It’s a duopoly, stupid

The Financial Times did a long piece in its week-end edition, July 30th, 2016, on our little fickle fiendish friends Facebook and Google. It made front-page news actually. One phrase stuck out, namely the one where the paper qualifies its subject matter. Here it goes: Facebook and Google, we are told, are “the digital media industry’s new duopoly”.

The reason is very simple. Together, these two US-located dinosaurs presently attract 72% of the world’s online advertising (minus China) and the so-called analysts’ best guess is that they’ll reach 87% by the end of the decade.

Same old story

Advertising of course is where the money comes from. And, as everyone knows since the Watergate business and Deep Throat’s famous investigative advice, if you want to understand why anything happens in this god-forsaken world, there’s only one way: “follow the money trail”. Money’s the name of the game.

Thanks to their advertising customers, Google had revenues of $3.8bn in the second quarter, and Facebook half of that. On a year-basis, it suggests they siphon together some 22 billion dollars, that’s around 20,400 million euros, equivalent to twice Albania’s GDP and, almost, Mali’s. You can fool around anytime with Albania or Mali, you can’t fool around with Google and Facebook. Nor with the US.

Happy sheep

Now, of course, it’s all thanks to the hapless users of these digital engines. Facebook is said to have around one billion daily zombies that connect to its streaming screening of their lives.

As the paper says, this collective surrender of personal data to the digital masters is their treasure trove, their prime asset. Amazon, for one, is building”a strategy that focuses on customer identity and subscription” and, as another analyst states, “They are using these user IDs to be more relevant to a bigger part of your life.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Big Brother loves you.

They even a word for that: “user happiness”. They are caring, they really are. So, for instance, when pushing new layers of advertising into its mobile services, such as local adverts placed on Google’s maps, they try to do so without hurting your – er – user happiness. Quote, unquote. Stay tuned, don’t drop out.

Step by step

On a more commercial level, the inroads these dinosaurs are making into video gimmickry is bound to hurt their rivals doing television. You must have noticed. The clutter of videos appearing on your mobiles. The YouTube fad. The endless popping-up of clips in the messaging. It’s all part of a strategy.

Moving pictures were, until shortly, the exclusive domain of television. Well, as the paper again tells us, it’s game over any time soon: “Digital advertising is expected to top the $200bn global TV ad market within the next two years.” First, you top, then you crush. First, TV killed off the press (largely), the next step is for our duopoly to kill TV. So it goes.

It does make one think, however, doesn’t it? This duopoly business. The way two gigantic US-located business-minded busybodies dominate the whole world (minus China). And in doing so, largely thanks to us...