Ep 48: Bill to end surveillance ads, SMB use of SaaS tools low but growing, Niantic’s path to the 'metavearth'

Radical bill to ban the use of personal data proposed in response to surveillance capitalism, Interesting survey of new SMBs indicate low but growing use of SAAS tools, Niantic is making AR interesting, profitable and more useful enroute to the metavearth

Ep 48: Bill to end surveillance ads, SMB use of SaaS tools low but growing, Niantic’s path to the 'metavearth'
Photo by Michael Rivera 🇵🇭 / Unsplash

Part 1 Video Starts 0:13 - Radical Bill Seeks to End 'Surveillance Advertising

Part 2 Video- Starts 8:11 - Pandemic Boosted SMB SaaS Tool Adoption

Part 3 Video- Starts 17:29 - Niantic is making AR interesting, profitable and more useful now enroute to the "metavearth".

Reference Articles:

  1. Bill Seeks to End 'Surveillance Advertising’

2. vCita survey: pandemic drove increased adoption of SaaS tools

3. Boosted SMB SaaS Tool Adoption (Greg’s take)

4. How Will the Metavearth Materialize?

Transcript: Ep 48

Greg: Welcome back everybody to Season 2, Episode three of the Near Memo, David, Mike, and Greg, we're all here to talk about search social commerce, the metaverse Bitcoin and everything else under the sun.

Mike: Speaking of Bitcoin. My wife got an email from Visa today that said something to the effect that we're going to make it easy for you to use Coinbase, to buy NFTs and she said “What the fuck is Coinbase and what the fuck are NFTS”. I spent 10 minutes explaining it to her, which she appreciated.

Greg: I think we should turn every episode, a screenshot from every one of these episodes into an NFT and sell it. And that'll be our business model.

Mike: There you go. My wife won’t buy it.

Greg: or maybe not

David: I think Mike, that email from Visa underscores the importance of the need to segment your subscriber lists pretty, pretty dramatically.

Greg: Know your customer, know your customer. Exactly. So Marcus spam, Marcus spam.

Greg: Okay. So we're going to lead off this week with an item that I thought was really interesting. It got some coverage, but not a ton for given, given how.

Significant it could be. I didn't see that much coverage of it. wrote about it on Wednesday. It's the it's the Democrats, which is spans the Senate and the house and issue Cory Booker. I forget the third sponsor, Cory Booker in the Senate and the issue in the house introduced a bill, which I think has very little chance of making it into law, but nonetheless, it's pretty interesting that would ban all personal data use in advertising sector.

Essentially bans targeted advertising in, in, in a display context, the stuff that Facebook is doing, you couldn't, you know, there are protected categories, race, gender, religion, that you explicitly can't use any data to target your ads, but it doesn't allow any personal data to be used in that context.

And perhaps even more significantly in a way, it doesn't allow data brokers. It doesn't allow data to be. Or add targeting purposes. So data brokers, there's a whole ecosystem of them, obviously who sell data that then gets incorporated into campaigns or use to Herrmann campaigns would not be permissible.

It’s a pretty radical bill. And I think just is another manifestation of the anger, frustration. no desire to reign in these big tech companies. Uh, many people think are spying on us. And there was the earlier survey that I wrote about, I think last week from the Washington post, where majority, I forget the percentage, the majority of Americans believe that the companies are quote unquote spying on them.

So sort of the surveillance capitalism idea. Again, I don't think it probably will make it into law, but you know, I'm surprised that the IAB didn't come out and others didn't come out to crying it and saying, it's been about. Everything if this, if this happens, kill jobs destroy small

Mike: businesses, please write, please write.

Whereas the

David: connected commerce council on this one,

Mike: I'm pretty sure I can predict that

Greg: it's best. The defaults, you know, ruined small businesses is the default harms, small businesses, default or reflexive position of company. These giant companies now. So you know, what, what does the world look like? I mean, interestingly search doesn't get impacted by this, right?

So paid search which is kind of chug along an unscathed in this, in this context, but Facebook and others on the display side, certainly social media would be, you know, they'd have to resort to contextual advertising. Uh, effectively. So it would really radically change things if it works and make it,

David: I mean, theoretically the world is shifting towards contextual advertising.

