Good Monday morning. It’s June 8th. Please don’t forget that we are living through a pandemic. Keep social distancing, wearing masks, and diligently washing your hands. More than 110,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 in only four months, and we’re all numb and raw from that. But you can still infect people or get sick yourself.

We’ve created new pricing during this crisis for nonprofits and small businesses that need help maintaining their online presence on websites, email, and social media.  Let us know if  you’re interested or forward to someone who you think might need help.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,250 words, about a 4 1/2 minute read.

1. News to Know Now

a. Google is facing a class-action lawsuit regarding tracking of  people who use Chrome incognito mode. We would ordinarily consider this a minor matter, but the suit is asking for $5 billion and class status. 

We’ve told you that incognito mode only hides your activity from your browser. It’s great for shopping for a present for someone in your household who snoops or keeping a celebration secret. Chrome incognito mode does not now nor has it ever stopped your internet provider or the websites that you visit from seeing your activity.  (Justia link to Brown vs. Google et al)

Separately the Arizona Attorney General also filed suit against Google for tracking user locations in its Android mobile operating system. The AG says that Google changed policy defaults and opt-out processes without appropriate notice. (Read at The Washington Post)

b. Zoom generated $328 million in its Q1 2020 revenue. COVID-19 closures created demand for the videoconferencing service, especially its free tier, but Zoom also added big customers and now has 265,000 customers with more than 10 employees. The company may be looking to monetize even more because its new end-to-end encryption security will only be accessible to paying users.

c. Facebook users can now bulk delete messages using a new feature called “Manage Activity.” There’s even an option to archive messages that you want to keep but don’t want the public to see. With more than forty million people out of work, there has never been a better time to clean up your social media profile. (Read the announcement)

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News

Great Trackers

Johns Hopkins — added state level and other data.
ProPublica Reopening Tracker — State by state measures
DC Metro Tracker spreadsheet by WTOP editor Alejandro Alvarez

Tech News

Demonstrating 15 contact tracing and other tools built to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 –> at TechCrunch

Schools Turn to Surveillance Tech to Prevent Covid-19 Spread –> at Wired

Publishers Sue Internet Archive Over Free E-Books –> at The New York Times

Visualizing Layoffs at Prominent Startups Triggered by COVID-19 –> at Visual Capitalist

3. Search Engine Optimization News

Google will now highlight any featured snippets that appear in search results for your website’s pages. Refresher: A featured snippet is the highlighted response in Google’s result page that appears before the others. 

Now you’re asking how to get those on your website, and I have to admit that I don’t know because I’m writing this instead of traveling between my weekend private island and my weekday private island. But Google kindly provided opt-out instructions for websites that don’t want all that free traffic. Here’s the announcement.

Bing Webmaster Tools, which are a consistently excellent and free resource, have added a new SEO analysis that checks your website for compliance with best practices twice a month. It’s a rudimentary form of software tools we use that cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. This is a nice option if you have a small website and don’t have dedicated marketing resources. Here’s a sample report:

Don’t worry if that’s all gobbledygook to you. Even Google misses out on technical SEO issues sometimes. Top local search expert Andrew Shotland detailed with screenshots how Google had made a mistake in producing the UK and US versions of the same page in the same results.

4. Also in the Spotlight — Snapchat No Longer Recommends Trump

Two weeks after a Bloomberg analysis described how the Trump reelection campaign was courting young voters on Snapchat, the company removed the president’s account from its recommended “Discover” category.  As many as 500,000 Snap users turn 18 each month and are a highly sought after audience for political advertisers. 

Snapchat released a statement that read in part, “We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”

Reminder: neither Snapchat nor Twitter have stopped the president from posting on their platforms. In Snapchat’s case, they simply no longer include his account in a list of accounts that users may want to follow.

5. Following Up: Complying with California’s Data Privacy Law

We’ve written a lot about the California Consumer Privacy Act that affects companies with more than $25 million in annual revenue, houses data from 50,000 or more households, or operates as a data broker.

Now the Interactive Advertising Bureau has set up a technical solution that allows companies to create an automated notice to all of its data partners when a consumer clicks an opt-out button.

Read more about the technology at Ad Age.

6. Debugging: Protest & Protester Misinformation

The Annenberg Public Policy Center is maintaining an updated list of misinformation and disinformation circulating online about protests regarding police practices. Do yourself a favor and bookmark it so that you can easily find it when something pops up in your feeds.

