The Adults In The Room

There is a version of the story of this company in which idealistic journalists, unconcerned with profit, are posed against ruthless business-doers, concerned about profit above all else. That would be a convenient story, pitching me and my colleagues and friends as people who just care too much about The Truth to yield before the gale-force winds of Capitalism, but it wouldn’t be a true one.

The real and less romantic story is this: The journalists at Deadspin and its sister sites, like most journalists I know, are eager to do work that makes money; we are even willing to compromise for it, knowing that our jobs and futures rest on it. An ever-growing number of media owners, meanwhile, are so exceedingly unwilling to reckon with the particulars of their own business that they refuse to accept our eagerness to help them make money. They’re speaking a language no one else does, proud of their own inability not just to not fail, but to not understand the terms on which they’re failing. The tragedy of digital media isn’t that it’s run by ruthless, profiteering guys in ill-fitting suits; it’s that the people posing as the experts know less about how to make money than their employees, to whom they won’t listen.

“It’s still a killer business,” Kendall Roy tells his father Logan in the latest episode of Succession, in which Logan debates whether to pull the plug on Vaulter, a digital media company run by the family business. “The platform, the brands, ethos and culture are leading edge, and in my view, it’s fixable. All they need is adults in the room.”

It seems likely that a similar conversation played out earlier this year in the Back Bay offices of Great Hill Partners, the private-equity firm that now owns the company where I am on the payroll until the end of today. The managing partners—all of them men, white, and members of the one percent—agreed to buy this company at a steep discount, and to bring in another white male one percenter as co-owner and CEO. This company had a good platform and strong brands; all they needed to do was hire a few people who could make it profitable. All they needed was adults in the room.

It seems likely that variations on this conversation played out earlier this year in the Thousand Oaks, California, offices of SAGE Publishing, and in the New York offices of First Look Media, and in the Folsom, California, offices of e.Republic. In those three cases, as in the fictional case of Vaulter, the adults in the room decided the magazines they published—Pacific Standard, Topic, and Governing, respectively—could not be saved. It seems likely that similar conversations play out constantly in the New York offices of Alden Global Capital, the purely evil hedge fund that has eliminated two out of every three jobs at the 100 newspapers it runs.

A metastasizing swath of media is controlled by private-equity vultures and capricious billionaires and other people who genuinely believe that they are rich because they are smart and that they are smart because they are rich, and that anyone less rich is by definition less smart. They know what they know, and they don’t need to know anything else.


Since Great Hill Partners bought this company in April, the CEO and his newly hired C-suite have gone to great lengths to show they are the adults here, and that the employees of this company who preceded them are children in desperate need of parenting. They have attempted to institute a dress code and rules about the hours during which employees must be sitting at their desks. They have attempted to intimidate reporters out of reporting true stories about the dysfunction they have created. They have told experienced product managers that quality-assurance testing and other widely accepted best practices are unnecessary because their years of experience are better substitutes. They have driven out several senior managers—most of them women, myself included—by undermining us and condescending to us at every turn.

Of course, the employees who built the company Great Hill bought are not children, and they don’t need parenting. I know this not because they are my friends and some of the smartest people I know (though they are), but because Gawker Media has always been a successful company.

Gawker Media is dead, of course. But it’s not dead because it failed; it’s dead because it was murdered by a vindictive billionaire and there existed no legal infrastructure to protect it. When Gawker was murdered in a terrifying blow to freedom of the press, a shocking number of other journalists said the site deserved it: They should have had more decorum, should have been less rude, should have placated the right people instead of making fun of them. What those journalists didn’t say, and what they still don’t say, was that Gawker made journalism better through inspiring new publications and through pushing the legacy ones to be more interesting. They don’t say that Gawker unionizing made conditions better across the industry. And they don’t say that the company’s websites were consistently profitable and beloved by readers, that the business model—publish stories that people wanted to read, supported by advertising—worked exactly as it was intended to.

Among the people Great Hill Partners has fired and driven out of the company and treated like children are people who have been responsible for creating and sustaining a successful digital media business for over a decade. Even after Univision bought Gawker Media (sans Gawker) and renamed it Gizmodo Media Group, and even after the company was saddled with debt from numerous failed Univision ventures, the core business model kept working. The entire reason I wanted to work here was that the sites kept putting out best-in-class journalism through crisis after crisis. I have no doubt they will do the same now.

Jim Spanfeller, the CEO of this company, meanwhile, is best known for growing Forbes.com in the mid-2000s, around the time this website was born. While he was not responsible for the “contributor network” that made Forbes a journalistic laughingstock, he set the stage by demanding increased output at all costs (up to 5,000 stories a day by the end of his tenure). The clickbait and SEO plays and sleazy monetization schemes rejected by Gawker Media were the entire point. Content mills The Active Times and The Daily Meal, which Spanfeller launched and later sold to the Tribune Company at a trivial price, ran the same playbook, and many of his ideas for growing revenue at this company (implementing slideshows to juice pageviews, clogging story pages with ever-more programmatic ads at the expense of user experience) were taken straight from that era—more than a decade ago, or approximately an eon in internet time. The only idealistic belief at Gawker Media was that a journalistic enterprise could make money without scamming people; the guiding principle at Forbes and sites of its ilk was that scams are good as long as they make money.


The question I hear the most about the owners of this company is “Why did they buy a bunch of publications they seem to hate?” I and my colleagues have asked Spanfeller only slightly more diplomatic variants of that question on several occasions. The answer he has given is that the publications didn’t cost him much and that he liked their high traffic numbers. The unstated, fuller version seems to be that he believed he could simply turn up the traffic (and thus turn a profit), as if adjusting a faucet, not by investing in quality journalism but by tricking people into clicking on more pages. While pageviews are no longer seen as a key performance indicator at most digital publications—time spent on the site is increasingly thought to be a more valuable metric—Spanfeller has focused on pageviews above all else. In his first meeting with editorial leaders, he said he expected us to double pageviews. Several weeks later, without acknowledging a change, he mentioned that the expectation is in fact to quadruple them. Four months in, the vision for getting there seems less clear than ever.

