Good Monday morning. It’s June 29th. Baseball resumes on Wednesday as training camps reopen for three weeks before a shortened 2020 season starts. One big issue: training camps are in the COVID-19 hotbeds of Florida and Arizona.
Today’s Spotlight is 1,148 words, about a 4 minute read.
1. News to Know Now
a. Three Republican senators have introduced legislation that would force tech companies to create a special backdoor for law enforcement agencies into encrypted communications. This would allow police operating under a warrant to decipher any information without needing the tech company’s support. (Gizmodo)
b. The Facebook ad boycott keeps growing, and we analyze it below for you, but you should also know that Facebook has overturned decisions made by independent fact checkers regarding climate change. After industry lobbyists contacted the company, Facebook agreed to publish the false data as “opinion” and without a fact check despite the presence of inaccurate information. (E & E News)
c. Amazon purchased self-driving startup Zoox on Friday for $1.2 billion. That’s quite a discount for a company valued two years ago at more than $3 billion. The company’s goal is a self-driving taxi service. New parent company Amazon is also known to deliver many packages. (Ars Technica)
2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News
Johns Hopkins — the gold standard
Florida data — Unofficial, but the best I’ve seen for any state.
New York Times Vaccine Tracker — meticulously sourced
Info is Beautiful COVID datapack –> this data viz site gets it right
Coronavirus Has Ushered In the Airport of the Future – Popular Mechanics
How the Virus Won – The New York Times
Millions of Americans Depend on Closed Libraries for Internet. – The Markup
Norway halts coronavirus app over privacy concerns – MIT Tech Review
Vaccine Makers Turn to Microchip Tech to Beat Glass Shortages – Wired
3. Search Engine Optimization News
Let’s confirm two things we thought we knew about search.
Smart use of anchor text is confirmed to be a search ranking signal for Google. You’ve seen plenty of underlined phrases like “Click Here” that point to a link. That is anchor text that Google’s John Mueller confirms can help your website’s SEO. He also cautions about reasonableness — which is the watchword for all search tactics. Your search marketers just said “duh,” but we maintain a library of these official statements. Then when we recommend something, we can share with a client when it was confirmed by Google and Bing. (Search Engine Journal)
Takeaway: use descriptive anchor text that helps the search engine understand the link.
Reasonableness also shows up in Mueller’s tweets this week about how stock photos affect search. Using stock to illustrate your team or something not directly relevant is a bad idea, but there is no penalty for using an image that appears on other websites. The image likely won’t rank well, but unless you’re competing directly on image search, using stock photography carries no penalty. Just make it accurate. (SEJ)
Takeaway: using stock photography won’t hurt you in Google’s algorithms, but don’t show your CEO as a 17-year-old buff beach bum unless you happen to work for a 17-year-old.
This week we also received news about the biggest subjects in social media and in advertising during May.
Facebook says that in May 2020 more people were looking for bentonite for use as a beauty supplement, bodyweight exercise, cycling shorts, frozen food, vermouth, and virtual art.
Wordstream reports that the eight industries with the best search advertising performance during the pandemic are: apparel, beauty and personal care, hobbies, arts, computers, gifts, health, and real estate (!). The hardest hit industries so far are internet, family, and travel.
4. Also in the Spotlight — Facebook Ad Boycott
We told you last week about the Facebook ad boycott started by human rights groups seeking equality that include the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP. At this time last week, socially conscious brands like Patagonia and The North Face had joined the boycott.
Much bigger brands are now joining the movement. The first in was $50 billion Unilever whose brands include Vaseline, Lipton, Dove, and Hellman’s. They were followed by Coca-Cola, Verizon, and Honda. Starbucks announced Sunday that they too are joining. Some brands included YouTube and other social media in their boycott announcement, and some are boycotting beyond July.
The big news wasn’t just the boycott, but its timing. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg livestreamed some corrective actions Facebook would make, but Coke, Pepsi, and Starbucks all joined the boycott after hearing Facebook’s plans.
“Stop Hate For Profit,” the coalition heading the boycott, is looking for permanent infrastructure changes, independent audits, and refunds for brands whose advertisements appeared next to hate speech that was later removed. There are more actions that are on the group’s list, and they’re worth your time to read.
Takeaway: This is nowhere near over. There are still massive advertisers who will undoubtedly make announcements today and tomorrow. We think that small and medium sized brands can join in the Facebook ad boycott without fear of recrimination.
5. Following Up: Chrome Extension Malware
We told you last week about malware hiding in more than one hundred extensions in the Chrome Web Store. I reviewed the affected files and reported that most were extensions to manipulate search or convert document types. Lifehacker has done a step-by-step overview so that you can see if you downloaded one.
6. Debugging: Racial Equality Protesters and a Vietnam Memorial
Fact checkers were alarmed last week when a years-old story about vandalism at a Vietnam Memorial in California incorrectly identified the damage as new and inaccurately attributed it to racial equality protesters. The hoax story gained traction and was shared thousands of times.
7. ProTip: Get Safari-Level Privacy in Chrome and Firefox
Apple announced new privacy features for the company’s flagship Safari browser that include password checks, privacy reports, and limits for websites using your browsing data.
Here is how to emulate those privacy features on Chrome and Firefox using extensions.
8. Great Data: The Rapper Whose Music Changes Stocks
In the data too good to be true department is this story about the theory of rapper Lil Yachty’s music releases being a harbinger of stock market declines.
Your refresher on correlation and causation:
Correlation means that two things seemingly have a relationship or connection. The classic humorous (and non-math) example of correlation is that an area’s murder rate increases when its ice cream sales increase. You know what’s coming, right? Yep, ice cream sales and violent crime rates increase with warm air temperatures.
Causation means that one of the variables is the result of the other. Most of us have been burned by causation vs. correlation issues at least once in our career. I just had flashbacks to my experience a couple of decades ago.
Screening Room: Sprite & the Black American Dream
10. Coffee Break: The Game in Your Browser Tab
Megabytes and gigabytes? Kids, we used to have to code without personal storage. That’s what makes this game so amazing. It’s a little time waster to capture the flag, but the entire experience occurs in a title bar.