Ep 77: Google whines about iMessage, Axios acquired by Cox, Facebook B2B segments

Google whines to get Apple to integrate iMessage with RCS messaging, Axios’ local play gets highlighted in Cox buyout, Facebook B2B segments hold promise for lower cost, easier targeting

Ep 77: Google whines about iMessage, Axios acquired by Cox, Facebook B2B segments
Photo by Ben White / Unsplash

Part 1 Video start 0:13 - Google whines to get Apple to integrate iMessage with RCS messaging

Part 2 Video start 9:07 - Axios’ local play gets highlighted in Cox buyout

Part 3 Video start 19:26 - Facebook B2B segments hold promise for lower cost, easier targeting

Reference Articles:

It’s time for Apple to fix texting

Axios agrees to sell to Cox Enterprises for $525 million

Facebook B2B Segments

Transcript Ep 77:

Greg: And welcome back to the near memo with Mike David and Greg, where we talk about all things, local search, social and commerce. And this week we've got as always exciting discussion for you. So we're going to be talking today about Facebook's B2B segments. Google's “whine campaign” with air quotes, Michael, and.Michael unpack what that is. And I'm going to be talking about Axios local and the Cox acquisition of Axios and what that may mean for local news and local coverage. So why don't we jump into it first with you, Mike, and what did Google do on what is the wine campaign ?

Mike: So Google is on a push to get Apple, to integrate iMessage, their iMessage platform and their messaging apps with Google RCS, which is Google's new messaging platform.

And they are going around to the press getting sort of opinionated articles written at places like the Wall Street Journal. They published 10 reasons why Apple should integrate with them. And, and it's all, it's just BS because firstly. I mean in the big picture for me, these messaging networks are really the true social networks in the United States.

That happens to be iMessage amongst iPhone users, but in the rest of the world it's WeChat in China or WhatsApp, most other places or Facebook messenger in many places. iMessage has a very, very, very small, you know, penetration outside the United States.

So it's Google's complaining, or people are complaining that SMS comes through as green. I mean, Apple Message started out as green and they added blue for their iMessage upgrade. And then all the other vendors switched to blue because they didn't want to be seen as green. They complain that somehow. I mean Google doesn't complain, but the wall street journal complains that this is a trap for teenagers to keep them as customers when they're 50.

Hello. I mean, teenagers are not that stupid. They do it maybe because it's cool. And there's some peer pressure, but it has little to do with iMessage has everything to do with the phone.

And Google has for years screwed their messaging strategy up. They finally partnered up with the major telcos, came out with RCS that the telcos are buying into.

So there's now a coalition of telcos and Google and. Okay, great. They're not getting really incredible traction with it. Why should somebody switch from WeChat in China or WhatsApp someplace else or iMessage in the United States to Google's RCS? Why should Apple, of all people integrate with Google RCS? If they want to integrate with Android, they could release an iMessage app tomorrow, integrate with Android, just fine.

They don't want to, because this is a feature for people who have committed to the Apple ecosystem. So I see Google's campaign as grasping its straws, desperate, weird.

David: It's just hilarious that they expect, or that they, they hope to sway public opinion after screwing up messaging, how at least half a dozen times in the last decade…

Mike: A dozen times,

David: a dozen times, and, and forcing the company that got messaging right from day one to somehow work with them, it's like exactly backwards.

If they, if they really want a global messaging standard. I feel like Apple should be the one that's defining it. Not Google. Cause if Google defines it, who knows it could change in another year.

Mike: well, there's all these issues of security as well. For example, group chats on RCS are not secure where they are on Apple.

And I don't know how you'd even intergrate. So one to one chats in RCS are theoretically secure but the group chats are not, I don't know how you'd even integrate it or why, you know, again, there's no motivation for Apple to do so, other than Google, attempting to shame them and. It doesn't seem like they would be shamed by it.

Greg: Well, so, so teenagers have long preferred the iPhone and that is pretty consistent. You know, the, the, the dominant teenage response is, you know, I have an iPhone. I want the next phone will be an iPhone.

