by Shane Ormond
On Jan 21, 2020
Now that the Chinese factory is complete (and just in time for a deadly virus outbreak), self-proclaimed “Buff Mage” Elon Musk is turning his attention to Germany, where colonies of bats and unexploded World War II bombs threaten to undermine investor confidence. (Those are not metaphors.)
- Twitter Bans Political Advertising
- $4.5 Billion up in Smoke for Juul Investor Altria
- House Votes to Formalize Impeachment Proceedings
- Congressman Hill’s Book Club: Life After Google
Twitter Bans Political Advertising
Twitter is banning all political ads on its platform, which hopefully means I never have to see a presidential candidate dab ever again.
Twitter CEO and exhausted hipster Jack Dorsey announced the dramatic shift in company policy on Twitter last night, just minutes before rival Facebook was scheduled to deliver its quarterly earnings.
What followed was an 11-tweet essay that makes you wonder if Twitter is the best platform for announcing news like this.
I’m not going to copy and paste Dorsey’s entire manitweeto here. (Although if I did, I could probably just call it a day and go drink wine and throw candy at children.)
But the crux of his reasoning was that political messages should be able to spread organically. (Like this weird rash that started on my foot and now threatens to consume my entire body. Happy Halloween, by the way.)
On Twitter, the more people respond to a message through retweets and likes, the further it goes. So a political message that people respond to will travel farther and live longer.
However, if you’re just paying for political ads, you can force your ideas to the top regardless of their merit, handing political control to those that can pay the most (AKA: the wealthy elite who may not have your best interest at heart).
“A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet,” said Dorsey, who was definitely wearing a little black beanie at the time of the tweet. “Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.
“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.
“This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. It’s worth stepping back in order to address.”
This drastic change in policy brings Twitter into direct opposition with Facebook’s newfound policy of “inaction above all else.”
CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who turns into a real boy every year on All Hallows Eve) has said the company will continue to run political ads but refuses to fact check or remove them if proven to be false. (“How can this ad be Fake News if someone’s giving me all this money to run it?”)
Political advertising represents a small portion of Twitter’s overall ad revenue. However, shares of Twitter (TWTR) declined about 2.5% when the markets opened this morning.
$4.5 Billion up in Smoke for Juul Investor Altria
(For a special spooky Halloween effect, read this article in a Transylvanian accent. Go ahead. Trick or Treat yourself.)
Cigarette peddler Altria wrote down its investment in Juul labs by $4.5 billion today, as the entire world wonders if maybe we shouldn’t be “ripping fat cotton” until we’ve studied the long-term effects of gnarly cotton ripping on our lungs.
“Of course, we’re not pleased to have to take an impairment charge on the Juul investment,” the company’s CEO Howard Willard said on a conference call Thursday. “We did not anticipate this dramatic a change in the e-vapor category.”
(Note: An impairment charge occurs when a company overpays for an asset and has to adjust its books and tell investors that “we dun donged up, folks.”)
Faced with rapidly declining cigarette sales, Altria bought an unironic “if you can’t beat em, join em” t-shirt and paid $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul.
But that was in the golden days of vaping, way back in the far-flung year of 2018. (We were so young and foolish back then. But damn we looked good.)
In the time since:
- A mysterious vaping-related disease started killing folks all over the country
- Juul has suspended all advertising in the U.S.
- And a government crackdown on delicious candy-flavored vapes threatens to erase the company’s entire bottom line. (Who could have predicted that kids would be drawn to delicious candy flavors?)
An upcoming federal ban on e-cigarette flavors will wipe out Juul’s most profitable product lines, representing more than 80% of its sales.
Last month, Altria replaced Juul’s CEO with one of its own top execs to try and rescue the company from its own success/keep folks out of prison.
However, going forward the company is pivoting to focus on “alternative cigarette alternatives” like its tobacco-free nicotine patch (which objectively isn’t as fun as a candy-floss-flavored robot cigarette) and its clumsily named iQOS tobacco heating product (it’ll get your tobacco nice and hot).
Shares of the Altria Group (MO) declined about 2.4% this morning and rumors started to circle that the cigarette company was once again in talks to merge with U.S. Marlboro seller Philip Morris.