This company’s websites already have larger readerships than most of their competitors, and much more loyal ones. Yet Vox and Vice and BuzzFeed are, on paper anyway, worth billions between them; this company recently sold for a tiny fraction of that. Those companies’ path to those valuations (which are obviously inflated, but that’s not the same as not “real”) was not through scammy advertising on scammy SEO plays, but through investing in sales reps and creative revenue ideas and good stories that people wanted to read. Great Hill Partners is correct that an opportunity for huge profit exists here, too, but they want a quick cash-out rather than the growth that comes from a well-run business. This makes no sense on its own terms—who gets into media to turn a fast buck?—but more than that betrays a curious lack of greed. Who would squeeze publications to save thousands of dollars here and there when hundreds of millions are on the table?

What has in any event been made exceedingly clear is that the owners’ vision involves narrowing the scope of Deadspin’s coverage. During my first real conversation with Spanfeller, he told me he didn’t understand why the site covered other media companies. During my first real conversation with Spanfeller’s hand-picked editorial director, Paul Maidment (another Forbes veteran), he said he didn’t understand why we covered politics. My responses—that we cover those things because our readers like them, a thesis that is supported by traffic figures—have failed to make an impact. In a meeting with the Deadspin staff earlier this week, Maidment said the “stick to sports” edict comes from Great Hill leadership, but that he would “double-check the numbers.” “If the data changes, my views change,” he told my colleagues.

The data has in fact stayed quite consistent. Posts on The Concourse, Deadspin’s vertical dedicated to politics and culture and other topics that are not sports, outperform posts on the main site by slightly more than two to one.

My colleagues and I know that most Deadspin readers do not want the site to stick to sports. I know this because I have 18 months of experience running the site and 12-ish years of experience reading it, and because I work with people who have seven or eight or nine years’ experience writing and editing for it. We know this because I read the comments. We know this because readers make obvious every day what they most like to read, and because our traffic numbers are large and growing, and because I have tunneled obsessively into the details of those traffic numbers for the past year and a half. The politics, media, and lifestyle stories will not stop, because my colleagues are committed to giving readers what they want despite any bureaucratic obstacles, and to doing it with enviable levels of intelligence, humor, and integrity.

The numbers apparently do not matter to my ostensibly numbers-obsessed bosses, for reasons I can’t quite understand. When I have told them that the data show that non-sports content brings more traffic and more revenue opportunities, I have been ignored. When I have told them that the data show that readers prefer publications with a distinctive point of view, that Deadspin succeeds precisely because it doesn’t try to be all things to all people, I have been told that being all things to all people is in fact exactly the way to grow pageviews. The reason my colleagues are not going to suddenly start sticking to sports is not about editorial purity, it’s about the opportunity to grow the audience and make more money for Great Hill Partners. But the adults in the room know that we’re wrong, despite all evidence, because they just know.


The richest men in digital media sometimes show they are not the adults in the room in the pettiest ways. The beginning of the end of my time here came when Spanfeller, my boss’s boss, threw a tantrum in an email to the entire company over a story our staff was reporting on his hiring practices, management style, and threats to editorial independence. He accused us of biased journalism based on the fact that we had sent an early draft to our media lawyer, which is standard journalistic practice. He accused me and a 26-year-old reporter who works for me—a wildly talented reporter who has as much integrity as anyone I’ve ever worked with—of trying to “shame and discredit others in our community” by reporting a story. When another colleague suggested in an all-staff meeting that his email was itself an attempt to publicly shame and discredit his employees, he doubled down, saying he is a transparent guy who says what he thinks. The story—which was damning only in that it was a true recitation of facts—was published anyway, not because our bosses “allowed” it to be, but because Gawker Media journalists are not and will never be intimidated by bullying.

After I submitted my resignation, explaining that the ongoing undermining from my bosses made it impossible for me to continue to succeed in my job, and that I believed I was putting my staff at risk by staying, the CEO threw a tinier tantrum. When I passed Spanfeller in the office a week after I put in notice, he let out a cruel barking laugh, as if he was disgusted to be in my presence. I said “you can speak to me, you know,” and he responded in a tone familiar to anyone who was ever bullied in middle school. “I don’t want to,” he sneered.

This man is not the adult in the room at the former Gawker Media, just as Kendall Roy was not the adult in the room at Vaulter and Alden Global Capital executives are not the adult in the room at any of the 100 newspapers they are destroying. Sending a copied-and-pasted company handbook, issuing vague edicts about becoming sites for “enthusiasts,” and making inexplicable changes for the sake of making changes are the professional equivalent of a small boy dressing up in his father’s suit: He is role-playing, deluding himself but no one else.

The editors and writers and video producers and artists and sales reps and product managers and so on—the people who made this a successful company while also making it the best place I can imagine working—are its actual leaders, and the reason that, despite it all, these websites will continue writing things the rest of us want to read. But none of those people are the richest person here, which means they will keep succeeding despite—not because of—the man who is. He doesn’t know what they know; he doesn’t have to know. No one like him does.

 

Source: The Adults In The Room

As browser rivals block third-party tracking, Google pitches ‘Privacy Sandbox’ peace plan • The Register

Disclaimer: No advertisers were harmed in making this project

 

On Thursday, Google reminded everyone who might have forgotten that “privacy is paramount to us” and announced an initiative called “Privacy Sandbox” that proposes paving over a few privacy pitfalls without suffocating its ad business.

It takes a certain chutzpah for a company with such a lengthy history of privacy scandals to insist that privacy is “paramount” – more important to the company than anything else. Note that the company’s avowed mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Surveillance capitalism depends on the absence of privacy.

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A decade ago, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO at the time, suggested that those who sought privacy were probably doing something wrong and argued that it’s too dangerous not to identify people online.

Things have changed since then, at least outside Google. Europe’s GDPR now has to be taken seriously. US regulators, after years of inconsequential wrist-slaps and petty-change fines, are scrutinizing the company’s business practices more closely.

Google, like the other major online ad company Facebook, still wants to identify people online for targeted ad delivery. But its current leadership, having seen Facebook raked over the coals for the Cambridge Analytica data spill, now understands it has moderate the data hunger exhibited by its developers, marketers and partners.

Time for a change

In early 2018, Google launched Project Strobe, “a root-and-branch review of third-party developer access to Google account and Android device data and of our philosophy around apps’ data access.”

The first casualty of this privacy and security audit was the shutdown of Google+ because the company gave developers access to the data of 500m Google+ profiles and only later recognized the privacy implications. If anyone had actually been using Google+, it could have been a real scandal.

