US Businesses Lead on Reputation Management

Loyalty to local businesses may never cease to be an important factor in brick-and-mortar commerce, but the boom of “near me” searches and the emphasis on convenience in the age of mobile search make a prime online presence for the quick-querying passerby more important than it has ever been. This latest Uberall data indicate that responding to reviews can provide the slight 5-star rating bump that guides an unfamiliar customer into a store she may otherwise pass up for a higher-ranked competitor.

Google’s Fitbit Purchase: Peek into Next-Level Local Dominance and Healthcare Hacking

Prescriptions by Google, then? The company indeed lacks Amazon’s delivery capabilities but has a stranglehold on search and therefore on consumers’ connections to local businesses. It is not hard to imagine a world in which Google appears to keep its privacy promise by refusing to sell ads directly based on Fitbit user data but still capitalizes on the data by using it to connect Fitbit users with local health care service providers, pharmacists, and even gyms. That would just constitute one more way Google is edging out the digital middlemen that once closed the loop from Google search to a local service provider.

Uber, Lyft, DoorDash Fight Gig Economy Law in California

Ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft are teaming up with restaurant delivery service DoorDash to fight California’s AB 5, a law that would force gig-economy companies that survive on contractor labor to register their drivers (or dashers) as employees and offer them benefits, Vox reported.

The coalition, the Protect App-Based Drivers and Services campaign, is attempting to place a referendum on the 2020 California ballot that would give voters the choice to exempt ride-sharing services from the law. That would presumably include DoorDash, which is not a ride-hailing service but essentially iterated Uber’s business model, employing drivers to escort food instead of passengers from A to B on demand.

Facebook, Free Speech, and the Responsibility of Power

The many arguments adduced to spare Facebook the responsibility of monitoring its content, of removing content that leads to physical violence all the way down to false political advertising, fail because they are based on under-developed understandings of responsibility itself. To argue that Facebook should be spared almost all regulatory expectations because it is a technology like the telephone rather than a media site like the New York Times or that Facebook should not be entrusted with taking down false advertising or striking down violent speech because those are tasks best left to the government is a failure of imagination and a failure to imagine what (civic) responsibility entails. As the word suggests (respons-ibility), the responsibility of any company or person who provides the possibility of speech, who can take it away from any given user and makes billions in profits off it, is to answer for and consider the admittedly unpredictable and deeply complex ramifications of the speech spoken under the company’s or person’s auspices.

Jump of 0.1 in Five-Star Review Averages Can Make the Difference on Conversion

When customers are looking for a quick fix and do not intimately know the shops around them, star-rating averages are crucial. A new report by location-based marketing firm Uberall indicates they are so influential in consumer decision-making processes that a mere 0.1-point jump in a store’s average rating can increase its conversion rate by 25%.

Report: Text Messages, Online Chat Essential Channels for Businesses

More than 70% of US consumers polled in a survey commissioned by business messaging platform Quiq had engaged with businesses via text messaging or online chat two or more times in the previous month.

That should be a signal to businesses that email and phone are no longer sufficient; messaging will be key to survival for consumer-facing businesses of the future.

Amazon is Making Meaningful Gains in Search Ad Market

It will be key to see if the pace of Amazon’s overall and search ad revenue slows down in the next few years as it exhausts. For now, its ad success is just one more sign, like the news that it will likely sell its Go tech to retailers, that Amazon can find and dominate new businesses beyond its core identity as the Everything Store. 

Impending Brand Safety Woes: Nasty and Misleading Political Ads Hit Facebook

If brand safety in the 2020 election season does not immediately seem concerning, consider the following: You’re an advertiser hoping to run digital ads for your advertising tech solution. You pay a publisher with huge traffic big money to score impressions on its platform. But as soon as a Democratic voter navigates to the site and sees your ad, along with it pops up a big Trump ad making inflammatory claims about Biden. The web surfer navigates away from the site. Who wins?

Nextdoor Releases Local Deals to Connect Businesses with Nearby Customers

Nextdoor, the social networking app that requires users to enter a verified address in order to connect neighbors, is announcing local deals, a feature that will allow businesses on the platform to promote sales, discounts, and other offers to nearby customers.

Nextdoor is active in more than 248,000 neighborhoods across 11 countries.

Google Considers Buying TikTok Rival

TikTok could be seen as a competitor for YouTube, the video platform owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet. TikTok is typically seen as a greater threat to Facebook in the social category, and the social giant is testing a copycat app of its own to crush the insurgent. But more time on TikTok could also mean less time on YouTube in a tight attention economy, and TikTok’s fervent teen users apparently have Google concerned enough to spark a potential Firework deal.

