Tag Archive | internet

Is the Facebook, Google ‘duopoly’ bad for small business?

(This post originally appeared on Philly.com)

If you think that Facebook and Google pretty much control the Internet, you’re right — at least when it comes to advertising.

And that can be bad news to some smaller firms, particularly ones that run afoul of Google and Facebook’s oftentimes draconian advertising rules that restrict the promotion of potentially controversial merchandise and services such as unregulated drugs, certain “adult” products, pay-day loans, and weapons.

“The monopoly Google holds in the search market can literally put a death sentence on your small business, if your company or the industry you are in is blocked from placing paid search ads,” says Joe Butch, a digital-marketing manager at Recovery Centers of America. Last year, Google had suspended advertising by the King of Prussia-based network of addiction centers, blaming certain treatment providers that were doing what Google deemed false advertising. “Without any sort of government regulations, Google is deciding who can and cannot continue on their platform, and Google’s decisions are final in most situations.”

That issue is on the minds of many small-business owners and publishers this week after the release of the State of Digital Media report by Polar, a technology firm that helps publishers market branded content. The report predicts that not only would online advertising make up more than half of all the advertising dollars spent by 2022 but also that both Facebook and Google combined will control 80 percent of that spending.

In 2018, advertisers spent $169 billion with the two companies — which included fast-growing platforms such as Instagram (owned by Facebook) and YouTube and Google Maps (both owned by Google) as compared to the $29 billion received by Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Oath and Snap combined.

“Google and Facebook have a forceful hold on today’s digital-advertising industry, meaning brands can’t walk away from them,” John Nardone, the CEO of ad management and analytics technology company Flashtalking, recently wrote in Forbes. “There is an urgent need to start building a more open ecosystem where brands have greater choice and more control.”

The two companies’ dominance is being felt mostly in the world of publishing, where their stranglehold on third-party content is siphoning direct ad revenue away from many online content providers, the effect of which is being partly attributed to the recent layoffs reported by Vice Media, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post.

But it’s not just publishers that are affected by the Google/Facebook duopoly. As the two companies’ hold on the online advertising market grows, small businesses that advertise there are also facing fewer choices — and potentially rising costs. But is this such a bad thing?

“It depends on what you’re selling,” Rick Simmons, a Philadelphia-based marketing expert and owner of Simmons Online Solutions, told me. “It is less about the duopoly than it is determining the where – who exactly are your prospects and what do you know about them so you can be in front of them.”

Simmons is right. When I launched my online training business last year, my marketing choices were obvious. Using specific keywords, I relied on Google AdWords combined with both banner and display ads to get my site placed high in my target audience’s search results. I also tinkered with some Facebook ads because of the flexibility in narrowing down my audience and targeting messages directly to the users that I thought would most be interested in my products. The combination of both drove thousands of prospective subscribers to my site over the course of just a few months. Of course, getting those visitors to sign up has been another challenge. But that’s on me.

“One thing that both Google and Facebook have in common is boatloads of data,” said Pat Walsh, who runs the Walsh Group, a digital marketing firm based in Warrington, Pa. “Google Ads use the person’s geography, browsing history, and, most important, the search terms to create relevant advertisements that your prospect will likely click on. Facebook Ads equip themselves with an incredible amount of demographic data that Facebook compiles such as age, sex, income, interests, etc. So those beauty products can be to “women over 40”, in a household earning over “$90,000,” and have an interest in “fashion” and live within “25 miles” of your “zip code.” Walsh recommends starting with a small budget – maybe $500 a month – and building from there.

There are still plenty of marketing choices other than Google and Facebook for a small business, such as advertising in local publications, email campaigns, billboards, cable television, and even direct mail and telemarketing. But the fact of the matter is that most small businesses — pizza shops, auto mechanics, landscaping services, and clothing stores — want to be found online, even if they’re not selling their products or providing their services online. So it’s back to Google and Facebook, right?

Not entirely. There are other options besides the Google-Facebook duopoly. Other platforms with millions of users — such as Snap, Twitter and Yahoo — remain independent. Also, with the growth of its Echo and Kindle devices, many industry watchers are predicting that Amazon may turn into a major player that will take market share away from Google and Facebook. “Its strong handle on consumer purchase behavior sets it apart from Google and Facebook in the digital ad market, which has made the company an attractive option for advertisers,” Monica Peart, senior director of forecasting for eMarketer, said in a recent report.

Whichever advertising platform is chosen, I’ve learned that you can’t do it alone. Employing a marketing professional has become necessary mainly because online advertising requires its own form of expertise and a commitment of time that most small business owners such as myself just don’t have.


3 Reasons Why You Should Support the FCC’s New ‘Net Neutrality’ Proposal


(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Everyone’s up in arms because the Federal Communications Commission this week released its final proposal to reverse the Obama Administration’s “net neutrality” rules. The proposal is scheduled for a December 14th vote.