Anyway, given the changes that Apple has made and the theoretical disappearance of the third party cookie, you know, in a couple of years, I think that the, the pendulum is swinging back towards contextual in a way. From data already, but this would radically accelerate that and take it all the way to the line.


Greg: I'm not sure I agree with that. I mean, I do think that contextual has, has sort of come back into focus and there's more sophisticated, contextual advertising, but there's, you know, there's universal ID. Uh, there's, there's a lot of efforts to replace the cookie going on. I, I'm not sure that unless people are compelled to abandon that.

you know, email being the sort of linchpin of the whole universal ID system. I'm not sure that people are going to give up, give up you know, audience-based, people-based targeting.

David: I don't think, yeah. I don't think that advertisers will give that up. I think it's just going to prove to be so much less effective than it is today that contextual will eventually support.

Greg: Well, I mean, it's sort of, it's sort of interesting in, in, in this context place IQ, which was really arguably the original company using location data to toindicate other things like purchase intent or brand affinity or consumer identification. God finally got its exit after, after many other companies in the space either merged or were acquired.

And I asked Duncan McCall. Who's the CEO, you know, did, did apples privacy opt-in privacy moves, you know, accelerate this or trigger this. Or, and he, you know, he said, no, we were always more privacy compliant than others. And it sort of flushed out the bad companies which he didn't name, but there are a couple of them that were sort of doing sleazy things.

but they're, they're now sort of sucked into a larger private equity back data. So you know, I mean, I think, I think all this sort of regulatory action would be congressional action is really accelerating some of these deals as people sort of job people, position

David: Greg, with location data in this bill, would location data be considered personal data that wouldn't be accessible.


Greg: Yep. You couldn't use it well, no, that's not entirely true. I think that, I think that they would allow, I think there's some parameters around it. They would allow looking at. you know, because arguably Google couldn't use locate. I mean, you know, you get into this question about what is, you know, is it marketing?

Is it advertising? because their ads in the local pack, I mean, it gets sort of murky. you could use location sort of broadly defined. You couldn't use precise location, you could use broad location. So presumably at the city level of something. But I, again, I don't think this is going to make it in its current form into law that would be signed.

So we'll see. But it's just, it's, there's just a lot going on legislatively. Some of this stuff we'll get out. We'll see what we'll

Mike: see what happens, my understanding and correct me if I'm wrong. It was, it was written in such a way to apply primarily to. The biggest companies, is that correct? I mean, would it apply, apply to at and T and Verizon?

Yeah. Yeah.

Greg: I mean, it's really, it's really designed, like all these, all these things to restrain the bigger companies from perceived abuse. I believe small businesses would, were explicitly exempted,

Mike:But what about AT&T and Verizon where the abuses occur on such a regular level, but nobody talks about,

Greg: oh yeah.

I mean, presumably it doesn't name companies, it doesn't name names in the bill. So presumably, you know, you could always get into a litigation scenario where, you know, the courts would ultimately be the arbiters of, of the, of the application of this, but presumably it would impact them as well. But let's, let's, let's move on because time is leeching.

and David, you know, speaking of small businesses, there was a SITA or BC to, depending on how you want to pronounce it. Survey that came out. I think it was last week. It originally came out, but I didn't get to it until this week. That was kind of the state of the union for like a lot of these things.

What are small businesses doing? What have they adopted? What did they not. You know, the survey showed that COVID was the driver of technology adoption, SAS tools adoption. So what, what did you find interesting about?

David: Yeah, well, there were a few things were interesting. The first was just the, the, the, the audience that they reached with the survey.

And I gather it must be a relatively solid reflection of the seed, his own customer base, but they had, you know, something like You know, 20,000 respondents of whom 17,000 were businesses that had been around between one and five years. so a lot of businesses, presumably in that one to five-year category who began during the pandemic or at the very sort of the early part of 2020 which I just, I mean, kudos to them for reaching a fairly difficult segment to hit.

So I thought that was, that was the first thing that. sort of jumped out at me. I think that the, the, the, the overall takeaway was that, you know, SAS adoption is increasing dramatically, which I think has been echoed in pretty much every survey that's come out. since COVID they, the seat is like big headline stuff.

96% of these respondents had implemented new tools in the past year. interestingly, the number of tools that businesses were using I thought was fairly small. 60% said they were only using one to three different tools to run their business, which I find a little bit hard to believe. but that should, that should provide some go ahead.


