Good Monday morning. It’s July 30th. Lots more financial news ahead this week: the July jobs report is out Friday morning and the Fed meets to tackle monetary policy starting Tuesday.

Today’s Spotlight takes about 3 minutes to read.


    • Wall Street pummeled tech stocks last week. We’ll break down why Facebook, Amazon, and Google have reason to be optimistic.
    • A national privacy law similar to the EU’s GDPR is attracting more attention in Washington. Remember that California has already passed its own stringent legislation with an 18 month window.
    • Google’s guidelines for its search raters is newly revised.Biggest news: more focus on a website’s “Expertise / Authoritativeness / Trustworthiness”. Yes, EAT.

Thanks for your responses!

Your responses to last week’s question about images in Spotlight were great. Many suggested only showing images when they’re relevant to understanding news. We have the smartest readers! That’s what we’ll be doing. We responded to everyone so let George know if you emailed us and didn’t receive a response.

Straight Shooting on Tech

Facebook is Fine

Headline writers trumpeted the plunging price of Facebook stock last week, but skipped two important contextual facts: Facebook stock is down 4% since the beginning of 2018 and the company reported 42% revenue growth with 2.5  billion accounts. Facebook’s growth rate slowed. It’s hard to think that 42% revenue growth is bad.

The growth rate slowed because 81% of U.S. adults who have Internet access have a Facebook account. Don’t forget that India, not the U.S., has the most Facebook accounts. Meanwhile, the number of daily U.S. users is up, revenue is up, and the company owns three other wildly popular platforms: Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Your organization ignores Facebook at its own peril.

Long-term bet: Human interfaces with devices. Think sub-vocalizing, optical imaging, the whole direct-brain interface of last year’s conference. It’s not science fiction. Facebook is funding dozens of engineers and has agreements in place with Johns Hopkins, UC Berkeley, and others.

Google is Great

Yes, the company received its second hefty fine from the EU in two years, this one for $5 billion. But we also learned that Google parent Alphabet has $14 billion plus in cash-on-hand and quarterly operating income was $7.8 billion.

Google’s advertising model is being tweaked hard for local mobile advertising–searches on a mobile device about local activity. That’s especially true for retail. If your organization has any retail presence, you need to be looking at the new advertising offerings Google has rolled out this year.

Long-term bet: Google Translate handles 143 billion words each day. Business Insider has a great piece on monetizing that traffic.

Amazon Ads Are Its Secret Weapon

Remember the joke about Amazon never making a profit? That stopped three years ago. The company has a high margin (25%+) business in cloud computing services and a North American retail business that has been over 3.7% margin since Q4 2017. We continue to be thrilled with Amazon Web Services, where our websites are hosted, and what else can you say about a company that takes in about half of all digital retail spending in the U.S.?

Amazon’s ad business is also leveraging direct sales with big brands while keeping ad agencies busy with the rest of the market beyond the Fortune 500. The Google-Facebook duopoly isn’t over yet, but Amazon is the only tech company positioned to make it a three company race.

Long-term bet:  The health care industry is in full-on panic about what Amazon could do to their world.


Some of Yelp’s restaurant listings have scores based on health department health inspection. VentureBeat reports that Yelp is expanding that program to 750,000 listings in 42 states.

None of Google’s 85,000 employees have been successfully phished since the last year when the company began requiring “security keys”, a USB device used instead of passwords or codes. Security guru Brian Krebs has details.

We’ve written several times about advertisers on Facebook acting improperly if not illegally when using indicators about a person’s race to choose whether ads were displayed to that person. Facebook is now prohibiting race as part of its selection criteria.

Nextdoor CEO and founder Nirav Tolia announced that he is stepping down. A new player in hyperlocal advertising, Nextdoor has raised a lot of money and is a unicorn–one of those tech companies with a billion dollar value. There are now 200,000 Nextdoor neighborhoods of mini social networks in five countries. (Full disclosure: Sue and George were contractors at Tolia’s first company and worked with some of the Nextdoor team)

Great Data

The New York Times has mapped the 2016 presidential election results by precinct. Yes, we’re all tired of election maps, but you should look because it’s fantastic data that you already know at a high level.

