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Meta, Snapchat, Twitter layoffs spell trouble for agency relationships

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Meta, Snapchat, Twitter layoffs spell trouble for agency relationships

Kat Duncan, executive director at Honeycomb Media, doesn’t have much luck with Meta reps.

She’s found it near impossible to get hold of anyone there when there have been issues with advertising on Facebook and Instagram. It’s a common recurrence given the Facebook Ads Manager tool is notoriously buggy and regularly on the skids.

“Calling customer service is basically impossible all the way up the ladder, even with ad accounts that are assigned a Business Account Representative,” Duncan said. 

And this was the state of affairs even before the layoffs began. 

Now those cuts are well and truly underway, marketers are concerned that those lines of communication will get worse before they get better. It’s hard for them to see how they clear up in the wake of 10,000 job cuts. Harder still since those cuts will be the second wave of mass redundancies from the tech behemoth, which laid off 11,000 employees last November. 

“It has been even more impossible to receive any type of ad help from Meta, yes,” said Duncan. “I do not believe there has been any type of delegated or reasonable training in the handoffs. It is becoming a major nuisance to reach out to Meta for ad management if anything goes wrong.”

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Simply put, the speed and scale of these layoffs only compounds the problem of marketers like Duncan feeling neglected by the social media company. 

“Facebook ads manager is buggy and constantly breaks,” said the head of social media at a digital ad agency, who traded anonymity for candor. “The Meta teams are (more often than not) unhelpful and barely knowledgeable of the product. I’m hoping that a byproduct of the layoffs is a recognition that they need to serve their customers (i.e. those running ads).”

The exec may have to wait a while for that realization to kick in. Customer support doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the top of Meta’s priority list for 2023 — the so-called “Year of Efficiency” according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

“We have found a slight disconnect from the team we were previously in contact with to the team provided now,” said Tayler McManus, digital strategist at Way To Blue. “Meta has taken a broader approach to offer portals to raise issues, rather than having direct team members you can liaise with to answer questions and provide support. The portals can be reliable at times, but at other times are tricky to get through when queries are time sensitive or involved.”

Concerns across the board

But these problems aren’t just isolated at Meta. 

No, layoffs are happening across the platforms, from Google to TikTok. And marketers are feeling the reverberations of all those cuts. 

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Some feel exposed given how reliant they are on their platform reps to support campaigns. Others are frustrated because the cuts make it even harder to access what they felt was already quite inaccessible expertise from inside these companies. 

Most of those same marketers agree, though, that they’re not necessarily going to cut spending on the back of the layoffs. Redundancies don’t diminish their ability to buy ads. After all, so much of their activity is done via self-serve platforms. Really, this is about how the service layer blanketing these tech behemoths has been somewhat depleted.

Take Snapchat, for example. 

In a bid to refocus Snapchat’s business and grow its ad revenue, following reports of flat revenue growth in 2022, CEO Evan Spiegel cut 20% of its workforce (about 1,300 employees) right across the business last August. The impact has been clear in the months since. 

“When there’s mass layoffs, there will be two or three weeks where we as publishers get very frustrated because we don’t get a response,” said Phil Ranta, COO of We Are Verified. 

But the likelihood is those that remained are inundated with work which had previously been spread across a wider team. Ranta expanded on the point: “We give them a little grace because as digital experts, we get it. The people who stayed are all star players. I can’t say that about all the other platforms that did layoffs, but I think everyone who stayed has felt the pressure to go out and perform.” 

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Even a lot of people that Benoit Vatere, founder and CEO of Mammoth Media used to work with at Snapchat just aren’t there anymore. And while turnover hasn’t impacted what he tells advertisers, in fact while he believes new blood in the company might actually work in its favor, it has determined how much his team pushes Snapchat. With cuts across the company, this has naturally impacted product innovation for a platform which was already seemingly on the back foot compared to its peers.

“Nothing works well, and it has nothing to excite those advertisers,” he said. “I don’t get any communication from anyone around new things in the pipeline. Whereas I receive emails from TikTok once a week, if not more, about new opportunities to present to advertisers.”

Responding to this, a Snap spokesperson told Digiday: “We care deeply about our agency partners and work hard to keep them up to speed on the many ways to drive business results on Snapchat.”

Something was always going to give such is the scale of the course corrections Snapchat, Meta, Google et al are making these days. Layoffs were the prime candidate. Not least because the platforms expanded rapidly to meet the boom in demand caused by the pandemic.

But the surge in demand also pulled forward the future of these companies. They started to burn through their end market faster than ever before. Growth stalled as a result, and inventors wanted to know what’s next. The answers to these questions are as hard as they are expensive for platform bosses. And marketers are caught in the fallout. 