Mike: 87%. I read now.

Greg: Yeah it's pretty high. It's been pretty, it's been pretty consistent and it, it is true that there's a stigma associated with the green bubble.

If you're not sort of in the iMessage, you know, category and FaceTime is a part of that also. I think the, the user experience is somewhat better. If you're chatting with another iPhone user it's faster smoother than, than if you, you know, go out to SMS. I think it's stupid. You know? I mean, I think that, that people, Google is not going to succeed and might as well give it up, just work on getting their own messaging.

Right. And not worry about Apple in this particular case.

David: Yeah. And I would argue that it is, I mean, there is an element of peer pressure. I don't think that that is an, a completely bizarre, but it's

Greg: not limited to talking point, but it's not only about iMessage. Well, okay.

David: So, okay. So there's that element of the peer pressure argument, and I think you're absolutely right about that.

Greg. I would also say that it is a major degradation of user experience to have this. My, my most recent experience was probably 2017. I tried a Sony phone, which is a brilliant phone Android and to have all of my group chat conversations, constantly break, and it would seem like it would just start a new thread.

Every single time around a group message. And to me, that was just Mike, as you said, like that was my core social network and to have con constant frustration using my core social network was a, was a user experience problem much more than it was my friends saying, oh yeah. Why? You know, this is, this you're always green.

Like you really need to switch. It was not, it was not at all related to peer pressure. It was related to, Hey, the messaging experience on Android was just terrible.

Greg: Okay. All right. Now that we've settled that so lets let's what

David: Obviously, this topic was brought up by an Apple fanboy, but I am an Apple user, not an Apple fanboy.

So I feel like we're Greg, you and I are about as neutral third parties as exist out there.

Greg: Although, although I did, I did start out, you know, back when the iPhone was introduced. I started out with Android and I had Android devices for the. How many years, cause I didn't want to switch to at and T cuz I hate at and T so it was like whatever, four or five years I had, I had Android devices and then I switched over the, the iPhone and I wouldn't, I wouldn't go back to an Android device at this point.

No, although

Mike: you guys, I know you, Greg, you have nest or Alexa in your home.

Greg: Well, I have all the, all you have all of 'em.

Mike: So the question I would ask of you is, are you going to let the, are you risk mitigation or spread? Are you going to let the Roomba in now too?

Greg: No. No, definitely. No.

Mike: So you draw the privacy line at the at the Alexa.

Greg: Well, I've never, I've never had a robot vacuum and I, I just I'm I'm I haven't used one, so I don't know what the revelation is, but I'm skeptical just that. About them. I, you know, it's just, it's creepy. And I, I, they're probably not particularly effective. I mean, I just,

Mike: actually, I had, I was an early, I bought into Roomba early.

It was, it found dirt that neither my wife and or I found now, it's not a big surprise for me, but it is a big surprise. It was a big surprise to my wife. And, but in the early ones, it took longer to clean them than it did to let 'em run. Right. Cuz. Take the stuff outta the brush take 'em apart, take 'em apart.

And then I got mine wet. Somehow I made my sink overflow to stop work. I never replaced it. But then again, I've never got a nest doorbell or a, what, what is the Amazon? The ring

David: ring doorbell ring doorbell.

Greg: So I have a, I have a ring two ring stick up, cam cams, one of a sort of a, a outside our bedroom.

We have a. Access area there. And then and then the front door and, you know, they're useful. I mean, you can see who's coming and going. You can talk to people through 'em, you know, voice of God kind of thing, startle people at the front door. You know, it's useful, but I'm not, I, I would never, I would never I think all this stuff is really is, is hackable.

And if your whole whole house is networked, you know, then that becomes problematic. You you're, you're trying to bring this conversation about Roomba in through the back door here, Mike, the , but I'm not, I'm not

Mike: sure. I thought it . I thought it was just quick coverage

Greg: of it in, in indoor mapping, indoor mapping, which is kind of a fascinating thing and could be useful, but we all know that there, the privacy issue is a pretty significant one.

