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Rupert Murdoch 5th wedding, Malcolm Turnbull, Amazon

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Mediaweek

Do Facebook ads still work in politics? We’re about to find out

They are quick, they are cheap, and they can help you reach a particular type of over-60s NIMBY in your local area, reports Nine Publishing’s Mark Di Stefano and Samantha Hutchinson.

For years, political campaigners have been relying on Facebook ads to target swing voters. But their effectiveness will be put to the test this weekend in the NSW state election.

New data shows teal candidates have been sinking tens of thousands of dollars each into Facebook ads, while bigger parties shell out for glitzier TV and radio spots.

The tracking data from political advisory firm Populares shows five teal candidates have spent more than $35,000 each, solely on Facebook ads. Those candidates are hoping to win seats off the Liberal Party in the electorates of North Shore, Lane Cove, Manly, Pittwater and Wollondilly.

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Ed Coper, co-founder of Populares – the relatively new firm that advised the teals at last year’s federal election but is not involved in providing advice at this one – said the current crop of candidates was hoping for a rerun of last year’s campaign.

“If you’re running an independent campaign, then you’re starting from zero primary and digital advertising is one of the most effective ways to get your name out there,” Coper said. “Clearly, the teal candidates in these five seats have learnt that lesson from the federal election and are trying to replicate the tactic.”

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Rupert Murdoch to marry for fifth time at 92: ‘I knew this would be my last’

The billionaire mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose conservative media empire spans the globe, is engaged to marry for the fifth time, he told an interviewer in his own tabloid newspaper, the New York Post, reports the Guardian’s Edward Helmore.

“I was very nervous. I dreaded falling in love – but I knew this would be my last. It better be. I’m happy,” Murdoch, 92, said of his new fiancee, Ann Lesley Smith, 66, whose late husband was Chester Smith, a country singer as well as radio and TV executive.

The pair intend to get married in the summer. “We’re both looking forward to spending the second half of our lives together,” Murdoch said.

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The summer wedding will mark the fifth time that the media titan – whose business empire includes the currently scandal hit Fox News in the US and the powerful rightwing tabloid the Sun in the United Kingdom – has tied the knot.

Murdoch has six children from his first three marriages. Prudence MacLeod, with his first wife Patricia Booker, then Elisabeth and sons Lachlan and James with his second wife Anna Mann. He has two more daughters – Grace and Chloe – with his third wife Wendi Deng. Murdoch’s fourth wife was the former supermodel Jerry Hall, from whom he split last year.

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Turnbull to take over News Corp royal commission campaign

Former Coalition prime minister Malcolm Turnbull will take over from ex-Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd as the head of the campaign for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s Australian media empire, reports Nine Publishing’s Paul Sakkal.

The man who was Liberal leader less than five years ago has urged Opposition Leader Peter Dutton to distance his party from Sky News to boost its electability, saying the party he once led had been in “coalition” with News Corp.

Turnbull, who will co-chair Australians for a Murdoch Royal Commission alongside trade unionist Sharan Burrow, said he would continue to donate to the movement and attempt to influence the behaviour of advertisers in a bid to diminish the media empire’s power.

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In an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Turnbull and Burrow argue that revelations in the Dominion Voting Systems case of Fox News’ on-air talent indulging former president Donald Trump’s “stolen election” lies “justify the rigorous inquiry that only a royal commission can bring”.

“The Foxification of Australia won’t be halted by piecemeal media reforms that can’t pass parliament unless they are signed off by Rupert,” he said.

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Amazon will lay off 9,000 more employees

Amazon plans to lay off another 9,000 employees over the next few weeks, CEO Andrew Jassy said Monday, reports the Hollywood Reporter’s Caitlin Huston.

This is in addition to the planned layoff of 18,000 employees that the ecommerce giant announced in January. This round of cuts will largely impact workers in Amazon’s advertising department, on its video live streaming service Twitch, and on the Amazon Web Services and People Experience and Technology Solutions teams.

“For several years leading up to this one, most of our businesses added a significant amount of headcount. This made sense given what was happening in our businesses and the economy as a whole. However, given the uncertain economy in which we reside, and the uncertainty that exists in the near future, we have chosen to be more streamlined in our costs and headcount,” Jassy wrote in a note to employees Monday.