Lack of continuity

“While the support of the major ad platforms to agencies already is varied, there has been a noticeable gap after the January layoffs,” said Will Jennings, head of paid media at performance agency, ROAST. 

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The marketer and his team have had situations with “certain companies” whereby their contacts have disappeared in the middle of a negotiation for a media deal. Emails to those contacts have failed to find the internal replacement, said Jennings, and on the rare occasion they have got through to someone there, it’s been a far more senior member of the team. “Indicating both a lack of organization following the redundancies, but also a gap in seniority created by them,” said Jennings. 

So far those frustrations haven’t stretched to Google. That one relationship is as “strong as ever”, said Jennings. It’s the other platforms that have struggled to maintain relationships with the agencies amidst all the turmoil they’re going through. 

As Jennings explained: “[We had] two contacts and one simply stopped replying to emails one day, with no word of a replacement and nobody to follow up with. From a rep perspective, the ad networks have always struggled to retain consistent reps on agency accounts along with technical support.”

Twitter has been especially frustrating in this regard. In part, it was so good at supporting marketers prior to its takeover by billionaire Elon Musk and the subsequent staff cuts he has made. Since becoming ‘Chief Twit’, Musk has since reduced Twitter’s 7,500 strong team in October to around less than 2,000 by last month.

“Twitter has proved incredibly challenging in getting information, given how abruptly layoffs were announced within the company, leaving little to no time for handovers, subsequently leaving advertisers in the dark,” said Way to Blue’s McManus. 

Moreover, countless advertisers have told Digiday since Musk’s takeover that for them, the platform is now almost like emailing into a black hole and traditional channels that were previously available to agencies and advertisers are gone.

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One marketer, who wanted to remain anonymous, highlighted that one current client has had to forgo advertising on Twitter after the agency ran into invoicing issues with the platform and they’ve had no one to turn to to resolve the matter.

It’s not all bad news

Not every platform’s relationship with marketers is suffering in the wake of layoffs. 

Look at TikTok, for instance. Its owner ByteDance plans to cut at least 10,000 roles this year. And yet marketers still seem happy with the platform. They’ve arguably made peace with the fact that the sort of service and communication they get from the short-form video app is in a perpetual state of flux given how quickly it’s growing. 

Put it another way, TikTok’s sort of been given a free pass because advertisers see the platform’s upcoming layoffs and the subsequent challenges and frustrations that will likely come with that, as a symptom of growing pains.

“It is scrappier and moving faster, but it’s not the case where the vision isn’t coming to fruition so TikTok needs to lay people off because they can’t support various directions anymore,” said Avi Ben-Zvi, vp of paid social at Tinuiti. “It’s more that TikTok is growing at such a fast rate, there’s going to be casualties along the way.”

TikTok did not have any further comment to add.

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For now, the layoffs — and the subsequent impact on service they’ve had — aren’t causing marketers to reconsider where they spend their dollars. But the longer the issues continue, the more likely it is that marketers will act on those frustrations. 

“We will definitely be prioritizing platforms which provide the best service to our clients,” said ROAST’s Jennings. “Meta cannot rest on its laurels of market domination and, if not careful, will begin to leak ad spend to other platforms.”

The same goes for other marketers. 

“We’d jump at the chance to spend with competitors who are hungrier and more service oriented,” said the anonymous head of social media at a digital ad agency. “That’s how buggy the product is and how misguided and atrocious support can be.”

Meta did not respond to Digiday’s request for comment.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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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.”

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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.”

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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What went wrong with ‘the Metaverse’? An insider’s postmortem

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What went wrong with 'the Metaverse'? An insider's postmortem


It’s now two years since Facebook changed its name to Meta, ushering in a brief but blazing enthusiasm over “the Metaverse”, a concept from science fiction that suddenly seemed to be the next inevitable leap in technology. For most people in tech, however, the term has since lost its luster, seemingly supplanted by any product with “artificial intelligence” attached to its description. 

But the true story of the Metaverse’s rise and fall in public awareness is much more complicated and interesting than simply being the short life cycle of a buzzword — it also reflects a collective failure of both imagination and understanding.  

Consider:

The forgotten novel

Ironically, many tech reporters discounted or even ignored the profound influence of Snow Crash on actual working technologists. The founders of Roblox and Epic (creator of Fortnite) among many other developers were directly inspired by the novel. Despite that, Neal Stephenson’s classic cyberpunk tale has often been depicted as if it were an obscure dystopian tome which merely coined the term. As opposed to what it actually did: describe the concept with a biblical specificity that thousands of developers have referenced in their virtual world projects — many of which have already become extremely popular.