Greg: sorry, I don't mean to interrupt you, but you know, that is that like Gmail, Google workspace and, and office 365, you know, do those qualities.

David: That's a good question. And that's what I was going to say. I find that hard to believe, but that, but directionally that should provide some you know, encouragement for the thrives of the world.

And even increasingly the Shopify as the Squarespaces the squares. you know, they're providing everything in an all-in-one package. We we've heard that as the, sort of the ultimate goal for a lot of these companies for years, in terms of businesses only want to work with one 20 years businesses only want to work with one vendor.

This would seem to suggest that that's already happening. again, I'm a little bit skeptical of that, finding it sort of depends on how they define these tools for sure. the other really, there were two other really interesting points. again, keep in mind, this is businesses that have been around one to five years overwhelmingly in terms of who's answering this, but a tick talk was almost as used as Twitter.

just a couple of percentage points behind and was catching up to Facebook and Instagram in terms of usage and Greg, you, you highlighted a story? Uh, I think it was two or three newsletters. kind of illustrating the same thing that a lot of businesses during the pandemic have been really innovative on Tik Tok in that tick-tock sees small businesses as a really as a really viable segment for them.

in terms of, you know, building advertising and promotional awareness products. So I think that that's, you know, it, as you said sort of in the green room before, before this. It, this kind of study makes it a little bit harder for an antitrust move against Facebook. If there is a nascent social media player, you know, in addition to Twitter, that's capturing some significant market share.

So I think that that was, that was definitely interesting finding for me. and then the last one was, was sort of, they ask about the popularity of communication tools. For small businesses to their customers during the pandemic and email was preferred basically three to one over texting. so they, the question was, what is the best way you've found to communicate with your clients?

Emails were 32% and texts were 10 and a half percent. so that's a really interesting finding you know, kind of cuts again. I mean, I was as a long-time email guy, I of course, was sort of happy to see that. it cuts against the grain of a lot of what we've been hearing about, oh, texting is preferred and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

I think overwhelmingly though that the big takeaway there would be okay. Emails, only a third. Right. And so you really need to adopt a sort of more omni-channel strategy if you're a business, which fixed to the value of, you know, not to, not to insert an unpaid plug, but you know, Aaron likey from lead Ferno has been on this bandwagon for quite a while that you, you have to meet your customer kind of where they.

and so even if your preferred channel as a business is email, that might not be your customer's preferred channel. They might want to DM you on Instagram or GMB or text you or whatever. And so you really need a more comprehensive message messaging strategy than just email,

Mike: but the tools are just now coming up that.

Messenger and SMS and Google my business likely I was trying to do so that a small business can actually handle that as an input. Right. You can't really handle five different messaging platforms

David: more than the one to three tools that most businesses are using. So

Mike: exactly. And the other, the the other side of it too, is I think it depends on where the client is in the funnel, right.

In terms of new income. Uh, I just didn't experiment. Somebody was getting too many bad phone calls. So we, I mean, they were getting a lot of phone calls, but too many of them are unqualified and not good candidates. And so we went to texting and form fill as the two things. We deescalated the big phone number in the upper right.

Two, a little phone number in the bottom left and switched to text. Uh, well, I bleed Ferno actually and form fill and their lead quality has jumped dramatically and their calls dropped by 35%. But the bulk of the calls are now coming from geo located pre-qualified leads via GMB. So in that sense, they are properly qualified because they're calling from in-market, which is what the problem was.

They were getting too many national calls. And so, which is interesting that, you know, they needed to sort of reduce. The incomings to get, be able to better focus on the important ones that were coming in and they chose forms and texts to do that. And

Greg: yeah, I would say you know, the, who knows if this is the verbatim question that the survey included, but the, the question that you mentioned David was since the pandemic, what's the best, the EST way you've found to communicate with your clients.

Now, I think best is. I spell it out just to emphasize the word best. Not because people didn't understand the word, but it's, that may be more a reflection of what you, you, you suggested that this is the business's comfort zone, right. And not necessarily what the customer. And it, or, or best could be most you know, highest efficacy from a lead standpoint, but we don't, we don't know, you know,

Mike: it might be best from a followup sampling that was one 70 customer.