So let's, let's talk about AAL and the, a Axios acquisition. So Axios is a bit of an inspiration for. Site near media a little bit. It's not, we're not modeled on it, but we use sort of the bulleted style that they use a little bit. I think Axios is really. Pretty pretty good site. They do a pretty good job.

The format that they use is really ill suited for analysis pieces or longer pieces, which they, they try and sort of jam stuff that should be just allowed to kind of roam free into this kind of structure. But it, but it works pretty well. None, nonetheless Cox. Enterprises bought them for 525 million or they agreed to be sold for 525 million.

Cox was started out in the newspaper business. They still own one newspaper Atlanta journal constitution, but they sold their newspaper, TV and local other local media radio, TV, newspapers to the Apollo group in 2019, which also owns Yahoo and Cox sort of transitioned into being a kind of a digital.

You know, digital first company with Autotrader Kelly blue book and they have and then they're also a big cable cable company in, I S P so according to the report, according to the report that I saw, which was Axios itself, the, the main reason for the deal was Cox interest in building out Axios, local, which is their local new initiative.

I think is now in about 22 cities and they plan to expand the coverage and that will presumably flow from this. And it's, it's great that they want to build out what they called local watchdog journalism. So it's not simply about exploiting some sort of local opportunity, but it's really trying to be journalistic and, and you know, performed the role that newspapers have historically performed.

The problem is from my point of view, is that it's, it's pretty limited, you know, it's better than nothing, but it's like five stories. Written by one person, maybe they have a second person. And it's, it's really not a replacement for what used to be kind of pretty complete local coverage from, from newspapers.

Now, most of the local coverage is coming from TV, which is much weaker and very different and newspapers for the most part with some exceptions are, you know, quietly or not. So quiet. Disappearing and creating these so, so called news deserts, you know, where there's just no local coverage at all.

David: Well, I'm, I also applaud the at least the.

Effort to extend a somewhat quality news organization into local markets. I think that that's something we should all be rooting for. I would say my own experience as a news consumer in Portland is that the, the most successful investigative journalism has really been done by our alternative Newsweeks.

In our case, Willamette week is a really well known version of this Portland tribunal also comes out with a. A handful of, you know, interesting stories from time to time. And it, I, so I, I don't believe Axios local is available in Portland yet, but I wanted to try it out. And I signed up in Denver when they first announced the first set of locations that they were providing this.

And the, it is interesting to me, the newsletters that the daily newsletters that you get every morning are much closer in style to the Willamette week newsletter than something like. Wall street journal or Washington post newsletter. Yeah, I think that they are. What's the word I'm looking for?

There's sort intentionally sort of mimicking the, the alt weekly style as a means to maybe connect with a little bit younger audience, et cetera, et cetera. I think that the, what would I say, Greg? The, there is a, there is a sort of quasi down the middle paper in Portland, which is the Oregonian.

Owned by advanced local and they actually stripped back their print coverage to four days a week. And now most of the stuff that they produce is actually behind a paywall. And I actually in Portland anyway, there is a real opportunity for a more or less down the middle. Media outlet that doesn't restrict things by paywall.

I think I've been increasingly frustrated as a reader of the Willamette week that that's just any, any kind of non sort of any kind of politically tinged story is like just slathered in blue paint on the Willamette week. And so I think that there is an opportunity for a much more sort of Centris position.

In Portland's local media scene and I have a feeling that's true in other markets where even if there is a very strong you know, all weekly, that publishes very good investigative journalism on a consistent basis, that there's still an opportunity for something that's more akin to the historical newspapers that have sort of died off.

I'm go ahead, Mike. Oh,

Mike: one is Axios down the center, at least on their main site has been. Less than fulfilling to me on stories that I know about. For example, they wrote about Google leveraging their position with small businesses to try to influence government policy vis Avi antitrust. And it was the lamest article.

