Ep 26: FB profits on way to metaverse, Apple & Snapchat up their SMB Maps play & Privacy seems less likely

We discuss the Facebook Metaverse, the non impact of Apple's actions, Apple & Snapchats improved local mapping, and how privacy seems ever further away.

Ep 26: FB profits on way to metaverse, Apple & Snapchat up their SMB Maps play & Privacy seems less likely
Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos / Unsplash

Part 1 Video Starts 00:13: As FB  profits soar, with no impact from Apple’s tacking limits, they want to become the metaverse

Part 2 Video- Starts 6:55: Apple rolls out a new SMB portal: Apple Places & Ssnapchat ups their Maps game

Part 3 Video- Starts 14:50: As Google and Facebook accrue more power, privacy becomes less likely

Reference Articles

  1. Facebook profits soar nearly 50% as online ads rebound
  2. Zuckerberg is turning trillion-dollar Facebook into a ‘metaverse’ company, he tells investors
  3. Get started - Places on Maps - Apple Business Register
  4. Location data is not anonymous. It cannot be made anonymous


Greg: Hello, everybody. Once again, I'm here with David, Mike and I'm Greg and we're, uh, this is the near memo. We're talking about the news of the week as it pertains to local social commerce and other things that we find interesting. And, um, hope everybody's had a good week. Admits the X lighting into new mask mandates.

Yeah. Breakthrough infections and that sort of thing. It's been something I've been paying a lot of attention to as I contemplate going to live events. Um, but, um, but we're here to talk about, uh, a lot of news this week. And Mike, you wanted to talk about some of the earnings news,

Mike: your Facebook, a lot of news.

We're not going to talk about Amazon's earnings, apples.SOCI buying Brandify. Those are all interesting things that we could cover,

Greg: well, we're talking about them we talk about that in the newsletter, the associate item. Okay.

Mike: All right. So, but Facebook struck me, they had a group 56% year over year, biggest growth since spring of 2016.

Uh, the bulk of that growth came from increased ad prices. I think there was a 6% increase in total. Active users are up to 2.9 billion monthly, their average ARPU there, our poo is like $10, uh, 10, $10 and 12 cents, which is up. I mean, it's, you know, very, very solid numbers. The thought that's occurred to me is it's a good thing.

They're not having to fight with apple because otherwise their income might be impacted somehow somewhere in this, but they assure us that Nick. They're gonna, they're going to see the impact of Apple's decisions on their bottom line. I doubt it. The other sort of equally, or perhaps more interesting to me was the bulk of the conversation during this call was about their five years from now.

Mark Zuckerberg says that they will not be known as a social media company. They'll be known as a metric. Company and certainly visions of evil characters floating out of the Marvel universe struck me

Greg: time travel, that sort of

Mike: thing. Yeah, absolutely. Um, but, or sort of the free bowls from, do you remember that?

Or are they tribals from star Trek trip? Not triples. Oh, the video. Whatever, you know,

Greg: what does it, what does it have to do with the members

Mike: and not just the idea that there's this sort of alternative stuff going to go out. And I, I just look at it and I think this is pretty weird stuff, I guess, in some ways we're seeing it, this sort of between zoom and social networking, the idea that we'll be able to be in constant contact visually, but also spatially with people we can hang out together.

Um, It doesn't sound like a great future to me, but it's what Facebook is hanging their head on. So

David: the video that Greg shared a couple of months ago with the like very real, uh, sort of pane of glass. Yeah. Um, I mean, I thought that was an incredibly compelling, but maybe Google's best ever piece of marketing.

So. Maybe instead of fearing apple, he's, he's feeling, uh, fearing, you know, sort of some sort of Hangouts, uh, improvement from Google,

Greg: but yeah. Yeah. I want to see, I want to see that come to pass. That was really,

David: really impressive product. I would actually be enthusiastic to use. Um, Mike, I, I wonder how much of those, uh, blowout earnings Greg were related to a story that I think Greg included in a newsletter about how much retail ad spending is up, uh, right now.

Um, and all of the. You know, because so many, so much of the country, at least in the U S and I think the world is maybe a little bit behind, but getting there, uh, has gone full reopen and, um, think of all of the restaurant chains and movie theaters and everybody else who largely would've paused their spending over the pandemic really opened up the checkbook in quarter two.

