Finance Monthly - March 2022

uckerberg has a massive problem. His existing brands Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are under the cosh. They are, essentially, advertising companies under competitive and evolutionary threat. They remain dominant brands in social media advertising, but their user bases are not as sticky as once assumed, and they no longer have a monopoly as social media breaks and fragments into multiple players and themes. They are under enormous regulatory and technical threat. Things started to get bad last year when Apple gave users of its IOS operating system the option to stop trackers – meaning every keystroke on your iPhone is no longer an invitation for resellers to target and sell you cheap tawdry crap you don’t need or particularly want. Google is doing the same with Android. The result is Meta’s advertising income stream is drying up. It’s not going to get better. Advertisers have more exciting places to go. The reason the name changed from Facebook to Meta was a tacit acknowledgement of the inevitable – Facebook is no longer the new, new, exciting thing. Meta lost 20% of its value on a single day in January when Zuckerberg broke the cardinal rule of tech and told the truth: admitting Facebook has lost ground to newer, more hip, cool rivals like Tik Tok. If you want to know where it’s headed, look up Friends Reunited. Who knew competition and evolution are real? Tech evolves and old firms get eaten up for lunch by new firms… My kids think Facebook is for grandparents and the truth is It is. As the platforms close tracking windows, Zuck was forced to admit it’s difficult to make money “where less data is available to deliver personal ads”. In a world where it’s being outcompeted, and regulators are establishing the primacy of personal data… Facebook’s model of milking that data looks doomed. Of course, these are only the visible tips of a much larger iceberg – regulation. Facebook is the megavillain when it comes to all the ills of the internet social media connected age. When it comes to the evils of fake news, we need a witch to burn, and the unlikable Zuckerberg is just the kind of scapegoat that will burn nicely. This is why professional politician Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister and one-time leader of the UK Liberal Party, is going to replace Zuckerberg as the face of Meta. Clegg will “lead our company on all our policy matters,” said Zuck. That is either another massive sell signal for the beleaguered stock, or it’s a stroke of political genius. Clegg was never a top tier politician. He was the buggins-turn leader of the 3rd party in a political duopoly. He got famous because David Cameron didn’t win a majority. Suddenly he was catapulted to power in a coalition, bet let himself and his party become the Tories’ stooges to be wiped out at the next election. He was a loser, but a kind, earnest and boring chap who looked like he at least cared. Perhaps that makes him the perfect face to defend the undefendable? Meta’s response to the approaching death of Facebook is to reinvent itself, springing its new concept, the Metaverse, upon us. Zuckerberg has the previous form as something of a congenital acquisitive hoarder of the future – just ask the Winklevoss twins. He clearly wants to own whatever this new “metaverse” is with the intention of monetising it. The question, and future value of Meta, ultimately lies in how well he achieves that. So, just what is the Metaverse? What kind of opportunity does it represent? Is it, as so many fantabulous things in this wonderful world are, yet another digital solution in search of a problem? Is it hype or a genuine new trend? The Metaverse concept is not new. It was first described and named by Science Fiction writer Neal Bus i ne s s & Economy 14 Finance Monthly.

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