The APIs for Gmail, Drive and Chrome extensions have come under scrutiny too, resulting in additional restrictions to limit how developers can access and use customer data.

Google’s Privacy Sandbox consists of a related series of proposals, teased at Google I/O, to address web privacy and security concerns related to HTTP cookies and their role in online tracking.

The proposals cover: privacy-preserving ad conversion measurement; tokens for preventing fraud without personalized tracking; limiting browser fingerprinting; interest-based advertising based on group rather than individual behavior; and an identity model for the web that works without cross-site tracking.

“Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users, but user data shared with websites and advertisers would be minimized by anonymously aggregating user information, and keeping much more user information on-device only,” explained Justin Schuh, director of Chrome engineering, in a blog post. “Our goal is to create a set of standards that is more consistent with users’ expectations of privacy.”

Google’s goal is also to keep the web safe for advertising. As Schuh put it, “We want to find a solution that both really protects user privacy and also helps content remain freely accessible on the web.”

Master and servant

Therein lies the problem: Google wants to serve two masters, the user and the advertiser. It wants a world where privacy means something other than its dictionary definition: “the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.” It wants a world where privacy applies to everything outside the data points enumerated in its data use policy.

One aspect of its plan is to redefine first-party and third-party, concepts that remain critical to the browser security model. When an internet user visits, say example.com, that site is considered a first-party site and can set a first-party cookie. If example.com’s webpage code includes a Facebook Like button, Facebook could set a third-party cookie, which might be blocked or removed more readily than a first-party cookie.

Google’s identity proposal, “A Potential Privacy Model for the Web,” calls for redefining first-party status so third-parties can be treated as first-parties. With Apple and Mozilla now blocking third-party cookies by default, Google’s proposal looks like an attempt to throw a lifeline to the third-parties thrown overboard by rival browser makers.

Critics were quick to kick Google’s Privacy Sandbox to the curb, suggesting its proposals represent an attempt to redirect the technical momentum that has been moving the web toward meaningful online tracking protection.

The industry isn’t impressed

“There’s a giant elephant in the room you’re not acknowledging,” said Ben Adida, executive director of Voting Works, via Twitter. “Every other browser vendor is working on hard cookie blocking. You’ve got a conflict of interest about doing that very thing, and you don’t even mention it.”

Adida goes on to ridicule the conceit of privacy-preserving advertising. “We’re going to be in an everlasting fight between privacy and targeted advertising,” he said. “If you want to find a magical win-win, you’re gonna have to kill, or at least greatly hamper, the golden goose first.”

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Aram Zucker-Scharff, ad engineering director for the research, experimentation and development team at The Washington Post, via Twitter said, “The problem, according to Google, is that users want privacy but ‘publishers’ economic viability’ (how they make money) is dependent on tracking users in a way that is similar to assigning them a web-wide global identity.”

He said he’s not convinced that cross-site tracking has to be saved, pointing to The Washington Post’s plan to develop an ad targeting system that doesn’t depend on third-party tracking.

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Brendan Eich, CEO of Brave, a Chromium-based Chrome competitor, via Twitter said, “In conjunction with obstruction of privacy work at W3C, this looks like weak sauce in a misleading ‘privacy matters’ bottle, from a conflicted superpower that dominates the W3C.”

Eich added, “”Speaking for Brave, you cannot serve two masters. There is no ‘halfway tracked’ position on the dial…” ®

Source: As browser rivals block third-party tracking, Google pitches ‘Privacy Sandbox’ peace plan • The Register

Google Employee Writes Memo About ‘The Burden of Being Black at Google’ – VICE

In a memo he sent before leaving the company, a former Google employee criticized the internet giant and its employees, noting that he regularly encountered racism during his experience as a Black worker at the company.

The memo, obtained by Motherboard, is titled “The Weight of Silence,” and argues that Google is lacking in diversity, and that some of its employees make racist or at least insensitive comments about minorities.

“Over the last 5 years I’ve heard co-workers spew hateful words about immigrants, boast unabashedly about gentrifying neighborhoods, mockingly imitate people who speak different languages, reject candidates of color without evidence because of ‘fit’ and so much more,” the employee wrote. “So, just as I’m doing with this essay, I ultimately resolved to break my silence. And though I eventually grew more comfortable using challenging moments to educate my co-workers, I never stopped feeling the burden of being black at Google. And the more insensitive comments weighed on me, the less safe I felt here—and the less capable I was of being my best self at work, or myself at all.”

Do you work or have you worked Google, or another tech company? We’d love to hear from you about workplace culture. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai securely on Signal at +1 917 257 1382, OTR chat at [email protected], or email [email protected]

The author worked at the company for several years before leaving. He confirmed to Motherboard that he did write it, but he declined to comment. We have redacted his name from the memo to protect him against retaliation. The memo was sent internally but we were unable to determine how many people read it or how widely it was shared.

In the memo, the former employee cites a few moments where he felt uncomfortable at Google, particularly after big news events such as the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and during the ensuing protests against police brutality.

“I realized that my team simply did not have much to say on the issue of police brutality. This was odd—mostly because I’d watched them debate countless other topics, newsworthy and not, with a proud deftness and alacrity,” the memo reads. “From disappearing Malaysian airplanes to the spread of Ebola to the marriages and divorces of celebrities I’d never heard of, my teammates always had something to say about everything. But when it came to the violent policing of black bodies, they were silent.”

The memo highlights once more how several employees at Google are unhappy with how the company treats its employees. In the summer of 2017, an anti-diversity memo written by a now former employee caused an uproar within the company. Last week, a new mother shared a memo complaining that the company discriminated and retaliated against her for being pregnant. This memo is the latest public manifestation of the internal tensions within the company, which were recently detailed extensively in a Wired feature.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Subscribe to our new cybersecurity podcast, CYBER.

 

Source: Google Employee Writes Memo About ‘The Burden of Being Black at Google’ – VICE

‘Shooting,’ ‘Bomb,’ ‘Trump’: Advertisers Blacklist News Stories Online – WSJ

Like many advertisers, Fidelity Investments wants to avoid advertising online near controversial content. The Boston-based financial-services company has a lengthy blacklist of words it considers off-limits.