So I feel like that may have just benefited from a bra. Uh, economic trend as opposed to, um, any sort of change in the competitive, uh, ad landscape digitally. So,

Greg: right. I think, oh, go

Mike: ahead. I'm just going to say, I think that's true. Certainly last year was an easy comparison in some ways, right? Because there was so little economic activity.

Go ahead. Great.

Greg: Although they, they all did really well. I mean, most of the, most of the year, I mean, the, you know, the thing, the thing that I'm, I'm struck by, um, is. The, the intensifying concentration of power and wealth in these companies. And they, they seem to almost be immune to, um, almost, uh, these kind of economic fluctuations because.

Companies now, you know, more and more money has migrated online. Digital did into digital advertising. And these are the companies that you have to, I mean, apple is in a different category, but these are the companies you have to deal with. You know, certainly there's snap and Twitter, which did well this quarter.

Pinterest didn't do so well. Um, but, but it's, these are the main companies it's Google and Facebook. And so they are going to continue to attract the most. And, and, and, you know, they'll get the, lion's share of the ad dollars unless, or until something dramatic happens.

David: Yeah. There's gotta be some natural ceiling though, in terms of, I mean, if you think of them collectively as the equivalent of the yellow pages, uh, you know, there's, there's some point at which the ad no longer makes sense to place.

And you look for, even if it's multiple other outlets that that are a much better ROI. Um, so I, I think there is a natural ceiling, but you're right. I mean, in terms of the, the sort of default view of marketers everywhere. Yes. You have to play on the major tech companies at this point. And what, what's the latest stats, 75% of the market or something is between Google and Facebook.

Greg: So yeah. I mean, your, your, your point is exactly, exactly right. There is, there is a way in which the ROI, you know, diminishing returns and we're S we saw that in two cases were direct to consumer brands. Started to do more offline activities, opening stores, traditional media, because it's cheaper, right.

Direct mail in particular. And, and I think that concern fueled some resurgence of newspaper ad spending and direct mail and out of home, uh, because people are trying to find cheaper ways to build awareness or, you know, generate, generate, uh, traffic foot traffic or online traffic. But, um, Speaking of foot traffic, David, you were going to talk about, um, apple places, one

David: of your best segways, Greg.

That was very good.

Greg: Apple, apple, and snap. The

David: sample. We saw two, uh, two of the major players this week release, uh, I would say incremental improvements on previous products. Um, apple maps connect is no longer. It's now places on it. Yeah. Um, so I don't know if that means that our friend Andrew schottlander is going to a rebrand or re domain his website, but, um, he did mention, he was expecting to have to purchase more servers, uh, this week.

So, um, so apple, apple, re-introduced their, uh, sort of port the portal through which you claim a location. Um, I actually went through the process, uh, myself as David Mim, Inc. Uh, I found it fairly disappointing from, uh, you know, Apple's typical, uh, excellent user interface standards. I thought, um, it was pretty limited.

First of all, my informant, the information about my business was wrong. It was seven years out of date. Uh, I don't recall ever claiming my, my previous location. Maps connect. So they must have gotten it from an out of date, uh, you know, data provider. Um, I was unable to edit the information as part of the claiming process, uh, which I found really interesting.

Um, and then there was a layer of manual verification, uh, even before, you know, I'd basically had to say my apple account is attached to this location and that was all I could do. Um, so I found it to be fairly unuser friendly. Uh, certainly relative to. GMB, um, and Greg, to your point, uh, it seems to be somewhat limited, uh, in terms of the granularity and types of businesses that they're accepting.

There are only 1600. Business categories. Mike, I think the latest count on GMB is over 4,000. Yeah. It's 4,200 or something like that. Uh, so it's about, only about a third as granular as Google. Um, there are no Sabs, no service area businesses, according to, uh, you know, Greg's, uh, right up in the newsletter this week

Greg: weak.

I couldn't see it. I couldn't see any evidence of that. There hasn't

David: been. I do think that the one, yeah, the advantage that they have over Google is the sort of native Patel, the potential for sort of names. Sharing and texting ability through iMessage, I think is a really compelling thing. And, and, um, if you think about typically how you would share something on an iPhone, there is usually a big visual attached to that, um, to that share.

