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This week in search

Google fined, Nike to sell direct on Amazon, social media platforms to face fines for inaction on hate-speech, and Facebook is due to usurp major player of the 1970s – the Yellow Pages


Google

A long, long time ago, far away in a very busy city, a man gave free directions to visitors, constantly updating them to ensure that visitors were given the best possible directions. Due to the man’s diligence and commitment to the city’s visitors he became extremely successful and shopkeepers in the city were prepared to pay to advertise on his stall. Eventually, these shopkeepers even paid to register their prices with him and he allowed visitors to compare those prices.

All of this advertising revenue made it easier for the man to give good directions and also to invest in other areas such as driverless carriages and other tortured metaphors. While they seemed to have no qualms about the man not paying any tax, the city’s rulers were swayed by a competitor who thought he should advertise their products for free. So the city fined the man.

The EU has certainly never been averse to fining organisations for anti-trust activities – while some commentators have claimed that the EU has a vendetta against American companies, it has also imposed huge fines on Telefonica and numerous other European brands for price fixing and anti-competitive practices.

The major issue that must be argued is whether legislation can ever keep up with unpredictable and disruptive technological advance and whether, if it cannot, tech firms should be punished for breaching regulations that have to be thought up later and therefore don’t actually exist at the moment of their breaking.

As far as Google are concerned, they have done no wrong in leveraging their own technology to make a profit, as far as the EU is concerned – something happened and they’re not happy about whatever it was. Some compromise will have to be reached between the high-speed progress of tech companies and the necessarily (pre-climate catastrophe) glacial speed of enormous bureaucracy, but what it is remains to be seen.

Amazon

In a piece of news I’m placing here to in no way compare it to the above, Amazon have just done it – they’ve slowly, through being very successful at allowing third party resellers to use its platform, convinced Nike to sell directly through their site.

In this move, which will likely knock millions of pounds off the share value of physical stores such as Footlocker and thousands of online resellers, Amazon, which advertise only brands that use its platform and therefore, whether directly or indirectly, pay for the privilege, has doubtless cheered definitively non-evil mega-investors like Goldman Sachs who made the announcement reported in Reuters, while knocking in the final nail to seal the collected coffin of high street sports retailers who simply cannot compete.

Hate speech fine

Germany celebrated the legalisation of gay marriage this week, in a move that has delighted progressives and all people who believe that equality before the law is a preferable thing to flagrant discrimination, and in a second ruling (presumably after seeing the look on Angela Merkel’s face at the announcement of the first) has made a big push to tackle hate speech on social media.

The ruling, reported in the New York Times before I ran out of free articles for the month means that social media platforms could face fines of up to $57 million if they do not delete “illegal, racist or slanderous comments and posts within 24 hours”.

In waters now muddier than those of my beloved Mersey, campaigners on freedom of speech as well as tech companies themselves have questioned whether they can come to the same conclusion on what such speech actually constitutes while others are unsure about placing decisions about what constitutes illegal speech in the hands of unelected super-corporations. All current fiction currently supports the idea that this will lead to battles between various robotic law enforcers controlled by OmniCorp, but time will tell.

Facebook

David Marcus, head of messenger at Facebook, has been quoted in Marketing Week stating that Facebook are pushing to replace something even the Yellow Pages parent group Hibu probably no longer care about.

Facebook, he says, will serve as a contact page – allowing consumers to contact brands directly through Messenger. Sort of like they do now, only different in a way that is clearly passing me by. In the same article, Mr Marcus is also quoted as saying that the 1.2 billion Messenger users will allow Facebook to do something its competitors can’t. Brands, he says, will be able “to reach customers who are registered on Facebook. Customers can actually engage with the brand and be sent relevant content”.

Presumably the thing Facebook will be able to do, therefore, is stop 1.2 billion people using Messenger.


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