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Amazon is the latest threat to Facebook as ad targeting suffers



Amazon is the latest threat to Facebook as ad targeting suffers

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., left, arrives at federal court in San Jose, California, US, on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. 

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

For Matthew Hassett’s smart alarm clock company Loftie, the 2022 holiday shopping rush was the busiest in its five-year history despite a lackluster U.S. economy and persistent concerns of a recession.

Hassett, who’s based in New York, attributes the boon to one key decision. He reallocated his marketing budget, decreasing spending on Facebook and, for the first time during a holiday season, committing ad dollars to Amazon.

“So many people start their shopping on Amazon,” Hassett said in an interview. “I do personally for most things. So, we have to be there.”

Loftie is representative of a larger trend taking place in retail that’s having major ripples on Madison Avenue and Wall Street. Amazon’s increased advertising offerings for the millions of brands that sell on the site coupled with Facebook’s diminished targeting capabilities that resulted from Apple’s privacy changes have produced a significant realignment in the digital ad market.

Until a year ago, Amazon didn’t even disclose the size of its advertising business, leaving analysts and investors to guess how much the company was making in allowing sellers and brands to promote their wares on the site and apps. Now, the company’s ad division is a $38 billion annual business, and last week reported 19% year-over-year growth in the fourth quarter to $11.6 billion.

Facebook-parent Meta, meanwhile reported a 4% annual decline in revenue for the quarter to $32.2 billion, shrinking for a third consecutive period. Google has been less impacted by Apple’s iOS update, but the ad business is still being hit by the economic slowdown. Parent company Alphabet posted growth of 1% to $76 billion.

Amazon has catapulted to third in the global digital ad market, with 7.3% share, according to Insider Intelligence. Even as it takes share from Google and Facebook, it’s still well behind the two market leaders, which control 28.8% and 20.5%, respectively, of the industry. The Facebook figure includes Instagram.

Loftie continues to spend more money on Facebook than Amazon, but the equation has changed dramatically. In the days surrounding Black Friday in November, he allocated 10% of his marketing budget to Amazon, up from zero the year before. Facebook and Instagram fell to 40% of his budget from 71%. The rest of the money he pulled out of Meta went to Google, as he increased spending there from 29% over the holidays in 2021 to 50% last year.

Hassett said Facebook ads simply don’t work as well anymore, after the iOS update in 2021 began forcing app developers to ask users if they wanted to be tracked. With more consumers opting out of app tracking, the pool of potential customers has been “hollowed out and so we can no longer reliably target people,” Hassett said.

“Facebook has to serve the audience to a bigger pool of people in order to find the same people you’re finding before, and that’s just more expensive,” he said. “You have to pay a lot more than you did a year ago, and a lot of that is due to Apple’s privacy changes.”

Meta finance chief Susan Li told analysts on last week’s earnings call that growth in the company’s biggest verticals, online commerce and consumer packaged goods, “remained negative” in the quarter. She said the pace of the year-to-year decline in “online commerce has slowed compared to last quarter,” but was uncertain if the sector will significantly rebound anytime soon.

People take selfies in front of the logo of Facebook parent company Meta on November 9, 2022 in Menlo Park, California. Meta will lay off more than 11,000 staff, the company said on Wednesday.

Liu Guanguan | China News Service | Getty Images

For Loftie, Amazon and Google provide better value because a shopper is showing intent by searching for a particular item. Hassett purchased keywords like “white noise” as well as “Loftie” to make sure that consumers who wanted to find his products weren’t misdirected.

“The work we do off of Amazon on advertising definitely pays dividends on Amazon because people are going there and typing in Loftie,” Hassett said, adding that his shift in ad spending helped Loftie generate a record $250,000 revenue over a four-day stretch during the holidays.

Investment bank Cowen noted in a recent survey of ad buyers that “Amazon was the most popular survey response when we asked respondents which ad platform outside of GOOG / FB properties could emerge or is emerging as a meaningful part of buyers’ Digital ad spend, ahead of TikTok.”

The survey indicated that there continues to be “broad interest among advertisers” to grow their Amazon budgets in 2023, with 54% of surveyed Amazon advertisers saying they are planning to spend more this year than last.

While Facebook remains a core piece of a brand’s budget, its influence is diminishing, and the company’s investment in its TikTok-like Reels product will take a few years to make a significant financial impact, the Cowen analysts said.

“In the near term, we expect Meta ad share to decline further in ’23 given macro headwinds and the pivot to Reels,” they wrote.