One could imagine. And. Somehow left it, like, this is just two sides of a story with no critical analysis. So that was to me disappointing. So if that's what Centris means, I don't need it. What

Greg: about is on both

Mike: sides is yeah, whatever it's called. The other question I have though, is what's going to happen to the main Axio sort of.

National presence is that, that it's not being, that's being packaged up and sold at Cox as well though, right?

Greg: Yeah. The whole thing, the whole thing is being sold. What, what the founder said is that they're sticking around they're they're, it's all going to continue in the same way. They're just going to build things out more.

So this, yeah, founders

Mike: always say that. And then a year in they realize two or two, depending what the, what the,

Greg: What they signed life sucks. What the agreement. Yeah, well, I, so, so I'm not even talking about ideologically. I think that's an interesting issue, but, but you know, arts coverage, local business, there's just a wide range of things about life in cities and towns that the newspaper captured and reflected back to people.

And it was also a sort of a, one of the things I think that was significant culturally, is that it was a newspapers were a sort of a cohesion. Vehicle for places, you know, they, everybody would sort of see themselves mirrored through. Coverage or the paper and there was this kind of, it, it was like the local news back in the day when there were three networks and everybody watched or not local news national news.

And, and so that's, what's really changed is that just this kind of lack of cohesion, lack of coherence in whatever remains of local coverage, it's all very fragmented, which is a mirror of the. Kind of polarization and fragmentation, you know, with people sort of gravitating toward their own ideological buckets.

And I, I think this is a good development and let's see what they can do and hopefully it'll be successful.

David: It's not, I think it's, to me, this is the first time that a real news organization has even attempted something like this where it's, you know, I, I feel like earlier models like patch was that was not a news.

Company that was, was more of a, was crowdsourcing precursor to nextdoor more than it was a news, right. Local news experience. And every other experiment in local news seems to have been tried by a company who was still tied in some way to print. And so I think that to have a Axios doesn, as far as I know, doesn't have a print publication at all.

No. And so to have someone who is only digital. Who understands the news business who understands how to source good journalists, who understands how to edit stories? I think is a really, I I'm pretty, I, I don't know if I'm optimistic, but I'm eager to see what. They can do with a real sort of, you know, digital first infrastructure behind them at, across met multiple markets.

Well, the

Greg: bus, the business model has always been the issue, right? As, as advertising is drained out of the local media market or substantially and gone to sort of big networks It's been very hard. You've got, you've got sort of a nonprofit model, which I guess is working in isolated places to some degree with a skeleton crew.

You, you know, you've got some kind of subsidy with an existing publication, you know, subscription and it's, it's nothing has really worked. So that'll be the interesting thing here. Do you think

Mike: Apples play to limit. Third party data is encouraging these sort of first party efforts and could be leveraged in the news world as a first, if assuming it's national.

In other words, they get 75 local markets. Yes. They then could create a first party advertising network. Yes, yes. That would be

Greg: successful. Yes. I suspect that that's, that's part of the, part of the vision. I mean, you know, there was an interesting article that I saw. I Don. Remember where which publication, but it was comparing the fortunes of the New York times, which is expanding its advertising and Gnet, which is the largest newspaper publisher, formerly Gatehouse, you know, Gatehouse Gnet that you are a part of David is the largest newspaper publisher, and GT's sort of economics are, are creating challenges.

New York times is seemingly thriving and Gnet. Not

David: one of the challenges for Gnet is that they're they have a very large interest payment to private equity. well, that's, that's subsidized a huge part of the merger, so

Greg: yeah. Yeah. That's, that's a, a big issue, but that's kind of outside of the scope of this discussion, but yep.

Okay. So let's, let's move on to the third and final item, which is the announcement by Facebook that they were adding. Aggregating or revealing new B2B targeting segments, some of which may not be entirely new. So, David, what, what happened there?

David: Yeah. Good, good segue in terms of former employers of David Mim.

So my, my most immediate former employer demand science is, is more or less in this space. They they do content syndication, largely targeting a lot of the job titles. Sort of company types that Facebook's announcement pertains to. So they said that Facebook, Facebook announced that you can now target it, decision makers.