Amazon Pursues Retail-as-a-Service, Looking to Sell Go Tech to Cinemas, Airports

This time, it’s not Amazon Web Services, the cloud underpinning Amazon’s operations and those of other companies around the world, but Amazon’s Go technology that is being peddled to new clients. Bezos’ e-commerce behemoth is in talks to sell the flashy cashierless solution to movie theaters and airports, CNBC reported. 

If Amazon is successful, the play to sell Go to other businesses may some day turn what now appears a revolutionary technical advance (with potentially devastating consequences for cashiers) into a commonplace asset. Just as AWS, the B2B play partially financing Amazon’s low-margin retail biz, supports thousands of businesses unbeknownst to their customers, Go-as-a-service could come to change all of retail without many consumers even realizing Amazon is behind changing checkout norms.

The Privacy Movement Is Not (Just) About Privacy

Privacy has been slipping away from us since before then-CEO of Sun Microsystems Scott McNealy said we had none of it in January 1999. Americans still do not understand how companies use their data. While that is a transparency issue incumbent upon businesses to fix — and legislation will to some degree remedy it — I think it more likely than not that Americans will continue to hand over their data to Amazon for two-day delivery and Google for the sleekness of search. What we typically conceive of as privacy itself — concern about how much of our information companies possess — is not the factor that will turn the tides on company practices and legal standards. 

Pared Expands to DC, Connecting Gig Economy Workers with Restaurants

Pared, the platform matching restaurant and hospitality workers with businesses in need of staff to cover shifts, is expanding to DC. Pared is already live in New York and San Francisco, and it plans to expand to Philadelphia, Boston, and other locations in 2020.

 The San Francisco-headquartered startup claims its service offers a prime deal for workers and businesses alike. It says it offers hospitality and food service workers higher wages and flexibility while offering businesses a ready workforce amid perennially high turnover in the industry.

Google Revises Policy Asking Users for Permission to Listen to Their Assistant Recordings

The fact that this was an open practice that at least some consumers simply did not understand they were either opting into or automatically participating in points to calls for greater transparency and regulation. Google says it “fell short” of its “high standards” on the issue, but legislation like Europe’s GDPR, CCPA, and legislation in some 10 other US states indicates those standards may be imposed on tech companies by government agencies going forward.

California’s Gig Economy Bill Becomes Law

The landmark California gig economy bill that may force companies such as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash that employ thousands of drivers as independent contractors to hire those people as employees became law today. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill.

If the bill does ultimately affect Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and other companies in the so-called gig economy thriving on venture capital for the last decade, it will severely disrupt their business models, which rely on cheap labor. 

Constant Contact Expands Beyond Email, Adds Website Builder for SMBs

Constant Contact, known for its email marketing platform, is expanding to offer an AI-driven website builder as well as tools for branding, productivity, and e-commerce. It’s the first major expansion for Constant Contact since its acquisition by Endurance International Group.

The company’s new website builder is specifically designed for SMB owners and operators without the time or expertise typically required to build an effective site from scratch. Constant Contact claims sites can be created in minutes.

Captivate and Hivestack Partner to Expand Programmatic DOOH Ads

Location-based digital video network Captivate and location-based mar tech company Hivestack are teaming up to expand access to programmatic digital out-of-home ads, the companies announced.

Hivestack’s marketplace and ad exchange will allow customers to buy video inventory on Captivate, which will bring engaging video ads to offices across North America. Captivate offers a professional audience of particularly high interest to marketers.

Google Hit With Another $500+ Million Fine

Google is in the news for the wrong reasons again. The search giant agreed to pay a 500 million euro fine (about $550 million) to settle a French fiscal fraud probe after investigators in the country accused it of dodging taxes, Reuters reported.

Google’s headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland, where it settles all sales contracts to avoid paying higher taxes in the rest of Europe. Alphabet isn’t the only company to take advantage of tax loopholes to avoid paying its fair share; Apple and Facebook also have large operations there.

Uber Pledges to Fight California Contractor Bill

Uber and Lyft are already losing billions of dollars, and long-term concerns about whether they will ever hit profitability have endured, making for relatively weak runs on the public market. If the companies cannot come close to profitability with cheap labor forces without benefits, having to treat drivers as employees could pose an existential threat. At the very least, it may require Uber and Lyft to slow down expansion and rein in their ambitions, suggesting that the heyday (or hallucinatory days) of Web 2.0 could be coming to a close.

Hyperlocal Social Firm Nextdoor Closes $170M Round, Adds Meeker to Board

The company seems well positioned to address the ills of social network and platforms plagued by negative user-generated content in general these days. That’s because it actually verifies the identities of its users and puts people in touch who live near each other in the physical world, definitely not eliminating all risk but limiting the chance that people use digital anonymity to harass each other without repercussions.