Voices

‘Do We Need to Sue Facebook?’ and 4 Other Stories You Should Read

​Here’s what you missed while spending all week on Facebook arguing with distant relatives…

Medium: Do We Need to Sue Facebook?

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

Hank Green, brother of John Green and one half of popular YouTube channels VlogBrothers and CrashCourse, dropped a much needed bomb on the content world this August with his Medium post Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video. Pretty much every publication with a tech/media vertical aggregated the story, including us, and it sparked discussion throughout the media world on questions like: Can we really trust Facebook? If the majority of Facebook’s video content is stolen, why are we all so impressed with their video numbers? How does Facebook, who employs some of the best software engineers in the world, not have a anti-copyright system that Google/YouTube created all the way back in 2006?

Since then, the discussion largely has died down, despite nothing being done. But Hank Green returned last week with a controversial question: Should YouTube creators sue Facebook? It’s a legitimate path to consider. After all, Facebook appears to be allowing large-scale copyright infringement and theft with little more excuse than “we’re working on it.” Meanwhile, the company has been releasing a seemingly endless march of updates for their video and ad products.

The response to Green’s post was perhaps the most telling part of this whole saga. The top comment, from a lawyer, basically amounted to “you have a legitimate case, but you would lose because Facebook has way too many resources and lawyers for you to possibly compete.” In other words, Facebook is too powerful to challenge.

But while that response disturbed me, the media world’s relative silence on a monopolistic tech company like Facebook engaging in highly questionable, if not illegal behavior for a competitive edge is perhaps the most stunning part of all.

Wired: I Turned Off Javascript for a Whole Week and It Was Glorious

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

I’m not as militant about ad blocking compared to others on our content team, but it’s still tempting to think about the joy of an Internet experience free of disruption. My personality is not quite hermit-in-the-woods, but it wouldn’t take much for me to get there. So when Wired published this article, written by Klint Finley, I was intrigued.

Yeah, the headline is pretty hollow, but some of the finer points of Finley’s JavaScript experiment make a compelling case for why others may want to give it a try. When he turns off his JavaScript, his digital experience is largely unharmed. There are a few red flags—Netflix and YouTube don’t work, for example—but he can still access most websites and social networks, only without the annoyance of ads or email sign-up boxes.

I’ll let him take it from here:

The experiment left me longing for more control over what actually runs inside my browser. It showed me how unnecessary the clutter that’s been built up around the web really is, and just how easy it is to make it all go away.

The Wall Street Journal: Square IPO May Prove to Be Turning Point for Technology Shares

Selected by Amanda Weatherhead, distribution manager

Are IPOs the new down round?

Square went public yesterday to the tune of $9/share, or a valuation that was billions below their last round of financing. And Square isn’t the first from the vaunted ranks of Silicon Valley’s unicorns to go public below their most recent valuation. Was this relatively modest IPO due to the stagnant economy, or was Jack Dorsey engaged in a Machiavellian plot to drum up positive PR for his company, at the risk of ripping off early-stage investors?

I believe the answer is c). none of the above.

While some are scratching their heads at companies leaving potentially hundreds of millions of dollars on the table, savvy CEOs are catering to late-stage investors by offering them a ratchet, in the hope of engendering goodwill and fostering long-term relationships with these investors. I’m predicting that the hottest topic of 2016 will be the modest IPO (forget things like virtual reality, Kim K’s new baby, and the presidential election).

It’s become de rigeur for flashy tech companies (the Snapchats, Ubers, and Dropboxes of the world) to see valuations double and even triple with each additional round of funding, which sounds crazy. However, as major mutual funds flock to the Valley, startups face even greater scrutiny. These funds must report on their holdings to the SEC every quarter, meaning that stakes in these companies are being written down. So in this case, mo’ money most certainly equates to mo’ problems.

Does this mean the sun is finally setting on the era of the unicorn? For the sake of our economy, I most certainly hope so.

Cuepoint: How to Hack the Music Industry: The Paradox of Awareness 

Selected by Ann Fabens-Lassen, communications manager

I like this article because it combines my two loves: music, and content marketing. Okay fine, I don’t LOVE content marketing, but I do obsess about it constantly, so that’s a kind of love.

The author, Danny Quick, talks about all the things we talk about at Contently: measuring the right metrics, using amplification (or distribution) platforms to expand your reach, and building relationships with customers. The only difference is that Danny is talking about artists or “creators,” rather than brands. We talk a lot about what “content” means. I guess we forgot about the obvious fact that it can be a song or an album.

The Guardian: America’s Poorest White Town: Abandoned by Coal, Swallowed by Coal

Selected by Ryan Galloway, senior managing editor

“I was an alcoholic first. I got drunk and fell in the creek and broke my back. Then I got hooked on the painkillers,” the 59-year-old grandmother said.

Somehow, that’s not even the most gut-wrenching quote in this lengthy feature on drug addiction and grinding poverty in Appalachian Kentucky. Chris McGreal’s writing manages to be sympathetic without being treacly or patronizing. And unlike most stories that cover this subject matter, the piece itself avoids feeling like “poverty tourism.” If you’re interested in social issues and the general sense of otherness that pervades America’s rural areas, this is a great—if far from fun—read.

Image by rickyd
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