Images of a darkened White House and false claims about protests abound.

7. ProTip: Blur Faces & Remove Your Data from Photos

There are many reasons to blur a face or remove a photo’s data showing the date and place a photo was taken. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do either, but remember, you may want to know years from now if you took that picture in 2020, 2018, or 2021. 

Have fun, but don’t delete for the heck of it.

8. Great Data: Mapping Civil Unrest Animation

We’ve looked at animated graphs before, but an animated map still has a gee-whiz factor to it that will impress your audience. Here’s one by Visual Capitalist of a very important and topical issue.

Hint: take a look at the static maps and see how easy it is to simulate the animation.

Screening Room: Brawny Giants Initiative

Brawny’s new outreach initiative is supporting local community heroes.
The tone is note perfect for these times.

10. Coffee Break:  Remote Tour the Faroe Islands

Sometimes you want to get away from it all. This tourism site acknowledges that you’re not traveling there, but you can watch remotely and even control the action yourself for one minute.

This is a heckuva pivot for the tourism board.

The next trip is Wednesday morning Eastern Time. There is also a video to watch.

Good Monday morning. It’s June 1st, the start of Pride Month. People are raw right now between a pandemic, protests over racial inequality, and forty million lost jobs. We’re going to have to take care of each other. Try really hard to do that this week.

We’ve created new pricing during this crisis for nonprofits and small businesses that need help maintaining their online presence on websites, email, and social media.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,304 words, about a 4 1/2 minute read.

1. News to Know Now

a. We told you for months and most recently on May 19, that “Twitter is cracking down on misinformation and deliberate disinformation. The company says it will remove tweets that are deliberately misleading and that have a severe propensity for harm even if that content is sent by the president.”

Twitter did just that early in the week after the president posted an inaccurate two-part tweet about voting fraud. The company left the tweets in place but labeled them as “potentially misleading.” The president retaliated by issuing an executive order filled with complaints about Big Tech and a request that the FCC review the Communications Decency Act provisions that protect tech companies from liability for what users post on their systems. A consensus among industry legal analysts seems to have formed that suggests legislative rather than executive action is needed to accomplish what the president wants.

Later in the week Twitter labeled, but did not remove, a post by the president that it said “glorified violence.” Twitter’s labels were among the least punitive action that the private company could have taken. Twitter, Facebook, or any other company can remove anyone’s account or posts as they have shown in the past when taking action against people posting legal but inaccurate information. 

b. Facebook continues adding features to attract small businesses. The company announced that its new Shops program is available on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp to any entity with a business profile. Ten percent of U.S. small businesses remain closed today due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

c. Facebook also launched Venue, “a second screen” mobile app for live events. Venue’s goal will be to directly compete with Twitter to provide social media coverage of live events from well known personalities. Tech Crunch has coverage including screenshots.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News

Great Trackers

Johns Hopkins – added state level and other data.
Covidly — flexible data and charting tools
Our World in Data — Oxford nonprofit 
ProPublica Reopening Tracker – State by state measures – truly excellent
DC Metro Tracker spreadsheet by WTOP editor Alejandro Alvarez

Note: if you’re a DC area resident on Twitter, follow Alvarez there for excellent local info (@aletweetsnews)

Tech News

Google’s AR tool helps you measure two meters to maintain proper social distancing – read at The Verge

Microsoft News just cut dozens of editorial workers as it shifts to an AI-driven system of picking stories – read at Business Insider

Nearly Half Of The Twitter Accounts Discussing ‘Reopening America’ May Be Bots – read at Carnegie Mellon

One of the first contact-tracing apps violates its own privacy policy – read at The Washington Post

Tracking COVID-19 Excess Deaths Across Countries (updated) – read at The Economist

WATCH: 9 Local TV Stations Pushed the Same Amazon-Scripted Segment About COVID-19 – read at Courier

3. Search Engine Optimization News

Google has created a new report called “Core Web Vitals” that it says provides metrics around areas that it considers “critical to all web experiences.” In nearly twenty years of running websites, I’ve learned to pay attention to what Google does rather than what they say.

These metrics are outgrowths of Google’s focus on speed. As SEJ’s Matt Southern reported, “There’s more to keeping users happy than having a site that loads fast.”

Google is singling out these three elements:

Cumulative Layout Shift — this measures if a page loads something late that causes the whole display to shift.

First Input Delay — This is how fast the website responds in a way that the user can see.