So I think, uh, visuals have the potential, which will be really important, uh, on apple places, uh, even more so potentially than, uh, than GMB and stuff. So I, that was my sort of initial take on, on apple places. Glad to see they're continuing to or reinvest. Uh, in, in maps and local generally, uh, fairly disappointed in the initial, uh, effort as a small business user.

So, well, just to note

Mike: on the visuals, I, you know, I spoke to a number of large multi, uh, platforms that deal with multi locations. And these platforms all were asked by apple to submit more real original photos for the location. So this is over the last six months. So clearly this is part and parcel of apple.

Ongoing effort to grade. What is the weakest part of their maps product, business listings?

Greg: Well, uh, to that point, Mike, I mean, I didn't go as deep as you did David into it, but I went into it a little bit and I did for, you know, 15 searches for different businesses that I'm aware of in this, in this area, many of them restaurants, but not exclusively restaurants.

And there was this, there were a surprising number that were not. I mean, I was really, these are, these are long established businesses that are local favorites and, uh, just a lot of them weren't in that database, which is really kind of striking to me and strange, you know? Yeah.

David: I think that the, I mean, clearly their data, their current data is out of date.

I think most business owners don't even necessarily think to claim, you know, an apple business, uh, location. Um, I think that that will change as, as consumers, as the consumer side of a business owner starts to interact more and more, um, with iMessage and, and that sort of thing with a larger database. So I think it's, you know, I don't think it's an insurmountable hurdle for apple in the same way that it is for, um, mapping platforms and local search engines with less consumer device market share, essentially.

So, um, I think that they can solve the data quality. Um, at least in the high usage categories like restaurants, hospitality, et cetera. So,

Greg: well there isn't, there is a lot of good data out there, so it's should be solvable. I mean, you know, one of the

Mike: difficulties that apple shoots himself in the foot in this matter in terms of convincing small businesses to participate is the lack of metrics about impact.

And they've gone out of their way to make it difficult to figure out what that is, making call tracking numbers hard to use that kind of thing. They've done that themselves in terms of limiting their visibility in that marketplace. On another side note, I went to Vermont over the weekend in the Hills and the green mountains and, um, and that's context, apple maps is vastly superior functioning as a map product than Google.

Google does not do well when cell service is very spotty. Download the app head of time, which is impossible because it's too big or whatever for the maps at a time. So apple really stood out in this environment on these weird country roads. We didn't have a signal for half hour. It did fine. So, which is interesting, just that.


Greg: I'm sure apple

David: would have done better than the other news item that I was gonna bring up related, uh, which is snap maps. Um, I'm sure that there are not too many, uh, Snapchat videos from rural areas of Vermont that you wanted to maybe check out. But, um, Greg, you, you highlighted there's a, this is sort of a, again, an incremental improvement on, on kind of what they had before.

It does strike me, as I always found, um, Uh, four square to be one of the most useful local search engines as a traveler in a new place. Um, and it strikes me that snap has a, probably a fairly similar, uh, audience of sort of young people in the know, um, where it might actually get me to consume snap as a, as a user.

Although I never see myself actually using it, uh, posting video content, um, you know, as an active user in that manner. So I think it has potential to me as a research tool. Um, potentially for, for folks in that sort of younger, uh, millennial and below demographic,

Greg: young, young millennials and gen Z, I think it's definitely something that they'll use to look, look for local recommendations, you know, entertainment, restaurants and that kind of thing.

Um, you know, both of my kids use the snap map and, uh, I mean, I don't, but, um, that's totally a generational thing, but I think this could be significant for businesses that. Seeking to attract those populations sort of entertainment, venue, venues, and other kinds of businesses. So I think it's something to pay attention to.

Um, and we'll get, get some usage. I mean, I haven't tried it out, so I can't speak to that. You know how good it is, but I th I think it's, it's interesting thing, you know, it's, it's a shame. I mean, four squared is still around, uh, uh, as a consumer or application, but it's really, you know, I don't know. It's probably on life support.

I don't think, I don't know how much. They really invest in it at this point, Dennis Crowley is essentially, um, exiting the organization. So, um, you know, but this,

David: one of the heir apparent maybe more square experiences.

Greg: Yeah, I think, I think so. I think that, I think that analogy is, is, is, is right. Um, so, um, now onto my topic, which is, um, about location also and location data.