If one of those words is in an article’s headline, Fidelity won’t place an ad there. Its list earlier this year, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, contained more than 400 words, including “bomb,” “immigration” and “racism.” Also off-limits: “Trump.”

Some news organizations have had difficulty placing Fidelity’s ads on their sites, ad-sales executives said, because the list is so exhaustive and the terms appear in many news articles.

Forbidden WordsTop 15 words blacklisted by advertisers working with brand-safety firm IntegralAd ScienceSource: Integral Ad ScienceNote: Data for June
DeadShootingMurderGunRapeBombDiedAttackKilledSuicideTrumpCrashCrimeExplosionAccident01,0002505007501,2501,500Bombx621

Big advertisers have been burned several times in recent years when their digital ads appeared next to offensive content, including fabricated news articles, hateful or racist videos on YouTube and pornographic material.

Such miscues happen, in part, because of the complexities of online ad-buying, where brands generally target certain kinds of audiences rather than specific sites or types of content. It has become clear to advertisers that one way to protect themselves is to stipulate the websites or types of web content they want to avoid, and ensure their partners—digital ad brokers and publishers—honor those wishes.

“Political stories are, regardless of party affiliation, not relevant to our brand,” a Fidelity spokesman said in a written statement. The company also avoids several other topics that it says don’t align with published content about business and finance.

Marketers have used blacklists for years to sidestep controversy. Airlines avoided articles dealing with airline crashes, for instance. Now those blacklists are becoming more sophisticated, specific and extensive, ad executives said.

Online news publishers are feeling the impact, from smaller outlets to large players such as CNN.com, USA Today-owner Gannett Co. , the Washington Post and the Journal, according to news and ad executives.

The operations area of Fidelity Investments Center in Albuquerque last December.PHOTO: JIM THOMPSON/ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL/ZUMA PRESS

The ad-blacklisting threatens to hit publications’ revenue and is creating incentives to produce more lifestyle-oriented coverage that is less controversial than hard news. Some news organizations are investing in technologies meant to gauge the way news stories make readers feel in the hopes of persuading advertisers that there are options for ad placement other than blacklisting.

Consumer-products company Colgate-Palmolive Co. , sandwich chain Subway and fast-food giant McDonald’s Corp. are among the many companies blocking digital ad placements in hard news to various degrees, according to people familiar with those companies’ strategies.

Some companies are creating keyword blacklists so detailed as to make almost all political or hard-news stories off-limits for their ads. “It is de facto news blocking,” said Megan Pagliuca, chief data officer at Hearts & Science, an ad-buying firm owned by Omnicom Group Inc.

The use of lengthy keyword lists “is going to force publishers to do lifestyle content and focus on that at the expense of investigative journalism or serious journalism,” said Nick Hewat, commercial director for the Guardian, a U.K. publisher. “That is a long-term consequence of this sort of buying behavior.” The Guardian has had some advertisers block words such as “Brexit,” he said.

Ad RestrictionsThe number of advertisers who worked with DoubleVerify to prevent their adsfrom appearing alongside news or political contentSource: DoubleVerifyNote: Data for second quarter of each year
2016’17’18’190255075100125150175200

During the second quarter of this year, 177 advertisers that worked with ad measurement firm DoubleVerify Inc. blocked their ads from appearing on news or political content online, up 33% from the year-earlier period and more than double the 2017 total, the company said.

Integral Ad Science Inc., a firm that ensures ads run in content deemed safe for advertisers, said that of the 2,637 advertisers running campaigns with it in June, 1,085 brands blocked the word “shooting,” 314 blocked “ISIS” and 207 blocked “Russia.” Almost 560 advertisers blocked “Trump,” while 83 blocked “Obama.”

The average number of keywords the company’s advertisers were blocking in the first quarter was 261. One advertiser blocked 1,553 words, it said.

The polarized political environment in the U.S. has put brands on heightened alert. Marketers are mindful of the backlash they can face on social media when customers feel they advertised in offensive content. One Twitter account, Sleeping Giants, called out hundreds of brands that appeared on the right-wing news site Breitbart News Network following the 2016 presidential election, prompting widespread blacklisting of the site.

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Colgate-Palmolive is blocking online ad placements in news stories, according to people with knowledge of its ad strategy. “In general, our media buying goals are to advertise where people are most likely to be receptive to what we have to say,” a Colgate spokeswoman said in an email. The company said it looks for “opportunities more likely to fit with the brand’s positive, optimistic message.”

Subway said it has blacklisted 70,000 websites, including most hard-news outlets. The company wants to align with “positivity and the moments when our guests will be most likely to consider getting Subway,” said Melissa Sutton, Subway’s director of media services.

Used-car retailer CarMax Inc. blocks online ads it purchases through automated systems from appearing next to news content in categories such as “disasters,” “extreme violence” and “inflammatory politics” to ensure the integrity of its brand, the company said.

McDonald’s currently is blocking hard news from its automated ad purchases in the U.S., according to a person familiar with its ad buying. “The first time your brand is damaged, it’s not easily fixed,” said Bob Rupczynski, senior vice president of marketing technology at McDonald’s, during a recent ad conference in Cannes, France.

Pedestrians walk past a McDonald’s Corp. restaurant in Chicago in July. PHOTO:CHRISTOPHER DILTS/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Hotel company Marriott International Inc. avoids buying digital ads near opinion or commentary news, according to a person familiar with its approach.

Alphabet Inc. ’s Google has a long keyword blacklist that contains more than 500 words and phrases, including “privacy,” “federal investigation,” “antitrust,” “racism,” “FBI,” “taxes,” “anti-Semitic,” “gun control” and “drought,” according to a copy reviewed by the Journal. The list has made it difficult for at least one news publisher to place Google ads on its site, a person familiar with the matter said.

Blacklisting is cutting into the revenue of some online news publishers, even though they sometimes can replace blocked ads with content from other advertisers.

The audiences of many online publishers grew after President Trump launched his campaign—the “Trump bump.” At the same time, “they are losing revenue because some clients are using extensive keyword exclusion lists,” said John Montgomery, executive vice president of global brand safety at GroupM, one of the world’s largest ad-buying firms.

It is a worrisome trend for the news business, a sector already taking a hit as advertising spending shifts to online ad giantsFacebook Inc. and Google. Spending on newspaper print ads in the U.S. has plummeted 32% over the past five years, according to estimates from Zenith, an ad-buying company owned by Publicis Groupe SA .

