Good Monday morning. It’s April 27th. Facebook and Microsoft report quarterly earnings Wednesday. Apple, Amazon, and Twitter report Thursday. That means lots of buzzworthy news will be released midweek.

Reach out to George if you need to brainstorm about your organization updating your presence online. We’ve already had these conversations with clients and friends. Now more than ever, we need to all work together and support each other.

1. News to Know Now

a. Facebook Messenger Rooms launched as a Zoom competitor. The service is free, participants do not have to have a Facebook account, and live video chats can hold up to 50 people. There’s tight integration with Facebook and Messenger. The same integration will roll out to WhatsApp and Instagram. Read the announcement or see the video.

b. Google will require all advertisers to identity themselves at an organization and personal level. Search Engine Journal’s (and former Silver Beacon consultant) Susan Wenograd broke the news Thursday. The change will include all advertising categories, not just the political and advocacy categories most platforms now require. Ads will include a message identifying who has paid for the advertising. Read her article here to also see an animation showing the new function.

c. Amazon has been accused of using data from third party sellers to create their own private label products to compete with those sellers. The charges were made in a blockbuster Wall Street Journal article Friday by reporter Dana Mattioli who wrote that she interviewed twenty former Amazon employees, including one who supplied proof. Amazon’s private label business now generates more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue. An Amazon executive testified to Congress last year that the company does not use this data. (Read the story here — paywall)

Last week’s One Click Poll results
75% of you said last week that your workplace was opening at about the right pace. That’s great to hear!

This week, tell us about lunch with one click at the bottom of this week’s newsletter.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News


Covidly — my go-to.
Our World in Data — non profit based at Oxford.
Factbase — has metro area level detail, not just state or county.
RT live — shows average number of people infecting others by state.

Tech News

YouTube bans ‘medically unsubstantiated content
Software monitoring remote employees is seeing a sales boom
3D Printable Ventilators Built for Coronavirus
Boston Dynamics Robot Carrying Equipment to Patient Triage Area
Yes You Can Print Your Face on a Mask
People of the Pandemic Game Simulates Your Town’s Response

3. Search Engine Optimization News

Google Shopping is once again free for merchants. Google began charging for the service way back in 2012 after a successful 10 year run as a price comparison service once known as Froogle and then Google Product Search before becoming Google Shopping. 

Google Product feeds were once as ubiquitous at retailers as Amazon product feeds are now. As Amazon gained well over one-third of the U.S. ecommerce market, Google held the line on its own shopping service until online purchasing exploded due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Google will also resume its partnership with PayPal, a new agreement that was also announced last week.

Amazon and Google will continue to sell advertising in their ecommerce products, but in Google’s case, the listing is now free again.  You can read their announcement here.

Google also announced that it will display a new message if its search engine doesn’t find what it calls a “great match”. A new message will appear that suggests alternative searches. The new feature may help Google lead you to very topical information about the COVID-19 pandemic, suggests Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz

Bing still receives more than 500 million U.S. searches each month and 12 billion worldwide. That pales in comparison with Google but is still a lot of volume. That’s why search watchers were shocked last week to learn that a Bing feature that showed popular related results from websites included inappropriate stock images with NSFW names. Microsoft and Shutterstock confirmed that there was no child pornography as some of the titles suggested. Ars Technica’s Timothy Lee broke the story that you can read here.

4. Also in the Spotlight — YouTube’s First Video Turns 15

Jawed Karim visited the San Diego Zoo and made an 18 second video outside the elephant area. Jawed, only 25, was an early employee at PayPal and created YouTube with two of his PayPal co-workers. One year later, the trio sold YouTube to Google for $1.65 billion. Today, YouTube generates $15 billion in annual revenue so that was a good deal for Google.

You can see Jawed’s first video here and read more about the founders at Cnet.

5. Following Up: Dropbox Hired Hackers in 2018 to Crack Zoom

A startling New York Times expose describes Dropbox hiring hackers more than one year ago to find vulnerabilities in the software code of Zoom and other products that its employees often used. Dropbox then presented the results to Zoom and its executives were troubled when the company took more than three months to fix them. Dropbox was a pre-IPO investor in Zoom and one of its directors led a $100 million investment in the company.

Read  “Zoom’s Security Woes Were No Secret…”

6. Debugging: Jacksonville Beach Photos Are Real

A Getty photographer’s photo of people walking on a Florida beach without practicing social distancing was edited into a second story about Los Angeles. The doctored document was then circulated on Facebook with messages suggesting that media images were doctored and that the COVID-19 outbreak was not as real as news reports suggest.