Largest Contentful Paint — That is the measure of how long it takes the main section of the page’s content to load. Yes, it is called Contentful.

There are dozens of significant factors that affect an organization’s website visibility, and page speed is among the most important. These are not the replacement for page speed metrics, but a way to subdivide the metric and to measure if websites use less desirable fixes like loading things late that cause the display to move.

Why should you care? As a business leader, your team should already know about and have plans to optimize these factors. As a user, you’ll see the continuing and increasing focus on usability as it relates to website speed.

4. Also in the Spotlight — NSA Built a Social Network About You. And They Update It.

Award winning journalist Barton Gellman’s new book is “Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State.” Wired has published a 3,600 word excerpt well worth your time.

This section explains how Gellman learned that the NSA didn’t simply capture the data of who called whom, when, and for how long. Instead, the data was continually fed through software that mapped each connection at the first, second, and even more remote levels.

Read Gellman on “contact chaining.”

5. Following Up: Walmart Discontinues Jet

Walmart saw as its jump start to challenge Amazon in the e-commerce space when it bought the company four years ago for $3 billion. We’ve talked about Walmart’s other acquisitions such as ModCloth and Bonobos also failing to help the company much like Amazon acquiring Zappos in 2009.

Tech Crunch has coverage here.

6. Debugging: Minneapolis Police Station Fire

Enough misinformation circulated online about the police station fire in Minneapolis that Reuters felt compelled to issue a fact check. The city’s Third Precinct was indeed set on fire, but the building often shown engulfed in flames was an apartment building still under construction.

Reuters has pictures of the construction site and police station, plus y’know, facts.

7. ProTip: New Chrome Features 

If your web browser is called Google Chrome, you can access new safe browsing settings and the ability to group multiple open tabs.

C|Net’s Iyaz Akhtar has a great five minute explainer video demonstrating them.

8. Great Data: Coronavirus Data Visualization

By now, you and everyone that you know is an expert on the difference between linear and logarithmic trendlines because we’ve all seen enough of them this year. One thing that we’re all going to do in the future is make data beautiful because plenty of others are setting the bar high.

French brand marketers BRIGHT took coronavirus data that you know well and gave it a great visualization. You should have access to people who can create at this level.

Move to the right after each animation loads.

Screening Room: Ryan Reynolds & Mint

Ryan Reynolds’ second splashy acquisition was last year’s purchase of budget carrier Mint Mobile. Here’s a goofy spot in the “we’re all working from home” style.

10. Coffee Break:  Can’t Unsee

This fun graphic design quiz gets progressively harder as you play. You’ll see side-by-side designs and pick which one “is most correct.”

Have fun. See you again in 20 minutes.

Good Monday morning. It’s May 18th. Next Monday is Memorial Day. We’ll take the long weekend off and be back in your email on June 1st.

We’ve created new pricing during this crisis for nonprofits and small businesses that need help maintaining their online presence on websites, email, and social media. 

Today’s Spotlight is 1,253 words, about a 4 1/2 minute read.

1. News to Know Now

a. Twitter is cracking down on misinformation and deliberate disinformation. The company says it will remove tweets that are deliberately misleading and that have a severe propensity for harm even if that content is sent by the president. The company released this graphic to explain how it would act in the future. (Twitter announcement)

b. A Google Chrome update launching this week will feature the ability to create tab groups. The feature will let you color-code and name groups of tabs by project or task. Here’s how they work. (Google announcement)

c. Facebook has settled a suit on behalf of the contractors who moderate extreme content posted to the site. That content includes graphic videos of suicide, violence, sexual abuse, and more. The company is establishing a fund that provides $1,000 for all moderators to seek mental health services and more if someone is diagnosed with PTSD or another mental health condition. The Verge has broken all the news on this story from the beginning so here’s their coverage of the suit being settled.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News


Covidly — my go-to
Our World in Data — Oxford nonprofit — also excellent
Hardest Hit ZIP codes in 5 Metro Areas with Analysis

Contact Tracing & Data

Icelanders are using a Covid App & It Hasn’t Helped Much
Health Officials: Apple-Google Virus Tracking System Will Be Worthless
India’s Contact Tracing App Tops 100 Million Users in 41 Days

Tech News

Amazon Calls for Federal Price Gouging Law
LinkedIn Pages Can Now Host Virtual Live Events
The Real Bailout is on GoFundMe
Twitter Says Staff Can Continue Working From Home Permanently

That Amazon story isn’t counterintuitive. Here is a real screenshot from Amazon I made while looking for an out-of-stock breakfast cereal. Honeycomb might be tasty, but I can’t think of a breakfast cereal worth 80 cents an ounce.