CNN.com, which is owned by AT&T Inc., said it deals with some advertisers whose blacklists exceed 1,000 words. Among the words advertisers most often wanted to avoid on CNN.com during the first half of the year were “shooting,” “Mueller,” “ Michael Cohen ” and “crash.” The most-blocked term during the time period was “Trump,” which was blocked 636,636 times, CNN said.

Some digital publishers said the push for brand safety amounts to indirect censorship. Vice Media told advertisers at a presentation in May that it will no longer allow brands to block 25 words, including “bisexual,” “gay,” “HIV,” “lesbian,” “Latino,” “Middle Eastern,” “Jewish” and “Islamic.”

“Bias should not be the collateral damage of our much-needed brand-safety efforts,” said Cavel Khan, senior vice president of client partnerships for North America at the Brooklyn-based media company.

Marketers became more aggressive about protecting their brands online after a 2017 article by the Times of London that carried the headline: “Big brands fund terror through online adverts.” The article reported that ads from well-known brands were appearing on YouTube channels promoting hate speech or terrorism.

In the ensuing months, similar ad-placement problems plagued YouTube and other advertising platforms such as Facebook. Advertisers began taking a more cautious approach to digital advertising, enlisting the help of firms specializing in “brand safety,” ad buyers said.

“What turned out to be a reaction to protect a brand from unsafe things that are mostly user generated content,” on sites such as YouTube, ended up hurting media companies focused on producing real journalism, said Christine Cook, senior vice president and chief revenue officer of CNN’s digital operations.

The Colgate-Palmolive Co. New York office in 2018. PHOTO: MICHAEL BROCHSTEIN/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES

In automated ad buying, brands aim their ads not at specific websites, but at audiences with certain characteristics—people with certain shopping or web browsing histories, for example. Their ads are matched in real time to available inventory in online ad marketplaces that can come from thousands of websites. That is why brands sometimes are surprised to find their ads on websites they find controversial.

Ad-tech firms specializing in brand safety offer advertisers multiple ways to control their ad placements. Advertisers can block entire categories, such as “politics” or “violence,” using classifications brand-safety firms have set up after crawling the web. They can avoid certain keywords that appear in an article or headline. And they can establish a blacklist of sites to avoid or a white-list of sites they deem safe.

Brand safety has become a big business on Madison Avenue. Some agencies have hired teams of people to monitor digital ad placements, and some marketers have hired brand-safety officers.

Ad-technology firm OpenSlate said so many companies have asked for help avoiding news and political content on YouTube that it developed an algorithm last year to identify channels focusing those areas. Mike Henry, OpenSlate’s chief executive officer, said about one-third of its top 100 clients are currently avoiding news and politics on YouTube.

Some ad-sales executives said the technology used for brand safety is too blunt because it doesn’t take into account the full context of how specific words are used in a news story or video. CNN.com and Gannett are creating technology intended to give advertisers a better way to gauge if a news story is controversial.

CNN.com said it is testing a new product dubbed SAM, for Sentiment Analysis Moderator, that uses machine learning to score its site’s content for whether it will make readers feel “mostly negative,” “somewhat negative,” “neutral,” “somewhat positive” or “mostly positive.”

CNN tested the system by having it score 70,000 pieces of content, then having human editors review the content to see whether the technology worked. The company is testing the system with some advertisers who want to buy ads based on sentiment.

The New York Times and USA Today also have been using sentiment analysis to help brands advertise in news articles that may have a positive or optimistic sentiment.

Allison Murphy, senior vice president for ad innovation at New York Times Co., said the company now offers several different ad-targeting options. “We can satisfy a brand that is fine with politics but doesn’t want to be around President Trump,” she said.

In May, representatives of several companies, including CNN.com, USA Today and the Journal met to discuss how they could work with ad agencies and measurement companies to devise a way to move the sector beyond keyword blacklists, according to people familiar with the meetings.

The “overreliance on long keyword blacklists has a real cost” to both publishers and brands, said Josh Stinchcomb, global chief revenue officer of the Journal and Barron’s, both owned by News Corp . “To that end, we are building proprietary tools that ensure brand safety.”

The Washington Post also is using new technologies that help advertisers gauge the context of stories.

Ms. Cook at CNN.com said news organizations must change advertisers’ perception of news. “One of the things I have been evangelizing is all the dimensions of other content types” the company creates, she said.

Some news publishers, including CNN.com and USA Today, are producing and promoting more ad-friendly lifestyle, technology, business and sports content.

“If a client says to us, ‘We are just really not comfortable with news,’ unlike some of our competitors, we don’t have to say, ‘Let me talk to you about why you should run in news,’ ” said Michael Kuntz, chief operating officer of national sales at USA Today Network, which includes USA Today and more than 100 local news outlets.

Still, he said, “the future of the digital news space is heavily reliant on us continuing to change the perception around why news does not need to be a polarizing category.”

Source: ‘Shooting,’ ‘Bomb,’ ‘Trump’: Advertisers Blacklist News Stories Online – WSJ

Lou Dobbs praises ICE employee for driving his car into a group of protesters | Media Matters for America

LOU DOBBS (HOST):  I know that it must just gladden your heart to see a bunch of demonstrators at an Immigration Customs Enforcement facility blocking the path of a guard and then complaining about the fact that he sought to do what is within his rights, which is to proceed to park his vehicle and go to work.

TOM HOMAN (GUEST): Well exactly. First of all, a lot of protesters nationwide have shown up to ICE facilities, it makes you wonder if they even got a job. Besides this, they got to understand, ICE employees, especially our contractors that run our facilities for us, they’re on edge Lou. And I don’t know what happened in this incident but our employees are on edge. We’ve had someone shoot at an ICE office yesterday in San Antonio, barely missing, by inches, an employee, murdering one of our employees. I showed a video today on my Fox — I did a Fox op-ed today and I released a video today from a one of our facilities in Tacoma, Washington, where the man shot up the building then he tried to blow it up with propane tanks and catch the building on fire – which would kill 1300 people in that building, many were locked up. Hundreds of immigrants would have perished in that if he would’ve been successful. Thank god Tacoma PD were able to take him out quickly. ICE employees are on edge. They’re under attack. And our contractors are under attack.

