Metaverse, Omniverse, diverse, averse, perverse? 

Tired of partygate, the SmallDataForum takes measure of the mess surrounding Meta, where user numbers declined for the first time ever, followed by a rather dramatic share price dip, and Peter Thiel announcing that he would be leaving the Facebook board “to pursue Trump agenda”.

Oh well.

However, news of Meta’s impending demise would be awfully premature, as Sam reminds us.

Meta’s Valentine’s share price.

For all our Schadenfreude at Meta losing several hundred billion (!) $$$ in market value – at present, their share price is down a cool 35% from the beginning of the year, suffering the ignominy to temporarily drop behind Nvidia on the list of largest US companies – the attention capitalist behemoths Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta now hold a share of 46% of global ad spend, as opposed to 33% pre-pandemic in figures released by the World Advertising Research Center (WARC).

And yes, that’s total as in everything, not just digital…

Neville points to the business relevance of the metaverse, well beyond clunky headwear. He cites a recent Venturebeat article which explores the theme and the players, including the above mentioned Nvidia and their Omniverse. Many-a-verse at play, with few rules and little direction.

For the time being, this seems to hold a lot more interest for seasoned Second Lifer Neville, than it does for an occasional Luddite like me. 

As for marketing in the metaverse, there is some of that in Sam’s recently recorded chat with Christian Polman, UK MD of brand communications and publishing house Looping Group.

Clients want a metaverse strategy, even (or especially) if they don’t have the slightest idea what that actually means. FOMO is a strong motivator. This has a whiff of emperor’s and new clothes, and so it seems fitting that Sam throws @adcontrarian Bob Hoffman’s programmatic poop funnel into the mix: adtech’s value drain which ensures that a digital ad dollar only generates about 3 cents’ worth of viewing by real people. Poor old John Wanamaker must be spinning in his grave.

Campaign Asia:

And then there are the European Union’s continued efforts to clamp down on Silicon Valley style digital libertarianism. The latest headlines state that “Meta may shut Facebook and Instagram in Europe”, and both Sam and Neville are sceptical about that claim.

Still, European politicians feel there’s capital in Meta bashing, and so we have German and French ministers waxing lyrical about how good their lives are without Facebook. Well ok, and, yes, Facebook has seen the first decline in users in its 18-year existence.

However, there are still some 2.9bn active monthly users on Facebook. That’s 6.5 times the entire EU population.

We move on to the UK’s Online Safety Bill, and Neville takes us through some of the unsavoury highlights, from revenge porn to human trafficking, political extremism to promoting suicide online.

Left unregulated, it seems the ‘collective us’ knows few behavioural boundaries online, with the racist abuse of footballers, cyberflashing, and Covid disinformation being highlighted as key safety concerns for social media companies to address, as per a recent BBC report.

When it becomes law, this bill will enable the independent regulator Ofcom to fine companies “up to 10 per cent of their annual worldwide turnover or can block them from being accessible in the UK. Bosses of these websites could also be held criminally liable if they fail to cooperate with Ofcom” as per a government press release. All fair and well, but how will such rules be enforced?

World beating, yet again.

On the topic of social media users and abusers, content, moderation and regulation, I raise by a Rogan and add a Spotify: are the world’s most listened to podcast, its host and the platform hosting them to be held accountable for what’s being said, and potential negative impacts thereof?

That’s the $100m question: for Rogan in terms of income, for Spotify (who happily committed to that princely sum) in terms of return on investment. “We’re not a publisher”, declares the platform making oodles of money off the attention bundled through its published content. Now where have we heard that before…?

On the excellent NPR 1A podcast, Stanford disinformation expert Renee di Resta  describes Spotify’s COVID content moderation rules, which are best introduced without comment:

  1. you can’t say vaccines are designed to kill people,
  2. you can’t deny the existence of COVID (or cancer…),
  3. you can’t instruct people to drink bleach, and no,
  4. you can’t encourage people to have COVID parties, either.

Ok then.

Ever Cassandra on the rooftops, I express my concern that de-Spotifying  Rogan would only inflate the problem, by weaponizing the comedic open-minded martial artist for firmly right-leaning ‘anti-woke’ causes. Rumble is holding its arms wide open.

The doctor is in...
The Week

For someone who studied mass communication and public opinion before the Interweb was even a thing (and ever since), this is all a little odd.

I wonder what James Curran and Jean Seaton make of it all. The first edition of their classic Power Without Responsibility – Press and Broadcasting in Britain was published in 1981. It’s in its 7th edition now, and Internet has been added – but other than that, the title feels more accurate than ever. And that’s before any comment on the state of British politics – we’ll leave that for the next episode. One Dick down. Onwards.

Barbs aside, in Britain and generally – how can political discourse improve, how do we (re)introduce good governance to politics, how do we (re)build trust in politics, politicians and political institutions?

Gina Miller, campaigner for a better politics and leader of The True and Fair Party, has some ideas about that. Truth and fairness feature prominently in her vision and mission, as shared with Sam in another one of the SmallDataForum’s “occasional, but increasingly regular”, and highly viewable and listenable interview series.

We don’t all have to agree on diagnoses and remedies. We should, however, agree on a need to listen, learn and understand.

This conversation is as good a start as it gets.

Listen to Episode 54:

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