Right. We don't know where it is in that.

Greg: Right. Right. And I think, I think that I think that also, if, if, if, you know, if, if they were to have done this in a focus group context where you could follow up, I think what we would see is if you introduce the idea. Google my business and office 365 and you know, other things that people use every day and perhaps don't think of as SAS tools, we'd probably see a much broader, you know, we'd see a bigger number than the 1, 2, 3.

and then, and then sort of finally to the elusive, all in one platform, I mean, there's some folks that are out there that have been pitching Zoho has been pitching that for a long, long time a decade or, or maybe even, maybe even more than that. But I think that there's resistance to an all-in-one platform, even though people say that.

You know, oh, I'd rather deal with a single integrated tool set than lots of different pieces. Nobody has really done it. Nobody's done one that where the tools are all sort of equally refined and effective. But I, and I also think people, people resist because there are these sort of point solutions that are beloved and adopted and you know, best of breed.

And so it's, there's a kind of. A weird tension in that, you know, people like the idea, but they're not doing it even though these things, you know of in DASA, that's part of in-depth this pitch, you know, all these sort of directory publishers and, and quasi agencies that have been reselling Google Edwards have had, you know, multiple solutions that they've sort of rolled up under some interface.

And they've been pitching that for years and it's, you know, it's been problematic, you know? And so now we turn to Mike Blumenthal for the most exciting. Or a segment of this season two, episode three.

Mike: I don't know if it's the most exciting, but it is the most uplifting or positive, which is not my normal style.

I like to pick the Debbie downer stories of the week.

David: Dystopian, this big tech surveillance state.

Mike: Yeah. Right. So this one was from Mike Boland at street fight. How will the metavearth materialize and a certain, but

Greg: did you spell that? Do you spell that with a meta verse?

Mike: V E R V E R T H V E R T H.

So let's hope that that name does not take on any permanency, horrible name, hard to pronounce and And I, although I suppose it does reflect some of the dystopian possibilities, but what was interesting about the article was not so much about the future and the sort of click bait email lead in that they use about the future, but really what Niantic is doing now.

Uh, one, they have developed this lightship platform, which unlocked the real-world metaphor. Uh, as a development environment for others to use, which I think offers a lot of possibility over the next two to three years, in terms of extracting value from real-world interactions through something to, through your phones.

Greg: It's very smart for those guys to do that, right? Yep. And this is

David: Niantic labs, right? From, from John hankie, the founder of Google, or one of the original creators of Google maps. Right.

Mike: So building this SDK, you know, a software development kit for geo local air experiences is really interesting to me. They also have the sponsorship platform that allows businesses to buy, positioning as point in game way points so that they can create Pokemon hatches at their location.

And what was interesting was that 73% of players deviate from regular walking. Roots sometimes to sponsor locations to achieve in game milestones, 84% interact with commercial locations and 58% transact. And the, they did some real world. They mentioned some real-world stats from SK telecom. Which is in Taiwan, they saw 10.8% boost and loyalty sign-ups during schedule raids of around Pokemon releases at their locations and seven 11.

So a 10.5% revenue lift from in game rates. It stimulated around thousands of locations in Taiwan and Mexico and other regions. So what was interesting about this was mostly it's grounding in what's real now. And what's happening. And I think the antic is interesting because they've taken the base map layer, which is really designed around roads of whether you use apples or Googles and added to it.

This whole layer of geometry. That's very, that's based on where people go and what they see and in that have created a technology, which seems less dystopian than mark Zuckerberg had a verse. Although I suppose one could argue that gamifying a light. Might be equally just dystopian in the end, but it was interesting because it's what's happening today.

Greg: So the study took place in Taiwan. So SK telecom is South Korea, I think. But this you're saying the study was in Taiwan.

Mike: Yes. The, the achieved, the loyalty boost

Greg: was intact. Yeah. And these were all sort of in the context of the Pokemon Go game or

Mike: the sponsorship within the game. Yes. And. Uh, Pokemon characters at the location.

So then they had to come to a location to gain the character and get game points. Well,

Greg: it's, it's, it is fascinating. What they've been, what they've done with location. I mean, hankie obviously is, is his history is in mapping and location and, and the, the early games that they created ingress before Pokemon Go.