Source: Lou Dobbs praises ICE employee for driving his car into a group of protesters | Media Matters for America

Tomato Season Is Here and America Is Obsessed – The Atlantic

When I got home from my tomato expedition, I read a tweet from the comedian Sarah Lazarus that made me feel like someone had put a camera inside my apartment. “Every day we have to wake up, confront the most upsetting shit we’ve ever seen, and then walk around obeying laws and saying ‘it’s tomato season,’” she wrote. On social media, the grotesque and silly all get swept together in one endless stream, dizzying and outrageous. Chernobyl selfies get uploaded next to pics from last week’s beach day. Tomatoes—wholesome, unextravagant, and endlessly photogenic—exist somewhere in the comforting middle, a mundane joy in an absurd world.

I hadn’t just wanted any tomatoes that morning, but good tomatoes. Heirlooms or field-grown South Jersey beefsteaks, fat with juice that will run down your forearm, brightly colored in shades of red, orange, and yellow, mixed with brilliant greens. The best tomatoes don’t end up in conventional grocery stores alongside the bland hothouse variety you see all year. Instead, you have to seek them out at appointed times and places, from farmer’s markets or vegetable stands that often have odd hours. Good tomatoes are made even more rare by the American food system. Acquiring a few is the five-buck version of finally getting a day at the beach.

In New York City, good-tomato season lasts a scant six weeks, from early August to mid-September. Every late summer tomato is a miracle, arriving when the heat has been around too long but most people aren’t yet ready to hurtle into the yawning darkness of winter. This is a tense time of the year in the city: Violent crime rates are higher when it’s hot. Subway platforms are so sweltering that they become a health hazard. People who haven’t had a summer vacation are cheek to jowl with those who make weekly Hamptons escapes. Few crops can ground you so firmly in a time and place, and on such a particular edge.

Psychologists often use the term sublimation to describe a defense mechanism that transforms socially unacceptable impulses into less harmful acts. It’s what you do when you can’t do what you want; people sublimate their desires or rage or despair. Maybe you tidy up your closet to avoid going deeper into credit-card debt by buying new clothes. Maybe you keep your grout so clean because of paranoia that your spouse is cheating on you. Maybe you avoid screaming at your boss by leaving the office to buy your third latte of the day.

On the internet, a type of sublimation seems to happen on a mass scale when social media users all try to process traumatic or stressful news together and in public. As others have speculated, it may not be a coincidence that a joke raid to free Area 51’s imprisoned aliens cropped up at a time when so many refugees are imprisoned in camps at the border. Some people might pour their anxiety over shootings in America into the giddy joy of a somewhat nonsensical and instantly viral meme about dozens of feral hogs.

Source: Tomato Season Is Here and America Is Obsessed – The Atlantic

Publishers must prep for a cookie-less world by building walled gardens of their own | AdAge

Amid heightened concern around consumer privacy, Google is the latest browser developer to make policy changes that impact the use of cookies. In strengthening the privacy protections within its Chrome browser, Google has made it easier for users to block third-party cookies and harder for tech companies to fingerprint.

With consumers bombarded by targeted ad messages that they find disruptive, it’s easy to see this move in a positive light. The downside is that changes like this are a clear step toward a world without cookies, which would further consolidate power into the hands of the online advertising giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon, with their owned-and-operated properties.

Publishers, already squeezed by declining ad revenues, may feel like they dodged a bullet with this Chrome update, but they can’t rest easy. Google’s decision marks the beginning of the end for the current ecosystem built on cookies, re-targeting and programmatic revenue. Fortunately, Google’s decision to move slowly toward this inevitability gives publishers ample time to prepare solutions that can preserve—and maybe even increase—their ad revenues.

Google plays it slow
Prior to Google’s official announcement, it was rumored that the company would go in two potential directions: a replacement for cookies informally referred to as the “Google ID”; or a new version of Chrome that would block third-party cookies by default. The actual announcement landed in the middle.

All vendors that place tags on publishers’ sites must now mark their tags as either first- or third-party. When Chrome’s new dashboard launches, the expectation is that consumers will have the option of blocking or clearing either third-party, or all cookies.

This Chrome change is a small step in the direction that other browsers, like Safari and Firefox, have already gone. However, Google is being more precise, requiring strict categorization, rather than letting AI determine which cookies are warranted and which should be blocked, as is the case with Apple’s Safari.

Unlike those browsers, Google has a massive ad sales business. Had Google outright blocked third-party cookies, it may have ushered in a cookie-less world but it also had the potential to draw antitrust concerns from regulators. The writing is on the wall that Google will likely roll out its own version of intelligent tracking prevention once it sees a viable alternative. For now, Google has decided to move slowly and with caution.

Publishers’ opportunity
That slow start is a gift to publishers, because it gives them time to prepare for the inevitable future. Thanks to regulations like GDPR, publishers have woken up to the fact that they were often giving away their most valuable asset to other companies that placed tags on their domains. Sometimes, publishers weren’t even clear on how many tags were firing on their pages, or where and how that data was being used. While GDPR has placed a heavy burden of compliance on publishers, it has also forced them to clean up their sites and privacy policies. Fortunately for them, those two completely necessary actions carry some benefit, and many publishers have taken greater control of their data as a result.

This latest Google development will force publishers to be even more proactive in protecting their ad revenue. Some publishers are already talking about how this is a second chance at restoring their business to the days before programmatic when their advertisers sought out and paid a premium for brand safety, context and premium content. It’s imperative that publishers use the time that Google just gave them to develop solutions that will help them form their own versions of walled gardens, in order to better compete against Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Publishers will ultimately find it in their best interests to partner and develop these solutions, while not being so drastic as merging. This kind of collaboration is also the first step toward an industry-wide initiative to solve lingering concerns over cookies. While Google’s move isn’t catastrophic, the level of fear triggered by this small move shows just how reliant and vulnerable publishers, vendors, advertisers and agencies are to one company and one browser.

Banding together
Make no mistake, there is a clear need to improve the online experience for consumers and clean up the ad ecosystem. But decisions to do so can’t be made by one company, leaving the rest of the community to deal with the consequences. Publishers need to band together to maximize the value of their data and their audience, and they need to advocate for industry-wide standards and change, to ensure that users, publishers and advertisers all benefit from a value exchange that comes from sharing data.