This is a great example of how new insights can be gleaned when one maps 168,000 data points in the U.S. As you peruse the maps, consider how you can present your data this way and tease out new information.

New York Times’ Ridiculously Rich 2016 Election Map

Good Monday morning. It’s July 16th, Amazon Prime Day. Today’s jaw-dropping statistic: Amazon has 49% of e-commerce market share in the U.S. and 5% of all commerce.


    • Google’s search rankings will now be influenced by page speed for every website. The long-staged Google change is now in effect for all website pages on every site. More below.
    • Google AdWords is now called Google Ads. The change is subtle but an important reminder that a lot of search now occurs via images or by voice. And with a $100 billion revenue line, this branding change was not done lightly.
    • You’ll be able to use Google Ads for new hotel formats(!) and via its new retail partnership with Shopify as Google scrambles to catch up to Amazon.

Google: Hotel Ads & Page Speed Update

Google Ad Campaign Builder Screen

Here is a look inside a Google Ads campaign creation screen that the company announced during its marketing show last week. Notice that “Hotel” will be the only industry type shown out of all the industries that exist. Google Hotel Ads have existed for years, but moving into the main campaign screen is a big vote of interest from the company.

Google also announced that its “page speed update” is now rolling out to all websites. This means that webpages will be ranked, in part, based on how fast they render on a mobile device. These are important to point out because Google is notoriously circumspect about most changes. Its most clear signals come from its actions and sporadic announcements. When those are made, the entire marketing ecosystem takes note.

This is especially true when Google shares news about search language. We heard last week that searches for “[something] near me” are up 10-fold. Google has hammered on the near me phrase and put it into our lexicon. Google often uses this phrase to signal local or retail intent.

The final big Google announcements dealt with small business reluctance to engage online. Google says that about half of all small businesses still don’t have a website. The new twist is that Google Ads will create landing pages automatically based on what it knows about the prospect and your organization. Here’s the kicker: the ads have to be in an automatic campaign run by Google.

The changes show Google looking to grab the market from the next size tier of small businesses while also staking its claim to hotel advertising, retail, and mobile device speed.


Facebook was fined $664,000 by the U.k. for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. More fines are coming. We’re also looking for Facebook to launch new news shows starting today.

Moz co-founder Rand Fishkin has unveiled SparkScore, a new software tool that gauges a Twitter account’s influence.

Having killed net neutrality protection in the U.S., the FCC has changed its complaint processes. The FCC argues that it hasn’t changed the rules, but they made a similar argument about net neutrality. Bottom line: it will now cost $225 to file a “formal complaint” against an Internet Service Provider. The agency does not review informal complaints and only forwards them to the companies involved.

Watch This

Five new ads have been nominated for Emmy Awards this year. You can read about them at this AdWeek link and watch my favorite below.


News You Need to Know Now

Good Monday morning. It’s June 4th. There is a major Apple product announcement today at 1 p.m ET. Analysts expect the company to announce the latest system upgrade and new tools built into its phones that will help people monitor and potentially curb their usage.


    • Privacy battles are making news on multiple fronts, and there is more to it than websites changing their terms of service.
    • Facebook weathered its criticism over news hoaxes and privacy. Overall Facebook usage looks consistent, but there’s a big drop among younger users.
    • Multiple Google search initiatives launch in the next few weeks. They include new signals about a website’s security and even more reliance on a website’s speed as a quality measure.

Privacy Battles: (CA vs FTC, ACLU vs Amazon, and Those Privacy Notices)

A European Union data privacy rule that took effect May 25 caused all of those “Our data privacy rules have changed” notices you saw over the last few weeks. The rules are among the most stringent ever and create new requirements for any online entity regardless of where they’re located. The General Data Privacy Regulation, known by the acronym GDPR, even address information that doesn’t identify a person by name.