And then the, I forget, I forget there was a, there was a, a more informational it wasn't a game per se. Using AR and the real world, it was an informational thing that they created initially before that. So he's, he's, he's very, very steeped in all of this, obviously. And I think that it’s a pretty interesting platform that will get adoption.

The question, and this is certainly much more immediate and potentially mainstream than, than the, than the, you know, totally immersive VR metaverse or metaverse. and, but, but, you know, snap, we talked earlier about snap, right? So snap has, is the most mainstream example of AR that's out there because people are using the filters.

And you know, there are companies using, using snap to create an AR layer on top of some, you know, real world thing, object. And I think that that's, that's pretty interesting. And so it’s kind of incremental. And we'll see it become pretty mainstream and it'll be used as a marketing tool, but it's not the total immersion product that most people are thinking about.

Like the Activision blizzard acquisition by Microsoft, a $70 billion or 75 billion or whatever the number was dollar acquisition. You know, people are pacing, placing big bets on this complete immersion kind of experience. And I think the. Uh, version that you described has more realistic opportunity in both will coexist, but AR is going to be more mainstream, I think.

Mike: Right. And AR is more relevant to the local from my point of view. I mean, I think that there's other, I mean, it just, it, it lends itself to real-world interactions at a local level.

Greg: Sorry, go ahead, Mike. At the

Mike: metaverse doesn't right. It's like, I have very little interest in going to a metaverse cocktail party and interacting with metaverse characters and some ballroom.

This is not, you know, this

Greg: isn't going to happen. There's also like that's the second life model, right? Yeah. So there's also the second life there's you know, so, so I was years ago, I worked at tech TV and we would do these Friday afternoon. Live chat things. And everybody had an avatar and it was just on the computer, you know, and everybody would come into some virtual room that had a background and there were all these sort of floating little avatars and we would text and, you know, there was, there was, I think there was a V a voice component where the moderator and speakers had, you know, had some voice.

Uh, there's that model too, where you

Mike: just change out our background. So it looks like we're at the Oregon beach, but we're really in downtown gritty.

Greg: One of us, one of us truly is at the Oregon beach and it's not me, but me. I mean, I think, I think we, we didn't talk about the, about the meta patent. Uh, I D you know, the patent filings that, that Facebook slash Mehta has be became public and, and what that signifies for.

For advertising in the metaverse. I mean, I think that's pretty interesting as well. Do you want to say anything about that? Well, just

David: trying to stay away from the dystopia big tech survey

Mike: exactly. Out of it was that they would follow your eyes to determine what you were looking at in the metaverse to determine they advertise and they would show you so right.

If we don't, if we don't want to end on a downer, we can't talk about that in too much.

Greg: Yeah, I think it's pretty interesting though. And I think that you know, the, that what we talked about at the beginning, I mean, if these, if these, if, if these privacy rules, you know, become more strict and more prevalent, that will really challenge those kinds of business models, I think, well, it's

Mike: contextual within the metaverse though.

Maybe it's a contextual advertising.

Greg: Is your, is your, are your eye movements personally? Philosophical question one would hope so one

David: would have that. That is very personal. So,

Greg: so, so early on you may or may not remember Yelp and, um a couple other folks I'm blanking on. Who else did, did sort of AR style overlays?

Yelp had a thing called Monaco where you could point the camera at a restaurant down the street and you could see the EPSCoR. And I think, um I think open table did something also along those lines with, with AR and they were just very awkward experiences. Not very helpful, but now, you know, I think it is getting to the point where you can and Google lens envisions this, where you can sort of hold the camera.

At a place and get information about the place. And I think that could be quite useful in certain circumstances, you know, so I think that the AR scenario could be, it could be helpful. but the, the Pokemon go businesses even though there's a lot of money. I think it's not a mainstream use case.

Right. But

Mike: the, the SDK, the software development kit that allows their platform can be developed yet to a broad range of tools offers given their example and their use offers a potential future pathway to get there. And that's interesting.

Greg: Absolutely. So on, on a kind of middlebrow note of interesting, I think we've run out of time.

Uh, we always strive to end on an optimistic note, despite all the, the dystopian forces swirling around us. So everybody have a good weekend, have a good week whenever you're listening to this don't forget to sign up for the newsletter and we'll see you next time.