 

Source: Publishers must prep for a cookie-less world by building walled gardens of their own | AdAge

This Fake Ikea Manual Explains the A$AP Rocky Case So Even Donald Trump Can Understand It – Adweek

 

A pair of Swedish creatives are poking fun at Donald Trump’s involvement in rapper A$AP Rocky’s legal troubles with an Ikea-inspired manual that gives tongue-in-cheek instructions to the commander-in-chief.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the case, here’s what happened: During a tour stop in Stockholm earlier this summer, the rapper—real name Rakim Mayers—was charged with assault following a fight and spent nearly a month in jail.

A$AP Rocky has since been released and is now back in the U.S. awaiting a final verdict due Aug. 14. But his case has spurred interest in the Swedish justice system—particularly around President Trump’s failure to understand it.

Last month, the president tweeted that he’d “personally vouch for” the rapper’s bail—except Sweden doesn’t have a bail system. He also criticized prime minister Stefan Löfven for “being unable to act” on the issue, even though Swedish law prohibits him from intervening.

He also, curiously, sent Robert O’Brien—the White House’s special envoy for hostage affairs—to Stockholm to monitor the case.

So to catch the president up on the Swedish legal system, art director Oscar Gierup at McCann New York and copywriter Hampus Elfström at Forsman & Bodenfors Gothenburg have put together step-by-step directions in the style of an Ikea manual. Besides being instructional, it’s also, as you’d expect, rife with digs at the president and his unofficial catchphrases (covfefe, stable genius, etc.)

An ikea manual explaining the swedish justice system and A$AP Rocky's case to Donald Trump

Oscar Gierup and Hampus Elfström took it upon themselves to explain the Swedish justice system to Donald Trump.

Provided

Gierup said the idea came to them when Trump started attacking Sweden on Twitter.

“We wanted to do something with the fact that Trump specifically started to argue with Sweden and our prime minister,” he explained. “Especially since he’s on ‘such good terms’ with dictators and leaders known for killing journalists and innocent people.

“We also think it’s important that he (and others) know that we have other laws and regulations in Sweden,” he continued. “Trump clearly doesn’t understand that. If the prime minister would do what he wants him to do, that would be grounds for impeachment.”

Being from Sweden, he said it made sense to give their hometown brand a shoutout.

“The Ikea manuals are quick, simple, and [are] of course very associated with Sweden, so we felt that the medium was a perfect fit for this idea,” Gierup said.

 

Source: This Fake Ikea Manual Explains the A$AP Rocky Case So Even Donald Trump Can Understand It – Adweek

Will Facebook’s Rebranding of Instagram and WhatsApp Boost Its Rep or Hurt Theirs? – Adweek

Is adding “From Facebook” to the branding for the social media giant’s Instagram photo- and video-sharing network and WhatsApp messaging application a good move, a bad move or inconsequential?

Writer and business coach Jason Aten opted for the second, saying in his post on Inc., “Let’s put this in context: This branding move would be like buying a successful line of luxury boats and renaming them ‘Yachts From Titanic.’”

The social network confirmed this week that Instagram and WhatsApp will be rebranded Instagram From Facebook and WhatsApp From Facebook, respectively, with a spokesperson saying, “We want to be clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook.”

However, Rebecca Rosoff, co-founder of independent boutique agency The Kimba Group, pointed out in an interview that “in the culture of abbreviation and emojis, today’s best practices for brand naming conventions do not include going from one word to three.”

And while Facebook’s ownership of Instagram and WhatpsApp is common knowledge in the social media field, the same is not necessarily true for the general public. A DuckDuckGo survey of 1,153 random U.S. adults last year found that 56.9% of respondents were unaware that Facebook owned Instagram, and a similar DuckDuckGo survey of 1,297 random U.S. adults found that 50.4% of respondents who had used WhatsApp in the past six months were unaware of its relationship with Facebook.

Lauren McGrath, vice president of studio and strategy for influencer marketing platform Activate, said in an interview, “Influencers are well aware that Instagram and WhatsApp are both owned by Facebook, although creators have generally favored the former two platforms over the latter. Instagram in particular has greatly benefited from maintaining its own branding and identity separate from Facebook in the wake of the company’s privacy dilemma … It certainly hurts the ‘cool factor’ of these once-indie platforms, although I don’t see influencers abandoning Instagram anytime soon.”

Bryan Gold, CEO of creator media platform #paid, called Facebook’s move “high-risk, low-reward,” saying in an interview that consumers are well aware of the relationship between the platforms, and it hasn’t helped improve perception of Facebook. He added, “It’s like saying, ‘Hey, look: You love Instagram and WhatsApp. That’s our thing. Love us, too.’”

On the WhatsApp side of things, customer service software and engagement platform Zendesk said the rebrand will not affect its continued relationship with the messaging app.

The parent company’s name has been somewhat toxic since it revealed in March 2018 that British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica was suspended from its platform for improperly collecting and harvesting user data via a Facebook app called thisisyourdigitallife.

Mike Chiavetta, co-founder of The Kimba Group, said in an interview, “The Facebook name is piled with data scandals and frequently referenced as the propaganda engine. It needs brand equity fast. So, Facebook is infiltrating users’ psyche with old-school name dropping.”

The Cambridge Analytica scandal drew attention in Washington, D.C., and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called on the carpet to testify before Congress in April 2018.

The remainder of 2018 was marked by further issues, including bugs that compromised users’ privacy, discriminatory use of Facebook’s ad-targeting capabilities and questions over the accuracy of the social network’s video ad metrics.

Last month, Facebook agreed to a $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 20 times larger than the previous record fine imposed on a tech company for a privacy violation.

Despite all of the turmoil, Facebook certainly did not lay low, introducing its Portal video-calling device in October 2018, which counts on people agreeing to install devices from Facebook in their homes containing cameras that follow them around (albeit easily deactivated).

The company then went so far as to ask for people’s trust with their money, and not just their privacy, detailing plans in June 2019 to enter the virtual currency market in 2020 with the Libra coin and Calibra digital wallet, alongside partners including Spotify, Uber, Visa and Vodafone.