“Net neutrality” means that the entire internet should be able to be equally accessed and used by anyone – individuals or businesses for essentially the same price. The Obama-era ruling classified the internet as a “public utility” which supports this model. The new rules, called “Restoring Internet Freedom,” would reverse the 2015 ruling and put the internet back into private hands.

Opponents of these rules argue that by doing so big companies like Comcast and Verizon will take advantage of the public, charge more money, give preference to larger companies over start-ups and otherwise be in full control of the information super-highway. I guess all of this could happen – assuming we’re watching an updated version of The Matrix or a future episode of Mr. Robot. But the reality is the opposite. The Restoring Internet Freedom rules are good for businesses – big and small – and for three significant reasons. Read More…

Congratulations! You Just Agreed to Clean Toilets For a Day


(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

You and I have something in common. We’re at an airport, or some other public spot. We want to go online. So we connect to a public WiFi connection. But before we’re given internet access we’re asked to agree to the terms of a privacy statement, which is generally a million words written in two-point font. You don’t read it, right? Neither do I. You and I just blindly agree and happily surf.

Apparently 22,000 people did the same thing recently. All of them signed on to a public WiFi router maintained by a European provider called Purple. However, Purple decided to play a prank on them. By agreeing to their privacy statement, they also agreed to perform more than 1,000 hours of community services over a two-week period which included cleaning toilets, scraping gum off the sidewalk and picking up dog poop. Read More…

Yes, Your Internet is Very, Very Slow


(This post originally appeared on Inc.)

Would you like to play a game of baseball…inside of an elevator? Or drive from LA to Vegas in a BMW 735 Series…on a dirt road? If this is what you like, then come to America where your online experience is mostly the same.

A new Federal Communications Commission report confirms what you already knew: millions in this country are still suffering with very slow Internet speeds. So how slow?

First, a quick primer. To see how fast the Internet is, download, upload and average speed (page load) times are measured in Mbps, or megabits per second. This is not to be confused with MBps which is megbytes per second because…you can clearly see…the “B” is capitalized. No, I am not kidding. No, you are not allowed to kill the next tech guy you see. A good download speed is 25Mbps. The global average for Internet speed is 5.6Mbps.

So again, how slow? Read More…

Netflix and YouTube Now Consume 50% Of The Internet As The Argument For Net Neutrality Weakens


(This post originally appeared on Forbes)

According to this definition from Oxford Dictionaries net neutrality is “…the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.”

Do you support this idea? We know the President does.

“Net neutrality,” President Obama said in a recent statement, “has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.” The President wants to eliminate paid prioritization of content providers on the Internet, stating that “…no service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect.”

Which is all great news for Netflix and YouTube. But, unfortunately, bad news for you and me. Read More…

The President Is Wrong on Net Neutrality: The Internet Needs Fast Lanes and Slow Lanes


(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)

You’re staying at a hotel. You get online. When you log in, you’re given a choice: You can use the free Internet service that the hotel provides or you can pay extra for “faster downloads.” Like me, you’re a cheapskate, so you choose free. And it works fine … most of the time. But how about first thing in the morning when you’re checking your email? Or maybe right after dinner? Notice something? Yeah, you did — it’s slower. Much slower. And I’m sure you can guess why. Every user of the free service who’s waking up or getting back to their rooms from the conference you’re attending are all complaining about the boring keynote speaker … .and checking their email. And because you’re all sharing the same, free service you’re all suffering from slower performance.

Welcome to net neutrality.

Let’s take another example. Same hotel. Same Internet. Except there is no ability for the big time surfers to pay for faster downloads. So now everyone’s using the same connection. We’re all one big happy family. But there’s that one girl in room 310 who’s looking at a lot of porn (oh, right … like girls don’t do that, too?). And the guy in room 525 who’s streaming Breaking Bad the whole night. These two, and others like them, are killing your Internet’s performance. And because the hotel doesn’t charge them more for their additional downloads there will ultimately be a need to invest in more infrastructure to accommodate everyone, instead of just the few who need the increased bandwidth. That additional cost will be spread among all of the guests, of course.

Welcome to net neutrality. Read More…

Three Possible Reasons That Everyone Hates Comcast


(This post originally appeared on The Philly Post)


Last week I wrote that “net neutrality is a dumb idea” in Forbes and received a ton of comments (most in bitter opposition to my take). But that’s cool. It’s an important issue and I came away from the experience with three lessons from the many who offered their opinions: People are very passionate about net neutrality, many do feel that the government should play a bigger role in the Internet, and the most obvious of all: Everyone —and I mean EVERYONE — hates Comcast.

Why? Why does everyone hate Comcast so much?

Just bringing up the company’s name provokes raw anger. My wife, a genuinely non-violent person, starts throwing plates when I mention Comcast. Dogs howl and babies suddenly start crying the minute you bring up the company. Don’t believe me? Just try walking down the street with a friend and say a few nice things about Comcast. You’ll notice people begin to look at you strangely, and then they’ll start shoving and ultimately attacking you like those people in DiCaprio’s Inception dream world. Read More…