Poynter debunks the conspiracy theory with nine sources at this link.

7. ProTip: Zoom Real-Time Meeting Transcription

In more positive Zoom news, the service now has integrated with, a real-time chat transcription service that allows participants to view a live text log of the meeting.

Tom’s Guide describes the service and provides details.

8. Great Data: NYC Sidewalk Widths

This map uses the NYC Sidewalk database to map the entire city’s grid of sidewalks and shows which are wide enough to allow proper social distancing.

See the amazing visualization here.

9.  Screening Room: Every COVID-19 Commercial Is Exactly the Same

Every COVID-19 commercial is indeed made up of the same elements. This is a fantastic supercut of many of them.

10. Coffee Break: Sharks!

I didn’t expect to spend time with Brunswick last week, but I found it fascinating that he was near the Georgia coast in February 2019, went up to Nova Scotia, looped in to New Brunswick for a while, and then came all the way back down, before swinging around Florida and visiting its west coast.

You see, Brunswick is an eight-and-a-half foot white shark that weighs more than 430 pounds. Like the sharks and other critters tagged at Ocearch, his movements are dutifully plotted on an aquatic map. 

Brunswick was hanging out off the coast of Vero Beach on Thursday evening at 7:43. Seeing how far some of these creatures travel and where is fun.

Visit the Ocearch tracker here.

Here are three ways that we can help you:

1. Get a free SEO audit on our website.

2  Have a simple, fact-based question about digital marketing? Reply & ask George for free.

3. If your organization needs help with search, social media, or advertising, have a look at what we do.

See you Monday.

Good Monday morning. It’s April 20th. Wednesday is Earth Day. Parade magazine is featuring 50 Ideas from 50 States to mark the day. Congratulations to Heather McTeer Toney, Moms Clean Air Force’s Field Director, for her inclusion.

Reach out to George if you need to brainstorm about your organization doing new things in a digital way. We’ve already had these conversations with clients and friends. Now more than ever, we need to all work together and support each other. Just press REPLY in your email client to send a note.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,155 words, about a 4 minute read.

1. News to Know Now

a. The Amazon affiliate program is cutting commission rates for partners effective tomorrow. Those are the advertising fees paid to websites that you see with disclaimers about paid commissions if you buy products through their links. Rates for big ticket items like luxury beauty products, pet products, and furniture had the biggest percentage cuts, but cuts to more popular categories like Amazon Fresh groceries and books will have a much bigger effect. 

b. Advertising revenues are flattening across multiple product lines. Expedia reports that its $5 billion budgeted spend for calendar 2020 won’t even reach $1 billion. (CNBC)

c. YouTube announced a beta of Video Builder that targets small businesses without the resources to create videos from scratch. Templates have customizable layouts and colors using your own images and generate a 6 or 15 second video. (YouTube’s announcement)

Last week’s One Click Poll results
You’re (mostly) all one spacers. That might cause Ben Franklin’s printing press some dismay, but it’s a perfectly fine position in a world with laser printers. 

Don’t forget to make your voice heard this week on whether you think businesses in your local area are opening too fast, too slow, or about the right pace. The one click poll is at the end of this newsletter.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News


Covidly — my go-to.
Johns Hopkins — the one you see on the news.
Our World in Data – non profit based at Oxford. Maybe my new go-to.

Education Resources

Burger King Free Whopper for Schoolkids
James Dyson Foundation Challenge Cards for Kids
Google Donating 4,000 Chromebooks & Wifi in California
450 Ivy League Courses to Take Online for Free

Tech News

France Orders Amazon to Only Ship Essentials
Facebook Adds Covid-19 Templates for Small Businesses
YouTube Lifts Ban on Monetizing Covid-19 Videos
MIT Leading Academic Effort on Contact Tracing
Norwegian Telecom Wants Wifi Network Names Changed To Educate

Investor Mary Meeker’s annual internet trends report was replaced this year by a stripped down 29 page report addressing Covid-19 effects. Meeker, a former Wall Street executive, runs Bond Capital, a $1.2 billion firm whose investments include Nextdoor, Canva, Airbnb, and Hippo.

This year’s topics include federal spending, Zoom’s hypergrowth, and professional sports. Read the report here.

3. Search Engine Optimization News

Google Search now links to local testing sites when you are searching for relevant topics, reports 9 to 5 Google. There is also information from the CDC and easy map links so that people are referred to legitimate Covid-19 information. 

