (and as a big bonus, I love her family and friends, too). I really could go on and on about how great my fiancee is (we both hate that word and have stolen her sister’s use of the word beyonce instead), but suffice to say, she is a catch.

Now that I’ve made all the readers sick with my saccharine description, I will begrudgingly admit we’re not perfect. We have our scraps. But that’s OK. We know we love and care about each other a great deal and we start with that premise whenever one of those thankfully rare disagreements arise.

At some point, I will probably discuss my qualms over the institution of marriage in general and how I got past them. But for now I just want to keep this (mostly) romantic!

The bottom line is that I’ve found someone who makes me laugh, who makes me think, who makes me horny, who makes me dinner (on the rare occasion!), who makes me happy … who just makes me better.

And I feel like a very lucky man.


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