House Votes to Formalize Impeachment Proceedings
In spoo-oo-ooky the-country-is-being-torn-apart news, Congress voted 232-196 to formalize the impeachment proceedings against President Trump today.
This resolution makes the whole deal official and lays out the ground rules for the impeachment inquiry going forward. (No jumping off the top rope, no hitting with the chair).
During the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called today a “sad day,” almost as if she knew I was going to gorge myself on candy and drink an entire case of watermelon beer somebody left in my house tonight.
“It’s a sad day because nobody comes to Congress to impeach a president of the United States. No one,” she told reporters.
“We come here to do the work, make the future better for our children, for America’s future. We take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and that’s what we cannot ignore and will not ignore when the president’s behavior indicates that that investigation, that inquiry, is necessary.”
The House of Representatives voted 232-196 in favor with two Democrats, Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, breaking ranks with Pelosi and joining the Republicans.
President Trump immediately took to Twitter to denounce the proceedings as “The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!” (Though he may have just been posting the itinerary for the holiday festivities at the White House today.)
In a statement from the White House, press secretary and famous drunk driver Stephanie Grisham called the proceedings “illegitimate.”
“The President has done nothing wrong, and the Democrats know it,” said Grisham. “Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats’ unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding does not hurt President Trump; it hurts the American people.”
In Other News
ONE LAST THING
Congressman Hill’s Book Club: Life After Google
Earlier this week, we covered Mark Zuckerberg’s latest in a long series of weird and uncomfortable testimonies on the hill.
But since then, we’ve had the time to comb through the entire six-hour transcript of the proceedings and discovered a couple of nuggets of gold. (I say “we,” but really I had one of the OLT interns do it.)
A deep dive of the transcript revealed two vital pieces of information that we had not previously reported:
- One of our colleagues here at One Last Thing made a surprise appearance in the hearings (or at least his book did)
- If you want to get rid of an intern, force them to read six hours of congressional testimony by Mark Zuckerberg
While grilling Zuckerberg on his new global cryptocurrency, Congressman French Hill from Arkansas suggested the Facebook CEO check out a book by our very own tech prophet George Gilder.
“Let’s talk about privacy for a minute,” said Mr. Hill. “George Gilder has written a great book called Life After Google. I’m sure you’ve read it. If not, I recommend it to you.
“And a quote in there that I’m paraphrasing, ‘Private keys are held by human beings, not by governments. Not by Google.’ And I would add parenthetically and not by Facebook.
“Do you support the idea that a future digital world, we as individuals, each control our data and that we exchange it only when relevant at the time necessary to conduct a particular transaction? Is that a world you acknowledge as the future?”
Zuckerberg rambled off a pre-prepared statement that danced around the congressman’s questions as per usual. But it was rather enlightening to know that lawmakers are reading George’s work during this critical time.
If you’re somehow not familiar with George, he’s the man who briefed Ronald Reagan on the microchip back in ’86. And he forecast the smartphone revolution more than a decade before the iPhone hit the shelves.
George’s tech predictions have earned him the title of America’s #1 futurist. And in his latest book Life After Google (the very same book recommended to Mark Zuckerberg by Congressman Hill), George predicts a paradigm shift that could impact over $16.8 trillion in the world economy.
If you want to check out George’s book for yourself and see what all this hubbub on the hill is about, click here to claim your free copy Life After Google.
Closing Data for 10/30/19
DIJA $27,189.06 ↑ 0.43%
S&P Index 500 $3,046.95 ↑ 0.33%
NASDAQ $8,303.98 ↑ 0.33%
Gold $1,498.20 ↑ 0.50%
Silver $17.87 ↑ 0.20%
Bitcoin $9,184.530 ↓ 2.77%
- Stocks fall on renewed worries that the U.S. and China won’t be able to reach a trade deal.
- Molson Coors Brewing Co. (TAP) announces 500 job cuts and a name change: Molson Coors Beverage Co. This comes on the heels of a weak earnings report.
- Spain offers to host the United Nations COP25 climate change summit after Chile withdraws as host.
Editor, One Last Thing