Google is also offering health care providers new options like the ability to show virtual care offerings, links for virtual appointments, and information about widely available virtual care platforms, including their pricing.

4. Also in the Spotlight — Washington Sues Facebook Again Over Political Ads

Washington has announced a lawsuit against Facebook for not maintaining required information about political advertisers. The state sued Google and Facebook in 2018 over violations of local campaign finance laws. Facebook settled that suit for $238,000.

As part of that agreement, Facebook voluntarily agreed to stop selling ads to political action committees although it would still do so for candidates. Since that time, the state reports that Facebook has sold more than $525,000 in advertising to more than 170 PACs. 

Read Attorney General Ferguson’s announcement.

5. Following Up: Zoom and the Dot Org Sale

The sale of the dot org domain registrarwe first told you about in December was postponed again after the parties received a last minute letter from California’s Attorney General informing them that the state has “serious concerns that cannot be overlooked.” (The Register)

We’ve also told you a lot about Zoom as it struggles while scaling up 20x growth in a single quarter. Bleeping Computer reported last week that up to 500,000 Zoom accounts and passwords were available for sale on the dark web. Their consultant was able to purchase account credentials at the rate of 500 per dollar. Yes, one dollar. Stop using the same password on multiple sites.

6. Debugging: 40 Million Coronavirus Warnings on Facebook

Facebook added warnings to 40 million pieces of Covid-19 misinformation people posted on its site. The company says that 95% of people do not click to read the misinformation when they see the warning. 

Read Facebook’s announcement here.

7. ProTip: Photopea

There is a new freemium (free with basic functions and ads, premium at $9/month) web-based image editor that has more features than almost any other and works with PSD, XD, and basic image files.

Check it out here.

8. Great Data: Providing Context

Risk scientist Jo Perla created plenty of discussion with this simple annotation to a now familiar Covid-19 slide. She’s not suggesting that the death rate is influenced only by something this simple, but she is arguing for the need for context in your data reporting. Dumping information helps no one. Analyzing information is very different.

9.  Screening Room: Knix Underwear Gets Real

Knix is a Canadian clothing company that’s been pushing the envelope in advertising. Their latest spot acknowledges that real woman of all ages and sizes wear their bras and leak-proof underwear. 

10. Coffee Break: A Beary Good Citizen

Look, everyone’s having a hard time and is more stressed than usual. Be nice to each other and to yourselves. And if you’re of a mind, maybe join this lumbering fella in being a beary good citizen. 

Check out the 17 second video here.

Good Monday morning. It’s March 76th. 

Things change fast. At this point ten years ago, Blockbuster was still in business, Haiti was trying to recover from an earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people, and BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing eleven and creating the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

If that all seems long ago, take solace in knowing that we will one day view the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in the same way. Meanwhile, be kind to yourselves and to others.

Reach out to George if you need to brainstorm about your organization doing new things in a digital way. We’ve already had these conversations with clients and friends. Now more than ever, we need to all work together and support each other. Just press REPLY in your email client to send a note.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,595 words, about a 6 minute read.

Google News page as viewed by a user in France.

Google news page for a viewer in France.

1. News to Know Now

a. Google must pay French publishers for using capsule views of their content in the Google News product, the French government ruled late last week. European officials have cracked down on Google and other American Big Tech companies over the past several years. Last year, Google was charged a $1.1 billion tax penalty and required to honor “right to be forgotten” removal requests from European consumers. Google said that it would comply with the decision and create content deals with EU publishers.

b. Facebook is rolling out a “Quiet Mode” for its mobile apps. Quiet Mode isan optional user setting that stops most notifications and displays a countdown timer if you try to access Facebook before the time limit you created. Yes, you can go around it, but it’s a circuit breaker that helps you pause long enough to distract yourself with something else. Read more here to learn how to configure it.

c. The one space people have won. Law professor Alan Chen posted to Twitter that Microsoft Word now defaults to a single space after each sentence as the Good Lord intended. If you press the spacebar twice after a period, Word will now reward you with an error. Or you could use Google Docs for free. And, sure, you can change Word’s settings too if you want.

Last week’s poll results:

Wowsa! Half of you are using Zoom for videoconferencing. The next most popular conferencing platform was Google Hangouts/Meet. We even got a vote for Facebook Messenger.

Don’t forget to make your voice heard this week on whether people should space once or twice after a sentence-ending period. The one click poll is at the end of this newsletter.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News


Covidly — my go-to.
Johns Hopkins — the one you see on the news.
Bing — much improved. Now includes color coding and graphs by U.S. county.
NY Times State Level Restrictions — hotels, driving, and restaurants rules.


