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Tech is the new Politics

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
The tech giants are facing a barrage of tough, negative coverage, with some of the same dynamics that drive saturation coverage of President Trump.

  • NBC's Dylan Byersreported Friday in his Byers Market newsletter: "Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives are fed up with The New York Times after weeks of what they see as overtly antagonistic coverage that betrays an anti-Facebook bias."
  • "The frustrationwas rekindled ... after the Times bought a sponsored post on Facebook to promote 'a step-by-step guide to breaking up with' Facebook."
Facebook better get used to it — and Twitter and Google's YouTube can see the increased scrutiny they're likely to get ahead of the 2020 presidential race.

  • Facebook is facing the sustained cycle of negative coverage that has been experienced by the likes of Monsanto, big oil and big banks.
  • Axios' Felix Salmon points out that Facebook now has an adversarial relationship with the press — a big change from even when "The Social Network" came out in 2010. The movie was critical, but in the context of general adulation.
Just like with Trump after his election, many news outlets feel guilty that they weren't tougher on Facebook sooner, and now are trying to compensate.

  • And like Trump, they brought a lot of this on themselves.
  • Now, much of the media looks at the company skeptically, critically and sometimes cynically. Despite protests, sharp scrutiny is well deserved.
  • A Facebook official, pointing to new content policies and enforcement capabilities, told me: "We recognize our role and responsibility, and understand the scrutiny. We just want the reporting to be fair and accurate."
The barrage is likely to spread to some of Facebook's Bay Area neighbors: Many major news organizations — including The Washington Post, The Atlantic and CNN — are staffing up for greatly expanded tech coverage.

  • Tech is the new politics.
  • This is partly in reaction to the techlash of the past year, and partly in preparation for a post-Trump world, when websites can't count on politics to drive massive year-round traffic.
  • Just as in politics,there's going to be overwhelming coverage of the same few actors — in this case, Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.
So Big Tech will be covered like a presidential candidate — everyone piling on the same story.

  • Some companies' problems will start to look bigger than they are.
  • Scandals and investigations will be what sells.
Be smart: The biggest platforms have the power and reach of nation-states — or greater — and increasingly will be treated as such
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room


Staff member
The pro tech sentiment has changed to be sure.

The scene here in Canada is incredibly exciting and fun to watch, and over a year ago I imagined I could pivot tribe.ca to cover it. There are so many interesting people in the tech scene here and at first glance it sort of resembles the early house music scene in Canada in the late 80's and early 90's. I envisioned anew underground... But hanging over absolutely everything in our tech sector are facebook, google, amazon, and to a degree, Microsoft and Apple. They are milking the world of $$$ and everything else needs their permission to exist. Fundamentally, these big tech companies hold all tech entrepreneurs by the balls. You can have your successful business model pulled out from under you by the oligopoly in a second, as Google did with my digital ad agency FORUMCAST. They unilaterally changed our service contract, there was no appeal, consultation, or even an acknowledgement of our mail sent to the Google legal dept. You see, companies this big don't have to respond or acknowledge anything. We were a valuable partner until we weren't.

Anyway, I decided that while I love the smart people and creative energy in Canada's new tech sector, if the tech oligopoly decides it doesn't monetise them enough, they will snuff Canada's tech sector out without notice or warning. Sadly, government intervention has been required for years, but may already be too late to regulate these companies.

I went to the second Elevate tech conference this year. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, but the second one made me feel sad, like it was a big PR exercise to compensate for the evils of big tech. I found Google's Eric Schmidt, a keynote guest, to be smarmy. I thought, WhyTF is this guy headlining a Canadian tech conference? Why is Al Gore headlining? Maybe it was just me, and the room was filled with people who wanted to be there (including me), but there was a big tech taint over the entire thing.

I understand entrepreneurs, underdogs, people who put their entire lives on the line for their creativity and company. That's me after all. People who give up more to try to do something better or differently. Entrepreneurs have to deal with enough shit.

Anyway, I have a few ideas about where I want to take tribe.ca this year. Somewhat tech related but not directly. I have slowly backed away from FORUMCAST. I still have 3 clients and will wind them down, probably at the end of the year, giving them ample notification and consultation.

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Tech's cold war turns hot

The most valuable companies in the world — Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon — mostly stayed in their own lanes as they grew into giants. Now they’re increasingly clashing as their growing ambitions bump into one another, Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried reports:

  • Once upon a time, Amazon was largely a retail store, Apple sold hardware, Google was a search engine, and Facebook was an online social network.
  • None of the companies is confined by those definitions any more. They spill over into one another's territory even as they depend on each other to greater and lesser degrees.
  • Facebook and Amazon, for example, both distribute their consumer apps through the Google Play and Apple app stores.
  • Google, Facebook and Apple all rely to some degree on their products being sold through Amazon, despite each also having tensions with the retail giant.
The rivalries:

  • Google and Amazon had vastly different origins but are increasingly rivals: They compete in cloud computing, advertising and other areas.
  • Amazon and Apple have fought but are finding more common ground.
  • Google and Facebook together control the lion's share of the online ad business.
The bottom line: Tension is likely to outweigh cooperation, especially as each of the four companies seeks to convince regulators that the others are the ones in need of reining in.
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Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Mapping online neighborhoods

Data: Parse.ly; Table: Axios Visuals
Politics is the #1 show on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, but gets smothered on visual-heavy platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, Axios' Sara Fischer and Neal Rothschild write.

  • On Twitter, text strings optimize quick bursts on evolving storylines.
  • On Instagram, the camera is central, showcasing desirable lifestyles.
Why it matters: Media companies are increasingly incentivized to produce quality content that fits a specific platform, rather than gaming algorithms.

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Big Tech's lobbying war
Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google "are amassing an army of lobbyists as they prepare for what could be an epic fight over their futures," write the N.Y. Times' Cecilia Kang and Ken Vogel.

  • "The four companies spent a combined $55 million on lobbying last year, doubling their combined spending of $27.4 million in 2016, and some are spending at a higher rate so far this year."
  • Why it matters: "That puts them on a par with long-established lobbying powerhouses like the defense, automobile and banking industries."
"The influence campaignsencompass ... calls on members of Congress, advertising, funding of think-tank research and efforts to get the attention of President Trump."

  • "The industry’s troubles mean big paydays for the lawyers, political operatives and public relations experts."
  • "The companies all had earlier ties to Democrats but have also worked to develop closer relationships with Republicans."