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Snow Crash.

You can see this lack of clarity in many of the mass tech headlines attempting to describe the Metaverse in the wake of Facebook’s name change: 

In a widely shared “obituary” to the Metaverse, Business Insider’s Ed Zitron even compounded the confusion still further by inexplicably misattributing the concept to TRON, the original Disney movie from the 80s.

Had the media referenced Snow Crash far more accurately when the buzz began, they’d come away with a much better understanding of why so many technologists are excited by the Metaverse concept — and realize its early incarnation is already gaining strong user traction.  

Because in the book, the Metaverse is a vast, immersive virtual world that’s simultaneously accessible by millions of people through highly customizable avatars and powerful experience creation tools that are integrated with the offline world through its virtual economy and external technology. In other words, it’s more or less like Roblox and Fortnite — platforms with many tens of millions of active users. 

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But then again, the tech media can’t be fully blamed for following Mark Zuckerberg’s lead.

Rather than create a vision for its Metaverse iterating on already successful platforms — Roblox’s 2020 IPO filing even describes itself as the metaverse — Meta’s executive leadership cobbled together a mishmash of disparate products. Most of which, such as remotely working in VR headsets, remain far from proven. According to an internal Blind survey, a majority of Zuckerberg’s own employees say he has not adequately explained what he means by the Metaverse even to them.

Grievous of all, Zuckerberg and his CTO Andrew Bosworth promoted a conception of the Metaverse in which the Quest headset was central. To do so, they had to overlook compelling evidence — raised by senior Microsoft researcher danah boyd at the time of the company acquiring Oculus in 2014 — that females have a high propensity to get nauseous using VR.

Meta Quest 3 comes out on October 10 for $500.
Meta Quest 3.

Contacted in late 2022 while writing Making a Metaverse That Matters, danah told me no one at Oculus or Meta followed up with her about the research questions she raised. Over the years, I have asked several senior Meta staffers (past and present) about this and have yet to receive an adequate reply. Unsurprisingly, Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset has an estimated install base of only about 20 million units, significantly smaller than the customer count of leading video game consoles. A product that tends to make half the population puke is not exactly destined for the mass market — let alone a reliable base for building the Metaverse. 

Ironically, Neal Stephenson himself has frequently insisted that virtual reality is absolutely not a prerequisite for the Metaverse, since flat screens display immersive virtual worlds just fine. But here again, the tech media instead ratified Meta’s flawed VR-centric vision by constantly illustrating articles about the Metaverse with photos of people happily donning headsets to access it — inadvertently setting up a straw man destined to soon go ablaze.

Duct-taped to yet another buzzword

Further sealing the Metaverse hype wave’s fate, it crested around the same time that Web3 and crypto were still enjoying their own euphoria period. This inevitably spawned the “cryptoverse” with platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. When the crypto crash came, it was easy to assume the Metaverse was also part of that fall.

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But the cryptoverse platforms failed in the same way that other crypto schemes have gone awry: By offering a virtual world as a speculative opportunity, it primarily attracted crypto speculators, not virtual world enthusiasts. By October of 2022, Decentraland was only tracking 7,000 daily active users, game industry analyst Lars Doucet informed me

“Everybody who is still playing is basically just playing poker,” as Lars put it. “This seems to be a kind of recurring trend in dead-end crypto projects. Kind of an eerie rhyme with left-behind American cities where drugs come in and anyone who is left is strung out at a slot machine parlor or liquor store.”

All this occurred as the rise of generative AI birthed another, shinier buzzword — one that people not well-versed in immersive virtual worlds could better understand.

But as “the Metaverse” receded as a hype totem, a hilarious thing happened: Actual metaverse platforms continued growing. Roblox now counts over 300 million monthly active users, making its population nearly the size of the entire United States; Fortnite had its best usage day in 6 years. Meta continues plodding along but seems to finally be learning from its mistakes — for instance, launching a mobile version of its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds.  

Roblox leads the rise of user-generated content.
Roblox.

Into this mix, a new wave of metaverse platforms is preparing to launch, refreshingly led by seasoned, successful game developers: Raph Koster with Playable Worlds, Jenova Chen with his early, successful forays into metaverse experiences, and Everywhere, a metaverse platform lead developed by a veteran of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

At some point, everyone in tech who co-signed the “death” of the Metaverse may notice this sustained growth. By then however, the term may no longer require much usage, just as the term “information superhighway” fell away as broadband Internet went mainstream.  

Wagner James Au is author of Making a Metaverse That Matters: From Snow Crash & Second Life to A Virtual World Worth Fighting For 

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