Free NY Times for HS students and schools
Hoax and inaccurate news checklist video — BBC on Twitter
Fact check analysis of misinformation online — Reuters Institute at Oxford

Tech News

Apple & Google collaborate on contact tracing — Washington Post
NJ and FL using drones to police social distancing — Intelligencer
Facebook misinformation pages originating from Kosovo — Snopes
NASA sees exponential jump in malware attacks — Ars Technica

We suggest reading this summary of tweets posted by Steak-umm (yes, the meat company) about understanding all the data we’re seeing.

Bonus points: “we’re a frozen meat brand posting ads inevitably made to misdirect people and generate sales, so this is peak irony, but hey we live in a society so please make informed decisions to the best of your ability and don’t let anecdotes dictate your worldview OK” 

Read the whole thread

3. Search Engine Optimization News

Google review functionality is slowly being restored.Search Engine Land reported Thursday that Google had quietly restored merchant review replies and that “new user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will gradually return by country and business category.”

Google search engineer John Mueller also confirmed that Google sometimes creates its own snippet to describe a link in its search engine results. A website can propose that a certain snippet is used, but Google’s software may create its own.

One big reason that this happens is if a website doesn’t follow best practices for creating snippets. Google also may change the description if a person searches for something specific that is also described on the website’s page. You may have seen examples of this when a question and answer is  excerpted or when a video result is displayed and the video is cued to the answer in a Google result.

4. Also in the Spotlight — Delivery Slot Shortages Create Opportunity

Georgetown senior Adrian Hertel showed last week that necessity truly is the mother of invention. Hertel told CNBC that his parents have health issues and couldn’t get an Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods delivery slot.

Hertel wrote a program that uses a Macintosh’s web browser to constantly poll the site for delivery slots. There is a healthy debate at the download site over whether tools like this empower hoarders, but someone better give Mr. Hertel a job. It’s hard to find developers who think like marketers.

Read the CNBC story.

5. Following Up: Zoom

Zoom’s blessing and curse is that the world decided to make the software a de facto standard when hundreds of million of people went to work from home. We wrote last week about the many privacy, security, and scale challenges the company faces. 

Last week’s news was filled with announcements about organizations understandably abandoning ship and going to a competitor from Google, Microsoft, or other companies. The biggest names were New York City’s schools (which have their own issues) to Google (which owns a competitor).

Those systems and any others are vulnerable in their own ways. Zoom has gone from 10 million users in December to 200 million users in March. That explosive growth would make any platform an attractive target for hackers and other bad actors. 

Here are some useful Zoom tips from Elite Daily including this important one for paid accounts: “If you’re hosting a meeting with a paid Zoom account and choose to save the meeting transcripts, all participants will have access to the meeting transcripts … as well as any private messages between the hosts and other meeting members.”

If you are still concerned about Zoom, here is CNET on all of its security issues and the same for privacy and security via Tom’s Guide.

6. Debugging: Sextortion Emails

Good ol’ Sophos is here to remind us that a common extortion scheme involves an out-of-the-blue email that threatens you with the release of images of you looking at porn. The email kindly requests a few thousand bucks or you will face publication of side-by-side images of you and what was on your screen.

Read the sample emails or watch the video Sophos made regarding webcam recordings.

7. ProTip: Instagram Messages on PC

You’ve probably learned that Instagram in a web browser is very different from Instagram on its native mobile app. But now you can finally send Instagram direct messages from the web version.

Read Lifehacker’s for the news.

8. Great Data: Social Distancing by Area

Reuters published a great map animation that shows how well people followed social distancing guidelines on a county level from February forward. We’ve looked at animations before, but this is a county level map and features data from 7 million devices.

See it here.

Jeep’s “Same Day” spot repurposes a famous Bill Murray scene from Groundhog Day to acknowledge that they also feel the days starting to run together.

10. Coffee Break: If High Street Shopping was like online shopping

Is it Christmas in April? 

Sadly, no.  But you have a wonderful opportunity to tag along with Lucy and BBC One since you’ve become quite the expert at online retail over the past weeks. 

I just want some bread rolls!

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Here are three ways that we can help you:

1. Get a free SEO audit on our website.

2  Have a simple, fact-based question about digital marketing? Reply & ask George for free.

3. If your organization needs help with search, social media, or advertising, have a look at what we do.

See you Monday.