So one of the. That was in our short takes list on Wednesday, I think, uh, was from the Schneider Shiner on security, uh, blog. And basically, um, it was about the D D um, the outing of that, uh, Catholic priest who that was widely covered story. Um, we, we also wrote about it. Who, who was tracked down by. Um, a, a, an investigative Catholic sub stack popular publication.

And they said, we looked at location data and saw that the guy was at these gay bars and it's certain private residences. And, uh, we infer from that, that he's gay and it was sort of widely decried as an invasion of privacy and so on and so forth. And the piece that, that, um, that I'm referring to that I linked to is, um, uh, you know, this, the security expert who said.

Uh, location data is not anonymous. It cannot be made anonymous. And that sort of runs contrary to the language that all the location intelligence companies that, you know, traffic literally and figuratively in location data say, which is that you can hash or de identify or anonymize a location. And on that basis, um, you know, a lot of companies have justified.

Capturing location in the background or capturing location with limited user consent or no user consent, and then circulating it for targeting and attribution purposes. And if we take seriously this proposition, that location data can never be anonymized. Um, you know, then we're really into this question of how do you, um, what I sort of have referred to broadly as the ethics of, of, you know, whatever advertising targets.

Uh, digital advertising, where, where, you know, currently we have apple on the one hand, which is asking people to opt in, to targeting and tracking. And then we've got Google, which delayed its implementation of flock this week to give everybody more time and sort of work out some of the bugs and gain more consensus.

And these ID solutions. Sort of perpetuate the notion that you don't really have to get consent from people. If there's sufficient anonymity in the background or their individual identities are protected. And my, my view is now you either have to ask affirmatively for consent. Or you have to tell people what you're doing and you have to make it really easy for them to opt out.

No BS, no dark patterns, no hide the ball. And if you don't do that really you're in an unethical position. That should be a smack down by the FTC. You know, you're, you're really doing something deceptive in the sense of consumer deception. How does all

Mike: this work though? Assuming at the hardware level that the phone companies continue to sell location.

That is very accurate, very detailed and very non-anonymous. Can't be. So if there's a software layer where they can see that you were using this priest was using Grindr, I suppose. Okay. But you're still, even if you, even if you fix the software layer, Be ethical and private, if you wanted it to be, I don't, there's no con there's a little conversation about the role that the cell phone companies are planning and selling the data that matches up

Greg: with this, particularly when one

David: of them, well, actually more, at least at least two of them Verizon and at and T are also media networks.

Greg: Right. So, right. Yes. Well, so I don't know what the current status, I mean, I know there's been a lot of. Discussion about them selling data, capturing data, selling data. I don't know what the current status is with each of the companies. I assume they're still doing it to varying degrees.

Mike: Yes. And this case was, I think T-Mobile that priest was T-Mobile but data from T-Mobile, but I think they're all doing it to some extent.

Greg: Well, I, I mean, I think it has to extend to them. I think they, you, you have to, if they're going to collect that data, I mean, they're collecting it by default, but if they're going to do anything with that data, then they have to be explicit with them. And they have to give you the option to say, no, you can't transfer that data at anybody.

You can use it for your own, whatever internal purposes to make sure your networks are working, but you can't use it for targeting or tracking or you can't sell it and make money off of it without giving me at least the option to say no to you at a minimum. And preferably to say yes to that and, and make it very easy for me to opt out.

You know, I mean that the duplicity or the hypocrisy of the, of the industry has. This the, the, the, the ad choices, uh, kind of, uh, you know, sort of model is like, yes, of course we give people the ability to take control over their data. And, um, you know, then when you click into these banners or these menus, it's, it's just impossible to actually do anything, you know, so people wind up not doing that.

And then they proceed with the fiction that, yes, everybody has total control. It's not true. It has to be made easy. You know, CCPA is a, is a, is a, an example of that. And P nobody's doing it because, because it's just too difficult.

David: Yeah. And to your point, I mean, it's, it's difficult to implement a system for the business, uh, who, who even wants to do, do good, do well, whatever, uh, by doing well.

Um, it's difficult to implement. Consumer tracking, opt out all of those things. And then when you actually put the cookie banner on all of, all of the top providers, there's, it's a multi-tap process. Like we want to allow or not. And it's like, there needs to be to your point, you know, something much, much more along the lines of Apple's like, here's what they want.