A company like Securus couldn’t exist in a GDPR world. Media reports have focused on the little known data company that can track “any phone within seconds using data from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint,” according to a ZD Net report. That’s pretty explicit information, and there have been abuses of that private data. Even worse, that company has been hacked at least once. Brian Krebs, one of the best security reporters on the planet, has written a must-read story called “Why is Your Location Data No Longer Private?

Krebs ties the whole thing to the death of net neutrality’s consumer protection rules. That deadline has shifted several times and is now set for next MondayThe California State Senate passed a bill that is expected to become law that requires companies to adhere to net neutrality protections or be ineligible for California state contracts. And like the EU used GDPR to protect its citizens everywhere, California’s rules are expected to apply to its citizens as well.

Meanwhile, the ACLU is targeting a face-recognition program made by Amazon’s web services division called “Rekognition”. The ACLU claims that law enforcement agencies in at least two states are using the program to conduct surveillance. Other uses include finding lost children in crowds or providing security for high-profile events.

This was probably not the best month for Google to remove its “don’t be evil” motto from most of its websites.

Facebook Political Ad Archive

Facebook’s Influence & Enforcement

Anyone can now search a Facebook archive of political or sensitive issue ads by company name or subject matter. The two ads shown above are part of the archive which grows more every day. Visitors can see the ad and which ages, locations, and genders were targeted and how those ads performed.

Search the archive at this link

Facebook also announced Friday that it was eliminating its Trending News feature and will instead show news items from Fox and CNN. Look for that feature change this week as Facebook rushes to slap a fresh coat of paint on the website.

Little more than cosmetics seem necessary because usage actually rose during CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional and EU testimony. Facebook continues policing itself and says that it removed 583 million “fake accounts” in the first 3 months of 2018. It also removed 2.5 million pieces of hate speech, 21 million sexually explicit images, and 837 million pieces of spam. You can read their first published enforcement report here.

Google Search Initiatives

Google’s “Speed” update, ranking websites based on how fast they render to end users, launches in July. Google is serious about website speed. We’ve been telling you about this initiative for years. They’re only going to be more focused as devices rely on public wifi and other slower systems.

The most important thing to note is that Google Analytics now reports on actual user experiences regarding speed. The speed data in their reports shows how fast your users load a page regardless of the technology they are using. Google will not base rankings on how fast its programs can access your website, but how fast your users do. The difference sounds subtle but is significant. Sue and I have spent most of the last year getting daily reports on site speeds for some sites. It’s not because we thought the reading was great.

Google will also start reporting on websites that are unencrypted in its Chrome browser. The previous standard was to show that a website was “secure”. The company will now report on an “insecure” website as it assumes that all are following the best practice of encrypting the entire site.

Also coming fast is Google’s “mobile-first” update. Google has already notified us that they will be using pages in the index based on how those pages appear on mobile devices in some sites we own and manage. This initiative affects consumers, businesses, and even government sites.

Finally, watch for a Google Chrome option this summer that will allow you to use facial recognition instead of passwords to access sites.

Great Data

Mary Meeker is one of the most prominent and influential Internet analysts ever. Her annual report each summer is considered a milestone moment. There is always some grumbling that it has become more event than milestone, but it is required reading in the industry.

Here is a link to the 294 slide presentation.

We read it a couple of times so that you don’t have to. Our 10 takeaways:

1. The Internet growth rate has slowed as the cycle matured.
2. More than half of the world’s population is now online.
3. U.S. adults are averaging about 6 hours a day online.
4. More than half of that time is on mobile devices.
5. Voice interfaces are exploding with 30 million Amazon Echos installed.
6. Amazon (and Apple) are growing their search business to compete with Google and Facebook.
7. Google is growing its delivery business to compete against Amazon.
8. China is home to several companies that could become as ubiquitous as Google and Facebook.
9. Internet companies are spending hundreds of millions on R&D.
10. Voice and machine learning are now at human accuracy levels for voice detection.