Source: Will Facebook’s Rebranding of Instagram and WhatsApp Boost Its Rep or Hurt Theirs? – Adweek

How Facebook Is Changing to Deal With Scrutiny of Its Power – The New York Times

 

ImageFacebook, under its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is making changes to deal with antitrust scrutiny.
CreditCreditTom Brenner/The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for the breakup of big tech companies like Facebook. Regulators have opened investigations into Facebook’s power in social networking. Even one of Facebook’s own founders has laid out a case for why the company needs to be split up.

Now the world’s biggest social network has started to modify its behavior — in both pre-emptive and defensive ways — to deal with those threats.

Late last year, Facebook halted acquisition talks with Houseparty, a video-focused social network in Silicon Valley, for fear of inciting antitrust concerns, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. Acquiring another social network after Facebook was already such a dominant player in that market was too risky, said the people, who spoke on the condition they not be identified because the discussions were confidential.

Facebook has also begun internal changes that make itself harder to break up. The company has been knitting together the messaging systems of Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp and has reorganized the departments so that Facebook is more clearly in charge, said two people briefed on the matter. Executives have also worked on rebranding Instagram and WhatsApp to more prominently associate them with Facebook.

The social network’s changes are now prompting a debate about whether a more knitted-together Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram is just smart business or helps strengthen potential anticompetitive practices. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, has repeatedly said his company faces competition on all sides and is loath to accept a fragmented version of the social giant. He does not want to lose Instagram and WhatsApp, which are enormous and have the ability to continue fueling Facebook’s $56 billion business.

“The big question is, is this a logical business plan?” said Gene Kimmelman, a former antitrust official in the Obama administration and senior adviser to Public Knowledge, a nonprofit think tank in Washington. “For a social network with enormous growth in photos and messaging, there’s probably significant business justification for combining the units.”

But Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and the chairman of the House antitrust subcommittee, said Facebook’s moves needed to be scrutinized.

“The combination of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp into the single largest communications platform in history is a clear attempt to evade effective antitrust enforcement by making it harder for the company to be broken up,” he said. “We need to hit the pause button.”

Facebook has pushed back on the idea that the company’s moves — particularly in private messaging — are in anticipation of a potential breakup.

“Building more ways for people to communicate through our messaging apps has always been about creating benefits for people — plain and simple,” said Stan Chudnovsky, a vice president at Facebook overseeing messaging. “People want to be able to reach as many people as they can with the messaging app they choose.”

In Washington, Facebook has its eye particularly on the Federal Trade Commission, the agency that is now investigating it for anticompetitive practices, said two of the people with knowledge of the social network.

The F.T.C. became interested in looking at Facebook and its power last year when the agency’s investigators were separately examining the company for privacy violations, said two people close to the process. At the time, the F.T.C.’s investigators uncovered internal Facebook documents that prompted concerns around how the company was acquiring rivals, they said.

ImageLate last year, Facebook halted acquisition talks with Houseparty, founded in 2016 by Ben Rubin, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The site was especially popular with audiences under the age of 24.
CreditWinni Wintermeyer, via Houseparty

Facebook’s long string of acquisitions — it bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, among many others — have been targeted by academics and policymakers for reducing competition. They have argued that the company engaged in “serial defensive acquisitions” to protect its dominant position in social networking.

This year, the F.T.C. sought clearance from the Justice Department to open an antitrust investigation into potentially anticompetitive behavior at Facebook, the people close to the process said. The F.T.C. was cleared to do so, and notified Facebook in June. By late July, the agency had contacted at least a half-dozen founders of companies that Facebook had bought over the past 15 years for information on its acquisition practices, said four people with knowledge of the outreach.

Around the time that the F.T.C. activity on Facebook ramped up, the company also stepped back on at least one potential acquisition.

Last December, Facebook executives were in advanced discussions to buy Houseparty, a social networking app that lets multiple people video chat on their mobile phones at once, said two people with knowledge of the talks. Houseparty, founded in 2016 by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Ben Rubin, was especially popular with audiences under the age of 24. Facebook, whose members are getting older, has coveted younger users.

But weeks into the discussions, Facebook’s corporate development team killed the talks with Houseparty, the people said. Houseparty’s executives were told that a deal would draw unwelcome federal government scrutiny to Facebook, they said. Houseparty was later purchased by Epic Games, the makers of the video game Fortnite.

Facebook’s changes that appear to make a breakup of its apps more difficult began more than a year ago. Mr. Zuckerberg focused on combining the underlying infrastructure of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. The project, called “interoperability,” requires years of deeply technical and difficult engineering work.

The aim, in part, was to create less of a hodgepodge of companies and more of a unified network, said people briefed on the strategy. Publicly, Mr. Zuckerberg has said the initiative will help build a more “private” version of Facebook so customers can “communicate across networks easily and securely,” as users flock to messaging services en masse. People will also get a better and more streamlined user experience, he has said. Mr. Zuckerberg has added that a unified messaging system would better lend itself to moneymaking efforts on WhatsApp, which today brings in little revenue.

But the idea of “interoperability” was a departure for Facebook. While Facebook and Instagram have long shared much of the same infrastructure, its different messaging products generally operated independently.

Though employees at Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are in separate physical buildings, executives have also pushed for them to share more internal resources and have reorganized their reporting lines. In one instance, Facebook executives ordered a change in the messaging teams, two of the people said, requiring the Instagram messenger division to report to the leaders at Facebook’s Messenger app. Bloomberg earlier reported on the internal reorganization.

Last year, Facebook also began a rebranding project, tapping at least one outside agency for help, said three people familiar with the initiative. The agency, Prophet Brand Strategy, was asked to make Facebook into a “branded house,” where Facebook’s moniker always preceded the names of WhatsApp and Instagram, they said. The rebranding mandate came from Mr. Zuckerberg and Antonio Lucio, Facebook’s chief marketing officer, they said.

In March, Jane Manchun Wong, an independent security researcher, spotted the new branding “Instagram from Facebook” — in some unreleased lines of code.

Employees at both Instagram and WhatsApp, who have been accustomed to greater autonomy, have chafed at the coming changes, said three people familiar with the divisions.

In hindsight, Facebook had quietly signaled that unification was afoot more than a year ago. In June 2018, the company introduced a combined metric that drew attention away from any individual product. It tallied the number of people who used one or more of any of Facebook’s services, including WhatsApp and Instagram.

The name of the new metric? Facebook’s Family of apps.

Source: How Facebook Is Changing to Deal With Scrutiny of Its Power – The New York Times