Yes or no. Um, and I think that right there, there needs to be a, um, It needs. I, I think that we have to get to a point where there's a binary choice presented for all this stuff, because otherwise it's just too complex for consumers to understand, uh, including savvy customer savvy consumers like myself.

Greg: Well, I mean, back to your Facebook point, um, th th th the savvy consumer. Yes. We're. I, I just, I just.

David: Share a websites in the last 15 years.

Greg: Exactly. But back to your point about Facebook Mike, uh, I mean, you know, apple implemented this whole new regime that everybody was, you know, Ray gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands and wailing about it.

And nothing happened, nothing happened to their revenue at all because they're in this position that they're in. So the, the industry has always been afraid to offer that binary. And make it easy for people to execute because they're scared to death that people will say no to them. So they, so there's this sort of hide the ball thing as on the one hand.

And then they pretend to be, you know, like, oh, everything's above board and we make it easy for people. And Google is the perfect example of that. You know, they they've, they've, they've at once sort of centralized their privacy controls, but at the same time, people don't really understand them and there's still stuff going on that they haven't fully, um, you know, declared and discussed.

But I, I mean, I think I made this point to somebody else this week that I don't think consumers want. You know, I always use these examples, uh, Viagra and Christian singles heads. You know, it's like, if you completely opt out, you get, you get pharmaceutical ads, you get things like Christian singles and gambling ads and people don't want that.

I mean, I think people do actually prefer ads that are quote unquote relevant to their interests. And the key to getting them to agree to that is to educate them and help them understand, and also be trustworthy, you know, say what you're going to do and do what you say you're going to do. And don't do something that you, uh, shouldn't be doing or that you're not really disclosing.

And then we can have some meeting in the middle of all of this stuff, but it's, I think we're very far away from that

David: personas. Right. I have a personal side and yeah. My job or your are our jobs or whatever. And like, I guess I don't, I don't mind the banner ads and the retargeting and that sort of thing from, from companies that are targeting me in my professional role. Right. I don't really care if I see an ad from LinkedIn sales navigator or something.

Um, I do actually have a problem. If, if you know, some golf brand is targeting me or whatever, like that actually does feel invasive, it feels far less invasive to me in a, in a business context for whatever reason.

Greg: So that's very interesting because really there's nothing different going on there. It's just, you're less worried about people knowing who you are as a, as a business person than you are as a, as a, what do you feel the same way?

Mike: I find all ads annoying. I ignore them. I prefer not to have any more.

Greg: So Christian singles are

Mike: brilliant equally. Yeah. I don't think there's any dirt scene. Christian signals and biography

Greg: Christian singles used by Agra. So that kind of works. Well, maybe.

Mike: I don't know. I just, I look, I mean, it's like, you know, Ha having a lot of followers on Twitter.

I avoided ads on Twitter for years. I was just about a year ago. They started sticking them in my feed and it's very annoying. It's like, you know, how fast can I get by them is really what it comes down to it.

Greg: Well, you know, I, I, I don't like ads either philosophically and I pay for all the streaming services I can without ads, I pay the premium to get rid of the ads, but I don't, I don't intrude.

I don't mind all ads. And, you know, I don't, I mean, I took, I said no to the daily beast, uh, you know, apple prompt and I just now have gambling ads. And when I scroll through those articles, it's, it's ugly. I don't like it. You know, I'd rather have an ad for Hawaii or for, you know, uh, solar panels or whatever, you know,

Mike: last month purchases,

Greg: whatever exactly.

Well, that's, that's a problem. That's a different problem. It's like the, the inability to identify when, you know, you've already bought something that's true. Even like

Mike: at Amazon, when you actually buy the damn thing, that's still getting follow up. Well, that's you might like this product that just like the product you just bought.

Greg: Yeah. Yeah. That's that's I mean, you know, marketers would tell you that's about, you know, cookies and frequency, capping and personal identity. You know, they want your data so that they can not show you those. You know, which, which we would all, I think I get, I guess, regard as a service. All right. So once again, we come to the end of another satisfying near memo episode.

And thanks everybody for watching. Any final words for

David: you guys for watching. Thanks for listening. We'll see you around the Metro.

Greg: Yes indeed. Where there are different versions about the evil versions of us exists? No,

Mike: we'll, we'll actually get a glimpse of David's private version in the metaphor. Right.

Greg: All right. Okay.