So people in it based on job titles business decision maker, titles, and interests, business decision makers in engineering or it operations, HR strategy or marketing. So I think those three things bundled together are sort of one piece of the announcement. And then the other piece of the announcement is new active businesses.

So admins have engaged businesses created in the last six, 12 or 24 months. So I think to me, they, Facebook bundled these two things together, but I think they're pretty different in terms of who might want to be using them. And I think that the we've we've talked numerous times, both privately and on this podcast about.

Sort of the, the, the latent opportunity within Facebook for B2B marketing. I think that the, there there's sort of this. Immediate gravitation towards oh, LinkedIn is the B2B social network. And if you want to target B2B, you know, that's, that's the network where you advertise. But in my experience, I don't necessarily think that's true.

At least when you're talking about small to medium sized businesses, that the folks involved in their decision making suite don't necessarily turn off their business life. When they're on Instagram or Facebook, it may be slightly more of an interrupt. But generally speaking that targeting these folks, as difficult as it may have been to find the right sort of combination of job title and, and industry and years of experience and income levels and all of that.

There were some pretty granular settings in Facebook that already existed that should have theoretically allowed you to target these folks. But it feels to me like Facebook is now bundling this stuff up as sort of pre-baked segments that. Even the laziest marketer can easily with one click produce a campaign that that's targeting these folks.

Greg: My go ahead. Go ahead. No, no, well, , I, I, I, I was going to say that my, my kind of anecdotal experience, and I'm not a Facebook marketer my vicarious experience at overall. And. Sort of hearing from others was that people were always, you know, people always sort of intellectually recognized Facebook was a great place to, to, to do B2B targeting, but that, but from an execution standpoint, it was always challenging.

You know, LinkedIn was just sort of low hanging fruit. You just had to pay the money, which everybody gripes about, but, but much more difficult to do that. It was a much more creative endeavor on, on Facebook. And I just think that this, this makes it a lot easier

David: for folks. Well, I think. We in, at least in our space.

I don't know. I shouldn't speak for you guys, but I at least tend to think of digital marketing as a much more sort of, you know, direct, transactional flow where you're expecting a conversion after somebody is clicking on an ad, but in these larger B2B segments, I mean, these are. These are years long sales cycles in many cases where you need to target 15 to 30 decision makers.

And so it's more of a brand building exercise in many cases where it truly is a display thing that you just need to be in front of people for a few months with the, you know, the right messaging. That's just going to sort of sit in their brains. And so from that standpoint, I think Facebook is as good. If not better.

Place to be then LinkedIn and, and LinkedIn adds for this. These segments in particular have gotten just so expensive that I think there is an opportunity for Facebook here. There's I know there's a lot of money in this space. Just, you know, being oh yeah. Involved, involved in demand science. I mean, demand science has.

Dozens, if not hundreds of competitors, you know, there's tech target and 6 cents and a whole whole range of these other companies that are targeting this that are all very, very well funded, very, very successful companies. So I think it's a way Facebook has sort of seen the, the growth in this space and probably wants to, to capture more of those dollars for themselves here.


Greg: well, it'd be interesting to see what the impact on some of these companies that you mentioned is if, if this is really successful, you'll see a migration of, of, of money away from those other C. and

David: potentially, or these other companies, I mean, we've said for years that, you know, oh, it seems like agencies are going to get shoved to the side of the road by all these sort of automated changes that Google's making.

It could be that, you know, these companies are now the sort of agency of record for exactly, for some of these newer sort of target targeting and creative features. So I did want to talk really quickly about the, the other. What I saw is a sort of secondary piece of the announcement around new active businesses.

So you've always been able to target or at least, I don't know. The last time I ran a Facebook campaign was probably 2018. But you could target admins of pages pretty, pretty effectively, pretty easily using Facebook targeting. So I don't know if that went away and this is Facebook bringing it back, but it seemed a strange.