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The previous round of layoffs primarily impacted staffers in the Amazon stores and the People Experience and Technology divisions.

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Agencies

SPEAK Communications is appointed as NBA Asia’s corporate communications agency partner

SPEAK Communications has announced its appointment to NBA Asia as their corporate communications agency partner in Australia.
 
Starting immediately, the Sydney-based PR agency will work hand in hand with the NBA to develop the league’s corporate PR press office functions across partnerships, merchandising, and more.

SPEAK Communications, which are specialists in the sports industry, is well placed to support NBA Asia and its ambition to increase the profile of the game in Australia.
 
Snezana Hay
, founder of SPEAK Communications, said of the appointment: “Basketball is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia and the NBA has played a fundamental role in building that momentum and fandom.
 
“We are thrilled to welcome the NBA, the MVP of sports brands and one of the world’s largest sports leagues, to our client roster. We are excited to develop campaigns that support the brand’s local footprint in Australia,” she added.

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Reprise Digital launches AIpril Fools campaign generator

Reprise Digital has developed and launched AIpril Fools campaign generator, an ideation tool that will help get the creative juices flowing ahead of April Fools Day.

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Powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the tool uses the latest in AI Large Language Models (LLM) technology to churn out witty campaign ideas and can be the inspiration for all marketing teams – from any industry – to help create the ‘perfect’ April Fools campaign idea in a matter of seconds.

Mychal Whittle, head of growth and integration at Reprise, said:  “Don’t be fooled by the AIpril Fools Campaign Generator, we don’t expect any Cannes Lion-winning ideas. This is more of a tongue-in-cheek creation highlighting the functionality of AI tools and how marketers should – and more to the point shouldn’t – be using them.

“The aim of this stunt is to show we still need people to drive creativity and salience for marketing campaigns, but there is a future world where we can combine both the human mind and AI to facilitate and deliver best in class creative ideas and results for our clients,” he continued.

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Television

Why this season of Australian Survivor will go down in (meme) history

Reality TV is known for its hyperbole. Every fight or twist or blindside is touted as “explosive” and “game-changing”. Somehow, every single season is “the best ever”. But the latest season of Australian Survivor, themed Heroes v Villains, is actually delivering on that promise, reports Nine Publishing’s Meg Watson.

The ratings have been steadily climbing (from an average overnight audience of around 550,000 in its first week to around 715,000 now). Critics have been raving. And it’s captured plenty of attention from international viewers too, with fans of the global franchise regularly gushing on social media about how much better the production and gameplay has been compared to the ongoing US version.

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In the lead-up to next Monday’s series finale, we asked past Australian Survivor players Khanh Ong and Brooke Jowett – who also co-host Channel 10’s recap show Talking Tribal – about what exactly has made this season so good.

Spoiler: yes, a lot of it comes down to the work of political operative George Mladenov, an eccentric returning player and self-professed villain, so devoted to the game he has an immunity idol tattooed on his chest. But that doesn’t mean they want him to win …

[Read More]

How the Ferrones were cast for Back in Time

The Ferrone family are much-loved as the cast across the Back in Time franchise, currently appearing in Back in Time for the Corner Shop, reports TV Tonight.

Carol Ferrone recently told TV Tonight how the family – husband Peter, son Julian 22, daughters Sienna 19 and Olivia 15- were discovered by producers.

“Five years ago, we were actually shopping at Miranda Westfield and somebody tapped me on the shoulder and asked literally said, ‘I like the look of your family are you interested in auditioning for a TV show?’” she said.

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“But a couple of months before, I’d actually seen the casting call on one of the social media platforms and I sent it to Peter ‘We should apply for this,’ but we never did.

“Funnily enough, this lady tapped me on the shoulder, and in the beginning, you kind of think it’s all a bit bogus.

“I did ask what show it was and she had a brochure and showed me and I said to Peter, ‘That’s the one that I had sent you.’ So then immediately, I realised it was Warner Bros. casting and the rest is literally history. They’d been looking for months for the right family and turns out, we were the right fit.”

[Read More]



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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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