A Meta spokesperson declined to comment for this story but sent CNBC examples of brands that the company says increased their allocation to Facebook and Instagram and have seen improved performance from ads on the site.

Like Loftie, Robin Golf also had to move away from Facebook in promoting its catalog of golf clubs and related equipment. CEO Peter Marler said over the past year more of that money has gone to Amazon.

Between July 2021 and the same month a year later, Robin’s cost to acquire a customer jumped 260% to $180 from $50, Marler said. He attributed most of the surge in costs to Facebook’s reduced targeting abilities, and said Google also wasn’t performing as well.

“We started investing more heavily in Amazon,” Marler said. “We shifted budget away from Facebook, we shifted budget away from Google, and we shifted to Amazon, and our Amazon sales have shot up by about 600% in 2022.”

Overall, the value of the tracking cookie has withered because of a renewed emphasis on consumer privacy. There are very few major online ad platforms that don’t rely on targeting, Marler said.

“Changes in the efficacy of those platforms really have forced us to reexamine our reliance on them,” he said. “We are actively moving our budgets away and decreasing the amount of money that we are spending with Meta.”

‘Not our customer’

Reliance on Amazon has its own pitfalls. The company is a dominant force in online retail and can make or break a brand’s success based on its performance on the site. That’s particularly risky because Amazon has its own ballooning private label business, which regularly rolls out products that compete with sellers on the platform.

Vitamin company Manna Health has been increasing its presence on Amazon, committing more of its ad budget to the site since the iOS changes, with plans to possibly double its allocation in 2023 from less than 10% currently, said marketing chief Ryan Farmer.

But he worries about brand loyalty, when so many transactions take place on Amazon.

“It’s not our customer, it’s Amazon’s customer,” Farmer said.

Farmer likens Amazon’s online ad system to Google’s in that companies run ads based on keywords that they think resonate with potential customers who may be searching for certain products. Manna also uses Amazon’s demand-side platform advertising tool, which is helpful for placement in banner ads that can be seen by people “searching for certain things,” Farmer said.

Manna, like Loftie and Robin Golf, maintains a customized Amazon home page that contains graphics, slogans, and a listing of the company’s various products that it’s selling on Amazon. However, the system is a “black box,” Famer said, because it doesn’t provide the kind of demographic data or other information to help Manna retain and nurture its customers.

Manna doesn’t even get contact information for the buyer. CEO Jeff Hill said he wished that Amazon offered “more insight into the customer, obviously, and sharing emails would be a bare minimum” so Manna could build a community and talk to clients.

“‘Hey, you bought this joint supplement, you know you might also be interested in our new bone supplement,” Hill said, describing a potential follow-up email. “It would help our company out and we would be able to buy more on Amazon and it would be mutually beneficial for us to make it to the customer and drive more traffic back to Amazon and the products.”

Amazon declined to provide a comment for this story.

Rachel Tipograph, CEO of marketing technology firm MikMak, said there are other unforeseen costs tied to Amazon advertising.

Unlike Meta, which just requires you to login to Facebook’s business manager to start buying ads, advertising on Amazon comes alongside listing products on the platform and a host of other services that brands are often buying, including warehouse space. Premium ad placement is the equivalent of slotting fees in retail stores, where brands pay for shelf visibility.

A Target customer looks at a display of board games while shopping at Target store on December 15, 2022 in San Francisco, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Tipograph expects these costs will “cause the pendulum to swing back” towards brand promotion, and companies will rely more on channels that direct traffic to their own website and give them more control over their expenses.

“What CFOs want is profitable advertising, profitable growth,” Tipograph said, “and they want to know that they are driving incremental growth.”

Ryan Flannagan, the CEO of e-commerce marketing firm Nuanced Media, said that as Amazon’s ad business has grown, so has the competition to run “premium copy and visuals.”

Companies that aren’t investing in Amazon ads are “basically losing market share, because they’re not defending themselves,” Flanagan said.

Amazon has plenty of work ahead to keep its ad offerings attractive enough for brands to continue forking over bigger portions of their budget. But for now, companies like Loftie are happy with the returns they’re getting from Amazon, given the challenges with Facebook.

The way Hassett sees it, even with the rising expenses and associated risks, Amazon is providing enough value to justify the headaches.

“I think you have to be there,” he said.

WATCH: Facebook face-off: Who’s right on Meta?

Facebook face-off: Who's right on Meta?

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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again




Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy



Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves



CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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