Line item to sort of include in an announcement that seemed to across the other segment being sort of enterprise it stuff where this, this might be really, really useful for some of the SAS folks who, who listen to this podcast, targeting new businesses, who just created a Facebook page, for example.

Greg: Well, and I know, I know from.

Research and other experience that, you know, people, people try and target small businesses by vertical, by revenues, by headcount, you know, all kinds of different criteria and two often neglected Categories are new businesses and businesses that intend to grow. And those, those are the businesses that really are going to invest in new services and technology.

And, and so this, I think is a great opportunity for some of those SAS companies. to, you know, to, to get in front of some of these businesses that are probably inclined to, to spend some money. So I think it could be quite a successful thing depending on how, how it plays out. It

Mike: dovetails one of the I've been following the census Bureau's reports on new business formation and for the last.

Since COVID new business formation has skyrocketed and stated a fairly high level, significantly higher than it was pre COVID. And in that sense, this seems like a really astute move to me that it's a big growth area. And like you said, Greg, these are the people that are at least the ones that are, are functional businesses.

Are the ones that are likely to need some, a lot of this technology.

Greg: Well, so Mike, there's two categories, right? That the government tracks there's one. I forget what they call them. One is like a, you know, businesses that they think are more likely to kind of be real businesses versus whatever the other alternative is.

People who are having fantasies. And do I, I don't know what the, the two categories are, but they they're, they're handicapping them. And, and about 50% of the new, the new businesses are those that they think are more viable. Than than the, than the then, but

Mike: it's

Greg: still way up from, yeah. Yeah. It's still a very big number.

I mean, it's big number and it's growing. Yeah. I mean, it made me think, you know, I've been, I've been in some of the, on the government websites and I think in some cases where there's a licensing requirement or a registration requirement, you can get a spreadsheet, you can download a spreadsheet of business data, you know, it's like address.

Phone number, you know, I mean, it's like a lead list pretty much, and there's nothing like that, I guess, comparable to that for a new business formation. I mean, you, you, one might think that that would be public information that you could access and you know, build lead list with. But I don't, I'm unaware if that's true.

Do you know anything about that? Mike don't,

David: don't see it at, yeah. You have to go on a state by state basis in, in many cases. And then even if you have a lead list, Greg, then it there's a lot of work involved in order to serve them and add on Facebook. Yeah. Cleaning it up, refining your verticals and then serving them and add on Facebook.

So I think that to your point, this is going to be a much easier. In terms of time spent plus cost of marketing. I think that this is going to be a, a, a pretty, pretty good winner for Facebook here. So,

Greg: so two, two final points. Facebook says they've got 200 million businesses on, on the. Platform, which is obviously an international global number which

Mike: is a number similar to what I heard from Google internationally and global it's, it's

Greg: just a round number that they pull out of their poster.

How many SMBs on the platform? Oh, 200 million, but yeah, so, so that's, that's interesting. I mean, and you know, two things that we've talked about before small businesses tend to favor Facebook over Google. It's easier on one level. And oh, I'm forgetting the other point I was going to make. Oh, well, senior moment, cognitive decline.

Hashtag cognitive.

David: Summer Friday, summer, Friday. It's

Greg: all right. Yeah. So but anyway, it's very, very interesting. It didn't really get a lot of coverage. I mean, some of it may not be new. Think

David: it felt like that, you know, maybe they've, they've had a lot of functionality previously and it'ss just been sort of hard to configure and that they're now making an effort to make it, you know, I think that's, it's all, it's all sort of prepackaged, but it's, it's still a very interesting announcement that.

Facebook sees the opportunity here. They've probably heard from their existing advertisers. We really want to be able to do this, this and this. And they're, they're at least making an effort to execute on that.

Greg: So right. And it, and, and hopefully it'll give LinkedIn a run for their money and there'll be some price pressure on LinkedIn, some competitive pressure.

Okay. That brings us to the end of another exciting and fulfilling near memo will be back next week and have a good week. We'll see you.