COVID-19 Creates New Transportation Opportunities

Concerns about COVID-19 are moving us faster to drone delivery, remote operated trucks and local robots like the ones we’ve shown you at George Mason University. Here is a special section of stories to catch you up.

Ann Arbor Robots Delivering Four Times As Many Food Orders
EverDrone Delivers Defibrillators in Sweden
Food, Grocery Delivery Robots Slated to Launch Soon
Medical Cargo Flying on Passenger Aircraft
Truck Drivers at Home to Pilot Driverless Vehicles
Uber Mandates Masks for Drivers and Passengers

3. Search Engine Optimization News

Google has begun testing drop shadows to visually separate search results. The subtle graphic functions like a box around one search result to separate it from the next. There are multiple examples on Twitter via Search Engine Journal.

Google may be facing antitrust lawsuits from the Justice Department and state attorneys general, according to reporting from The Washington Post. Justice officials have broadened their original investigation of advertising practices to also include the search engine portion of the business. The federal case could come as early as this summer, according to the report.

4. Also in the Spotlight — Interactive Facebook Tools Launch

Facebook and its subsidiaries are in the midst of a user boom. Traffic driven by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus is largely responsible for ten percent user growth and significantly increased engagement.

Consider: there are 2.6 billion Facebook accounts logged into at least monthly. There are only 7.6 billion people on the planet, so no, your two accounts don’t drive the company’s usage up. Engagement is also up, especially in hard-hit places like the U.S. and Italy.

That’s why you’re now seeing interactive Facebook tools regularly popping up. In only several weeks, we’ve seen the introduction of Facebook Messenger video chats for groups, the rollout this weekend of personal cartoon avatars, and the announcement that Facebook has bought Giphy, the largest of the short looping video repositories. 

Facebook is acting as nimble as a startup in some ways, but also flashing cash as evidenced by the $400 million it paid for Giphy. Facebook is also capitalizing on ideas created by others, something that Snapchat often accuses Instagram of doing.

Snap originally bought Bitstrips for $114 million to incorporate the company’s famous cartoon avatars. After evangelizing the marketplace, Facebook launched a competitor just as it copied Zoom with its new Messenger group chats.

These interactive Facebook tools also have an escapism component. You don’t have to meet people in person when you can video chat groups, you don’t have to post a picture of yourself or reply to others using those, whaddyacallem, words. And if you really want to invoke a feeling, you can now use one of Facebook’s library of millions of pop culture videos.

5. Following Up: Plandemic Disinformation Video

We told you last week about the “plandemic” video filled with disinformation that was debunked by multiple fact-checking companies. Since then we’ve learned that an ex-Google employee and conspiracy theorist helped direct the marketing plan to get the video the widest possible audience.

Read Vice’s expose about Zach Vorhies

6. Debugging: The CARES Act

Multiple people, including business leaders and professionals, messaged me last week about another video making the rounds. 

This video claimed that the CARES Act was introduced to Congress on January 24, 2019 — more than one year before COVID-19 was news in the U.S. They thought that was proof that the entire pandemic was either staged or exaggerated.

The short version of this fact check is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used existing legislation that was tabled but already in the system for this bill. Congress then amended the existing bill with the CARES Act legislation.

Read about the sausage making at the Annenberg Public Policy Center

7. ProTip: Add a Facebook Avatar

You were probably running or baking bread or doing something super meaningful this weekend instead of building in nuances to your Facebook avatar. 

Here’s a how-to with pictures if you’re ready to make yours

8. Great Data: Zoom Worth More Than 7 Airlines

Ted Leonsis famously said that AOL’s biggest competition wasn’t another service but a sunny day at a nearby park. That’s the way to understand your true competitors. 

And while Zoom may not seem like an airline competitor, its ability to permanently disrupt business air travel for much less expensive video conferencing is something the airlines understand well.

Lufthansa Created The Data, Visual Capitalist Made It Stand Out

Screening Room: Dominos & Safety

The next wave of advertising is going to have to be your organization telling people WHY and HOW it is safe to do business with you. Dominos got a solid early start.

10. Coffee Break:  The Goats Have Arrived

Forget the canals of Venice. My uplifting nature story this week features the Goats of San Jose.

Check out these 200 kids and their parents in suburbia

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 in two weeks.